Latest Rail News

30.01.15

400 motorists charged with level crossing ‘misuse’ in 2014

Approximately 400 motorists have been charged for level crossing ‘misuse’ in the last year, potentially risking their lives and those of other road and rail users, British Transport Police (BTP) has claimed. 

New figures highlight that between 1 April 2014 and 1 January 2015, a further 357 motorists received fixed penalty notices, 16 were cautioned and 568 were sent on driver awareness courses. 

BTP Inspector Becky Warren said: “All too often people get into the habit of taking risks at crossings. It may be tempting to jump a light to shave a minute or two off your journey, but every time you do, you endanger your life and the lives of other road and rail users.” 

The message comes ahead of a week of action – starting on Monday 2 February – where BTP officers will be carrying out additional high-visibility patrols at crossings as part of ‘Operation Look’. 

The project, backed by the AA and the RAC, will see BTP’s fleet of Mobile Safety Vehicles stationed at crossings across the country during the week. The vans utilise the latest in Automatic Number Plate Recognition, allowing BTP to monitor crossings more closely than ever before. 

Tina Hughes, Network Rail’s Level Crossing Champion, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, with her friend on the Elsenham level crossing in Essex in December 2005, said she was delighted to see this nationwide week of action. 

After a drawn out legal battle over Elsenham, Network Rail was fined £1m in 2012 after admitting health and safety breaches over the deaths of the two girls at the level crossing. 

RTM revealed last summer how Network Rail finance director Patrick Butcher keeps a photo in his office of Olivia as a constant reminder of the human consequences of safety failures. 

“It brings BTP and Network Rail together to emphasise the importance of education and enforcement to help and encourage people to behave safely at level crossings,” said Hughes. 

Last month, Network Rail was also told to implement a “time-bound plan” for the re-assessment of train sighting arrangements at all its user-worked level crossing (UWCs), especially where safe use depends on vehicle drivers ‘sighting’ approaching trains. 

The recommendation was made following a Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into an incident where a passenger train approaching Woodbridge station in Suffolk hit a car at the Jetty Avenue UWC in July 2013. 

Darren Furness, head of level crossings for Network Rail, stated that level crossings create a “risk for people that we want to remove”. 

He added that where possible the infrastructure owner closes them, and “we have already closed more than 900 in the past five years”. 

“We know waiting at crossings can sometimes be frustrating but it is really important that people do not get complacent or ignore warnings lights as this can put lives at risk,” said Furness. 

Writing in RTM, Martin Gallagher, Futronics Group Ltd managing director and chair of the United Nations Expert Group on Level Crossing Safety, discussed the double standards in level crossing improvements. 

In March 2014, Mark Carne “apologised unreservedly” for Network Rail’s past failing in managing public safety at level crossings. 

(Top image: Library photo of results of the fatal collision between a train and car Stanmoor Road crossing near Athelney in Somerset in March 2013) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com 

Comments

John D   30/01/2015 at 12:59

Red light at a crossing - stop! Jump the light - expect to die. Simples, it's not rocket science.

Bob.G   31/01/2015 at 09:56

Yes, agree fully. Unfortunately not all drivers appreciate that the flashing red lights mean an absolute imperative stop, and believe that they are just simply warning lights.

Lesf   01/02/2015 at 02:33

Yes BobG, you confirm what I've said before. Road drivers know that a red light means stop, so flashing lights may mean something different, or at least be assumed to mean something different to a driver in a hurry. Drivers take a test then drive for 50 years with no further instruction so the meaning of signals must be clear and consistent. The meaning of flashing lights is unknown to the vast majority of drivers so they are not safe. At Panda crossings, flashing lights mean go if the way is clear. Just make the lights continuous then there's no doubt what they mean. How long before the rail authorities wake up to this?

Steve Williams   01/02/2015 at 11:39

400? Is that all ?? I am sure some crossings have that in a week !

Joeb   01/02/2015 at 14:27

Flashing red lights are 'just' a warning sign. They are warning the driver that if he goes through them he is likely to be hit by a train. I really don't think this is tough to understand.

Andy D   01/02/2015 at 20:00

The associated sign at Automatic crossings states " Stop When Lights Show " This means stop when the Steady Amber light comes on, not the Flashing Red lights.

Robert - Rail User   02/02/2015 at 10:22

In various national car parks, there are huge barriers that rise out of the ground like the bucket of a JCB. Why can't these be put in the road adjacent to a crossing to absolutely stop any possibility of a vehicle going across the track. If the vehicle hits the barrier then it was obviously ignoring the lights.

Robert - Rail User   02/02/2015 at 10:23

In various national car parks, there are huge barriers that rise out of the ground like the bucket of a JCB. Why can't these be put in the road adjacent to a crossing to absolutely stop any possibility of a vehicle going across the track. If the vehicle hits the barrier then it was obviously ignoring the lights.

Tim   02/02/2015 at 10:25

Probably for cost reasons, Robert: plus it's another thing that could potentially go wrong, need maintenance, or be vandalised.

Martin   04/02/2015 at 18:33

Robert, the reason that barriers that rise aren't used is to make sure that vehicles that get trapped on the crossing are able to move clear. This has been considered a number of times and ways to develop something that rises but can still permit vehicles to cross haven't been developed. Flashing Red Lights are mandatory for ALL people including the Emergency Services and must not be passed at all. Unlike red lights which may be passed by Emergency Services if the need requires and suitable caution is used.

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