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Network Rail, rail crossing incidents, pedestrian rail crossings
Network Rail/AP
Network Rail handout photo of a motorist narrowly avoiding a train on the Llangadog
level crossing.

Video of Near Misses Is Latest Attempt to Eliminate Rail Crossing Incidents

February 10, 2009 10:59 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
One U.K. rail company is hoping video of disturbing near misses will stem the rising number of pedestrian railroad incidents. But some say much more is needed.

Company Uses Shocking Videos to Limit Transit Incidents

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Network Rail, which manages 7,600 crossings in the UK, is trying to stem the rise in pedestrian rail accidents with a new video meant to shock the public, Sky News reports. The company launched the campaign last November, but is now bringing it back.

Using CCTV footage, the video depicts near misses, including a pedestrian who tried to cross the tracks at the last second, barely missing the oncoming train and losing his shoe in the process; it also shows speeding cars that narrowly escape collisions.

Network Rail is hoping the courts will inflict harsher penalties on people who put their own and others’ lives in danger to get to their destinations sooner. The company says the number of incidents in Britain is the country’s highest in five years. There were more than 3,400 incidents last year, and 20 crashes between trains and motor vehicles. Furthermore, “An average of five pedestrians a week were involved in near-misses at crossings, with 15 losing their lives over the year,” Sky News writes.

“We think that the judiciary penalties received need to reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and are calling on the judiciary to consider all these factors when handing down sentences,” Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said, according to the BBC.

Network Rail has suffered from the incidents as well. The problems resulted in more than 55 days of delays last year, and “cost the company around £1.8 million last year, not counting damage to trains or tracks or staffing time and cost,” according to the Times of London.

But some people say the rail system is at fault, too. “Level crossings are a 19th century solution that should have no place on a 21st century railway, and year on year there are too many unnecessary deaths and serious injuries,” said Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, according to the Times of London. “Network Rail should commit itself to a 10-year programme of eliminating crossings, replacing them with bridges or underpasses so that trains no longer have to mix with road traffic or pedestrians.”

Related Topic: Transit accidents around the US

By November 2008, Houston’s light rail train, MetroRail, saw an increase in accidents—52 compared to 34 in 2007. Authorities for the light rail system put the blame on the city’s move to synchronized traffic lights downtown, which means that drivers and trains shared green lights.

Metro spokeswoman Raequel Roberts told the Houston Chronicle that “Half of this year's accidents are the result of motorists who were traveling beside the trains attempting illegal turns, and the majority of them were at intersections with synchronized signals,” the paper stated.

In a bid to reduce the number of car-train collisions, the city of Houston installed new traffic fixtures at 14 locations. In addition to the standard-issue red and yellow lamps, the lights included an up arrow that flashes green, and an arrow flashing amber to indicate when drivers are to make right turns.

Reference: Public transportation options

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