Level crossing

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Most crossings in Europe and around the world are marked by some form of saltire (Saint Andrews Cross, or crossbuck) to warn road users about a level crossing and/or about a level crossing with no barriers whatsoever. This cross is on a level crossing in Slovenia.
A level crossing at Hoylake, Merseyside, England, UK with a train passing
A railroad crossing in Abington, Massachusetts, US
A CRH380A train passing Shoupakou level crossing at Beijing, China

A level crossing is an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path, or in rare situations an airport runway, at the same level,[1] as opposed to the railway line crossing over or under using an overpass or tunnel. The term also applies when a light rail line with separate right-of-way or reserved track crosses a road in the same fashion. Other names include railway level crossing,[1] railway crossing (chiefly international), railroad crossing (chiefly North American), grade crossing,[2] road through railroad, criss-cross, train crossing, and RXR (abbreviated).

There are more than 100,000 level crossings in Europe and more than 200,000 in North America.

History[edit]

Level crossing in Senegal (2020)
A railroad crossing at Hanoi, Vietnam, with crossing lights, electric bells, and half-barrier gates in their open position

The history of level crossings depends on the location, but often early level crossings had a flagman in a nearby booth who would, on the approach of a train, wave a red flag or lantern to stop all traffic and clear the tracks. Gated crossings became commonplace in many areas, as they protected the railway from people trespassing and livestock, and they protected the users of the crossing when closed by the signalman/gateman. In the second quarter of the 20th century[citation needed], manual or electrical closable gates that barricaded the roadway started to be introduced, intended to be a complete barrier against intrusion of any road traffic onto the railway. Automatic crossings are now commonplace in some countries as motor vehicles replaced horse-drawn vehicles and the need for animal protection diminished with time. Full, half or no barrier crossings superseded gated crossings, although crossings of older types can still be found in places. In rural regions with sparse traffic, the least expensive type of level crossing to operate is one without flagmen or gates, with only a warning sign posted. This type has been common across North America and in many developing countries.

Some international rules have helped to harmonize level crossing. For instance, the 1968 Vienna Convention states (chapter 3, article 23b) that:

  • "one or two blinking red light indicates a car should stop; if they are yellow the car can pass with caution".[3]
  • Article 27 suggests stop lines at level crossings.
  • Article 33, 34, 35 and 36 are specific to level crossings, because level crossings are recognized as dangerous.
  • Article 35 indicates a cross should exist when there is no barrier or lights.

This has been implemented in many countries, including countries which are not part of the Vienna Convention.

Safety[edit]

Level crossing in Germany with an egg-shaped radar sensor for detecting obstacles on the crossing
A "stop, look, and listen" sign in Britain
A "stop, look, and listen" sign in Argentina

Trains have a much larger mass relative to their braking capability, and thus a far longer braking distance than road vehicles. With rare exceptions, trains do not stop at level crossings and rely on vehicles and pedestrians to clear the tracks in advance.

Level crossings constitute a significant safety concern internationally. On average, each year around 400 people in the European Union[4] and over 300 in the United States[5] are killed in level crossing accidents. Collisions can occur with vehicles as well as pedestrians; pedestrian collisions are more likely to result in a fatality.[6] Among pedestrians, young people (5–19 years), older people (60 years and over) and males are considered to be high risk users.[7]

As far as warning systems for road users are concerned, level crossings either have "passive" protection, in the form of various types of warning signs, or "active" protection, using automatic warning devices such as flashing lights, warning sounds, and barriers or gates.[4] In the 19th century and for much of the 20th, a written sign warning "Stop, look, and listen" (or similar wording) was the sole protection at most level crossings. Today, active protection is widely available, and fewer collisions take place at level crossings with active warning systems.[8] Modern radar sensor systems can detect if level crossings are free of obstructions as trains approach. These improve safety by not lowering crossing barriers that may trap vehicles or pedestrians on the tracks, while signalling trains to brake until the obstruction clears (however, they cannot prevent a vehicle from moving out onto the track once it's far too late for the locomotive to slow even slightly).[9]

At railway stations, a pedestrian level crossing is sometimes provided to allow passengers to reach other platforms in the absence of an underpass or bridge, or for disabled access. Where third rail systems have level crossings, there is a gap in the third rail over the level crossing, but this does not necessarily interrupt the power supply to trains since they may have current collectors on multiple cars.

Source: US Department of Transport.[10] (1 international mile=1 609.344 meters)

Source: Eurostat: The rail accident data are provided to Eurostat by the European Railway Agency (ERA). The ERA manages and is responsible for the entire data collection. The Eurostat data constitute a part of the data collected by ERA and are part of the so-called Common Safety Indicators (CSIs). Note: Since 2010, use of national definitions is no longer permitted: 2010 CSI data represent the first fully harmonized set of figures

  • Source: Eurostat: Annual number of victims by type of accident [rail_ac_catvict] Last update: 09-02-2017
  • Source, Federal Railroad Administration[11]

Traffic signal preemption[edit]

Traffic signal-controlled intersections next to level crossings on at least one of the roads in the intersection usually feature traffic signal preemption.[12] Approaching trains activate a routine where, before the road lights and barriers are activated, all traffic signal phases go to red, except for the signal immediately after the crossing, which turns green (or flashing yellow) to allow traffic on the tracks to clear (in some cases, there are auxiliary traffic signals prior to the railroad crossing which will turn red, keeping new traffic from crossing the tracks. This is in addition to the flashing lights on the crossing barriers). After enough time to clear the crossing, the signal will turn. The crossing lights may begin flashing and the barriers lower immediately, or this might be delayed until after the traffic light turns red.

The operation of a traffic signal, while a train is present, may differ from municipality to municipality. In some areas, all directions will flash red, turning the intersection into an all-way stop. In other areas, the traffic parallel to the railroad track will have a flashing yellow for the duration of the train while the other directions face a flashing red light for the duration of the train. Still in other areas, the traffic parallel to the railroad track will have a green light for the duration of the train while the other directions face a red light for the duration of the train. Further still, in other areas traffic lights can operate relatively normally with only the blocked direction turning red for the duration of the train.

Crossing cameras[edit]

In France, cameras have been installed on some level crossings to obtain images to improve understanding of an incident when a technical investigation occurs.[13]

In England cameras have been installed at some level crossings.[14] · [15]

In Australia, four cameras have been installed at level crossings.[16]

Crossings around the world[edit]

Europe[edit]

There were 108,196 level crossings in the European Union Member States in 2014. On average there are just under 0.5 level crossings per line-kilometres in the EU.[17]

53% of all those level crossings are active level where users are protected from or warned of the approaching train by devices activated when it is unsafe for the user to traverse the crossing.[17] The remaining 47% of level crossings are unprotected.[18] 28% of railway fatalities are from level crossing related incidents.

Number of level crossings in selected UNECE countries
Source UNECE.
[19]
Member country Number of level crossings
Belarus 1,746
Greece 1,263
Poland 12,801
Luxembourg 117
Latvia 652
Lithuania 543
Denmark 1,024

Albania[edit]

In Albania, level crossings are uncommon. Where crossing exist, they typically have red lights and barriers that may be automatic. Many crossings are still manual, but some are automatic and have bells.[where?][quantify][citation needed]


Austria[edit]

Austrian level crossings are similar to German crossings, in that they have either a single or double light, not always with automatic barriers that lower when a train approaches. The crossings with two lights (one amber, one red) are the more modern, replacing old single red light crossings.

Belgian level crossing

Belgium[edit]

Automatic level crossings in Belgium have two red lights, a "moon-white" light, electronic (previously mechanical) bells and (usually) barriers. The white light flashes for half a second at regular intervals to inform drivers and pedestrians that they can cross the level crossing, and that the signal is in working order. In some cases the white light is absent; in that case overtaking on the crossing is not allowed. The bells ring until the barriers are fully lowered and then stop. If barriers are absent the bell continues ringing throughout. They are also in use with two or three lights and without barriers on tramways at De Panne(until 2021), Zwijndrecht, Anderlues, Ghent, and MIVB Line 44 (only here with bells).

At a level crossing, any overhead electric power cables must also cross. This led to a conflict where a mainline railway that crossed one of the country's once extensive interurban tram lines (vicinal, buurtspoorweg/vicinaux) was electrified. In at least one location, this led to the tram overhead being dismantled.[citation needed]

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Bosnia and Herzegovina level crossings uses two red lights in a triangle, much like the crossings in Serbia, Switzerland and Croatia. Crossings without lights or gates uses white target boards.

Croatia[edit]

Croatian level crossings are similar to Slovenian and Bosnian crossings in that the lights are composed of red lights in a triangle. Many crossings are automatic with barriers and bells.

Czech Republic and Slovakia[edit]

Czech Republic
Old system
An older SSSR crossing in Třebíč - Borovina
New system
A modern Czech level crossing in Náměšť nad Oslavou
Level crossing of Slovakia

Level crossings in Czech Republic and Slovakia use a sign on the lights that reads "Pozor Vlak" (Attention – train) to warn people of the crossing. The crossbuck of a Slovak crossing is on a standard sign, while the Czech crossbuck is a cutout sign. The lights are similar to the Belgian crossings in that they have two red lights and sometimes a white light, which means the driver can go up to 50 km/h, rather than 30 km/h, with half barriers. On some crossings, the space for a white light is provided but no light is there, because in newer legislation it is taken as dangerous element that should not be used to positively change drivers' speed. Sometimes a yellow outline surrounds the crossbucks for increased visibility at night. Some of the oldest crossings do not feature lights but do have bells and gates. Some older (though newer than those mentioned, dubbed SSSRs) crossings are in a design similar to American or UK crossings, and feature electromechanical buzzers as opposed to bells. Newer crossings are similar to those of the UK.

More recently,[when?] Slovak legislation has called for the phase-out of the Czech crossing in favor of German counterparts. The newest crossings already feature German bells, lights (though they are in the Czech style as opposed to German) and gates, where they are needed.

Denmark[edit]

Denmark
Danish level crossing sign in Skagen
Active level crossing on Flagbakkevej in Skagen, Denmark

The crossings in Denmark have white and red saltires and crossing lights in the shape of a triangle coloured red, white and blue with a flashing red light in the centre. Most of the equipment is from Dansk Signal Industri but recently Scheidt & Bachmann's crossing equipment has started being used, as well as LED lights and PINTSCH gate mechanisms. Most crossings are only half barrier, and bells stop sounding when gates have lowered on almost all crossings. If the crossing has no gates,[clarification needed] the bells sound until the train has passed. Unprotected crossings have only saltires and sometimes a sign saying "Se Efter Tog" ("Look for train"). Some older guarded crossings do not have the saltires.

Estonia[edit]

Estonia
Gated level crossing in Türi, Estonia
Ungated SSSR level crossing signal in Niitvälja, Estonia

Most protected crossings are equipped with LED-lights. Non-gated crossings have a crossbuck fitted, but gated ones do not. All gated crossings have half-barriers though some are marginally longer than others. Alarms may vary. Many crossings use the same alarm sound used on Polish crossings, very rarely fire alarms, sometimes a simple high pitch beep. Some non-gated crossings have a white flashing light that flashes when the crossing is inactive. In less populated areas crossings are fitted with just a crossbuck and sometimes a stop sign. A few USSR era signals still remain, however due to their obsolescence they are being replaced.

Finland[edit]

Finland
Finnish level crossing in Pori, Finland
Pedestrian crossing on the HaapamäkiJyväskylä track in Finland

In Finland, level crossings with warning lights have the more common red light(s) and a white light that flashes except when the red light(s) flash. Most, but not all, crossings with lights also have barriers. Full-length barriers are usually used only for pedestrian and bicycle lanes. Half-length barriers are used for motor roads, to avoid the risk of a vehicle being trapped on the tracks between the barriers. Bells begin to ring when the red lights start flashing and usually stop when the barriers have come down. Red-and-yellow crossbucks are used on both controlled and Sweden style crossing uncontrolled level crossings. If there are two or more tracks, the lower part of the cross is doubled. Only minor agricultural crossings may have no signs at all. On bigger roads there are usually also approach signs. Finnish level crossings are the sixth safest in Europe.[20] Finland's state railway system has almost 3000 level crossings, according to TraFi.[21] In Finland over the course of railway history many level crossing accidents have occurred, in comparison to Scandinavian countries.[22] In Finland the maximum speed for trains on the rails with level crossings is 140 km/h.[23]

French level crossing

France[edit]

Unprotected right crossing in France, marked by a Saint Andrews Cross

French level crossings usually have automatic half barriers, a single red light on a circle backboard, and bells (11,200 out of 15,300). When the crossing activates, the red light flashes, the bells ring, and the barriers come down. Due to a crash at Allinges in 2008, the law since 2017 allows adding an extra blinking red light when the first red light might not be visible. French level crossings with more than one track have a sign saying "un train peut en cacher un autre" (a train can hide another train).

As of 2016 France has 15,459 level crossings (by comparison, there were 33,500 in 1938 and 25,000 in 1980). Of these, less than 0.4% are on national roads, 31.4% are on departmental roads and 68.2% are on town roads.[24] The high-speed train lines are built with no level crossings, but high-speed trains are also used on conventional railway lines and exposed there to level crossing accidents.

100 crashes occurred at French level crossings in 2015, causing 26 fatalities.[25] Most of these crashes are caused by misuse, e.g., trying to pass as the barriers are down or are closing, in violation of the French traffic code.

German level crossing
German level crossing

Germany[edit]

German crossings use a white cross with red tips as a traffic signal for level crossings. On small branch lines, these can be the only indicator, and are then equivalent to a stop sign. More often they are supplemented by either yellow-and-red-only traffic lights, or a flashing red light on a square backboard with a red and white border that indicates an arriving train, usually in combination with a bell as acoustic warning. Additional indicators like a light signalling "2 Züge" ("2 trains") are rare.

Hungary[edit]

Newest kind of Hungarian railway crossing near Pákozd and Dinnyés at the Lake Velence

In Hungary, level crossings mostly do not have audible tones, and some also do not have lights. Full barriers usually do not have lights, but have an audible warning. Crossings equipped with lights are common. A newer solution is a crossing equipped with half-barriers and LED-lights. A unique type of level crossings in Hungary have a sign saying "10 percen túl is zárva tartható" (can be kept closed for more than 10 minutes).

Ireland[edit]

Irish level crossings are nearly similar to UK level crossings, in that they have a preliminary amber light before the red lights start flashing and the barriers descend. Crossings are the same on the whole island of Ireland, and are either of the old gated variant, or are automatic. Ireland has automatic crossings that have full barriers. The audible alarms are unique to the country.

Isle of Man level crossing

Isle of Man[edit]

Isle of Man level steam railway crossings are based on the variants used in the UK and Ireland, but notable differences is that most crossings use the vertical signals that have red flashing lights on the top and bottom, with the amber preliminary light in the middle with no crossbucks at the crossings. Other crossings that don't have gates or lights, mostly uses a target board sign featuring the crossbucks. On the Manx Electric Railway are the same as in the UK in use. Without barriers. Some crossings have crossbucks only. The Snaefel Electric Railway has only crossbucks.

Italian railway crossing

Italy[edit]

Level crossings in Italy, much as in the rest of Europe, can be manned, unmanned, manual, or automated. In the Italian highway code, level crossings are called passaggi a livello, often abbreviated to "P/L" on road markings. Some level crossings have a sign saying "stop con segnale rosso" (stop on red signal). The crossing can be composed of single or double red lights depending on the type of barriers, mechanical or electrical barriers and, on older ones, a rotating crossbuck.


Level crossing of Latvia

Latvia[edit]

In Latvia, level crossings are similar to the variants used in Estonia and Russia. Protected crossings with gates have crossing gates similar to the ones used in Poland. Crossings without gates have a flashing white light, but some crossings don't have this feature. Alarms that sound varies at different locations; some crossings have audible tones similar that of a car alarm.

Newly refurbished crossings have updated warning lights that are similar to Polish level crossings. The bells at some of these crossings ring faster than the others.

Lithuania[edit]

Level crossings in Lithuania usually have two flashing red lights and sometimes one white flashing light to indicate that the crossing is clear. Many crossings also have barriers. They use signage similar to Russia's.

Following refurbishment at many crossings, new crossings lights similar to the ones in Latvia are used. Others have updated flashing lights with new e-bells that are also used in Germany. Some crossings have been rebuilt to include multiple gates for both road and pedestrian traffic. Newly installed electronic warning signs reading "Atsargiai Traukinys!" (Caution Train!) are also used.

Luxembourg level crossing

Luxembourg[edit]

Luxembourg uses two flashing red lights and double barriers at many level crossings. The alarms and crossing gates are based on the variants used in Germany. Due to the location and terrain, a yellow sign reading "Un train peut en cacher un autre (One train can hide another)" is present at most locations.

Moldova[edit]

Moldova's level crossings are very similar to Russian level crossings, with the two red lights, but, like the Romanian level crossings, have an intermittent white light that flashes when there are no trains approaching and the system is working perfectly. The bells are very loud, just like Russian bells.

Montenegro[edit]

Montenegro's level crossings have lights with a red border, yellow in the middle and two lights at the bottom. They can be gated or ungated. Some may have just an X on them while the others with the lights have an X and a bell. Many crossings over electrified railway lines have height restrictions due to the low cables.

Dutch level crossing

Netherlands[edit]

Most level crossings have half barriers, mechanical or electrical bells, and double (or sometimes single) red lights. The lights flash alternately, as do the ones on the barriers. Those for pedestrians with an active warning system have full barriers. One level crossing in Roermond is operated remotely by staff from a traffic control centre, using cameras; this crossing has full barriers, no bells and has a system to detect a vehicle which has been trapped; in this case the exit barriers are opened. Crossings with little road traffic or little rail traffic have no alarm, just warning signs. There are no level crossings where trains routinely run at over 140 km/h. Most level crossings have a sign saying "wacht" (wait).

Warning lights and bells are activated when the train is about 1 km before the crossing, depending on line speed. 5 seconds later the barriers start closing, which takes about 10 seconds. When the barriers have closed, some bells may stop ringing. Lights and bells are stopped when the barriers have raised again. As passive warning signs there are red and white striped fences, red and white saltires for single tracks (doubled in case of two or more tracks) and sometimes advanced warning signs at 80, 160 and 240 metres.

When there is a station shortly before the level crossing and an intervening signal, the signal may remain red and the crossing kept open until the train approaches the station. The crossing would then close after a delay, allowing the signal to be cleared. There are also level crossings on tram and metro lines. (in Rijswijk on tram 1, and in Utrecht, Nieuwegein, IJsselstein, Rotterdam, open-air museum Arnhem, and on the Heritage tramline Amsterdam-Amstelveen.)

North Macedonia[edit]

Level crossings in North Macedonia look similar to those in Serbia, but are different due to how the lights turn off when both gates shut fully.

Norwegian railway crossing

Norway[edit]

In Norway, level crossings have red and white crosses with a similar light system to German crossings, although the yellow light shines and then the single red light flashes, as do the lights on the barriers.

From 1998 to 2008 the Norwegian National Rail Administration (Jernbaneverket) removed about 1000 level crossings, leaving about 3500 still in use. 160 km/h (99 mph) is the maximum speed for trains over level crossings.[26] In addition, Oslo's and Bergen's tram or light rail systems have some level crossings. Most lines on the Oslo Metro (T-banen) are free of them. Most of the level crossings were removed from the old suburban railways in the western parts of the city, when the lines were upgraded to metro standard, but some crossings are retained on the Holmenkollen Line.

Polish level crossing

Poland[edit]

Poland's level crossings have a red and white pole with two lights. Most crossings have two barriers while others have a single barrier large enough to prevent vehicles from going around. Certain crossings have one light; others have no lights but are equipped with gates. Crossings without gates have crossbucks and, at some locations, a stop sign mounted below the lights.

For safety precautions, level crossing alarms continue to sound until the train has passed through. At other crossings with more than one track, the alarm will continue if more than one train is approaching. Electrical advisory signs are also in place at crossings where overhead lines are present.

The numerous narrow-gauge railway level crossings were and are almost all unguarded. There are usaly only crossbucks. Insofar as these lines still exist, they are museum/heritage lines.[27]

Portugal[edit]

Portugal's level crossings have bells, but most do not have lights. Two alternating flashing lights accompany the barriers, which can be manual or automatic. They also have a sign saying "pare ao sinal vermelho" (stop at the red light). When activated, the bells ring, the lights flash, the barriers come down and the bells continue to ring.

Romania[edit]

In Romania, signalled crossings are only present on lines with BLA (automated line block) or near stations. If it is near a station on a line without BLA, most commonly there will be mechanical barriers controlled by a person. On other lines, if there is at least decent visibility of the line crossings will not be equipped with a semi-barrier. Otherwise, semi-barriers are present at some crossings. Older types will have the mechanism for the semi-barrier but without the semi-barrier itself. On new and modernized lines, at every crossing it is required to have a quad semi-barrier system. Some crossings have mechanical bells, while others have e-bells which use one of two sounds. In Buftea there is a unique crossing which uses a Safetran Type-3 E-Bell sound.

Russian railway crossing

Russia[edit]

Russia's level crossings have one of[clarification needed] the loudest bells. Like U.S. level crossings, Russian crossings have two red lights. They act similarly to U.S. level crossings, but the barriers go slightly up for one second before going down.

Every level crossing with barriers is manned by a crossing keeper, who depending on the crossing type, may operate it, or if it is automatic, ensure its correct operation.

There are three common kinds of crossings in Russia:

  • Unprotected crossing. The minimum protection is an "X" sign. On crossings with more than one track, a boomerang-shaped sign is placed below the X. STOP signs may be provided.
  • Crossing protected by lights only. Two red lights are installed alongside the "X" signs on either side of the crossing. Bells are often provided alongside lights. The crossing sequence is automatically triggered via a track circuit. At many such crossings, an additional white light is provided, which flashes white when the red lights are off, similarly to Czech crossings.
  • Crossing protected by barriers. Where the barriers are and how many of them depend on the crossing layout. Most often, there are two barriers at these crossings, which each only close one lane. Rarely, four barriers may be used. A crossing keeper is appointed to each crossing, who either controls the crossing, or supervises the operation, depending on how the crossing is set up. Lights and bells are commonly provided, though they aren't required. Spare swinging gates are provided, which may be used in case the barriers fail to lower. On busy roads, an additional measure is provided, the "crossing barricades" which open out of the road surface. These prevent drivers from driving around the barriers. If a vehicle is stranded on a crossing, it can drive over the barricade and it will lower under the vehicle's weight. Each rail approach to the crossing has "barrier signals", which consist of 1 red light. By default, they are off. The crossing keeper can turn them on to stop trains in case of an obstruction on the crossing.

Violators of the railway crossing regime will be deprived of their driver's license for one year. At the same time, crossings are monitored by video surveillance cameras with face recognition and car license plates.

Serbia[edit]

There are around 2,790 level crossings in Serbia. These crossings have red triangles with a yellow or white inside and two red lights in the triangle. When a train trips the gate system, the bell and the lights are first activated, then after 10 to 15 seconds the barriers come down. The bell is usually silenced once the barrier is lowered. The crossing barriers are red and yellow, while the crossbucks are either the same colour as the barrier or the background triangle. Unlike neighbouring Croatia and Slovenia, where crossings secured only with lights are fairly common, in Serbia they tend to be the exception; full barrier crossings are also rare, and if these exist, they are still manually operated.

Slovenia[edit]

Railway crossing in Slovenia with barriers, light and sound signaling

In Slovenia, level crossings are similar to Swiss crossings, in that they have a normal warning sign triangle but with two red lights inside it. The crossings have half barriers (mainly) and alarms that sound when a train approaches. The level crossings use bells that alert for about 15 seconds until the locks close. The latest electronically railway crossings to be installed on the Zidani Most-Šentilj line (2021, replacement of old relays) have German warning beeps.

In Slovenia, there are no more old crossings that work in a manual way, for which a special guard is needed.

Spain[edit]

Spanish level crossings have two alternating red lights and sometimes a pedestrian light on the other side of the crossing. When activated, the lights flash, the bells ring and the barriers lower, as the crossing is usually automatic. More rarely, once the barriers have fully lowered, the sound changes. For some level crossings, when the barriers begin to go up, the square light stops flashing. Unlike level crossings in most other countries, the level crossings in Spain activate a long time before the train arrives.

Swedish level crossing

Sweden[edit]

In Sweden there are 8,500 level crossings, according to Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration (formerly Banverket, Swedish Rail Administration). On public roads they have light signals with or without gates. On private roads there are level crossings without signals. Most accidents occur on crossings without gates. For many years there have been activities to reduce the number of accidents, usually by adding gates, or adding light signals if there were none. On the main lines many bridges have been built, and also anywhere a new road or new railway has been built. Still there are some level crossings left on the main lines. A train speed of 200 km/h is allowed in Sweden over level crossings, if there are gates and an obstacle detection unit. This unit detects cars on the track and prevents the gates from closing fully and stops the train. According to Trafikverket, in 15 years there has only been one serious collision between a car and a train on such a level crossing, when a car ran through the gates just in front of the train. Level crossings on electrified lines have a wide sign above the roadway at the barrier line saying "livsfarlig ledning" (dangerous conduit). Some also have a sign saying "se upp för tåg" (beware of trains).[28]

Switzerland[edit]

Swiss railway crossing

Most level crossings in Switzerland have two red lights on the bottom of a triangle backboard, bells, barriers, and sometimes, another smaller triangle with one red light in the middle. When activated, each red light flashes for a third of a second. The bells ring as well. After a few seconds, the barriers come down and the bells stop ringing. Most Swiss crossings are automatic and a few are also on rack railway systems, so they have rising teeth that come out from the ground.

Turkey[edit]

Turkish level crossings have two red lights, alarms, barriers and at most crossings, a large red light displaying "DUR" (stop) which remains lit until the trains have cleared the crossing. Crossings with triangle backboards similar to the ones in Serbia and Switzerland are used but over time, new modern and refurbished crossings that use US-style mechanisms are becoming more common. These crossings have a white crossbuck with red lettering displaying Demıryolu Geçıdı ('railroad crossing'). In addition, a sign similar to the ones in Germany is used if the tracks are electrified with overhead wiring.

Ukraine[edit]

A level crossing in Chop, Ukraine

Level crossings in Ukraine can consist of two red lights and possibly a white light to indicate the crossing is in working order. Barriers can also be included, as well as a vast array of noises that accompany the closure.

United Kingdom[edit]

A level crossing with obstacle detection systems at Pevensey & Westham, East Sussex, England

Level crossings in the United Kingdom started out as manually gated crossings opened by a signalman. These were standard all across the network until mechanised barriers started to be introduced. These could be operated by a signalman adjacent to the crossing or were automatic. After the major Hixon rail crash in 1968, the design of level crossings started to change, and all mechanised crossings had to have a preliminary amber light fitted, which makes UK level crossings one of only a few countries with this design of crossing. More recent advantages in technology have led to more technical automatic crossings, safer open crossings, and crossings with obstacle detection systems to detect stray people or vehicles on the crossing. Today, there are around 6000 level crossings in the UK. This number is being slowly reduced as diversions and bridges are implemented. Where a crossing can't be closed, it will be made safer. Most UK level crossings are footpath and user-worked crossings, and 1 in 5 are on public highways. The majority of these are manually-controlled and monitored by either the adjacent signal-box or another box using CCTV. There are many different types of crossings. Crossings which are automatic and independent from the signalling system (like most standard crossings internationally) have half-barriers. Level crossings were the location of 54 collisions between trains and road vehicles between 2011 and 2018.[29]

The nearly seven and a half thousand level crossings in the United Kingdom[30] can be broadly classified into two types: protected crossings – consisting of warning lights and gates or barriers which prevent crossing when a train is nearby; and unprotected crossings – footpaths, bridleways and user-worked crossing (where the responsibility for ensuring a safe crossing lies on the user).[31] Network Rail, responsible for maintaining most of the crossings, is taking steps to reduce safety risks,[32] for example by closing crossings where possible.[33] There are still old wooden manual gates in use at regular and Heritage railways.

Africa[edit]

Algeria[edit]

Level crossing in Algeria

Algerian level crossings have a single flashing light surrounded with a red frame. The crossing gates and lights are based on crossing equipment used in France. Since most crossing gates have half barriers, trains often blow the horn to deter drivers from going around the barriers.

Crossings that have electrified tracks have arches with signage reading "Danger de Mort" (Danger of Death) and "Haute Tension" (High Voltage), warning drivers and pedestrians to not make contact with the wiring or drive through with oversized vehicles.

Angola[edit]

Level crossings in Angola are the same as the variants used in Portugal, featuring a yellow sign with red text and bells that ring until after the crossing arms are raised.

Benin[edit]

Level crossing in Cotonou, Benin

Level crossings in Benin have railroad bells and lights similar to crossing equipment used in France. Most of these crossings do not have gates and instead, the bells continue to ring until the train has passed.

Botswana[edit]

Botswana uses crossing gates and lights that are based on variants used in Canada and the US. Each crossing uses Czech crossbucks and electronic bells.

Côte d'Ivoire[edit]

Many level crossings in Côte d'Ivoire remain manually operated with only target boards and crossing guards to signal drivers. Plans to modernize the crossings with lights have been announced as of 2018.

Egypt[edit]

Crossings in Egypt that have bells continue to ring for the duration of the gates being lowered. Some crossings around Cairo have multiple lights and alarms. Other level crossings that have been recently refurbished uses crossing equipment and bells that are also utilized in Spain. At most locations, the gates can stay closed for a long while.

To cut down on crossing incidents, the newly installed crossing lights have a arrow indicator between the flashing lights to highlight the direction of any trains. Some crossings also have cameras mounted above the tracks which can lead to issuing fines for drivers that ignore safety rules such as by going around the barriers.

Ghana[edit]

Ghanaian railroad crossings uses gates, lights and crossbucks that are based on the designs of Dutch railroad crossings. Most crossings, however, do not have gates or lights.

Morocco[edit]

In Morocco, many crossings have crossing gates, lights and bells based on the equipment used in France. Other locations have level crossing equipment based on crossings in Spain and Chile.

Nigeria[edit]

A majority of level crossings in Nigeria are manually operated and others do not have gates. Crossing guards are present and signal drivers when trains are approaching.

Yellow crossbucks with black text are used around Nigeria. These crossbucks often resemble the ones used in Australia, while some others are based on crossbucks found in New Zealand.

Senegal[edit]

Most level crossings in Senegal are unguarded. Crossings that have lights and bells are based on the French level crossings. Two variants of crossbucks are used, one that is the target board used by France and others have a red crossbuck with white dashes.

Some crossings that are manually operated use modified stop signs that flash when trains are approaching.

South Africa[edit]

Level crossings in South Africa usually consist of lights and a barrier, though others remain unguarded. All crossings use the same large crossbucks as are used in Czechia and in neighbouring countries.

Due to increased crossing fatalities and accidents over the years, many level crossings have since been replaced with bridges and underpasses.

Tunisia[edit]

Crossings in Tunisia follow the same practices used in France, Morocco and Senegal. As such, warning crossing equipment is based on installations used by the French. However some differences exist as the target boards are black instead of gray and some crossings have a second bell that emits a louder sound when ringing. Other crossings have lights that are raised much higher.

Zimbabwe[edit]

Crossings with lights in Zimbabwe are similar to New Zealand but with the crossbuck placed between the lights. Due to history of vandalism and decline of the economy, many crossing gates and lights remain out of order, though as of 2018, plans are in motion to modernize and refurbish railway infrastructure and signalling.

Zimbabwe crossbucks are often like the crossbucks used in the US, but the sign is yellow instead of white and the centre of the signage has the text moved to the corners of the road sign. Czech-style crossbucks, as used in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, are also present.

North America[edit]

Canada[edit]

Railway crossing in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Public railway crossings in Canada are required by law to be marked by a crossbuck, along with alternating flashing red lights and gate arms on high-traffic roads. Crossbuck signs are white with a red outline and, if the situation warrants, contain a supplemental sign to indicate the number of tracks. Private roads in Canada that cross tracks are marked with either a crossbuck or a stop sign. A large number of public Canadian Pacific Railway level crossings in Ontario do not have a crossing arm but still utilize the crossbuck and alternating flashing lights. The advance-warning sign is a yellow diamond shape with a diagram of a track crossing a straight segment of road (similar to a crossroads sign, except that the horizontal road is replaced by a track). Before changes in regulations mandated bilingual (English and French) or wordless signs, either "railway crossing" or "traverse de chemin de fer" was written on each crossbuck. Lights, gates, and bells are identical to their American counterparts.

There are 22,884 public railroad crossings in Canada in 2018, according to the UNECE.[19]

Mexico[edit]

Mexico has begun to install US-style crossing signals on some of its KCS de México, Ferromex, and Ferrosur rail lines; however, the majority of railroad crossings in Mexico remain unsignalled, marked only with a crossbuck. The crossing devices are very similar to the US models, sporting larger lights. The crossbucks read "Cruce de ferrocarril", "Crucero ferrocarril", or "Cuidado con el tren". The majority of crossings are solar-operated, and the lights flash faster than the US signals. Unfortunately, these devices are easy targets for vandals which steal their components such as gate motors and solar panels. In many cases the gates do not lower due to vandalism or lack of maintenance. In some cases, due to the lack of maintenance, the lights do not turn on at all. The rail companies, which by law are required to maintain the crossing signals, take little to no action in maintaining these devices, and the majority remain unmaintained, posing a threat to drivers.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

The words "Railroad Crossing" normally appear on the crossbuck sign in the US. The road appears to make a turn so that it crosses the railroad at an angle closer to 90 degrees.
Railroad crossing with a cantilever signal in Trout Lake, Michigan

The first US patent for manual/electrical crossing gates was awarded on 27 August 1867, to J. Nason and J. F. Wilson, both of Boston.[34]

There are 209,765 level crossings in the USA in 2018, according to the UNECE.[19]

Crossing identification[edit]

Every crossing, whether above grade, below grade, or at grade, is required to be assigned a unique identifier which is a six-digit number with a trailing letter used as a checksum. This identifier is called a Grade Crossing Number, and is usually posted with a sign or sticker on the sign or equipment. This allows the exact location of a crossing anywhere in the United States to be identified in the event of an incident involving that crossing.

Traffic control devices[edit]

All public crossings in the United States are required to be marked by at least a crossbuck. The 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices requires passive crossings (crossings without actuated flashing lights or gates) to have either stop signs or yield signs in addition to the crossbuck, unless a flagger will stop traffic every time a train approaches. Normally a yield sign is used, unless it is determined that all vehicles should stop at the crossing, such as a location with poor sight distance.[35] All passive crossings must be upgraded to meet this standard by 31 December 2019.[36]

Many modern grade crossings in the US are made with concrete, along with rubber next to the rails. This example is in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

If two or more tracks are found at a crossing, a sign denoting the number of tracks is required. This sign is optional at crossings with a gate.[37]

As traffic on the road crossing or the rail crossing increases, safety features are increased accordingly. More heavily trafficked crossings have "automatic warning devices" (AWDs), with alternately flashing red lights to warn automobile drivers and a bell to warn pedestrians. Additional safety is attained through crossing gates that block automobiles' approach to the tracks when activated. Increasingly, crossings are being fitted with four-quadrant gates to prevent circumventing the gates.[citation needed]

Channelized pedestrian-bicycle crossing in Bellingham, Washington

Operation of a typical AWD-equipped railroad crossing in the United States is as follows:

  • About 30 seconds before arriving at the crossing, the train trips a track circuit near the crossing, triggering the crossing signals. The lights begin to flash alternately, and a bell (or bells) mounted at the crossing begins ringing. After several seconds of flashing lights and ringing bells, the crossing gates (if equipped) begin to lower, which usually takes 5–10 seconds. Some AWDs silence the bell once the gates are fully lowered (typically seen on most Norfolk Southern and CSX crossings); most continue ringing the bells throughout (Union Pacific, BNSF Railway). Some crossings will not sound the bell at all after dark in the case that it is installed near a residential area. The lights continue to flash throughout regardless.
  • About 15–20 seconds before arriving at the crossing, the train begins ringing its bell and sounding its horn in accordance with NORAC rule 14L or GCOR rule 5.8.2(7): two longs, one short, and one long. These are prolonged or repeated until the engine occupies the crossing. If the AWD is equipped with a wayside horn in accordance with FRA Quiet Zone rules, the AWD may provide the whistle signal instead of the train; however, the train is required to ring its bell regardless.
  • After the train has cleared the crossing, the bells (if silenced) may begin ringing again (such as the Florida East Coast Railway), and the gates (if equipped) begin to rise. Once the gates have completely risen back to their fully raised position, all warning signals, including the lights and bells, are suppressed.[citation needed]

Some AWD track circuits are equipped with motion detectors that deactivate the crossing signal if the train stops or slows significantly before arriving at the crossing.[citation needed]

As indicated above, the pattern of the bells at each individual crossing can be different. (These bells should not be confused with the bells that are mounted on the trains.) Generally, the bells follow one of these patterns:

  • The bell begins ringing when the lights begin flashing and stops when the gates have completely lowered.
  • The bell begins ringing when the lights begin flashing and stops when the gates begin to go up following the passing of the train.
  • The bell begins ringing when the lights begin flashing and stops when the gates have completely lowered, and then resumes ringing when the gates begin to go up, until the gates have returned to their original position.
  • The bell begins ringing until the train arrives at the crossing, then resumes as soon as the train exits the crossing; this is used exclusively on the BNSF Racetrack.
  • The final, and most common, practice is for the bells to begin ringing when the lights begin flashing and continue until the gates have gone up after the train passes.[citation needed]

Some level crossings that are located close to intersections with traffic lights program the signals with a preemption sequence so when the approaching train trips the track circuit, it not only activates the crossing signals, but also changes the traffic lights facing the crossing to green, to clear any traffic that may be queued on the crossing. If the intersection's stop line is right before the tracks (typically sharing the crossing's stop line), the track circuits change the traffic lights to red (often without a yellow phase). Some track circuits place the signals into flash mode the entire time the AWDs are active. In cases where railroads share the right of way with vehicular traffic, simple railroad preemption may cause an all-red flash in traffic lights.[38]

A few level crossings still use wigwag signals, which were developed in the early 1900s by the Pacific Electric Railway interurban system in the Los Angeles region to protect its many level crossings. Though now considered to be antiques, around 100 such signals are still in use, almost all on branch lines. By law, these signals must be replaced by the now-standard alternating red lights when they are retired.[citation needed] In 2020 there were only 33 wigwags active.[39] Some remain on heritage lines and in amusement parks.

United States Federal Railroad Administration regulations restrict trains to a maximum speed of 110 mph (177 km/h) at standard grade crossings. Crossings are permitted up to 125 mph (201 km/h) only if an "impenetrable barrier" is in place to block traffic when a train approaches. Crossings are prohibited at speeds in excess of 125 mph (201 km/h).[40]

A track that will run high-speed trains in excess of 120 miles per hour (190 km/h) is[when?] being tested in Illinois between Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri. Here, due to the high speed of the trains, gates that totally prevent road traffic from reaching the tracks are mandatory on all level crossings. Steel mesh nets were tested on some crossings to further prevent collisions, but these were removed because of maintenance issues in 2001.[citation needed]

A device called StopGate was installed at four locations — one in Madison, Wisconsin, another in Monroe, Wisconsin and two on a light rail system in Santa Clara, California.[citation needed] This system resembles a fortified version of a standard crossing gate, with two larger arms blocking the entire width of the roadway and locking into a securing device on the side of the road opposite the gate pivot mechanism. The gate arms are reinforced with high-strength steel cable, which helps the gate absorb the impact of a vehicle crashing into the gate. The manufacturer claims that the StopGate can stop a 2,000-kilogram (4,400 lb) truck within 13 feet (4.0 m).[citation needed] The system worked as intended at the Madison crossing, when the system stopped a truck while a Wisconsin and Southern Railroad train was in the crossing.[citation needed] This experiment ended due many defects. They are now normal level crossings again.

Another new type of barrier was tested in Michigan and was hoped to reduce drivers attempting to drive around lowered crossing gates. The devices are called delineators, consisting of a series of flexible bollards that rise vertically out of vertical tubes in the pavement when the crossing signal is activated. The delineators are designed so that they will not be broken and will not damage vehicles if they are hit, allowing vehicles to exit the level crossing if they are already within it when the gates are activated. The test period for the new barrier began on 5 December 2007, and ran for at least 17 months.[41][42][needs update]

Locomotive equipment[edit]

In the United States and in countries following United States practices, a locomotive must have a bright headlight and ditch lights (two lights located below the headlight but above the pilot), a working bell, and a whistle or horn that must be sounded four times (long-long-short-long), similar to the signal for the International Morse Code letter "Q", as the train approaches the crossing. Oscillating lights such as Mars Lights as well as strobe beacons have also been used in the past to increase train visibility at level crossings, but both have mostly been replaced by the simpler ditch lights.[citation needed]

Quiet zones[edit]

In the interest of noise abatement, some U.S. cities have passed laws prohibiting the sounding of bells and whistles. In December 2003, the Federal Railroad Administration published regulations that would create areas where train horns could be silenced, provided that certain safety measures were put in place, such as concrete barriers preventing drivers from circumventing the gates or automatic whistles (also called wayside horns) mounted at the crossing.[a] Trains would still sound their horns upon spotting a hazard, such as a pedestrian crossing in the path of the train.[43] Implementation of the new "Quiet Zone" Final Rule was delayed repeatedly, but was finally implemented in the summer of 2005. Rail "Quiet Zone" crossings still require bells as part of the AWDs, in addition to the wayside horns.[citation needed]

A Partial Quiet Zone is a rail segment on which Quiet Zone rules are in effect from 10 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. but train horns sound routinely during the day.[44]

Central America[edit]

Costa Rica[edit]

Crossing in Montes de Oca, Costa Rica

Incofer has crossings with crossbucks as in the photo, with the words "Cuidado con el tren" (be careful of the train), as well as crossbucks without lettering, and a normal stop sign (alto). Since most crossings do not have automatic gates, the train has to blow the horn. Some crossings have warning lights.

Cuba[edit]

Cuban crossings are identical to old USSR era crossings; they also feature a US-style crossbuck.

El Salvador[edit]

Railroad crossing sign in El Salvador

If marked at all, the railroad crossing will have a sign marking it. This sign says, "Alto, Mire, Oiga" (Stop, look, listen). There are no gates.

Asia[edit]

Cambodia[edit]

Following ongoing infrastructure improvements and refurbishment, level crossings with flashing lights and alarms were introduced in 2015. Crossings that are manually operated have lights mounted on the barriers.

The newly installed crossing equipment which was firstly introduced in Phnom Penh has double barriers and alarms that continue to sound until the crossing gates are raised.

Chinese railway crossing

China[edit]

Chinese crossings have two red lights and at most crossings, a white light that remains lit when the crossing is clear. Level crossings in China use alarms rather than bells.

Speed up campaigns have largely eliminated many crossings on heavily used trunk main lines though some still do exist. Most at-grade crossings in China are for smaller industrial spur and access lines which may or may not have crossing gates.[citation needed]

Hong Kong[edit]

Most of Hong Kong's railway network is either underground or on elevated viaducts, meaning that level crossings are rare. However, level crossings continue to exist on the MTR Light Rail network, and one such level crossing was the site of a level crossing accident in 1994.[45]

Israel Level Crossing

Israel[edit]

Israel generally follows United States practices, and much of the Israel Railways network employs American-made crossing warning equipment. The crossbucks used, however, are more similar to the Russian type.

India[edit]

Level Crossing India

A majority of the level crossings in India are manually operated.[46] Signals and barriers are installed at all crossings while manual crossings are additionally required to have the hand red and green signal lamps. Indian Railways aims at elimination of all unmanned crossings and replacing them with manned crossings.[47]

Indonesia[edit]

A railway crossing (level crossing) in Brebes, Central Java

Most level crossings in Indonesia have sirens. They also have two red lights (usually) and full barriers in red and white. Level crossings in Indonesia are not all officially operated by the Railway Company; some crossings (usually in rural or village areas) are guarded by civilian volunteers, and are not usually guarded 24 hours.[48] Crossings in cities and urban areas are fully operated by the Railway Company. Usually each level crossing has a small guard room to control the traffic and barriers at the crossing. Official crossings are marked by sirens and red-white (Indonesian flag-like) barriers.

Level crossings in Indonesia tend to be congested by traffic, thus they are not automatic like in Western countries, so level crossing watchmen are usually posted at every crossing; these are employees from the Railway Company. However, Indonesia plans to replace these crossings with automated crossings or overpasses in the aftermaths of the 2013 Bintaro Crash. The Ministry of Transportation bought 11 automated crossing barriers in 2015.[49]

At station Yogyakarta there are still "rolling~gates" in use.

Prior to 2013, there were few major accidents in crossings. On 9 December 2013, a Commuter Line train hit a Pertamina fuel truck stuck in Bintaro crossing (now replaced with a flyover), killing drivers (masinis) and passengers in the front car. On 6 December 2015, a Metromini bus was hit by a Commuter Line train in front of Angke Station, killing 18 passengers of Metromini but doing no damage at all to the train passengers.[50] On 6 April 2018 a Sancaka Train bound for Surabaya hit a container truck near Walikukun Station [id], Ngawi, killing the train driver.[51]

Due to the high death toll of train versus car accidents and severe traffic jam impact, both local and national governments have started to close level crossings, especially in Jakarta. Sometimes crossings are closed due to increase of headway, like the Jatinegara-Bekasi track that only leaves 3 from 7 unclosed posts. Numerous underpasses and flyovers have been created, and later the nearby roads are closed; for example, the replacement of 2013 crash site in Bintaro, South Jakarta with a flyover.[52] Crossings in national highways are in the process of permanent closing due to high traffic; for example, the Klonengan crossing in Brebes, located in the main access to Purwokerto city.[53]

Japanese level crossing

Japan[edit]

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, there are in total about 33,300 level crossings (踏切, fumikiri) in Japan as of 2016.[54] These are easily identifiable with their yellow and black crossbucks mounted adjacent to the crossing, and newer crossings are often paved in green asphalt for easy recognition. Most of these are protected with electronic signals (踏切警報機, fumikiri keihouki) usually equipped with alternating flashing red lights and yellow-and-black-striped barriers. Many signals are also equipped with signs with red LED arrows that indicate the direction of approaching trains.

Similarly to school buses in the United States, but unlike many other countries, all cars and bicycles must stop before proceeding over any level crossing in Japan, regardless of whether there are electronic signals, as required by the Road Traffic Act. The only exception is if the crossing is additionally controlled by a traffic light, called a fumikiri shingo (踏切信号); in this case, if the light is green, it is not necessary to stop at the level crossing.[55][failed verification]

On some busy rail lines, especially in urban areas like in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, so many trains pass through some level crossings that they are almost always closed to vehicular traffic. In some cases, such as the Chūō Main Line, more than 50 trains pass in an hour, which equates to only two minutes in which vehicles can cross the tracks during that interval, causing serious traffic congestion and inconvenience. Many such crossings, known in Japanese as akazu no fumikiri (開かずの踏切), have been eliminated by grade separating rail lines, generally by moving them onto viaducts (高架化 (kouka-ka)) or underground tracks (地下化 (chika-ka)).

Malaysian railway crossing

Malaysia[edit]

Level crossings are largely manually operated, where the barriers are lowered using a manual switch when trains approach. A significant number of crossings are without barriers. Railway electrification in Malaysia has gradually eliminated level crossings in Peninsular Malaysia, replacing those along nearly all upgraded lines with large overhead viaducts or deep tunnels, and simply cutting off non-essential crossings outright. There are still many level crossings on the Johor Bahru-Gemas-Tumpat stretch, as well as on the line between Port Klang - Westport (Pulau Indah), as electrification has yet to be extended to these routes.

Mongolia[edit]

In Mongolia, level crossings are much similar to the ones used in Russia; featuring loud audible bells that continues to ring after the gates have been lowered and road barriers that rise to fully stop traffic.

In addition, voice alarms have been installed to deter stopped drivers from moving until the train[s] have passed.

Myanmar (Burma)[edit]

Myanmar level crossings follow the practices of level crossings in Japan. Therefore, crossings gates and lights have the same characteristics and functions of Japanese crossings with indicators of which direction the trains are heading. Other crossings around Myanmar still remain manually operated but have warning lights and bells.

Pakistan[edit]

Most level crossings in Pakistan feature manually controlled swinging gates. Crossing keepers may allow emergency vehicles such as ambulances to pass through the closed gates during emergencies.

Recently, new crossing lights have been installed which flash after the gates have been closed with some having a third light. Other crossings have recently installed lights similar to the ones used in China, featuring a non-flashing yellow light and two red lights. The red lights flash when the gates are closing. After closing, the lights stay lit until the train is cleared of the crossing, flashing again as the gates reopen. These lights also have a 2nd train sign that turns on if another train is approaching.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Saudi Arabia uses crossing gates with two red lights that remain lit when active. These gates are similar to the ones in the United States but also utilize crossing arms and bells that are used in Germany. Yellow target boards featuring a US style crossbuck are used, as old red and white crossbucks are being phased out.

Singapore[edit]

Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) are built with no level crossings; most of the railway network are either underground or elevated.

The Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway in Singapore had five level crossings: Gombak, Bukit Panjang, Stagmont Ring, Mandai and Kranji. All were manually operated by KTM railway staff. The crossings at Gombak Drive and Kranji Road featured gates, while the other three crossings utilized traffic lights with half-barriers. The level crossings were removed along with the railway tracks when KTM relocated from Tanjong Pagar railway station to Woodlands Train Checkpoint in 2011.

Sri Lanka[edit]

Most level crossings in Sri Lanka have two lights that flash slowly. Some crossings don't have lights but still have bells and gates. The bells continue to sound when the gates are lowered. New crossing lights have a third light that works similar to those in China and Pakistan; remaining lit when the crossing is clear.

Syria[edit]

In Syria, gates and lights used at level crossings are identical to the ones used in Romania but follows similar design practices that is used in Germany. Both sides of the road has warning lights and gates that fully blocks traffic when lowered. Crossbucks are mounted between the flashing lights and the bells continue to ring when active.

Taiwanese railway crossing

Taiwan[edit]

As most railways in Taiwan were built during Japanese administration, railway level crossings remain very common and generally built to the same design as Japan, though many urban crossings have been eliminated when the railroads have been moved underground, e.g. segments of the West Coast Line in Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, or moved elevated, or has converted to cubic crossing with road, or abolished, e.g. the former TRA Tamsui Line that is now the Taipei Metro Tamsui Line without any level crossings.

The Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例) prescribes fines for drivers and pedestrians who commit certain classes of violations in regards to level crossings; these include disobeying flagmen, insisting to cross while a crossing's signals are active or when the gate is being lowered, crossing a passive crossing without stopping beforehand, and overtaking, making a U-turn, backing up, stopping or parking on a railway level crossing in a vehicle. Pedestrians can be fined 2,400 new Taiwan dollars for a violation, drivers of non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles can be fined between 1,200 and 2,400 dollars, and drivers of motor vehicles can be fined up to 15,000 to 90,000 new Taiwan dollars for a violation. If an accident occurs, the driver's license can also be revoked for a minimum of six years, and drivers can also face legal responsibility and compensation of damages.

Accidents at railway level crossings remain a very serious concern, such as when a truck entered a level crossing and collided with the Taroko Express in Jan 17, 2012. The Taiwan Railway Administration alone has hundreds of level crossings along its routes of slightly more than 1,100 kilometres (680 mi). On average, there is a level crossing each 2 kilometres (1.2 mi).[56][57] An emergency button is installed on every level crossing in the country, allowing members of the public to report emergencies at a crossing to authorities, such as stalled vehicles or other obstacles.[58]

Thailand[edit]

Thailand crossings have two flashing lights that slowly flash, and are also equipped with alarms. Each crossing that has gates has two yellow-orange strobe lights for better visibility when the gates are active. Most crossings have large flexible gates that fully block traffic from going around but other locations may use shorter gate arms. At many locations, the alarm continues to sound for the duration of the gates being closed but at other crossings, the alarm only sounds when the gates are closing and opening.

As of 2016, the Thai rail network has 2,624 level crossings nationwide. Many have no crossing barriers, making them frequent sites of accidents.[59] Some level crossings are manually operated, wherein the barriers are lowered using a manual switch when trains approach. There were/are still "roller-gates" in use, but these are increasingly being replaced by heavy barriers. Sometimes they are still available as a reserve. Previously there were also a system where a cable came down the road, with red and white signs on it.

United Arab Emirates[edit]

The United Arab Emirates uses crossings that are much more similar to those in the United States, but like in Saudi Arabia, these lights stay lit rather than flashing. UAE crossings have railroad crossing signs on black target boards.

Vietnamese guarded railroad crossing

Vietnam[edit]

Vietnamese railroad crossing signals with lights & gates, and a 'stop, look for trains before crossing the track' sign below

All railroad crossing signs in Vietnam are based on the Russian Federation crossing signs with white crossbuck and red border (St. Andrew crossbuck), crossing each other at a 45-degree angle.

  • Devices and signaling arranged at horizontal lines
    • Guarded crossroads: barrier or shields, signal lights, electric bells, signboards, marker poles, fences, road markings on roads, railroad roadside signals (if any), and other signaling devices when permitted by competent authorities;
    • Automatic warning crossings: signal lights, electric bells, signboards, marker posts or fences, with or without automatic barrier, road markings on road, and other signaling devices when possible authorized level;
    • Roads across the crossing: signboards, marker posts or fences, road markings, and other signaling devices when so permitted by competent authorities.
  • Signal and equipment systems arranged at crossroads to ensure traffic safety and prevent accidents. All organizations and individuals must be responsible for protecting, not arbitrarily moving, appropriating, damaging or reducing the effectiveness and effect of the systems.[60]

In Vietnam, there are still "roller~barriers/gates" in use, either electric or manual.

An extremely long level crossing is in Ho Chi Minh City, near Gò Vấp station, crossing Phạm Văn Đồng Street.[61] The track crosses about twelve carriageways. There are 8 barriers and 2 very long roller-barriers/gates that must be pushed into place.

Oceania[edit]

Australian level crossing

Australia[edit]

A railway crossing in Torbanlea, Queensland, Australia

Australian railways generally follow United States practices, and they have increasingly been employing American-made crossing warning equipment, such as level crossing predictors, which are able to provide a consistent amount of warning time for trains of widely varying speeds. There are many different types of rail crossings in Australia; railways that run through rural areas often do not have barriers or even lights/bells to warn of incoming trains, while urban crossings will either have lights and bells or lights, bells, and boom gates.

In Melbourne, there are several level crossings where electrified train tracks cross roads with electrified tram tracks. These crossings are fitted with equipment to change the voltage supplied to the overhead wiring depending on the vehicle using the crossing at that point in time, and trains are severely speed-limited across these intersections. Due partly to this complication, as well as recent deaths, accidents and traffic problems at level crossings, the Victorian Government is removing 50 of Melbourne's most dangerous and congested level crossings. The 50 removals are due to complete by 2022,[62] with a further pledge from Premier Daniel Andrews to remove an additional 25 if re-elected at the 2018 state election.[63]

All cases where a train line crosses a road are classified as level crossings whether or not they are signed. A tram track in its own right-of-way crossing a road can also be classified as a level crossing if it is signed with a crossbuck reading either "TRAM WAY CROSSING" or "RAIL WAY CROSSING". Otherwise, it is considered a regular intersection and usually has either traffic lights or a give way sign facing the road (see Gallery).

Some recent innovations in Australia are to provide crossbucks with a pair of flashing yellow lights at about 200 metres (660 ft) before the level crossing, called Advance Active Warning Signals (AAWS). This is done particularly where there are curves and other visibility problems on the road. AAWS are used where road speeds are high, and braking distances are extended, or where the level crossing is obscured by blind curves or sunlight. Another innovation is to transmit level crossing warning signals by radio into the cabin of nearby vehicles. This would be particularly useful at passive crossings, which are not yet fitted with flashing lights.[64][65]

In areas subject to the Advanced Train Management System (ETMS), level crossings are controlled by satellite down links, and supervised by satellite up links.

Australia also has about 4000 km. sugar-cane narrow-gauge railroads. Many level crossings on these lines are protected with the regular red railroad warning lights and crossbucks, often supplemented by a red flashing light on top of the pole. But no barriers.

Railroad crossing of New Zealand

New Zealand[edit]

There were (in 2012) 1390 public road level crossings in New Zealand, of which 275 crossings are protected by flashing red lights, bells, and half-arm barriers; and 421 are protected by flashing red lights and bells only. The remainder are controlled by "Stop and Give Way" signs.[66] Level crossings are the responsibility of rail infrastructure owner KiwiRail Network, the NZ Transport Agency, and if the crossing is on a local road, the local city or district council.

On the Taieri Gorge Railway in rural South Island, roads and railways share the same bridge when crossing a river, with the rail line in the road. Motorists, as well as giving way to oncoming traffic if required (the bridges have one lane) must ensure that the bridge is clear of a train, end to end, before starting to cross the bridge. For safety, trains are limited to 10 km/h (6 mph) while crossing the bridges.

In many parts of New Zealand, railway lines run parallel to and close (within 10–15 metres [33–49 ft]) to roads. Many level crossing accidents have been caused by drivers turning right into side roads crossing the railway line concentrating on finding a suitable gap in oncoming traffic so that they fail to check the railway line or notice the activated level crossing alarms until it is too late to stop. An accident of this type occurred in August 1993 at Rolleston, near Christchurch, when a cement mixer truck turned right off State Highway 1 and collided with the side of a southbound Southerner passenger train, ripping open two carriages. The accident resulted in three deaths, including the sister of New Zealand international cricketer Chris Cairns.

In 2019, KiwiRail changed the rate of flashing lights at level crossings from 85 fpm (flashes per minute) to the standard laid down by the "American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association" of 50 fpm so that a new order for level crossing equipment did not have non-standard requirements.[67]

Major accidents[edit]

Amtrak train wreck in Bourbonnais, Illinois (US) in 1999 was attributed to a malfunction of the warning signals, with fatigue of the driver of a semi truck as a contributing factor.

Level crossings present a significant risk of collisions between trains and road vehicles. This list is not a definitive list of the world's worst accidents and the events listed are limited to those where a separate article describes the event in question.

Accident Deaths Country Year Ref.
Langenweddingen level crossing disaster 94 East Germany 1967 [citation needed]
Amritsar train disaster 58 India 2018
Nagpur level crossing disaster 55 India 2005 [68]
Manfalut train accident 51 Egypt 2012 [69]
San Justo level crossing tragedy 48 Argentina 1984
Marhanets train and bus collision 45 Ukraine 2010 [70]
San Isidro level crossing disaster 44 Argentina 1948
Villa Soldati level crossing tragedy 42 Argentina 1962
Polgahawela level crossing accident 35 Sri Lanka 2005 [citation needed]
Dorion level crossing accident 19 Canada 1966 [citation needed]
2009 Slovak coach and train collision 12 Slovakia 2009 [71]
Flores rail crash 11 Argentina 2011 [72][73]
Bourbonnais train accident 11 United States 1999 [74]
Hixon rail crash 11 United Kingdom 1968 [75]
Kerang rail accident 11 Australia 2007 [76]
Glendale train crash 11 United States 2005 [77]
Lockington rail crash 9 United Kingdom 1986 [78]
Fox River Grove level crossing accident 7 United States 1995 [79]
Ufton Nervet rail crash 7 United Kingdom 2004 [80]
Ottawa bus–train crash 6 Canada 2013 [81]
Valhalla train crash 6 United States 2015 [82]
Gerogery level crossing accident 5 Australia 2001 [83]
Nosaby level crossing disaster 2 Sweden 2004

Runway crossings[edit]

Road crossing of (Shetland) A970 with Sumburgh Airport's runway. The movable barrier closes when aircraft land or take off.
The French sign warning of plane movements on or near the ground was changed in 1977 to comply with the Vienna convention.

Aircraft runways sometimes cross roads or rail lines, and require signaling to avoid collisions.

Australia[edit]

  • Kingsford Smith Airport had a runway crossing, when that runway was extended. The railway was later deviated with sharp curves to avoid that runway.[dubious ]
  • Cootamundra West, while not having an actual runway crossing, had extra low signals and telegraph wires at the railway station to improve safety for low flying aircraft landing or taking off.[84]

Gibraltar[edit]

Intersection in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar

Winston Churchill Avenue intersects the runway of Gibraltar International Airport at surface level; movable barricades close when aircraft land or take off.

New Zealand[edit]

A level crossing near Gisborne, sees the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line cross one of Gisborne Airport's runways. Aircraft landing on sealed 1310-metre runway 14L/32R are signalled with two red flashing lights on either side of the runway and a horizontal bar of flashing red lights to indicate the runway south of the railway line is closed, and may only land on the 866 metres (2,841 ft) section of the runway north of the railway line. When the full length of the runway is open, a vertical bar of green lights signal to the aircraft, with regular rail signals on either side of the runway indicating trains to stop.[85][86]

Nicaragua[edit]

The runway of Ometepe Airport crosses the highway NIC-64.

Sweden[edit]

The Visby Lärbro Line between Visby and Lärbro crossed the runway of Visby Airport between 1956 and 1960.[87]

United Kingdom[edit]

  • Northern Ireland: There was a runway crossing on the Belfast–Derry railway line. The runway was interlocked with conventional railway block instruments to the control tower.
  • Scotland: Road crossing of (Shetland) A970 with Sumburgh Airport's runway.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wayside horns are sets of speakers that are mounted on a pole and directed at the crossing, which reduces noise pollution to nearby neighborhoods

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Level crossings at Wikimedia Commons