Level crossings law

This page sets out the law on level crossings, to whom it applies and what they are expected to do.

Level crossings law has evolved over 160 years. Currently, laws relating to highways, railways, and health and safety apply.

Dutyholders

Duties and responsibilities are placed on a number of bodies and individuals including:

  • railway infrastructure managers - the infrastructure manager (Network Rail for the mainline rail network in Great Britain) is responsible for the operation, maintenance and renewal of all level crossings on its network. Crossings must work correctly and be safe to use.
  • traffic authorities - traffic authorities are responsible for the maintenance of public roads on the approach to level crossings. Duties may be placed upon them via level crossing orders for specific crossings.
  • employers - employers whose business requires employees to cross level crossings, in particular user worked level crossings (such as farmers and delivery companies) must ensure their employees are able to use level crossings safely whilst working.
  • train and freight operators - at certain types of crossing, train crew are required to follow a procedure for the safe operation of the crossing. This may include warning of a train's approach and correctly opening and closing gates or barriers.
  • road users - road users must obey traffic light signals and road signs; avoid overhead electric lines by obeying height-restriction warnings; and phone at the crossing to get permission to cross where signs indicate.
  • other crossing users - other users (for example pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders) must also obey instruction signs, warning lights and alarms. If there are no barriers or lights, stop, look and listen, then look again before crossing.

Key level crossing law

ORR has particular involvement in level crossing safety through the:

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 - this puts a duty on employers to secure the health, safety and welfare of employees, as well as protecting the public against risks to health or safety arising out of work activities.
  • Level Crossings Act 1983 - this authorises the Secretary of State for Transport to make level crossing orders for the protection of those using a level crossing. ORR usually does this on behalf of the Secretary of State. Level crossing orders cover individual level crossings. They specify the protective equipment required at a crossing.

These Acts are in the UK statutory law database.

Level crossing orders

Information and advice on level crossing orders made under the Level Crossings Act 1983 is available in Chapter 3 of the guidance Level crossings: A guide for managers, designers and operators.

We recently issued a guidance note which explains how ORR will deal with non-safety related changes to level crossings which are covered by a level crossing order. These are changes that do not create safety concerns for the crossing, but – on a strict reading of the specific legal wording in the order – could mean the crossing is non-compliant with its order. The guidance clarifies that in such cases we will not take action, because the changes are administrative and do not create a safety risk. This avoids a burdensome exercise to amend the many orders that may be affected.

We currently use a number of template orders to assist in the process.

Publications