Railway level crossings can be hazardous if not maintained

Carnoustie Station Railway Crossing

We were first contacted by Stella from Carnoustie in respect of her cycling accident in April 2018 after she had exhausted all of her own efforts with Network Rail.

Stella had been out for a training ride from her home on her road bike. She was cycling across Carnoustie level crossing when the front wheel of her bike became trapped in-between the rubber flangeway mats surrounding the railway tracks. Her bicycle came to a quick halt and she was catapulted over the handlebars striking her knees off the bars and causing injury to her face and her shoulder. 

Gap between rubber flangeway matsStella got in touch with us at Cycle Law Scotland because she was worried that there was a dangerous gap in-between the mats which had caused her accident. She was concerned that other cyclists might suffer the same fate as her. We had photographs of the mat following the accident which showed that there was indeed a gap just large enough for road bike tyre to fall into. 

We were able to undertake Freedom of Information requests to Network Rail asking for information about their inspections and maintenance records relating to the mats. Although the records through the period prior to Stella’s incident showed that Network Rail were aware there were problems with gaps appearing between the mats and were aware that those problems could lead to hazards for road users including cyclists, Network Rail did not seek to do anything in order to rectify the hazard.

On the back of this information, we intimated a claim on Stella’s behalf to Network Rail for their negligence. The insurers for Network Rail initially denied her case on the basis that there was a sign saying “Cyclists Dismount” prior to the level crossing. Whilst indeed there was a small blue sign near the level crossing stating “Cyclists Dismount”, Stella’s evidence was that she did not see that sign prior to the incident because she was aware of vehicular traffic immediately behind her and she was trying to be very careful to cross the railway tracks at a 90 degree angle.

We know as specialist cycling solicitors that such signs are only advisory and therefore it is not obligatory for cyclists to dismount from their bicycles. There was no alternative suitable route for Stella to take other than to dismount from her bike and carry it over her shoulder up the stairs and across the overpass over the railway crossing. We were able to obtain supportive evidence from a Highways Expert and so armed with this, we raised the case at the All Scotland Personal Injury Court (ASPIC) in Edinburgh.

Although liability was initially denied at Court, the solicitors for Network Rail quickly changed their position. They accepted that the gap in the matting had caused a hazard for our client but they said that Stella had been partly to blame because she had failed to dismount from her bicycle. We resisted this argument entirely because the “Cyclists Dismount” signs are simply advisory and it was not the hazard of crossing the railway tracks which had caused her incident, but rather the gap in-between the mats which had been recognised in their prior inspections as being a hazard.

Following lengthy arguments with the solicitors for Network Rail, we received a low offer in settlement. After intensive negotiations with the other side, we were able to get an increase in the offer and the settlement eventually accepted by Stella was more than twice the original offer.

Stella was delighted with the outcome saying:-

“I was very happy with the service I received from Roz. She explained at all stages what was happening and the consequences of various decisions and why she followed those procedures. I would not have continued to this conclusion if there had been any difficulties along the way. I would  certainly recommend Cycle Law Scotland, and Roz to anyone requiring such help.”

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