Friday 13 Nov 2009


Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern

Following a recent rise in level crossing misuse, Network Rail has targeted a level crossing hotspot in Farnborough to warn residents of the dangers of ignoring warning signs, lights and barriers at level crossings.

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. We’re trying to drive home the message that running the risk at a level crossing is just not worth it. By trying to save a few seconds, you could end up losing your life.”

Farnborough North level crossing experiences a high level of misuse by motorists and pedestrians. The number of reported incidents of misuse to date in 2009 is three times the level recorded in 2008.  In October alone there were five reported near miss incidents, where a train narrowly avoided striking an individual, some of which involved students from the nearby college who were using the crossing as a short cut.

The awareness event forms part of Network Rail’s ongoing Don’t Run the Risk campaign, which aims to educate members of the public about the dangers of level crossing misuse.  It was organised by Network Rail’s dedicated community safety team, in partnership with the British Transport Police (BTP), Hampshire police, Rushmoor borough council and First Great Western.

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?’.

PC Maria Elward of British Transport Police said: “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.”

Between January and August this year, one motorist and 12 pedestrians in Surrey and Hampshire 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

Surrey & Hampshire level crossing statistics
- There are over 330 level crossings on the Wessex route, which covers long-distance services from London Waterloo through Surrey and Hampshire and suburban services in west London.
- Between January and August 2009, there were 13 reported incidents in Surrey and Hampshire 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. 

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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