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News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Discussion concerning level crossings

Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Peter Gibbons » Fri Oct 16, 2015 9:05 pm

I attended a public meeting this evening hosted by the local MP for the area, which was to hear Network Rail's position and the action that they intend to take. I think it was fair to say that this was quite a hostile meeting. Many people at the meeting were simply not listening to what was being said, and chose instead to insist that the crossing gates were not dangerous to either rail or road traffic, when there was plenty of evidence to show to the contrary - gate stops not working correctly and excessive play in the mechanical equipment.

Network Rail submitted an application for listed building consent to upgrade the crossing from gates to MCB-OD on the 29th June. This was originally expected to be determined on 24th August but was later refused at a Lewes District Council planning committee hearing on the 30th September, despite being recommended for approval by the Council's own planning officers. As the work had already started to upgrade the crossing, it wasn't a matter to simply open the crossing, particularly as the Gate Box was decommissioned on the 25th September and there was no longer an interface between the signalling system and the gates.

Network Rail identified 4 options in re-opening the road:

Option 1
Reopen the crossing in line with a HAZID a safety assessment that was carried out this week. 16 risks were identified which would need to be overcome.
Estimated Timeframe - minumum of six weeks and subject to the above.

Option 2
Re-engineer existing gates.
Network Rail currently doesn't have the capability to do this. They also mentioned that they have approached a number of heritage railway organisations to help them with this. The Bluebell and Swanage Railways were specifically mentioned, but none came forward offering to do this.
Estimated timeframe - unknown.

Option 3
Proceed to install object detection full width barrier crossing.
Equipment and resource in place
Some legal implications in doing this
Estimated timeframe - Mid November

Option 4
Do nothing, keeping the crossing closed pending appeal or new application decision
Estimated timeframe - 3 to 8 months (depending on method~) plus mobilisation of resource to then install / Upgrade crossing

Network Rail informed the meeting that they intend to go ahead with Option 3 as they believe it is the quickest and safest way of opening the road quickly. However at the same time they will appeal the planning committee decision as well as submit a new application for listed building consent. They stated that by doing this they will have the crossing open to road traffic on the Monday16th November. They also stated that they need a wheels-free period where the crossing is closed to both road and rail traffic to fully test the installation, and a possession has been booked for the line to be blocked on the 14th/15th November.

I've since been advised of a near miss involving Littlehaven crossing gates that occurred in February 2012. In that instance the crossing gates were fully closed to road traffic but one of the gates moves back over the crossing foul of the approaching train. Very fortunately, the train concerned was a stopping train, and the driver reported the incident. This incident led to the conversion of the crossing to barrier operation and that was carried out in October of the same year.

A similar incident occurred at Stow Park, but in this instance the gates were actually struck by a passing passenger train with parts of crossing gates penetrating into the driver's cab injuring the driver himself. This incident became the subject of RAIB bulletin

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/s ... w_Park.pdf

Even hand operation of the gates presents a significant risk. Earlier this year at East Farleigh was seriously injured when a car was driven on to the level crossing whilst the signaller was operating the gates.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby John Hinson » Sat Oct 17, 2015 1:25 am

There have been "near misses" both with gates and barriers around the country but these have no relevance to this discussion. Please let's remain on topic and be objective. Some of the above and earlier comments could be be read as using this forum for political ends, I sincerely hope this is not the case.

John

Edited 18/10/15, corrected subjective to objective. Apologies for giving completely the wrong message.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby AndyB » Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:19 pm

Was no mention made at the public meeting of cost? Discussing how much the local council could be charged for the work already carried out (including any equipment purchased that could not be used at a different MCB-OD crossing), the re-instatement of the crossing, and ongoing wages for a crossing keeper could focus minds nicely.

With regard to near misses, the key thing to remember is that drivers will occasionally do stupid things as they did at Farleigh. Wrong side failures are a different question, but again gates not being properly secured is avoidable without replacing the technology - there are several mitigating solutions, one of which is to secure the dodgy gate with a padlock!
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Peter Gibbons » Wed Oct 21, 2015 12:50 am

This may be of interest

http://www.plumptonpc.co.uk/documents/p ... tation.pdf

On Tuesday 20th October Lewes District Council obtained a Court Injunction that seeks to prevent Network Rail from carrying out any work on removing the gates. Copies of Injunction have been posted up on both sides of the crossing's temporary fencing.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby scarpa » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:34 pm

As an alternative to full barriers would sliding gates as proposed for Redcar be acceptable providing they the council pay any additional costs.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Peter Gibbons » Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:16 pm

scarpa wrote:As an alternative to full barriers would sliding gates as proposed for Redcar be acceptable providing they the council pay any additional costs.


The local residents simply don't want the gates to be replaced, unless like for like. They suggest that they need a swinging gate that will stop children from straying on the railway line (despite the fact that there are two unguarded public foot crossings nearby), also to stop horses from bolting at the sight of an open railway line. Clearly they must have some very nervous horses there.

From what I can see the sliding gates, they appear to look similar to those that guard secure installations.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby LlaniGraham » Wed Oct 21, 2015 6:49 pm

Peter Gibbons wrote:This may be of interest

http://www.plumptonpc.co.uk/documents/p ... tation.pdf

On Tuesday 20th October Lewes District Council obtained a Court Injunction that seeks to prevent Network Rail from carrying out any work on removing the gates. Copies of Injunction have been posted up on both sides of the crossing's temporary fencing.


I'm sure the residents of Plumpton (and Lewes) must be very happy that the Council are willing to spend so much money, and in doing so have probably extended the closure even more!
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Flipper_T_Rox » Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:36 pm

Indeed. Arguably the injunction, by explicitly prohibiting NR from removing any part of the mechanism or associated equipment, prevents them carrying out any work which requires lifting the Bomacs or removing the pins from any cranks, gatestops, &c. - thereby potentially preventing any repair, adjustment or possibly even inspection work for the duration of the injunction - whilst letting Lewes Council take the blame.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Wed Oct 21, 2015 8:04 pm

Doesn't that mean that NR would have to close the line altogether pending another court hearing if something blocked the line at the crossing (eg a lorry demolishes them, fouling the running line)?
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby S&TEngineer » Wed Oct 21, 2015 8:12 pm

Although I don't wish to, or have the energy at present to engage in what has become a political football, I am very disconcerted that NR thinks it does not have the skills or materials to make at least a temporary repair. I bet it hasn't even bothered to approach any heritage railways that have those skills or ask the general signalling industry the same question.

My view is that you can always reconstruct any mechanical part if you put your mind to it. A certain member of this forum runs a small business on that basis.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Wed Oct 21, 2015 8:26 pm

I agree that it shows an uninspiring attitude, but it may be that they don't actually have the material in stock, and given that so much work is done contracted out, it may also be true that they don't (directly) employ anybody locally with relevant skills. Surely this is more of a feeble justification for following inflexibly a policy decision by NR management.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby S&TEngineer » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:24 pm

Mike Hodgson wrote:I agree that it shows an uninspiring attitude, but it may be that they don't actually have the material in stock, and given that so much work is done contracted out, it may also be true that they don't (directly) employ anybody locally with relevant skills. Surely this is more of a feeble justification for following inflexibly a policy decision by NR management.

So who has been maintaining the gates for the past x years then? NR brought maintenance in-house in 2004 to alledegly overcome these types of issues.

Maintenance is about ongoing support and good planning for component replacement before it fails. NR has completely lost the plot.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby Danny252 » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:46 pm

S&TEngineer wrote:I bet it hasn't even bothered to approach any heritage railways that have those skills or ask the general signalling industry the same question.

I'm sorry to say you've lost your bet:
Peter Gibbons wrote:They also mentioned that they have approached a number of heritage railway organisations to help them with this. The Bluebell and Swanage Railways were specifically mentioned, but none came forward offering to do this.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby scarpa » Wed Oct 21, 2015 11:04 pm

unfortunately the world of maintenance has changed dramatically with staff not responsible for individual sections which has diminished pride and skills in the industry.This is partly driven by H&S .and trying to extend regular maintenance visits to longer periods.The installation has had its day becoming worn and the line has had new signalling installed contributing to safety.You could argue the gates are more dangerous for motorists with no Wig Wams provided no detection for the gates if a vehicle runs into the gates.They have had there day.All networkrail has to do is one Sunday morning is to remove the gates like what has been done on two occasisions previously where protesters have meddled in the industry .After the gates had been removed protests stopped.The offer of donating the gates to a heritage line is the best and safest way forward.
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Re: News from Plumpton (Sussex)

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:13 am

We are again straying from fact into opinion. This is far too sensitive a subject for this forum to pass judgement on.

  1. We know that Network Rail believe the crossing should be renewed to current standards.
  2. We know that the local residents believe the crossing should be retained and maintained as it is
  3. We know the local council has intervened and placed an order against changes being made without approval

There is no simple solution to this problem, let things take their course and report only on facts as things progress, please.

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