3 Making level crossings safer |
16. The risk of accidents at level crossings depends
on their configuration, the volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic
traversing the crossing, and rail traffic. The only way to eliminate
risk at a level crossing is to close it. However, closure is not
always practicable, given the impact on local road and path networks.
It can also be difficult to effect closures, given the practicalities
of particular locations, the complex legislation governing level
crossings, and the cost of putting in place alternative crossings.
17. At the heart of decision-making about making
level crossings safer is the assessment of risk undertaken by
Network Rail. The All Level Crossing Risk Model (ALCRM) is used
with the intention of providing a consistent basis for assessing
risk at each level crossing, so that Network Rail can allocate
resources to the highest risk crossings. Models are only as good
as their underlying data and assumptions. Concerns have been expressed
about both of these in relation to ALCRM. For example:
· Crossing usage inputs are mostly based
on a 30-minute census conducted during an off-peak period between
0930 and 1630 on weekdays. This approach does not take account
of crossings with high within-day variations (e.g. near workplaces
or schools), high weekend use compared with weekdays (e.g. on
country walking and cycling routes) or where there is seasonal
variation (e.g. near beaches).
· In ALCRM, line speed is assumed to have
an impact on the consequences of accidents rather than
their likelihood. This is a debatable point because slower-moving
trains can be stopped more quickly and have more opportunity to
be seen than fast-moving trains.
· There is also evidence that the number
of trains travelling across a level crossing is not entered accurately
into ALCRM, even though this information is known to Network Rail.
For example, the RAIB recently found that Network Rail's risk
assessor had entered 54 trains per day into ALCRM in relation
to a level crossing in Essex, rather than the actual weekday value
of 260. This was not reviewed for three years.
18. Although the importance of local factors was
emphasised to us,
these are not incorporated into the scores produced by ALCRM.
The RAIB has previously identified this as a weakness in the risk
19. The quality of Network Rail's risk assessments,
including ALCRM, was recently the subject of judicial criticism.
In January 2014, reviewing the decision of the Crown Court relating
to Network Rail's appeal against a fine, the Lord Chief Justice
The judge found that there was obvious risk and
it was readily reducible. He also found that the risk assessments
were poorly done; there were repeated failures to follow the correct
guidance. In 2007, Network Rail had installed a computer system;
the risk assessments in 2007 and 2009 were inputted into it, but
the programme used did not spot the inconsistencies. Network Rail
were unable to explain this failure. We consider that these findings
were amply justified on the evidence.
Network Rail and ORR are working on a project to
incorporate "narrative assessments" into risk assessments.
The more recent introduction of level crossing managers is designed
to improve application of local knowledge to risk assessments.
The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) is undertaking further
development of ALCRM on Network Rail's behalf.
20. The meaning of the risk scores is not readily
understandable and accompanying guidance is of limited use. It
is difficult to discern which level crossings present a high fatality
risk to individual, frequent level crossing users, who are assumed
to make 500 traverses each year. Health and Safety Executive guidance
states that the fatality risk to a member of the public should
not exceed 1 in 10,000 per year.We
estimate that there may be many hundreds of crossings which exceed
this limit. These should be prioritised for improvement or closure.
21. Network Rail has voluntarily published a list
of level crossing locations and their ALCRM risk scores.
Some external organisations have been able to make use of the
data, including for the production of maps of level crossing locations.
However, the data is not refreshed frequently and is not complete
because full risk assessments are not published. Also, some of
the locations are not sufficiently accurate to enable emergency
services to provide a speedy response if required.We
recommend that Network Rail work with the Information Commissioner's
Office and the Open Data Institute to develop protocols on publishing
a fuller range of risk assessment material for each level crossing.
Protocols should include data formats, publication frequencies
and guidance material to aid usability, so that transparency is
Network Rail's plans to improve
22. In 2010 Network Rail set itself a target of reducing
modelled level crossing risk by 25% over Control Period 4 (2009-2014).
Relative to 2009 risk levels, a 26% reduction was achieved by
the end of 2013.
This claim is supported by the fall in fatal accidents and fatalities
over that period.
This significant improvement in safety has been achieved by a
£130 million programme of over 750 level crossing closures
and more effective management of level crossings, particularly
with the appointment of 100 specialist level crossing managers.
Tina Hughes, whose daughter Olivia was killed in an accident at
Elsenham, and who
is now Network Rail's Level Crossing User Champion, praised the
work of level crossing managers:
They have always been very good at reacting when
there is a catastrophic failure, but I now see that they are beginning
to be proactive and look at where the next accident might happen
and start to make some changes to that.
The appointment of level crossing managers has
made a significant contribution to the recent improvement in safety
at level crossings: we recommend that Network Rail continue to
use these posts to drive continuing improvements in safety.
23. ORR has set Network Rail a target to reduce level
crossing risk by a further 25? over Control Period 5 (2014-19).
Network Rail's funding settlement for Control Period 5 includes
dedicated funding of £109 million to close a further 500
level crossings and improve safety at hundreds more of the highest
risk crossings. The
level of funding in the final determination is a significant increase
from the £67 million originally proposed.Network
Rail should publish the names and locations of the level crossings
that it intends to target during Control Period 5, together with
an indication of the work to be carried out and planned timescales.
24. In relation to how level crossings can be improved,
the ORR provides the following guidance:
The primary objective should be to close level
crossings permanently, following the closure or diversion of a
highway, road or by the provision of a bridge or under-pass. As
a secondary objective, it may be practicable to reduce the status
of the crossing, for example from vehicular to footpath or bridleway
only. Simple renewal and retention of existing crossings should
be seen as a last resort. Crossing renewals should not introduce
new risks to the railway or users. In determining whether reasonably
practicable solutions exist, other than renewing an existing crossing,
the operator should take into account the whole-life costs of
installing and maintaining level crossings.
A decision to close a crossing depends principally
on cost, both of materials and installation, and estimated economic
costs arising from delays to journeys if a crossing is closed.
25. The cost-benefit appraisal methodology currently
places equal value on a prevented fatality as it does on small
travel time savings accruing to many people. For example, 11,600
commuters saving five minutes a day for a year has the same economic
value as a prevented fatality.
This approach means that there may be economic reasons for replacing
heavily used crossings with alternatives, even when there is no
safety case for doing so. The Department for Transport recently
commissioned a review of its approach and there has been some
discussion in academic literature about the costing of safety
benefits. Where closure
or replacement are not feasible on cost or practicability grounds,
improvements are considered instead.
26. Network Rail states that there are 680 level
crossings within 200 metres of an alternative crossing. These
are therefore prime candidates for closure. Since 2010, Network
Rail has installed 38 footbridges to replace level crossings.
Network Rail told us that footbridges are becoming cheaper to
install, and its
Draft Delivery Plan for Control Period 5 proposes the installation
of a further 70 footbridges between 2014 and 2019.
However, some witnesses expressed concerns about the accessibility
of footbridges to disabled people, as well as the inconvenience
to other users, and argued that underpasses may be preferable.We
recommend that Network Rail address criticism of its apparent
preference for footbridges as replacements for level crossings
and explain what assessment it makes of the impact on disabled
people of replacing level crossings with footbridges rather than
|Box 2: Ufton level crossing, 2004
In Ufton, Berkshire, in November 2004 a motorist killed himself by deliberately parking his vehicle on the automatic half-barrier crossing before the closure sequence had commenced. After striking his car, the train derailed, killing six people on the train, including the train driver. A further 71 passengers required hospital treatment.The line was closed for over a week. The train driver's widow submitted powerful written evidence on the consequences to her family of this incident. There has since been a near miss in 2011 and another fatality in 2012. Network Rail told us that a road bridge will be built over Ufton level crossing by the end of 2015.
Legislation: Law Commission's review
27. In September 2013 the Law Commission published
a report and a draft bill which aim to improve the regulation
of level crossings and thereby help improve safety.
Key features of the Law Commission's proposals include:
· Bringing safety regulation under the umbrella
of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, whilst maintaining
the ORR's enforcement role.
· Disapplying statutory provisions which
have been superseded by more recent law or are otherwise obsolete.
· Imposing new statutory duties upon railway
and highway operators to consider the convenience of all users
when carrying out their obligations in respect of level crossings,
and to work together.
· Providing tools to support health and
safety regulation, including level crossing plans, enforceable
agreements between railway operators and other duty holders, and
a power for the Secretary of State to issue directions if necessary.
· Creating a new, more streamlined procedure
to close individual level crossings where it is in the public
interest to do so.
· Providing clarity in certain areas of
land law about the position of statutory level crossings and rights
We focus in this section on three aspects of the
Law Commission's work: the new approach to the closure of level
crossings, co-operation between railway operators and local authorities,
and the impact of the proposals on heritage railways.
Closure of level crossings
28. The Law Commission recognised that decisions
about level crossings involve striking a balance between the convenience
to communities in being able to cross a railway and public safety.
The Commission has recommended that consideration of the closure
of level crossings should be based on a public interest test which
would consider a new, "non-hierarchical" and "non-exhaustive"
list of the following factors:
i) the safety of the public;
ii) the convenience of the public;
iii) the efficiency of the transport network
(including the network of public paths);
iv) the cost of maintaining the crossing;
v) the need for the crossing and its significance
for the local community (including the protection of heritage);
vi) the costs and environmental impact of any
works needed to replace the crossing or upgrade other crossings.
29. The extra distance to travel that diversions
might cause could be considered under points (ii and iii) above
but no maximum diversion distance has been suggested or envisaged.
Network Rail has expressed a concern that the tests could be seen
as establishing a trade-off between safety and convenience.
The Ramblers broadly supported the publication of the tests and
called for the addition of a public safety test with respect to
any diversionary route.We
welcome the public interest tests for closure procedures. We see
merit in applying a public safety test to any diversionary routes
that may result from a level crossing closure and we recommend
that the DfT consider this option as part of its consideration
of the Law Commission's proposals.
30. The Law Commission has proposed that a decision
to make or refuse a closure order would be subject to challenge
in the High Court, by way of a statutory judicial review with
no permission stage.
This option is discussed in detail in the Law Commission's report
but no consideration is given to alternative means of resolving
disputes. We are concerned that the proposed appeal mechanism
for closure orders, using judicial review, will be out of reach
for ordinary people and, increasingly, local authorities. We recommend
that the DfT consider using alternative dispute resolution, such
as mediation by the Office of Rail Regulation, to supplement judicial
Co-operation between railway operators,
highway authorities and planning authorities
31. Local authorities must work with Network Rail
and other railway operators to help keep level crossings safe.
For example, local authorities' plans for promoting walking and
cycling routes that traverse level crossings can have a direct
effect on safety at those crossings. However, the Association
of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport told
us that liaison between Network Rail and local authorities is
Rail has highlighted a number of examples where local authorities
have imposed planning obligations on developers, to help fund
Network Rail's construction of footbridges.
However, in some cases planning authorities have consented to
large developments and changes in road layout without due attention
to the increased risk at nearby level crossings.
In its report into a fatal accident at the Kings Mill No. 1 crossing
near Mansfield, the RAIB criticised the local authority for establishing
a walking and cycling trail without discussing the likely impact
on the usage of a level crossing with Network Rail.
32. Railway operators are already statutory consultees
where proposed development is likely to result in a material increase
in the volume or character of traffic using a level crossing.The
Law Commission's proposal for broader statutory duty of co-operation
on railway operators, traffic authorities and highway authorities
in respect of level crossings is a sensible suggestion.
However, in the case of footpaths, private crossings or unadopted
roads (which are not maintained by the highway authority), there
is a case for adding planning authorities to that list.We
welcome the duty of co-operation on railway operators, traffic
authorities and highways authorities in respect of level crossings
but recommend that it should also encompass planning authorities
so that the impact of additional numbers of people using level
crossings can be considered.
Impact on heritage railways
33. Although the majority of level crossings are
on Network Rail infrastructure, 1,500 are on heritage, industrial
and metro railways. Accidents on these level crossings are rare
but may still have serious consequences. In August 2003 there
was an accident on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, a
heritage line in Kent, at an ungated crossing which was solely
protected by flashing warning lights. The motorist and her baby
sustained minor injuries but the train driver was killed.
In July 2005 there was a collision on the same line in similar
circumstances in which the train driver was killed.
34. The ORR has recently concluded that safety standards
on heritage railways have improved but there is more work to be
done on board governance, safety management systems, and staff
railways generally depend on volunteers.
The Law Commission has proposed that heritage railways without
employees should be subject to regulation under the Health and
Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The HRA is concerned that volunteers, especially those acting
as directors, could be dissuaded from getting involved with heritage
railways because of the risk of prosecution in the event of something
going wrong. They told us that these changes could threaten the
viability of the sector.
35. We are concerned that the extension of the
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to volunteer-run railways,
could threaten the viability of the heritage sector. We recommend
that any changes to the regulation of level crossings should include
transitional arrangements aimed at protecting the viability of
ORR oversight of level crossing
36. The ORR is both the economic and safety regulator
for Great Britain's railways.
In terms of level crossing safety, the ORR exercises powers delegated
by the Secretary of State to make level crossing orders. Reasons
for orders being in place include a need to clarify the specific
safety requirements at a crossing, to clearly define what the
respective duties of the crossing operator and highway authority
are, or, in some cases, to modify prescriptive provisions for
a crossing set in legislation.
Fewer than one third of all level crossings on Network Rail infrastructure
have orders in force.
Draft orders are produced by the railway operator and are scrutinised
by ORR inspectors before being approved.
37. As economic regulator, ORR approves applications
for access to track, stations and depots; licences operators of
railway assets; and seeks to ensure that Network Rail delivers
value for money. In oral evidence, we asked whether these two
roles were sometimes in conflict.
38. Critics of the ORR's role as safety regulator
have drawn attention to the fatal accident at the Moreton-on-Lugg
level crossing in Herefordshire in January 2010.
The accident, in which a car passenger was killed, occurred when
the signaller mistakenly raised the barriers before it was safe
to do so. The crossing had previously been the subject of Network
Rail renewal works. The RAIB said that Network Rail proposed a
partial renewal of level crossing protection, on cost grounds.
ORR did not object and, as a result, formal consideration was
not given to more extensive works which would have prevented the
accident. The Transport
Salaried Staffs Association said that "ORR green lighted
a procedure which allowed Network Rail not to install automatic
locking on financial grounds".In
not pressing for a higher standard of safety at the Moreton-on-Lugg
crossing the ORR appears to have contravened the spirit of its
own objectives for level crossing safety improvements, which state
that 'Simple renewal and retention of existing crossings should
be seen as a last resort'.
|Box 3: Moreton-on-Lugg, 2010
Moreton-on-Lugg, Herefordshire, January 2010: The signaller had correctly lowered the barriers at the crossing. He was then distracted by a telephone call for a very unusual crossing request. This lapse in concentration resulted in him subsequently raising the barriers at the crossing. Two cars proceeded into the path of a train and one of the passengers was killed. The crossing had previously been the subject of Network Rail renewal works. The RAIB noted that Network Rail proposed a partial renewal of level crossing protection, on cost grounds. ORR's lack of objections to Network Rail's request meant that formal consideration was not given to "approach locking", which would have prevented the accident. After the renewal work in 2009 Network Rail prepared a new level crossing order in order to update the highway requirements. The draft order would have replaced the extant order from 1975, but was still in draft at the time of the accident in January 2010. A revised order, which was agreed in June 2013, required a higher standard of engineered safeguards.
39. We are also concerned by evidence that ORR might
lack sufficiently trained staff to monitor level crossing safety
standards. ORR employs just 26 engineers, 22 of whom are inspectors.
Of those, only seven have signalling engineering qualifications
from at least one the relevant professional bodies.
Although ORR said that the time spent by inspectors on proactive
inspections has increased from 30% to 50% over the last five years,
the Moreton-on-Lugg incident suggests that the regulator may not
be resourced to provide sufficient challenge to Network Rail.We
are concerned that the ORR may not have enough appropriately qualified
and experienced staff to provide adequate inspection of the rail
network and of level crossings or to adequately challenge Network
Rail's signalling work plans. The ORR board should consider whether
just seven professionally-qualified signalling engineers is an
adequate number of staff to provide inspections nationally, both
of existing installations and proposed works.
18 T737: Documenting the All Level Crossing Risk Model,
RSSB, October 2010 Back
Fatal accident at Motts Lane level crossing, Witham, Essex 24 January 2013,
Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Report 01/2014, January 2014
(para 45) Back
Q138 [Anson Jack], Q166 andQ174 [Robin Gisby] and Q208 [Robin
Qq118-119 [Carolyn Griffiths] Back
R and Sellafield Ltd & R and Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd,
 EWCA Crim 49 (para 42) Back
Office of Rail Regulation (SLC 049) section 4 Back
Q114 [Ian Prosser], Qq118-119 [Carolyn Griffiths], Q166 and Q174
[Robin Gisby] Back
T936: Enhancing the accuracy and functionality of the All Level Crossing Risk Model (ALCRM),
RSSB, in progress Back
Reducing risks, protecting people, Health and Safety Executive,
2001 (para 128) and Office of Rail Regulation (SLC 049) section
Transparency - Level crossings, Network Rail for individual crossings
and bulk data Back
Railway level crossings map, ITO World Back
British Transport Police (SLC 029) and Qq47-48 [Paul Crowther] Back
Network Rail (SLC 007) para 18 and subsequent discussions with
Network Rail. The risk reduction is modelled using Network Rail's
Level Crossing Indicator Model, which uses ALCRM risk scores and
is periodically recalibrated against RSSB's Safety Risk Model.
ALCRM is described in para 17 of this report. Back
There were more fatalities in 2012-13 than in the previous year
but the long-term trend shows an overall decrease, from 11.9 fatalities
per year in 2000-2009 down to 7.0 in 2010-2013. The mean fatal
accident rate fell from 10.6 fatal accidents per year in Q2 2000-2009
down to 6.75 fatal accidents per year in 2010-2013. This fall
is statistically significant. Back
Q166 [Robin Gisby] and Safety boost as Network Rail reaches target of closing 750 level crossings,
Network Rail, 21 January 2014 Back
Box 1: Elsenham, 2005 Back
Qq3, 13 [Tina Hughes] Back
Final determination of Network Rail's outputs and funding for 2014-19,
Office of Rail Regulation,(para 3.109) £99 million is for
England & Wales, with an additional £10 million for Scotland. Back
Britain's railways between 2014 and 2019 - ORR's final determination,
Office of Rail Regulation, 31 October 2013 Back
Periodic Review 2013: Draft determination of Network Rail's outputs and funding for 2014-19,
Office of Rail Regulation, June 2013 (table 3.1, page 66) Note
that safety is not a devolved matter. Back
Level Crossings: A guide for managers, designers and operators,
Railway Safety Publication 7, Office of Rail Regulation, December
2011 (para 3.8) Back
Values of Time and Vehicle Operating Costs TAG Unit 3.5.6 (in draft):
Commuting market price of £7.28 per hour (Table 2); The Accidents Sub-Objective TAG Unit 3.4.1 (in draft):
£1.759 million for a prevented fatality (Table 1). Both values
were published by the Department for Transport in 2010 and are
inflated to 2012-13 prices using the HM Treasury deflator series.
We have assumed that commuters make 250 return trips per year. Back
Peter Mackie, Tom Worsley et al., "International comparisons of transport appraisal practice: overview report",
Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, for the
Department for Transport, April 2013; Professor Philip Thomas
(SLC 009) Back
Target reached for closing 750 level crossings, Network Rail,
21 January 2014 Back
Network Rail (SLC 007) para 20 Back
CP5 Enhancements delivery plan (draft), Network Rail (page 11) Back
Mr D Holladay (SLC 034), Living Streets (SLC 032), and Sustrans
(SLC 014). Back
Formal inquiry final report - Ufton level crossing: passenger train collision with a road vehicle and subsequent derailment, 6 November 2004,
RSSB, 21 June 2005 Back
Near miss incident at Ufton automatic half barrier crossing, Berkshire, 4 September 2011,
Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Report 28/2012, December 2012 Back
Network Rail (SLC 045) Back
Level Crossings, Law Commission Back
Level Crossings report, Law Commission No 339, Cm 8711, September
2013 (para 3.113) Back
Qq62-63 [Sarah Young] Back
Network Rail (SLC 047) Back
The Ramblers (SLC 039) The submission from the Ramblers refers
(at para 9) to the tests that the Law Commission consulted on
(see Law Commission report para 3.106), rather than the ones recommended
by the Law Commission, but the substance of their statement is
that the existence of tests is welcome. Back
Level Crossings report, Law Commission No 339, Cm 8711, September
2013 (para 3.302) Back
Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and
Transport (ADEPT) (SLC 061) Back
Network Rail (SLC 045) Back
Level Crossings report, Law Commission No 339, Cm 8711, September
2013 (para 6.50) and Level crossings - analysis of consultation responses,
Law Commission (para 9.1 to 9.10) Back
Fatal accident at Kings Mill No.1 level crossing, Mansfield, 2 May 2012,
Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Report 01/2013, January 2013
(Para 94-100) and Mrs Tracy Hart (SLC 040) Back
The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010(SI
2010/2184), (Schedule 5) Back
Level Crossings report, Law Commission No 339, Cm 8711, September
2013 (B.12, page 255). Highway authorities are responsible for
highway maintenance, transport strategy and policy, including
road safety, accident investigation and prevention, public transport
and sustainable transport for their areas. Traffic authorities
are responsible for managing their road network to maximise its
efficiency (and usually focus on strategic routes). Back
Roads: unadopted, Standard Note SN/BT/402, House of Commons Library,
October 2010 and Unadopted (private) roads, Department for Transport Back
Man killed in miniature train crash, BBC News, 3 August 2003 Back
Train crash killed manager's wife, BBC News, 11 July 2005 Back
Health and Safety Report 2013, Office of Rail Regulation (Railway operators - Heritage railways) Back
Heritage Railway Association (SLC 010) Back
Qq64-55 [Richard Percival] Back
Qq146-152 [Bill Hillier] Back
Railways are a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, with the NI
Department for Regional Development carrying out the regulatory
Office of Rail Regulation (SLC 025) paras 8 Back
Office of Rail Regulation (SLC 025) para 9 Back
Powers delegated under the Level Crossings Act 1983 Back
Qq81-90 [Ian Prosser] Back
TSSA (SLC 048) Back
Fatal accident at Moreton-on-Lugg, near Hereford 16 January 2010,
Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Report 04/2011, v2 July 2011
(paras 128-154, 28); Moreton-on-Lugg level crossing orders 1975,
draft 2009 and extant 2013 provided by Office of Rail Regulation
(SLC 050) See para 19, page 15 and para 18, page 35; Office of
Rail Regulation (SLC 049) section 2 Back
TSSA (SLC 048) Back
Qq95-99 [Ian Prosser]and Office of Rail Regulation (SLC 049) section
3. The professional bodies are the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers
and Institution of Engineering & Technology Back
Qq107 [Ian Prosser]and Office of Rail Regulation (SLC 049) section