TOUGH SENTENCES NEEDED AS LEVEL CROSSING LAW BREAKING REACHES FIVE YEAR HIGH (WEST COUNTRY): Motorist narrowly avoids train smash at Llangadog LX (still image)

Monday 9 Feb 2009

TOUGH SENTENCES NEEDED AS LEVEL CROSSING LAW BREAKING REACHES FIVE YEAR HIGH (WEST COUNTRY)

Route:
Western

The number of people breaking the law at level crossings is at a five year high, Network Rail revealed today. The company is calling on judges and magistrates to stamp down hard on motorists jumping lights and dodging barriers, to act as a clear deterrent.

Last year across Britain, over 55 days of delays to trains and passengers were caused by level crossing misuse, 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.

In the South West of England, there were nearly 200 level crossings incidents recorded last year and 9 near-misses, where trains narrowly avoided hitting motorists.

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 reckless 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.

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 editors

National Statistics - 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 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.

Every day, there are more than 4.7 million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

We are building a better railway for a better Britain.

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