Page last updated at 00:29 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 01:29 UK

Barrier call for death crossing

Highland councillor David Flear describes the crash scene

An investigation is continuing at an unmanned, gate-free level crossing where three people were killed in a crash involving a car and a train.

A local politician said barriers should be installed for public safety, despite a cost of about £1m each.

The accident happened on Bridge Street, Halkirk, in Caithness, shortly after 1400 BST on Tuesday.

The three who were killed were in a car while 18 passengers and four staff on the train were not injured.

The level crossing has warning lights, but no barriers.

My understanding is that these barriers would actually cost about £1m a time ... but if that would help to save lives, then that is the road we have to go down
Dave Thompson MSP

For these types of crossing, which are common across rural Scotland, flashing lights warn of an approaching train but there is no barrier to prevent a vehicle crossing the line onto the rail track.

Highland and Islands SNP MSP Dave Thompson has campaigned for better safety at level crossings in the region.

He said Network Rail needed to restore public confidence after several recent accidents.

He added: "There is no doubt that these sort of accidents need to be investigated very thoroughly to find out exactly what the cause was and it will be some time I would imagine before we know just why this happened.

"What we have to do is make sure that every crossing is as safe as possible and if that means putting barriers on them, then that is what we should look seriously at doing.

"My understanding is that these barriers would actually cost about £1m a time which is a lot of money. But at the end of the day, if we want to save lives, if that would help to save lives, then that is the road we have to go down."

BTP, Northern Constabulary and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch have launched a joint investigation.

The car which was hit by a train [Pic: John Baikie]
The three occupants of the car were killed in the collision

Raymond Bremner, who works close to the scene of the accident, said the crossing had a "reputation for accidents".

Mr Bremner added: "There have been to my knowledge three or four accidents in the past few years."

A Network Rail spokesman said: "There is nothing to suggest that the crossing was not functioning correctly at the time of the collision.

"All our level crossings are regularly inspected to check they are appropriate to the level of road and rail traffic in the area and we are confident the correct crossing is in place at Halkirk."

Sarah Jappy, 32, was seriously injured when her car was involved in a collision with a train at the same crossing in October 2002.

She was pregnant at the time and her baby survived the crash.

Ms Jappy is pursuing action against Network Rail at the Court of Session and the final hearing is set for next year.

The 1038 Inverness-Wick service was involved in a collision with a refuse collection lorry at a level crossing near Brora in August this year. No-one was seriously injured.

While in February 2007, two passengers in a car were killed at a level crossing at Delny, near Invergordon, in Easter Ross.

Car driver Richard Fleming later admitted causing the deaths of Paul Oliver and Alan Thain, both 17, by driving dangerously.

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