Monday 12 Oct 2009


Region & Route:
| North West & Central

“I thought the train would slow down to let me through”. 

“Lights?  No, I don’t bother looking at them, I only stop when the barriers start coming down – I wouldn’t want to damage the car.”

“I thought that the train driver was giving way to me when he sounded his horn”

These are just a few of the reality-stretching excuses given by people jumping lights or weaving round barriers at level crossings, as to why they flouted the law and risked lives in order to save just a few minutes.

As Network Rail begins its autumn Don’t Run the Risk level crossing awareness campaign, it reveals the ten worst excuses given to its staff, and calls on motorists and pedestrians to stop passing the buck or telling tales and start obeying the rules at level crossings to prevent further injury or loss of life.

Between January and August this year, around three motorists a week narrowly avoided a potentially fatal collision with a train. Nine others 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.

Iain Coucher, Network Rail chief executive commented: “The rules around level crossings are clear and simple. When the lights flash or the barriers are down, don’t cross; a train is approaching. Signs asking users to stop, look and listen or reminding you to contact the signaller before crossing are clear and must be followed. We understand that people have busy lives and waiting can be frustrating.  Our campaign asks ‘would it kill you to wait?’ because sadly we know that not waiting can result in tragedy – and there’s no excuse for that.”

Notes to editors

London level crossing statistics – 2008

Worst motorist and pedestrian behaviour:

- Churchfield Road, Acton Central (Ealing) 8 incl. 2 near misses
- Green Street, Brimsdown (Enfield) 11 Enfield Lock (Enfield) 11 incl. 2 near misses
- Marsh Lane, Northumberland Park (Haringey) 9
- Windmill Lane, Cheshunt (Herts) 13
- Feltham West (Hounslow) 7
- Vine Road, Barnes (Richmond) 10
- White Hart Lane, Barnes (Richmond) 10
- West Barnes Lane, Barnes (Richmond) 7
- Sheen Lane, Mortlake (Richmond) 7 incl. 1 near miss

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.

Ten worst excuses given to Network Rail level crossing teams by motorists and pedestrians caught breaking the rules at level crossings:

  1. I thought the train would slow down to let me through
  2. I thought that the train driver was giving way to me when he sounded his horn
  3. I know when the trains run around here
  4. Lights?  No, I don’t bother looking at them, I only stop when the barriers start coming down – I wouldn’t want to damage the car.
  5. I’m glad you reminded me to look before crossing I don’t normally bother - mind you I was nearly knocked down by a train a few weeks ago.
  6. By a motorist obstructing the yellow box markings: I don’t need the likes of you to tell me about road or level crossing safety, I was a Police driving instructor for 30 years.
  7. I didn’t see the gate coming down as I approached the crossing – I was completely blinded by it.  I was driving straight into the sun and it was also reflecting very brightly off the surface of the wet road so I could hardly see anything at all. (note Highway Code point 237 below)
  8. Sometimes it’s difficult to stop the horse
  9. The sat-nav told me to turn left so I just kept going
  10. I just followed the person in front of me. I didn’t look.

Whilst these are the worst examples of people breaking the rules, 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. 

    The Highway Code

    Level crossings

    A level crossing is where a road crosses a railway or tramway line. Approach and cross it with care. Never drive onto a crossing until the road is clear on the other side and do not get too close to the car in front. Never stop or park on, or near, a crossing.

    Overhead electric lines. It is dangerous to touch overhead electric lines. You MUST obey the safe height warning road signs and you should not continue forward onto the railway if your vehicle touches any height barrier or bells. The clearance available is usually 5 metres (16 feet 6 inches) but may be lower.

    [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36, TSRGD 2002 reg 17(5)]

    Controlled crossings. Most crossings have traffic light signals with a steady amber light, twin flashing red stop lights and an audible alarm for pedestrians.

    They may have full, half or no barriers.

  • you MUST always obey the flashing red stop lights
  • you MUST stop behind the white line across the road
  • keep going if you have already crossed the white line when the amber light comes on
  • do not reverse onto or over a controlled crossing
  • you MUST wait if a train goes by and the red lights continue to flash. This means another train will be passing soon
  • only cross when the lights go off and barriers open
  • never zig-zag around half-barriers, they lower automatically because a train is approaching
  • at crossings where there are no barriers, a train is approaching when the lights show

    [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 40]

    Railway telephones. If you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle, a long, low vehicle with a risk of grounding, or herding animals, a train could arrive before you are clear of the crossing. You MUST obey any sign instructing you to use the railway telephone to obtain permission to cross. You MUST also telephone when clear of the crossing if requested to do so.

    [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 16(1)]

    Crossings without traffic lights. Vehicles should stop and wait at the barrier or gate when it begins to close and not cross until the barrier or gate opens.

    User-operated gates or barriers. Some crossings have ‘Stop’ signs and small red and green lights. You MUST NOT cross when the red light is showing, only cross if the green light is on. If crossing with a vehicle, you should:

  • open the gates or barriers on both sides of the crossing
  • check that the green light is still on and cross quickly
  • close the gates or barriers when you are clear of the crossing

    [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 52(2)]

    If there are no lights, follow the procedure in Rule 295. Stop, look both ways and listen before you cross. If there is a railway telephone, always use it to contact the signal operator to make sure it is safe to cross. Inform the signal operator again when you are clear of the crossing.

    Open crossings. These have no gates, barriers, attendant or traffic lights but will have a ‘Give Way’ sign. You should look both ways, listen and make sure there is no train coming before you cross.

    Incidents and breakdowns. If your vehicle breaks down, or if you have an incident on a crossing you should:

  • get everyone out of the vehicle and clear of the crossing immediately
  • use a railway telephone if available to tell the signal operator. Follow the instructions you are given
  • move the vehicle clear of the crossing if there is time before a train arrives. If the alarm sounds, or the amber light comes on, leave the vehicle and get clear of the crossing immediately

    Driving in adverse weather conditions

    If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop.

  • Contact information

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    Network Rail national helpline
    03457 11 41 41

    Latest travel advice
    Please visit National Rail Enquiries

    Network Rail press office - South East route
    020 3357 7969

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