CUTTING-EDGE camera technology has been introduced in Sussex as part of a region-wide pilot to reduce disruption at level crossings for motorists and train passengers.
It follows a series of incidents at level crossings where drivers have caused delays by jumping the lights or swerving around barriers, say rail bosses.
Network Rail has funded a purpose-built marked police van to be fitted with nine cameras, each of which can use number plate recognition technology to help deter motorists from breaking the law.
The van’s technology, operated by British Transport Police officers, also enables them to process prosecutions instantly.
The enforcement vehicle operates at level crossings across Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire on any day of the week.
During its first two weeks of operation, 86 people were prosecuted for ‘misuse’, said Network Rail.
Motorists jumping the red lights accounted for 72 of the offences and pedestrians crossing after the lights and barrier sequence had started accounted for the remaining 14.
A Network rail spokesperson said: “Level crossing misuse remains a big issue for the railway industry, with daily reports of motorists putting lives at risk, causing major delays for passengers and motorists and costing the industry thousands of pounds.’’
Last year there were 159 reported incidents of misuse on the 219 level crossings in West Sussex, including 19 near misses involving pedestrians, five near misses with vehicles and 18 incidents of vehicles striking barriers or other equipment.
Last month a man was arrested after his car was in collision with a barrier at Littlehaven railway station in Rusper Road, Horsham.
Although only one train was delayed, the road was closed for ten hours causing major traffic disruption while the barrier was repaired.
Ellie Reilly, community safety manager at Network Rail, said: “It’s in everybody’s interests to reduce disruption at level crossings. Many people who misuse level crossings know it is wrong and that they are taking a risk, but that doesn’t seem to stop them.
“They think it is a victimless crime, but even if they don’t actually damage the crossing, it frequently results in delays to passengers and motorists.
“The best situation for everyone is that nobody misuses the level crossings and therefore there are no prosecutions.
“The introduction of the camera vehicle will help deter bad behaviour and misuse.”
She added: “This is a good example of how Network Rail is investing in the latest technology to deliver a more cost effective and reliable railway.”