Jan 2010 - Raise the bar on crossing safety standards

01 June 2013

I’m often asked why I feel so strongly about safety at open level crossings. It’s because it is a safety feature that has declined drastically since I began my rail career. I can remember when all crossings were manned by a crossing keeper, invariably aman and usually with a wife and family. Then BR embarked on a programme to install open crossings that put thousands of rail staff out of work and tens of thousands of road and rail users – especially train drivers – at risk.


I still vividly remember an incident that happened 30 years ago, on 1march – at Naas level crossing near lydney in gloucestershire. driver harry hitchens and his Assistant Phil bull, both Cardiff cantonmen I knew personally, were killed when the train they were driving collided with a high sided vehicle. harry was 59 at the time and Phil just 38 years old. the lorry driver also perished.


I told the branch afterwards that the people responsible for this deliberate sabotage of safety standards were killers. I still believe it. It is shameful that our members should be put at risk because of inadequate crossing arrangements.


Our members – not to mention other rail staff and the travelling public – deserve better.


Last month we saw the office of Rail Regulation(oRR) come up with some more proposals to (get ready for corporate-speak) ‘help to achieve its vision of zero workforce and industry-caused passenger fatalities’. It wants higher penalties for motorists, tighter laws and the inspection of all automatic crossings. All well and good – but shouldn’t this be happening anyway? At best, these steps will help limit the number of deaths – but they will not end them. And meanwhile, the carnage will continue.


It is shameful that we don’t provide the same level crossing safety standards today that we did three decades ago.

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