Train driver relives Felton rail tragedy

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A TRAIN driver has relived the moment he saw a man on the tracks just seconds before his inter-city express hit him at 90mph.

An inquest into the death of Eshott farmer and businessman Ho Sanderson, held at Morpeth Town Hall today, heard evidence from East Coast Rail employee Christopher Barrie, who was at the controls of the Edinburgh to London Kings Cross service on March 8 last year.

As Mr Barrie neared the Felton Lane level crossing at around 5.15pm, the 49-year-old Scotsman – who has 25 years’ experience driving trains – spotted a figure on the track ahead.

He told coroner Tony Brown: “I left Edinburgh at 1600 hours bound for Kings Cross with 10 carriages, stopping in Dunbar and Berwick and due to arrive in Newcastle at 1731.

“Before Felton Lane level crossing, the speed limit is 110mph on the long straight. My speed was 100mph. I was then aware of a person on the line with a pedal cycle. I thought it was a child. I first thought they had been trapped inside the barriers but I can remember him put down the bike and lay down on the track beside it.

“I was sounding the horn all the time and applied the brakes, but it was impossible to stop in time at that distance. I hit both the person and the pedal cycle at about 90mph. It was about seven seconds from the time I saw him until the impact.”

At such a speed, Mr Barrie said it took quarter of a mile to bring the train to a complete halt. He was left deeply traumatised by the incident.

His testimony formed part of the first day of a two-day hearing, which was attended by Mr Sanderson’s wife Margaret and their son David, as well as other witnesses including the driver of a car and two police officers.

The Sanderson family are being represented by barrister Michael James, while Arthur Robert Moxon-Browne QC is representing life assurance company Jubilee, with whom Mr Sanderson had taken out a policy in 2007 which was worth £4.8million at the time of his death.

In his cross-examination of Mr Barrie, Mr James asked him to clarify Mr Sanderson’s actions before the fatal impact, suggesting he had stumbled or tripped rather than deliberately lay down.

But he answered: “He gently laid the bike down and then lay down beside it.”

Mr James told the inquest that there was no evidence that Mr Sanderson had intended to do himself harm, either from doctors’ medical reports or members of his family.

A jury has been appointed to decide the verdict.

The inquest continues.