Highland Council's Approach to Level Crossings
Members of Highland Regional Council are set to push Network Rail to upgrade the active open crossings to be found around the region. The view of councillors is that this type of level crossing is unsafe and should be upgraded to an automatic half barrier status.
The active open crossings in Highland Region are mostly to be found on narrow roads where a standard automatic half-barrier crossing cannot be installed without substantial highway works. Now, Network Rail is set to pilot the application of shorter barriers which both delineate the requirement to stop and permit errant motorists an exit. This approach is already used successfully in other jurisdictions, including the Netherlands where they have eliminated the active open crossings once commonplace on minor Dutch roads.
Active open crossings on the Network Rail system total just 2% of level crossings yet account for a far larger percentage of accidents. In the Highland Region, the September 2009 triple fatality on the Halkirk open active level crossing has been attributed to the motorist's eyesight. However, the report raises wider issues concerning the suitability of the active open crossing and the way this class of crossing has been managed.
The challenge facing Network Rail is to substantially reduce the cost of projects to upgrade active open crossings to a form where they are also protected by barriers cannot be avoided. Quotes attributed to Network Rail have said that the going rate for these upgrades is GBP 1m a time. Given that these crossing already operate on the basis of the detected presence of a train to drive the lights requiring motorists to stop, it cannot be argued that this is a completely new crossing. Rather, the existing means of train detection should drive both warning lights and the lowering and raising of barriers with the new element being the barrier mechanisms which cost a fraction of previously quoted upgrade costs. (November 13th, 2010)
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