Two unmanned rail crossings in Mayo are the most dangerous in the country, recording between them more than 40 per cent of all the serious ‘near misses’ between trains and road users nationally.
Yesterday, Irish Rail officials were at Kilnageer Level Crossing, near Breaffy, to launch a nationwide campaign to raise awareness among road users of the dangers of the crossings.
The Kilnageer Level Crossing recorded a quarter of all near misses on Irish crossings in 2013. The crossing is on a frequently used rural road with a school and creche nearby. It saw six near miss incidents last year, there were 24 nationally.
There were a further four near misses at the Knockaphunta crossing, near Derrywash.
Claremorris man Ernie Lynn has been a train driver for 13 years. He was at yesterday’s awareness event and recalled one near miss he experienced at Kilnageer just seven months ago.
“I was driving the morning passenger train, after leaving Manulla. We would be aware this is a dangerous crossing so I was sounding the horn quite a bit. The next thing I saw a white van approach. I sounded the horn and thought the van was slowing but then he kept going and went through the crossing.” Mr Lynn had to apply the emergency brakes and was left very shaken by the incident, which was only moments away from causing a collision.
He appealed to road users to use extreme caution at these crossings. “Don’t take that chance,” he urged.
A spokesperson for Irish Rail reinforced that cautionary message. “We want to communicate very clearly that if a gate is left open or if a crossing is not used in the correct manner, it may result in an incident causing long and lasting effects. It is the responsibility of the user to ensure it is safe to cross and that the railway and other users of the railway are not endangered.”
John O’Brien is Irish Rail’s infrastructural manager in the west. He said there are no plans to automate the Kilnageer or Knockaphunta crossings.
“It can cost up to €1 million to put in a CCTV crossing and a bridge can cost between €600,000 and €1.5 million. In the current economic climate, the funding is not there to do that.”
He did say Irish Rail is examining the possibility of installing early warning light systems at the crossings.