Lorry driver who caused train crash given suspended prison sentence
5:42pm Friday 22nd February 2013 in News
A lorry driver who caused a train crash at a West Wales level crossing after he ignored safety and warning signs has been given a suspended sentence.
Oswald Huw Davies managed to escape from his cab seconds before the collision at Henllan Amgoed, Whitland.
Following a British Transport Police (BTP) investigation, Davies, aged 49, of Castell Pigyn, Llanboidy, Whitland, was today (Friday) sentenced at Swansea Crown Court after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to endangering the safety of persons using the railway.
Sentencing, Judge Keith Thomas said: “This was a very serious incident and there was clearly a high degree of neglect on Mr Davies’ part.
“This incident resulted in a huge cost to the train operating company – more than £819,000 - , but the potential consequences of the collision Mr Davies caused are far more serious than the financial cost.
“It must have been a hugely frightening experience for everyone concerned, especially the train driver who acted swiftly and conscientiously. The consequences could have been very dire indeed.
“The offence is so serious that clearly a custodial sentence is justified, but it is a sentence I am willing to suspend.”
The court was told that at 9.40am on Monday, 19 December 2011, Davies was driving his Scania flat bed lorry and trailer, and was on his way to make a delivery. He had a full load of hay, weighing upwards of 30 tonnes, when he drove up to the level crossing.
Road signs on the approach to the crossing clearly stated that drivers of large or slow vehicles must phone the signalman and get permission to cross. Davies – who later admitted he did not know the length of his vehicle - did not stop or use the crossing telephone.
His vehicle was struck by the 0910hrs Milford Haven to Manchester Piccadilly Arriva Trains Wales service.
The train came to rest 50 yards down the track, with the lorry wedged under its front.
Of the 49 passengers on board the service, which was travelling at 68mph, four were taken to hospital suffering minor injuries, one of which suffered cracked ribs. There have been numerous personal injury claims to Arriva Trains Wales and some of the passengers are receiving ongoing treatment.
The line was closed for two days following the incident to allow for the recovery of both vehicles. The train suffered a huge amount of damage and was out of service for 209 days, while the lorry was damaged beyond repair.
Total costs incurred by Arriva Train Wales as a result of the incident were £819,821 – this includes recovery of the train, repair costs and the running of replacement services.
Davies was sentenced to 37 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work on behalf of the community. He was also told to pay £1,200 prosecution costs.
Chief Inspector Sandra England, British Transport Police Welsh Sector Commander, said: “It is astounding that no one was seriously injured or killed in this incident. Davies’ actions not only put rail staff and passengers’ lives at risk but also caused massive disruption to the rail infrastructure.
"Although Davies made a full and frank admission, this was an extremely foolish act, the severity of which is reflected in the custodial sentence he has received.”
Mike Tapscott, Operations and Safety Director, Arriva Trains Wales, said: "The severity and impact of level crossing misuse to the safe running of the railway cannot be underestimated."