UK: BBC reports on crossing closure “wars”

24 Apr

The BBC News Magazine has an excellent feature on the divided opinions on the case to reduce risk arising at level crossings and that for the retention of long-established ground level routes across the railway. To read the article go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27037582.

One Response to “UK: BBC reports on crossing closure “wars””

  1. Dave H (@BCCletts) May 3, 2014 at 05:03 #

    Perhaps one element of the problem is the vast divergence in the way that road risk is handled compared to health & safety on construction sites, and the railway. In both the latter cases, public unease at the annual death toll through avoidable incidents drove the delivery of objective and impartial investigation through independent agencies (HSE/RAIB) reporting to the industry regulator, with a clear listing of causal factors, and recommendations for remedial action, which is published unredacted.

    In this way we get close to the Vision Zero aim of the Swedish Roads Agency policy – a year with no avoidable deaths reported across the network, or industry under review. This is driven by a clear and structured engagement of all participants in identifying hazards and managing risks.

    Compare this with the hard to justify ‘special status’ of many facets of road use. Kill someone with a train, a bicycle, a dangerous piece of equipment on site (including a road vehicle), or even the load falling off a road vehicle, and the charge is simple – manslaughter – or in the rare cases where there is intent or a deliberate and dangerous act – murder. On the road, with a motor vehicle we have the CPS (and PFS in Scotland) wavering over whether to charge with the sanitised/euphemistic “Causing death by dangerous/careless driving” and a clear indication that the lesser charge is being substituted where the potential of a conviction for the greater charge is considered weak.

    It also reflects in the way road deaths an serious incidents are investigated – section 39 of the Road Traffic Act mandates the roads authority to investigate road crashes, and from those investigations take action to prevent a recurrence. Well to paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell “To have one fatality from this cause is unfortunate, to keep repeating the same crashes seems to display an element of culpability” I’ve simply looked at a very small area of cycle – LGV crashes, and have noted locations where the same type of crash has killed on more than one occasion, in one case 3 times in 2 years, and the wider societal reactions is to shrug its shoulders and say ” Hey so what, shit happens”

    Section 39 has also a fundamental flaw “quo custodiet ipsos custodes” – who is the guardian of our guardians? Here is the roads authority investigating the fitness for purpose of the management and delivery of the roads provided by … the roads authority. Currently there are a few folk asking through FoI to see what Section 39 reports have been produced by their roads authority, and what action has been delivered as a result – Section 39 reports do not seem to have any widespread open access. The investigations we do get are generally from the Police and insurers, and with focii on establishing guilt or liability respectively, and reports for the Coroner, which are not generally available in the same way as an RAIB investigation, and the use of the Prevention of Future Deaths, report following an inquest, which often lacks the clarity of defining action to be taken, and ‘bite’ of a regulator to follow through with enforcement.

    I’ve a paper by HSE and the then DETR on the beginnings of action to get road deaths, where the road is the ‘workplace’ being handled to the same standards as other workplace incidents – it is nearly 15 years old. Progress seems almost at glacial speeds, although there are indications that large employers are applying duty of care in their approach to their employees driving for work. I believe there are regular opportunities to keep pressing this as legislation gets periodic review, and we might widely seek to get a structure – perhaps using DVSA and the Traffic Commissioners as the starting point to deliver the Highways Accident Investigation Branch as an equivalent to RAIB, and remover the anachronisms that prevail in our roads system management and delivery when compared to rail, sea and air operations,

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