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Irish language barrier link to crossing crash

Irish language barrier link to crossing crash

An investigation onto a train crash in Februrary 2011 has concluded that signage in the irish language may have been a contributary factor.


Rachel McClean and Ryan Jones from Co Fermanagh were on a weekend break in Galway when they unwittingly drove their car on to a level crossing as a train approached at nearly 100kph.

The investigation report said that signage at the level crossing “deviated from the norm”, in that the Irish rather than English version was on the left-hand side, and that the couple were “not familiar with the language”.

Gates on the private road had also been left open by the crew of a bin truck.  The report, by the independent Railway Accident Investigation Unit (RAIU), said the bin crew were “aware of their obligation to close the gates” but did not do so because they expected to return within a few minutes.

“It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me in my life,” McClean said after the crash.  “We had no idea there were trains there.  The road tilted up towards the tracks and we did not see any signs.  All we saw was a stop sign.”

Investigators concluded Irish Rail did not comply with its own standards when it changed level-crossing designs across the network in 2010.  The company submitted its new designs to the Railway Safety Commission but made “no changes” after it was given suggested improvements.

Investigators concluded the passenger in the car did not notice the train until the the moment of impact.  “She [McClean] had noticed a ‘No Dumping’ sign and the Irish warning sign and assumed they were passing by a refuse facility or building site,” the report said.

Investigators established that the train driver sounded his horn twice, the first time a second after the car was seen approaching the crossing.  The driver applied the emergency brake three seconds later and struck the car five seconds after applying the brake.

The train hit the front of the car and came to a stop 340 meters beyond the crossing.  The couple were taken to hospital and released later the same day.  Their Volkswagon Bora was severely damaged.

Irish Rail said it will review level crossing warnings.  Barry Kenny, a spokesman, said the report highlights “how critically important” it is for all users of level crossings to operate gates correctly.  “It is clear that a previous user had left the gates open, putting the following user at risk,” he said.

Foilsithe ar 26 Feabhra 2012

Foilsithe ar Gaelport.com - 27 Feabhra 2012

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