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Railway Level Crossings

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 19 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
Railway Level Crossings

Railway level crossings allow you to cross a railway track safely (as long as you take note of the warnings regarding when not to cross). For obvious reasons, you need to take extra care when arriving at railway level crossings, as the close proximity to the track makes them potentially dangerous.


It’s essential that you take note of these, as they alert you to the arrival of approaching trains. Ignoring them puts you (and your passengers) in danger.

Warnings to look out for are:

  • Lights
  • Alarms
  • Barriers

Be Sensible

Don’t park on the crossing or at the approach to a crossing as this will obviously compromise other road users who need to use the crossing. In some cases, it may actually prevent them from using the crossing at all.

It’s not a good idea to stop on the crossing in case the barriers come down while you’re still on the crossing, as they come down automatically when a train is approaching.

Controlled Crossings

Most railway level crossings are controlled by traffic lights, with red and amber lights. When the red lights flash, you must stop as this indicates that a train is approaching. Stop behind the white road markings or you may find yourself too close to the track.

If the red lights continue to show after the train has passed, this usually means that another train is on its way. You should remain behind the line until the lights have stopped flashing completely, as this indicates that it’s now safe to cross.

If the crossing has a barrier, this will raise itself up when it’s safe to cross. If there isn’t a barrier, cross when the lights stop showing.

Railway Telephones

Slow-moving and long vehicles may not be able to finish crossing before the red lights show or the barriers start to come down. In this situation, you may be instructed to use the railway telephone to get permission to cross. If you do, you are also required to use the telephone again when you are fully clear of the crossing.

User-Controlled Crossings

These have red and green lights (instead of red and amber). You should only cross when the green lights show. To cross in a vehicle, you need to open the barriers yourself, cross as soon as the green light shows (and don’t waste time on the crossing), and close the barriers again once you’ve crossed.

Open Crossings

Open crossings don’t have lights, barriers or lights. Look in both directions before you cross to make sure there are no trains approaching.


If you break down on the crossing, the most important thing is to get out of the car immediately. Use the railway telephone to inform the signal operator. If you’ve had an accident, the signal operator should be able to tell you if there is enough time to get the vehicle off the crossing before a train approaches.

As with many driving situations, driving at railway level crossings is much to do with common-sense. As a general rule of thumb, cross only when there are no warning lights showing and the barriers (if there are any) are raised up. In this situation, it should be safe to cross, but you shouldn’t just assume this - look to the left and right before you attempt to cross, and listen carefully in case a train is approaching that hasn’t been picked up by the warning alert (for example, if they are not working).

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