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Jeanerette, LA: truck rear-ended, fatality results

30 Jan

In the aftermath of an accident at the level crossing of the US90 highway near Jeanerette, Louisiana that cost the life of a truck driver, the State’s Department of Transportation is further considering how the level crossing might be eliminated.

The accident at about 11.30am on January 25th, 2017 was unusual in a number of ways. Firstly the fact that there is a level crossing in the first place is unusual as US-90 is in line for upgrading to Interstate standards which would require grade separation. The railway crossing at grade serves a major sugar processing factory. In considering grade separation the options regrade separating by way of a road over rail bridge or by a pipeline removing the need for the highway-rail crossing.

Secondly it wasn’t a collision between a train and a truck. On this occasion a truck had stopped because a train was present when it was rear-ended by another heavy truck, the driver of which was killed. This was because the load shifted and compromised the integrity of the driving cab with fatal consequences.

Logic says that grade separation is the only answer even though it will prove costly, a point recognised by Louisiana DoT which was already at the feasibility stage of a project to eliminate this accident prone level crossing.


Wareham, Dorset, UK: Crossing stand-off continues

14 Apr

The footpath level crossing just metres away from the town’s station continues to generate passion whether for or against eliminating the level crossing.

Despite regulator ORR slapping an improvement notice on Network Rail and Dorset County Council in 2010 to address risk at one of the country’s least safe level crossings, hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for the retention of this level crossing. Meanwhile Network Rail has improved matters on a ‘temporary basis by installing a locking gate and posting an attendant at the crossing. Even with these controls overlaid onto a crossing equipped with warning lights and audible alarms, Network Rail still maintains its position that the crossing needs to be eliminated on safety grounds as misuse is still being reported..

The permanent solution proposed by Network Rail was a ramped access footbridge to replace both this level crossing and the footbridge at the station just metres away. This solution was last year turned down by Purbeck District Council on the grounds that it was too large and increased walking time expected of pedestrians.

Now Dorset County Council and Network Rail are looking at further options.


Wool, Dorset UK: new footbridge context misunderstood

13 Apr

Network Rail has completed work to construct a new stepped-access footbridge to eliminate a footpath level crossing. However, there are still many who challenge the decision to approve a stepped rather than ramped design. The logic behind the approval of the stepped design was that access to each end of the footpath level crossing was over a stile at each end which limited the use of the crossing. Thus, as the footbridge was independent of any plan to make the route of which it is a part accessible to the mobility impaired or users with prams and pushchairs, there was no obligation on Network Rail to install a ramped access footbridge replacing a footpath level crossing.

As Network Rail’s objective was to reduce risk by eliminating a high-risk level crossing, complete with sighting constraints extra expenditure on a ramped access design would have been an inappropriate use of regulator approved funding to progress the elimination of level crossings. Even so, the stepped design footbridge has cost in the region of GBP 830,000.


23 Mar

Network Rail has lodged a strongly worded objection to a proposed 550 unit housing development that will very significantly increase both vehicular and pedestrian traffic over the Northway automatic half-barrier level crossing in Tewksbury. In recognition of the impact of the new housing, developer Robert Hitchins Ltd has offered to provide GBP0.5m to fund an upgrade of the level crossing to a full barrier configuration. Network Rail maintains that this is insufficient as works to the value of GBP1.25 million will be required and that it should not be expected to use scarce investment funds for the benefit of the developer. Network Rail has said that the correct longer-term approach is to build a bridge over the railway and that the Borough Council should safeguard land to permit the bridging of the railway as further development occurs.


New Castle, NY: All it takes is a fatal accident

23 Mar

Rightly, officials in New Castle, Westchester County are exploring how the Roaring Brook Road level crossing in Chappaqua can be made safer. While any improvements in configuration are to be welcomed, it is unfortunate that they are being discussed after rather than before the February 3rd fatal accident.

The intent for there to be a road-over-rail bridge which replaces the Roaring Brook Road level crossing  have been included in the town’s planning framework since 1963. The development of the nearby Reader’s Digest campus led to the land needed to construct a bridge over the railway being offered to the town. Subsequently, when the town plans were updated in 1989, there was provision for a grade-separated route across the railway. Thus more than 50 years since the bridge was proposed, there is still no funding for a grade separation.

Rather, the plans put in place call for more education of road users, enhanced pavement markings and more intrusive policing of the crossing. The latter is to be achieved through the town’s police officers routinely ticketing motorists who use the level crossing in other than the required manner. This policing is over and above the campaigns mounted by the MTA transport police.

As for the bridge, the expectation is that at some point in the future either the developers behind the scheme to turn the Reader’s Digest site into a major shopping centre with a residential dimension will pay and/or federal funds will be provided.

Saltney, UK: P**s poor planning = p**s poor performance

17 Mar

Rudimentary failures in planning for level crossing works have caused a busy level crossing to be closed for three weeks longer than expected. Network Rail is rightly getting it in the neck for failing to adequately advise users of the extended closure of the Green Lane automatic half-barrier level crossing in Saltney near Chester.

While late advice of the extended closure is bad enough as the cause was the discovery of a high-voltage power cable and a manhole which have impacted the work to prepare the level crossing for the double-tracking of the railway later this year.

Surely, the presence of the high voltage cable could and should have been identified during the planning phase of the project? Likewise, surely the presence of the manhole and the reasons for its existence should also have been discovered when planning the work?

Yes, the safety of the workforce is of fundamental importance, this alone highlights why the presence of buried services should be established before works begin and not emerge in a statement explaining the delay that has been carried by local media

Given the own goals in terms of poor planning, LXinfo hopes that lessons will have been learned and that those responsible for a failure to detect services in the vicinity of the level crossing are counselled as to their shortcomings as we don’t want to have to draw attention to the mismanagement of buried services issue again. Is this a case of wishful thinking?


Exeter, UK: Queuing not sufficient to recommend refusal of planning application

8 Jan

Despite concerns that new housing will place an unacceptable strain around the level crossing on Station Road, Pinhoe, Exeter City Council has granted planning permission for 178 new homes in Pinhoe. While the City planners recognised the highways issues, Devon County Council’s input was that while queuing is commonplace at level crossings the impact of the new housing would not be sufficient for them to recommend refusal of the proposed development.