A new campaign urging people to keep their dogs on a lead near level crossings has been launched by Network Rail and the Dogs Trust.
The campaign comes after it was revealed there have been more than 180 incidents of near misses between dog walkers and trains and five fatalities in the past five years.
A safety film shows how quickly a dog off the lead can get onto the nearby tracks and a distracted owner can put themselves at risk of a fatal accident by trying to retrieve their pet.
Dog owner and Network Rail level crossing manager Chris Williams said: “I know with my two dogs how easily they can run off and how difficult it is sometimes to call them back, so I always keep them on a lead when I’m somewhere busy like a level crossing or a road.
“Hundreds of level crossings run through the countryside where it might feel like you’re in a very open area but you can actually be very close to the railway with trains travelling through at over 100mph.
“It’s my job to keep people safe at level crossings, and across the country we see far too many near misses with trains and people walking their dogs.
“I don’t want any of these near misses turning into tragedies and so I urge anyone walking their dog close to a level crossing, to keep them on a lead and keep their pets and themselves safe from harm.”
The Dogs Trust – which has a rehoming centre on York Road in Leeds –will hand out level crossing safety tips with its rehoming packs.
Lynn Barber, Dogs Trust head of training and behaviour, added: “If your dog likes to chase cars and bikes or is very fearful you should try to avoid walks that are near level crossings.
“There are around 6,100 level crossings still in use across Britain, and although you may be able to read the warning signs, remember – dogs can’t read and it is your responsibility to ensure they are kept safe.”
A survey revealed that 68 per cent of dog owners admitted they would go after their pet onto a level crossing when a train was coming.