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Railway level crossings on farms

OC 380/5


This OC provides links to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) document RGD-2007-07 'Private level crossings on farms and private land' which replaces guidance previously issued by HSE. It is intended to ensure common understanding of issues and facilitate joint working between HSE and ORR inspectors where appropriate.


1 Railway level crossings currently present the largest source of train accident risk. An accident at a crossing can result in injury or death to the user of the crossing as well as to the train driver and passengers.

2 Allocation of enforcing authority at level crossings is covered in paragraphs A71 to A75 of the Memorandum of Understanding between HSE and ORR. See User worked railway crossings (UWC)  for details. ORR inspectors have the necessary powers under HSWA to pursue level crossing issues with non-railway dutyholders.

3 ORR have produced a guidance document RGD-2007-07 'Private level crossings on farms and private land' that provides more background and information on relevant safeguards. There is also an information document that can be given to dutyholders. See Using level crossings safely.

4 Level crossings giving access to fields can lie unused for much of the year but during the summer months and harvest time in particular, may need to be used intensively, sometimes by casual/temporary labour who may be unfamiliar with the crossing. This can result in failure to follow the instructions for the safe use of the crossing. The authorised user is responsible for ensuring that everyone who uses the crossing has been properly instructed in how to do this safely. The 'authorised user' is a person or body with the legal right to cross the railway usually by virtue of owning or renting land, property or an undertaking nearby. The authorised user has a duty to cross the railway correctly and to ensure that all other users do too.

Action by inspectors

5 Where FOD inspectors/visiting staff establish that level crossings are present they should remind the authorised user (eg the farmer) of the risks and the legal responsibility to ensure users follow the instructions for the safe use of the crossing. The farmer should prepare a safe system of work for the use of level crossings. People who need to use the crossing in connection with the  farmer's business should be instructed in how to do it safely. The system of work should include the provision of any additional safety measures required by any temporary increased use of a crossing and of any special requirements to take account of particular users; for example, casual workers who may have a limited knowledge of English and who may not be able to read and understand warning signs, and contractors driving slow moving agricultural vehicles or machinery etc.

6 Visiting staff should remind farmers of their responsibilities to people allowed to use the crossing. This may include employees, contractors, postal staff, drivers of delivery vehicles and other visitors. If there has been a change in use of the crossing (even if this is only for short periods such as harvesting, fruit picking etc.) the farmer should discuss this with Network Rail or the relevant railway operator e.g for crossings on steam/heritage lines. Useful general information is also available from the Network Rail website. See Level Crossings.

7 Farmers should be advised to report any problems with the level crossing to Network Rail or the relevant railway operator. Authorised users are normally provided with a contact telephone number, and this is often displayed on a sign at the level crossing. ORR can also provide contact details if necessary.

8 ORR Inspectors would lead any investigation into an accident involving a train at a private level crossing on a farm. HSE inspectors would be kept informed and may be asked for assistance.

9 Visiting staff should liaise with ORR if they have any concerns about the condition of the protective equipment such as gates, signage etc at private level crossings on farms. ORR will liaise with Network Rail or other railway operators to ensure that remedial action is taken. Contact details for ORR can be found at the Contact us section of the Office of Rail and Road website.

Updated 2020-12-11