§ Mr. David Mitchell
Professor Stott submitted his report on 17 July. I am very grateful to him for his careful and detailed work following his appointment, announced by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Transport, on 16 October 1986, to conduct a review of the safety record of automatic open level crossings. I am arranging for the report to be published as soon as possible.
Professor Stott has found that there are few accidents at open level crossings (on average eight a year) and that collisions are almost always due to failure of vehicle drivers to observe the signals. There is no evidence that accidents have been caused by the failure of the equipment. Although the number of road vehicles and trains using automatic open crossings is lower than at other crossings, Professor Stott finds that collisions are 20 times more frequent in relation to traffic density than at the more heavily used automatic half-barrier crossings. Nevertheless, the report concludes that 70 per cent. of the existing open crossings constitute an appropriate modern replacement of manned crossings. At the remainder, traffic loading combined with train speed makes open crossings inappropriate. For the latter, the report recommends that there should be a five-year programme of alterations to open crossings, either by conversion to automatic half barriers or by reducing train speeds.
I accept in principle the central recommendation of Professor Stott's report and am consulting British Rail urgently on its implementation. I shall consult more widely with local highway authorities and others when the full report is published.