United Kingdom: Network Rail targets dog walkers and cyclists in summer-long campaign

31 Jul

Network Rail, the rail infrastructure manager of Great Britain’s railways has launched a public awareness campaign targeting dog walkers and cyclists as components of a wider engagement strategy that is switching the emphasis from paid for television advertising to awareness and education of groups exposed to the greater risk of an accident which also include farm workers and commercial vehicle drivers. The switch is being made as the results from paid-for television advertising have not delivered the expected outcomes.

The harm to dog walkers has been quantified as about one fatality a year with a further 36 near-hit incidents annually as owners try and safeguard their dogs.

A recent survey of dog owners by Dogs Trust revealed:

  • More than two thirds (68%) acknowledged that their dogs do not always come back when called.
  • A further 68% admitted they would go after their dog onto a level crossing when a train was coming to try and rescue them.
  • More than two thirds (68%) admitted they don’t know the locations of level crossings when they are walking their dogs away from home.
  • The majority of people (95%) backed the idea of an awareness campaign.

The campaign will be delivered locally through Network Rail’s 100 dedicated level crossing managers who on average are responsible for 60 level crossings and will link up with dog walking clubs, pet shops, and promote the safety messages at community events, where they can speak directly to dog-owning level crossing users about their experiences.

“I know with my two dogs how easily they can run off and how difficult it is sometimes to call them back, so I always keep them on a lead when I’m somewhere busy like a level crossing or a road. Hundreds of level crossings run through the countryside where it might feel like you’re in a very open area, but you can actually be very close to the railway with trains travelling through at over 100mph. 

“It’s my job to keep people safe at level crossings, and across the country we see far too many near misses with trains and people walking their dogs. I don’t want any of these near misses turning into tragedies and so I urge anyone walking their dog close to a level crossing, to keep them on a lead and keep their pets and themselves safe from harm. “

Chris Williams, Level Crossing Manager, Network Rail

One Response to “United Kingdom: Network Rail targets dog walkers and cyclists in summer-long campaign”

  1. Dave H (@BCCletts) July 31, 2015 at 13:42 #

    The attempt at a message for cyclists was moderated – initially it actually suggested cyclists should walk over all level crossings, displaying an ignorance of the purpose and function of a road – for the passage of all traffic on wheels using the carriageway. (Cycles have been ‘carriages’ in law since 1888, and motor cars since 1903). Even the road crossimg poster produced is offensive in suggesting that cyclists fail to observe stop signals as a routine matter, and the ILCAD poster was far better pitched as a campaign message.

    For footpath crossings the fact that access should be through a self closing gate almost automatically dictates that the cyclist walks, as remounting to ride 8 metres or less and then dismounting takes longer and more effort. The key for the footpath is that the time between entry and egress should be as short as possible and the exit route unimpeded. On some crossings people have crossed to discover the gate on the far side is narrower or less easy to pass through, hopefully having the place of safety on the live side but clear of the running line envelope, as they tackle the gate

    Only for crossings which have the right of passage on a bike creates a possible challenge but even then these should and can be designed for cycling across, and when they do exist, a group of users, using the crossing safely and fully compliant with the instructions posted, should not be harragued and threatend by twice as many enforcement officers (for up to 30 minutes – more than one report on this), and then sent a notice of intended prosecution contra to the officially recognised status of the level crossing. Fortunately we were able to tell the enforcers that they were completely in the wrong, and their signage was not compliant with any road/footway signage advised in TSRGD.

    That said TSRGD at present has a sole focus on large and long vehicles and fails to give suitable solutions for crossings which present hazards for those on foot, cycles and using wheelchairs, and needs to have standard authorisations for use of hazard warning triangle signs (uneven surface/special hazard (shreik!)/slippery surface/etc), and a clearer description of the footway markings required in Chapter 5. I am aware of one crossing where a special permission for a plate highlighting the shallow crossing angle has been approved in S Yorkshire, used with a generic hazard warning sign.

    This also highlights a clear need also to get the location and use of crossing phones and emergency telephone numbers delivered more effectively. It is worth noting that the high speed derailment at Croxton in 2006 could have been averted if the damage had been reported immediately to the signaller who had 2-3 minutes in which action could have been taken to stop the train. I suspect we may see similar comment relating to Froxfield where the train was around 15 miles away when the emergency call was made to the Police, but no contact made with the signallers, wasting 10 minutes, more than enough time to bring the train to a stand before the line blockage.

    Notably there are a couple of open reporting sites for faults on roads and footpaths, and these sites have attempted to identify the points where the responsible maintainer is Network Rail (or one of around 400 other UK rail operators). It would be wonderful if NR would engage with such sites more closely, as the daily users of a road or path are in a far better position to report any defects as they arise, between official inspections.

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