Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Warning over level crossing risks

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CCTV footage of near misses at level crossings in the UK

The number of cases of motorists taking dangerous and illegal risks at UK level crossings is at a four-year high.

Figures released by Network Rail show there were more than 3,400 cases of level-crossing misuse last year, disrupting thousands of trains.

It said trains had hit 20 vehicles that tried to drive around barriers after crossing lights had come on, and 15 people had died in accidents.

Network Rail is urging changes in the law to toughen sentences for offenders.

It says 95% of accidents at level crossings are caused by misuse or errors including drivers ignoring barriers, warning lights and alarms.

Every week, an average of more than three motorists and five pedestrians were involved in a near-miss.

This is said to have caused delays totalling 55 days to trains and passengers, costing Network Rail about 1.8m.

It added that the real cost of level crossing misuse was much higher once damage to trains and tracks and staff time was taken into account.

Court sentences

A television and radio advertising campaign warning of the dangers, which ran last November, is airing again this month.

Network Rail has also released fresh footage of a train missing a car by inches after the vehicle drove in front of the oncoming train and another of a man's shoe being knocked off his foot by a passing train as he ran across its path.

It wants longer driving bans for those jailed for motoring offences.

Level crossings are a 19th Century solution that should have no place on a 21st Century railway
Bob Crow
Rail, Maritime and Transport union

Chief executive Iain Coucher said: "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."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, called for level crossings to be phased out.

"Level crossings are a 19th Century solution that should have no place on a 21st Century railway, and year on year there are too many unnecessary deaths and serious injuries.

"Network Rail should commit itself to a 10-year programme of eliminating crossings, replacing them with bridges or underpasses, so that trains no longer have to mix with road traffic or pedestrians."

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SEE ALSO
Death danger at level crossings
04 Feb 09 |  England

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