NETWORK RAIL ASKS CRAWLEY ‘WOULD IT KILL YOU TO WAIT?’: Crawley MP Laura Moffatt with Network Rail level crossing safety awareness team

Wednesday 25 Nov 2009


Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern

Network Rail has targeted two level crossing misuse hotspots in Crawley to warn residents of the dangers of ignoring warning signs, lights and barriers at level crossings.

Both Horsham Road and Crawley High Street crossings experienced high levels of misuse by pedestrians and motorists. On three occasions in 2008 a train narrowly avoided striking a motorist or pedestrian at these level crossings and there were seven other reported incidents of misuse. A further five incidents of misuse have been reported in 2009 taking the total number over the last two years to 15. The most shocking incident involved a female pedestrian walking back onto the level crossing while the barrier was lowering. She proceeded to stand in the middle of the tracks and encourage another person to jump over the barrier and cross.

Ellie Reilly, community safety manager, Network Rail, said: “Jumping the gates, swerving around barriers and ignoring warning signs is sadly a sight we see all too often, and in many cases with tragic outcomes. Level crossings are safe, but if misused, they all pose very real risks. Over the last two years we have seen significant misuse at these level crossings but we believe the 15 reported incidents is just the tip of the iceberg. This is why we are here today to drive home the message that running the risk at a level crossing is just not worth it.”

Staff at the crossings have also experienced verbal abuse and have been threatened with violence after challenging people who are misusing the crossings. This type of antisocial behaviour can occur at any time during the day however it is a particular problem in the late evening at pub closing time, and can lead to delays for motorists, pedestrians and train passengers.

As part of an ongoing campaign, the awareness event, which aims to combat level crossing misuse was organised by Network Rail’s dedicated community safety team, in partnership with the British Transport Police (BTP).  

Throughout the day the team monitored the crossing and spoke with motorists and pedestrians about misuse and offered advice and information on how to stay safe on the railway. Leaflets were also handed out that spell out the chilling truth that taking a chance at a level crossing might be the last thing you do, and pose the question: ‘would it kill you to wait?’.

BTP PC Jason Scrace said: “It is hard to believe that some people are prepared to put their life and the safety of other innocent people at risk simply to save a few minutes at level crossings. The majority of drivers and pedestrians respect the warning lights and barriers at level crossings but a small minority are still prepared to run the risk to shave a couple of minutes off their journey time. This sort of impatience is very dangerous and we are working closely with Network Rail and other partners in the rail industry to address the problem.”

The initiative has the full support of Crawley MP Laura Moffatt. She said: “We all need to take responsibility for being safe at level crossings and it is extremely important to raise awareness of railway safety among the community. Any action which discourages people from taking needless risks at level crossings is worthwhile.”

Henry Smith the leader of West Sussex County Council added: “The railway poses a number of dangers for people who misuse level crossings. Trains through Crawley can travel at speeds of more than 85mph, and can take hundreds of metres to stop. Therefore it is vital people use them properly and safely.”

Between January and August this year, three motorists and 14 pedestrians in Sussex have narrowly avoided a potentially fatal collision with a train. Nationally, the figure for near misses at level crossings equates to three motorists per week. In total, nine people have not been so lucky, with their vehicles smashing into trains. Seven people lost their lives at level crossings during this time. Tragically five more people have lost their lives in September, bringing the year’s total so far to 12.

Notes to editors

CCTV footage details:

The incident took place on 14 November 2009 and shows a pedestrian walking back onto the Crawley High Street level crossing while the barriers were being lowered. She proceeded to stand in the middle of the tracks and continually encourage another person to jump over the barrier and cross. Fortunately the signaller saw the crossing was not clear and was able to hold the train at a red light further down the line until the person left the crossing. This incident caused delays to both train passengers and other crossing users and could have ended in tragedy.

Sussex level crossing statistics

- There are some 219 level crossings on the Sussex route, which includes the London to Brighton main line, as well as rail services throughout East and West Sussex and east Surrey. 
- Between January and August 2009, there were 17 reported incidents in Sussex where a train narrowly missed striking a pedestrian or vehicle.

National level crossing statistics (January to August 2009)

- 7 fatalities  (5 more in September 2009. Last year 15 in total)
- 9 collisions between motor vehicles and trains (last year 20 total)
- 182 pedestrians narrowly avoided being hit by a train  (last year 280 total)
- 104 motorists narrowly avoided a collision – around 4 per week. Higher than last year which was averaging 3 per week.

Network Rail's hard hitting level crossing safety campaign 'Don’t Run the Risk' is beginning to have an impact on people’s behaviour, according to research conducted for the company by Millward Brown.

An online survey this spring found:

  Before the recent advertising campaign (November 2008-February 2009) 55% said they understood what not to do at level crossings, post the campaign this rose to 67%.

  54% of people said that the advert had already influenced their behaviour at level crossings.

  67% said that it would influence their behaviour at level crossings in the future. 

In June this year, a 29-year old businessman faced the tough consequences of his actions when he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving after he was caught swerving around the barriers at Horsham Road level crossing as they were closing. The motorist was charged with dangerous driving and was ordered to pay a fine of £1,265, £500 prosecution costs, or in default to serve 45 days imprisonment. The driver was also disqualified from driving for 18 months and ordered to take an extended driving test.

Last year, over 55 days of delays to trains and passengers were caused by level crossing misuse, costing Network Rail around £1.8million – money that could have been invested in the railway. The real cost to the industry far exceeds this, as it does not include actual damage to trains or tracks or staffing time and cost.

FACTS ABOUT LEVEL CROSSINGS - Level crossings are safe if used correctly - 95% of accidents at level crossings are caused by misuse or error– i.e. drivers ignoring red signals, barriers and klaxons - There are over 7,600 level crossings both on public and private land that cut across the UK railway network.

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