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Safety at railway crossings


In 2009, there were 14 collisions between vehicles and trains at level crossings and out these 13 people lost there lives. There were also more than 140 reported near misses between trains and road vehicles last year.It is estimated that over ninety percent of accidents at railway crossings where due to motorists or pedestrians misusing them.

The majority of railway crossings function automatically by the trains themselves triggering sensors that activate the barriers, warning lights and sirens. Many of the crossings may also have CCTV cameras monitoring the crossing. The video feeds from these cameras however may not necessarily be monitored by a human operator, and may just be recording what is going at that location.

There are generally 3 types of level crossings for road vehicles:-
  • Four automatic barriers, with traffic control lights and sirens. Both traffic lanes either side of the road are blocked by the barriers

  • Two automatic barriers, with traffic control lights and sirens. Only one traffic lane is blocked by the barriers either side of the crossing

  • No barriers and just a set of lights with possibly a warning siren


Breaking down on a railway crossing

Very occasionally a vehicle may brake down or stall whilst crossing the railway. In this situation as long as the warning sirens have not started, it is advisable to briefly attempt to restart the vehicle or push it clear of the crossing. If this proves difficult for any reason then you MUST get all of the passengers at least 40 - 50 metres clear of the vehicle. You should either use the emergency telephone system at the crossing to warn the signalman of the hazard, or call the emergency services with a clear description of your location.

ONLY continue to try and move the vehicle if the warning sirens have not sounded, if they do - then you must get yourself and anyone assisting you at least 40 - 50 metres clear of the crossing as quickly as possible.


What NOT to do at a railway crossing when the red lights flash

Particularly on the single barrier crossings, some crazy people seem to think that it is worth trying to zig zag the barriers, and get across 'just in time'. This kind of behaviour is incredibly dangerous. Fast commuter trains can travel in excess of 70 mph, and consequently can 'appear from nowhere' in seconds.

NEVER be foolish enough to attempt this, it not only puts you and your passengers in extreme danger, but also everyone travelling on the approaching train.


How to use a railway crossing safely

A railway crossing should always be treated in the same way you would treat a 'box' junction. In other words, never drive onto the crossing unless there is sufficient space beyond the barrier on the other side for your vehicle to either stop, or continue safely. This is especially important if there is a queue of traffic at the crossing.

When the warning sirens sound and lights flash at a railway crossing, you MUST STOP at the white line before the barrier. If you have crossed the white line when the amber light shows, continue across to the other side.

If a train has passed over the railway crossing and the red lights continue to flash, you MUST WAIT. When the lights continue to flash it means that there will be another train along soon.

If there are no barriers and the lights flash, then there is a train approaching and you must STOP and WAIT.

Never take risks on railway crossings, it's not worth the risk.

If have any queries regarding accident or crash repairs please call us for free help and advice on 0845 6768898 or start your free claim enquiry using our online claim form.
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