Level Crossing - United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Britain's first automatically operated level crossing came into operation at Spath near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire in May 1961.

There were 8,200 level crossings in the UK in 2005, of which, 1,600 were road crossings. This number is gradually being reduced as the risk of accident at level crossings is considered high. The director of the UK Railway Inspectorate commented in 2004 that "the use of level crossings contributes the greatest potential for catastrophic risk on the railways." Bridges and tunnels are now favoured, and there is a commitment on the part of UK rail authorities not to build new level crossings, and to reduce the number of existing level crossings. The cost of making significant reductions, other than by simply closing the crossings, is substantial; some commentators argue that the money could be better spent. Some 6500 crossings are user-worked crossings or footpaths with very low usage. The removal of crossings can also improve train performance as some crossings have low rail speed limits enforced on them to protect road users. In fact, between 1845 and 1933, a 4 mph speed limit was notionally in force over level crossings.

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