Archive | Rules & standards RSS feed for this section

Capreol, ONT: Extended crossing closures are of wider concern

7 Feb


In Canada trains can occupy a level crossing for an indefinite period while moving plus a stationary maximum time of five minutes. Using incidents of extended closures to road traffic in Cawreol, the case for change is being developed.

Specifically the Young Street level crossing in Cawreol sits on a single track railway, to the south of a single track triangular junction with an east-west line which is double tracked to the west with additional tracks serving a terminal facility and single to the east.

Reports referencing closure to road traffic of the Young Street level crossing for between 30-40 minutes have prompted municipal action for a change to the permissible blockage time of public level crossings to a maximum of 12 minutes which is the sum of time spent moving and standing with excess occupation of a crossing attracting a fine payable to the local administration.


UK: Ten years on and a very different place

16 Dec

If one event has changed the way in which Network Rail, Britain’s national rail infrastructure manager, thinks about safety, it was the death of two teenage girls on the station pedestrian crossing at Elsenham in Essex in December 2005.

This sea change was from a standard “level crossings are safe if used properly” blame the user rubric to one of a proactive national programme to reduce level crossing risk. But this took relentless pressure from the bereaved to get to the truth behind the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson. Most visible were Olivia’s parents Tina Hughes and Chris Bazlinton.

The pressure from the families exposed a very sorry state of affairs with unacceptably poor risk management given that long before these Elsenham fatalities, there was knowledge within Network Rail of the need for action to reduce risk so far as was reasonably practicable. This formed the basis of a belated successful prosecution of Network Rail for their failure to manage risk in accordance with health and safety legislation.

Although level crossing safety in Britain compared favourably internationally in 2005, it was in 2010 that Network Rail launched its level crossing safety improvement programme, within which Tina Hughes acts as a users’ champion, for which she was recognised with the award of an MBE.

A key component of the programme has been the recruitment of more than 100 level crossing managers each of whom manages safety at about 60 level crossings, both public and private. The work of these managers is underpinned by a range of initiatives from closure to upgrade, including the adoption of new technologies. Equally important is the relationship these managers build with the authorised users of private crossings and within the community in the case of public crossings.

Since 2010, Network Rail has:

  • Closed 987 level crossings
  • Improved sighting at 1,100 crossings
  • Fitted 494 level crossings with brighter LED lights
  • Fitted 113 level crossings  with spoken audible warnings to announce when “another train is coming” after one train has passed through. This control is a direct outcome of the Elsenham fatalities
  • Fitted 66 sets of barriers at automatic open level crossings
  • Fitted a further 66 crossings with a time delay, preventing a signaller from mistakenly raising the barriers as a train approaches. This control is a direct outcome of the Moreton-on-Lugg fatality
  • Fitted more than 20 level crossings with Home Office approved red light safety cameras which act like speed cameras and capture motorists crossing after the warning sequence has begun
  • Provided the British Transport Police with a fleet of 15 mobile safety vehicles with number plate recognition camera technology introduced to target misuse
  • Begun fitting 81 private level crossings with power operated gates
  • Developed and begun installing a less costly modular footbridge to facilitate elimination of footpath and station pedestrian level crossings
  • With RSSB further developed the All Level Crossing Risk Model (ALCRM) to allow a better understanding of the specific risks at each crossing and deploy appropriate warning and protection measures

At the time of writing, the last accidental fatality (excluding intentional deaths) was on February 8th, 2015. This is the longest time without an accidental fatality since the level crossing programme began in 2010.

Thus, the legacy of the deaths of Olivia and Charlotte in 2005 is that today Britain has the best level crossings safety record of any major railway in Europe, and probably the world.

New York, NY: Feds launch safety review after crossing collision

3 Aug

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has launched a comprehensive, focused safety review of the New York & Atlantic Railway’s (NY&AR) safety culture and management practices. This follows FRA’s launch of an investigation into the July 8th, 2015, train-truck collision at Maspeth Avenue in Queens, New York. NY&AR has committed their full cooperation as the safety review moves forward.

The safety analysis conducted by FRA will review NY&AR’s compliance with federal regulations, its operational practices and its overall safety culture. The safety analysis team will be composed of multiple-discipline safety inspectors from FRA Region 1.

“Rail safety is a responsibility DOT shares with the operators,” said Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. “Railroads must adhere to the strict standards of safety set by FRA, and FRA must ensure and enforce compliance in order to protect lives. This safety review aims to do just that.”

FRA’s rail safety team will look at:

  • NY&AR operating departments;
  • Engineer and conductor certification;
  • Locomotive engineer oversight;
  • Grade crossings diagnostics;
  • Operation control center procedures and rail traffic controller training;
  • Human factors; and
  • Compliance with federal operating practices regulations.

“In this safety sweep of NY&AR, FRA will provide recommendations on specific areas where the railroad must improve to meet the high safety standards FRA and the country expect,” Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg said.

Once the focused safety review is complete, FRA will issue a report that includes findings and recommendations. FRA will also evaluate NY&AR’s follow-up to the recommendations and determine if additional actions are necessary to strengthen safety at NY&AR

USA: Final National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory Reporting Requirements rule published

8 Jan

The January 6th, 2014 Federal Register sets out the final National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory Reporting Requirements rule for which the Federal Railroad Administration is the lead agency.

In summary this final rule requires railroads that operate one or more trains through highway-rail or pathway crossings to submit information to the U.S. DOT National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory about the crossings through which they operate. These amendments, mandated by section 204 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, require railroads to submit information about previously unreported and new highway-rail and pathway crossings to the U.S. DOT National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory and to periodically update existing crossing data.

This final rule is effective March 9th, 2015. Petitions for reconsideration must be received on or before February 25, 2015. Petitions for reconsideration will be posted in the docket for this proceeding. Comments on any submitted petition for reconsideration must be received on or before April 13th, 2015.

Ottawa, ONT: New Canada-wide regulations to improve crossing safety

19 Dec

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, today announced regulations to help prevent accidents and improve railway safety. The new Grade Crossings Regulations establish new safety standards for federally-regulated level crossings. Amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations will help identify and address safety risks proactively.

A grade crossing, also known as a road or level crossing, is where a railway line crosses a road at the same level. Railway companies and road authorities (provinces, municipalities, band councils, and private crossing owners) are all responsible for managing railway crossing safety in Canada. After extensive consultation with stakeholders across the country, the Government of Canada is introducing new Grade Crossings Regulations.

Ms Raitt said “The goal of the new Grade Crossings Regulations is to save lives by providing consistent grade crossing safety standards across Canada, and promoting collaboration between railways and road authorities. The Amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations will also help identify and address safety risks proactively. We continue to work together to make the Canadian railway system one of the safest in the world.”

Under the authority of the Railway Safety Act, these Regulations improve safety by helping to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents, preventing derailments and injuries and saving lives. In particular, the Regulations improve safety by:

  • Providing consistent grade crossing safety standards across Canada;
  • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of railway companies and road authorities; and
  • Improving safety features and promoting collaboration betweenall parties.

These Regulations are results-based, meaning they contain options for bringing a consistent level of safety to each railway crossing in Canada. They will take full effect over the next seven years.

The Government of Canada is also introducing amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations. Under the changes, rail carriers will be required to report leading indicator data to Transport Canada. Leading indicators are measurable factors that can be used to proactively identify and address safety risks. This new requirement will support better planning and performance measurement, more focused audits and inspections, and targeted programs that address specific safety issues.

  • Managing safety at grade crossings requires collaboration between 1,460 municipal and provincial road authorities, 95 Aboriginal bands, 32 railway companies, and many individual private authorities. The Grade Crossings Regulations increase collaboration, require information-sharing, and clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • The Regulations improve safety at federally regulated grade crossings, including approximately 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings along 42,650 kilometres of federally-regulated railway track in Canada.
  • From 2009 to 2013, collisions between vehicles and railway equipment at public and private crossings caused, on average, 26 deaths and 26 serious injuries a year.
  • The Regulations address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Watchlist issue that the “risk of passenger trains colliding with vehicles remains too high in busy rail corridors”.
  • Under the changes to the Transportation Information Regulations, carriers will have to provide leading indicator data in three areas: operations, equipment, and engineering.

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”> 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.

Ottawa, ON: TSB investigation leads to changed procedures

13 Oct

The Transportation Safety Board’s investigation report (R13Q0012) released last week of the May 2013 collision between a VIA Rail train and a tractor-trailer at a private level crossing in Québec, Québec occurred when the train was proceeding through the crossing while the manually controlled barrier protecting the crossing was in the up position.  There were no injuries.

On May 2nd, 2013, a VIA Rail train, was travelling in reverse between Gare du Palais and the Limoilou Yard in Québec.   There were two crew members – the engineer in the lead locomotive, and the in-charge locomotive engineer on the ground, who was supervising the reverse movement. Instructions were being communicated to the locomotive engineer by radio. The collision occurred on the private level crossing leading to the Papiers White Birch paper mill. The last passenger car was damaged and the tractor-trailer was destroyed. About 300 litres of diesel fuel from the tractor-trailer’s fuel tank spilled on the ground.

The investigation found that when the truck started the turn to enter the paper mill, the manual gates at the crossing were up, and the traffic light controlling access to the plant was indicating that traffic could proceed. Noting that another truck had stopped on the paper mill side, the in-charge locomotive engineer concluded that the manual barrier was down, and then informed the operating locomotive engineer that the crossing was protected while it was not. The guard who operates the crossing gates did not immediately recognize the need to lower the gates to protect the crossing, as the view of the train was partially obstructed and the refueling operation had taken less time than usual.

Following the occurrence, VIA Rail Canada Inc. amended its procedures so that trains no longer stop upon exiting Gare du Palais and changed its refuelling point to move it away from the level crossing.. Transport Canada has entered into discussions with the City of Quebec, the Papiers White Birch paper mill and Canadian National to improve the traffic light and crossing protection systems at this location.

The full TSB report can be accessed at: