The number of motorists involved in near misses with trains at UK level crossings increased by 15% in 2010, according to Network Rail. This worrying trend is revealed as it publishes the latest figures on level crossing misuse. It wants people to change their behaviour at level crossings where motorists and pedestrians break the law daily, many causing disruption and damage to rail and road services, with the unfortunate suffering the fatal consequences.
There were 3,446 recorded incidents of misuse at level crossings across Britain last year, although it is thought the true figure is much higher.
Whilst the number of near misses is up, collisions with trains has halved from 14 in 2009 to seven. Fatalities too were down from 13 to four.
Network Rail’s director of operations and customer service Robin Gisby said: “Too many motorists continue to break the law by jumping the lights or swerving around barriers at level crossings. Hundreds of pedestrians are also risking their lives just trying to save a few seconds – it’s just not worth it. Whilst deaths and injuries are thankfully few, these actions by those who are either impatient or ignorant of the law cause great cost, delay and disruption to both rail and road passengers across Britain.”
In a new initiative to reduce disruption at level crossings, cutting-edge camera technology has been introduced as part of a region-wide pilot by Network Rail and the British Transport Police across Wessex, Sussex and Kent.
Network Rail has funded a purpose-built marked police van to be fitted with nine cameras, each of which can use number plate recognition technology to help deter motorists from breaking the law. One of the cameras is attached to a pole which extends up to ten metres into the air, enabling the van to operate without being right next to the level crossing. The van, which is operated by British Transport Police officers, also has access to all the systems required to process prosecutions instantly. The new mobile camera technology has been introduced to try and change motorist behaviour and deter them from jumping lights and swerving around barriers and gates.