Network Rail today released details of 845 dangerous incidents at Cottonmill Lane level crossing in St Albans.
A train was almost upon the crossing when a pedestrian made the spilt-second decision to step back from the tracks, narrowly avoiding serious injury or loss of life.
This shocking incident further demonstrates why Cottonmill Lane is among the highest-risk level crossings on Network Rail’s London North Western route (Euston to Carlisle).
The near-miss occurred on September 22 – just 11 days after proposals for the future of the crossing were discussed at public information event at St Julian’s church hall in Sopwell.
Network Rail is investigating alternative options to the crossing as census cameras installed at the crossing have shown worryingly frequent instances of dangerous behaviour.
A total of 845 dangerous incidents were recorded over two separate covert camera surveys – one between 25/07/15 and 02/08/15 and another between 01/07/17 and 09/07/17. This is greater than the initial figure of 787 that appears on signage at the crossing as we have now identified further examples of pushchairs becoming stuck, users not dismounting on bikes, and extraordinary incidents such as trespassers and users spending prolonged periods of time lingering on the crossing.
Clear definitions of what constitutes misuse at the level crossing have been released by Network Rail along with requests to local people to use Cottonmill Lane level crossing safely.
The events described as “dangerous” at Cottonmill Lane level crossing all fall within two categories – ‘user human error’ and ‘deliberate misuse’. More information can be found at http://www.networkrail.co.uk/
Examples of this type of behaviour include:
• Crossing while distracted, which is a form of ‘user human error’. An example of this type of behaviour would be the use of headphones while crossing and not looking left and right; using a mobile phone; riding a bike across the crossing and failing to look for trains.
• Entrapment on the level crossing, which is categorised as ‘user human error’. This is when a level crossing user becomes stuck on the crossing. Examples of this include bikes, prams or wheelchairs becoming trapped in between the rails.
• Deliberate misuse of the level crossing. This includes using the level crossing as somewhere to congregate, playing on the crossing, walking along the rails, lying down on it.
• Near miss events, which can be categorised as either ‘user human error’ or ‘deliberate misuse’ depending on the circumstances. This is where a train driver has filed a report of a near miss with a crossing user. The driver might have had to apply their emergency breaks or it might have been too late for the driver to brake, depending on how suddenly the person appeared on the crossing.
Lucy Chadderton, route level crossing manager for Network Rail, said:
“This latest incident is a reminder of the potentially tragic risks of using a level crossing unsafely.
“We urge local people to use Cottonmill Lane crossing safely – including simple things like removing headphones, dismounting from bikes and looking both ways before crossing.
“The message is ‘Stop. Look. Listen’ before crossing.
“We are listening to the concerns of local people and considering their feedback regarding the future of this crossing.
“Meanwhile we are working to further improve the crossing including straightening the walking route and improving the crossing surface.”
Updates on Network Rail’s work to improve Cottonmill Lane crossing can be found online at www.networkrail.co.uk/