New technology introduced as near misses involving children at South East level crossings expected to rise over the summer holidays.(Network Rail)

VIDEO: New technology introduced as near misses involving children at South East level crossings expected to rise over the summer holidays

Distraction campaign Summer 2017.(Network Rail Image)

New figures[1] from Network Rail reveal that young people are more likely to have a near miss at a level crossing during the summer, when lighter nights and the summer holidays mean they will be outdoors for longer.

Many of them will simply be distracted when crossing the railway, either by their friends, their phones or their cameras. To help combat the issue of distraction at level crossings, Network Rail and British Transport Police are introducing geo- targeting at a number of level crossings where phone distraction has been flagged as high risk.

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains:

“Many people are aware of the issue of distraction for drivers, but it is very worrying that so many young adults admit to putting themselves at unnecessary risk by getting distracted when crossing the railway.

“We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need everyone who uses level crossings to do their bit too. By paying attention to the warnings at level crossings and avoiding distractions, we can all keep ourselves out of harm’s way.”

To help combat the issue of distraction at level crossings, Network Rail and British Transport Police is embracing new technologies to help reach young people and make them more aware of the dangers. The rail infrastructure company has produced a series of virtual reality films which can be used to educate children. They are also introducing geo-targeting at a number of level crossings where phone distraction has been flagged as high risk which will alert people using their phones near level crossings to put them away.

The system will alert people using their phones near level crossings to put them away.

One of the crossings targeted is Simpson’s foot crossing, near Sittingbourne, where this video was taken using CCTV earlier this year. The young people in the footage were identified and the dangers of their actions explained to them by Network Rail community safety manager Nicola Dooris.

She said:

“Many young people simply don’t think about the dangers of the railway and parents will know how difficult it is to drag their kids away from their phones or other tech. Those two factors together mean that we have a constant battle to get through to children to help them stay out of danger. Anything parents can do to help us could make all the difference.”

New data[1] has revealed that over two thirds (70 per cent) of near misses are due to distraction, with the top three distractions at level crossings highlighted as friends (40 per cent), headphones (20 per cent) and mobile phones (12 per cent). Almost a third (29%) of young adults admit to using their mobile phone while crossing the railway. A huge 95 per cent of under 25 year olds report owning a smart phone and spend twice the amount of time on their mobile than the average user.

Locations in the South East where the geo-targeting message will be broadcast are:

Dibley’s foot crossing, Chartham , near Canterbury in Kent
Glebe Way[2] foot crossing, Whitstable, Kent
Whitehall Road, level crossing, Canterbury, Kent
Simpson’s foot crossing, Sittingbourne, Kent
Teynham West foot crossing, near Faversham, Kent
Red Lane Holland, foot crossing, Oxted, Surrey
Rushford’s foot crossing, Lingfield, Surrey
Bourneview foot crossing, Kenley, Surrey
Warnham foot crossing, North Horsham, West Sussex
Stockbridge and Basin Road level crossings, Chichester, West Sussex

Video – how we operate Stockbridge and Basin Road crossings in Chichester

While Britain still has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks on the railway. In the last five years there have been more than 2,000 incidents on level

Inspector Becky Warren from British Transport Police (BTP) said:

“Level crossings are there to help people cross the railway when it is safe to do so but pedestrians need to pay full attention when they use them.

“Sadly, our officers know the tragedy families are faced with after a loved one is killed at a level crossing. A moment of distraction, be that checking a text or changing a song, can leave devastation and heartbreak for families.

“We regularly conduct operations at level crossings and run events across the country in conjunction with our partners in Network Rail to raise awareness on how to use crossings safely.”

Network Rail’s army of over 100 level crossing and community safety managers will also be raising awareness of rail safety right across the rail network by holding safety events and encouraging young people to stay alert when on the rail network.

Tina Hughes lost her daughter Olivia at Elsenham level crossing in December 2005 whilst on way to a  Christmas shopping trip with her friend. Due to her tragic loss, Tina knows just how important it is to raise awareness of the dangers at crossings and explains why she is such a supporter of Network Rail’s safety campaigns.

“Olivia and her friend waited for one train to pass, walked out and were hit by another train heading in the other direction. She was just 14 years old. My life has never been the same since and I would never want another parent to go through the same pain. I have campaigned tirelessly since the death of my daughter to make sure risk around level crossings is managed better.

“Network Rail invited me to work with them in 2011 so I could improve the way level crossings are managed and to make sure risk is reduced as much as possible. They have made huge strides to improve level crossings safety since the failings that happened at Elsenham. The campaigns they run are a part of this and I know that distraction is a big issue at level crossings. If sharing what happened to Olivia encourages just one parent to warn their child about the dangers at level crossings then telling my story is worth it.”

To find out more about how to stay safe when using level crossings visit www.networkrail.co.uk/level-crossings/

Notes:

  1. Network Rail level crossing data July 2017 – Dec/Jan events at 15 per month on average, rising to 47 in August and over 50 in September

  2. Populous Phone smart survey of 2000 young adults October 2016

  3. Network Rail plans to replace Glebe Way level crossing with a footbridge and plans are in with the district council.

Guidance on level crossing use

  • Most crossings have a sign and lights or bells that alert you if a train is coming. Many will also have gates that close when a train is coming. If this happens wait until the train has passed

  • When crossing tracks at a railway crossing, you should: Stop and look both ways before crossing, listen for the train coming and for warning bells, if there are lights watch for them to flash

  • Stand well back from the tracks if a train is going by

  • Never try to cross the tracks if a train is coming. It can take up to one and a half miles for a train to come to a complete stop

  • Always make sure there are no other trains coming before crossing