2 Level crossings: an overview |
Types of level
7. Level crossings are places where footpaths, bridleways
or roads cross railway lines at the same level. Network Rail manages
approximately 6,500 level crossings on the commercial rail network,
and there are a further 1,500 crossings on heritage, industrial
and metro railways.
There are two general types of crossing: active crossings, which
provide warnings or protection when a train is approaching, and
passive crossings, which do not. Active protection may be automatic,
or may require a signaller, driver or crossing keeper to perform
certain actions. Passive crossings rely entirely on the user for
their safe operation.
The table below shows how many of the different types of level
crossing are managed by Network Rail.
Table 1: Network Rail's level crossings by type,
as at 28 May 2013
|Passive||User-worked crossing with telephone
|Active, manual||Manually controlled gate
|Manually controlled barrier
|Manually controlled barrier with obstacle detection
|Manually controlled barrier monitored by closed-circuit TV
|Active, automatic||Automatic half-barrier
|Automatic barrier locally monitored
|Automatic open crossing locally monitored with barrier
|Automatic open crossing locally or remotely monitored
|User-worked crossing with miniature warning lights
Source: Annual Safety Performance Report 2012-13,
RSSB, Table 24.
Who is in charge of level crossings?
8. Railway lines were initially authorised in the
19th century by many private acts of Parliament. Individual acts
specified how the railway was to cross other ways and, where the
crossing was on the level, how railway, highway and footway users
would be protected. New level crossings are generally avoided
but can still be authorised under the Transport and Works Act
1992. The Secretary of State has powers under the Level
Crossings Act 1983 to make orders specifying new or updated
arrangements at individual level crossings that can be accessed
by the public.The order-making process is managed by the Office
of Rail Regulation (ORR).
9. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
gives ORR inspectors the powers to inspect and enforce safety
at level crossings. Other regulations specify requirements for
safety management systems.
The Equality Act 2010 places duties on designers and managers
to ensure that facilities at crossings do not cause an unnecessary
barrier to access across the railway for those with disabilities.
10. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB)
was set up in 2005 to implement a recommendation of the Cullen
Report into the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in 1999.
It investigates accidents in order to make recommendations about
safety to the Secretary of State. It is not a prosecuting body
and it does not apportion blame or liability. RAIB's reports may
be used by a coroner to establish cause of death and to make "Prevention
of future death" reports.
How safe are level crossings?
11. Level crossings in the UK are generally safe.
The UK has one of the best safety records among EU Member States,
as figure 1 shows.
Figure 1: Level crossing fatalities per million
train-kilometres (2010-2012) for EU member states
The EU-wide average is shown by the solid line. EU
Member States without railways are not shown. The Channel Tunnel
has no level crossings and is also excluded. Source: European
Rail Agency Common Safety Indicators (ERAIL database)
However, there is no room for complacency and the
aim should be to aim to eliminate accidental deaths at level crossings.
12. There are significant safety risks associated
with the different forms of level crossing. Of Network Rail's
6,500 crossings, 76% are passive crossings, which do not offer
any warning of an approaching train (see Table 1). The decision
on whether it is safe to cross is left to the user.
Motorists using passive crossings have to cross the railway five
times, if they must manually open and close gates on either side
to get their vehicle across. Some 14% of all pedestrian traverses,
but just 0.5% of vehicle traverses, are at passive crossings.
13. Most vehicle traverses (69.4%) occur at railway-controlled
crossings, where a signaller or crossing keeper must manually
operate barriers. These crossings have a good safety record. However,
there have been instances where mistakes or problems have led
to hazardous situations, near misses or fatal accidents.
Workforce error contributes around 7% of the risk of a collision
between a train and road vehicle at level crossings. Of the 89
workforce errors reported in 2012-13 inrelation to level crossings,
almost half involved the trapping of pedestrians or road vehicles
between barriers at CCTV-monitored crossings, or the signalling
of trains over crossings when the barriers were raised.
14. Just over 100 level crossings provide miniature
warning lights for pedestrians.Unlike on a road crossing, where
a "red man" sign at a pedestrian crossing can be disregarded,
it is a legal requirement for pedestrians to stop when level crossing
miniature warning lights show red.
This is not widely understood and other level crossing offences
are also little known.
Long delays between a warning light changing to red and a train
passing can also lead to increased risk-taking, as identified
by a recent RAIB report and changes that Network Rail has made
to signalling sequences.
15. Unlike crossing a road, where motorists can swerve
and brake and vehicles are lighter than trains, the consequences
of being struck by a train are almost always very serious, if
not fatal. Analysis of Network Rail and Department for Transport
data (see Annex)shows that if an average walking trip includes
a level crossing, the fatality risk to a pedestrian is about double
the risk of an average walking trip without a level crossing.
Overall, there is an increase of around 8% in the risk of a fatality
during an average car journey that includes a level crossing,
compared with one that does not. We recommend that the Office
of Rail Regulation adopt an explicit target of zero fatalities
at level crossings from 2020.
5 Annual Safety Performance Report 2012-13, RSSB(page
181) Table 24 - Level crossing categories by class and type, as
at 28 May 2013. Figures are for Network Rail's infrastructure,
which is wholly within Great Britain. Back
Types of level crossing, Network Rail Back
Level Crossings: A guide for managers, designers and operators,
Railway Safety Publication 7, Office of Rail Regulation, December
2011 (chapter 3) and Agency agreement between the Secretary of State for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation,
October 2008 Back
For example, the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006(ROGS) Back
RAIB's role is set out in the Railway and Transport Safety Act
Intermediate report on the development of railway safety in the European Union,
European Rail Agency, May 2013 (page 17) Back
User-worked crossings, Network Rail Back
Annex: Level crossing and road risk compared Back
Crofton Old Station (two incidents in 2006), Poplar Farm (2008),
Foxton (2010) and 12 others over a 10-year period to July 2011.
See para 156 in a report on a fatal accident due to railway error
combined with lack of interlocking: Fatal accident at Moreton-on-Lugg, near Hereford 16 January 2010,
Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Report 04/2011, v2 July 2011 Back
Annual Safety Performance Report 2012-13, RSSB. See page 177 -
irregular working affecting level crossings and page 195 - irregular
working at level crossings. Back
Under section 55 of the Transport and Works Act 1992. Back
Q22 [Claire Turner]. Other offences include failure to shut a
gate at a level crossing, under section 75 of the Railways Clauses
Consolidation Act 1845. Back
Fatal accident at Motts Lane level crossing, Witham, Essex 24 January 2013,
Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Report 01/2014, January 2014
(para 116); Changes to Stroud level crossings to deter misuse,
Network Rail, 23 February 2009 Back