Close calls on rail lines 'up 15%'

Some 15% more drivers experienced close calls at level crossings in 2010 than the year before, figures show.

There were 161 recorded near-misses involving trains and vehicles last year, Network Rail (NR) said, and 140 in 2009.

On top of that, pedestrians saw 297 close calls on the rail network last year. NR reported people on foot crossing railway lines in unsafe situations 768 times and 748 cars or other road vehicles doing so.

Despite the figures, there were fewer crashes between trains and vehicles - seven last year, compared to 14 in 2009. Likewise, the number of people killed at level crossings decreased from 13 to four.

Network Rail's director of operations and customer services 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.

"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 total of 3,446 occurrences dangerous incidents on level crossings over the whole rail network in 2010, more than the 3,244 recorded in 2009.

In a bid to stop people taking risks and breaking the law, NR has paid for a specially designed police van to monitor crossings, it boasts nine cameras with the technology to identify number plates.

Using ajourney planner could help drivers avoid taking risks with level crossings by finding a route that avoids them or allowing motorists to leave extra time for journeys where they may be held up waiting for a train to pass.

Copyright © Press Association 2011