Leaf residue blamed after Limerick train crashes through level-crossing gates

By David Raleigh

Iarnród Éireann has described an incident involving a train that crashed through a railway level crossing while it remained open to road traffic and pedestrians as "very serious".

The company said it is investigating how the 7pm Ballybrophy to Limerick service ploughed through Spa Road Crossing, at Castleconnell, Co Limerick, last Saturday night, "while the gates were closed to rail traffic".

Iarnród Éireann spokesman Barry Kenny said the train also experienced "significant" loss of grip on the tracks as it approached the crossing, which he said could have been due to a greasy residue left on the tracks from falling leaves.

No one was injured in the incident and there were no passengers on board the scheduled service.

A statement released this afternoon by Mr Kenny said: "All aspects of the incident will be investigated to prevent a recurrence."

"It has been noted that the train experienced significant low rail adhesion at the approach to the crossing – low rail adhesion is a seasonal issue during the leaf fall season which can reduce the grip between the train wheel and the rail."

"However, this is one factor and the investigation will examine all factors – technical, mechanical and human factors - to establish the cause of the incident," he said.

It is unclear as yet how the level crossing is manned or operated.

"There were no passengers on board at the time, and no injuries occurred. This was a very serious incident, given the potential consequences had a vehicle or pedestrian been passing through the crossing at the time," the statement said.

Mr Kenny said that a train's "acceleration and deceleration can take longer" because the (leafy) grease that forms on the rails.

He added: "In this situation when you have quite an extreme incident which would be very unusual, where while the breaks were applied and working correctly, the grease on the rails simply didn't allow the grip to occur."

"Obviously we are thankful that it didn't end up been a more serious incident, and indeed, as the train was approaching and the driver saw that the gates were closed to the train, he did sound the horn continuously, so that would have served an alert to anybody who would have been in the area as well."

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