Level crossing victim gives backing to new safety drive

Kirknewton level crossing
Kirknewton level crossing
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A YOUNG woman who lost her arm and legs in a level crossing accident has added her support to a new safety drive.

Transport police have launched the initiative after a series of near disasters at the notorious Kirknewton barriers in West Lothian.

Officers have pledged to enforce a “zero-tolerance” policy on vehicles and pedestrians who ignore warning lights at the crossing.

One recent incident saw two youngsters around the age of ten run through the lowered barriers moments before a train shot past.

The campaign has been backed by Louise Mitchell, who was struck by an 80mph GNER train in 2005.

The 26-year-old, who was returning home from work in Edinburgh when the accident happened, has spoken of her ordeal for the first time to warn others of the danger.

She told the Evening News: “When a train is going at that speed you don’t even hear it. It’s faster than people think. You always read about other people, you never expect it to happen to you.”

Ms Mitchell said the barriers had been partly raised the night she walked through them, something she said other residents spoke of, but that she hopes her experience can be a warning.

She said: “I got off the train from Edinburgh and the weather was really bad that night. The barrier lifted, I don’t know if it was the weather or not, but it lifted and I just walked across.

“The next thing I knew I’d been hit. I was conscious the whole time and I felt everything. If it wasn’t for my big brother, who was waiting for me at the station, I wouldn’t be here today. He kept me going until help came.”

It emerged last week that controversial plans for a £12 million underpass to replace the level crossing have been scrapped in favour of extra barriers and a hi-tech sensor.

The crossing – rated the third most dangerous in Scotland – has been the scene of a string of serious accidents.

British Transport Police said a catalogue of recent incidents including failing to obey traffic signs, trespassing and vandalism.

Alongside the incident where the ten-year-olds ran through the barriers, which was around 6.30pm on May 28, was another at 11am on July 19 when a train narrowly avoided hitting a blue car which drove across the crossing.

A third incident on August 19 occurred when a train driver reported seeing a man trespassing on the railway line at the crossing at around 10pm.

Constable Lindsay Clarkson, the transport police officer in charge of the campaign, said: “The continuing misuse [of the crossing] remains a real concern for all the agencies involved and today’s operation is in response to the disturbing behaviour of drivers and pedestrians.”

The officer added: “Despite previous warnings, there are still those who think it is a good idea to put their own life, and those of others, at risk for the sake of saving a few minutes.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com