AN OUT-of-court settlement has been reached more than three years after a Hucknall woman and her grandson were killed on a trainline dubbed a ‘crossing of death’.
Jean Hoggart (56) and seven-year-old Mikey Dawson were hit by a train on the Robin Hood Line crossing between Moor Road, Bestwood Village, and Nottingham Road, Hucknall, on the evening of Saturday November 22 2008.
Both lived in Hucknall, Mrs Hoggart on Barbara Square and Mikey on Spruce Grove.
Now, Mrs Hoggart’s husband, Laurence, has received a payout from Network Rail, the company which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure and is responsible for track safety.
Mr Hoggart had brought High Court proceedings against Network Rail. He claimed that the company was aware of dangers on the crossing but took no action.
He maintained that Network Rail had failed to ensure that the crossing was safely lit and had not put up adequate warning signs.
The High Court hearing had been due to take place later this month but the case will now not be heard. The amount of damages has not been disclosed.
In a statement, Mr Hoggart said he was still angry about the manner in which the rail authorities “dragged their feet” in even responding to the deaths. He added: “I feel I have had to fight them every step of the way.”
Network Rail pleaded guilty last week to health and safety offences over the deaths of two girls at a level crossing in Elsenham, Essex, in 2005.
Mr Hoggart said: “It’s my belief that the only reason they have settled my claim this week is the adverse publicity they have faced over the Elsenham tragedy.
“I think the offer they have given is appalling for the life of an innocent human being.”
He stressed that his personal loss and that to his family could so easily have been avoided if the “responsible people” at Network Rail and the company’s predecessor, Railtrack, had done their jobs properly.
“They did not and we have to suffer the dreadful consequences for the rest of our lives,” he said.
Solicitor Jane Radcliffe, who was acting for Mr Hoggart, said: “The tragedy of this accident is that the dangers of the crossing were identified by Railtrack in 2000 and by Network Rail in 2004 and yet no remedial action was taken.”
At an inquest in June 2010 into the deaths of Mrs Hoggart and Mikey, the then Nottinghamshire Coroner, Dr Nigel Chapman, decided that either Mrs Hoggart did not hear the train at all or heard a noise but assumed it was coming from a tram, which passed some seconds ahead of the train.
A report into the accident on the Worksop-to-Nottingham line by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) in 2009 claimed that issues arising from previous investigations at other crossings, including obstruction to pedestrians’ visibility, had not been addressed.
It found a significant factor in the accident to be that the point at which pedestrians made their decision to cross was not clearly identified.
The report stated: “The risk to pedestrians presented by tram operations running parallel to the Network Rail line was not considered by any party.
“There was no appreciation that crossings in darkness present different risks to pedestrians compared with during daylight hours.”
The report acknowledged that Network Rail had since made changes to the crossing which had improved the visibility of trains for pedestrians.
Since the deaths, a new gate and warning signs have been installed there and work has been carried out to straighten a ‘dogleg’ across the track.
A Network Rail spokesman said it accepted legal responsibility in 2010 for the accident which caused the tragic deaths of Mrs Hoggart and Mikey.
“All actions recommended in the following investigation have been completed and new signs giving clearer instructions for all users have also been installed,” said the spokesman. “We have been in dialogue with Mr Hoggart since the incident and we are pleased to have reached a settlement.”
Coun Chris Baron, a Hucknall Labour member of Ashfield District Council, has previously described the crossing as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.
He said this week he was pleased to hear about the outcome of the case but he thought it was so tragic that the accident could have been avoided.
“Network Rail has made quite a lot of alterations to the crossing but I still think it vital that the gate should lock automatically when a train is approaching,” said Coun Baron.