ORR finalises level crossing safety guidance

The Office of Rail and Road has published its guidance for managing level crossing safety on main line and heritage railways.

It follows a consultation in January 2021 which found the rail industry welcomed the focus on managing level crossing risks in a collaborative way, recognising level crossings are the interface between railway and highway. The consultation also highlighted a need for the ORR to clarify its role in relation to level crossings.

Principles for Managing Level Crossing Safety emphasises that risk should be cut via the design of a level crossing or through alternative ways of crossing the railway where this is ‘reasonably practicable’. It also highlights the importance of considering how level crossings are actually used.

Nine principles are published to help users of the guidance consider how to make crossings safe for users, and the same number guides risk control measures for a level crossing from a railway perspective. Five apply to a highways perspective, including preventing road traffic incidents at or near a level crossing. 

The document points out that there are slightly under 5,800 level crossings on the main line railway and another 1,500 on heritage lines – and that level crossing safety has improved in recent years.

A risk-based approach recommended by the regulator ensures cost is considered on safety measures, but it doesn’t specify requirements or solutions. This, it argues, allows a ‘proportionate case-by-case approach’ to be adopted by duty holders.

Illustrative scenarios include a footpath crossing where new warning lights and audible alarms were installed to help users cross due to plans to increase speed and frequency of trains. Another looks at how a heritage railway conducted a risk assessment to identify alternative ways of crossing its tracks, resulting in a new pedestrian bridge and staffing of the level crossing for use by disabled passengers.