Woodbridge, UK: RAIB report recommendations have wide implications for user worked level crossings

15 Dec

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published the report of its investigation into the collision that occurred on the passive Jetty Avenue user worked crossing (UWC) in Woodbridge, Suffolk, on July 14th, 2013. The report contains five recommendations that have implications for the management of UWCs in Great Britain (these are detailed in full at the end of this blog post). The early evening collision involved a passenger train approaching Woodbridge station in daylight and at low speed. The train was not derailed, but the car driver suffered minor injuries.

The car driver was using the level crossing to access a private boatyard situated between the railway and the River Deben. He was a volunteer, assisting in removing equipment following a local regatta which had been held partly on land owned by the boatyard earlier in the day. The car driver had used the level crossing on previous occasions, but had not been briefed on its use.

There were no telephones or warning lights at the crossing so safe use depended on vehicle drivers looking for approaching trains. The car driver, who was an occasional user of the level crosssing, normally relied on checking for trains by looking up and down the railway when swinging open the vehicular gates on foot. He did this because he was aware that his view of the railway would be obscured as he returned to the car and drove it towards the crossing. A curve in the railway meant that 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 begun to return to his car. The driver did not become aware of the train until he had driven his car into its path.

The RAIB investigation has found that instructions given to car drivers using this, and similar, user worked level crossings were inadequate. It 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.

The RAIB believes it is possible that the accident at Jetty Avenue UWC could have been avoided by full implementation of two Recommendations in its title=”2009 report”>http://www.raib.gov.uk/publications/investigation_reports/reports_2009/report132009.cfm) 2009 report: Investigation into safety at user worked crossings’. These relate to guiding vehicle drivers to stop at an appropriate place before deciding whether it is safe to cross the railway.

RAIB has made five recommendations. Four recommendations are addressed to Network Rail and cover the management of level crossings where safe use of the crossing relies on road vehicle drivers seeing approaching trains. One recommendation is made to the Office of Rail Regulation and seeks clarification of its guidance on this issue.

1. The intent of this recommendation is to reduce the short-term risk associated with inadequate sighting of approaching trains at user worked crossings by checking that sufficient allowance is made for the position of the driver in the types of vehicle likely to use the crossing. This recommendation should be implemented pending the completion of research referred to at Recommendation 2.

Network Rail should implement a time-bound plan for the re-assessment of the sighting of approaching trains at all user worked crossings 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. The objective of the re- assessment process shall be to verify that drivers seated in the normal driving position of their vehicle have sufficient sighting of approaching trains when the front of their vehicle is stopped a safe distance clear of the line (paragraphs 103 and 105). In providing guidance to staff, Network Rail should consider:

  • the range of vehicle stopping positions
  • the types of vehicles likely to use each crossing (particularly the distances of the driver’s eyes from the front of the vehicle); and
  • any effects due to crossing gates being open, including obstruction of sighting by signs on the gate, when vehicle drivers are looking for trains

2. The intent of this recommendation is to identify measures which complement those achieved by Recommendation 1. It is intended to assist risk management until such time as all UWCs are equipped with technology capable of providing reliable advice to crossing users.

Network Rail should commission research into measures to improve the safety of UWCs where vehicular users are reliant on sight to detect the approach of trains (paragraph 103). This should utilise and, as necessary, extend existing research findings to include consideration of:

  • the ways in which the behaviour of vehicle drivers can be influenced by the design of the crossing to use the crossing as intended including
  • stopping and looking for trains at an appropriate location;
  • use by different types of vehicle, including heavy commercial and agricultural vehicles;
  • use of the crossing by persons other than those briefed by the authorised user (eg unexpected visitors or delivery vehicles)
  • instructions and/or guidance given to users, including signs and road markings where appropriate; and
  • Instructions and guidance provided to those assessing, maintaining and modifying UWCs.

This research should take into account the safety of pedestrians (including vehicle occupants when opening gates), cyclists and equestrians who may use UWCs.
The findings of this research should be used by Network Rail to improve/ clarify existing standards related to the design (including gates, signage and road markings), management of user worked crossings, guidance provided to users and training/briefing to relevant staff. Network Rail should also identify the need for any modification to the legal requirements relating to level crossing signage requirements, and make suitable representations to government that this be done.

3: The intent of this recommendation is for Network Rail to provide those responsible for checking level crossing signage with information in a user-friendly format needed to establish the signage required at each level crossing.

Network Rail should review, and if found necessary, 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 (paragraph 107).

4: The intent of this recommendation is for Network Rail to review and update its method of calculating crossing times.

Network Rail should, in consultation with ORR, 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 (paragraph 107).

5: The intent of this recommendation is for the Office of Rail Regulation to provide enhanced guidance relating to user worked crossings, including guidance about how the decision point is determined in order that the sighting of approaching trains is measured from an appropriate location.

The Office of Rail Regulation should provide duty holders with enhanced guidance which:

  • reminds duty holders that, when determining the position of decision points at user worked crossings, they must take due account of the characteristics of vehicles likely to use the crossing and recognise that a minimum dimension of 3 metres from the nearest rail is insufficient for most vehicles; and
  •  takes account of outputs from the research and review undertaken in response to Recommendations 2 and 4.


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