Safety at public footpath level crossings is more vital than ever

11 June 2020

By Robert Beveridge, Principal Inspector for the Western Route.

Robert BeveridgeThe safety of people using footpath level crossings is more important than ever as we mark International Level Crossing Awareness Day amid signs that more of us are using crossings, and resultant spikes in near miss incidents reported to us.

At the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), we have been working closely with Network Rail’s Western Route to ensure that there is an even stronger focus on safety at footpath crossings. We should all be fully aware that even as lockdown starts to ease there is an increased risk that we can find ourselves unexpectedly standing at a railway footpath crossing.

Stop, Look Listen – Beware of trains

The vast majority of these crossings, which typically form part of a public right of way, have no warning lights or alarm to warn of an approaching train, except at some places a train horn. There will only be signs – and a gate or stile – that say: Stop, Look, Listen, Beware of trains.

The onus is therefore on people alone to decide whether it’s safe to cross, by looking and listening for trains approaching. People should remember that trains move fast, they are quiet and they can’t stop quickly, and they can approach from either direction.

Level crossings are among the safest in Europe but still pose a risk

Even though Britain’s level crossings are among the safest in Europe, they still pose a significant risk to the public.

Network Rail has worked hard to close as many footpath crossings as it can but many still remain, particularly, but not exclusively to, rural locations – we have also worked with them to make safety improvements.  Miniature red and green warning lights are gradually being fitted at many crossings but it will take time before they become commonplace.

The message from the ORR, Network Rail and British Transport Police is that when crossing please obey the signs – Stop, Look and Listen, Beware of trains.

Cross quickly once you are sure that no trains are approaching and keep looking and listening. Keep dogs on leads and ensure your children are under your control. Keep your group together, with no stragglers. Remember that trains can approach from either direction.

We will continue to follow up near miss reports and take action where we think that more needs to be done.