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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Rail level crossings discouraged
A minibus and train collided in July 2003
Three people died in a crash on a level crossing in Worcestershire
Just two months before the crash in Berkshire, a major report warned of risks associated with level crossings.

The report from Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate said 18 of those killed in 2003-4 had died on the network's 8,000 level crossings.

HMRI Director of Rail Safety Dr Allan Sefton said they posed the "greatest" potential rail risk.

The number killed on the network in 2003/4 fell by 20 on the previous year to 285.

Dr Sefton noted that "the year passed without a train incident causing a passenger fatality".

The report showed there were 59 train crashes and 62 derailments but no passengers died in them.

Level crossings

HMRI's annual report showed that of the 18 people killed at level crossings - the highest number since 1991/2, when 20 people died - one was a railway worker.

Dr Sefton said: "The use of level crossings contributes the greatest potential for catastrophic risk on the railways."

Breakdown of key points of railway report.

He said that such crossings - there are nearly 8,000 on the network - were gradually being removed and no new ones built where possible.

Both Network Rail and the Health Safety Executive (HSE) are committed to phasing out level crossings.

Of the 378 cases of signals being passed at danger (spads), 147 were described as serious.

In total, the number of spads was down 23 on last year, but serious cases rose by four.

Fatalities

Installation of the train protection and warning system (TPWS), which helps stop offending services, has reduced the number of cases and was hailed as a "real achievement" by Dr Sefton.

Many of the incidents involve a minor overshoot at slow speed.

The drop in fatalities can partly be explained by the fact that there were no disasters on the scale of Paddington in 1999 when 31 people died, after a red signal was passed, or Selby in 2001, which claimed 10 lives.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We welcome the report and its recognition of the continued improvements in safety on Britain's railways.

"But Network Rail will never be complacent in out attempts to make the railways safer."

RAIL SAFETY REPORT
No passengers died in crashes
12 passenger deaths
Nine employee deaths
18 people died at level crossings

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Falling off platforms into the path of trains was the biggest cause of passenger death - this accounted for five of the 12 passenger deaths.

Five children were killed while trespassing on the tracks and 18 people died at level crossings.

Nine railway staff died, including four track workers who were hit by a runaway truck in Tebay, Cumbria, in February.

And there were 263 attacks on railway staff by members of the public.

Vandalism

Of the 1,259 train incidents, 448 were caused by obstacles on the track. More than 100 were placed there deliberately.

There were 297 fires on trains - 159 were arson attacks - and 393 cases of missiles - mainly bricks and stones - being thrown at train windscreens.

Other figures show that there were 334 cases on broken rails on the network and 137 track buckles.

On the London Underground, there were five derailments, including Hammersmith and Camden Town in October 2003.

And 22 people died on the underground, two of which were passengers and 18 trespassers.


SEE ALSO:
Warning over runaway rail wagons
24 Aug 04  |  Manchester
Man convicted over minibus deaths
17 May 04  |  Hereford/Worcs
Train line reopened after crash
02 Sep 04  |  Cornwall
Train drivers' lives 'at risk'
05 Aug 04  |  England


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