“My leg ended up half-a-mile up the track” – warning to young adults as new research highlights they are more likely to dice with death at level crossings
New research from Network Rail reveals only a third (36 per cent) of 18 – 24 year olds believe going on the railway track is extremely dangerous¹, resulting in young adults risking their lives when crossing the railway. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of 18 – 24 year olds admit that if they were in a rush, they would ignore warning lights and try to cross the railway at a level crossing.
At 17 years old, Lucy Ruck was an aspiring hairdresser using the railway every day to get to college – that all changed in a split second when she was hit by a train on a level crossing and lost her leg: “I was halfway across the track and literally in front of my nose was the train. I threw myself back, my left leg went out behind me and my right leg slipped out in front of me. That’s when I amputated my leg. It was found half a mile up the track.”
Lucy continued: “The train was going 65mph so I’m incredibly lucky to have survived. My body went into shock so I didn’t have any instant pain but my initial thoughts were that I was paralysed because I couldn’t feel anything.
“I dream about running sometimes, I haven’t been able to run for 25 years. It’s not something that haunts me but I don’t like driving over level crossings, it makes me shudder.
“My message to young people at level crossings is to look; it’s more dangerous than crossing a road because of the speed, power and force of a train. If I’d have been walking a little bit faster I wouldn’t be here now, I would have been on the front of the train and I’d have been a statistic.
“Nowhere is worth being on time if you’re risking your life to be there.”
While Britain has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks as Network Rail’s 20,000 miles of track directly interfaces with about 6,000 road and footpath crossings. Since 2013 one person has been killed on average on a level crossing every 8 weeks². In the last year there has also been a 12 per cent rise in the number of incidents³ at level crossings.
This worrying trend comes as a quarter of UK adults admit they don’t know the guidance around how to use a level crossing safely. Young people are even more clueless, with over a third of 16 – 24 year olds feeling they are unaware¹. When asked to list how to safely use a crossing, only 4 per cent of people mentioned “stop, look, listen”.
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “A lack of knowledge around how dangerous the tracks can be means more people are not taking the proper care at level crossings and putting themselves in danger.
“We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need everyone who uses level crossings to do their bit too. By understanding how to use a crossing safety and paying attention to the warnings at level crossings, we can all keep ourselves out of harm’s way.”
To help increase awareness of the dangers at level crossings, Network Rail is leading a national safety campaign targeted at pedestrians during the summer months. They will reach young people with safety messages through social media and new technologies such as geo-targeting to communicate with the right people at the right time with the right safety messages. Furthermore, the rail infrastructure company has worked with EON Reality to produce a series of virtual reality films⁵ which can be used to educate key user groups, including young adults.
Network Rail’s army of over 100 level crossing and community safety managers will continue to work with British Transport Police officers and raise awareness of level crossing safety across the rail network. They will hold safety events, offer briefings in schools and encourage young people to stay alert and avoid distractions when using the railway.