Thursday 9 Jun 2011


Region & Route:
| Eastern: Anglia
| Eastern

Motorists in the east of England are set to benefit from a world first in sat nav technology, which will improve awareness of level crossings and encourage safer driving.

A free downloadable application which alerts drivers with a cheery train whistle that they are approaching a level crossing has been developed by Network Rail and leading satellite navigation provider Garmin. The app includes every one of the 1,000 or so level crossings in the Anglia region*.

It is hoped the new technology will encourage safer motoring and reduce the number of incidents which cause damage, disruption and deaths at level crossings each year.

In the Anglia region this year, there have already been more than 150 incidents of misuse at level crossings, including more than a dozen where crossing barriers have been knocked off or damaged by drivers attempting to beat the lights. In the last ten days alone, the following incidents have been reported:

  • Stanford le Hope, Essex: A bus damaged one of the barriers after ignoring the warning lights and driving under the closing barriers
  • Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire: A lorry got stuck underneath the barriers after trying to beat the lights
  • Hythe, Essex: A car crossed in front of the closing barriers – however the signaller stopped them just in time to avoid any damage from a collision
  • Lakenheath, Suffolk: Network Rail’s crossing keeper was nearly struck by a car trying to beat the lights as he closed the crossing gate
  • Brimsdown, London Borough of Enfield: A woman with a pushchair became stuck on crossing after running to beat closing barriers

The new free application can be downloaded onto Garmin nüvi or nüLink sat navs from its website. Similar to choosing options that alert you to approaching speed cameras, the device whistles like a train and an ‘X’ appears on the screen with the name of the level crossing so motorists can approach and cross with care.

Network Rail and Garmin are also looking to develop an ‘intelligent’ version of the app, which allows motorists to set their journey to avoid level crossings. They also hope to develop an option which automatically alters motorists’ journeys to avoid crossings where the barriers are down for a significant period of time, if an alternative route is quicker.

Dyan Crowther, Network Rail director of operational services, said: "Motorists that jump the lights or smash into barriers as they try and beat them coming down can cause great disruption and cost to the network, so we’re always looking at new ways to reduce the risk of incidents at level crossings.

"Sat nav technology has proved to be a great help to motorists in alerting them to what’s ahead on the road, so developing an app around level crossings seemed a smart idea. We hope it will be a useful aid to motorists as our roads and railways get even busier."

Anthony Chmarny, Garmin head of communications, said: "The development of this free level crossing application shows the ongoing commitment we have to ensure our sat nav customers have the very best travel information at the tip of their fingers. We believe this will help to save time, money and most importantly improve drivers’ safety during their journey."

Chief Superintendent Eamonn Carroll (Territorial Policing) British Transport Police said: “This innovative sat nav technology will be a useful additional tool in helping reduce level crossing misuse across the country. Our officers remain committed to not only detecting offenders but working closely with Network Rail to reinforce the safety message and continue our educational approach, in order to change driver behaviour."

More technology

Another of Network Rail’s recent technology-driven deterrents to reduce incidents, its purpose-built marked police van equipped with license plate recognition camera technology, has lifted the lid on the scale of the problem in the south of England.

In three months in operation, British Transport Police officers, who operate the van, have caught and prosecuted 1,131 people, despite the van having a very visible presence close to the crossings to act as a deterrent.

In addition, these incidents have been recorded across Britain (January to 30 April 2011):

  • 31 near misses, where vehicles have narrowly avoided being struck by a train
  • 77 near misses with pedestrians, who were lucky not to lose their lives
  • 58 incidents where vehicles have struck crossing barriers – including two vehicles which were also struck by trains
  • One person has died at a level crossing this year (excluding suicides).

Commenting on this, Dyan Crowther added: "The camera van has proved what we always believed – that far too many people are misusing level crossings, which has to stop. It’s a little too early to see a confirmed trend but we have seen initial reductions at some crossings, which is encouraging.

“Our aim is to improve safety not get prosecutions. We hope those caught will change their behaviour and this along with other activities we’re running we can see a reduced impact on passenger services and the cost of these crimes on the running of the railway."

International Level Crossing Awareness Day, 9 June

Network Rail is supporting British Transport Police colleagues at events across the region to raise awareness of the dangers of misusing level crossings. They are:

  • Lakenheath, Suffolk
  • Foxton, Cambridgeshire
  • Oulton Broad, Suffolk
  • Enfield Lock / Northumberland Park, London Borough of Enfield

Notes to editors

*The Anglia region refers to the railway lines which run in and out of London Liverpool Street and London Fenchurch Street stations and their many branch lines. This means Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and parts of Hertfordshire and Greater London.

There are almost 1000 level crossing in the Anglia region.

About Garmin
The global leader in satellite navigation, Garmin Ltd. and its subsidiaries have designed, manufactured, marketed and sold navigation, communication and information devices and applications since 1989 – most of which are enabled by GPS technology. Garmin’s products serve automotive, mobile, wireless, outdoor recreation, marine, aviation, and OEM applications. Garmin Ltd. is incorporated in Switzerland, and its principal subsidiaries are located in the United States, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. For more information visit Garmin's media centre at Garmin is a registered trademark of Garmin Ltd. or its subsidiaries. All other brands, product names, company names, trademarks and service marks are the properties of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

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