Train driver is forced to use the emergency brakes after a boy, six, got his foot stuck while playing on an East Devon rail line crossing

A train driver was forced to use the emergency brakes after a six-year-old boy got his foot stuck while playing with a friend on a level crossing in East Devon.

British Transport Police have spoken to the parents of two ‘irresponsible’ boys seen playing with their bicycles on the Toffles foot crossing, in Topsham, East Devon.

Police said a member of the public had to free the trapped boy so he could escape the path of the in-coming, moving, train.

Network Rail said it will ‘soon’ be installing gates either side of the railway line at Topsham to urge caution when using the foot crossing.

In recent weeks, there have been ‘a number’ of reported incidents of level crossing misuse at Toffles foot crossing, said Network Rail.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “The most alarming of these involved two young boys – believed to be around six years old – playing on the crossing on their bicycles when one of boys got their foot stuck.

“Thankfully, a member of the public was able to free the boy’s foot so they could move out of the way of an oncoming train which needed to have the emergency brakes applied.

“The reckless behaviour of these boys not only placed themselves in danger, but also the member of public who helped them.”

She added: “The foot crossing is used by approximately 250 people each day and sees two trains every half hour traversing in opposite directions on their way to and from Topsham station.

“Most of the near misses this year – of which there have been seven reported – have involved people who were either distracted or not paying attention to the safety instructions of stop, look and listen.”

Network Rail said ‘several’ children had been spotted playing on or around the tracks at Topsham, prompting it to organise an awareness day at the local school.

In addition, British Transport Police officers spoke to the parents of the two boys to highlight the dangers of playing on the level crossing.

The Network Rail spokeswoman said: “To further enhance safety, Network Rail will soon also be installing gates either side of the railway line to remind people that they need to stay alert when using the foot crossing.”

Alison Kramer, Network Rail community safety manager, reminded the public of the danger of railways and urged caution when using crossings.

She said: “The railway is a very dangerous place and level crossings are not playgrounds. Incidents of level crossing misuse can lead to life-changing injuries and in the worst-case scenario, loss of life.

“The irresponsible behaviour of these two young boys and of other children deliberately misusing this level crossing is really disappointing when we work so hard to educate parents and young people on how to behave safely when near the railway.

“We have installed extra signage at Toffles foot crossing to remind people that trains travel frequently in both directions, and it’s vital that you take extra care and stop, look and listen.

“If you’re distracted, you won’t notice an approaching train until it’s too late, so make sure you stay alert at all times when near the railway.”

Network Rail planned a public safety event at Toffles foot crossing on Tuesday (November 15), with staff offering safety advice.

Rebecca Warren, BTP Inspector, said: “Deliberately misusing level crossings is extremely dangerous and can have disastrous consequences.

“Unfortunately, we see hundreds of people taking risks on and around the railway every year.”

She called for patience when crossing the rail lines.

“Wait until it’s safe to cross – it really isn’t worth risking yours and others’ lives to save a few minutes,” she said.

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