IT’S A parent’s worst fear that one day their child might not come home.

Waiting anxiously for the turn of the key in the lock, the dumping of the school bag in the hallway, the shout of “What’s for tea?” is a ritual that most mums and dads endure daily as part of the rigours of bringing up a child.

Unless it’s happened to you, it’s impossible to imagine the pain and distress of finding that moment has been lost forever.

So the hearts of a whole community must have gone out to the family of 16-year-old Aidan Mazurke who was killed when he was hit by a train on a level crossing late on Monday night.

Aidan was pronounced dead after police and paramedics were called to the scene at Kildwick crossing, near Crosshills, Keighley.

Aidan’s family issued a statement which showed their grief was all too raw: “Yesterday our lives changed forever when we lost Aidan. He was a loving son, brother and grandson and it is going to take a long time for this to seem real.

“Aidan was a loving son, a fantastic brother and a loved grandson and we know how much he meant to his friends, family and everyone who came into contact with him.”

It will be no consolation to Aidan’s family to hear that deaths on level crossings are, thankfully, becoming increasingly rare.

In fact, there were just four pedestrians across Britain killed after being struck by a train in the whole of 2016-17. The figure was the same as the previous year although two people also died after their vehicles were hit by trains on levels crossings last year.

The 2016-17 figure was a big improvement on the 11 who died in 2014-15 and the peak of 13 deaths in 2009-10.

Even so, the fatalities were not the only victims: there were also six major injuries at level crossings last year. Two were slips, trips and falls, two involved members of the public striking or being struck by level crossing barriers, one was a member of the public struck by a train, and one was the driver of a tractor that was struck by a train.

There were a further 77 reported minor injuries and 39 reports of shock or trauma, mainly among train drivers involved in incidents or near misses.

It’s clear from these official figures, from the train companies’ Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), that level crossings on our railways remain far from completely safe.

“The industry has had a sustained focus on addressing level crossing risk over recent years,” says George Bearfield, director of system safety and health at RSSB.

This had included closing some crossings and the introduction of new technology to improve safety at automatic barriers.

“As measures have been systematically implemented, there are indications that the residual risk now increasingly lies with vulnerable parties and those who find difficulty in using level crossings,” said Mr Bearfield. “For instance, one of the fatalities – in October – was to an elderly passenger who was using a mobility scooter.”

He said safety improvements across the network were the result of co-ordinated activity and more work was underway.

The UK’s independent regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), clearly believes there is much more to be done, however.

There are approximately 8,000 level crossings in Great Britain, about 6,500 of which are managed by Network Rail. (The rest are located on heritage railways, metro systems and industrial railways.)

The ORR says almost half of all deaths and serious injuries on Britain's railways occur at level crossings: “We believe that the safe design, management and operation of level crossings can reduce the risks, have a positive effect on user behaviour and so reduce the number of fatal and serious incidents.

“We expect level crossing risks to be appropriately controlled. We encourage innovative solutions to level crossing problems.

“In all cases a risk assessment will need to show that due consideration has been given to safety and that risks have been reduced so far as reasonably practicable.

“Where level crossings cannot be removed but are being renewed or altered, every effort should be made to improve the crossing and reduce risk to both crossing and railway users.

“Certain types of crossing design, particularly automatic types, whilst fit for purpose when road and rail traffic use was lower, have been more likely to be misused with potentially high consequences when collisions occur.”

ORR's Director of Safety, Ian Prosser, says the industry still needs to do more.

"Great Britain's level crossings, although among the safest in Europe, still pose a significant safety risk to the public,” he said.

“ORR wants the rail industry to close level crossings. Where this is impracticable, we are pushing the industry to deliver innovative solutions such as using new technology to make crossings safe.

“ORR inspects level crossings to check that legal safety requirements are being met. Where failings are found, immediate action is taken to ensure the crossing is made safe."

The ORR itself is under scrutiny to make changes happen. In 2014, the House of Commons Transport Committee tasked it with adopting “an explicit target of zero fatalities at level crossings from 2020.”

Part of the rail network’s armoury in improving level crossing safety is public education and there is a huge amount of safety guidance and advise available on the websites of both the RSSB and ORR as well as that of Network Rail.

In fact, any parent concerned that their children may have to use level crossings could do worse than show them the Crossing Over film featured on Network Rail’s website.

Aimed at children over the age of 12, the five-minute video was filmed at the school attended by two young girls, Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson, who were killed on a crossing in 2005.

It shows the dangers at level crossings and features a poignant interview with Tina Hughes, Olivia’s mother, which illustrates all too clearly the horrific effect of level crossing accidents.

It’s important to say that we don’t yet know the full circumstances of Aidan Mazurke’s death and such impactful guidance is, tragically, too late for his family. But, perhaps, while rail safety work goes on, there’s still time to avoid the devastation for untold numbers of other parents.