CROSSING THE TRACKS...SAFELY...USING OPEN DATA

CROSSING THE TRACKS...SAFELY...USING OPEN DATA

Did you know that in the UK alone there are over 6300 railway level crossings where vehicles, cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians cross railway tracks?

This presents a significant safety challenge to Network Rail, the organisation who manage this infrastructure in the UK. This safety concern is also replicated around the world in all countries that have a significant railway network.

One initiative that Network Rail are focusing on to address safety is through the improved provision of information. Various channels are being used to promote a better understanding and to educate people on level crossing safety:

We thought we’d take this open data and see if we could contribute by making the open data more accessible and navigable – echoing the House of Commons Transport Committee report published in 2014 stating that:

“Network Rail has voluntarily published a list of level crossing locations and their ALCRM risk scores. Some external organisations have been able to make use of the data, including for the production of maps of level crossing locations.”

Our interactive map of the UK shows the locations of all railway level crossings. With this you can be a lot more selective about the specific level crossing that you are interested in and more easily find out detailed information and the relative risks each one presents. This interface should make it easier for those who use level crossings to find information on the ones they cross regularly.

Click on the image below to open the viewer.

CROSSING TYPES & DESCRIPTIONS

There are many different types and combination of railway level crossing:

  • Active crossings, which provide warnings or protection when a train is approaching, or passive crossings, which do not
  • Automatic crossings which have automated barrier controls or manual ones which require the user of the crossing to open and close the barriers on either side

Many crossings are open to the public, but some are for private use and rail industry staff use only.

All these factors have a potentially different impact on the safety risks of the crossing. A comment in a 2014 House of Commons Transport Committee Report noted:

“Motorists using passive crossings have to cross the railway five times, if they must manually open and close gates on either side to get their vehicle across”

It is an unfortunate truth that although the majority of crossings are made by cars and road vehicles, those most susceptible to an accident are the pedestrian users. There are a number of reasons for this including:

  • The type of crossing (the busier road crossings tend to be better covered by automated crossings, whereas rural pedestrian footpaths are often little more than two gates either side of the tracks)
  • The fact that pedestrians often don’t appreciate the dangers of oncoming trains to the degree that they should – slower pedestrian movement and varying awareness of the proximity of oncoming trains both play a factor

The same Transport Committee report also referenced this with some statistical evidence:

“Analysis of Network Rail and Department for Transport data shows that if an average walking trip includes a level crossing, the fatality risk to a pedestrian is about double the risk of an average walking trip without a level crossing. Overall, there is an increase of around 8% in the risk of a fatality during an average car journey that includes a level crossing, compared with one that does not.”

RISK FACTOR SCORES

Network Rail also assigns risk scores to each level crossing, using the All Level Crossing Risk Model (ALCRM) which looks at factors such as crossing usage levels from surveys, passing train counts, line speed and more). These give some indication of the risk factor, but have been subjected to some criticism in the past as they can be quite generalised.

There are two categories of Risk Score:

Individual Risk – which is the risk assessment towards those using the level crossing to cross the railway lines. It is a range that runs from A to M, with A representing the highest risk factor and M the lowest.

Collective Risk – which is the wider risk to those crossing the line as well as staff and passengers on-board the trains passing the crossing. This range runs from 1 to 13 with 1 being the highest risk and 13 being the lowest risk.

USAGE LEVELS

These figures are based on census survey data captured at the crossing. Essentially it is a count of people / vehicles that cross the line. However it should only be considered indicative rather than absolute in most cases, as again highlighted by the House of Commons Transport Committee Report:

“Crossing usage inputs are mostly based on a 30-minute census conducted during an off-peak period between 0930 and 1630 on weekdays. This approach does not take account of crossings with high within-day variations (e.g. near workplaces or schools), high weekend use compared with weekdays (e.g. on country walking and cycling routes) or where there is seasonal variation (e.g. near beaches).”

LINE SPEED AND TRAIN COUNTS

This is the marked speed of the line at this point (in miles per hour) that trains are expected to be travelling at when passing through the crossing.

The Train counts are the expected number of trains passing (as per the scheduled service). Both these are again indicative and expected values rather than absolute (as for example the weekend services may be different to weekday services).

THE MAP

We have used a Voronoi diagram (created with D3 libraries) overlaid on the map to help segment each area that contains a level crossing (primarily to make it easier to find and select an individual crossing). This segmentation will redraw according to the level crossings that are displaying onscreen after filtering. Clicking into a segment will highlight that level crossing and populate the information panel on the left with various details about the crossing, including a photo taken by Network Rail.

As well as simply showing all the attributes and metrics associated with the crossing, for certain relevant metrics, we have included 3 charts in the information panel that indicates how this selected crossing compares with the average metrics across all 6000 + level crossings.

Basemaps were provided through Mapbox and OpenStreetMap

Network Rail Helpline

If you would like to report a mis-use incident or damage to a crossing, please contact Network Rail’s National Helpline.

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