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COMMENT: Vigilance needed at level crossings

Monday, 11th June, 2018 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: Vigilance needed at level crossings

Photo by Darren Kinsella

COMMENT: Vigilance needed at level crossings

Photo by Darren Kinsella

OBSERVING flashing red lights at a railway level crossing would seem like a no-brainer to most people. After all, if your car gets stuck on the tracks as a train rapidly approaches, there’s really only going to be one outcome.

We regularly see stupid behaviour on our roads, from the speed freaks to the idiots babbling into their mobile phones at traffic lights. Motorists who fail to indicate on a roundabout and then cut across your lane is a particular bugbear of mine.

Like many motorists stuck in Dublin gridlock, I hate approaching a railway level crossing in morning or evening peak traffic. Getting across Merrion Gates is a daily nightmare for commuters and the level crossing at Sutton station can also result in congestion pinch points.

In an ideal world, level crossings would be replaced by an underpass or overpass, a measure that would help keep traffic moving. But as the likelihood of this ever happening in Dublin is slim to none, for the moment at least we are stuck with the reality of the stop/go system to facilitate the safe movement of trains.

Last week, Iarnród Éireann had to remind users of all level crossings to avoid distraction and always behave safely when passing through them. To mark International Level Crossing Safety Day, it was revealed that reported incidents of misuse of level crossings have increased by 50 percent this year.

So far in 2018, there have been 27 incidents involving users striking or damaging barriers. Thankfully, there has been a reduction from seven to four of the number of near-miss incidents at user-operated crossings.

In Dublin, the level crossing gates at Merrion, Serpentine, Sydney Parade and Sutton station have each been struck by road vehicles three times already this year. Misuse of crossings by cyclists and pedestrians is becoming a concerning issue, with eight incidents recorded so far in 2018.

Level crossing accidents account for 1.2 percent of road deaths in Europe but 29 percent of all rail fatalities. And although Ireland’s record is far stronger than the European average, Iarnród Éireann is spreading the message that vigilance is essential.

Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority, summed it up perfectly, saying: “It really is hard to believe that people will take silly chances with trains but I’m afraid that’s exactly what’s happening in some parts of the country, especially at unattended level crossings. It is vital that we treat level crossings with extreme caution, especially unattended crossings. Trains are high powered, high speed vehicles and in the event of a collision, the consequences for a car, motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian could be catastrophic. The rule of thumb is to always expect a train and obey the signs and signals at level crossings.”

 A video clip of some of the incidents that have occurred can be viewed on the Dublin People Facebook page at

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