'Deadly' railway crossing near Penzance could close following inquest
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.
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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."