Wednesday 9 Dec 2009


Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern

Network Rail has targeted a level crossing in Hampden Park to warn residents about 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 hit 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.”

The level crossing at Hampden Park experiences frequent misuse by motorists and pedestrians. For example, earlier this year a motorcyclist took a risk attempting to beat the barrier as it was being lowered and was struck.

The awareness event was part of Network Rail’s ongoing Don’t Run the Risk campaign which aims to combat level crossing misuse.  It was organised by Network Rail’s dedicated community safety team, in partnership with the British Transport Police (BTP), Sussex Police, Southern Railway, Eastbourne Council and Hampden Park residents group.  

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 Inspector Gary Ancell said: “It’s 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.”

Bob Gough, partnership co-ordinator, Eastbourne Borough Council said: "Eastbourne Crime Reduction Partnership has been fully involved, and wholly supports this initiative of informing people how to use level crossings safely.”

Network Rail remains committed to working with communities to drive down the number of near misses at level crossings and reduce the level of trespass and vandalism on the railway.  Hampden Park is a rail crime hotspot, frequently experiencing antisocial behaviour from young people within the community. Earlier this year there were several disturbing incidents where substantial items such as shopping trolleys were thrown onto the tracks, causing significant damage to trains and the infrastructure, leading to delays for passengers. Network Rail’s community safety team, as part of the ongoing No Messin’ campaign, will be working with schools, colleges and local youth groups in the Hampden Park area to educate young people about the dangers of taking risks on the tracks and encouraging them to learn new skills or try something new instead of misbehaving on the railway during their free time.


Notes to editors

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.

Between January and August this year, three motorists and 14 pedestrians in Sussex have narrowly avoided a potentially fatal collision with a train.

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.

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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