Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Rail crossing near misses concern

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CCTV captured a near-miss by a driver on a level crossing in Carmarthenshire

Cases of motorists taking dangerous and illegal risks at level crossings in Wales are at a five-year high.

Network Rail said there were 400 incidents at level crossings and nearly 30 near misses, where trains narrowly avoided hitting motorists, in 2008.

The company is calling for changes so that tougher sentences can be handed out to offenders.

It released disturbing CCTV footage of a near-miss incident at Llangadog, Carmarthenshire in July 2006.

The video had already been viewed by a judge at Swansea before he sentenced the driver, who lived locally, and had his wife and young son in the car at the time.

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 chief executive Iain Coucher

The motorist admitted dangerous driving, claiming he did not see the flashing lights and failed to notice cars waiting at the crossing.

The court heard that his wife had been so traumatised by the experience that the couple had had to move to a nearby town.

The motorist was given 12 month suspended sentence and ordered to do180 hours of community service. He was also disqualified from driving, made to take an extended test after 12 months and fined 722.

In another incident near Welshpool in Powys in September, 2008 a train travelling at 70mph and with 140 passengers on board clipped the back of a lorry on a crossing.

The motorist was prosecuted after pleading guilty to failing to phone the signal box for permission to cross.

One person was hurt and the motorist was sentenced to a suspended four month sentence and fined.

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: 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.

Deterrent

"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."

A TV and radio advertising campaign, which launched in November, is being aired again this month.

Mr Croucher added: "We hope that increased awareness of the dangers of taking risks at level crossings, couple 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."



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