Family of train death man say apology is ‘meaningless’

John Dawn and Tracy Hart the father and sister of Phil Dawn who was killed by a train near Kings Mill Reservoir.
John Dawn and Tracy Hart the father and sister of Phil Dawn who was killed by a train near Kings Mill Reservoir.

The family of a Kirkby man who was killed on a level crossing nearly two years ago say that Network Rail’s apology for the way it treated bereaved families such as themselves is ‘meaningless’.

Father-of-three Phil Dawn (34), of Lindleys Lane, was struck by a train while cycling across the King’s Mill level crossing, near King’s Mill reservoir, in May 2012.

His devastated family has since been campaigning for a bridge to be built over the crossing and has repeatedly called on Network Rail to make the vital safety improvement - but with no success so far.

Now, following an inquiry into safety at level crossings, the railway company has been blasted by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee for its treatment of the families of people killed in accidents at level crossings.

The committee’s report found that Network Rail has frequently shown a ‘callous disregard’ for the feelings of families and was criticised for the ‘lack of transparency’ regarding safety concerns at crossings.

Speaking after the publication of the report, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne issued a full and unreserved apology for past failings in managing public safety at level crossings and for the company’s past behaviour towards bereaved families.

But Phil’s sister Tracy Hart, of Park Avenue, Annesley Woodhouse, who was speaking on behalf of the family said the apology ‘is meaningless to us at this time’.

“Network Rail continues to lack transparency and continues to treat the family with disregard of their feelings,” she said.

“Their reluctance to build a bridge following Phil’s death, despite their own acknowledgement two months before that the crossing should be replaced by a bridge, shows to us that they would rather spend £130m on easy targets rather than high risk crossings.

“My fear is that their money may be wasted and another death may occur.”

Tracy said that the family continue to fight for compensation from Network Rail for Phil’s children and are now battling to keep the memorial to Phil at the crossing after the company asked them to remove parts of it.

“The culture of blaming users for their own demise and ignoring their own systemic failings continues to exist in practice and this behaviour certainly undermines the apology,” she added.

Network Rail failed to act on two risk assessments carried out at the King’s Mill crossing before Phil’s death and had even accepted the need to replace the crossing with a bridge.

The well-used crossing has no warning lights for crossing users and no interim measures to make it safer - such as reducing the speed trains could travel at - were put in place.

The transport select committee also criticised Network Rail for the way it behaved at inquests, with heavy legal representation making bereaved families feel that they were disadvantaged.

Phil Dawn’s family have complained about the number of lawyers the company employed at his inquest.

Louise Ellman, chairman of the select committee, said: “We welcome the apology being offered by Network Rail and will be watching closely to see that they now deliver on their pledges in substance.

“Risk assessments will need to be more robust and fully transparent as part of efforts by the sector and the regulator to adopt and work hard to deliver a zero fatalities target by 2020.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We apologise to the Dawn family for any confusion or distress caused by our exchanges over King’s Mill level crossing and the tragic accident involving Philip.

“We treat the findings of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch with the utmost gravity and have made improvements at the crossing.

“Trains now use a two tone warning horn, we have put in an electronic warning system and we have straightened the deck to reduce crossing time.

“Network Rail is keen to remove level crossings wherever possible but a bridge is not considered appropriate at this site at this time.”