Author Topic: Level Crossings  (Read 2531 times)

Level Crossings
« on: February 05, 2020, 08:51:37 am »
So, there's a Level Crossing on one of my cycle commuting routes.

The barriers came down as I approached it last night, no problem. But then I stood there, getting cold for 9.5 minutes waiting for 3x Trains to pass. What was galling was that it was 1 train 45s to a minute after the barrier came down, then about a 7 minute wait for the next 2 in quick succession.

This pause in my ride gave me alot of time to think - I have come to the conclusion that Level Crossing barrier timings are stuck in a never-ending feedback loop.

- People get hit on crossings because they are stupid.
- Install barriers.
- People try to squeak through a closing barrier and get stuck (and perhaps struck)
- Adopt more conservative barrier timings to build in a reaction time in case of trouble
- More conservative barrier timing causes people to try and squeak through even more, knowing they'll wait for an eternity.
- Even more conservative barrier timing.
- Repeat ad nauseum
-
-
-

The extra kicker at this particular crossing is that, just after the crossing is a pinch-point over an old bridge. The traffic was so backed up on the other side that my direction crosses the LC then immediatley stops to to give away (as instructed by the signs) to the other direction, leaving some poor sods stationary on the tracks.

Anyway, in the age of 'smart' systems, surely barrier timings could be tidied up a bit. They know exactly where each train is and how fast it's going. Hardly rocket surgery.

/moan

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2020, 09:40:18 am »
The one at Mortlake (https://goo.gl/maps/tgMEEK9ac95DneLA8) has the extra problems of:-
a) being on a trainline where there are ~10 trains an hour each way
b) being right next to the station, so the barriers have to be down when a London bound train comes into the station all the time until it pulls away and has passed (just in case it overshoots the platform when stopping)

Luckily bikes (and pedestrains[1]) can use the stairs to cross as they're right next to the road and not the wrong side of the ticket barriers.

I've also saved some time at, umm, Elsenham station on one of the 'Uts audaxes by using the stairs but that's because the barriers are manually operated and so you can ask the person how long it's going to be and whether it's worth lugging the bike up/down the equivalent of 3 flights of stairs.

The extra kicker at this particular crossing is that, just after the crossing is a pinch-point over an old bridge. The traffic was so backed up on the other side that my direction crosses the LC then immediatley stops to to give away (as instructed by the signs) to the other direction, leaving some poor sods stationary on the tracks.

There's simply no excuse (except stupidity) for being left on the tracks. There's either space to move in to the other side of the tracks or not. Unless I'm missing something with your description. Streetview link?

1. Typo left in as I like it.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2020, 10:03:10 am »

There's simply no excuse (except stupidity) for being left on the tracks. There's either space to move in to the other side of the tracks or not. Unless I'm missing something with your description. Streetview link?

1. Typo left in as I like it.

Sure: https://goo.gl/maps/UHVrTXAuRBVrhZ1s5

Unlike your example, it's not a particually busy place, but this was at kicking out time and there is a converted barn/office on the other side of the tracks who all leave at the same time it seems, so there was solid traffic coming the other way, all desperate to get across so weren't yeilding to any of us. (there's no priority signs in the SV image, so maybe i imagined it)

The google SV cam is quite high so flattens the profile of the hump in the road, so it leaves a hidden dip. Over the other side, theres room for about 3 cars before the pinch point, the queue that formed must have been around 10.  So as soon as you're going, you're stopping again. Quite easy to get caught out, I'd think.

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2020, 10:09:31 am »
A few years ago I was approaching the level crossing by a station in a nearby town, and the barriers descended.  As I came within sight of the gantry-mounted camera, they went up again, and came down just after I passed.  I gave a friendly wave to the camera.

The camera has gone now and it all seems to be totally automated.

There was a news item a few weeks ago about a crossing where the timings were wrongly set so that the last car passing was almost under the approaching train.  You might be able to find the slightly scary video on the BBC news website.

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2020, 11:27:21 am »
The timing of barriers has nothing to do with road traffic. They’re closed ages in advance so the signalling can be “cleared” far enough in advance that the trains can run at full speed on approach without having to slow down to prepare to stop.

Anyway, in the age of 'smart' systems, surely barrier timings could be tidied up a bit. They know exactly where each train is and how fast it's going. Hardly rocket surgery.

A surprisingly large number of trains still run on “somewhere between signal box A and signal box B” principles. Only one line in the UK has “smart” signalling, which was converted as a test a decade ago. No more have been done since.

Keeping track of trains up to a failsafe, safety critical standard *is* apparently rocket surgery.

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2020, 11:35:22 am »
Thanks for the info.  :thumbsup:

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2020, 11:42:21 am »
Sure: https://goo.gl/maps/UHVrTXAuRBVrhZ1s5

Unlike your example, it's not a particually busy place, but this was at kicking out time and there is a converted barn/office on the other side of the tracks who all leave at the same time it seems, so there was solid traffic coming the other way, all desperate to get across so weren't yeilding to any of us. (there's no priority signs in the SV image, so maybe i imagined it)

The google SV cam is quite high so flattens the profile of the hump in the road, so it leaves a hidden dip. Over the other side, theres room for about 3 cars before the pinch point, the queue that formed must have been around 10.  So as soon as you're going, you're stopping again. Quite easy to get caught out, I'd think.

Just sounds like people aren't following HWC Rule 291 properly:-

"
Rule 291

A level crossing is where a road crosses a railway or tramway line. Approach and cross it with care. Never drive onto a crossing until the road is clear on the other side and do not get too close to the car in front. Never stop or park on, or near, a crossing.
"

If you can't see the road the other side of the barriers isn't clear enough for you to get past the far barriers then you don't go. If someone just blindly follows the car in front then they're an idiot.

There may be a dip but I doubt it's big enough not to be able to see the back of the vehicle in front and whether there's enough space between the barriers and it. If it's not obvious then don't go. Anyway.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2020, 12:09:44 pm »
It's sadly not uncommon to see cars waiting on the tracks to turn onto the A22 on the crossing near where I live. They seem to assume the queue will move before a train comes or they simply drive out onto the other side of the road to escape. There are eight trains going through an hour.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2020, 01:54:30 pm »
The timing of barriers has nothing to do with road traffic. They’re closed ages in advance so the signalling can be “cleared” far enough in advance that the trains can run at full speed on approach without having to slow down to prepare to stop.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-50688515

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2020, 10:07:54 am »
The traffic was so backed up on the other side that my direction crosses the LC then immediatley stops to to give away (as instructed by the signs) to the other direction, leaving some poor sods stationary on the tracks.
Level crossings should be treated as box junctions. Do not enter them until you can see there is sufficient space beyond the far barrier for your vehicle. In fact, I'm sure some of them used to be painted as yellow box junctions.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2020, 10:47:14 am »
The timing of barriers has nothing to do with road traffic. They’re closed ages in advance so the signalling can be “cleared” far enough in advance that the trains can run at full speed on approach without having to slow down to prepare to stop.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-50688515

Quote
In a report the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the barriers were lowered until the train was about 200 metres from the crossing.

"The barriers then lifted, the level crossing warning lights went out and cars began to cross the railway.
Green light problem, ie interpreting a green light (in this case the opened barriers) as meaning "GO!" rather than "Go if your way is clear." Either that or people did look, see the train 200m away and ignore it.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2020, 11:08:08 am »
The traffic was so backed up on the other side that my direction crosses the LC then immediatley stops to to give away (as instructed by the signs) to the other direction, leaving some poor sods stationary on the tracks.
Level crossings should be treated as box junctions. Do not enter them until you can see there is sufficient space beyond the far barrier for your vehicle. In fact, I'm sure some of them used to be painted as yellow box junctions.

Ours is painted as a box junction, but everyone in the UK ignores box junctions.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2020, 02:08:40 pm »
The traffic was so backed up on the other side that my direction crosses the LC then immediatley stops to to give away (as instructed by the signs) to the other direction, leaving some poor sods stationary on the tracks.
Level crossings should be treated as box junctions. Do not enter them until you can see there is sufficient space beyond the far barrier for your vehicle. In fact, I'm sure some of them used to be painted as yellow box junctions.
Presumably not treated in the manner with which most people actually treat box junctions...

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2020, 02:26:01 pm »
Green light problem, ie interpreting a green light (in this case the opened barriers) as meaning "GO!" rather than "Go if your way is clear." Either that or people did look, see the train 200m away and ignore it.

There’s no requirement to look out for or give way to trains on a level crossing*. Very few have the sight lines that would enable that.

If the lights are off and the barriers are open, you may go. On the very rare occasions when a train does cross during that time, it’s a failure of the railway and no one else.

(* unless it’s one of the few with no lights or barriers)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2020, 03:14:45 pm »
Green light problem, ie interpreting a green light (in this case the opened barriers) as meaning "GO!" rather than "Go if your way is clear." Either that or people did look, see the train 200m away and ignore it.

There’s no requirement to look out for or give way to trains on a level crossing*. Very few have the sight lines that would enable that.

If the lights are off and the barriers are open, you may go. On the very rare occasions when a train does cross during that time, it’s a failure of the railway and no one else.

(* unless it’s one of the few with no lights or barriers)
True, but in this particular case the barriers had just lifted and the train was only 200m away.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2020, 03:17:25 pm »
This thread does give a sense of why Network Rail are keen to get rid of all level crossings. I don't suppose they'll ever manage that and if they do, people will probably find other ways to do stupid things on railways.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2020, 03:38:29 pm »
Getting rid of level crossings is a nightmare for those who can't do stairs.

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2020, 04:21:35 pm »
In fact, I'm sure some of them used to be painted as yellow box junctions.

Yep, I think the one in the centre of Chichester was - and that was another that was hard up to the end of the platforms.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2020, 04:30:11 pm »
This thread does give a sense of why Network Rail are keen to get rid of all level crossings. I don't suppose they'll ever manage that and if they do, people will probably find other ways to do stupid things on railways.

Not only level crossings. In Aylesbury there was for years an ungated pedestrian / cycle accessible crossing that saved about a half mile walk to some local shops. There was another directly behind the main station as well.  Both closed in the last 5 years for safety reasons (some very near misses) despite being public footpaths. Neither has been replaced with a footbridge, which would at least have kept pedestrian traffic open.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2020, 04:40:03 pm »
We had a level crossing in witham that crosses the main line from Liverpool Street to Norwich replaced with a bridge a few years ago. There had been fatalities there. However due to it being a bridleway it's been made with steps and a slope so in theory a horse could be ridden over. I doubt one ever will but can easily be cycled up. Thing is it looks to have cost around 2.5 million pounds so a substantial investment when no cars can access it.

The old crossing had gates for vehicles but can't recall if they were locked shut

ian

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Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2020, 04:44:59 pm »
This thread does give a sense of why Network Rail are keen to get rid of all level crossings. I don't suppose they'll ever manage that and if they do, people will probably find other ways to do stupid things on railways.

Not only level crossings. In Aylesbury there was for years an ungated pedestrian / cycle accessible crossing that saved about a half mile walk to some local shops. There was another directly behind the main station as well.  Both closed in the last 5 years for safety reasons (some very near misses) despite being public footpaths. Neither has been replaced with a footbridge, which would at least have kept pedestrian traffic open.

Seems to be happening in the countryside too – there's a footpath crossing near Uckfield that closed a good few years back because, as far as we could tell (yeah, we ignored the signs), there was one broken step on the steep slope down to the track. It may have re-opened since, but I think the last time we went that way, it was still closed (I think everyone habitually ignores these things, given the alternatives are cryptic and involve significant detours that will delay beer o'clock or leave you stumbling around a field by torchlight).

They're only really dangerous, in most cases, to people whom I assume are drunk and/or stupid.
!nataS pihsroW

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2020, 05:46:06 pm »
Footpath crossings are included in level crossings. Network Rail have a classification of umpty types according to what traffic crosses them, who owns it (some are privately owned, they're not all rights of way) and how it's operated (which includes "user operated").
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2020, 06:12:41 pm »
They're only really dangerous, in most cases, to people whom I assume are drunk and/or stupid.

No, just human.

It sounds like you need to take up the relaxing Sunday afternoon hobby of reading rail accident reports*. It turns out humans are terrible at judging the speed of trains heading straight for them, or how long they need to cross, and that you need ridiculously long minimum sight lines for the fastest trains, which is inevitably encroached on by vegetation, and that un train peut en cacher un autre.

Add in that crossings are either used by people who've never encountered them before and don't know the risks, or by people who use them every day and no longer take as much care as maybe they should.

You then need lots of signs explaining all this, but too many signs leads to clutter that everybody ignores.

And that's when you decide the only solution is to close them all.

(* and imagining the same applied to every near miss on the road)

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #23 on: February 06, 2020, 08:05:22 pm »
There are loads of both ped level crossings and crossings on private land round here, used operated. We also had one in Castle Donnington when I lived there, a good back way out when monsters of rock had the place logjammed.

I can only remember ever hearing of one accident on one of those. Perhaps people are just more careful if they are needing g to take the decision on their risk themselves.  We have so many round here and its so flat that I instinctively look both ways as I cross, just in case
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Level Crossings
« Reply #24 on: February 06, 2020, 10:40:16 pm »
I can only remember ever hearing of one accident on one of those. Perhaps people are just more careful if they are needing g to take the decision on their risk themselves.  We have so many round here and its so flat that I instinctively look both ways as I cross, just in case

No, the users get sloppier over time. Keeps the RAIB busy:

https://www.gov.uk/search/all?keywords=user+worked&organisations%5B%5D=rail-accident-investigation-branch&order=relevance

https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&tbm=isch&sxsrf=&ei=&q=uk+tractor+train+crash