Should crossings be replaced altogether?
Level crossing danger
There were 15 accidental deaths on level crossings in 2008 according to Network Rail’s figures… the largest number for three years. But the company’s campaign about the dangers of misusing level crossings has angered some people.
Things you should know
Over a third of all accidents involving a train are at a level crossing.
Less than 5% of train accidents at level crossing are as a result of a level crossing failure.
Pedestrian fatalities and major injuries are most associated with footpath crossings and automatic half barriers (a type of level crossing).
Source: Office of Rail Regulation
With train speeds up to 125mph, trains cannot stop quickly and pedestrians or vehicles are unlikely to survive collision impact.
Trains can drag pedestrians or trespassers who are close to the tracks under their wheels because of their slipstream.
Source: Network Rail
Never park on the approach to a level crossing.
Never attempt to overtake on a level crossing.
Source: Safer motoring
Family and friends who have lost loved ones say their deaths were not through misuse but by being caught out by an antiquated system not fit for the 21st Century.
More people die on level crossings than in derailments or train crashes, killing on average one person a month.
Network Rail says that every year 2,000 people are reported to misuse level crossings with motorists ignoring warning lights or weaving round barriers.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers Union (RMT) says that even crossings with barriers and warning systems are unsafe and should be replaced with bridges or underpasses over a period of ten years.
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has told the BBC that they are to review the guidance for level crossings.
Types of level crossing
The ORR says that there are two main groups of level crossings:
Instructions for safe use at unprotected crossings, along with signs, must be provided at each crossing location.
A Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) report from 2004 about level crossings indicated that there were just over 8,000 of them on the UK rail network nearly 1,000 less than 10 years previously.
It recognised that 'level crossings represent a high-risk element of the network that needs to be controlled and mitigated'.
ORR to review the guidance for level crossings
And in 2005 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) published some research highlighting the conditions which may lead to people making errors at level crossings.
It acknowledged that level crossings presented the largest risk on the railway network of an incident resulting in multiple deaths.
The ORR has now said that it is undertaking a review. "We hope the new guidance will provide more flexibility.
"In particular for Network Rail to consider level crossings individually rather than have a set procedure for every type of crossing, with the aim of making them more safe for all users."
last updated: 05/02/2009 at 16:35