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Orr Updates Guidance to Improve Safety at Level Crossings

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

The UK's rail regulator has proposed simpler and more accessible guidance on level crossing safety to improve risk assessments and provide practical advice on how to identify and manage risks that affect the safety of people who use them.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) plans to move away from the current, more prescriptive guidance and aims to give the rail industry, traffic authorities and local authorities greater confidence in putting forward innovative designs to reduce risks on Britain's 7,300 level crossings.

Draft proposals in the new Principles for managing level crossing safety focuses on the need to consider how level crossings are actually used and encourages a whole system approach by considering the user, railway and highway.

The principles also emphasise the importance of collaboration to remove and manage risks and explains how cost benefit analysis can be used in decision making to allow for consideration of all relevant costs and benefits. Real-life examples will be added to further illustrate good practice.

Two years ago, Network Rail, which owns most of the UK's rail network, was fined £200,000 after a signalman suffered life-changing injuries at a level crossing.

In 2016, the company was fined £4 million after a member of the public was hit by a train travelling almost 100 mph.

Noting that every level crossing is different and risk assessments should take account of the circumstances of each one, Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said the previous guidance did not set standards, but did describe methods of operation, and as such has been perceived as setting requirements for level crossing design. "We wanted to change that and these new principles better empower industry to make informed decisions about crossings,' he added. 'These new principles will support a focus on continued improvement in level crossing risk management."

The draft principles are available to read here.

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