Monday 9 Feb 2009
TOUGH SENTENCES NEEDED AS LEVEL CROSSING LAW BREAKING REACHES FIVE YEAR HIGH (SURREY/HANTS)
The number of people breaking the law at level crossings is at a five year high, Network Rail revealed today. Running risks at level crossings should come with tough consequences, and Network Rail is calling on judges and magistrates across Surrey and Hampshire to stamp down hard on motorists jumping lights and dodging barriers, to act as a clear deterrent.
Last year, over 55 days of delays to trains and passengers were caused by level crossing misuse across the country, costing Network Rail around £1.8million – money that can’t be invested into 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.
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. In 2008, there were more than 250 level crossing incidents reported on the route, including over 30 near misses, where a train narrowly missed striking a vehicle or pedestrian.
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: “The toughest consequence of breaking the law at a level crossing is to lose your life – thankfully that doesn’t happen very often. But every week we see people who ignore warning signs and lights or drive round barriers at level crossings just to save a few minutes. This behaviour has the potential for massive damage, disruption and death. We think that the judiciary penalties received need to reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and are calling on the judiciary to consider all these factors when handing down sentences.”
Network Rail welcomes the changes to the Coroners and Justice Bill, currently going through Parliament, in particular the proposal to establish a new Sentencing Council for England and Wales, with strengthened remit to promote consistency in sentencing practice. It also welcomes the amendment to the Road Traffic offenders Act (1988) to extend the length of the period of a driving disqualification where a custodial sentence is also imposed. Network Rail will be looking to work with Government, parliamentarians and interested parties to see how this important piece of legislation can support tougher action on level crossing offences.
Last year nationally, there were more than 3400 incidents of misuse at level crossings. On average, more than three motorists a week were involved in a near miss, where a train narrowly avoided missing them because they ignored warning signs and lights or weaved round barriers. There were 20 collisions between trains and motor vehicles for those that didn’t beat the lights.
Pedestrians were also putting themselves at risk with more than five a week involved in near misses. If a train hits a person at high speed, there is almost always only one tragic outcome. Sadly, 15 people lost their lives at level crossings in 2008.
Network Rail’s hard hitting tv and radio advertising campaign, which launched in November 2008, is again running across Britain this month. It illustrates in graphic detail the tragic consequences of misusing level crossings by both motorists and pedestrians.
Mr Coucher added: “We hope that increased awareness of the dangers of taking risks at level crossings, coupled with tough sentences for those caught breaking the law, will act as a deterrent and help bring down the number of offences and ultimately save lives.”
Notes to editorsSTATISTICS Year Number of recorded level crossing offences 2003 2158 2004 2348 2005 2839 2006 3221 2007 2896 2008 3479 The work on Network Rail’s Don’t Run the Risk campaign runs in parallel with other Network Rail and industry initiatives to minimise the safety risk at level crossings. These include: - Network Rail’s dedicated community safety team which aims to reduce railway crime and provide young people with positive activities to fill their time - Development of solutions which could lead to the replacement of some crossings - Development of obstacle detection systems - Developing better and cost-effective ways of detecting and recording level crossings misuse - Working with the Police and Crown Prosecution Service to improve the prosecution of offenders LEVEL CROSSINGS WHICH EXPERIENCE SIGNIFICANT BAD MOTORIST AND PEDESTRIAN BEHAVIOUR (WESSEX): - Guildford Road (A323), Ash, Surrey - Woodfield Lane, Ashstead, Surrey - White Hart Lane, Barnes, Greater London - West Street, Bedhampton, Hampshire - Waverley Lane (B3001), Farnham, Surrey - Bedfont Road (B33778), Feltham West, Greater London - Sheen Lane (B351), Mortlake, Greater London - Manor Road (B353), North Sheen, Greater London - West Barnes Lane, Raynes Park, Greater London - Mount Pleasant Road, Southampton, Hampshire 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. - UK deaths at level crossings are low by international standards – amongst the lowest in Europe and worldwide
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We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
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