Level crossings law

This page sets out the law on level crossings, to whom it applies and what they are expected to do to comply. It also provides information on the Law Commission review of level crossing law.

The law applying to level crossings has evolved over the past 160 years. Currently, laws relating to the highways, railways and health and safety apply.

Dutyholders

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

  • railway infrastructure managers as the level crossing operator - 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. The infrastructure manager must ensure that crossings work correctly and are 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 that 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 giving warning of a train's approach and the correct opening and closing of gates or barriers.
  • road users - road users must obey road traffic light signals and road signs; avoid overhead electric lines by obeying height-restriction warnings; and obey any sign that says they must use a phone at the crossing to get permission to cross.
  • 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 general 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. This function is usually performed by the ORR 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 can be found in the UK statutory law database.

Submission of 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 pdf icon PDF, 1,275 Kb.

Law Commissions' review

The Law Commission for England and Wales together with the Scottish Law Commission has reviewed existing level crossing legislation. This project was concerned with examining the legal framework with a view to its modernisation and simplification.

On 22 July 2010 they published a consultation paper, which contained their detailed proposals for law reform. The consultation period concluded on 30 November 2010, and the Commissions have now reviewed and analysed the responses.

The final report was published on 25 September 2013, together with an analysis of the responses and a draft Bill. The consultation paper may be found on Law Commissions' websites.

On publication of the Law Commission report, Ian Prosser, ORR's Director of Railway Safety said "The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) welcomes the Law Commissions' proposals to modernise level crossing legislation, which will cut red-tape and make it easier for high-risk crossings to be closed. Great Britain's level crossings, although among the safest in Europe, pose a significant rail safety risk to the public. That is why we have announced millions of pounds' worth of extra funds to close or upgrade level crossings over the next five years, and will work to support implementation of improved level crossing laws."As part of their review of level crossing legislation in Great Britain, the Law Commissions have produced a helpful list of the main legislative provisions that relate to level crossings. The table can be viewed under the heading 'Legislative Framework'. Note that the Commissions do not warrant that this table is comprehensive as to the legislation and key provisions.

Last updated - 11 April 2014