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  1. ITV Report

Network Rail fined £4m over actress's death on level crossing

Olive McFarland.

Network Rail has been fined £4m for health and safety breaches which led to an actress's death on a level crossing.

But the family of Olive McFarland, who was 82 when she was struck by a train at Gypsy Lane near Needham Market in Suffolk in 2011, say they are still waiting for an apology.

The former television and film star, who appeared alongside Sean Connery and Herbert Lom, had been using a pedestrian crossing which Network Rail knew to be dangerous.

John Black, Ms McFarland's nephew, said they had had no contact with the company until July this year - five years after his aunt's death.

Ms McFarland's family outside Ipswich Crown Court. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

"The lack of compassion shown by Network Rail has been abhorrent. We also feel a lack of apology or any correspondence from Network Rail is beyond words."

– John Black, Olive McFarland's nephew.

Mr McFarland's family welcomed the sentence but said they wanted individuals at the company to be held accountable for their failings.

"The significance of a fine clearly demonstrates the seriousness of negligence of Network Rail and its staff.

"However we still strongly feel the only way tragedies like this will be prevented in the future is by making staff accountable for their decisions."

– John Black, Olive McFarland's nephew.

Ms McFarland had been on her way to feed her animals when she was killed. One of her horses is still cared for by Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Her family said they had not been the only ones affected by her death.

"It was not only our family whose lives were forever changed but also those of the attending emergency services and the train driver. Our thoughts are with them."

– John Black, Olive's nephew.

An investigation by the Office of Rail and Road found Network Rail had failed to act on "substantial evidence that pedestrians had poor visibility" and "were exposed to an increased risk of being struck by a train".

The company admitted health and safety breaches at a previous hearing and was today ordered to pay £4m in fines and £34,000 in costs.

The crossing at Needham Market. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

“Today's sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court brings to a close our prosecution of Network Rail for failures which contributed to the death of Ms Olive McFarland. My thoughts are with Ms McFarland’s family.

“In 2011, Network Rail’s safety management fell below the standards required, putting members of the public using Gipsy Lane footpath crossing in unnecessary danger."

– Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways.

Following the incident in 2011, Network Rail immediately acted to improve safety at the Gipsy Lane footpath crossing by redesigning its layout putting in speed restrictions for trains which remain in place.

It is currently consulting on plans to close a number of level crossings in the region which would see the one near Needham Market replaced with a footbridge.