A car driven over a level crossing with raised barriers narrowly avoided being hit by a train, accident investigators have said.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has launched an inquiry into why traffic was cleared to drive over the crossing in Norfolk despite a train approaching at 45mph on Sunday November 24.
The barriers near Great Plumstead were down until the Greater Anglia train was about 200 metres from the crossing.
They were then raised and the crossing’s warning lights went out, indicating to waiting motorists that it was safe for them to continue their journeys.
The driver of the Norwich to Sheringham service applied the emergency brake and sounded the warning horn, but the train could not be stopped before reaching the crossing.
No vehicles were struck but a car passed over the crossing around a quarter of a second before the train, the RAIB said.
The four-carriage Class 755 train was part of a new fleet which only began operating passenger services on the line earlier that month.
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The level crossing equipment was installed in 2000 and includes a system which detects the speed of approaching trains to determine when barriers should be moved.
Since the near-miss, Network Rail has modified the settings of this and similar level crossings on the line to reduce the chance of further incidents.
The RAIB said its investigation will consider the process for clearing Class 755 trains for operation on the route.
It will also analyse the level crossing’s system, including the effects of leaves on the line.
Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles said they were “fully co-operating” with investigations by the RAIB and Network Rail.
He went on: “We agreed to run our trains at a reduced speed on the Norwich-Sheringham line while Network Rail examined all level crossings and the rails on this railway line.
“The safe operation of our train service for our customers and colleagues is our absolute top priority.”
Mr Burles insisted that “all our trains are subject to industry standard safety checks and authorisation before they are permitted to enter passenger service”.