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Level crossing deaths drop to lowest level in 20 years

13 July 2016  •  Author: Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, European Railway Review

Level crossing deaths in Britain are at their lowest recorded level for almost a generation says the industry’s independent safety body RSSB.

Level crossing deaths drop to lowest level in 20 years

According to the RSSB’s Annual Safety Performance Report, the number of people dying in level crossing accidents is at its lowest recorded for nearly 20 years. The report reveals three pedestrians died in accidents at level crossings in the year between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016. Furthermore, there has been no passenger or workforce fatalities in train accidents for a record ninth year in a row. 

Three pedestrians level crossing deaths 1 April 2015 – 31 March 2016

RSSB’s Director of System Safety, George Bearfield said, “Britain’s railways are not only one of the safest in Europe but also by far the safest form of land transport in this country.  Taking the train is 22 times safer than travelling by car and over 1,200 times safer than by motorcycle.”

Britain’s railways continue to be one of the safest in Europe

“The achievements on safety are being made at the same time that record numbers of people are using the railway, and that doesn’t happen automatically.  It’s down to a dedicated rail workforce looking after each other, their customers and the wider public combined with our industry’s mature and open approach to incident reporting and sustained efforts by everyone to tackle safety issues in a coordinated way that has delivered the impressive figures we are releasing today,” Dr Bearfield continued.  

RSSB key findings from Annual Safety Performance Report:

  • 45 people were fatally injured in accidents connected to the railway during the report year:
    • 10 people died in accidents at stations, 6 at the platform edge, 3 in incidents related to assault, and 1 who was struck by a sign in high winds. 2 of the 10 were non-travelling members of the public.
    • 3 members of the public died in accidents at level crossings, all pedestrians, the lowest recorded figure since 1996/7
    • 2 members of the public died after falling from height onto railway property
    • There were no workforce fatalities
    • 30 people were fatally injured while trespassing on the railway
  • There has been a marked increase in the number of assaults between passengers – even when normalised for the increase in passenger journeys made, partly driven by better reporting
  • There were 252 suicides or suspected suicides, considerably fewer than last year, supported by at least 1,100 interventions by staff to help vulnerable people

“There are clear areas where risk still needs to be managed; such as on stations, assaults, as well as areas where we simply don’t have good enough data yet”

“No one is complacent about safety and there are clear areas where risk still needs to be managed; such as on stations, assaults, as well as areas where we simply don’t have good enough data yet, such as health and wellbeing.  However, the industry is on top of these issues with programmes of activity to try to bring the risk down, and in time to come, I’m confident we will see improvements,” Dr Bearfield said. 

In response to the Annual Safety Performance Report, a spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: “The safety of our passengers is our top priority, which is why the rail industry spends millions of pounds funding the work of the British Transport Police. Overall, crime on the railway has been falling year-on-year but any increase in specific types of crime is concerning and the industry will be continuing to invest in CCTV and extra security to help keep passengers safe.”

Level Crossing Safety will be a key topic within European Railway Review Issue 4 2016 published on 21st July. Contributions will include:

  • Jarmo Koistenen, Traffic Safety Specialist from the Finnish Transport Agency who covers Finland’s new national level crossing strategy
  • Libor Lochman and Jean-Baptiste Simonnet from CER share the general rail industry’s efforts towards improving level crossing safety
  • Tarvi Viisalu, Chief Inspector of the Safety Department at Estonian Railways Ltd reports on how Estonia has improved safety at level crossings as well as plans for future development.

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