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Local resident says glare from sun can make it difficult to see trains approaching

A cyclist was killed this morning when he was struck by a train at a level crossing close to Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The East Anglian Daily Times says that British Transport Police believe the unnamed man’s death may have been “a tragic accident” although a later report from the BBC says the police are treating his death as "unexplained".

The fatal incident took place at the Cattishall level crossing in Great Barton, which according to the ABC Railway Guide, is a pedestrian level crossing.

It lies on the route between Ipswich and Cambridge, and the track has a maximum speed of 75 miles an hour. It adds that some 76 trains pass the location each day.

The publication, which details all railway infrastructure in Great Britain, cites “sun glare” as one of the key risk factors at the crossing, as well as the “large numbers of users” and “frequent trains.”

The cyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. He had been struck by a westbound train at around 9am as he sought to cross the railway line, which bisects a single-lane track that forms part of National Cycle Route 13. Police believe the cyclist had dismounted before he was struck.

Given the time of day and the fact the train would have arrived from the east, it is possible that glare from the sun may have been a factor.

One local resident, Hugh Howcutt, recounted how he heard the train’s horn sound before it came to a halt. He said he was aware of five fatalities during the 37 years he had lived there.

“The sun was very, very bright this morning,” said Mr Howcutt. “That’s east (where the train came from), and you can hardly see up that track when the sun is like it was this morning.

“We cross it regularly and you do have to use your common sense, you have to be aware. If there’s a train within a couple hundred metres, you can’t hear it until it’s practically upon you.

“More people are using it now than when we first moved here, people are running, cycling through it all the time. It’s either got to have a bridge or be closed.”

According to the East Anglian Daily Times, major housing development is planned for land nearby, which may involve developers re-opening an underpass running beneath the railway as an alternative to the level crossing.

A Network Rail spokesman told the newspaper that it was “committed to reducing level crossing risk as much as possible”

He said: “We have invested £131million nationally to upgrade or close more than 700 level crossings nationwide since 2010, with a further 500 planned for the next five years.

“As part of this, we continue to examine and assess level crossings in the Anglia Route.”

In October 2012, Network Rail issued the following video to warn people on foot or bikes of the need to look and listen for trains at pedestrian level crossings.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.