Level Crossings

Level crossings provide communities with a convenient way to cross the railway, but do represent a risk to the people and vehicle occupants that use them, and to the railway itself.

Level crossings are crucial for allowing local communities the ability to cross the railway via roads and public rights of way – but they’re clearly not ideal safety-wise. Pedestrians and motorists have to physically cross the railway using space shared with moving trains, albeit these can be controlled using lights, CCTV, warbles, barriers and signs.

Level crossings comprise 6% of the total mainline system risk. Most of the risk is borne by members of the public, rather than railway users or staff, with most casualties occurring to pedestrians and road vehicle occupants.

This is a cross-industry system-level issue, as while the infrastructure manager is responsible for the actual crossings and signalling, the risks including shock/trauma to train crew, and derailment of trains are concerns for train operating companies.

This is an area that has seen a determined focus to reduce the risk in the last decade. The latest Safety Risk Model (version 8.5) estimates that risk from level crossings has reduced by more than a quarter, over the last five years.

However, there is still risk to manage. There were 6 fatalities in 2017/18 – 4 to pedestrians, and 2 to road vehicle occupants.



We have produced a digest capturing key learning points about safety at level crossings, written and compiled by Greg Morse, on behalf of the Level Crossings Strategy Group.
This will be updated regularly to incorporate feedback and new information and learning from operational experience.

If you are involved in level crossing safety either as a practitioner, manager, incident investigator, strategist, rail industry leader, or commentator, you may well be interested in reading this digest. It will also interest government, the regulator, enforcement authorities such as British Transport Police, and indeed almost anyone and any organisation affected by level crossings including local communities, road user interest groups, road haulage and the agricultural sector. 

Why read the digest?

Johnny Schute, Chief Operating Officer, RSSB

'Corporate memory is critical to health and safety management as it provides the basis on which organisations and industries can learn from operational experience. With that in mind, an understanding and appreciation of the history of safety at level crossings is a very important prompt to gaining a full understanding of crossing safety today. '

'We cannot un-invent level crossings. They are crucial for allowing local communities the ability to cross the railway via roads and public rights of way – but as they allow pedestrians and motorists to physically cross the railway using space shared with moving trains, they inherently create risk.'

This risk has reduced over recent years but only because of sustained industry focus on improving and closing crossings and on trying to drive behavioural change. Greg Morse, as both a leading railway historian and operational feedback specialist at RSSB, has skillfully compiled this digest to aid thinking and practice on level crossing safety, and I commend it to our members and the wider industry to inspire and motivate deeper thinking in this area.


Gary Cooper, Director of Planning, Engineering and Operations, Rail Delivery Group

'A significant risk to the successful safe punctual operation of Britain’s railways is that presented by level crossings, the railway’s operational interface with the wider public. Continuing focus and thought to reduce risk at this interface is a necessity if we are to continue to improve our safety performance. 

This digest, written for the industry, by the independent RSSB has been written to help the industry, and others, broaden understanding of the issues involved, beyond that that might be achieved through individual company training or the application of standards. Designed to complement other documents and records and to guide and support thinking, it represents an important and interesting addition to the lexicon of the industry. I hope that it will be read widely and stimulate thinking.'

This digest is available to RSSB members to download free of charge below.

Non-members can purchase this digest – for more information contact us.

If you would like to comment on the digest or make a suggestion for inclusion in the next edition please contact us.

Level Crossing Risk Management Toolkit

This toolkit allows you to explore the human factor risks associated with level crossings and provides guidance on appropriate risk reduction measures.

The toolkit has a range of applications, from being an information resource for anyone with an interest in public behaviour at level crossings, to being used to support various more specific activities.

Access the toolkit.

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