Camera crackdown in bid to cut rail crossing collisions

CAMERAS will be routinely deployed against drivers who run red lights at level crossings in Scotland from today, in the first move of its kind in Britain.

Two roving camera vehicles will be operated by British Transport Police (BTP) at the most abused crossings.

Officers said the recording equipment would make it easier to charge the worst offenders with dangerous driving – carrying the threat of disqualification and jail.

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The latest crackdown follows a successful trial in Caithness, where three people were killed in a crossing collision last September.

It also coincides with International Level Crossing Awareness Day, in which 45 countries have combined to highlight crossing dangers.

BTP will today target 18 crossings which are often misused, including Kirknewton in West Lothian, Ardrossan in Ayrshire and Dingwall in the Highlands.

The three occupants of a car killed at Halkirk in Caithness were among 13 who died at crossings in Britain last year.

A league table published to mark the awareness day shows Britain in ninth place among those countries taking part. It was headed by the United States with 248 deaths last year, Argentina with 126 and Germany with 40.

BTP will base a camera van in Inverness and a camera car in the Central Belt. They are in addition to fixed, still cameras at eight level crossings in Scotland.

There are several hundred crossings in the country, with nearly all of the 23 barrier-less ones being in the Highlands.

The camera vehicles are unmarked, but warning signs will be displayed at crossings where they are operating. Inspector Bob Cameron, who is in charge of the north of Scotland for BTP, said they would provide an additional deterrent.

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He said: "The vehicles can be at up to 14 crossings a day. The cameras will give us a better picture of each incident and could elevate charges to more serious ones, depending on how close the train was, the vehicle's speed and the weather conditions.

"The standard penalty is a 60 fine and three penalty points on driving licences. However, in some cases motorists may be charged with dangerous driving, where they could be disqualified from driving or jailed."

The camera footage will also be shown to drivers to educate them about using crossings safely.

Mark Henderson, community safety manager for Scotland for Network Rail, which is responsible for crossings, said: "Level crossings are safe, but if misused, they all pose very real risks.

"Today's international action day gives us another opportunity to drive home the message that running the risk at a level crossing is just not worth it.

"By trying to save a few seconds, you could end up seriously hurt or losing your life."