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31.03.15

NR to re-assess safety at all user-worked crossings by April 2016

Network Rail is to re-assess the safety of all its user-worked crossings (UWCs) by the end of March 2016, RTM has learned. 

Back in December 2014, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) recommended that Network Rail implement a “time-bound plan” for the re-assessment of train sighting arrangements at all UWCs, especially where safe use depends on vehicle drivers ‘sighting’ approaching trains. 

This was based on its inquiry into an incident where a passenger train approaching Woodbridge station in Suffolk hit a car at the Jetty Avenue UWC in 2013. 

RTM was told that Network Rail has agreed to the recommendations of the report, which also includes researching measures to improve the safety of UWCs by taking into consideration the user groups. 

A Network Rail spokesperson told us: “An action plan has been put together with an indicative completion timescale of early 2016. As such, we intend to develop a guidance document on assessment at UWCs and issue it to route teams. 

“The implementation programme for each level crossing is likely to align with the next scheduled visit programmed for the Level Crossing Manager.” 

He added that the guidance is in the process of being written by the National Level Crossing team, and the intention is to have completed the re-assessments by 28 March 2016. However, this may be subject to change. 

The investigator’s report also stated that 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. 

RTM was informed that the progression of any work as a result of this recommendation will be crossing specific. It will be the responsibility of the Level Crossing Manager to propose suitable mitigations. 

A non-exhaustive list includes measures such as:

  • Potential closure or diversion of the crossing
  • Extensive de-vegetation of train approaches within the Network Rail boundary, or, upon agreement with land owners, third party property to improve visibility for vehicle drivers from a seated position.
  • Implement a temporary or permanent speed restriction on trains over the level crossing
  • Fitment of a user-based warning system such as red/green stop lights 

Although the RAIB’s report recommended a ‘time-bound’ plan, it has no role in the actual implementation of the recommendations, nor any statutory powers to follow up on completion of recommendations. 

RAIB told us: “In accordance with the Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005, the recommendations that are sent to the end implementers are also addressed to the relevant safety authorities, in this case the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), who are required by Regulation 12 to ensure that the RAIB’s recommendations are duly considered and where appropriate, acted upon.” 

Whilst Network Rail manages its own risks, it is part of the ORR’s responsibility to confirm that each recommendation is duly taken into consideration and where appropriate acted upon. ORR must also report to the RAIB full details of any measure taken or to be taken, or give a full explanation as to why the recommendation is not to be the subject of measures to implement it. 

“This feedback is important in providing information and transparency on the safety improvements and changing environment resulting from our investigations,” the RAIB added. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Terry K   02/04/2015 at 09:36

If the gates are "detected" when they are closed to road traffic and then if they are opened a white light would display to the train driver say half a mile either way from the crossing letting the train driver know the gates are open and slow down and prepare to stop if necessary.

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