Daughter fights for more safety measures after mother struck to the ground at Polegate level crossing

Gillian Clare and Peter Cox at Polegate Railway crossing where Gillian's mother was struck on the head by one of the barriers (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Gillian Clare and Peter Cox at Polegate Railway crossing where Gillian's mother was struck on the head by one of the barriers (Photo by Jon Rigby)

The daughter of an elderly woman who was struck by the barrier at Polegate level crossing is calling for more to be done to prevent it happening again.

Gill Clare says her mother Violet Tarrant, 89, has lost her confidence and more than half a stone in weight since she suffered head and arm injuries from the incident in November.

Mrs Clare has been fighting for the crossing to give people more time to cross.

She said, “My mother has been virtually housebound, had two visits from paramedics, had eight home visits from the community nurse to dress her wounds, and lost more than half a stone in weight. She no longer has the confidence to walk down a high street she has used for more than 40 years. Do we have to wait for a fatality before they will take action?”

A spokesperson for Network Rail said, “We have a number of safety measures were in place at Polegate to take into account the higher percentage of less mobile people using the crossing.

“There are audible warnings on all four corners of the crossing - the volume of these has been increased to the highest permitted level. We’ve also recently installed new ‘red men’ warning lights, just like those found at a pedestrian crossing, to make clear when pedestrians should and should not cross.

“These are in addition to the usual red flashing lights at road level crossings of this type.

“We are considering using new technology to provide warning lights built into the crossing surface. We know that many older people will tend to look down in order to watch their footing on level crossings. These lights would duplicate the warning provided by the ‘red men’.

“We are also considering a change to the way the crossings scans for obstructions on the crossing area and the way this causes the barriers to lower.”

Polegate MP Maria Caulfield said the eight seconds people have to cross is ‘not enough time’, particularly for Polegate’s elderly population.

She said, “The barriers were able to close on Mrs Tarrant trapping her inside, this is something that should not be allowed to happen.” The MP said in contrast the crossing in Hampden Park is monitored to prevent this. She said, “Mrs Tarrant has been deeply and profoundly affected by this incident and it cannot be allowed to happen again. The next person to be hit or trapped could be killed. Network Rail must continue to look closely at every option available to improve safety.”

Resident Peter Cox said, “I have a long history dealing with Network Rail on this matter.

“I pointed out to Network Rail that the Obstacle Detection system at Polegate was not suitable due to the heavy footfall and the number of slow moving elderly and disabled users who would be unable to get across the Level Crossing with only eight seconds of warning lights.

“I told Network Rail there would be a accident but they took no notice and refused to deal with me.

“It is very sad that Mrs Tarrant was hit and Network Rail should be held responsible as they installed a system not fit for purpose at this location.”