LETTER: Rail crossing safety warning a lesson to all – including MPs  

Photo of the crash scene after a freight train collided with a tractor between March and Whittlesey.

Photo of the crash scene after a freight train collided with a tractor between March and Whittlesey. The image was provided by Fenland Aerial Photography (Steve Oldfield) - Credit: Steve Oldfield (Fenland Aerial P

I note and welcome the press release on rail crossing safety from the HM Chief Inspector of Railways. 

It followed the release of rail safety statistics by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). 

These showed five deaths occurred at level crossings in Britain in 2020-21, up from two in the previous year. 

Children taking photos on a rail line at March is being used as part of a nationwide safety campaign

Children taking photos on a rail line at March is being used as part of a nationwide safety campaign. - Credit: Network Rail

And this figure could have been much worse with a sharp increase in near misses with pedestrians also being recorded.   

Statistics published by the rail regulator show 342 people were nearly hit by oncoming trains in 2020-21 - the highest level of near misses with pedestrians at crossings level since records began in 2002/03.  


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Much of this increase relates to a change in level crossing user behaviour. 

This includes people ignoring barriers or being distracted by others, using mobile phones and taking photos and videos of the railway in places they shouldn’t. 

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There were also 48 near misses with road vehicles at level crossings, down from 75 and the lowest since 2002-03. 

It has resulted in the publication of a warning on the Ely Standard, Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard websites which is also very welcome.   

John Elworthy, our first-rate editor, is always on top of the news agenda and this is a very relevant local issue. 

It is not only in relation to foot traffic but also in relation to slow-moving farm traffic, as we saw recently with the derailment of a freight train locally. 

So well done all round. 

However, in matters of this sort, I think it is important to lead by example. 

Councillors at Soham

Soham Town Council's Rosemary Aitchison, Cllr James Palmer ( Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough), former council leader Peter Moakes, former MEP Geoffrey Van Orden and Tom Hunt beside the track at Soham in 2012. - Credit: Archant

Perhaps a round robin to Parliament and councils to ask them to set an example and not behave like these two groups, would add to your campaign.  

Elizabeth Truss MP and George Freeman MP at the Queen Adelaide level crossing

Elizabeth Truss MP and George Freeman MP at the Queen Adelaide level crossing close to the Ely North junction in 2015. - Credit: Archant

Perhaps with a copy of your recent guidance? 

ALAN JAMES  

Chairman 

CPRE Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 

St Ives  

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