More drivers in train near-misses

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The Independent Online

The number of motorists involved in near-misses with trains at level crossings increased by 15% in 2010.

According to Network Rail (NR) there were 161 near-misses between trains and road vehicles last year compared with 140 in 2009.

NR also said there were 297 near-misses between pedestrians and trains in 2010.

Robin Gisby, NR's director of operations and customer services, 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.

"While deaths and injuries are thankfully few, these actions by those who are either impatient or ignorant of the law cause great cost, delay and disruption to both rail and road passengers across Britain."

There were a further 768 incidents reported where pedestrians crossed when it was unsafe to do so, and a further 748 road vehicles crossing when unsafe.

However, collisions between road vehicles and trains fell from 14 in 2009 to seven last year, and deaths at level crossings fell from 13 to four.

NR said that overall there were 3,446 recorded incidents of level crossing misuse across Britain's national railway network last year compared with 3,244 in 2009.

The figures also showed that in 2010 there were:

:: 466 incidents of people leaving level crossing gates open;

:: 370 incidents of road vehicles striking barriers;

:: 75 incidents of people leaving the phone off the hook at a level crossings;

:: 240 incidents of people failing to contact the signaller before crossing.

NR said that in a new initiative to reduce disruption at level crossings, camera technology has been introduced as part of a region-wide pilot by NR and the British Transport Police (BTP) across Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

NR has funded a purpose-built marked police van to be fitted with nine cameras, each of which can use number plate recognition technology to help deter motorists from breaking the law.

One of the cameras is attached to a pole which extends up to 10 metres into the air, enabling the van to operate without being next to the level crossing.

The van, which is operated by BTP officers, has access to all the systems required to process prosecutions instantly. The new mobile camera technology has been introduced to try to change motorist behaviour and deter them from jumping lights and swerving around barriers and gates.