A man cleared of driving without due care and attention has called for a road leading to a level crossing he crashed into to be gritted in future.
At around 7am on January 16, John Shepperd drove into a barrier at Haughley railway level crossing, in Station Road, Haughley, just moments before a train was due.
The father-of-four told Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday that weather conditions were such that, as a supervisor at nearby Poundfield Products, he had phoned his staff to tell them it was okay to arrive late at work.
Despite driving slowly, he said snow had frozen overnight and, without grit on the road, he had lost control of his vehicle.
He said: “The car started to slide and there was nothing I could do. Before I knew it, I had crashed into the barrier.”
Mr Shepperd, 29, of Shackleton Road, Ipswich, reported the crash and was advised to ‘stand back’ because a train was on its way.
His call allowed the train to be stopped and he, with the help of colleagues, moved his car off the tracks.
He said: “I’m lucky a train didn’t come or I wouldn’t be here today. The road hadn’t been properly looked after. School buses drive through there and people commuting to work. I believe the road should have been gritted to make it safe. I’m hoping a result of this will be that it is gritted in future.”
Sandra Dyer, prosecuting, told magistrates road conditions were poor but ‘plenty of people were able to travel to work without mishap’.
Giving evidence, Pc Kelly Bellingham, of British Transport Police, said the incident had occurred in temperatures of around minus nine degrees Celsius.
She told the court the road was ‘treacherous’ and she did not believe it had been gritted.
Finding Mr Shepperd not guilty of driving without due care and attention, presiding magistrate Alan Humphrey said: “We have received no evidence of you driving in any manner other than that of a competent driver.”
He added: “We took into account your actions of ringing ahead to your work colleagues and your actions after the incident. You immediately thought of the danger to rail traffic – you rang to the signal box and your colleagues. Your actions were admirable.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “The road in question is on a Priority One gritting route and attracts routine precautionary treatment to address wintry conditions.”
She said the road was gritted twice on January 16, between 2.25am-4.20am.