Report 23/2006: Investigation into station pedestrian crossings

RAIB review of station pedestrian crossings including pedestrian gates at highway level crossings


RAIB has reviewed the 97 pedestrian station crossings across the UK. Many are located on minor routes in rural locations. However, a number remain on busy lines, such as that located at Elsenham.

RAIB carried out an analysis of the risks at station pedestrian crossings. The conclusions from this analysis are:

  • The overall levels of individual risk are sufficiently high to justify a detailed risk assessment for each station pedestrian crossing. In cases where the individual risk to the most exposed user is found to be intolerable, immediate action should be taken to reduce the risk. 
  • The overall risk to society posed by station pedestrian crossings is unlikely to justify the expenditure needed to upgrade safety measures across the entire network. However, it is sufficient to justify a long term programme for the upgrading of station pedestrian crossings where it is reasonably practical to do so. 

Summary of fatal accident at Elsenham Station

On Saturday 03 December 2005 two girls were struck by a fast moving train on the pedestrian level crossing at Elsenham station in Cambridgeshire. Both girls were killed. Immediately prior to the accident, the two girls had purchased tickets from the booking office on the east side of the line and were in the process of walking to the opposite platform.

The immediate cause of the accident was the two girls stepping into the path of the approaching train, despite the continued display of a red light and the sounding of an audible alarm. It is likely that the accident occurred due to the girls’ focus of attention on a train to Cambridge and their consequent failure to perceive the risk from trains in the opposite direction.

Factors that contributed to the accident were the design of the crossing at Elsenham, which did not physically prevent users from opening the gate, and the crossing’s warning signs and systems which did not deter the girls from stepping into the path of the train. In addition, it is possible the presence of a ticket machine on both platforms would have avoided the need for the girls to cross the line.

RAIB has made eight recommendations regarding general station pedestrian crossing issues. Six are made to Network Rail, one to the Office of Rail Regulation and one to Station Operators. These recommendations relate to:

  • the development of Network Rail’s methods of risk management to address the particular hazards associated with station pedestrian crossings
  • the development of a programme for upgrading station pedestrian crossings where it is reasonably practicable to do so
  • the competence of Network Rail staff carrying out risk assessments
  • the need for a review and update of design guidance and standards relating to the design of station pedestrian crossings taking into account a modern understanding of human factors and the potential of recent technological developments
  • the enhancement of signage to remind users of the risk of a second train arriving
  • the replacement of existing miniature warning lights with those utilising LED technology
  • the provision of additional facilities to minimise the need for passengers to cross the line
  • the development of a clearly defined and validated register of all foot crossings at stations on the network

RAIB has made two specific recommendations to Network Rail in relation to the crossing at Elsenham. These relate to:

  • the locking of the pedestrian crossing gates before signals are cleared for the approach of trains; 
  • if necessary for the avoidance of delays, the construction of a footbridge.

Response to recommendations:

  • RAIB will periodically update the status of recommendations as reported to us by the relevant safety authority or public body.
  • RAIB may add comment, particularly if we have concerns regarding these responses.

RAIB recommendation response for Elsenham station

Published 10 December 2014