Wednesday, September 25, 2013

English and Scottish Law Commission Report on Level Crossings

Given the deadly collision a week ago in Ottawa between a transit bus and a passenger train at a level rail crossing, the joint report released today by the Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission on level crossings will be of interest.

The British railway network has some 8,000 level crossings.

From the report:
"In this project we have examined the legal framework for the regulation of level crossings with a view to its modernisation and simplification. We make recommendations in this report to reform the framework so that it is more coherent, accessible and up-to-date, allowing for better regulation and the reduction of risk (...)"

"The legislation governing level crossings is complex and antiquated, much of it dating back to the nineteenth century when the main railways were constructed under individual local Acts, called special Acts. Today, the relevant legislative provisions are contained in a combination of public general Acts, private Acts, bye-laws, and subordinate legislation in the form of Orders and Regulations, many of which have been amended heavily over the years. Some of the Acts have been partially repealed and some of their provisions have become spent or obsolete. It is not always clear which legislative provisions apply and which take precedence."
Among the report's recommendations: 
  • Create a new, more streamlined procedure to close individual level crossings where it is in the public interest to do so.
  • Bring safety regulation entirely under the umbrella of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
  • Provide tools to support this under health and safety regulations, including level crossings plans, enforceable agreements between railway operators and other duty holders, and a power for the Secretary of State to issue directions if necessary.
  • Improve the balance of convenience to all level crossing users by imposing a statutory duty upon railway and highway operators to consider the convenience of all users when carrying out their obligations in respect of level crossings.
  • Improve efficiency and level crossing management by imposing a statutory duty on highway and railway operators to make arrangements to co-operate with each other in carrying out their obligations in respect of level crossings.
  • Provide clarity in certain areas of land law about the position of statutory level crossings.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:10 pm

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