Stay safe at Railway Crossings

  • Slow down as you approach a crossing and listen and look both ways before crossing the tracks.
  • Listen for warning bells and train whistles. Turn off, or turn down, distracting fans, heaters and radios until the crossing is safely cleared. Opening the car window will help you to hear better.
  • If a train is coming, stop well back from the nearest rail or gate.
  • Never race a train to the crossing. You will lose!
  • Do not cross the track until you are sure the train or trains have passed. If there are signals, wait until they stop flashing and, if the crossing has a barrier, wait until it fully rises before advancing to cross.
  • Only continue through a railway crossing if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is much wider than the tracks on both sides.
  • Never drive around, under or through a railway gate or barrier while it is down or is being lowered or raised.
  • Avoid shifting gears on a railway crossing.
  • If your vehicle stalls on the tracks at a crossing, immediately get everyone out and move far away from the tracks as possible. Move in the direction of the approaching train to avoid being hit by debris, as the momentum of the train hitting your car will sweep it forward. If there is a Railway telephone, Use this first to warn the signalman and then contact the police by dialling 999.
  • Pedestrians should only cross tracks at designated pedestrian or railway crossings. Observe and obey railway staff and heed all warning signs and signals.
  • Do not try to hop aboard a slow-moving train at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb, or your life.

Other risks that arise at level crossings include:

Pedestrian slips, trips and falls (including cyclists), trespass along the railway line itself, equipment damage due to vandalism, electric shock from overhead wires and vehicle collisions with barriers, pedestrians or other vehicles.

Railway tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property. Walking or playing on them is illegal - trespassers are subject to arrest and fines and in some cases, imprisonment. Alas for some, the penalty for misuse or trespass was DEATH.

If you see a pedestrian or motorist misusing a Level Crossing, please call the British Transport Police on 0800 40-50-40 or the Police on 999

The following advice is written by Network Rail

Level Crossings are safe if used correctly. There are over 7,600 Level Crossings both on public and private land that cut across the UK railway network. The type of crossing provided depends on a number of factors - whether the right of way is private or public, volume and nature of traffic and the geographical features of the location. All have one common feature... they are safe if used correctly.  

Every year, over 2,000 pedestrians and motorists are reported to have misused a crossing. Tragically some people are injured or killed primarily because they have made an error, deliberately made a violation or have become complacent about using the crossing.

You may be in a hurry. You may use it every day. You may even think you know when the train's coming. But if you take a chance at a level crossing, you're putting your life, and your family's, at risk.

Who uses Level Crossings?

There are 2 main groups.

  • Motorists and cyclists going about their daily business. Drivers could include mums on school runs, learners, local authorities, businesses, HGV drivers, farmers and farm workers.
  • Pedestrians. These are either regular users such as local residents or visitors to the area.

The potential consequences of misusing crossings are very serious. Misuse is preventable; it requires diligent behaviour from users. Typically misuse is higher:

  • During daylight hours
  • During rush hour.

Misuse by either motorists or pedestrians leads to catastrophic risk for both users and trains:

  • With train speeds up to 125mph, trains cannot stop quickly and pedestrians or vehicles are unlikely to survive collision impact.
  • Trains can drag pedestrians or trespassers who are close to the tracks under their wheels because of their slipstream.

The layout, configuration and use of level crossings vary from location to location, so each one is essentially unique.     

To minimise the risk of trains striking crossing users the following features may also be present:

Barriers or gates at public vehicular crossings physically prevent vehicles or pedestrian users from crossing the railway. These may be operated automatically upon detection of an approaching train, or manually by railway staff present at the crossing (or from an adjacent signal box) or via remote control from the signal box controlling the area.

Some barriers close off the entire road whereas others (i.e. half-barriers) simply close off the side of the road on which the road traffic approaches the crossing, leaving the exit from the crossing clear at all times. Coloured lights which provide a visual indication to the user of whether, or not, it is safe to cross; this may also be combined with an audible alarm and or telephones for the user to request permission from the signaller to cross.

Gates or stiles highlight to the user where the boundary with the railway begins and ends. These can also prevent inadvertent trespass of children or animals onto the crossing or, in the case of locked gates, unauthorised use.

  • Signage to explain the safe method of using the crossing or to bring the user's  attention to specific dangers
  • Railway signals that can be set to stop trains on the approach to crossings which are open to crossing users before they are closed to allow trains to pass
  • Railway signs that signify trains to stop on the approach to crossings which are crossed over when identified as safe to cross by the train crew.

Exactly which of these crossing safety features need to be provided have for many years been specified by legislative requirements and industry standards, supplemented by HM Railway Inspectorate guidance. The principal factors which influence the requirements are maximum train speed, train frequency, crossing user frequency and whether it is for public or private use.

What to do if you have a problem with a Level Crossing or have more questions.

If you have a problem caused by a Level Crossing or any other part of the railway or if you simply want more information, please contact the National Helpline on 08457 11-41-41.

Stay safe at Railway Crossings 

Tips and Advice - Article No50 RoadDriver 2010

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