A TRAIN travelling at 61mph missed a car by seconds on a level crossing near York following a signaller’s error of judgement - and a failure to pass on instructions, a report has revealed.

The signaller gave the car driver permission to cross the York-Malton line at Plain Moor near Barton Le Willows in two minutes, unaware that a Network Rail boss had previously ordered that three minutes should be allowed at such crossings, following a near miss at another crossing in 2015.

The TransPennine Express York-Scarborough train arrived within two minutes and its driver spotted the car just 200 metres away on the crossing, sounded the horn and applied the emergency brakes but couldn’t halt until beyond the crossing, said the independent ‘safety digest’ by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

“A witness reported that the train passed the crossing ‘seconds’ after the car had cleared it,” said the report.

It said the incident at 9.37am on July 7 demonstrated the importance of signallers allowing a safety margin when determining whether there was sufficient time for vehicles to cross the line before the next train arrived.

It also said signallers should be fully aware of all local instructions and the industry should find ways of reducing the reliance on their judgement at such crossings.

It revealed that in July 2015, following a near miss at another crossing, Network Rail’s York Operations Manager issued a local instruction to signal boxes, including the one for Plain Moor, requiring signallers to ensure crossing users had a minimum of three minutes to cross when granting permission.

It said the signaller concerned started work after this local instruction was issued, and hadn’t been made aware of it.

“Furthermore, the instruction was not available to be read in the signal box. Network Rail has since reissued the instruction to all signallers in the York Operations area and introduced a yearly check of notices and instructions in signal boxes.”

The report said that in this case, the signaller misjudged the time available to the crossing user relative to the time the user needed to cross.

“If the signaller had been aware of the local instruction, and followed it, it is likely that he would not have given permission for the user to cross, and the near miss would have been avoided," it said.

“The RAIB observes that two minutes is a very short time to allow users to cross, given that they may have to open two gates and return to their vehicle before driving across the line.

“Underlying this incident is the fact that the safe use of telephone operated crossings is reliant on signallers making decisions on whether there is adequate time for the user to cross. These decisions will always be subject to the possibility of human error.”

Network Rail said: “We take safety incidents such as the incident at Plainmoor User Worked level crossing extremely seriously and we are carrying out an internal investigation into this incident. We have worked closely with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch on this safety digest.”