Railway and Light Rail Transit (LRT) installations can create serious hazards for people living with sight loss. The ability to detect oncoming rail traffic at street crossings within a municipality can be compromised especially in busy urban areas where ambient sounds can mask the sound of an oncoming train.
Transport Canada does have guidelines on safety consideration, but, at time of writing, these are under development; Appendix I – Canadian grade crossing detailed safety assessment field guide.
While these guidelines are updated, CNIB suggests that railway or LRT operators consider the following guidelines. These guidelines published in 2015 provide recommendations which will provide pedestrians living with sight loss ample information so that they can determine when or if it is safe to cross an active railway.
15.19 Railway crossings
There are several design issues to address for locations where pedestrians cross a railway line at-grade.
To avoid pedestrians tripping on the rails, the footpath across the railway lines should be at the same level as the top of the rails. If the pedestrian crossing point is adjacent to a vehicle crossing point this can be easily achieved by widening the roadway.
The flange gap (the gap between the rails and the pavement, as shown in figure 15.20) should be no greater than 63mm and have a strong edge. This is to minimise the risk of trapping the wheels of a wheelchair.
Railway crossings must be accessible for all types of pedestrians, including those using walking aids. Warning must be given to show pedestrians they are entering a hazardous area.
Tactile warning indicators should be provided with the nearest edge no closer than 3m from the track centre line and at right angles to the pedestrian direction of travel.
Exposure is minimised by ensuring that crossings are perpendicular to the railway lines.
No single treatment will completely solve all safety issues and it is particularly difficult to prevent pedestrians from deliberately crossing when it is unsafe to do so. Thus supplementary signage and physical guidance measures leading up to the crossing point are also required. When pedestrian flows are heavy or trains are frequent:
install fencing along the approach footpaths and along the rail reserve near the crossing, to ensure pedestrians use the designated route, as shown in photo 15.22
if there is an automatic barrier for vehicular traffic, extend it across, or install separate barriers for the pedestrian route, as shown in photo 15.23
use a maze to deviate the pedestrian route left and right in the immediate approach to the crossing. This encourages pedestrians to look for trains in both directions, as shown in photo 15.24 . A sample design of a pedestrian maze is shown in figure 15.21.
automatic pedestrian gates can be installed to prevent entry by unobservant pedestrians as shown in photo 15.25. Note that when the gate closes an exit maze is opened so pedestrians already on the crossing can escape
provide notices on how to cross safely, as shown in photo 15.26
use a higher surface standard for the pedestrian route than for the vehicular crossing, as illustrated by the rubber pad system in photo 15.27. The use of rubber or similarly designed concrete pads also act as a bridge that automatically adjusts to track movement, thereby maintaining a quality surface that does not quickly degrade or go out of alignment
if the noise of bells is a problem at night time, use quieter bells rather than switching the bells off altogether
provide advance warning systems to help slower moving pedestrians decide when to cross; These measures must be used in conjunction with each other as they will not be effective enough if used individually. For example, it is not enough to rely solely on bells as a warning system. Bells are especially unsuitable on their own in doubletracked areas where trains may be on either track. Both physical and visual warnings are also necessary in such cases.
It is important to ensure that pedestrians use only the designated crossing points.
Areas adjacent to railway lines that could be seen by pedestrians as attractive crossing points, such as open grassy spaces, should be fenced off to avoid any unsafe and unexpected crossings being made as already shown above in photo 15.22, where the shared pedestrian and cycle track adjacent to the railway is well fenced.
As for any pedestrian facility, once at-grade railway crossings are installed, they must be maintained and checked regularly to ensure they meet pedestrians’ needs.
Note that all works on or immediately next to a railway line require approval from the appropriate rail access provider.
Figure 15.20 – Flange gap requirements
Photo 15.21 – Warning systems, Papakura
(Photo: David Croft)
Photo 15.22 – Fence between rail and pedestrian area, Christchurch (Photo: Axel Wilke) Photo 15.24 – Pedestrian rail crossing maze, Upper Hutt
(Photo: Roy Percival)
Photo 15.23 – Full automatic barriers, Hull, U.K.
(Photo: Tim Hughes)
1350-30 The design of the pedestrian network
5.3.2. Path markings
TCDM Part 9 (NZTA, 2012) specifies: “Where practicable, one white limit line should be provided across the footway at a distance of 2.4 m (and no less than 1.9 m) from the nearest rail edge”. Typically, this line should be 200 mm wide.
Immediately behind the limit line (i.e. on the path side, not the railway side) should be a set of tactile ground surface indicators (refer to NZTA 2015 for installation guidelines), and textured yellow crosswalk lines should also extend through the crossing (see section 5.3.4).
5.3.4. Tactile ground surface indicators Tactile ground surface indicators (TGSI) are used to provide guidance to blind and vision-impaired crossing users on where to stand clear of the rail corridor and the orientation of the crossing path.
Figure 23: Example of Queensland Rail pedestrian marking trial Rail Crossing Pedestrian/Cycle Design Guidance Final Guide Version I for industry use: 7 July 2017 43 RTS 14 (NZTA, 2015) specifies the TGSI devices to be used at rail crossings. Warning indicators are typically situated immediately behind the limit line and must be aligned perpendicular to the crossing direction. They should extend the full width of the available crossing path.
In addition, textured contrasting crosswalk lines in safety yellow colour should be installed right across the crossing path to delineate the width of the crossing. Typically, 150 mm wide lines are used (see Figure 24).
If necessary, additional directional TGSI devices may be installed to direct vision-impaired users to the crossing. This is particularly useful where pathways run parallel to the railway corridor, i.e. perpendicular to the crossing.
Figure 24: TGSI at level crossing – note no limit line applied (Grove Road, Christchurch)