Dog walkers chatting on train line among 80 rail near misses

Network Rail has seen over 80 near misses at level crossings this year.

Network Rail has seen over 80 near misses at level crossings this year. - Credit: RALPH HODGSON

Two people and their dogs standing having a chat on the train line were among more than 80 incidents where a pedestrian or vehicle has almost been struck by a train after dodging a level crossing during 2021.

National Rail saw 306 incidents between April 2020 and April 2021, with today marking National Level Crossing Awareness Day which aims to highlight distraction and deliberate misuse of level crossings.

This year, 81 near misses occurred across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire including a man who ducked under lowered barriers at Darsham level crossing in Suffolk to run and get in a taxi on the other side, and two young girls were taking photos on Weatherby level crossing in Newmarket, Suffolk.

Further incidents saw two people with dogs having a conversation on Common Lane North level crossing in Beccles, Suffolk and a group of youths were playing with the barriers at Chesterton level crossing in Cambridgeshire.

Studies show many incidents occur because people are distracted, as well as purposefully crossing the rails.

Distractions have included looking at a mobile phone, listening to music or chatting to a friend.

As a result Network Rail has launched the Beware the Bubble campaign, which aims to combat distracted crossers by encouraging people to be more present and mindful of their surroundings when using the railway.

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Nathan Williams-Johnson, Network Rail’s community safety manager for Anglia, said: “To know that we are approaching 100 incidents on level crossings this year already is truly shocking.

“Trains can’t swerve out of the way and they can’t immediately stop, even when the emergency brake is applied.

"The impact on a train driver having to make decisions in these situations should not be underestimated.

“I want to urge everyone to be aware of their surroundings and use level crossings safely.

"This is not the place to stop for a chat or take photos and no one should cross when the barriers and warning lights are telling you not to.

"The consequences can be devastating and will affect everyone.”