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'Deadly' railway crossing near Penzance could close following inquest

By CMToby  |  Posted: December 07, 2012

Jeanette Nicholls, who was struck on the Mexico footcrossing in Long Rock last October

Jeanette Nicholls, who was struck on the Mexico footcrossing in Long Rock last October

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A RAILWAY crossing near Penzance which claimed the life of a grandmother when she was struck by a train last year has been recommended to be closed, following an inquest in Truro today.

Jeanette Nicholls, 73, died from multiple injuries received when using a footcrossing near the Mexico Inn in Long Rock on October 3 last year.

Her death was the second on the crossing and followed five near misses, and two other incidents, to have occurred on the line since June 2007; the latest just a month before the accident.

It is the second fatality to have occurred on the crossing,  following the death of Joy Mayo in 1972.

After a jury at the inquest had recorded a verdict of accidental death, coroner Barrie Van Den Berg made the recommendation that the crossing is closed in favour of a level crossing further down the line.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Nicholls' family said they were delighted with the outcome.

Her daughter, Vanessa Webster, said: "The family is very pleased with the verdict of accidental death following today's inquest and especially heartened by the coroner's recommendation to close the crossing.

"We hope that Network Rail and the relevant councils progress this closure as soon as possible to prevent further tragedies.

"It is the second death that  has happened on the line, five near misses and two other incidents reported since 2007. It's an accident waiting to happen."

The inquest heard how Mrs Nicholls, who is from village, had been struck by a the First Great Western Service from Plymouth to Penzance at 3.50pm, crossing the line towards Long Rock from a coastal path.

Train driver Nina Hampton, who was absolved of any responsibility for the accident, described how she had sounded her horn after seeing Mrs Nicholls on the crossing. 

She said: "I would say I was about 100-150 metres away when I saw a lady standing to the left of the crossing.  I blew the horn a second time, she then turned and faced the train and I hit the brake."

Mrs Hampton then described how she had felt a bang on the front of the train before stopping just past a level crossing a couple of hundred metres down the line.

Mrs Nicholls was treated on the scene but died from multiple injuries.

John Cope, from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, said he could not be certain what caused Mrs Nicholls to be hit but recommended Network Rail consider whether improvements could be made to sighting, review where whistle boards are placed and conduct a nation-wide review to improve warnings at level crossings.

Chris Denham from Network Rail said: "Our thoughts are with Mrs Nicholls' family and Network Rail supports their view that the level crossing should be closed. We will work closely with Cornwall  Council to try to achieve that aim and await details of the coroner's recommendations.

"We have closed more than 600 level crossings since 2009 and continue with that programme as we try to reduce areas of risk on the railway."

A spokesperson for Cornwall Council added: "We would welcome the invitation from Network Rail to investigate the closure of the crossing. Any proposed closure would be first subject to consultation."

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  • The Rhythm Balladeer  |  February 08 2013, 4:44PM

    As the train driver said "I blew the horn a second time, she then turned and faced the train" You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. It's nothing to do with safety precautions at the crossing and now the villagers are being punished for an event about which nobody will ever uncover the truth. Somehow the family involved are under the impression that closing the crossing will somehow ease their grief but clearly only they can explain how that would be as it was obviously a favourite route for the deceased.

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  • beverly  |  December 29 2012, 4:42PM

    "Too many decisions are made by petitions signed by people not involved in, using, or living by the affected area! I grew up in Long Rock and have been using the crossing all of my life. We simply check the gates were up at the level crossing and then crossed. I have taught my children the same. I happen to be there on the day that Mrs Nicholl's was killed. I was over by the level crossing waiting for the gates to go up, so I know it was an awful accident as the gates were still down. It is tragic that someone has been killed, but closing the crossing is a knee-jerk reaction, and a wrong one. I know that there has not been a death there in at least 50 years, the newspaper is intimating that there has been a death and near misses since 2009 - this is incorrect information. The village will be hugely affected, both residents and businesses, and this is unnecessary. Also the village shop has only just re-opened and needs all the support it can get in these difficult times. Over 400 residents have signed a petition to keep it open. They are the people that need to be listened to surely?

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  • josefkay  |  December 16 2012, 11:52AM

    I have used the crossing hundreds of times and never considered it to be a danger, unlike dozends roads I could mention. The tragedy of one family should not be used as an excuse to block off an access route that is used and appreciated by many, particularly those who live in the village of Long Rock.

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  • Hayleyh1  |  December 12 2012, 8:06PM

    This crossing should have been closed years ago. Visitors and children use the crossing all the time in the summer. Next time it could be a child! You might think differently jimjams2011 if this was a member of your family! Well done to all those who helped to get it closed. Rip.

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  • merlou  |  December 10 2012, 5:29PM

    Its very easy to point the finger of blame at Mrs Nichols. Anyone who has used this crossing knows that it is nothing more than a gate, no warning lights. There have been 5 near misses and this is partly due to the visibility offered by this crossing. Mrs Nichols lived in the village, used the crossing daily and was very aware of the dangers. Labeling her "Stupid" or assuming she was "Blase" is offensive and ill informed. It was, as the coroner and jury found a tragic accident. So, you may have to walk a little further to cross safely, you may need to cross on the level crossing but maybe you will save your family and the poor train driver the distress and horror of you being hit by a train on what is basically a pathway over the tracks. Maybe you might think twice about assuming a lovely, intelligent caring woman gambled with her life through "Stupidity" and save her loved ones even more anguish before you post such callous and misguided blurbs in response to this article.

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  • Brian6666  |  December 10 2012, 3:22PM

    " Deadly" !! Dream on ThisisCornwall !! What utter complete cr*p coming from you're news team. As others have said , do you sensationalise every death on the roads with the word "Deadly" . I can think of many many other places around the county where more than 2 deaths have occured in far less time.... The A30 is now seriously deadly ! , A38 Glynn Valley , thats pretty Deadly too. I can believe the use of the word however , if you attach it to stories of people who don't heed the many many warnings plastered everywhere around the railway , ignore with deadly danger !

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  • nick113  |  December 09 2012, 8:26PM

    If two people had been killed crossing a road in 40 years, would the coroner have recommended that the road should be closed?

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  • josdave  |  December 08 2012, 8:28PM

    Every time someone meets with an accident on a level crossing whether on foot or in a car the crossing is blamed. The crossings are clearly marked and some even have flashing lights and it is always people error. On top of that if you are on foot you can hear the train from some distance away so wait till it's passed by.

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  • Regennotdegen  |  December 08 2012, 7:32PM

    2 Deaths in 40 Years hardly makes it an accident blackspot, I bet there have been more deaths on the road outside the Mexico in 40 Years. Network rail want to close as many crossings as they can to reduce their maintenance bills and reduce their liability when this sort of accident happens not because they give a toss about anyone dying. If the deceased lived in the village then She probably used the crossing many times and had become blase about the dangers. I have used this crossing many times and know that it is a very convenient route to the beach, if it's removed it will mean a walk to the Level crossing at Long Rock car park or up to Marazion to get to the beach, this may encourage people to risk the crossing anyway which may be more dangerous than leaving the crossing open.

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  • jimjams2011  |  December 08 2012, 9:43AM

    Why should the crossing be closed when it was the tragic stupidity of this women.

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