Friday 26 Jun 2009


Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern

The level crossing on Sheen Lane, Mortlake was targeted yesterday as part of a Europe-wide day of action which aimed to highlight the dangers of ignoring warning signs and barriers at level crossings.

Mortlake level crossing is one of the most misused in Great Britain. Within the last three months, there have been four reported incidents of misuse, including two occasions when a road vehicle struck one of the barriers. To raise awareness of the unnecessary risks people are taking, Network Rail’s dedicated community safety team and the British Transport Police (BTP) monitored the crossing and spoke with waiting motorists and pedestrians about the dangers of misuse. The team also handed out leaflets 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?’

Richard O’Brien, Network Rail’s route director for Wessex, 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. We were out at Mortlake where there is a high level of misuse to try and 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.”

BTP chief inspector Richard Douce added: “It is imperative that pedestrians and drivers do not take risks at rail crossings, which are perfectly safe if used correctly. Safety procedures are in place for a reason and for the sake of waiting for just a couple of minutes, people are urged not to risk endangering their lives, or the lives of others. For those that do decide to act irresponsibly there are penalties in place which could see the offender receive a fine, points on their licence or even a prison sentence.”

The awareness day, which aims to combat level crossing misuse and highlight the dangers of ignoring warning signs and barriers has been organised jointly by road and rail sector bodies and government agencies across Europe and will see activities take place across 23 countries.

Over 600 people die at level crossings across Europe each year. Last year, 15 people lost their lives in Britain with more than 3,400 incidents of misuse. On average, more than three motorists a week were involved in a near miss, where a train narrowly avoided hitting them after ignoring warning signs or weaving round barriers. There were 20 collisions between trains and motor vehicles for those that didn’t beat the lights.

Whilst even one fatality is too many, the latest European fatality statistics (2008)* reveal Switzerland, Germany, France, The Netherlands and Spain have all tragically seen higher levels than Britain.

European Country/Total number of persons killed by level-crossing accidents in 2008

Hungary - 118
Switzerland - 86
Germany - 52
Czech Republic - 43
Romania - 42
Poland - 40
France - 38
Latvia - 27
Austria - 25
The Netherlands - 18
Spain - 17
Portugal - 17
Slovakia - 17
Great Britain - 15

Network Rail and BTP have the full support of both Susan Kramer, MP for Richmond Park, and Richmond borough council. Ms Kramer said: “I am very supportive of Network Rail and BTP’s campaign to raise awareness of railway safety among the community. We all need to take responsibility for being safe at level crossings. Anything which discourages people from taking needless risks at level crossings is worthwhile, especially if it helps avoid a tragedy.”

Cllr David Trigg, Cabinet Member for Traffic, Transport and Parking on Richmond Council, added: “It is essential we spread the word about safety at our level crossings, particularly considering the high number of trains passing through the borough. The necessary safety precautions are in place, but the majority of incidents happen because people take unnecessary risks. Events like this will go some way to raising awareness of these but we also rely on people to use common sense when they are waiting.”

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-February) 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.

On the campaign research results, Mark Shaoul, head of marketing for Network Rail commented: "The impact we’ve had in driving recognition of the safety campaign with the recent bursts of activity has been phenomenal. We know that translating what people say they will do into real action will be the litmus test, but these results show us we are on the right track for helping to deliver. This, along with many other activities that the business is working on, will help to reduce level crossing incidents and needless injuries and deaths."

Notes to editors

PICTURES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST 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. 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. EUROPEAN AWARENESS DAY *The European fatality figures have been provided by International Union of Railways who coordinated the 'European day of action' Today, Network Rail's community safety team will be holding awareness days at the following level crossings: - Navigation Road, Altrincham, nr Manchester - Bow Hill, Wateringbury, Kent - Tile Shed Lane, Boldon, nr Sunderland - Station Road, Llanelli town centre - Horton Road, Gloucestershire - Station Road/Crosswells Road, Langley Green, West Midlands - Stockbridge Road / Basin Road, Chichester - Station road, Narborough, Leicestershire

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