Researching the post below reminded me: it’s very unusual (0 out of 18 level crossing fatalities in 2003) for a train-on-car level crossing crash to kill any passengers, and unusual (1 out of 18) for it even to kill the train driver (p45 of the latest railway safety report sheds more light).
The car on the tracks at Reading was a Mazda 323, which is not a serious or heavy piece of kit. The train was an HST based on MK3 stock, which is collision-resistant and several orders of magnitude more massive than the Mazda. The normal result of a 100mph collision would be train a bit dented, driver [*] understandably traumatised, car rendered entirely theoretical.
It’s most likely that this is the kind of freak accident to which the HSE was referring when it said level crossings offered the "greatest potential for catastrophic risk on the railways" (p4), with a bit of car getting in between rails and wheels, and physics doing the rest.
But I’m surprised, given the media’s constant scaremongering about more or less everything, that nobody’s yet raised the prospect of terrorism: after all, an exploding car would dramatically increase the odds of a level crossing strike that derailed the train and killed a significant number of people.
My guess is that this story fits the [**] "the railways are so rubbish and dangerous, isn’t it dreadful" template so well that adding *another* lazy hack meme to the mix would’ve been far too confusing for all concerned.
[*] Train driver, obviously and just-as-well-ishly.
[**] Completely fictional, but this never stopped anyone before…