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'I dropped myself in it': Ex-Network Rail employee speaks about sacking over level crossing incident; Adrian McKay was dismissed after writing a statement admitting to hitting the car at Whyteleafe level crossing "to teach it a lesson" but says he was joking.

Byline: Dave Comeau

A formerNetwork Railemployeewho was sacked from his job as a level crossing keeperfor hitting a car with a barrier has spoken out, saying his statement in which he admitted the incident was just him "messing about".

Adrian McKay was dismissed after 13 years as a crossing keeper after telling bosses he deliberately "bumped" a car on the level crossing atWhyteleafewith the barrier to "teach it a lesson".

Based in the crossing box at Whyteleafe South, Mr McKay was responsible for the safety-critical job of operating the barriers and monitoring the crossings at Whyteleafe South and Whyteleafe.

On December 5, 2017, a light blue Volkswagen entered the crossing when the lights were flashing and the barrier subsequently hit it. When questioned about it by his line manager, he admitted he'd done it on purpose then wrote a statement to that effect when asked to do so.

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But, after a tribunal ruled in favour of Network Rail in March 2019 - the full judgement was published on May 23 - saying the firm was justified in sacking him, Mr McKay has spoken out, claiming he did not purposely hit the vehicle.

Speaking toSurreyLive, he said: "I was just messing about. I was joking, and he [my manager] thought I meant it. He asked me to write down what I'd said so I wrote what I'd said. It was a silly thing to do [joking about it]."

Mr McKay said his dismissal came down to him having "a habit of saying things without thinking sometimes", and his manager "panicking" and dealing with it more severely than he feels was necessary.

His position is that when he admitted hitting a vehicle with the barrier, he'd been talking about a separate incident involving a different car. He said he had not hit that car on purpose but the straps attached to the barrier had made contact.

The incident that was caught on CCTV, of a light blue Volkswagen being hit by the barrier on December 5, he claims to have no knowledge of, saying he must not have seen it on the small screens he would have been monitoring. He doesn't dispute that it happened, but disputes the suggestion he was aware of it and that he did it on purpose.

Speaking about what he says was the separate incident, and the one he was referring to when he admitted it, he said: "This car came through under the barrier onto the crossing and I stopped the lowering sequence. As the car was edging out of the crossing I started the sequence again. As the car went under the barrier the straps that went under the barrier touched the back of the car."

Video shows drivers ignore amber warning lights of oncoming train at Farnham rail crossing

No evidence could be found of this supposed separate incident on CCTV.

Mr McKay believes things could have been dealt with differently, and that his manager did not need to escalate things as quickly as he did. He says he did not realise how seriously it was being taken and that him joking about it was a mistake.

He added: "The thing was, I dropped myself in it; that's fair enough."

Mr McKay, who lives in Alberta Drive,Smallfield, worked on the railway for 27 years, starting work on the platforms atRedhillandThree Bridgesfor British Rail. Since losing his job in January 2018 he has been out of work and said it initially had an impact on his mental health, although therapy has since helped him.

He said: "To be honest I'd been feeling depressed at work anyway but never told anybody. I was working on my own all the time and I live on my own. Other than the bloke you relieve, you don't see anybody."

A Network Rail spokesman sent a short statement in response to Mr McKay's comments, simply saying: "We defended ourselves at an employment tribunal on March 13, 2019, in which the claimant was Mr McKay. The tribunal judge found in Network Rail's favour."

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Credit: Darren Pepe

Adrian McKay, from Smallfield, was sacked from his job at Network Rail for hitting a car with a level crossing barrier at Whyteleafe station

Credit: Darren pepe

Adrian McKay has been out of work since January 2018
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Publication:Get Surrey (Surrey, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2019
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