Contribution to the LX debate
continued from Issue 51
I strongly believe that an absolute zero tolerance policy should be directed at all road users whoever they are, including emergency services. No one has the authority to pass a wig-wag signal that is illuminated, nor do Police officers have any authority to instruct you to pass such a signal, unlike the situation at conventional traffic lights. Similarly when the railway company fails in their duty to operate or maintain a level crossing that leads to a fatality or near miss, the railway company should be prosecuted, and are being prosecuted, albeit rarely. Railway staff, who lazily, and moronically, park their vehicles at level crossings should be disciplined. I would go as far as to say that train drivers who fail to report obvious safety defects e.g. open private crossing gates, should be subjected to disciplinary action. I have regularly had to remind train drivers that it is they who will be injured first if there is a collision as was the case this week. Highway Authorities, farmers, planning authorities, et al should all take responsibility as and where appropriate. My team took enforcement action against one Highway Authority who totally ignored railway safety issues when they insisted on traffic calming measures that in certain circumstances would trap vehicles on a level crossing.
Everyone has personal or corporate responsibility. Level crossings are 'not just a railway problem' as is regularly suggested in modernization and incident dialogue.
The Cost of UK level crossings:
The UK taxpayer funded level crossings are very poor value for money as they are costing 4-5-6 times the cost of similar products in the EU and other private railways in the UK. The Danish taxpayer is funding LXs that are identical, for all intents and purposes, to Marrell, e.g. an equivalent to an ABCL. Denmark does not have a railway industry and has to import everything. The UK taxpayer paid somewhere in the region of £750k versus £200k in Denmark. That is unacceptable and those spending these sums should be taken to task by the railway economic regulator.
Battleship Wharf level crossing funded privately in the UK, cost around £200k using standard Network Rail products, circuitry and etc. It can be done.
Dave Thompson MSP:
Many of you resident in the Far North will have seen in the local press, my apparent criticism of Mr Thompson. Mr Thompson and I entered into private discussion following the publication of his report about AOCL level crossings in Highlands. We, and his assistants, have had many useful written & verbal discussions on how to approach the matter. We agreed to disagree on certain opinions. However, I admire Mr Thompson's vociferous campaigning, even though I do not agree with all his points. What a pity therefore, that someone unknown to me, 'leaked' a private letter to a third party, who in turn issued a very selective, and thus misleading, sensationalist press release.
My only intention in writing to Mr Thompson was to ensure that the wider discussion was accurate and that my commitment to level crossing safety and local knowledge was available to him.
What a pity that childish antics by apparently intelligent people take precedence over meaningful discussion on a safety critical subject. There has to be compromise; there has to be far greater control of costs; all parties have to work together, whoever they are; trivial excuses are unacceptable, and the undisciplined, whoever they are, if found guilty, need to be fined, penalty pointed, jailed and so on. The double standards, largely portrayed in media sensationalism, in this country in regard to road versus rail safety, need to recognise that it more dangerous to use the roads in the Highlands (or any other local Highway Authority area in the UK), than it is to use level crossings anywhere in the UK in the same period of time.