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Section 16: Signs at Level Crossings

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A newer form of TMO crossing is protected by lifting barriers instead of gates. To lower the barriers, a member of traincrew must operate a device such as a plunger or cab wire. A flashing white light (see [16.13]) indicates that the barriers have been lowered across the road. At some crossings of this type, the barriers rise automatically after the train has passed. Beyond the crossing, an indicator may be provided which shows "BU" to advise the driver that the barriers are up [16.22]. If the indicator has not illuminated by the time the train is about to pass it, the train must stop to allow a member of traincrew to return to the crossing to raise the barriers using the control unit.

[16.22] 'Barriers Up' Indication.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Obsolescent

At AOCLs where the road crossed two tracks, it was a requirement that a second train must not arrive at the crossing within one minute of the previous train having cleared it. One way of meeting this requirement was to provide a "wait" sign [16.23] near each flashing white light unit (see [16.13]). This sign was illuminated if another train was using the crossing. A second train was not permitted to proceed until the "wait" sign had been extinguished and the white light was flashing. A "wait" sign was provided on each of the four rail approaches to Salmon Pool level crossing at Crediton (Western Region) in September 1980, and these were in use until March 2019, when the crossing was converted to ABCL type.

[16.23] "Wait" Indication.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

In February 1976, trials were undertaken at Fen Drayton level crossing (Eastern Region) to test the effectiveness of fitting self-luminous 'Betalights' to advance warning boards (see [16.15]), intermediate boards (see [16.19]) and stop boards (see Section 26). Betalights had the drawbacks of being radioactive and susceptible to vandalism.

In connection with proposals to raise the maximum permitted speed of trains at AOCLs from 35 mph to 55 mph and to equip these crossings with an audible warning device for road users, a number of experimental signs were tested at night at Battlesbridge (Eastern Region) in August 1978. These included advance warning boards (see [16.15]) with different types of reflective material, one of which was also fitted with Betalight strips. Provision of an audible warning device for road users would obviate the requirement for train drivers to sound the whistle or horn on approach to the crossing. The trial therefore included a new sign to replace the combined speed restriction/whistle boards (see [16.20 & 16.21]) formerly used at AOCLs, which in future would only be installed at open crossings without lights. The new sign omitted the letter "W" for "whistle", and had an outline image of a St. Andrew's cross above the speed figure [16.24]. Following the tests, it was decided that the outline cross should be replaced by a solid black cross [16.25 & 16.26]. As well as being provided at AOCLs, this sign, which is known as a 'special speed restriction board' (SSRB), is used at other types of locally monitored level crossings that were introduced later (ABCL, AOCL+B and AFBCL).

[16.24] Experimental Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing.
Area: Battlesbridge   Usage: Low   Status: Historical
[16.25] Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current
[16.26] Differential Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing. Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

In 1981, a red and white diagonally striped road sign was introduced to indicate the lateral limits of an open level crossing (OC, AOCL or AOCR) on the highway approaches. On the Scottish Region, the same boards were additionally installed on the rail approaches to an AOCL, but they were rotated through 90° [16.27]. They were usually fitted on the same posts as the driver's white lights (see [16.13]). These boards ceased to be provided following new legislation in 1994 and were gradually removed from both road and rail approaches.

[16.27] Open Level Crossing Marker Board.
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

From c.1981, some automatic level crossings on double track railways were fitted with controls that enable them to operate automatically for unsignalled wrong-direction movements (e.g. during single line working), which avoids them having to be put on local control. By 1983, a special type of speed restriction sign with an "X" on the left of the speed figures [16.28] was being installed on the wrong-direction approaches to these crossings. The speed restriction applies approaching and passing over the crossing. This type of speed restriction sign may be provided at level crossings of the types AHB, AOCR and MWL/MSL.

[16.28] Automatic Level Crossing Wrong-Direction Movement Speed Restriction Sign.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

A new form of level crossing known as "Automatic Barrier Crossing, Locally Monitored" (ABCL) was introduced following the publication of the Stott report, which came after a collision on an AOCR at Lockington (Eastern Region) on 26 July 1986. The ABCL is essentially an AOCL equipped with half barriers, but one further enhancement was to introduce a flashing red light [16.29] in conjunction with the driver's white light (see [16.13]). If the flashing red light is exhibited, drivers are required to stop short of the crossing and not proceed over it until satisfied that it is safe to do so. Prototype flashing red lights were put on trial at Dawdys AOCL level crossing on the East Suffolk Line (Anglia Region) in August 1988. The first ABCL to be commissioned was at Beccles By-Pass, also on the East Suffolk Line, later in the same year. Subsequent to this, the Railway Inspectorate decided that flashing red lights should in future be provided at AOCLs, in addition to ABCLs.

[16.29] Flashing Red Light.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

In March 1990, combined speed restriction/whistle boards (see [16.20]) were installed on the approaches to two user-worked level crossings near Llanbister Road station on the Central Wales Line.

Some user-worked level crossings have been provided with markers to enable engineering staff to check that sighting distances for crossing users have not been compromised by vegetation growth. They have no relevance to train drivers. The markers on the Scotland Zone, which were installed from 1996, take the form of tall yellow rectangular boards that face towards the crossing [16.30]. They are installed in pairs in advance of the crossing, in both directions, one on either side of the line. On lines in South Wales (Great Western Zone), a single orange post is provided on the approach to the level crossing, in each direction [16.31].

[16.30] Level Crossing Sighting Marker Board.
Area: Scotland Zone   Usage: Medium   Status: Uncertain
[16.31] Level Crossing Sighting Marker Post. Click Here for Photo
Area: South Wales   Usage: High   Status: Uncertain

Four level crossings on the Braintree and Sudbury lines (East Anglia Zone) were converted to ABCL type in 1997. The same method of presenting non-standard differential speed restrictions on the railways in this area using a single-letter suffix (see [13.79 & 13.80]) was employed on the special speed restriction boards associated with these level crossings [16.32].

[16.32] Non-standard Differential Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing.
Area: East Anglia Zone   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain

From 1998, experimental notice boards were provided on the rail approaches to certain user-worked level crossings in the Scotland Zone. These show the name and mileage of the crossing concerned [16.33].

In 2000, level crossing identification plates were fitted at user-worked level crossings with telephones on the Cambrian Lines (Midlands Zone). The signs display a unique level crossing number [16.34] which may be used in telephone communications to identify a particular crossing, avoiding any difficulties that might arise in pronouncing its Welsh name.

[16.33] Level Crossing Identification Sign. Click Here for Photo
Area: Scotland Zone   Usage: High   Status: Current
[16.34] Level Crossing Identification Plate.
Area: Cambrian Lines   Usage: High   Status: Current

In 2003, a new design of combined speed restriction/whistle board was introduced, for use at Open crossings. Unlike the former design (see [16.20 & 16.21]), the speed figures are in black characters on a white background [16.35 & 16.36]. This change brought these signs into conformity with other speed restriction signs that have black characters for speeds given in miles per hour, the black background now being reserved for metric signs (see Section 13).

[16.35] Combined Speed Restriction/Whistle Board.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Current
[16.36] Combined Speed Restriction/Whistle Board (differential speed restriction).
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Current

Locally monitored level crossings (AOCL or ABCL) on lines with ETCS cab signalling are provided with all the usual lineside signs and indicators except that the crossing speed restriction signs (see [16.25 & 16.26]) are replaced by 'sighting boards', with just a black cross on a white background [16.37]. When the train reaches this board, the driver must check that the driver's white light is flashing (see [16.13]) and that the crossing is not obstructed, in which case the train may proceed towards the crossing at the speed indicated on the driver's cab display.

[16.37] Sighting Board for a Locally Monitored Crossing.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

The wrong-direction movement speed restriction sign for an automatic level crossing (see [16.28]) has a metric equivalent with the figures (representing the permissible speed in kilometres per hour) in white characters on a black background [16.38].

[16.38] Metric Automatic Level Crossing Wrong-Direction Movement Speed Restriction Sign.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Current

Various alternative styles of sighting markers have been installed at user-worked, bridleway and footpath crossings, each facing towards the relevant level crossing. The new sighting markers provided on the Western Route from early 2014 comprise a white post with a yellow reflectorised strip on the side facing the level crossing [16.39]. Around the same time, sighting markers appeared on the Sussex Route bearing the helpful, if somewhat long-winded, description "level crossing off track vegetation cutback sighting marker" in red text on a square blue background [16.40]. On the London North Western Route, the sighting marker boards are in the form of a solid yellow triangle [16.41], while those on the Great Eastern Main Line comprise a tall yellow board with the legend "level crossing" at the top and the word "sighting" below, with the letters arranged vertically [16.42].

[16.39] Level Crossing Sighting Marker Post.
Area: Western Route   Usage: High   Status: Current
[16.40] Level Crossing Sighting Marker Board.
Area: Sussex Route   Usage: Medium   Status: Current
[16.41] Level Crossing Sighting Marker Board.
Area: LNW Route   Usage: Low   Status: Current
[16.42] Level Crossing Sighting Marker Board.
Area: Great Eastern Main Line   Usage: Medium   Status: Current