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Stop and think – Cross at your peril

Posted on 4th October 2016

Picture the scene… you’ve had a long, hard day at work or school and all you want to do is get home and relax. Unfortunately, your journey home includes a level crossing. You’re distracted; you have your headphones on or you’re texting your friends or checking Facebook. Do you rush ahead and cross without checking for trains properly or do you wait?

There are approximately 6500 level crossings in Britain, and although level crossing deaths are at the lowest level for nearly a generation, there were still 3 deaths in accidents at level crossings in the year between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, according to RSSB’s Annual Safety Performance Report. In addition to this it has been reported that over the last five years there have been more than 500 near misses involving cyclists, motorists and pedestrians during the peak travel hours for commuters, with 61% of these occurring during the evening rush hour.

It is clear therefore that although Britain has one of the safest major rail networks in Europe, injuries and near misses still happen. Network Rail is investing £100 million into improving the safety of their level crossings. This includes an initiative to provide advice on how to stay safe when crossing the tracks.

How can you stay safe?

Barrier crossing:

These have warning lights and alarms.

  • STOP when you see the red lights flashing and hear the alarm ringing- stay behind the white line
  • WAIT if the red lights carry on flashing after the train’s gone by – another train will be passing soon
  • WALK only when the lights go off and the barriers open. Continue to look both ways when crossing.

Open / Footpath crossings:

Open crossings have no barriers and may not have warning lights, whilst footpath crossings will have stiles and gates but may not have warning lights.

  • STOP when you reach the crossing
  • LOOK both ways to make sure that nothing is coming
  • LISTEN carefully before you cross and continue to look both ways when you are crossing.

The courts are taking a hard line approach to breaches in safety with level crossings. It was recently reported that Network Rail had been fined £4 million over the death of a former film actress at a level crossing. Brenda McFarland, known as Olive, was killed in August 2011 when she was hit by a train at the Gipsy Lane crossing in Needham Market, Suffolk. It was determined that she would have had just 5 seconds to see the approaching train.

It can be so easy to get caught up in life and rush around but stopping for just a moment could help to save your life. Whilst the Network Rail need to work hard to improve safety on our railways, it is also important that everyone works together to try and prevent any further unnecessary deaths or injuries. So the next time you reach a level crossing; stop and think before crossing.

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