THE company that looks after the railway infrastructure is calling for tougher sentences for motorists who jump lights and dodge barriers at level crossings.

The number of drivers breaking the law at crossings is at a five year high, according to Network Rail, which wants to see judges and magistrates stamp down on sentences to act as a clear deterrent.

The call follows two serious incidents at Wraysholme level crossing, near Flookburgh, in less than a year.

In February 2008, two men were injured when their Land Rover collided with a train on the crossing and in November, a 41-year-old man died at the scene after his Mitsubishi collided with the Carlisle to Lancaster train.

Network Rail chief executive, Iain Coucher, said: “The toughest consequence of breaking the law at a level crossing is to lose your life. Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often. But every week we see people who ignore warning signs and lights or drive round barriers at level crossings just to save a few minutes. This reckless behaviour has the potential for massive damage, disruption and death.

"We think that the judiciary penalties received need to reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and are calling on the judiciary to consider all these factors when handing down sentences.”

Last year, over 55 days of delays to trains and passengers across Britain were caused by level crossing misuse, costing Network Rail around £1.8million.

The company’s hard hitting tv and radio advertising campaign is again running across the country this month illustrating the tragic consequences of misusing level crossings.

Mr Coucher added: “We hope that increased awareness of the dangers of taking risks at level crossings, coupled with tough sentences for those caught breaking the law will act as a deterrent and help bring down the number of offences and ultimately save lives.”