Warning after children involved in near-miss at St Albans level crossing

Cottonmill Lane level crossing, St Albans,

Cottonmill Lane level crossing, St Albans, - Credit: Archant

A high risk level crossing in St Albans was the site of a near-miss involving children last week.

Network Rail has urged the community to stop misusing Cottonmill Lane level crossing following this latest incident.

There have been a worrying number of incidents of deliberate misuse recently on the crossing, which sees around 60 trains per day travel over it on the line between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction.

The recent near miss with children on the crossing happened on Tuesday July 25.

More than 1,000 people per day use the crossing - making it one of the highest risk crossings. Although Britain’s railways are the safest in Europe, level crossings pose the biggest safety risk to people who come into contact with the rail network.

During a nine day monitoring exercise earlier in the year, four near misses were recorded and a shocking 300 incidents of deliberate misuse.

Priti Patel, head of safety for the London North Western route at Network Rail, said: “We are concerned about repeated dangerous behaviour at Cottonmill level crossing and the number of near misses that have been recorded. We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain, but we also need everyone who uses them to do their bit too.

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“We cannot stress enough the danger cyclists, pedestrians and motorists are placing themselves in when they don’t use a crossing safely. A split second decision can have life-changing consequences, not only for those involved, but also for their family and friends, train drivers and railway workers.

“Please - never take chances when using level crossings and if you have any concerns always contact Network Rail or British Transport Police.”

Inspector Becky Warren from British Transport Police (BTP), said: “The children who narrowly missed being hit by a train are the lucky ones. Sadly there are many people who have not been as fortunate, and I have had the heart breaking job of telling families that their loved ones has been killed at crossings or on the tracks.

“Despite our constant warnings about using crossings safely and the dangers of the railway, incredibly some people are still willing to put their lives on the line by ignoring crossing instructions, not looking properly or by trying to dash across crossings when trains are approaching.

“Most accidents are as a result of impatience; not being prepared to wait and trying to beat the train. People risk their lives thinking it won’t happen to me, but it can and it does and it’s simply not worth the risk.”

Network Rail is currently working with the local council to find an alternative solution to a level crossing at this site in the long term and is currently making a series of changes to improve safety. These include moving the whistleboards - which prompt train drivers to sound the horn as a warning - closer to the crossing, and making improvements to the crossing surface.

Network Rail will be joined by British Transport Police at the crossing over the summer months to talk to users about safety at the crossing.