With the Transport Select Committee putting Network Rail in the firing line today over its attitude to deaths on level crossings, it is interesting – and sobering – to look at those statistics relating to fatalities amongst members of the public (excluding train passengers and workers) on the railways.
According to the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) Annual Safety Performance Report, in 2012/13 there were 49 fatalities (not counting a shockingly high number of suicides, 238 in all). Of these 49 victims, 39 were classed as trespassers, nine died at level crossings and one had been assaulted.
Looking specifically at accidents at level crossings – of which there are more than 6,000 on the mainline – of the nine people who died, four were pedestrians and five were road vehicle occupants.
The total number of collisions between trains and road vehicles was ten.
The last train passengers to die in level crossing accidents did so in 2004/5.
The report also puts into perspective the risk to people travelling by different modes, stating:
“On the basis of fatality risk per traveller km, rail travel is:
- Around 1,600 times safer than travelling by motorcycle
- Roughly 500 times safer than cycling or walking
- Around 30 times safer that using a car
- Similar to – but somewhat safer than – bus and coach travel”
Societal attitude to risk across different modes of transport was considered by the RAC Foundation in a 2009 report by Dr Chris Elliott called Transport Safety: is the law an ass?