Railway Crossing

At-grade (or level) railway crossings are the most common type of rail to road intersection.

Level crossings can be dangerous if

  • there is poor sight distance to a signal display, or to approaching trains
  • traffic control is inadequate
  • vehicles queue across tracks due to congestion
  • there are a lack of pedestrian facilities
  • pavement is not maintained
  • signalling equipment is located too close to the road.

    Level crossings can be controlled through either ‘passive' or ‘active' systems. Passive control systems provide warnings through signs and line markings. They do not react to the presence of an approaching train.

    Active traffic control systems warn road users of approaching trains. This warning consists of flashing lights and sounds (combined with static controls such a signs and pavement markings) which are triggered by a train.

    Another level of active control is achieved by placing a barrier between vehicles or pedestrians and trains. This is done with electro-mechanical devices such as pedestrian gates, vehicle boom barriers, used in combination with other active and passive controls.

    Grade separated crossings are the safest form of railway crossing. Grade separation is a very expensive option which involves building either an overpass or underpass to separate the train tracks and the road.

    In other cases, the road may be realigned to improve sight distance at uncontrolled rail crossings.

    • Upgrading level crossings from passive to active control, or grade separating a crossing can dramatically reduce crashes.
    • Coordinating road intersection signals and active rail crossing signals can reduce crashes by preventing queuing across tracks.
    • Some level crossing upgrades improve traffic flow near the crossing.
    • Active control systems do not prevent all crashes. Some drivers will enter a crossing despite being warned that a train is coming.
    • Rail crossing upgrades are expensive. Warning signage changes can be made at low cost, but have limited effectiveness.

    Benefits

    • Upgrading level crossings from passive to active control, or grade separating a crossing can dramatically reduce crashes.
    • Coordinating road intersection signals and active rail crossing signals can reduce crashes by preventing queuing across tracks.
    • Some level crossing upgrades improve traffic flow near the crossing.

    Implementation issues

    • Active control systems do not prevent all crashes. Some drivers will enter a crossing despite being warned that a train is coming.
    • Rail crossing upgrades are expensive. Warning signage changes can be made at low cost, but have limited effectiveness.

    Did you know?

    Where pedestrian fencing is required to control pedestrian movements, it also provides useful guidance for vision impaired pedestrians.

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    Treatment Summary

    Costs
    Medium
    Treatment life
    10 years - 20 years
    Effectiveness
    60% or more