Motorist died at level crossing after signalman wrongly lifted the barrier when he became distracted by phone call


Hairdresser died at level crossing after signalman wrongly lifted the barrier when he became distracted by phone callJane Harding, 52, was killed when train smashed into her car Her husband, who was driving, escaped the crash unharmedSignalman Adrian Maund had been taking a call from a farmerCourt told a 40,000 safety device might have prevented the tragedy

By
Emma Reynolds

PUBLISHED:

14:34 GMT, 7 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:51 GMT, 7 February 2013

A car passenger was killed by a train at a level crossing when a signalman wrongly lifted the barrier after being distracted by a phone call.

Jane Harding, 52, was killed when the family Volkswagen was struck by a passenger train at 60mph, and dragged 150 yards down the track near Moreton-on-Lugg, Herefordshire.

The hairdresser's husband Mark, who was driving the black Volkswagen Touareg, suffered shoulder and pelvic injuries but miraculously survived the horrific smash on January 16, 2010.

Jane Harding

Adrian Maund

Tragedy: Jane Harding was hit while crossing the track by car after Adrian Maund lifted the barriers too early

He was distracted by a call from a farmer asking if he could herd sheep across the tracks at Moreton-on-Lugg

He was distracted by a call from a farmer asking if he could herd sheep across the tracks at Moreton-on-Lugg

Birmingham Crown Court heard signalman Adrian Maund, 43, accidentally lifted the barriers because he thought the Manchester to Milford Haven train had already passed the crossing.

Maund had been distracted by a phone call from a farmer asking if he could herd his flock of sheep across the tracks.

The signalman only realised his fatal mistake when he saw the train approaching at 80mph around the corner – when he frantically tried to lower the barriers and change the signal.

The court heard that a 40,000 safety device might have prevented the tragedy, but Network Rail had not invested in the precaution.

Prosecutor Phillip Mott QC said: 'Network Rail took the decision not to install this device because it would cost 40,000 – that device could have saved a life.

'An approach locking system has been around since the 1960s and can be used to stop signals being changed when trains are still coming through.

'In 2009 there was quite a lot of work done at the Moreton crossing and the barriers were replaced because the mechanism was getting old.

Smash: The court heard that a 40,000 safety device might have prevented the mother's death

Smash: The court heard that a 40,000 safety device might have prevented the mother's death

'There were discussions to have an approach locking device which were rejected.

'Why not put in this approach-locking device The reason was “money”.

'Was the cost too great to avoid the cost of a human life'

The jury heard Maund became distracted after the farmer rang his signal box. In a police interview, the signalman said he had
thought the train had passed
since cars were waiting at the crossing.

Tragically, train driver Andrew Robins had too little time to react and struck two cars at 61mph, killing mother-of-one Mrs Harding, a hairdresser from Marden, Herefordshire.

Mrs Harding's husband survived, as did Carol-Anne Thornewell and her 12-year-old daughter, who were travelling in a separate gold Vauxhall Astra.

Maund, from Leominster, Herefordshire, has pleaded not guilty to failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of railway and railway crossing users.

Network Rail has denied a separate charge of failing in its duty of care of the health and safety of railway and railway crossing users by not installing an approach locking system.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.