Mid Wales

Level crossing crash: Van driver Daniel Bellis jailed

A driver whose van was hit on a level crossing by a train when he failed to call ahead to check if the line was clear has been jailed for five months.

Daniel Bellis, 35, from Oswestry, Shropshire, admitted endangering the safety of people on the railway.

The judge at Mold Crown Court told him he gambled with lives on the crossing near Carno, Powys, on 16 February.

Bellis was also banned from driving for a year after the collision on the Shrewsbury to Machynlleth line.

He opened the gates, but did not ring a signal box nearby.

The court was told that the train was travelling at 70mph when it struck the front of the van which then ended up on its roof in a ditch. There were no passengers on the train.

Myles Wilson, prosecuting, said it was fortunate the train did not hit the cab area of the van as the defendant would have been killed.

The van was extensively damaged and knocked down the track.

'Massive impact'

The train was not derailed and train driver Gareth Owen, described as stoic by the judge and the prosecutor, was able to bring it safely to a stop without it being derailed.

Image caption Daniel Bellis was called selfish and irresponsible

"He spotted the white van about 100 yards away but of course it was too late to do anything," said Mr Wilson.

"He braked and sounded his horn, the train hit the van, there was a massive impact."

About £10,000 worth of damage was caused to the train, which was then out of use for weeks, costing Arriva Trains Wales an additional £20,000.

"You gambled and you did that with people's lives," said Judge Niclas Parry, referring to the life of the train driver and the lives of passengers who could have been on the train.

The judge said Bellis was familiar with the crossing, had used other similar crossings in the area, knew the requirements to ensure the safety of railway users.

"You decided not to wait but rather to try and expedite your journey, an action knowingly taken, which was selfish, highly irresponsible and a serious collision occurred," the judge added.

Debra White, defending, said Bellis had been distressed since the incident.

She added: "He is very sorry for what happened."

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