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Legislation proposed to close level crossings

A new procedure should be created to close level crossings, the Law Commission has proposed. In a joint report, the Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission call for the safety regime around level crossings to be improved.

The report recommends clarifying the law relating to rights of way across railways and bringing level crossings into the general Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, with special provision for level crossings plans to be made “when it is desirable to do so”.

Current legislation, the Level Crossings Act 1983 provides “inflexible and unresponsive orders” to closing crossings, the commissions found.

Frances Patterson QC, lead commissioner at the Law Commission, said: “These reforms will, if adopted by Government, make for a more efficient safety system for level crossings. It will also allow Network Rail to go further than they already have in closing as many level crossings as possible, reducing costs on both the railway and road networks.”

Dr Andrew Steven, lead commissioner at the Scottish Law Commission, said: “Our recommendations provide a new legal framework for level crossings in Great Britain. In relation to Scotland we have sought carefully to draw a balance between the compelling need for safety on railway lines and the rights of the public to have access over land under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and common law.”

Ian Prosser, director of railway safety at the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), said: “The ORR welcomes the Law Commissions’ proposals to modernise level crossing legislation, which will cut red-tape and make it easier for high-risk crossings to be closed. Great Britain’s level crossings, although among the safest in Europe, pose a significant rail safety risk to the public. That is why we have announced millions of pounds’ worth of extra funds to close or upgrade level crossings over the next five years, and will work to support implementation of improved level crossing laws.”

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