Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Warning in third year of rail campaign

By Ben Aulakh

People in the Midlands are being warned for the third year in a row, “Don’t run the risk” with level crossings.

The campaign of the same name – launched by Network Rail – comes as the numbers of those choosing not to stop is at a five year high, with more than 3,400 incidents of misuse at level crossings last year.

This included a record 56 listed incidents in the West Midlands, a figure up 40 per cent from 2008.

Iain Coucher, Network Rail Chief Executive said: “Our campaign asks “would it kill you to wait?” This is because sadly we know that not waiting can result in tragedy – and there’s no excuse for that.

“The rules around level crossings are clear, when the lights flash or the barriers are down, don’t cross; a train is approaching.”

On average, more than three motorists a week are involved in a near miss, where a train narrowly avoided hitting them because they ignored warning signs and lights or weaved round barriers.

Between January and August this year 7 people were killed, there were 9 cars hit by trains and 189 pedestrians and 97 motorists narrowly avoided being hit at the stopping points.

Network Rail Spokesperson Rachel Blackman said, “A hard hitting campaign that explicitly shows the consequences of misusing a level crossing, in any circumstance is absolutely necessary.

She added, “The shock-factor in the advertisements is crucial to driving the message through to the public.”

Crossing misuse is also the single biggest risk of trains accidents on UK railways.

The campaign – which is using posters and television advertisements to get the message across – is also highlighting the 10 worst excuses given by those who fail to stop.

Drivers thinking trains would stop to let them through, not taking notice of flashing lights and not seeing the barriers coming down are just some of the reasons given by drivers to police.

Rachel added, “If Network Rail was able to re-build the rail network from scratch today level crossings would not be part of that plan.

“But the adverting campaign is proven to be working and effectively producing awareness of the dangers by making people think twice before they take an unnecessary risk.”

This is borne out by figures which show that 54 per cent of those who had seen the advert saying they had been influenced by them.

Another 67 per cent said that the posters and television adverts would influence their behaviour at crossings in the future.

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