The history of level crossings
Published 29 November 2018 | Average read time
min read
Stories Infrastructure insights Railway heritage

Level crossings have been part of the railway landscape since the 19th century.

With about 6,000 still in use, we’re targeting drivers using level crossings in our latest safety campaign to raise awareness of the risks and reduce the number of incidents across the country.

In the early days, private companies built and maintained railways based on Acts of Parliament known as special acts. These special acts were passed during the 19th century and would hold companies responsible for managing and resolving matters including:

  • fencing the line
  • building and maintaining bridges
  • and level crossings.
A level crossing at Ware station, 1960

As society and technology have evolved dramatically in the last two centuries, so has the need to develop railway infrastructure.

Take a look back in time at how level crossings have changed with the railway:

The history of level crossings


The Law Commission Consultation Paper No 194 and The Scottish Law Commission Discussion Paper No 143: Level Crossings

Hall, S and Van Der Mark, P., 2008. Level Crossings: The history, development and safety record of railway level crossings in Britain and Overseas from 1830 to 2008. Surrey: Ian Allen Publishing

More information:

Drivers level crossing safety campaign

Dr Beeching’s axe / The Modernisation Plan of 1955

Spotlight on…level crossings