Types of level crossing in Indian railways

The level crossing is a point where a railway line and a road cross each other at the same level. These are classified into different categories depending upon the importance of the road and the track. Level crossings are quite prone to accidents and all care must be taken to avoid the same. This includes proper maintenance and regular inspection by the appointed railway personnel.

Level crossings are provided on railway lines to allow road traffic to pass across the track. As the level of the passing road traffic is the same as that of the railway track, the crossing is referred to as a level crossing. Other types of crossings are road over bridge or road under bridge, where road traffic passes over or under the railway track. In both these cases, the necessary clearance between the road bed and the railway track is kept as prescribed in the schedule of dimensions.

Types of Level Crossings

Level crossings may be manned or unmanned. One or more gatemen are posted at manned level crossings to regulate the traffic. In an unmanned level crossing, there is no gateman and road users cross the railway line at their own risk after taking the necessary precautions.

Level crossings can be classified into different categories depending upon the class of the road, visibility conditions, volume of road traffic, and the number of trains passing over the level crossing. The classification of level crossings is as follows.

Special class

These are the busiest level crossings in terms of road traffic. Most of the busy level crossings on the national highway are special class level crossings. Normally the gates are open to road traffic but whenever a train passes by, the gates are closed to road traffic. The gates of the level crossings are interlocked with signals. They are manned round the clock by three gatemen working 8-hour shifts.

‘A’ class

These level crossings are also busy in terms of road traffic. All level crossings on important roads are mostly A class level crossings. In this case also, the gates are normally open to road traffic. All other provisions are the same as for special class level crossings except that these level crossings are provided with only two gatemen who work in 12-hour shifts, as these crossings are not as busy as special class level crossings.

‘B’ class

These level crossings are relatively less busy. Normal B class level crossings can be found on metalled roads. The gates are normally closed to road traffic, but can be kept open to road traffic provided that the gates are interlocked with signals. They are provided with two gatemen working 12-hour shifts.

‘C’ class

These level crossings are mostly provided on unmetalled roads. Some of these level crossings are unmanned because of low volume of road traffic.

‘D’ class

These level crossing are provided for cattle; they are normally used by cattle or pedestrians. Indian Railways presently has about 42,000 level crossings, including about 20,000 unmanned level crossings and 3500 cattle crossings.

Accidents at Level Crossings and Remedial Measures

Level crossings are vulnerable to accidents due to a number of reasons, but the main reason behind these accidents is the negligence of road users. Whatever may be the cause of an accident on a level crossing, the railways come under severe criticism whenever such an accident occurs, and there is concern at all levels to determine the corrective action that should be taken to minimize these accidents. Some of the safety measures that can be taken to reduce accidents on level crossings are as follows.

Manning of level crossings Busy unmanned level crossings, particularly at locations where buses ply, should be manned in a phased manner.

Providing lifting barriers Lifting barriers should be provided in preference to gates to quickly clear road traffic.

Level crossing indicators at the approaches to all unmanned C class level crossings or manned level crossings where the view is obstructed, bilingual whistle boards should be erected along the track at a distance of 600 m from the level crossing to enjoin the drivers of approaching trains to give an audible warning of the approach of the train to road users. The drivers of approaching trains should blow the train whistle continuously from the time they pass the whistle boards till the time they have negotiated the level crossing.

Stop signs for level crossings Stop signs should be provided on either side of the road approaches to all unmanned C class level crossings at suitable points within the railway boundary.

Speed breaker at level crossings A series of three speed breakers (bumps) spaced 100 m apart should be provided within the railway boundary on either side of all unmanned level crossings with metalled approaches, where motor vehicles ply. The speed breakers should have a smooth parabolic profile so that the vehicles can slow down without experiencing extra jerks.

Rumble strips at level crossings Rumble strips should be provided by road authorities on the road approaches on either side of all manned level crossings where road travellers face poor visibility conditions with a view to making them alert and vigilant. Rumble strips consist of intermittent raised bituminous overlays of 15–20 mm height and 200–300 mm width across the roadway. About 15 to 20 such strips spaced at about 1 m centre-to-centre distance are provided in the approaches to level crossings to caution the motorist.

Following extant rules Normally level crossings should not be kept open to road traffic in contravention of extant orders. On each railway, all cases where the gates of the level crossing are open normally to road traffic should be reviewed immediately and it should be ensured that such instances are permitted only in strict conformity to extant orders.

Job analysis Wherever the gates of a level crossing are kept open to road traffic, the work of the gatemen must be analysed a fresh and, where required, an extra gateman may be provided as per the rules for intensive work, thereby increasing the number of gatemen from two to three.

Visibility Approaching trains should be adequately visible from the road. Whenever an obstruction is discovered on the track, immediate action must be taken to remove it.

Surprise checks Surprise checks should be made to ensure that the gatemen are alert and that road vehicles follow the regulations properly.

Maintenance of Level Crossings

Level crossings and their approaches require special attention from the permanent way staff because of the change in track structure that occurs at these locations.

The following points need to be particularly addressed.

(a) Each level crossing should be opened out and the condition of the sleepers, fittings, rails, and fastenings inspected at least once a year and given the requisite attention.

(b) The gates and signal discs should be painted at regular intervals.

(c) All trees, bushes, or undergrowth that interfere or tend to interfere with the view from the railway track or the roadway at the approaches to level crossings should be cut down while taking care that the safety of the track is not jeopardized.

(d) The following components of the track require special checking and attention during routine inspections of level crossings.

(i) The top table of the running rail and the check rail should be in the same plane.

(ii) The gauge should be in order. The approaches to level crossings should be well packed.

(iii) The road surface of the level crossing should be properly levelled, watered, and rammed. The gradients of the approaches to level crossings should not be steeper than specified.

(iv) The clearances between check rails and the depth of the check blocks should be scrutinized by inspecting officials. The flanges of check rails should be kept clear of dust, musk, etc.

(v) The whistle boards and stop boards provided on the approaches to level crossings should be well maintained.

(vi) It should be ensured that the flank fencing provided at a distance of 15 m (50 ft) on either side of level crossings should be in good condition. The gate stoppers should be in working order.

(vii) All equipment and registers should be well maintained and available at the level crossing.

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