Network Rail are taking the lead in reminding dog walkers to stay safe on level crossings across Wales & Borders.

This reminder comes ahead of the Easter weekend following a 200 per cent rise in dog walker incidents on level crossings in the past year 

A total of 32 reports of trespass and level crossing misuse involving a dog have been reported by Network Rail’s safety team since this time last year – a dramatic increase. 

The majority of incidents have been reported in North Wales and Shropshire, specifically Gobowen, Harlech, Mosytn and Pant. Both areas, North Wales and Shropshire, are known for being popular staycation areas, with tourists not knowing how many level crossings they may come across.   

With more than 1,000 level crossings across Wales & Borders, it is vital to stay alert while using level crossings as this could save your own, and your dog’s life.  Two incidents over the last year where the dogs were off the lead have resulted in two fatalities, with one seeing a dog losing their life and the other an owner. 

Recent safety campaigns led by Network Rail, such as Distraction Kills, have highlighted the issue of pedestrians being distracted by their dogs while using level crossings and have issued the below safety advice:  

  • Always make sure you pay full attention. It’s easy to get lost in your own thoughts when walking your dog on a familiar route. 
  • Always keep your dog on a short lead when on or near level crossings. Even if your dog is trained. 
  • Keep control of your dog as you approach the railway line to help remove distractions. 
  • Stop, Look and Listen and always follow the signs and instructions at level crossings. 
  • Check both ways before crossing – if there is a train coming, do not cross, even if it appears to be far away. 
  • Remember trains can come from either direction at any time. 
  • Cross quickly when clear and keep your dog under control when crossing. 
  • Once safely across remain in control of your dog. Sudden distraction could lead to pulls, putting you both back on the railway track and possibly in the way of trains. 

Not only does misusing level crossings put the lives of people and animals at risk, but it also negatively impacts the running train service. The 32 incidents reported over the last year have caused 501 delay minutes – that's over eight hours of delays. This has a monetary impact on taxpayers as well, with these incidents nearing £40,000 lost per year due to delays – this year has seen £7,000 lost already.  

Kellyann Jones, community safety manager at Network Rail, said: “When your dog is off a lead you don't have control. Would your dog come back if you called? Could it hear you over the sound of a train? In a moment of panic your first instinct could be to chase after your dog onto railway. In an attempt to save its life, you put yourself at huge risk.  

“When walking your dog near the railway or over a level crossing please keep it on the lead and under control to avoid a near miss or worse.”  

British Transport Police Superintendent for Wales, Andrew Morgan, added: “With parts of the rail network electrified, trains operating at high speeds and at quieter levels, changes in timetables, and for many other reasons, the railway can be a dangerous place.   

“I urge all dog walkers to be extremely vigilant by keeping their pets on a lead at all times when near the rail network.  I would also caution everyone that accessing the rail network beyond permitted access, such as using a level crossing, is not only dangerous, but is classed as illegal trespass.”  

Leyton Powell, Director of Safety, Sustainability and Risk at Transport for Wales, said: “We’ve seen a number of incidents recently where members of the public have followed dogs onto the tracks, even though it has been fortunate no-one has been seriously injured or killed, the difference between a catastrophic event and a near miss is often inches or seconds. 

“We urge anyone walking a dog near to the railway to keep them under control at all times and not to put your own life at risk by trying to retrieve animals which have gone onto the tracks.”