Network Rail has released a new television advert with the strapline "See track: Think train," highlighting the potential dangers to cyclists and pedestrians when using level crossings.
The 30-second spot shows a family out on a bike ride in the countryside playing a game of ‘I spy…’ with the daughter realising – too late, apparently – that the “something beginning with T” is the railway track she is standing on as a train approaches.
Since 1 April 2012, two pedestrians and one cyclist as well as two motorists have lost their lives on level crossings in Britain.
Phil Dawn, aged 34, of Kirkby-in-Ashfield lost his life in May while riding his bike across a level crossing between Sutton Park and Mansfield railway stations in Nottinghamshire.
Newspaper reports suggested that he had been listening to music on his headphones when he was struck by a train.
An earlier campaign from Network Rail this summer featuring Rap Artist Professor Green urged people to remove headphones while using level crossings.
However, the father of a teenage girl killed, along with a friend, at a level crossing in Essex seven years ago, insisted that it was wrong to place all the responsibility on crossing users.
Olivia Bazlinton, aged 14, and her friend 13-year-old Charlotte Thompson, were killed at Elsenham station in December 2005.
Olivia’s father Chris Bazlinton told Sky News: "The sighting at that time was appalling, you couldn't see anything, you couldn't hear anything.
"The maximum time you could see a train is three seconds from that position.
"They were both quite short and they couldn't possibly see anything so they just stepped out in front, and they were killed instantly."
Network Rail received a £1 million fine for breaching safety legislation in connection with that incident and has subsequently erected a footbridge at the station, while the level crossing gates have been changed to ones with automatic locking.
Reg Thompson, Charlotte’s father, maintained that similar changes should be made throughout the country.
"The railways are, in huge parts of this country, still unfit for purpose,” he insisted. “The stations must be updated and made as safe as possible.
"They can never be completely safe; nobody can stop someone jumping over the fence, but we can create at least a fence, we can put locking gates in."
Speaking of the new initiative launched today, Martin Gallagher, head of level crossings for Network Rail, said: “While fatalities at level crossings are at a low, there have been more pedestrians than motorists killed at crossings in recent years, and so we wanted to focus our campaign to connect with this audience.
“We know that it’s easy to get distracted or given the sleepy, rural surroundings not realise the risk at a crossing, but just as motorways cut through the countryside, so do railways.
“We’re doing all we can to make the railway safer by upgrading crossings or closing them if we can, but we hope this advert will raise awareness that we all need to take care and look out for the warning signs ahead of every level crossing; doing so can save your life.”
Network Rail has also outlined a £130 million upgrade programme for level crossings, including:
A closure programme which will see 750 crossings removed from the network by April 2014. More than 600 have already been closed.
Replacing footpath crossings with footbridges
Installing warning lights as an additional safety measure at footpath crossings
A new schools programme – Rail Life – teaching both primary and secondary school children about how to stay safe when crossing the railway
Rolling out 10 more camera enforcement vans
Investing in new technology including obstacle detection lasers
Introducing new cost effective barriers to open crossings
Employing more than 100 new dedicated level crossing managers
Community safety managers who work closely with local groups, councils and schools to raise awareness.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.