Cheaper and easier alternatives to road/rail grade separations

 
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
I support and continue to support pro-active grade separations (as opposed to waiting for level crossings to get "too busy" first) for as long as no new level crossings are allowed.
But in Melbourne, we have so many road/rail level crossings that we can't just get rid of all of them any time soon, same in Adelaide.

The first is closure of a level crossing to motor traffic, this has been done before on level crossings with local access roads wherever there is another way round for all through motor traffic. Contrary to this comment and this comment, people can still get across by foot. Depending mainly on how busy the railway gets, the path across the railway between the two dead-end streets may even be on a different level.


The second is a pedestrian underpass next to the road crossing the railway. Here in fact are some videos of level crossings where such underpasses are next to the road.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc4ampogdpk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jDFrby_tz8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gFFBIbLk04

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_d0c4cOkEg

All of these are Stuart Hunt's videos. He makes a lot about level crossings. Speaking from personal experience, I can remember the Moonee Ponds level crossing with hybrid bells, same type as remained at Buckley street Essendon right until booms and bells were removed.
By the way, the underpass is on the same side as the station and actually allows the platform to be slightly longer or closer to the level crossing. Each has a pedestrian gate only on the other side, and the bell opposite to the pedestrian gates is programmed to sound out after the barrier lowering is complete.

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  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
Get rid of the old LX flashing lights and X sign and replace it with a standard road sign and lights people actually understand or at least pay more attention to. Remember the difference between ROADWAY and RAILWAY is not huge, just one is a guided way the other not. End result is the same for crossing traffic.

For crossings with lights, replace them all with standard traffic lights. No more flashing BS no one pays attention too and in other areas is more a warning than STOP.

For passive crossings, replace with simple GIVEWAY signs or STOPS signs.

Personally I think Gates are a waste of money, but if the average dumb arsed driver needs it, so be it.

Now for the railway side, surely obstruction technology is cheap enough to install and warn a train the line is blocked and driver given a RED signal. Why do we have all these video's on Utube where trains crashing into mostly trucks, but other vehicles stopped on the tracks, often due to traffic?
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
I'm sorry, but modifications to road/rail level crossings of that sort is not the sort of thing I mean. The examples I gave are pedestrians only grade separation. Either motor traffic still crosses the railway on the same level, or motor traffic on the same street doesn't get to cross at all.

Here's another alternative to the sort of grade separation I mean. Many rail bridges over road are quite low, so higher vehicles need to detour. So an idea is to have a level crossing nearby where only high vehicles can cross the railway. There are a handful of examples of this in Great Britain.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

I'm sorry, but modifications to road/rail level crossings of that sort is not the sort of thing I mean. The examples I gave are pedestrians only grade separation. Either motor traffic still crosses the railway on the same level, or motor traffic on the same street doesn't get to cross at all.

Here's another alternative to the sort of grade separation I mean. Many rail bridges over road are quite low, so higher vehicles need to detour. So an idea is to have a level crossing nearby where only high vehicles can cross the railway. There are a handful of examples of this in Great Britain.
Myrtone

In Sydney we put road bridges over rail in a lot of places. This can be seen along the main south from granville to macarthur.
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
Leaving Parramatta there were numerous level crossings between there and Glenbrook because of the topography.
It took several years but eventually all have been removed and replaced with either a bridge or an underpass.
Underpass's in that area are prone to 'Flash Flooding' due to quite heavy short duration storms.
  allan Chief Commissioner

No problem in country SA - we've got rid of the trains!
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

Get rid of the old LX flashing lights and X sign and replace it with a standard road sign and lights people actually understand or at least pay more attention to. Remember the difference between ROADWAY and RAILWAY is not huge, just one is a guided way the other not. End result is the same for crossing traffic.

For crossings with lights, replace them all with standard traffic lights. No more flashing BS no one pays attention too and in other areas is more a warning than STOP.

For passive crossings, replace with simple GIVEWAY signs or STOPS signs.

Personally I think Gates are a waste of money, but if the average dumb arsed driver needs it, so be it.

Now for the railway side, surely obstruction technology is cheap enough to install and warn a train the line is blocked and driver given a RED signal. Why do we have all these video's on Utube where trains crashing into mostly trucks, but other vehicles stopped on the tracks, often due to traffic?
RTT_Rules
The approach being used for major level crossings in Adelaide is to add traffic lights but keep the flashing lights.

I presume that the flashing lights are kept because nobody is brave enough to be the one who would sign off on them being removed.

Boom gates are cheaper than a proper World's Best Practice (i.e. Scandinavian) driver education system, and also subject to the same lack of will to endorse their removal.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
Even better would be to grade separate as many major level crossings as feasible, and indeed close nearby level crossings with minor roads, see above before telling me it would lock people into or out of an area.
  Radioman Chief Train Controller

Hello All,

A / the UK uses Flashing Yellow prior to Flashing Red on their boom barrier crossings, but they actually encourage motorist to race the lights , which is the opposite of what is intended ; therefore the use of Flashing Red only lights is , in my view, preferable.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_crossings_in_the_United_Kingdom )

The irony here is that the Flashing Yellow lights were added after the Hixon Level Crossing accident , but advice from UK signalmen who manually operate UK level crossings is that motorists seem increasingly to race the gates. ( The other recommendation of the Hixon Inquiry is for heavy vehicle drivers to telephone the controlling signal box prior to crossing with a long and/or heavy load. There is appropriate  signage on the crossing. This would be helpful in Australia, especially considering the use of B Doubles and Road Trains , but enforcement would be an issue. )

B / In relation to trains hitting vehicles stuck on a level crossing, there are two comments here, first , a motor vehicle is not supposed to occupy a level crossing unless there is room on the other side of the level crossing to ensure the entering vehicle can clear the crossing. If a vehicle cannot clear the level crossing, then it should not enter it. This is a standard road rule requirement globally, as it recognises the fundamental fact of physics that a train cannot stop short of a level crossing , as the level crossing operational sequence is designed to be closed for a minimal practical time to both allow for minimal disruption to road traffic, and to prevent the motorists from driving around the boom barriers due to impatience.

From YouTube observations , I suspect that there are multiple reasons for road vehicles being stuck on a level crossing, and then destroyed by a passing train.

C / Unlike Australia, US level crossings , dependant on the particular State, lack either one or both of the following signs, "Stop on Red Signal" and "Keep Crossing Clear". It is also not helped by the US Boom Barrier circuitry appearing to be less intuitive than in Australia , so that Boom Barriers can be activated by a train doing a shunt but not occupying the crossing , by passenger trains stopping at a station activating the boom barriers , or by a long time lapse between the boom barriers being activated and the train actually entering the level crossings.

In the first two examples above , this creates the issue of the boom barriers being activated , and then raising , without the appearance of a train . This then creates the perception that the boom barriers are defective, and therefore motorists drive around the booms , and therefore sometimes the train does arrive, to the detriment of the vehicle .

As I am not a Signal Technician I am therefore unaware if there are US regulatory requirements that create this problem. If this is so, then perhaps the US Regulators need to rethink their approach.

D / The other recent concern in the US are issues raised by long heavy trains causing massive traffic jams. Bearing in mind these trains can be 1 mile / 1.6km long ( or longer in some cases ), have a tonnage of up to 6,000 tons , and potentially travelling at 50 mph / 80.5km , the braking distance is about a mile or more , so clearly you cannot have the booms down for a period of time that exceeds the train's braking distance , so no matter what is decided upon , it will be a compromise , and compromises tend not to satisfy many people. ( Increasingly, this is an issue facing Australia. )

E / Passive Public level crossings do have either Stop or Give Way signs , but the preference now seems to be to upgrade these crossings to be either Flashing Lights only, or boom barriers as I think that the perception of the traffic authorities is that these installations are safer than a passive crossing sign. Additionally, the use of higher speed Vlocity sets and RFR line upgrades , part of the specification does require boom barrier only level crossings , even on Private occupation Crossings.

F / The other important improvement was the upgraded National Level Crossing signage , dating from 2014 ( ? ) which has made Level Crossings more visible to oncoming motorists. Level Crossing accidents are relatively rare , and I think this is due to a combination of better timing sequences, better signage and improved approach roads and signage . Ultimately, though, no matter how good the design of a Level Crossing , it relies on the equipment working correctly, and for motorists to drive sensibly.

Regards, Radioman.
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

… and indeed close nearby level crossings with minor roads, see above before telling me it would lock people into or out of an area.
Myrtone
If there is a strong business case for it and the proposal is recommended to proceed by the community consultation process, yes.

Remember that we live in a democracy. If you want to impose changes unilaterally, sticking to SimCity is probably a better course for your urban planning career.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
A / the UK uses Flashing Yellow prior to Flashing Red on their boom barrier crossings, but they actually encourage motorist to race the lights , which is the opposite of what is intended ; therefore the use of Flashing Red only lights is , in my view, preferable.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_crossings_in_the_United_Kingdom )

The irony here is that the Flashing Yellow lights were added after the Hixon Level Crossing accident , but advice from UK signalmen who manually operate UK level crossings is that motorists seem increasingly to race the gates. ( The other recommendation of the Hixon Inquiry is for heavy vehicle drivers to telephone the controlling signal box prior to crossing with a long and/or heavy load. There is appropriate  signage on the crossing. This would be helpful in Australia, especially considering the use of B Doubles and Road Trains , but enforcement would be an issue. )

B / In relation to trains hitting vehicles stuck on a level crossing, there are two comments here, first , a motor vehicle is not supposed to occupy a level crossing unless there is room on the other side of the level crossing to ensure the entering vehicle can clear the crossing. If a vehicle cannot clear the level crossing, then it should not enter it. This is a standard road rule requirement globally, as it recognises the fundamental fact of physics that a train cannot stop short of a level crossing , as the level crossing operational sequence is designed to be closed for a minimal practical time to both allow for minimal disruption to road traffic, and to prevent the motorists from driving around the boom barriers due to impatience.

From YouTube observations , I suspect that there are multiple reasons for road vehicles being stuck on a level crossing, and then destroyed by a passing train.


C / Unlike Australia, US level crossings , dependant on the particular State, lack either one or both of the following signs, "Stop on Red Signal" and "Keep Crossing Clear". It is also not helped by the US Boom Barrier circuitry appearing to be less intuitive than in Australia , so that Boom Barriers can be activated by a train doing a shunt but not occupying the crossing , by passenger trains stopping at a station activating the boom barriers , or by a long time lapse between the boom barriers being activated and the train actually entering the level crossings.

In the first two examples above , this creates the issue of the boom barriers being activated , and then raising , without the appearance of a train . This then creates the perception that the boom barriers are defective, and therefore motorists drive around the booms , and therefore sometimes the train does arrive, to the detriment of the vehicle .

As I am not a Signal Technician I am therefore unaware if there are US regulatory requirements that create this problem. If this is so, then perhaps the US Regulators need to rethink their approach.

D / The other recent concern in the US are issues raised by long heavy trains causing massive traffic jams. Bearing in mind these trains can be 1 mile / 1.6km long ( or longer in some cases ), have a tonnage of up to 6,000 tons , and potentially travelling at 50 mph / 80.5km , the braking distance is about a mile or more , so clearly you cannot have the booms down for a period of time that exceeds the train's braking distance , so no matter what is decided upon , it will be a compromise , and compromises tend not to satisfy many people. ( Increasingly, this is an issue facing Australia. )

E / Passive Public level crossings do have either Stop or Give Way signs , but the preference now seems to be to upgrade these crossings to be either Flashing Lights only, or boom barriers as I think that the perception of the traffic authorities is that these installations are safer than a passive crossing sign. Additionally, the use of higher speed Vlocity sets and RFR line upgrades , part of the specification does require boom barrier only level crossings , even on Private occupation Crossings.

F / The other important improvement was the upgraded National Level Crossing signage , dating from 2014 ( ? ) which has made Level Crossings more visible to oncoming motorists. Level Crossing accidents are relatively rare , and I think this is due to a combination of better timing sequences, better signage and improved approach roads and signage . Ultimately, though, no matter how good the design of a Level Crossing , it relies on the equipment working correctly, and for motorists to drive sensibly.
Radioman

A / Yet the British railways and other railway operators in the British Isles show no signs of dispensing with the steady yellow light, also, their remote operated level crossings have cameras, so those who run the amber get caught.

B / If the gates or barriers are operated by a person who can see the crossing, they actually check that the crossing is actually clear before clearing the signals.

C / No comment.

D / This would be on very busy level crossings, right? Also, the very reason, in that case, for not activating the level crossing for a longer period of time relative to the train's braking distance, is similar to the reason train frequencies higher than a certain amount, justifies grade separation of such level crossings.
And a longer activation period relative to the train's braking distance may be quite acceptable on a level crossing with a less busy road where rail traffic is light to moderate.
As far as I know, the very European countries where some level crossings have full skirted barriers are countries where level crossings are less common and, at most, less busy than in North America, or this country.

No comment or E or F.

If there is a strong business case for it and the proposal is recommended to proceed by the community consultation process, yes.
justapassenger

Which is likely if all motor traffic can cross the railway away from that location. Of course, if running trains frequently enough over such a crossing that no road traffic can get across is acceptable to the community, than so will closure of that level crossing.

Remember that we live in a democracy. If you want to impose changes unilaterally, sticking to SimCity is probably a better course for your urban planning career.
justapassenger

As for democracy, people living in a local access street that crosses a railway are likely to welcome closure of that level crossing, as they might not like through traffic on their street.

Oh, and we also have a free market, which is also democratic, if enough people want to buy some goods, they get produced.
  Radioman Chief Train Controller

Hello All,

A / In the UK, level crossing requirements , like road signage , are legislated. In Australia, level crossings and road signs are by regulation , there is a significant difference here. Legislation requires an Act of Parliament to amend. Regulation is authorised by the Governor in Council under existing legislation.

Europe , like the UK, has a different legislative stance, and a higher population, and therefore a higher road traffic density than Australia , hence the different approach to level crossing protection.

B / whether a boom barrier is manually or automatically initiated, the problem remains the same , once initiated , the full sequence has to be completed before the barriers will raise . If a motorists decides to run the lights after initiation , there is a reasonable chance of the booms being struck , hence the reason for the bells and flashing lights operating prior to the booms lowering.

Obviously, a manually operated level crossing will not have the protecting signals, where provided , placed to proceed until such time as it is safe to do so. However, most boom barrier installations are automatic in operation, and most automatic boom barriers are not protected by fixed signals ,hence the reason for the"Keep Crossing Clear" signage.

From practical experience of manual boom barrier operation , once the bells and lights start operating , motorists on the crossing usually keep going , and those who have not entered it stop to the rear of the boom ( Lotus Elan's excepted ! )

In the UK, whilst some level crossings may be remotely monitored , this does not necessarily imply that such level crossings are interlocked with protecting signals , and a lot of level crossings in the UK are not monitored at all , in which case the oversight , or lack of , is no different to what it is in Australia. It should also be pointed out that boom barriers in Europe that only close of half the road like Australia , also work automatically as they do in Australia.

The difference between Europe, the UK and Australia , is that Europe and the UK have a greater variety of level crossing protection than we do in Australia , and that is most likely due to the prior history of the level crossing in question , and the safety requirements in different locations in Europe and the UK have clearly influenced the design in use at each location . Australia, by contrast, seems happy with its current set up.

Whether the booms are equipped with skirts or not , will not , of itself , deter the motorists who decides to run the lights . From the few pictures I have seen of skirted boom barriers , the adjacent railway appears to be also fenced off , and in some cases to also have cattle grids on either side of the roadway , in which case , barrier skirts are probably a requirement for livestock control .

Contrast this with many Australian boom barrier locations not having fencing separating the adjacent railway . In most instances, cattle grids are not provided on Australian railways due to farmers with livestock being required to have their properties safely fenced off . This is not necessarily the case in Europe ( Switzerland comes to mind ) where some countries do not have fenced of grazing fields , presumably due to heavy winter snow falls.

D / In the case of the US , the length and speed of US freight trains means the time the level crossing is closed to road traffic can appear to be excessive , and relatively low traffic levels can quickly build up the traffic queues , if you look at some of the YouTube footage , roads that I would consider to be relatively low traffic seem to quickly build up a queue of traffic . I presume the this is also dependent on the spacings of adjacent level crossings , and unlike Australia, the railroads have no obligation to fund level crossing removals as US railroads have "eminent domain" so if a community wants to abolish a level crossing, well they need to stump up the cash , as the railroad is highly unlikely to do so.

In Australia, on the other hand, railway lines are still government owned and funded , and therefore level crossing removals have a political imperative that is probably greater than is the case in the US.

G / The reality is , the current standard for level crossing protection is unlikely to change in the near future , as the current standard generally works well, and level crossing accidents are relatively rare , which is why the occasional level crossing accident makes the news , unlike most road accidents, even some fatal ones, barely get mentioned, unless it is a particularly bad event.

It is noticeable to, that the various motoring organisations in Australia tend to argue for grade separation, and not argue for upgraded boom barrier protection , which implies that they think the current level crossing arrangements are satisfactory.

Regards, Radioman.
  historian Deputy Commissioner

I wouldn't hold the level crossing protection practices of the UK up as a particular exemplar, they are a complete dogs breakfast and have been for a long time.

Prior to 1957 level crossings had to be staffed. After a suitable study the law was changed and appropriate regulations framed for automatic operation. Unfortunately, the requirements were so onerous that almost no level crossing satisfied them; by 1961 only two had been installed. After further intensive study, the requirements were relaxed in 1966 and a number were installed. Hixon occurred in 1968 and the British got their knickers in a twist. The particular problem at Hixon was that neither the driver of the extremely heavy vehicle, nor the police escort, had any knowledge of the operation of the automatic equipment. Of course, by the end of the inquiry, all of the (very small number) of operators of extremely heavy vehicles, their drivers, and the police would have been well aware of what an automatic crossing was, and the chances of another Hixon was consequently remote. However, instead of an active outreach program to these (small group) of stakeholders, the requirements were tightened up considerably. This, in turn, (considerably) increased the cost of an automatic installation. This meant that few installations could be cost justified and few were installed. They have gone through this cycle a couple of times. They adopt technology to reduce the cost of a barrier installation, they then add more safety features until the cost goes through the roof and few are actually installed. The cycle then repeats. This is why there are so many different designs. The UK seem to prefer closing level crossings now - by building a road to an adjacent level crossing, or by providing a grade separation.


In the meantime, the biggest problem are 'user worked crossings' (what we'd term occupation crossings). The UK has persisted in the complete legal fiction that the users of these crossings are people under the control of the farmer or factory owner on the other side of the crossing. This controller can ensure that users are fully trained in how to use the crossing. In reality, many of them have become defacto public roads serving a variety of owners, and the users frequently have no idea how to use the crossings. The probable reason for this legal fiction is that if Network Rail accepted that these were really public level crossings they'd have to install proper protection. Which is expensive for the reasons I've mentioned in the previous paragraph. Instead, they smeg about with tinpot solutions, some of which seem to be designed to encourage the crossing users to act in a hazardous fashion. Or are completely bonkers. The RAIB has, in a recent accident report, called them out on this legal fiction. It will be interesting to see what happens.

The other problem are pedestrian crossings. On British lines, the trains usually run considerably faster than in Australia, are frequent, are often electric (hence quiet), and the pedestrian crossings often have restricted sight lines (buildings, curves, cuttings, vegetation). On these lines the standard pedestrian crossing is a simple weighted gate, sometimes augmented by small red and green lights. The pedestrian is essentially completely responsible for not walking in front of a train. Not surprisingly, quite a few get flattened, particularly the elderly. Automated pedestrian gates, as used in Australia, are unknown. Apparently this is because pedestrians could walk through the emergency gates. So it is better not to provide any effective warning at all.

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