Safety at level crossings - Transport Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Nine people died in accidents at level crossings in Great Britain in 2012-13: four pedestrians or cyclists and five occupants of road vehicles. In addition, there were seven major injuries, 53 reported minor injuries and 17 cases of shock or trauma.[1]There were more fatalities in 2012-13 than in the previous year but the long-term trend shows an overall decrease, from 11.9 fatalities per year in 2000-2009 down to 7.0 fatalities per year in 2010-13.[2] Excluding suicides and trespass, level crossings accounted for one half of the fatalities on the railway in the period from 2008-09 to 2012-13.

2. Although the safety record of Great Britain's level crossings has improved in recent times, concerns have been expressed about whether Network Rail is sufficiently focused on protecting the safety of road users and pedestrians who traverse them. There have been a number of high profile accidents for which Network Rail has been criticised for ignoring prior warnings that level crossings were unsafe and for shabby treatment of the relatives of those killed.

3. In 2010 Network Rail committed itself to reducing risk at level crossings by 25% over the course of Control Period 4 (April 2009 to March 2014), as measured by its own model.[3] We decided to examine how Network Rail was implementing this pledge, in view of the criticisms of its stance towards safety at level crossings in recent years. In July 2013 we asked for views on the following questions:

·  Are current safety measures at level crossings adequate? How should they be improved?

·  In addition to bridges and underpasses what other cost-effective measures can be introduced to replace or improve safety at level crossings?

·  How should expenditure on improving safety at level crossings be prioritised in relation to other demands on the rail budget?

·  Is Network Rail giving sufficient priority to improving safety at level crossings?

·  Is Government policy and regulatory action by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in relation to safety at level crossings adequate? What more should the Government and ORR do?

·  How should the legislation governing level crossings be updated?

·  How should public awareness of safety at level crossings be improved?

4. We have published over 50 pieces of written evidence and heard oral evidence from a wide range of interested parties on 21 October and 4 November 2013.[4] We are grateful to all of our witnesses but we particularly pay tribute to Chris Bazlinton, Laurence Hoggart, Tina Hughes, and Richard Wright, who spoke to us about the accidents in which their relatives had been killed or seriously injured, and their subsequent treatment by Network Rail and other bodies. Their powerful and heartfelt evidence was crucial in helping us understand why accidents happen at level crossings and the impact of those life-changing events on the lives of their loved ones. We pay tribute to their courage in speaking out. We also thank those relatives who contacted us privately. We understand how difficult this will have been: the information that was provided was crucial to our thinking during this inquiry.

5. We also thank our specialist advisers for this inquiry, Professor Andrew Evans and John Tilly, for their assistance.

6. In this report we begin by setting out in more detail key facts and figures about level crossings and explain who is responsible for them and for dealing with accidents. Our third chapter examines the measures Network Rail and others could take to make level crossings safer. Subsequent chapters cover helping pedestrians and motorists to use level crossings more safely and helping people whose relatives have been killed and injured at level crossings deal with the aftermath of the accidents. We offer some concluding thoughts in our sixth and final chapter.
Box 1: Elsenham, 2005

On 3 December 2005,Olivia Bazlinton (aged 14) and her friend Charlie Thompson (aged 13) were on their way from Elsenham, Essex, to Cambridge. There was no ticket machine on their platform and they had to cross the railway to the other platform to purchase their tickets. After purchasing their tickets, the miniature warning lights and yodel alarm indicated that there was a train approaching. After a train had stopped in the station they opened the unlocked wicket gate and proceeded back across the line. They were hit by a Stansted train. In February 2007 an inquest jury concluded that the deaths were accidental. After risk assessments not disclosed during the inquest later came to light, Network Rail was successfully prosecuted for breaches of health and safety law and in March 2012 was fined £1 million. The station now has a footbridge and the gates have a locking system.

1   Annual Safety Performance Report 2012-13, RSSB (p179). The RSSB notes that "Level crossing harm tends to be dominated by a relatively small number of fatalities, so figures from a single year should be interpreted with caution." Back

2   The mean fatal accident rate fell from 10.60 fatalities per year in Q2 2000-2009 down to 6.75 fatal accidents per year in 2010-2013. This fall is statistically significant. Back

3   Network Rail (SLC 007) para 18 and subsequent discussions with Network Rail. The risk reduction is modelled using Network Rail's Level Crossing Indicator Model, which uses ALCRM risk scores and is periodically recalibrated against RSSB's Safety Risk Model. ALCRM is described in para 17 of this report. Back

4   Oral evidence taken before the Transport Committee on 21 October 2013 and 4 November 2013 Back

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Prepared 7 March 2014