Woman trapped inside level crossing as train rushes past

Polegate railway level crossing (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Polegate railway level crossing (Photo by Jon Rigby)

Safety concerns have spiked after a woman was trapped inside Polegate level crossing as a train went past.

The elderly woman had been walking over the crossing when the alarms went off and the barriers started to come down at about 2.30pm on Thurday (May 3).

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Said by witnesses to be in her 80s, the woman was unable to get clear of the crossing and the barriers closed – trapping her inside as a train went past right next to her.

Polegate resident Peter Cox called the situtation ‘madness’ and said the town’ elderly are terrified to use the crossing.

He said, “this is just not acceptable.

“This system is not fit for purpose at Polegate due to the heavy footfall and the number of elderly, slow moving and disabled people.

Violet Tarrant (89) at her home in Willingdon, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-171122-140012008

Violet Tarrant (89) at her home in Willingdon, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-171122-140012008

“The people of Polegate deserve a system that provides for their special needs and that can only be a radar scan before any barriers lower or a CCTV monitored system similar to Hampden Park.”

The site has been the subject of concern for many residents for some time, particularly after another elderly woman was struck by the barriers last autumn.

Eighty nine year-old Violet Tarrant suffered head and arm injuries and was left lying on the ground thinking a train could hit her at any moment during the incident.

Network Rail said it had made improvements to safety since Mrs Tarrant was hurt.

Polegate railway level crossing (Photo by Jon Rigby)

Polegate railway level crossing (Photo by Jon Rigby)

It also said the crossing ‘operated correctly’ during this latest incident as the scanners originally detected the woman’s presence and held up barriers for an extra 15 seconds for her to exit.

It said the woman moved right up against the barrier in front of her, rather than exiting via an open barrier.

Therefore, the company said, the scanners thought she was no longer on the crossing and the train – the 13.17 from London Victoria to Eastbourne – passed.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said, “We know that the people of Polegate are not happy with the way this crossing operates, and neither are we.

“This incident must have been distressing for the woman concerned and it gives us no comfort that the crossing operated correctly.

“We are going to extend the length of time it takes between the lights flashing and the barriers coming down, however this will not totally remove the issue.

“While this type of crossing is in use across the country, and operates safely, we know we have more to do in Polegate and we will continue to work with the community and we are looking at other ways we can solve this problem.”

• Have you witnessed or been involved in an incident at the crossing? Email eastbourne.herald@jpress.co.uk

• Read more about the Violet Tarrant incident here.