Latest Rail News


Network Rail must re-assess safety at all user-worked crossings - RAIB

Network Rail has been told to implement a “time-bound plan” for the re-assessment of train sighting arrangements at all user-worked level crossing (UWCs), especially where safe use depends on vehicle drivers ‘sighting’ approaching trains. 

The recommendation comes in a new Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report, based on its inquiry into an incident where a passenger train approaching Woodbridge station in Suffolk hit a car at the Jetty Avenue UWC. 

At the time of the collision in July 2013, there were no telephones or warning lights at the crossing, so safe use depended on vehicle drivers looking for approaching trains. 

The car driver, an occasional user of the level crossing, normally relied on checking for trains by looking up and down the railway when swinging open the vehicular gates on foot. 

He knew his view of the tracks would be obscured as he returned to the car and drove it towards the crossing, the RAIB said. 

 79739922 networkrailwoodbridgeclosecrash

However, a curve in the railway meant the train involved in the accident was not visible to the car driver when he was at the crossing, and could only be seen from this location after the driver had returned to his car. 

The RAIB’s investigation found that instructions given to car drivers using this, and similar, level crossings were inadequate. 

According to September 2013 statistics, Network Rail-controlled infrastructure has 679 UWCs and 1,648 UWCs with telephone. 

RAIB also found that Network Rail’s method for ensuring that vehicle drivers have an adequate view of approaching trains was “incompatible” with the characteristics of both the car involved in the accident and many of the vehicles expected to use crossings of this type. 

Since the accident, telephones have been provided at Jetty Avenue level crossing, and the crossing signage has been changed to require all road vehicle drivers to telephone the crossing operator before using the crossing. 

The RAIB has not assessed whether this is the most appropriate solution at this location, but notes that providing telephones at level crossings can have drawbacks. For instance, it increases the workload of the level crossing operator (normally the signaller), and some vehicle drivers may not use the telephone, despite being required to do so. 

The RAIB has now told Network Rail to implement a “time-bound plan” for the re-assessment of the sighting of approaching trains at all UWCs where safe use depends on vehicle drivers sighting approaching trains. The time-bound plan should also cover implementation of any mitigation needed to permit safe use of such crossings. 

Additionally, Network Rail should research measures to improve the safety of UWCs where vehicle users are reliant on sight to detect the approach of trains. The findings of this research should then be used by Network Rail to improve and  clarify existing standards related to the design (including gates, signage and road markings), management of UWCs, guidance provided to users and training/briefing to relevant staff. 

The infrastructure owner should also review and potentially modify its processes so that staff checking level crossing signage have a practical and easily used means of establishing the signage required at each crossing they are inspecting. 

In consultation with the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), Network Rail has been asked to review, and if necessary amend, the criteria used to calculate crossing times with reference to vehicle speed, the time taken to reach a decision when to start crossing and vehicle length. 

RAIB also noted that the ORR should provide duty holders with enhanced guidance which reminds them that, when determining the position of decision points at UWCs, they must take due account of the characteristics of vehicles likely to use the crossing and recognise that a minimum dimension of 3m from the nearest rail is insufficient for most vehicles. 

A Network Rail spokesperson told RTM: “Britain has the safest major railway in Europe and incidents such as this are incredibly rare. We are always looking for ways to improve safety at level crossings, including closing 500 crossings across the country over the next five years. Where we cannot close a crossing we will look for ways to make it safer, which is what we have done at Jetty Avenue. 

“Telephones and new signage have been installed at this level crossing and we now have a dedicated level crossing manager accountable for all aspects of the crossing’s operations and risk management and makes regular contact with crossing users to ensure everyone understands how to cross safely.”

(The lead photo is extracted from the RAIB report; the car damage image from the Jetty Avenue incident c. Network Rail) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


Lutz   20/12/2014 at 08:53

It is somewhat astounding that UWCs still exist. A more thorough approach to the handling of the risk associated with these crossings might be a policy of closure by default except where there is an essential requirement for the crossing. The current policies on crossing outside of the control of the signalling system is far too accommodating and regressive.

Pedr   20/12/2014 at 16:43

A problem is UWC users who will not shut the gates after them despite regular letters from the railway reminding of their statutory responsibilities.

Lesf   24/12/2014 at 23:31

Perhaps the threat of crossing closure would persuade abusers to behave properly. Does the industry need new powers to enable this?

Bradley Aldridge   06/03/2015 at 12:18

The other aspect of safety on UWC is to reduce the amount of times a person has to cross the track when opening a non powered gate. It takes the user 5 times to cross the track. The Power Operated Gate Opener (POGO) is solar powered and can installed on virtually any crossing as no power is required. The system reduces the amount of times the user crosses the track by 80%. The user gains permission to cross, presses one button and both gates open automatically, makes sure its safe to cross- crosses the track then presses the button on the other side to close both gates. The user crosses once when they are on their highest alert and when the train is furthest away as opposed to the fifth time when they can be complacent after cross four times and the train is a lot closer than it was after the first crossing. For more information on the POGO system (product Acceptance number PA05/05508) contact

Add your comment



rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Rail industry launches new interactive accessibly map for UK rail stations

17/04/2019Rail industry launches new interactive accessibly map for UK rail stations

A new interactive map which lets passengers find out about accessibility at stations has been launched by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to help b... more >
Helium balloons causing ‘increasing number of train delays’ at cost of £1m

17/04/2019Helium balloons causing ‘increasing number of train delays’ at cost of £1m

Helium-filled balloons are causing hundreds of train delays at a cost of £1m in taxpayer money every year, Network Rail has revealed. ... more >
Dawlish sea wall gets council planning approval with construction to begin in May

17/04/2019Dawlish sea wall gets council planning approval with construction to begin in May

Plans for an £80m sea wall to protect the Dawlish coastal rail line from extreme weather have been by approved by Teignbridge District Coun... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >
TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >
Exclusive: Midlands Connect and WMRE talk collaboration and investment in the Midlands' railway

22/01/2019Exclusive: Midlands Connect and WMRE talk collaboration and investment in the Midlands' railway

In the jigsaw puzzle of regional transport decision-making, there must be collaboration and compromise. Midlands Connect media lead James Bovill ... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. ... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

West Midlands Rail Executive’s Malcolm Holmes on the 30 year Rail Investment Strategy and working with Midlands Connect

08/04/2019West Midlands Rail Executive’s Malcolm Holmes on the 30 year Rail Investment Strategy and working with Midlands Connect

Malcolm Holmes, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Rail Executive, joins us to discuss the 30-year Rail Investment Strategy, and how he and his... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Changing the London skyline with HS2

26/03/2019Changing the London skyline with HS2

Lisa Hogben, HS2 programme delivery manager for area south enabling works, explains how the arrival of HS2’s first tower cranes shows chang... more >
Picking up the pace with high-speed track handovers

26/03/2019Picking up the pace with high-speed track handovers

In 2018 Steve Featherstone, programme director of track at Network Rail, set his team a challenge to secure 100 high-speed track handovers in a y... more >
26-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

19/03/201926-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

After a nine-month national trial, the rail industry launched its seventh National Railcard for 26-30-year-olds on 2 January 2019. Rail Delivery ... more >
Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

19/03/2019Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

The world-renowned Caledonian Sleeper, due to begin operations at the end of spring 2019, completed its first Scotland to London journey earlier ... more >