I’m talking of course about the new police monitoring vans which are being set up to catch motorists and pedestrians who are running red lights at level crossings.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I approve of such monitoring – of motorists at least – and I’m not arguing the legality of running reds anywhere, especially at level crossings. Unlike speeding, this law actually makes sense.
The problem is that the police have decided they are going to clamp down on such behaviour without asking one very simple and incredibly important question.
Why would people risk their lives to get across a level crossing, knowing full well the dangers?
For the first twenty years of my life I lived very close to a level station. I crossed it every day on the way to school. When the lights started flashing, I would make a run for it, along with many other people.
The simple problem is the timing at many level crossings are badly set up. When you get caught waiting for a train at the lights, it can often be five minutes or more before the train goes past. There’s no reason I can see for that; these days the technology exists to know exactly where a train is and where it’s going, and I don’t know why it hasn’t been incorporated into level crossings.
And it’s five minutes if you’re lucky. Often two trains will go past, adding ten or sometimes even fifteen minutes to your journey. And that is if the gates don’t get stuck down.
The best way to stop motorists risking their lives at level crossings is not to ‘inform them of the dangers’ – because that isn’t working. Maybe monitoring the crossings like this will, but I’m sure it’ll only work when the van is there and visible. No, the best way to stop motorists running the risk is to improve the operation at level crossings so they are less of a nuisance for people on the roads.