Level crossings for pedestrians

How to use level crossings safely as a pedestrian

As pedestrians we need to:

  • Concentrate – it’s easy to get distracted, especially by phones, music and conversation.
  • Stop, look and listen. Follow signs and instructions.
  • Check both ways before crossing – if there is a train coming, don’t cross.
  • Understand the warnings (lights, barriers, alarms). Download level crossings for pedestrians (pdf) or view the guide below.
  • Cross quickly, keeping children close and dogs on a lead.
Graphic showing the pedestrian dangers of level crossings; 1.Temptation to run over the crossing or jump the barriers. 2. Assumption - don't assume there is only one train coming. 3. Dogs - if your dog escapes, don't be tempted to run onto the railway after it. 4. Distraction - it's easy to get distracted by phones and music

We also need to understand the potential dangers:

It can be tempting to run over the crossing or jump the barriers rather than wait for a train to pass. Don’t do it – you’re putting lives at risk.

Don’t assume there is only one train or use previous experience to guess when the train is coming. Trains can come from either direction at any time.

If your dog escapes your control and runs onto the railway, don’t be tempted to run after it.

It’s easy to get distracted, especially by phones and music. If you’re in a group don’t assume that someone else is looking out for you.

Understanding the safety systems used at level crossings

Level crossings enable us to cross the railway safely. Each is unique with differences in how often trains run, and the local geography. It’s particularly useful to understand the safety systems used at crossings:

Stop, look, listen graphic

Stop, look, listen sign

  • This sign indicates that we need to be extra vigilant – the crossing may not have a visual or audible warning.
Graphic showing pedestrians approaching a gate


  • We may need to open the gates ourselves although some are operated by railway staff.
  • We must make sure that there is no train coming before and immediately after opening the gates.
  • We must make sure that all gates are closed after using a crossing.
  • If we are crossing in a group we must make sure there is enough time and space for everyone to cross safely.
Graphic of railway warning lights

Warning lights

  • Some crossings have amber and red warning lights. We must stop as soon as the lights come on, whether they are amber or red and not cross until the lights stop flashing – there may be more than one train.
  • Some crossings have red and green lights. We must only cross when the green lights are showing.
Graphic of barriers at the railway


  • Warning lightsSome crossings are ‘open’ and don’t have barriers, some have a ‘full barrier’ which blocks the entire road, whilst others have a ‘half barrier.’
  • We must not cross until the barriers are fully raised – there may be more than one train.
Graphic of alarms and sirens from a train

Alarms and sirens

  • There are various types of alarms – some sound like sirens, some sound like train horns.
  • We must not cross if we hear a warning sound or message. This is the opposite of a pelican crossing, where the sound indicates that it is safe to cross.
Graphic of a train approaching warning lights

How long until the train actually arrives?

  • As users, we can never be sure! There is no set amount of time from a warning activating to the train arriving and there may be more than one train.