IT was a disastrous error that could have led to tragedy.

An 85-year-old motorist was half-way across a level crossing when she suddenly veered off the road and along a high-speed railway line, narrowly missing the live rail and halting trains.

But highway chiefs have taken a year to devise a scheme aimed at preventing anything similar happening again.

Campaigners have condemned the delays surrounding the project, which includes new road signs either side of the barrier-controlled crossing at Brockenhurst station.

Denis Fryer, of the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group, said: “It’s very poor.

“The risks attached to any incident involving an electrified rail are huge.

“The county council seems to have taken an awfully long time to address something that should have been dealt with pretty quickly.”

The incident happened a year ago today. A New Milton pensioner was giving her 20-year-old grandson a lift when she mistook the line for the entrance to the station car park.

Instead of stopping or reversing, she drove 80 yards up the track and ended up on a set of points near the end of platform two.

She and her grandson escaped unhurt after rail employees quickly switched off the power.

Network Rail said trains were in no danger because the crossing barriers were up, which meant all the signals in the area were on red.

The gran was reported for careless driving, but British Transport Police dropped the case after she handed in her licence.

The proposed new directional signs aim to prevent anyone else making the same error.

Parish council chairman Russell Horne welcomed the scheme, but called for the inclusion of a “non-standard” sign highlighting the position of the track.

“At the moment there’s nothing to indicate that there’s a railway there,” he said.

Cllr Horne defended the time taken to implement the measures.

He said: “It’s always a lot better when things are done more speedily, but the county council has had to carry out a proper process of consultation and consideration.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “What happened at Brockenhurst was incredibly unusual. It’s not the sort of thing we see every day.”

South West Trains declined to comment.

What the county council says

Councillor Mel Kendal, deputy leader and executive member for environment and transport, said: “Immediately following the incident the county council, as the highway authority, carried out a preliminary assessment and concluded that signage was not a significant causal factor in this case.

“Because the incident took place on the railway, Network Rail undertook a detailed review and our highways engineers were happy to provide their input.

“Once the review was largely complete, our initial view was there was nothing to change our preliminary conclusion about signage but we did think it was appropriate to refresh the signing in the area. Some early proposals were prepared and have been discussed with the parish council.

“Following comments received from them, we are currently in discussion with the Department for Transport to see if we are able to accommodate a request for signs which ordinarily would not be compliant with the Department’s standards and regulations.”