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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 11:06 GMT
Berkshire rail crash: Your reaction
The scene of the train crash at Ufton Nervet in Berkshire Sunday November 7 2004
The task of removing the wreckage of the train that hit a car on a level crossing in Berkshire has begun.

Seven people, including the driver of the train, were killed in the incident.

Police have named the victims which include nine-year-old Louella Main and her mother Anjanette Rossi.

Investigators are examining whether the car driver intended to commit suicide.

Were you on the train at the time? Or in the vicinity of the crash? Send us your account of what happened. Do you think level crossings are safe enough?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Why is this all being put down to level crossings? They are safe enough. I travel on trains every day and nothing has ever happened in 16 years. The driver of the car should be held responsible for this accident, this has nothing to do with rail safety!
Nick Feeney, Stockport, Cheshire

For all those who cry out about a sense of perspective, saying that statistically train travel is safer than rail travel, maybe they ought to remember that any one death is a tragedy, and thousands are not just a statistic.
Trevor, Addelstone, Surrey

As a Railway worker I feel very sad for the families
Maria, London

As a Railway worker I feel very sad for the families who lost relatives and those who where injured at the accident. But I cannot understand why people want to finish their lives in such a horrible way specially in this case that he did not finish only with his own life.
Maria, London

Something must be done to help prevent tragic events like these at crossings, but over the coming days our hearts and minds must be with those families involved in the crash - including the family of the car driver. Intentional or not I can't imagine how they must be feeling, my thoughts are with them.
Stephen Bent, Surbiton, Surrey

We here in the U.S. have rail crossing that have cameras mounted on and around them, so if a car tries to go around the crossing gates that are down due to a train approaching, they are photographed and ticketed. Of course this will not stop all accidents from happening, but it lets the driver's know that if they try to manoeuvre around the crossing gates that are down, they will be issued a citation with a heavy fine to pay.
Jeff K, Naperville, IL

This tragedy could now give ideas to terrorists. A modern, high speed rail network simply should not have such vulnerabilities; it's about time Britain had such a network.
Johnny W, Hull, England

Level crossings were built across railways because they were cheap at the time. The problem isn't the trains, but the cars.
Mike, London, UK

If there were seat belts on trains this would stop people being thrown around.
Joy, Basingstoke UK

Tragic though this accident is, perspective is needed here. The rate of fatalities is perennially low on railways, indeed not far off the same UK figure for lightning-related deaths. A wider issue is the generally shabby state of railway safety, especially compared to aviation safety and the finance and technology that goes into accident avoidance mechanisms both inside the cockpit and generally at airports, etc. Railways fall well, well short in this respect.
Ian Fergusson, Bristol, UK

I'm pleased to see that most people have refrained from making ill considered remarks about rail safety, given that this appears to be essentially a road accident. Clearly we must look at suggestions such as improved lighting at crossings, CCTV where appropriate. But any significant sums would be best spent on trying to reduce the incredible carnage which seems to be accepted without question on our roads every day. We should remember that protecting trains or road vehicles from deliberate acts is virtually impossible, although fortunately, loss of life is fairly rare due to this cause.
Nick, Cambridge UK

Here comes the usual outcry about how unsafe some feature of life is. Our crossings are amongst the safest in Europe, our railways are many times safer than the roads. Despite this people with no sense of proportion join the outcry to spend billions of pounds to make a relatively safe thing completely idiot proof. Please get a sense of proportion.
Kevin Chambers, Sussex

A high speed train travelling at 100 mph requires about 1200 metres and 50 seconds to stop
Chris O'Hanlon (UK until 2001)

As a former railway engineer, I make the following points to those who say that the technology is available to prevent all of these incidents. A high speed train travelling at 100 mph requires about 1200 metres and 50 seconds to stop. If as often happens in this type of accident, a car gets past the barriers after they have descended, the train is within these limits and if the vehicle fails to get clear, a collision cannot be avoided. In this particular case, it appears that the train was derailed, but would have remained upright and relatively undamaged, had it not been for set of points 100 or so metres beyond the crossing. The points probably deflected the wheels causing the train to roll over.
Chris O'Hanlon, Finland (UK until 2001)

I feel that with level crossings there is always going to be risks and so why don't we build raised bridges across the tracks for people and vehicles to cross.
Stewart Browne, Bishops Stortford, England

Bridges will not solve the problem of the track. Similar accidents use to happen in many countries, but the train does not derail there because of a car.
Peter, Budapest, Hungary

I travel by train regularly on business, and feel that we need to educate car drivers (and I am one) to cross the railway quickly when necessary and stay off it otherwise. The half-barriers are designed to make it possible to get off the crossing quickly, and do not exist to weave around.
Tony Gibbs, Ipswich, Suffolk

Why not put pressure pads under the crossing so if anything stays on it, the train signals are automatically changed to red?
Richard Hedderly, Guildford

If the train had had an old-fashioned 'cowcatcher' at the front, perhaps only the car driver would have been killed. Objects are always going to find their way onto the railway lines - maybe the trains simply need better defences built-in.
Rob L, Glasgow, Scotland

Is there no hotline at these junctions?
Mark Doherty, London, UK
This whole accident is another example of engineering stupidity. Is there no hotline at these junctions? No emergency button to press? Obviously a more elaborate system is more prudent, the crossing could be weight-sensitive, have a heat-sensitive camera etc.
Mark Doherty, London, UK

Interesting to read the range of comments on this page. Seven tragic deaths in a rail accident get extended news coverage, front pages in almost all national newspapers. The 1759 tragic deaths in cars last year with a further 1700 deaths on roads to pedestrians, cyclists etc might get a mention in local newspapers but little else. In a car you are still over six times more likely to be killed than on a train. This appears to be yet another road accident caused by a car driver, which unfortunately affected a train and its passengers as well.
Iain, London, UK

Unmanned level crossings are a continuing source of danger to high speed passenger trains. Why do we never learn? It's time for this country to replace all of the 'half barrier' type which encourages rogue drivers to weave around the barriers.
C Morley, Harlington, Middlesex

If the driver WANTS to stay on the line it makes little difference
Peter, Nottingham
C Morley- half barriers allow you to push your car off the crossing if it breaks down. Full barriers "cage" you onto the track. Either way if the driver WANTS to stay on the line (as possibly occurred) it makes little difference. Even a manned crossing probably wouldn't have helped in this case.
Peter, Nottingham (UK)

My sympathies go out to the injured and bereaved of this accident and the family of the car driver. We need to realise that this accident was not a fault of the rail network, although it must bear some responsibility for it. As an engineering consultant in the defence industry I can say with absolute confidence that the technologies do exist that would detect the presence of an obstruction on the track in the area of an unmanned level crossing and provide some early warning. It is, as usual, a question of when will the railway industry invest in the available technology in order to remove the inherent risks associated with things like automated level crossings. It is extremely annoying to hear railway executives claim that incidents like this weekends could not have been avoided. I have absolutely no doubt that it could of.
Simon Carter, Preston

I think we need to see a few more prosecutions for people ignoring the lights at level crossings. Perhaps cameras could be installed to issue tickets to people who fail to stop.
Stephen, Purley, UK

I live in the next village to Ufton Nervet and often use the road/crossing in question to get home. There are several roads with bridges in the area which cross this line and the gated crossing is safe, if used correctly, therefore it is unfair to blame the rail company. However all unmanned crossings are vulnerable to sabotage or incorrect use. The suggestion about using webcams which can be viewed from the drivers cab is a good one, for the safety of those using the rail network.
Kate Tudor, Burghfield Common

We have been asking for a bridge over the railway line at Thatcham station for years - and now it seams we need to ask for bridges along this whole section - how many more have to die before something is done?
Alex Petty, Thatcham, Berkshire

It is high time this type of level crossing was replaced, with
(a) a road bridge, or
(b) a tunnel, or at least
(c) electronic gates.
What century are we in?
Edwina Knight, Teddington, UK

Safety means paying people at these crossings to ensure our safety
Lorna Muat, Edinburgh, Scotland
Another unmanned level crossing? When are the government going to realise that safety means paying people at these crossings to ensure our safety! My heart goes out to all those hurt and injured and to the families of the dead passengers - yet another needless waste of lives that could have been prevented!!
Lorna Muat, Edinburgh, Scotland

My biggest fear when I get on a train, is seeing people place heavy bags in the over head luggage rack. I have been hit by other people's bags when a train braked hard and also my grandmother told me of the number of people she saw injured around her in the Buttervant (Co. Cork, Ireland) crash due to flying luggage. I would also like to see seat belts introduced, as they would reduce the number and severity of injuries sustained. They would have stopped my grandfather being thrown through the window with the impact.
William Flynn, Ireland

It would cost billions to bridge every crossing over our railways. Given the unerring stupidity of many motorists, the only sensible solution is to close country crossings and re-route traffic over the nearest existing bridge. This will inconvenience commuters with a "country cottage", but it's time they learned the true cost of their lifestyle.
Tom, UK

A tragic incident but once again the fault of a road user rather than the railway itself. When will motorists and motoring organisations take safety as seriously as the Railway does?
James Elliott, Leighton Buzzard

There is only so much that we can do to prevent such accidents
Simon, Leeds, West Yorkshire
I can only hope that fatalities are few and that those who were lucky to escape make a swift recovery. I also hope that the usual blame culture does not ensue. This was a tragic accident and that is all. No-one is to blame and no-one is at fault. There are places where it is necessary for a road to cross a railway and the level crossing is the solution. I can recall the Lockington incident in the mid 80's and this has many similarities. There is only so much that we can do to prevent such accidents.
Simon, Leeds, West Yorkshire

With modern technology it should now be possible to place mounted cameras at each unmanned crossing which can transmit a still picture to a TV monitor inside the train driver's cab. Upon approaching an unmanned crossing the driver would be alerted and the site would automatically come up on his monitor giving the driver one or two minutes to decide if it was safe to proceed.
Peter Crush, Hong Kong

I was quite surprised to hear of the disaster today, especially when I've used the very same train route multiple times. I received a phone call from someone confirming that I wasn't on the train. I've always trusted trains despite past tragedies. I hope those injured recover very soon.
Tony, Oxford

My best friend should have been on that train, I haven't been able to reach him on his mobile and his family aren't answering the phone, I'm terribly worried. Why do we have to worry about these things in the day and age where we can build a space station between us and the moon yet we can't guarantee the safety of passengers on the government's preferred mode of transport?
Rob, Thatcham, Berkshire

Why the demonisation of the rail industry for this accident?
Joe Jones, Loughborough, UK
I am amazed at some of the comments here. Certainly it is sad for the victims and families of those who have died, but where is the perspective? Hundreds of people are killed on the roads every year and you don't hear people doubting the safety of their cars just because of a crash. Similarly, why the demonisation of the rail industry for this accident? The mess the system is in has a lot to answer for in many cases, but in this case it appears to be a reckless car driver to blame - trains can't move out of the way of cars!
Joe Jones, Loughborough, UK

I know this is going to be controversial and I would like to say that I am deeply sympathetic with the friends and family of those who died and with those who died themselves of course. I do think however that it is important to realise that despite stringent attention to safety issues there will always be accidents. We may and should strive for perfection but it is not going to be achieved and it is sad that we feel the need to immediately apportion blame. The rail system is a very safe method of travel although I do have concerns about the prices.
Adam, High Wycombe

It's disappointing that in this day and age we can't install motion detectors or surveillance cameras at level crossings, which themselves should be a thing of the past on tracks running fast trains.
Simon Peterson, Chelmsford, UK

It is still the case that on average per mile travelled, train travel is safer than car travel
Chris, Ufton Nervet

The deaths of these passengers is tragic and regrettable. However it is still the case that on average per mile travelled, train travel is safer than car travel. The perception is created by the media's disproportionate coverage of train crashes. However look at other countries train services such as Japan's Shinkansen (Bullet Train). There is still a lot of work to be done.
Chris, Ufton Nervet

How can engineers be so stupid as to allow any kind of level crossing on a high-speed line? Further, if Brunel had been listened to, we would today have very high speed trains running safely on wide gauge track. The centre of gravity would have been lower, and therefore safer.
David J. Weston, Stranraer, Scotland

Our hearts go out to those suffering after this tragedy, yet I fear you will receive the usual false generalisations about rail safety, forgetting that far more than six are killed on our roads every day. Having said that, however, there must now be a move to outlaw the 'half barrier' crossings over high-speed lines, as it is motorists who endanger the trains by lethally manoeuvring round them.
Bob Rainbow, Bristol, England

This is quite unbelievable! I have spent the last 8 years in Japan, where trains carrying 1000's of passengers a day at 300Kph suffer no ill fate, yet here, where the railway was borne, it seems that basic passenger safety is beyond them. The thing that really grates is that this does not have to be the norm!
Stig

If you were involved in the crash, please take time to look at the Paddington Survivors website
Paddington Survivors Group
If you were involved in the crash, please take time to look at the Paddington Survivors website. We learnt a great deal after our ordeal. We put much of what we had learnt onto our website. We hope that others can benefit from our experiences. www.paddingtonsg.org.uk
Paddington Survivors Group, UK

I work on the railways and I sincerely hope that people realise nothing of the railway was at fault here. Whether this was a malicious act or an accident, it was caused by a road vehicle. There is plenty of warning on a level crossing to get clear and you shouldn't go on the crossing unless you are sure you can get off. If motorists did what they were supposed to then there would be less accidents all round.
James S, Ipswich

Why can't these crossings be manned so that they can radio ahead to warn of an obstacle on the track, or would that be detrimental to the shareholders' massive wage packets?
G McFarlane, UK

I'm a local living only a few blocks away from the scene of the accident. I heard a loud sound, similar to that of clapping thunder and immediately turned to look outside, as if it was the weather. A few minutes later, I realised that in fact it wasn't a clap of thunder as such, but a terrible accident that had happened only a few blocks away.

I have been using that level crossing for many years and could never have imagined that such an incident could ever occur. I'm in terrible shock, utterly devastated.
Joe Quimby, Ufton Nervet

I've driven across the level crossing at Ufton Nervet many times. It is a small country road with not much traffic. If is quite shocking that such an accident can happen on a crossing that has been there for the last 160 years.
Chris Wood, Reading, Berks

Just two days after the 'Whistleblower' programme, surely it's time to evaluate where we spend the UK's transport budget?
David Donaldson, Ayr

I caught the train at Paddington and disembarked at Reading. It is unsettling to think that the train derailed a few minutes after I disembarked. I can't help thinking about the fates of the people who were sitting near me in the carriage.
Stephen, Reading, Berkshire

A tragic accident, but let's not get into the usual "bash the railways" mode over this
Paul Stokes, Hastings
A tragic accident, but let's not get into the usual "bash the railways" mode over this. There are obviously a whole lot of issues here one of which has got to be the question of why the car was on the crossing in the first place.
Paul Stokes, Hastings, UK

Whilst this accident is a terrible loss, it is worth remembering that more deaths are caused on our roads every day. The railways are still a far safer way to travel than almost any other, and that fact should not be lost in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Lucy, Leeds

Surely it's time to do something about this type of crossing
Nick , Burry Port, Wales
I, and many of my colleagues, often use this service. What strikes me is once again a horrific accident is due to an unmanned level crossing. Surely it's time to do something about this type of crossing. It is irresponsible to continue to have unmanned crossings in my view. My sincere condolences to all who have lost loved ones and best wishes for a speedy recovery to all those injured.
Nick , Burry Port, Wales

The first I knew of the crash was a telephone call from my wife who was in coach C of the train. She was unhurt, but, as I write this at 11.05pm I am still waiting to hear where she is so that I can go in the car and collect her.

Her escape, unhurt, was partly due to the coaches being arranged in reverse to the usual order, so she was near the back of the train.

My father also had a lucky escape in the Harrow and Wealdstone disaster when he suddenly felt faint as he boarded his train and did not bother to walk to his usual coach. Everyone in that coach died.
John Ward, Bideford, UK

How many more have to die before the network is sorted out?
William, Oxford

Total shock when I heard about the First Great Western crash. This sort of thing should not happen. I myself was on a First Great Western service to Cardiff last Saturday and found it quite safe.

One week later a hst 125 crashes. Very sorry to hear about the dead and injured.
L Workman, Swindon

I travelled home from work all summer on that train between London and Reading. You never expect that the people you see everyday on a train, may not be there the next day, even if you have never spoken to them.

My thoughts are with all those who are affected and it's a shame that so many accidents in recent years have happened to the same company, who in my eyes work so hard to give excellent service.
Stuart Markham, Reading

Just as I was starting to feel a bit safer travelling by train, there's yet another accident. That's all I wanted to hear a week before travelling by train again!
Miss Thomas, Edinburgh, Scotland

When will this country build bridges to cross these lines? What a waste for the sake of a few million pounds which is probably less than the cost of few trains.
Andy Melbourne, Peacehaven, UK

Very sad day. My thoughts are will those killed, their families and those injured. Anyone in the South/South West, I beg you to give blood tomorrow or Monday.
Joanne Evans, London

This is a terrible thing to happen and people's thoughts must go out to the victims and families. The emergency services must be praised for the heroic job they do in difficult circumstances. I also hope that the rail system does not get bad publicity for this accident, which is not their fault.
Richard Youden, Bristol

I think Tony Blair needs to sort out the rail lines around London. There are too many accidents and people all around are loosing their lives; it's unfair.
Natalie, Surrey

I am a railway preservationist and I am deeply saddened by today's terrible crash. UK has euro star safest train in the world and so is the HST 125. Those trains have been with us for 30 years and this happens and again a road vehicle is involved.
David Poulton, Portsmouth





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