Since April of this year there have been 78 reported incidents across the Thames Valley of drivers misusing railway level crossings. In the town of Shiplake in Oxfordshire alone there have been forty-four incidents of misuse and eleven near misses reported in the past three years. In order to prevent drivers from risking the lives of themselves and others local police have introduced a purpose built camera van to monitor the crossing and act as a deterrent to reckless drivers.
British Transport Police are using the van to monitor the Shiplake crossing where drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are known to try to cross regardless of warning signals, barriers, and even trains. The van has been kitted out with over fifteen thousand pounds worth of technology including nine cameras and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) equipment so that the police can quickly find the owners of vehicles that misuse crossings, and use such evidence for prosecutions. Soon it will be used to monitor the problematic Sandy Lane and Yarnton Lane crossings, which are located between Yarnton and Kidlington.
Seargent Dominic Ioannou has stated that “Using equipment like this is all about deterrence and eductation – and about saving lives – by encouraging drivers to think about the risks at level crossings”. It has been reported that police will not only be prosecuting those that seriously misuse level crossings, but will also be targeting those who commit more minor offences. This includes sending out warning letters that will result in drivers gaining points on their license and paying a fine, or having to attend a level crossing safety course.
The vans were funded by Network Rail, who’s western route director Pall Hallgate said “Ideally, we don’t want to prosecute anyone, but we don’t want people to misuse level crossings in the first place. But at the moment we need to put enforcement alongside education.” Vandalism to the vans are a concern due to their high cost, however van insurance alleviates these apprehensions so the police can focus on monitoring railway level crossings.