Network Rail investigating after gates lock on schoolchildren crossing tracks at Elsenham station

Elsenham rail station. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Elsenham rail station. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

An investigation has been launched after the pedestrian gates at Elsenham railway station locked on a group of schoolchildren who were crossing the tracks on Wednesday (May 11).

Network Rail said they are aware of the incident, which took place in the afternoon, and that “at no time were the schoolchildren in any danger”.

A post on the Elsenham and Henham Newsline Facebook group said the children “luckily managed to get themselves up onto the platform”.

The level crossing at Elsenham has been an issue of deep concern among residents since schoolgirls Charlotte Thompson, 13, and Olivia Bazlinton, 14, were killed after being hit by a train at the station on December 3, 2005.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident at Elsenham level crossing last night where a group of young people were walking across the pedestrian crossing where the exit had locked.

“The crossing keeper on site saw that they were on the crossing and unlocked the gate and tried to explain this but the group walked across the anti-trespass guards and up onto the platforms. Importantly, because they were still on the crossing, the crossing keeper did not give the green light for trains to come through.

“While no doubt this was a frightening experience for them, at no time were they in any danger as trains had not been given permission to pass through. We are investigating how this happened and will see if anything needs to be changed at the crossing.”

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Olivia’s mother Tina Hughes spoke to the Reporter in December last year and said she was “distraught” that a safety feature installed after the tragedy was not working days before the 10th anniversary of the girls’ deaths.

Ms Hughes, who became a level crossings user champion for Network Rail in 2012, said last year that it was “absolutely critical that the system did not fail again”.

In March 2012, Network Rail was fined £1 million after admitting health and safety offences over the incident, with the company’s then chief executive Sir David Higgins apologising “for the mistakes made by us in this tragic case”.

The automatic locking gates were installed in August 2007 following a recommendation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, and a bridge was also put up at the station.