PASSENGERS had a lucky escape after a level crossing barrier came down on top of their bus which was protruding close to a railway line.
First Group says the bus driver had moved partially beyond the barrier at the Saltney level crossing when the driver realised his exit was blocked by a vehicle at the other side. The warning then sounded and the barrier descended.
The quick-thinking driver of the number 16 service ordered everybody to the back of the bus while the train passed by without a collision.
Bank worker Simon Walker was on board the bus as he returned home from work at tea-time on Tuesday of last week when he realised what was happening.
Simon, who lives in Victoria Road, Saltney, said: “I was sitting in the middle of the bus. There were about six or seven people on the bus. The next thing, the barrier came down on top of the front of the bus. There was panic.
“The driver said for everyone to get to the back of the bus. The train missed the front of the bus by about an inch.”
Simon, who works for Bank of Scotland in Chester, felt people should have been evacuated through the emergency exit. He rang the bus company to raise his concerns about the whole episode and said the matter was taken so seriously he was phoned by the managing director.
Simon believed the driver had ended up in the wrong position at the crossing after he simply “misjudged” the situation.
Ken Poole, First’s managing director for services in Chester and Wirral, said: “Our investigations have so far revealed that as the bus moved partially beyond the barrier it became clear to the driver that the roadway on the exit side was blocked. The warning then sounded and the barrier descended.
“The train then passed safely.”
Mr Poole, who said an internal investigation would be concluded next week, added: “This incident has raised a number of special concerns about the lay-out and operation of this crossing and we are now working closely with Network Rail and British Transport Police to address these.
“Included is the timing of the warnings given to road users, the duration of such warnings and the speed the barrier is powered. The general roadway approach to the crossing, on a bend, also makes it a particularly difficult crossing to navigate.”