Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 16:55 UK

Trains 'could slow' for crossings

Angus and Margaret MacKay
Angus and Margaret MacKay died in last month's accident

Train drivers are being advised by their union to reduce speeds at railway level crossings following the deaths of three people at a site in Caithness.

The executive of railway workers' union Aslef has agreed to urge member to slow to 20mph and called for all Scotland's crossing to have barriers.

Angus MacKay and his wife Margaret and Mr MacKay's brother Donald were killed in an accident last month.

Their car was hit by a train at a gate-free level crossing in Halkirk.

Funerals for the couple, who were both 81 and from Inverness, and 66-year-old Mr Mackay, of Latheron, were held in Wick last week.

Ahead of the national executive's meeting on the issue, Aslef's Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay said the crash had been the "catalyst" for the discussions on lowering speeds at crossings.

There should be no more deaths on Scotland's railways at these level crossings
Kevin Lindsay
Aslef Scottish organiser

He said: "Drivers who are involved in these horrific incidents have to live with the consequences for the rest of their days.

"There should be no more deaths on Scotland's railways at these level crossings.

"We are looking to reduce the risk of that."

ScotRail said it was waiting for the outcome of the meeting with interest.

A spokesman said the railway company worked with all its industry partners to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch's preliminary examination at Halkirk has indicated the warning lights at the crossing were working and the train was driven correctly.

However, it has decided to widen its inquiry to include not just what happened at Halkirk but to review the general risk posed by unmanned, gate-free crossings.

It said open automatic crossings of the kind used at Halkirk made up just 2% of Network Rail's total level crossings.

But in the past 10 years, 31% of level crossing collisions have taken place at them.

Bus driver

The widening of the inquiry has been welcomed by Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Dave Thompson.

He said the high number of collisions on this type of crossing indicated something was not right with their design.

The union meeting also comes in the wake of four people - one a bus driver - being accused of failing to comply with railway level crossings signals during a British Transport Police operation.

Police said the driver of a local passenger service would be reported to the procurator fiscal in connection with the offence at Cleghorn level crossing in Lanarkshire.

Two other motorists will also be served with notices after allegedly failing to stop at the same crossing.

In another incident, a 56-year-old man will be reported to the procurator fiscal for not following the proper procedures at Charleston level crossing in Perthshire.

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