A STROUD farmer and campsite owner who was killed by a train after a Network Rail signalman gave him the the go ahead to cross the track died 'accidentally,' an inquest jury ruled yesterday (Wednesday, June 12).

Colin Cameron, 60, of Bisley Road, Stroud, had regularly driven over the level crossing at Frampton Mansell, near Stroud,  since 1988 but on February 7, 2017 he and his dog both died as the train ploughed into his Land Rover on the line.

The inquest jury in Gloucester heard that before crossing he had phoned the signalman to check if it was safe for him to drive over the crossing, as he had done hundreds of times before, in his Land Rover Defender.

The signalman, Steven Finning, asked him if he had seen a train go by recently and Mr Cameron said there had been one about two minutes earlier.

Based on that information Mr Finning told him to go ahead and cross - because he knew that if a train had already gone by there would not be another one for 20 minutes.

However, Mr Cameron's statement - heard by the jury in a recording of the conversation with the signalman - could not have been true because the only train using the line at about that time had yet to arrive and it then hit Mr Cameron as he crossed.

Giving their accidental death conclusion at the end of a two day hearing, the jury stated: “The vehicle the deceased was driving was hit by a train while crossing the Frampton Mansell user worked crossing.

“Permission to cross had been given while a train was known to be somewhere in the track section based on Colin Cameron’s confirmation that a train had passed.

“This was accepted industry practice. The confirmation given was incorrect.”

During the inquest the jury was told Mr Cameron had been a frequent user of the level crossing because he ran a campsite on the other side.

He was said to be 'very cautious' when travelling over it.

The crossing was known as a 'user worked' level crossing and required all who wished to cross to contact the signaller by trackside telephone and obtain permission.

His conversation with the signaller was automatically recorded, and was played at the inquest yesterday morning. It confirmed he had called the signalman to request permission to cross.  

In the call he told Mr Finning he needed a minute to cross and also confirmed he had just seen a train pass "a couple of minutes ago."

The transcript of the recording of the telephone call on February 7, 2017 was given to the jury and read as follows:

Steven Finning - Gloucester Panel Signalling
Colin - Hello, I'm at Frampton. Can i have a minute with a Landrover
Steven Finning - Have you just had a train go by?
Colin - Yeah one went a couple of minutes ago.
Steven Finning - Okay then, you've a couple of minutes with the Landrover now.
Colin - alright, thank you.
Steven Finning - Thank you.

Mr Finning, who has worked as a signalman for Network Rail for 35 years, told the jury he heard from Mr Cameron almost daily and that day's call was like any other normal call he received.

The family's barrister, Sarah Le Fevre questioned Mr Finning about whether enough checks had been done to ensure the train that Colin said had passed was the one desgnated 1G38.

Mr Finning explained to the court that the train number 1G38 was the only train in that area at the time with another train not due for around 20 minutes.  

He was not sure exactly where the 1G38 train was within the 3.7 mile track circuit in which the crossing was situated, he said. But he was aware the 1G38 had passed through a signal located before that crossing and therefore assumed the train Colin had said he had seen was the 1G38 and no other train would be due for around 20 minutes.

"There was only the 1G38 in the section," he told the jury.

"But you are not sure exactly where?" Ms Le Fevre asked.

"No" he said.

Mr Finning went on to explain how he cleared the DK94 signal after being informed by the driver he was approaching it.  The court heard that given the speed of the train of up to 50mph and the distance between the DK94 signal and the Frampton Mansell Crossing, it would be roughly two minutes before the train arrived at that crossing.

"Colin used the crossing regularly, never had a problem with him using it so I assumed what he said was true" he said.

"He said one went by a couple of minutes it. I assumed it was the 1G38 because there was no other train in the area.  I know that the next train was not for another 20 minutes. It could not have been any other train."

Mr Finning was asked if he considered challenging Colin on whether he had actually seen a train passing by.

"It is not my job to question users. I assumed he would tell the truth" he said.

Barrister for Network Rail, Prashant Popat QC, asked Mr Finning if there was anything available that would tell him that Colin could have been wrong.

"No nothing at all suspicious to suggest that wasn't what happened.  If he had indicated he wasn't sure if a train passed I wouldn't let him cross" Mr Finning told the court.

He said the crossing guidelines state a signaller must let a user cross immediately if satisfied it is safe to do  so.

Detective Inspector  Paul Stanley, who led the police investigation into the incident, told the jury he wasn't aware of what Colin was referring to when he said a train passed "a couple of minutes ago."

"We haven't been able to establish that. All the evidence we have says there wasn't a train that passed through two minutes earlier," said the officer.

DI Stanley confirmed there was no reason not to trust what Colin told the signaller as he was considered a "conscientious user"

Senior Gloucestershire Coroner Katie Skerrett heard submissions from the lawyers about whether she should issue a 'preventing further deaths' report to Network Rail in the light of the tragedy.

She saisd she will make a decision about that within the next ten days.

A Network Rail spokesperson said after the hearing: “Our thoughts and condolences remain with Colin Cameron’s family and friends and we are very sad that this accident happened.

“Safety of the public, passengers and our staff remains our priority and we will continue to do all we can to improve safety at level crossings.”

A statement from Mr Cameron's family said: “Colin was a much loved husband, father, sibling and friend to many.

“His loss has been felt by many and he is missed every day. He was a calm, generous, thoughtful and deeply loved man.

“As has been previously mentioned, Colin used the Frampton Mansell crossing regularly and treated it with respect – he was aware of the dangers associated with it and never crossed without seeking permission from the Gloucester signallers. In an email in 2015 Colin said that he would be totally happy to wait until it is safe to cross.

“On February 7, 2017 Colin died in a collision with a train, in circumstances we believe were avoidable.

“We struggle to understand how in this day and age the public are relied upon to give information on the location of trains when seeking permission to cross railway tracks.

“Nothing can now bring Colin back, but we hope that through this process lessons can be learned and improvements made to level crossing safety so that no one else has to experience this loss.”