Broken down tractor highlights problems for Network Rail

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A Gloucestershire farmer whose telehandler broke down as it crossed a main railway line has used the incident to drive home a long-standing complaint to Network Rail.

The telelhandler, belonging to arable farmer Rob Keene, broke down on a railway crossing at Highnam, near Gloucester, at 9:45 on Tuesday 8 April and was stuck for one-and-a-half hours, causing lengthy delays. Mr Keene who grows fruit and vegetables on Over Farm Market, told Network Rail that the hydraulic pipe had burst on his Manitou causing the forks to dig into the crossing, and making it difficult to remove.

While waiting for an engineer to help move the telehandler, Network Rail called him repeatedly to see if it could get Mr Keene to shift the telehandler more quickly. It was at this point that an increasingly frustrated Mr Keene took the chance to highlight the fact that while he was causing delays, he had been waiting about two years for Network Rail to put up rabbit fencing around his crops.

Mr Keene has lost thousands of pounds due to rabbit damage and has pleaded with Network Rail. The company was legally obliged to control rabbits on its land and put up these fences, said Mr Keene.

Network Rail held a meeting more than a year ago and agreed to work with Mr Keene to resolve the problem. But he has not had any correspondence since the meeting, despite his best efforts, which has added to his frustration.

However, the phone call from the railway line, resulted in Network Rail sending nearly 20 members of staff to try to resolve the situation as well as giving Mr Keene reassurances that it would co-operate and put up the rabbit fences.

Mr Keene said: “I don’t understand why they have such a complete lack of responsibility. I have lost thousands of pounds and have tried to reason with them as to why the fencing is important, but they just don’t listen.”

British Transport Police is investigating the incident and Network Rail has again promised that it will look into putting up the fences.

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