Reducing risk at level crossings

How our level crossing risk reduction programme is improving safety on the network.

In 2010 we created a programme to reduce the risk at level crossings by closing and upgrading as many level crossings as possible throughout the railway network.

Since the start of the programme, we have closed more than 1,300 crossings and hundreds more have been improved or upgraded.

Why do we close level crossings?

Level crossings were part of a rail network built around 180 years ago, when there were fewer and slower trains, no cars and the pace of life was much slower. If you were to build a railway today it would not have any level crossings. For example, HS1 does not have any level crossings.

We believe the most effective way of reducing level crossing risk is to eliminate the crossing completely by closing it. Where we cannot do this, we will look at options to make the crossing safer.

How do we decide which crossings to close?

We complete risk assessments of our level crossings at regular intervals, in these we consider a number of important factors, such as the crossing’s location, how much traffic (rail, road and pedestrian) it receives, and the crossing’s history of near misses and accidents. The results of these risk assessments are used to inform our strategy on level crossing risk management.

We aim to achieve the maximum possible risk reduction at level crossings, so we prioritise closing those that present the biggest dangers. Our route teams are also able to identify lower risk level crossings that can be closed, as part of bigger investment or upgrade schemes.

Stage 1: Feasibility

We must first assess the feasibility of closing a crossing. In this we consider a number of factors, such as crossing usage and the crossing users’ needs, the crossing’s legal status – whether it is a private or public right of way, land ownership and availability, the crossing’s history of near misses and incidents, the cost of closure etc.

If closure is found to be a viable option, these factors are used to inform the development of a preferred closure plan. This could include a diversion, stepped footbridge, ramped footbridge, bridge and lifts or an underpass.

At this point we may also conclude that closure of the crossing is not a viable option.

Stage 2: Engagement

We present the crossing closure proposal to stakeholders for feedback and comment. If the crossing is a private right of way, we engage directly with the private user(s).

If the crossing is a public right of way, we consult through the local authority, as well as directly with any private landowners and identified crossing user groups. Any objections that are received regarding the closure will be referred to the planning inspectorate for determination.

Stage 3: Implementation

Following engagement, we progress the endorsed option for crossing closure and, where appropriate, create an alternative route for users to cross the railway.

How do we make crossings safer that we cannot close?

We will always prioritise the permanent closure of level crossings but, where closure is not possible, we look to reduce risk through other means. This can involve installing new barriers or warning systems, creating new safety signage or educating the people that use level crossings how to be safe around them.

Read more in our level crossing safety strategy

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