Rail chiefs in the firing line following level crossing crash at Barnby

James How who was a passenger in his grandfather's car when it was hit by a train at an unmanned lev

James How who was a passenger in his grandfather's car when it was hit by a train at an unmanned level crossing in Barnby. - Credit: Archant © 2010

Bosses at Network Rail should have their bonuses withheld after the government-funded firm’s failings left a 10-year-old boy with serious injuries following a crash at a level crossing near Beccles, MPs have said.

In a hard-hitting report on the safety of level crossings, the Commons Transport Committee said Network Rail should apologise for its past handling of tragedies and aim to cut fatalities at level crossings to zero by 2020.

Last year the company was fined £500,000 for ignoring safety risks for a decade at a Barnby level crossing where a 10-year-old boy suffered serious injuries in a collision between a train and a car.

James How was a passenger in his grandfather Richard Wright’s car when it was hit by a train travelling at 55mph at an unmanned level crossing known as Wright’s Crossing on a private road between Beccles station and Oulton Broad South station on July 3, 2010.

The car was spun round by the collision and the schoolboy, who was on his way to count cattle on nearby marshes with his grandad, was thrown out of the window on to the track and suffered serious head injuries which left him on a life support machine for a week.

After the accident Mr Wright gave evidence to a Commons committee last year, telling it about his efforts to get a telephone installed at the remote crossing.

Committee chairman Louise Ellman said: “Given that Network Rail has recently been held responsible for the serious accident at Beccles in July 2010 we do not believe executive directors should get any bonuses this year.”

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She said that, while Network Rail had lowered the risk of death at a level crossing by 25pc since 2008, when suicides and trespass were excluded, level crossings still accounted for one half of all fatalities on the railway in recent years, including nine people who died in 2012-13.

“Every one of those deaths was a personal tragedy which could have been averted.” She added: “Network Rail must also demonstrate that it has transformed the way in which it deals with people whose lives are changed by accidents at level crossings.”

She said that the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), which is responsible for rail safety, should adopt an explicit target of zero fatalities at level crossings from 2020.

The committee of MPs also said that the Department for Education should explicitly include rail safety (including level crossings) in the PSHE curriculum.

The MPs also said Network Rail should review how it identified “high risk” and publish a list of those it would improve in the next spending period.

It also suggested that the Department for Transport should consider creating a mediation system rather than Judicial Review to allow “ordinary people and local authorities” to afford to dispute or appeal a closure order.