Near catastrophe and more delays for Southeastern trains after woman drives up live railway track in Canterbury
An elderly woman almost caused a catastrophe last night after turning left at a level crossing and driving along a live track... because her sat nav told her to.
The dopey driver, who is in her 80s, hurtled up the line for 30 metres at the Broad Oak crossing in Canterbury before realising her mistake.
Panicking witnesses frantically called 999, fearing the grey Rover was going to be hit by a train as the crossing barriers went down shortly before 7pm.
But emergency crews were quickly on the scene and alerted the driver of an oncoming train.
Car turned left at Broad Oak level crossing
The power to the track was turned off by Network Rail and the woman and a male passenger were walked to safety.
The car was reversed back up the track by a police officer shortly before 8pm.
It is thought the elderly woman had been driving towards Canterbury along Shalloak Road and was following directions on her sat nav.
The gaffe sparked further delays for commuters, who had already had to endure reduced services because of the stormy weather.
Southeastern spokesman Mike Gibson said: "It caused a lot of disruption to services, which had already been reduced to one train an hour on main lines.
"It was a very full train and caused delays of between 30 minutes and 50 minutes.
"Obviously we weren't very happy and passengers were particularly unhappy. They will be entitled to compensation..." - Southeastern's Mike Gibson
"Obviously we weren't very happy and passengers were particularly unhappy. They will be entitled to compensation."
British Transport Police says the man and woman were taken back to their home and given "words of advice".
It added the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has been informed.
The incident echoes that of a similar near-miss at the same spot in 2009, when taxi driver Donald James drove along the track with two people in the back - because his sat nav had told him to.
The 74-year-old turned right on to the level crossing with an oncoming train only minutes away.
A driver raced to alert rail staff and as she did saw James realise his mistake and try to reverse back, but his wheels were stuck in the track.
Taxi driver Donald James outside court. Picture: Mike Gunnill
Commuter trains on the busy line were held up for more than an hour while James and his two passengers, aged nine and 19, had to be rescued by emergency services.
James admitted careless driving and was banned for three years, fined £100 and ordered to pay £30 costs. He was told he would have to retake his test if he wanted to drive again.
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