MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT
Report on the Accident that occurred on 25th May 1965 at Llanddaniel Occupation
IN THE LONDON MIDLAND REGION
LONDON; HER MAJESTY’S STATIONARY OFFICE
Ministry of Transport
St Christopher House
26th November 1965
I have the honour to report for the information of the Minister of Transport, in accordance with the Order of 10th June 1965, the result of my Inquiry into the accident which occurred at about 12.9p.m. on the 25th May 1965 at Llanddaniel Occupation Level Crossing, Anglesey, in the London Midland Region, British Railways.
The 9.25 a.m. Crewe to Holyhead passenger train, running at about 45 m.p.h. struck and wrecked a private motor car which was going over the crossing. I regret to record that the driver of the car, Mr D. Williams, who was a local farmer and the only occupant of the vehicle, was killed. None of the passengers in the train, who numbered about twelve, nor any members of the train crew, were injured.
The train, which consisted of a four-car diesel set weighing 107.5 tons in all, was not derailed; it stopped 275 yards from the crossing with the motor car, a Vauxhall Victor saloon, in front of the leading vehicle. Damage to the train was slight but included breakage of the vacuum brake pipe; the car was completely wrecked.
It was a fine, sunny day with a very slight southerly wind.
2. The crossing lies between Llanfair PG and Gaerwen stations, on the main line between Chester and Holyhead; it is about a mile and a quarter to the east of Gaerwen and slightly more than a mile and a half from Llanfair PG. The main line consists of two tracks which approach the crossing from the east on an easy left-hand bend; the Down track, along which the direction of traffic is westbound, towards Holyhead, is on the inside.
3. The road, which is unclassified, is only about eight feet in width and surfaced with loose stone; it connects two farms and a private house on the southern side of the railway with the A5 main road to Holyhead on the opposite side. The distance along the unclassified road between the A5 and the crossing is about a hundred yards.
4. Although an occupation crossing, a gatekeeper has been provided for many years; the gatekeeper’s cottage stands alongside the crossing, on the Up side and on the western side of the roadway. Attendance is continuous throughout the twenty-four hours and at the time of the accident the gatekeeper was Miss S. Williams; she dwells in the cottage with her stepsister, Mrs A Boote, who is the relief gatekeeper, and Mrs. Boote’s husband, a sub-inspector in the Civil Engineer’s Department.
5. The crossing gates are of the wooden field type; they are about ten feet in width and open away from the railway. Their normal position is across the roadway and they are fastened against the gateposts with hasps and kept secured by padlocks. There are stiles about four feet in height for pedestrians. Each gate carries a cast iron notice plate warning road users against failure to shut and fasten the gate after use, and there is another notice close to either stile with warnings not to trespass upon the railway, written in both English and Welsh.
6. The gates are about 22 feet from the nearest rail and the surfaces of the bays so provided are of stone chippings; the crossing itself is of timber and is about 17 feet in width. There are neither targets nor lamps on the gates and the crossing is not protected by signals. Whistle boards are not provided but the Sectional Appendix contains an instruction that train drivers must sound their whistles when they are a mile from the crossing. The bay on the Down side is behind a mound and is thus hidden from the driver of an oncoming Down train; the driver of Up trains are also unable to see the bay on their side of the line, on account of the cottage.
7. The crossing is not equipped with bells to repeat the block bell signals but there are three-position instruments which give a continuous indication of the state of the line; the positions are “Normal”, “Train Approaching” and “Train in Section”. These indicators are worked by the block instrument circuit. When the signalman at Llanfair PG puts the needle from “Up Line Closed” to “Up Line Clear” the Up indicator at the crossing goes to “Train Approaching” and the Up starting signal at Gaerwen cannot be cleared until the needle is first in this position. The movement of the needle from “Up Line Clear” to “Up Train on Line” brings the indicator to “Train in Section”. The Down indicator is worked in a similar manner by the signalman at Gaerwen but the block instrument does not control the Down starting signal at Llanfair PG.
8. There is also a telephone at the crossing connecting with the signalmen on either side. The instructions for working the crossing state that the gates must be kept fastened across the roadway except when required to be open to let road users go over the line and that when either indicator is in other that normal position the gates must not be opened for the roadway until the train concerned has passed over the crossing. It is laid down in the instructions that the telephone is to be used for getting passed over the crossing. It is also laid down in the instructions that the telephone is to be used for getting the Llanfair PG signalman’s permission to open the gates should an indicator become defective and that when a shunting movement at one of the adjacent stations has resulted in either indicator moving from its normal position, similar permission must be obtained. The telephone instrument is on the cottage wall immediately outside the doorway and the indicators are mounted on a pole a few yards away. The telephone was installed in 1955; the indicators were provided about ten years earlier.
9. Approximately twelve motor vehicles and about 70 trains, passenger and freight pass over the crossing daily, on weekdays.
10. The driver of the Down diesel multiple-unit train, J. I. Jones, who was alone in his cab, said that he left Llanfair PG station at 12.4p.m. He was aware of the instructions to sound the train horn when he was a mile from the level crossing but waited until he was within about half a mile before doing so, a mile in his opinion being too far away. He had almost reached the crossing, some four or five minutes after leaving Llanfair PG, wand was only some ten to twenty yards from it, when the car suddenly came into view from behind the bank on the Down side and moved in from of his train; there was no possibility of avoiding a collision and a few seconds later the train struck the vehicle. Jones said his hand went to the brake handle instinctively but the damage caused to the vacuum pipe by the impact applied the brake automatically, bringing the train to rest with the wreckage of the car in front.
11. Miss Williams, who is sixty-nine years of age, speaks only Welsh and I interviewed her through a competent interpreter, Mr E. H. Evans, who is a relief stationmaster. She told me that Mrs Boote was actually in charge of the crossing on the day under review; when the sound of Mr William’s car horn was heard at about mid-day, Mrs Boote happened to be on a stepladder in one of the cottage rooms and Miss Williams said she went out to the crossing instead. She said the car was at the gate on the Down side, occupied by Mr Williams who worked one of the farms served by the road and who was waiting to cross the line. On looking at the indicators, she saw the Down instrument was showing normal but noticed the needle of the Up instrument in the “Train Approaching” position; she called across the tracks to Mr Williams that there was a train coming and waited near the cottage door until the Up train passed. She then went to the gate on the Up side but without first taking another glance at the indicators to ascertain whether the aspect of the Down instrument had changed; having opened the gate she crossed the line, opened the gate on the Down side, and then went to the car to take a can of milk from Mr. Williams who had it ready for her. As soon as he had given her the milk, Mr Williams drove forward but the train struck the car as he was going over the Down track.
12. Mrs Boote said she continued with the household tasks she had in hand after Miss Williams had gone out of doors to attend to the gates but when she heard the noise of the collision she hurried out herself to ascertain the cause. She lost no time in telephoning to the signalman at Llanfair PG and reporting what had happened.
13. The indicators were tested about an hour after the accident by R. A. Jones, a technician; they were found to be in order and I have no reason to doubt that they operated properly when the two trains approached. J. Evans, who was the signalman at Gaerwen, assured me that he had put the Down block instrument needle to “Line Clear” at 11.59 a.m., which would have caused the Down indicator at the crossing to show “Train Approaching”, and to “Train on Line” at 12.4p.m.; if therefore, Miss Williams did indeed look at her Down indicator when she first saw the car waiting at the gate and noticed that the needle was at “Normal” she must have done so a few moments before it changed.
14. The gatekeepers are under the supervision of the stationmaster at Llanfair PG, where Mr J. I. Owen, a relief station master, has been in charge in an acting capacity since January 1965; he told me he visited the crossing once a week and had never had any reason to suspect that Miss Williams was at all incompetent. Mr. E. H. Stanger, a district signalmen’s inspector, said he has visited the crossing every six or seven weeks since he took up his present position in 1957 and had re-examined Miss Williams in her simple duties every two years. Both these supervisors were of the opinion that Miss Williams knew her work and was completely reliable.
15. This accident was caused by Miss Williams’s lapse in not looking at her indicators a second time after the Up train had drawn away, before commencing to open the gates to road traffic; had she done so, she would undoubtedly have noticed that the approach of a Down train was being shown. She has been the gatekeeper at the crossing 28 years and I was told she has never before made a mistake in the course of her duties. Whether she was beginning to get a little less competent as she advanced in years was a matter that Station Master Owen and Mr Stanger should have been able to judge but I am somewhat inclined to view that their inspections have not been very thorough. I discovered for myself that Miss Williams is virtually unable to read or write, a feature of which Mr Owen said he had not been aware although they conversed in the Welsh language, and when I learned that Mr Stanger is unacquainted with Welsh and was unable to talk with her at all except by communicating as best he could with Mrs Boote’s help I found it difficult to understand how he managed to test her in her duties and establish that she was capable of carrying them out, and to satisfy himself that she had learned the printed regulations, all of which are in English
16. Miss Williams gave up the position of gatekeeper shortly after the accident and Mrs Boote took over the permanent position in her place. Relief keepers must now be sent from one of the nearby stations when they are needed and in view of the costs this is incurring, and the further difficulties that will arise when, Mrs. Boote relinquishes the duties, the local railway officers may find it worth while to consider the installation of automatic miniature red/green lights at this crossing. Such a system should be as safe as the present arrangements and although car drivers would have to open and re-close the gates for themselves it would reduce delays to road users; the indicators now in operation, and worked as they are in conjunction with the block instruments, move from their normal positions, and so prevent the keeper from opening the gates, nearly ten minutes before the train arrives, maybe longer when freight trains are concerned. The conversion of the crossing to the red/green light system would certainly receive my support.
17. The instruction requiring drivers to sound their whistles when they are a mile from the crossing is one that applies to many level crossings in the London Midland Region and which originated when the lines concerned were worked by the London & North Western Railway Company. It has been agreed by the officers of the London Midland Region that in most cases a mile from a level crossing is probably too far for warnings given at that distance to be effective but the practices at every level crossing in the Region are already being reviewed and I have no recommendations to make, therefore in this respect.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant
C. H. Hewison
Ministry of Transport