Dorset

'Near miss' Wareham rail crossing worker suspended

mother pushing pram at Wareham crossing on 11.5.09 Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption The crossing was once branded one of the most dangerous in the country

A rail worker has been suspended after a number of near misses at a level crossing.

Dorset County Council revealed the man had been suspended to explain why the pedestrian crossing at Wareham had been closed multiple times in recent days.

Safety gates at the crossing have been operated by an attendant since 2010.

The council said the suspension had been exacerbated by other staff sickness, forcing it to close the crossing at short notice.

The closure means there is no step-free crossing over the railway.

The council said the company contracted to supply crossing attendants, STM, had been unable to cover the vacant shifts left by the member of staff.

'Impossible situation'

Natural and built environment councillor Daryl Turner said: "Unfortunately it is not as straight forward as deploying our staff to cover this shortage - anyone working on a live railway has to be accredited by Network Rail, which is why we have to employ this company for our attendants.

"Last week we instructed STM to reduce the operation of the crossing to 8am to 6pm when there is only one attendant available to ensure that the crossing was open for the majority of users until full staffing of the crossing is back in place, but this attendant is now unwell and we are speaking with all concerned to try and agree a resolution.

"We appreciate that this puts anyone needing step-free access in an impossible situation, which is the position we have been trying to avoid for many years."

The level crossing, once branded one of the most dangerous in the country, is due to be shut as part of a national programme of closures over safety concerns.

Revised plans to replace the stepped footbridge with a ramp were refused by councillors in June last year.

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