Silent night trains killed my daughter, mother claims as she sues Network Rail

Telegraph Reporters
Straight-A student Milena Gagic, 16, died instantly when she was hit by the night train at the level crossing in Hipperholme, Halifax, in December 2014 - Image supplied on research/identification basis by Champion News Service Ltd.

A mother is claiming that "silent" night trains killed her daughter and is suing Network Rail over her child's tragic death.

Straight-A student Milena Gagic, 16, died instantly when she was hit by the night train at the level crossing in Hipperholme, Halifax, in December 2014.

She and her best friend, Amelia Hustwick, had gone to the crossing late at night to chat because it was “a nice place to hang out”, Central London County Court heard.

The pair were sitting between the actual train tracks, “laughing and giggling” because they were convinced trains did not run at night.

Both girls had also grown up in the local area and believed that, if any train did in fact approach, it would sound its horn.

But since 2007, a “night time quiet period” had been ushered in, barring horns between 11pm and 7am, said barrister Stephen Glyn.

Her mum, Leanne Gagic, is now suing Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd for £22,124 in damages, although her barrister explained that her case is “not about money”.

She says Network Rail breached its duty of care in failing to properly warn people that night trains no longer sounded their horns at Hipperholme, where villagers hear the sounds of train whistles over 100 times a day.

A simple sign explaining that drivers would no longer sound their horn overnight would have saved her daughter's life, she claims.

But Network Rail is disputing fault, denies breaching its duty, and suggests Milena was herself to blame.

Leanne Gagic, mother of tragic teenager Milena Gagic Credit: Champion News Service Ltd

Signs may have been ineffective anyway, as studies suggest they are frequently missed, the rail infrastructure body claims.

Milena was studying for her A-levels when she died and dreamt of being a zoologist and “wanted to go to university very much," she told the court.

Mr Glyn said it was hard to see and hear approaching trains at this crossing location due to curvature of the track.

And he claimed locals such as Milena and Amelia would have been lulled into a false sense of security because train horns continued to sound during the day.

He said Network Rail had long accepted there was a risk at the crossing because "whistle boards", which instruct drivers to sound their horn, were previously in place.

However, the company banned night time horn use in 2007 due to “noise pollution complaints", the court heard. That curfew was rolled out across the network as a “blanket rule”, said Mr Glyn.

Despite knowing of the risk to public safety, Network Rail had "done nothing" to mitigate the risk after removing the whistle boards, he claimed before Judge Heather Baucher.

“The girls were simply not looking for a train or looking out for its motion because they relied upon the whistle board,” he said.

Network Rail barrister, Helen Hobhouse, argued that its “duty of care” was restricted to pedestrians crossing the track.

Studies also show that signs are "frequently not noticed or observed", she said.

And she added: “There would have been no significant risk to anyone using the crossing between 11pm and 7am, provided they checked carefully in both directions before crossing the track”.

The judge reserved judgment on the case until a later date.

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