Rail/Road Crossing Info

Railway crossings are a special type of road intersection and must be designed and maintained with this in mind. Some of the major differences that must be taken into account are:

Responsibility for crossing safety rests with a number of parties including railways, road authorities and the users of the crossings.

Safety at crossings is influenced by a number of interdependent factors. They are frequently split into three categories, Enforcement, Education, and Engineering.


In Canada the provincial Highway Traffic Acts impose a number of requirements on motorists when they use crossings. These requirements are enforced by local police in the same manner as other sections of the these Acts. In addition, many bus and trucking companies impose more stringent rules on their drivers because of the severe consequences of a collision. The actions of train crews at crossings are covered by a combination of regulations/rules that are enforceable under the Railway Safety Act and internal procedures/rules put in place and enforced by the individual railway companies.


It is essential that motorists recognize crossings and know what is expected of them at the various types of crossings. Operation Lifesaver has developed some excellent material and programs in this area.


This category covers the design and maintenance of crossings. In order to be safe, crossings must be designed and maintained taking driver expectation and ability into account. Crossings must be inspected and assessed on a regular basis to ensure that conditions have not changed. Traffic volume and visibility are examples of conditions that could change gradually over time. The impact on safety of proposed changes to either the road or the track near the crossing must be assessed. Changes to a nearby intersection contributed to the collision of a commuter train and a school bus in Fox River Grove, Illinois in October, 1995 resulting in the death of 7 students and the injury of the driver and 24 other students. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) published a guide "Identification and Evaluation of School Bus Routes and Hazard Marking Systems" for identifying potential school bus route hazards. This guide identifies crossings as one of the factors to be assessed when planning routes and can be found as an appendix to the "Handbook - Standards and Regulations" at the "Montana Office of Public Instruction" site.

Some of the factors that should be considered in a safety assessment of a crossing are:

Road Traffic

  • speed
  • volume
  • heavy/long vehicles
  • buses

Crossing Geometry

  • angle
  • visibility (sightlines)
  • number of tracks
  • number of road lanes
  • road surface
  • road alignment
  • track alignment
  • nearby intersections
  • background distractions

Rail Operations

  • speed
  • freight trains
  • passenger trains
  • switching moves

Unsure if the crossing meets current standards?
Jock Valley Engineering Ltd. can help.


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