Level crossings are sited where roads and paths cross the railway. These bring pedestrians and motorists into a shared space, so the potential for collisions between users and trains is ever present. As such level crossings account for about 6% of the total mainline system risk. While Network Rail leads on level crossing management for the railway, there is a large community of public highway owners and users that has an influence on level crossing risk. Over recent years significant effort has been put into reducing the risk arising from level crossing use, and we have one of the best safety records in Europe. This has included closures, upgrades, implementation of new technologies such as automated full barrier crossings, improvements to the risk assessment process, and educational campaigns like Stay Safe with Thomas.
Network Rail is committed to making the railway a safer place and has developed its own long-term strategy - 'Enhancing Level Crossing Safety 2019 - 2029'. The principles set out in the strategy reflect a vision of continuous improvement and ultimately zero harm from level crossings by removal, enhancement, education, and enforcement.
Incorrect use of level crossings is addressed through education and enforcement. BTP leads enforcement and there is a need for Network Rail and BTP to continue to work together to deploy resources in the most cost-effective way.
Despite all of this good work, in 2019/20:
- two pedestrians died after being struck by trains in accidents at level crossings
- there were six train collisions with road vehicles at level crossings
- pedestrian near misses at passive crossing types are increasing
- the number of operating incidents resulting in users becoming trapped on or in a level crossing is also increasing.
What the rail industry is doing
Corporate memory is updated, communicated, and its retention promoted, through the Level Crossing Digest (now at Issue 3). This provides RSSB members with a history of level crossings and uses rail accidents to explain developments in level crossing safety.
In partnership with RSSB, Network Rail is enhancing the All Level Crossing Risk Model to improve understanding of level crossing risk and help decision making.
Network Rail is looking at innovative solutions and is working with British Transport Police to prevent incorrect use.
The ORR, with support from the industry, is updating its guiding principles for level crossings—to make them less prescriptive and clearer about how level crossing risk should be assessed.
How to get involved
There are opportunities for you to contribute to Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway.
Industry is particularly encouraged to benefit from the resources available below and to engage with the work of the Level Crossing Strategy Group. This oversees the delivery of this chapter of the strategy and is a cross-industry group dedicated to discussing the topic.
RSSB offers Human Factors Awareness Training to help operators better understand why people make mistakes, exploring factors that can influence human performance such as distraction, equipment design, and verbal communications.