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Highways Agency covers designers with better barrier risk analysis


DESIGN STANDARDS for road safety barriers are being adapted in the light of the Selby rail disaster, the Highways Agency said last week.

Despite being cleared of negligence, the Agency plans to incorporate a more detailed risk assessment procedure into the standard to support the engineers in decision making.

'Evidence was difficult to find and we need to improve our record keeping, ' said the Agency's group manager for safety standards and research, Brian Barton. 'Designers need to keep better records of their decisions.'

Barton was speaking at the Agency's Roads '04 conference in Manchester last week.

Ten people died on 28 February 2001 when Gary Hart fell asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover and ploughed on to the East Coast Main Line at Great Heck in Yorkshire (NCE 8 march 2001), hitting a GNER passenger train from Newcastle bound for London.

Insurers for Hart immediately admitted liability, but they also attempted to prove in the High Court that the then transport secretary John Prescott was partially liable for the incident and should pay half of the £30M claim.

The claim rested on whether or not the Agency had been negligent when designing the safety barriers on the road.

Agency design standard B.E.5 201(vi) applied when the bridge was built in 1974 and demanded that the barrier should be a minimum of 30m long.

But Hart's lawyers argued that the 62.7m long steel safety barrier was too short.

Judge Mr Justice Morland accepted the Agency's evidence that a qualified designer had considered site-specific constraints when applying the standard and that as a result the barrier was not dangerously short.

But the Agency is aware that this would have been much easier to prove if better documents were kept at the time.

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