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BREAKING: Network Rail fined £4 million after Eye woman’s crossing death

Gypsy Lane railway crossing in Needham Market ANL-141211-105048001
Gypsy Lane railway crossing in Needham Market ANL-141211-105048001

Network Rail have been fined £4 million following the death of an Eye care home resident on a railway crossing.

Retired film and TV actress Olive McFarland, 82, was struck by a 100mph train as she used the Gypsy Lane foot crossing in Needham Market on August 24, 2011.

Ipswich Crown Court ANL-140617-141524001
Ipswich Crown Court ANL-140617-141524001

Today, Ipswich Crown Court heard that Network Rail had failed to implement recommended safety work at the crossing.

Judge Martyn Levett imposed a £4 million fine on the company, which had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to being an employer in breach of general duty to other than an employee.

The charge spanned a 12-year period from January 29, 1999, to the day of Mrs McFarland’s death.

Judge Levett said that the fine would have been £6 million, but the company had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Network Rail have also been ordered to pay £35,857 prosecution costs.

Mrs McFarland had been living at Paddock House care home in Eye, but returned to her house in Creeting St Mary on occasions to feed her chickens.

The court heard that Network Rail had failed to carry out safety improvements recommended for the Gypsy Lane crossing.

Just three weeks before Mrs McFarland was struck and killed by a London to Norwich train, a Network Rail worker had recommended the speed limit at that location be reduced to 55mph.

Vegetation at the Gypsy Lane crossing had obscured the view of the line for pedestrians and an audible warning device was located too close to the crossing to allow people enough time to avoid an oncoming train.

Appearing for Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, Prashant Popat said the court needed to take into account that the company was a publicly owned body and a substantial fine could impact on its ability to provide services.

Mr Popat said that shortly before the death of Mrs McFarland, the crossing had been inspected and judged to be “high risk” with a suggestion for an 80mph speed limit, later amended to 55mph.

However, nothing had been done because a senior manager felt that he needed to consider the idea further once he returned from leave.

Judge Levett said he believed that Network rail should have imposed a speed limit “there and then” and noted that a limit had been imposed at that location shortly after Mrs McFarland’s death.

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