“My leg ended up half-a-mile up the track” - warning to young adults as new research  highlights they are more likely to dice with death at level crossings: New research reveals lack of knowledge about railway dangers leads to more people taking risks at level crossings

Wednesday 16 May 2018

“My leg ended up half-a-mile up the track” - warning to young adults as new research highlights they are more likely to dice with death at level crossings

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New research from Network Rail reveals only a third (36 per cent) of 18 – 24 year olds believe going on the railway track is extremely dangerous¹, resulting in young adults risking their lives when crossing the railway. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of 18 – 24 year olds admit that if they were in a rush, they would ignore warning lights and try to cross the railway at a level crossing. 

At 17 years old, Lucy Ruck was an aspiring hairdresser using the railway every day to get to college – that all changed in a split second when she was hit by a train on a level crossing and lost her leg: “I was halfway across the track and literally in front of my nose was the train. I threw myself back, my left leg went out behind me and my right leg slipped out in front of me. That’s when I amputated my leg. It was found half a mile up the track.”

Lucy continued: “The train was going 65mph so I’m incredibly lucky to have survived. My body went into shock so I didn’t have any instant pain but my initial thoughts were that I was paralysed because I couldn’t feel anything.

 “I dream about running sometimes, I haven’t been able to run for 25 years. It’s not something that haunts me but I don’t like driving over level crossings, it makes me shudder.

“My message to young people at level crossings is to look; it’s more dangerous than crossing a road because of the speed, power and force of a train. If I’d have been walking a little bit faster I wouldn’t be here now, I would have been on the front of the train and I’d have been a statistic.

“Nowhere is worth being on time if you’re risking your life to be there.”

While Britain has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks as Network Rail’s 20,000 miles of track directly interfaces with about 6,000 road and footpath crossings. Since 2013 one person has been killed on average on a level crossing every 8 weeks².  In the last year there has also been a 12 per cent rise in the number of incidents³ at level crossings.

This worrying trend comes as a quarter of UK adults admit they don’t know the guidance around how to use a level crossing safely. Young people are even more clueless, with over a third of 16 – 24 year olds feeling they are unaware¹.  When asked to list how to safely use a crossing,  only 4 per cent of people mentioned “stop, look, listen”.

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “A lack of knowledge around how dangerous the tracks can be means more people are not taking the proper care at level crossings and putting themselves in danger.

“We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need everyone who uses level crossings to do their bit too. By understanding how to use a crossing safety and paying attention to the warnings at level crossings, we can all keep ourselves out of harm’s way.”

To help increase awareness of the dangers at level crossings, Network Rail is leading a national safety campaign targeted at pedestrians during the summer months. They will reach young people with safety messages through social media and new technologies such as geo-targeting[4] to communicate with the right people at the right time with the right safety messages. Furthermore, the rail infrastructure company has worked with EON Reality to produce a series of virtual reality films‏‏⁵ which can be used to educate key user groups, including young adults.

Network Rail’s army of over 100 level crossing and community safety managers will continue to work with British Transport Police officers and raise awareness of level crossing safety across the rail network. They will hold safety events, offer briefings in schools and encourage young people to stay alert and avoid distractions when using the railway.

 To find out more about level crossing safety visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/pedestrians or search #BossingTheCrossing on social media  

Notes to Editors

  1. This research was conducted by Populus on behalf of Network Rail. Populus conducted online interviews with2,073 GB adults aged 18+, with fieldwork taking place between the 2nd and 3rd of May 2018.
  2. National Disruption Fusion Unit data (November 2017) - 32 people killed in the past 5 years
  3.  ‘Incidents’ include accidental fatalities, near-miss accidents, and deliberate misuse (i.e. crossings left open, not calling the signaller back when the line has been crossed, swinging on barriers)
  4.   Geo-targeting will combine geographical locations with social demographics at c. 300 high risk/high incident level crossings. Pedestrian audiences will be served safety adverts on mobile devices through third party apps
  5.   YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcieUuOBJReoloQ6lHsv12ruV5DVm6O0U

 Guidance on level crossing use

  • Most crossings have a sign and lights or bells that alert you if a train is coming. Many will also have gates that close when a train is coming. If this happens wait until the train has passed
  • When crossing tracks at a railway crossing, you should: Stop and look both ways before crossing, listen for the train coming and for warning bells, if there are lights watch for them to flash
  • Stand well back from the tracks if a train is going by
  • Never try to cross the tracks if a train is coming. It can take up to one and a half miles for a train to come to a complete stop
  • Always make sure there are no other trains coming before crossing

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - Lucy Jones
Senior media relations manager
Network Rail
033 0854 3835 / 07734 649248

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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