In the last five years, there have been over 100 near-miss incidents at crossings on farmland and four instances of trains striking farm vehicles. Last year saw the number of near misses jump from 15 to 22 incidents, a reversal on years of steady decline.
A new campaign will remind farmers of the critical safety rules – such as using crossing telephones to call the signaller before crossing the tracks – and provides them with helpful materials to guide their workforce and regular farm visitors. These include an instructional booklet designed to be understood by the many casual workers that work on farms, particularly in harvest season, whatever their nationality or first language.
Robert Havercroft, level crossing manager at Network Rail, says: “We know that harvest time is an extremely busy period for Britain’s farmers and that level crossings can be used frequently by people who aren’t familiar with them. At the same time, an increase in casual workers who might not have English as a first language is an extra challenge.
“Working with the NFU, we have produced easy-to-understand posters and booklets that can be used around a farm to remind people how to use crossings safely. Level crossings can be confusing to people who aren’t used to using them, but by following a few simple rules people can learn how to cross them with safety and confidence. We hope this will help to prevent last year’s increase in incidents at farm level crossings from becoming a trend.”
The campaign reminds farm workers of the importance of:
• Using the telephones at level crossings to check that it is safe to cross. If asked users should ring back to let the signaller know when they are clear of the line
• Remembering to close the gates at level crossings after use so others don’t mistakenly think it is safe to cross.
• Clearing the crossing as quickly as possible, particularly when moving livestock across them.
The campaign will be delivered locally by Network Rail’s 100 level crossing managers, who will be working closely with their local NFU branches to deliver a programme of education for farmers and their workers. This will be carried out over the coming months, targeting those working this harvest season and next year’s.
NFU Vice-President Guy Smith said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work alongside Network Rail to improve safety at level crossings.
“We appreciate farmers are often under pressure during busy periods, but would urge them to be extra vigilant, ensuring that all safety procedures are followed strictly and all workers on their farms are well informed.
“With over 100 near miss incidents at level crossings on farmland since 2010 we recognise the importance of such a campaign and hope that our members will be better informed as a result.
“We hope that working with Network Rail Level Cross Managers at a local level, will not only improve the safety of our members and the public but also help improve communication and understanding as a whole with our membership.