NETWORK Rail has been fined £450,000 for the death of a woman who was killed by a train at a level crossing.

Jane Harding, aged 52, a hairdresser at a salon in Bosbury, died after the car she was travelling in was struck by the train at Moreton-on-Lugg in January 2010.

Network Rail Infrastructure had denied failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees, while signalman Adrian Maund, 43, from Leominster, denied failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of railway crossing users.

Both were found guilty by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court in February following a three-week trial.

Network Rail was fined £450,000 with £33,000 costs.

Maund was fined £1,750 with £750 costs and told to carry out 275 hours’ unpaid work.

The car, being driven by Mrs Harding’s husband, Mark, 54, was struck by the train on the crossing after Maund raised the crossing barriers too early after mistakenly thinking the train had already passed.

The prosecution told the court Network Rail had opted not to spend money on an automatic locking device.

Phillip Mott QC, prosecuting, told the jury Maund had been distracted after a farmer rang his signal box for a second time asking if it was safe for him to walk his sheep across another crossing further up the track.

After speaking to the farmer, Maund mistakenly thought the train had passed and he pressed a button to lift the barriers.

Network Rail argued that the balance between the cost of installing approach locking and the risk of such an accident happening at Moreton-on-Lugg meant it was not reasonably practicable to install the safety measure. A subsequent Rail Accident Investigation Branch report recommended future planning for level crossing improvements should be formally linked with health and safety risk assessments.

It also recommended the crossing at Moreton on Lugg – and all others of a similar design – should be reviewed to ensure human error can never again result.

Mr Harding said after the case: “Just over three years ago, my life changed forever.

We lost a loving and devoted daughter, sister, wife and mother to a then 13-year-old son, in an accident which we now learn could have been prevented.

“This is not the first time Network Rail has had to face criminal proceedings and convictions for breaches of health and safety law.

“If Jane’s passing is to have any meaning,it will be that,in future, rail and road users will be placed at the forefront of those in the rail industry.”