Spotlight on level crossings

This month (October 2018) we launched our latest national campaign - targeting drivers of road vehicles - to reduce the number of incidents at level crossings.

With about 6,000 level crossings across Britain, our safety campaigns are crucial in raising awareness, providing education, and improving behaviours to reduce deliberate misuse at level crossings.

Why we have level crossings

Level crossings - where a road or footpath crosses the railway at the same level - originate from the earliest days of the railway. Horse-drawn carts would transport minerals on wooden rails so gates were installed to keep the animals from straying onto the line when crossing the railway.

The introduction of the modern railway and steam locomotives in the 1800s led to an increase in level crossings but the risks of using them grew as road traffic increased.

Today they remain a risk to the operational railway and to drivers of road vehicles. It is vital that vehicle drivers always adhere to safe crossing protocols and obey audible alarms, lights and crossing equipment.

Keeping drivers safe

This autumn (October-November 2018) our latest safety campaign focuses on engaging with motorists who live by, work near, or travel through level crossings. Through social media and radio advertising, we want to encourage these ‘everyday’ drivers to behave responsibly and safely when navigating level crossings by following the warnings in front of them, including lights, barriers and alarms.

Did you know?

All vehicles, including the emergency services, must stop for red lights at level crossings. Failure to do so could result in prosecution, a £1,000 fine and penalty points on licenses. It could also cause major train disruption, risking lives through potential train derailment and leading to severe injuries and accidental fatalities.

How we manage and assess our level crossings

Safety has always been important to us, which is why we have a continuing commitment to reduce risks to lives and welfare wherever possible.

We launched our level crossing reduction programme in 2010 and have worked to improve the safety of level crossings by closing or upgrading them. We risk assess all our crossings at regular frequencies. The crossings can be categorised into five elements based on their legal status:

  • Public highway
  • Public footpath/bridleway
  • Private accommodation
  • Private occupation
  • Private footpath/bridleway

Find out more about our risk assessment on our reducing risk level crossing page.

Closing level crossings

Whilst level crossing closures are desirable, it is not always a feasible option. If closure is not possible, we aim to and have delivered alternatives such as:

  • Barriers at open crossings
  • New technology to alert users if a second train approaches the crossing
  • Obstacle detection
  • Red light safety cameras
  • LED road traffic lights to improve the visibility of level crossings and reduce the likelihood of driver error.

Many level crossings remain in active use across Britain. We hope safeguarding measures and seasonal campaigning will raise risk awareness among all users, including drivers. More importantly, we hope to change behaviours and prevent injury and accidental fatalities.

To find out more about our latest safety campaign, visit the Drivers level crossing safety campaign page.