UK: Regulator notes progress and continues focus on level crossing risk

23 Jul

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has published its annual report for the year to March 31st, 2014.

In so far as level crossing safety is concerned the ORR records continuing improvement with a 12% reduction in the level of FWI. ORR makes clear that this momentum must be maintained, including improving users’ understanding of the risks, especially at pedestrian user-worked crossings where there was a proportionate increase in fatalities in 2013-14.

Network Rail’s new dedicated level crossing managers have improved individual crossing risk assessments in 2013-14. Network Rail closed a total of 804 crossings and achieved a 33% reduction on a normalised basis in Control Period Four (five years to March 31st, 2014) compared with CP3; and is funded to reduce level crossing risk further in CP5.

ORR’s evidence records that at the start of 2013-14, Network Rail successfully recruited and trained over 100 level crossing managers to pro-actively inspect and provide customised risk assessments at their portfolio of crossings individually – an area where ORR had previously pushed Network Rail to improve. ORR found evidence that these managers had developed good personal knowledge of issues affecting individual crossings which resulted in immediate risk reduction action.

Nevertheless, ORR considers that there is an over-reliance on an old assessment model designed for national risk-ranking purposes (the “All Level Crossing Risk Model”), and an under-performance in carrying out more suitable risk assessments. ORR’s work showed that level crossing managers received insufficient initial training. Network Rail is currently rolling out a new risk assessment process – with ORR input – and updates to the risk model. ORR says that in the longer term this should address the issue.

ORR found evidence that Network Rail’s engagement with authorised users of user-worked crossings was inconsistent. Looking ahead, Network Rail is using new active technology to better warn crossing-users of approaching trains at currently passive crossings. To ensure these technologies are used effectively, ORR is working with Network Rail to develop a passive crossing strategy to improve crossing safety in and after CP5. We will consider RSSB‟s recent research into level crossing safety and those recommendations from investigations carried out by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

During 2013-14, Network Rail commissioned manually-controlled barriers with obstacle detector crossings; a new type of crossing fitted with radar and laser systems that can detect obstacles blocking the running line. The limited initial trials of these systems have left some technical issues which ORR has challenged Network Rail to resolve.

To read ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report in full go to:

One Response to “UK: Regulator notes progress and continues focus on level crossing risk”

  1. Vicky Allen, Leics & Rutland Bridleways Assn and British Horse Society. July 23, 2014 at 21:17 #

    I trust that the training of level crossing managers will include the use of level crossings by ridden horses, both at user worked and automatic barrier crossings.

    Historically the rail industry has considered the ridden horse to be “a vehicle” and expected the horse to follow the rules for vehicles. This is not how the horse rider thinks of themselves and lone riders are unable to comply with the “five crossings” rule about opening the gates on the far side first.

    It is far more appropriate to think of them as a rather large and unwieldy pedestrian, that needs wider gates WITHOUT A CATCH to fiddle with whilst on the line – please!

    Also that equipment such as telephones needs to be placed reasonably high – 4 to 5 feet or top-of-fence level – and clear of posts either in a 3 metre circle in front of the phone or 2-3 metres along the fence-line either side of the phone (horses have very long necks with heads at the end, that need to swing round above a fence or gate). I was amazed when I surveyed a length of line with the local crossings guy some years back, how many phones were located at knee-level. What weird logic was going on?? A vehicle driver would have had to get out in the rain and crouch down to speak into it.

    And we need properly designed and sited mounting blocks either side if you are going to insist on riders getting off to cross electrified lines. Are you going to supply these either side of road level crossings too? The BHS position regarding virtually all hazards or difficulties is that the rider has more control of the horse when mounted and that getting off and hoping to lead the horse past or over a problem should be the last resort.

    Please, before the training of these level crossing managers goes too far, can they please please, please have a “horse” input.

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