Using level crossings safely

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1 Using level crossings

2 Foreword What this guide is for This document provides guidance on how to use level crossings. Who this guide is for This guide is aimed at anyone who uses level crossings, including pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, horse-riders and people who work in rural areas. It provides easy-to-understand advice on how to use a crossing, while also referring to specific rules, as set out in The Highway Code, relating to using level crossings. This guidance does not apply to tramways. Why we have produced this guidance We have produced this guide as we want our advice on using level crossings to be available to and understood by everyone. 1

3 A guide for people who use level crossings Why you should read this guide This guide provides information on how you can use crossings. The information either repeats or builds upon information and advice contained elsewhere, such as in The Highway Code (rules 291 to 299) or Network Rail s publications. Level crossings the basics There are various types of level crossing. In all cases, the best way to reduce risk is to use the crossing and to follow any instructions that are displayed at the crossing. The type of crossing used at a particular place depends on several things whether the right of way is private or public, the type and number of users and the geographical features of the location. At most level crossings on public roads there will be warning signs on the approach to level crossings. Using level crossings When using a level crossing to cross a railway, remember that trains have much longer stopping distances than road vehicles. This stopping distance is often longer than the train driver s view of the line ahead. The general advice is that if you see or hear a train, don t cross. Remember that trains can come from either direction. The safety at level crossings largely depends on you recognising the dangers and obeying instructions. If you do not follow the instructions given, you are putting yourself, other users, railway staff and passengers at great risk. You could also be prosecuted. There will often be a phone number on signs at a crossing so that you can contact railway staff if necessary. 2

4 Drivers and motorcyclists Not using level crossings correctly for example, ignoring traffic light signals or trying to beat the barriers is very dangerous. You can reduce the risk to yourself and others by following the guidance below. Take extra care when approaching and using level crossings. Never pass over the STOP line and drive onto a crossing until the road is clear on the other side. Never stop or park on a crossing. If your vehicle breaks down or you cannot keep going or get off a crossing: o get everyone out of the vehicle and off the crossing immediately; o use the phone at the crossing (if any) to tell the signaller and then follow the instructions you are given; and o only move the vehicle off the crossing if there is time to do so before a train arrives. If the alarm sounds, or the amber light comes on, leave the vehicle and get off the crossing immediately. You must follow the rules below. Obey road traffic light signals and road signs. Avoid overhead electric lines by obeying any height-restriction warnings. Do not move forward onto the railway if your vehicle touches any height barrier. Obey any sign that says you must use a phone at the crossing to get permission to cross. Phone back when you are clear of the crossing if you have been asked to do so. 3

5 Other users (for example pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders and people who work in rural areas) Take special care when crossing railway lines at level crossings, especially crossings along footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way where there are no barriers or railway staff. In particular, pay attention to the following important points. You must obey instruction signs, warning lights and alarms. If you hear a train horn, this means a train is approaching so do not cross. Remember though that train drivers will not always sound a horn (for example, at night). Before you reach the crossing remove hoods, earphones, headphones or any device that could stop you from hearing a train approaching. Remember that modern trains are quiet and weather conditions such as high winds and fog can reduce your ability to hear or see a train approaching. Keep children close to you. Do not let them run or wander off. Keep pet dogs on a lead. Do not follow an animal that strays on to the line without first checking it is safe by contacting the crossing operator or signaller where possible. If there are no barriers or lights, stop, look and listen, then look again before you cross. Remember that trains travel faster than you think and that your view can be obscured by bushes, trees, structures and bends in the track. If it is safe to cross, cross quickly, taking care not to slip or trip on the track. Stay alert while you are crossing the track. Do not stop on the crossing. Take particular care if the surface of the crossing is not smooth, and make sure that wheels of bicycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs do not get trapped in the space between the crossing surface and the inside of the rail. 4

6 On crossings where there are gates, make sure you close both sets of gates or barriers behind you. When in a group, don't just follow the person in front. Everyone should take responsibility for their own safety and stop, look and listen for themselves before deciding it is safe to cross. If you can see a train don t cross. Consider anyone with you who may need help, such as young, elderly or disabled people. Always make sure the exit from the crossing is clear before you start to cross. If you are crossing in a group, or you are riding a horse, use the phone if there is one. If you are crossing in a group of cyclists, there is no phone and you need to open and close gates yourself, you should dismount (get off the cycle). You must obey any sign that says you must use a phone at the crossing to get permission to cross. Phone back when you are clear of the crossing if you have been asked to do so. 5

7 Types of level crossing and how to use them Full-barrier crossings Appearance This type of crossing is normally protected by road traffic light signals and full lifting barriers on both sides of the track. How they work How to use the crossing The barriers are normally kept up until a train approaches. There will then be an alarm for pedestrians and the lights will begin to show amber, and then flash red. The barriers will come down (they may be lowered automatically or by railway staff) and cross the full width of the road. Always approach the level crossing carefully and be prepared to stop. You must obey the traffic light signals. When the amber or red lights show, you must stop behind the white line across the road. If you have already crossed the white line when the amber light comes on, keep going. If the red lights continue to flash after the train has passed, you must continue to wait as this means that another train is approaching. Do not reverse onto or over the crossing. Do not cross until the lights go off and the barriers are fully raised. If you are not in a vehicle, stand clear of the barriers until they are fully raised and your way is clear. At some crossings, tactile surfaces (that is, textured paving) are provided to help those who are blind or partially sighted. 6

8 Automatic half-barrier crossings (AHB and ABCL) Appearance This type of crossing is protected by road traffic light signals, an alarm for pedestrians, and a lifting barrier across the left-hand side of the road. When the barriers are lowered, they only extend across half of the road, leaving the exits clear. How they work How to use the crossing The equipment is usually automatically triggered by a train as it approaches the crossing. Always approach the level crossing carefully and be prepared to stop. If you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle you must stop and contact the signaller before crossing. You must obey the traffic light signals. When the amber or red lights show, you must stop behind the white line across the road. If you cannot stop when the amber lights show continue across. Do not reverse onto or over the crossing. If the red lights continue to flash, and the alarm continues to sound, after the train has passed, you must still wait as this means that another train is approaching. Never drive around the ends of the barriers ( zigzag ) when they are closed or closing. Do not cross until the lights go off and the barriers are fully raised. If you are not in a vehicle, stop somewhere clear of the barriers, behind the stop line, until they are fully raised and the crossing is clear. At some crossings, tactile surfaces (that is, textured paving) are provided to help those who are blind or partially sighted. 7

9 Gated crossings operated by railway staff Appearance This type of crossing is protected by gates, on both sides of the track. How they work How to use the crossing Railway staff open and close the gates by hand. When a railway employee has closed the gates you must wait until he or she opens them again to let you cross. Always approach the level crossing carefully and be prepared to stop. When the gates are open you should cross as quickly as possible without stopping. 8

10 Automatic open crossing with lights and locally monitored automatic open crossings (AOCL) Appearance This type of crossing has no barriers but is protected by road traffic light signals and an alarm to warn pedestrians. How they work How to use the crossing The crossing equipment is usually automatically triggered by an approaching train. Trains will cross without stopping if the train driver sees, from a specified point, an indication that the crossing is working correctly and that it is not obstructed. Always approach the level crossing carefully and be prepared to stop. You must obey the traffic light signals and signs. When the amber or red lights show, you must stop behind the white line across the road. If you have already crossed the white line when the amber light comes on, keep going. Do not reverse onto or over the crossing. If the red lights continue to flash after the train has passed, and the alarm continues to sound, you must still wait as this means that another train is approaching. Do not cross until the lights go off. If you are not in a vehicle, stay somewhere safe and clear of the crossing until the crossing is clear. There will often be a white line showing you where to wait. At some crossings, tactile surfaces (that is, raised paving) are provided to help those who are blind or partially sighted. 9

11 Open crossings Appearance This type of crossing does not have barriers or road traffic light signals. There are only road signs to show that you must give way to trains at the crossing. How they work How to use the crossing You can see approaching trains in enough time for you to stop while you wait for the train to pass. Always approach the level crossing carefully and be prepared to stop. The crossings are positioned where you can see far enough down the track to allow you to stop in time to give way to the approaching train. 10

12 User-worked crossings (UWC) Appearance User-worked crossings are provided where a private access route or lightly-used public road crosses the railway. These crossings have a variety of users such as people who work in rural areas, utilities providers (for example, water companies), transport and haulage services, residents and visitors to homes or businesses separated by the railway. These crossings are often on rough tracks. The railway is normally closed off to vehicles by gates or barriers across the road or track. If the route is also a footpath or bridleway, there may also be a smaller side gate or stile. Warning lights or phones are sometimes provided. At all user-worked crossings there are signs telling users how to cross. How they work Users must open and close the gates or barriers by hand. People in vehicles must open the gates or barriers on both sides of the railway before driving across. Users taking animals across the railway must also open the gates or barriers on both sides of the railway. The gates or barriers on both sides must then be closed when the crossing is clear, even if you are planning to go back over the crossing shortly. 11

13 How to use the crossing Always open the gates on both sides of the railway before taking a vehicle or animals over the crossing. Make sure your exit from the crossing is clear. Always close the gates on both sides of the railway immediately after use. If there are warning lights: You must not cross when the red light is showing. Only cross if the green light is on. If the red light stays on after a train has passed, you must wait as this means that another train is approaching. If you are crossing in a vehicle, check that the green light is still on after you ve opened the gates or barriers, and cross quickly and carefully. If a phone is provided: You must obey any sign telling you to use a railway phone to get permission to cross. You must also use the phone when you are clear of the crossing, if you are asked to do so. If a phone is provided it is likely that your view of the tracks and approaching trains is limited. Where there are no warning lights or phones: After opening the gates or barriers, stop, look both ways and listen. Cross only if there are no trains coming. We strongly recommend that employers and businesses likely to use these crossings contact us at ORR for more specific advice. 12

14 Footpath crossings (including at stations) and bridleway crossings Appearance This type of crossing is used where the railway crosses a footpath or bridleway, and there are stiles or self-closing gates on both sides of the track. In some circumstances, there are lights at the crossing. How they work How to use the crossing The user must make sure that no train is approaching and cross and as quickly as possible. Always approach the level crossing carefully and stop. Some crossings have Stop signs and small red and green lights. You must not cross when the red light is showing. Only cross if the green light is on. If the red light stays on red after a train has passed, do not cross as this means that another train is coming. You must obey any warning alarm and lights. Keep children close to you. Do not let them run or wander off. Keep dogs on a lead. If there are no warnings or lights, stop, look and listen, then look again, before you cross. Remember that trains travel faster than you think and that trees, structures and 13

15 bends in the track can sometimes obscure your view. If you hear a train horn, this means a train is approaching so do not cross. Remember though that train drivers will not always sound a horn (for example, at night). If it is safe, cross quickly, taking care not to slip or trip on the track. Stay alert while crossing. Do not stop on the crossing. When in a group, don't just follow the person in front. Everyone should take responsibility for their own safety and stop, look and listen for themselves before crossing. Consider anyone with you who may need help, such as young, elderly or disabled people. If you are in a large group, cross in smaller groups to avoid having to wait or queue on the crossing while those in front pass through the gate or over the stile on the far side If you are on a cycle and you need to open and close gates yourself you should dismount (get off the cycle). Before you reach the crossing, remove hoods, earphones, headphones or any device that could stop you from hearing a train approaching. Remember that weather conditions such as high winds and fog can reduce your ability to hear or see a train approaching. The full text of rules 291 to 299 of The Highway Code, which relate to level crossings is on the website at: Report damaged or faulty crossings to Network Rail ( ). Report misuse to British Transport Police ( ) or Crimestoppers ( ). Network Rail has also produced a level crossings user guide _Level_crossing_user_guide.pdf You can contact us, ORR, by phoning or visiting our website at 14

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