Level crossing near-misses up 15%, says Network Rail

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The number of motorists taking illegal and dangerous risks at level crossings is rising, Network Rail has warned.

The rail operator said near-misses with trains increased from 140 in 2009 to 161 last year - a jump of 15%.

The number of near-misses involving pedestrians and trains rose from 270 in 2009 to 297 last year, but there were fewer vehicle collisions and deaths.

A police van fitted with nine cameras has begun monitoring level crossings in Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

The cameras are able to recognise number plates and one is attached to a pole which allows the van to monitor drivers from a distance.

Network Rail director of operations Robin Gisby said: "Too many motorists continue to break the law by jumping the lights or swerving around barriers at level crossings.

"Hundreds of pedestrians are also risking their lives just trying to save a few seconds - it's just not worth it."

Drivers either impatient or ignorant of the law cause great cost, delay and disruption to other passengers across the UK, he added.

Network Rail's report revealed that:

  • Pedestrians crossed when unsafe to do so on 768 further occasions, and road vehicles an additional 748 times
  • Collisions between road vehicles and trains tell from 14 in 2009 to seven last year, and deaths from 13 to four over the same period
  • Total incidents of recorded misuse at levels crossings rose from 3,244 in 2009 to 3,446 last year

Level crossing gates were left open 466 times last year, barriers were struck 370 times, phones were left off the hook 75 times and people failed to contact signallers 240 times before crossing, Network Rail added.

The mobile camera technology deployed in Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent resulted from a joint initiative between Network Rail and the British Transport Police.

The vans aim to deter misuse and change drivers' behaviour at level crossings, and have the ability to process prosecutions instantly.

News of the rise in near-misses at level crossings came as the number of serious incidents in which trains passed danger signals also increased.

There were 306 signals passed at danger in the most serious category A last year, compared with 261 in 2009, according to the Rail Safety Board.

It also said nine passengers died at stations last year - the highest number since 2004.

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