Union backs level crossing driving test call

10 March 2010

ASLEF has given its full backing to a call by Network Rail for the car driving test to include compulsory questions about level crossings. General Secretary Keith Norman says car drivers must be acutely aware of the risks they take, which last year led to 14 crashes, 13 deaths and 140 near misses at crossings.

Network Rail says it recorded 3,200 incidents of misuse – but adds that the actual figure was likely to be higher. Its chief executive Iain Coucher said test questions would help drivers start out with good habits on negotiating level crossings, rather than running red lights or dodging around barriers.

Andrew Howard, AA head of road safety, said a train hitting a vehicle on a level crossing was ‘the single biggest risk of a catastrophic incident on the railway’. Further support for the initiative came from British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther who said these incidents were ‘wholly avoidable’ and changing driver behaviour was the ‘only sustainable solution’. He also suggested placing cameras at ‘hot-spot’ level crossings.

‘All these suggestions should be taken up,’ says Keith Norman. ‘But in addition train drivers should have a camera in the cab linked to transponders that would enable them to see down the track. The technology to do this is available and has been in use in Hong Kong for many years – using technology developed in Wales.

‘A combination of car driver awareness and cab technology would radically reduce this unnecessary carnage.’

Keith added that while media reports of these incidents dwelt on the tragedy of the car driver, the traumatic effect on the train driver was often overlooked.

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