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MCB-CCTV Crossings

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ryan125hst

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After watching Paddington Station 24/7: Back on the Tracks over the last couple of weeks, I have got interested in signalling again. While looking through the brilliant signalboxes.com website which features pages on many now closed and, in most cases demolished, signal boxes, a photo of Ranskill signal box which is now used solely to control nearby level crossings raised a question:

Ranskill controls a total of five level crossings: Grove Road, Botany Bay, Sutton, Torworth and Ranskill, all via CCTV (a photo of the panel can be found here and a close up can be found on this page). Given that trains travel at 125 mph on this stretch and they are five to six passenger trains an hour in each direction plus freights, and also that the crossings need to be closed quickly so the trains aren't delayed, are they able to close multiple crossings at once or must they do them one at a time? There is some text in the second link I have given that describes the sequence of pressing the Picture button to switch the picture on, then pressing Lower for the Wig Wags to come on and the barriers to lower, and then the Crossing Clear button is pressed to clear the signals. Are signallers permitted to turn the picture on for one crossing, press lower and then do the same on another etc before checking each crossing is clear and pressing the Clear button, or do they need to focus on one crossing at a time?
 
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lineclear

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After watching Paddington Station 24/7: Back on the Tracks over the last couple of weeks, I have got interested in signalling again. While looking through the brilliant signalboxes.com website which features pages on many now closed and, in most cases demolished, signal boxes, a photo of Ranskill signal box which is now used solely to control nearby level crossings raised a question:

Ranskill controls a total of five level crossings: Grove Road, Botany Bay, Sutton, Torworth and Ranskill, all via CCTV (a photo of the panel can be found here and a close up can be found on this page). Given that trains travel at 125 mph on this stretch and they are five to six passenger trains an hour in each direction plus freights, and also that the crossings need to be closed quickly so the trains aren't delayed, are they able to close multiple crossings at once or must they do them one at a time? There is some text in the second link I have given that describes the sequence of pressing the Picture button to switch the picture on, then pressing Lower for the Wig Wags to come on and the barriers to lower, and then the Crossing Clear button is pressed to clear the signals. Are signallers permitted to turn the picture on for one crossing, press lower and then do the same on another etc before checking each crossing is clear and pressing the Clear button, or do they need to focus on one crossing at a time?
The ORR level crossing guidance recommends that crossing operators watch the lowering sequence, but it's not a rule book requirement.

This means that signallers and crossing keepers can, and often have to, operate multiple crossings at once.
 

High Dyke

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As lineclear mentioned. We all do it differently, some will lower one crossing at a time and then move onto the next. However, in the case of the ECML crossing boxes, on that section, it isn't that practical without causing trains to be signal checked. Take the crossings at Claypole, south of Newark. It has three crossing in less than s half mile or so. In many cases we start the lowering sequence at multiple crossings. The important factor is to follow the correct check method of the crossing before you press the crossing clear button.

Just to clarify, the crossing at Ranskill isn't actually on CCTV, we look out the window. Yet both Carlton GB and Claypole GB both have CCTV for their own crossings.
 

PG

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The ORR level crossing guidance recommends that crossing operators watch the lowering sequence, but it's not a rule book requirement.
So is that ORR guidance taken in a similar way to the introduction part of the Highway Code which reads:
Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts (see The road user and the law) to establish liability.
i.e. if something happens then if you've not followed the ORR guidance, by for example not watching the lowering sequence, this could be used against a crossing operator?
 

ryan125hst

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As lineclear mentioned. We all do it differently, some will lower one crossing at a time and then move onto the next. However, in the case of the ECML crossing boxes, on that section, it isn't that practical without causing trains to be signal checked. Take the crossings at Claypole, south of Newark. It has three crossing in less than s half mile or so. In many cases we start the lowering sequence at multiple crossings. The important factor is to follow the correct check method of the crossing before you press the crossing clear button.

Just to clarify, the crossing at Ranskill isn't actually on CCTV, we look out the window. Yet both Carlton GB and Claypole GB both have CCTV for their own crossings.
I take it that you'll still keep an eye on the monitors of the crossings you are closing so you can stop the barriers lowering if you need to? What do you mean by correct check method of the crossing? Is there more to it than having a good look at the crossing on the screen to make sure nothing is there that shouldn't be?

Carlton GB must be very busy as I think I'm right in saying it has six MCB-CCTV crossings to control and a crossing with Manual Gates to release as well (worked by a local crossing keeper). It must be non-stop operating the crossings at those gate boxes!

I didn't realise Ranskill gates are operated by looking out the window, but the Sectional Appendix does list it as MCB which is the clue! How do you operate that crossing as well as the other CCTV ones? Is it quick to move between the CCTV panel and the panel to control the local crossing - presumably they are right next to each other? I wonder why they didn't make Ranskill a CCTV crossing to match the others? Claypole and Carton are in newer buildings as well that presumably replaced the old signal box at those locations? Yet Ranskill remains in the original box.

One last question, are you qualified to work more than one gate box or can you operate others?
 

High Dyke

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You do keep an eye on the other monitors. The check method is to follow s figure of 8 pattern across the crossing area, which is designed to ensure you check all parts of the crossing to see that no-one is trapped within the barriers.

Not sure why the different locations were set up as they are. Both Carlton and Claypole also have a pedestal in the box, to operate the barriers from there instead of using the camera. They also have the local control unit situated alongside them. In other locations it is situated outside the box.

Carlton has the same amount of trains as Ranskill, ordinarily. Claypole has the most trains pass, with the Lincoln/London services.

A resident signaller is only expected to work that particular location. As a relief I'm trained to operate multiple locations, and different types of signalling.
 

ryan125hst

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You do keep an eye on the other monitors. The check method is to follow s figure of 8 pattern across the crossing area, which is designed to ensure you check all parts of the crossing to see that no-one is trapped within the barriers.

Not sure why the different locations were set up as they are. Both Carlton and Claypole also have a pedestal in the box, to operate the barriers from there instead of using the camera. They also have the local control unit situated alongside them. In other locations it is situated outside the box.

Carlton has the same amount of trains as Ranskill, ordinarily. Claypole has the most trains pass, with the Lincoln/London services.

Grove Road used to be controlled locally until the 90's I've read, I don't know whether you know why this is the case? It's the other side of Retford station so maybe they wanted it controlled separately originally as a result of this? Have Carlton and Claypole also taken on more crossings over the years? I presume the pedestals are there as an emergency backup, or were maybe used instead of CCTV when the boxes were first built? Does the local control unit allow the barriers to be controlled individually during engineering work or is this something else you refer to here?

I referred to Carlton more from as a result of the fact it controls six MCB crossings via CCTV plus the crossing with manual gates, but maybe it doesn't really make much difference if they are usually all closed at the same time?

Going back to Ranskill, I'm interested to know how the four CCTV crossing and the local crossing is juggled. Does that make things a bit more complicated than Claypole for example where all crossings are CCTV?
A resident signaller is only expected to work that particular location. As a relief I'm trained to operate multiple locations, and different types of signalling.

It must be challenging to remember the specifics of each signal box/gate box compared to being familiar with just one location?
 

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You do keep an eye on the other monitors. The check method is to follow s figure of 8 pattern across the crossing area, which is designed to ensure you check all parts of the crossing to see that no-one is trapped within the barriers.
Thank you to you and all your colleagues in keeping us safe as we wizz by often oblivious to all that is going on outside of our train :D
 

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I can't find exactly when Grove Road ceased to be manned, with control passing to Ranskill. However, your suggestion is feasible. Bathley Lane, another GN built box, didn't get downgraded until 1998, with control there passing to Carlton on Trent, and with it the former Cromwell SB area of control. Bathley is now another location that acts as an emergency panel.

Carlton took over the control of Egmanton SB from 1976, when the current box at Carlton was erected. Likewise, Claypole took over control of the former Barnby box area of control.

The operation of the level crossings at any of the three boxes varies slightly with regards to approaching trains. You take into account whether they are being looped at those locations or, in the case if Ranskill, it's a down train calling at Retford. Operation of the crossing at Ranskill isn't much of an issue with regards the other crossings it controls as you are operating the crossings as more of a group in the particular area anyway. That said each signaller will have their own way of working the boxes, but in a way that still ensures the least delays for trains.

Overall, yes it can be a challenge to operate a variety of locations. However, we have to demonstrate the competency for each location signed for. Whether we are a signaller that works one box or works a dozen boxes, it's the intense training we have completed, as well as the ongoing competency training that matters.
 

ryan125hst

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I can't find exactly when Grove Road ceased to be manned, with control passing to Ranskill. However, your suggestion is feasible. Bathley Lane, another GN built box, didn't get downgraded until 1998, with control there passing to Carlton on Trent, and with it the former Cromwell SB area of control. Bathley is now another location that acts as an emergency panel.

Carlton took over the control of Egmanton SB from 1976, when the current box at Carlton was erected. Likewise, Claypole took over control of the former Barnby box area of control.

The operation of the level crossings at any of the three boxes varies slightly with regards to approaching trains. You take into account whether they are being looped at those locations or, in the case if Ranskill, it's a down train calling at Retford. Operation of the crossing at Ranskill isn't much of an issue with regards the other crossings it controls as you are operating the crossings as more of a group in the particular area anyway. That said each signaller will have their own way of working the boxes, but in a way that still ensures the least delays for trains.
I wonder why the likes of Ranskill and Bathley Lane remained locally controlled for a couple of decades after the crossings were upgraded to barriers? What's perhaps more peculiar is Barnby and Tallington seem to have 1970's style boxes next to them yet the crossings are no longer controlled locally from there. I'd be interested to know why they were built and when they stopped being used, although that's probably something for an ECML Gate Box thread.

It wasn't so much the operation in that sense I was referring to, but the fact that Ranskill presumably has a pedestal for the local crossing as well as the CCTV panel which can be seen at the link above. I'm assuming you have to use the pedestal for the local crossing and then move across to the CCTV panel to close the other crossings? I've not come across a picture of the pedestal so I've no idea how the box is arranged.
 

High Dyke

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I wonder why the likes of Ranskill and Bathley Lane remained locally controlled for a couple of decades after the crossings were upgraded to barriers? What's perhaps more peculiar is Barnby and Tallington seem to have 1970's style boxes next to them yet the crossings are no longer controlled locally from there. I'd be interested to know why they were built and when they stopped being used, although that's probably something for an ECML Gate Box thread.

It wasn't so much the operation in that sense I was referring to, but the fact that Ranskill presumably has a pedestal for the local crossing as well as the CCTV panel which can be seen at the link above. I'm assuming you have to use the pedestal for the local crossing and then move across to the CCTV panel to close the other crossings? I've not come across a picture of the pedestal so I've no idea how the box is arranged.
In a general sense it may be worth considering a specific thread about the ECML crossings, if required. Either that, or rename this thread and then create a separate thread to discuss the more general operation of MCB-CCTV level crossings.

I don't have a picture inside the box of the crossing pedestal. However, that is how it works. You move to the panel to clear the signals and go from there regrading the other crossings. Not certain about the other boxes, including Tallington etc. It was probably a case of trying to cut costs at that time.
 

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I know little about the particular sites being discussed here, but long before obstacle detection technology became a thing in the UK, many MCB crossings started being equipped with an 'auto lower' feature that could initiate the warning and lowering sequence autonomously when approaching trains passed a particular location. Before auto lower was developed, the same trigger usually set off an 'annunciator' alarm in the box. With either feature, the CCTV monitors (where applicable) would usually switch on automatically at the same time, and, before protecting signals could clear, the crossing clear confirmation would need to be given by the human signaller/attendant. Auto lower, like the earlier auto-raise feature, was a useful method to manage workload in control locations where supervision of increasing numbers of crossings was being concentrated. Not continuously observing the lower sequence cannot result in a train incident as long as the subsequent crossing clear confirmation is carried out correctly, but there is still a small chance of falling barriers striking a person or other obstacle on the way down, risking minor injury or equipment damage that might result in the inability to clear signals later, hence causing delay. Auto raise has been known to cause problems too, where people or animals have become entangled with the barriers before they ascend, and after the CCTV monitor has switched off!
 

High Dyke

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You are correct there. The auto-lower facility has helped ease the workload for multiple crossing locations. However, as you mention "there is still a small chance of falling barriers striking a person or other obstacle on the way down, risking minor injury or equipment damage that might result in the inability to clear signals later, hence causing delay." One clean underwear moment I've seen is when the location power supply has a temporary blip. At this point the barriers drop like a stone without the normal road lights sequence. This may differ at other locations.

A colleague of mine once had an incident where a car skidded off the side of the crossing during the lowering sequence. Luckily he'd seen the car disappear off the camera monitor before he pressed the crossing clear button. The car was positioned at the base of the CCTV camera, but couldn't be seen on the monitor. Job stopped and the incident reported.

Equally, I've been an appointed observer during an investigation meeting. A signaller had 'accidentally' trapped a car in a CCTV level crossing, the car driver forced their way off the crossing, but the signaller then failed to carry out the correct rules procedure regarding the incident. A disciplinary hearing followed, and the signaller lost their job.
 
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Gloster

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I have not worked CCTV crossings, but have worked several boxes controlling a crossing. There were two types of control unit: in one a single press on the down button started the lights and the whole process right up to the barriers being lowered across road was carried out without any need to hold the button down or press it again. With the other a single press on the button would start the light sequence, but it was necessary to hold the button down to lower the barriers: until that was done they stayed up with the lights flashing and if you lifted your finger off the button while they were dropping they stopped. The visible difference was that the first type of control unit had a raised Stop button in the middle. The disadvantage of the first type was the habit of nipping away to clear a signal, answer a bell, put something in the train register, etc. I am sure I am not the only signalman to have had to hurl myself across the operating floor to hit the Stop button after misjudging the time away and having someone try to jump the lights. The worst offender at one box was the District Nurse in a Hillman Hunter.

I did once have a horse go over the barriers. It wasn’t in sight when I started the sequence, but may have been spooked by the bells. I had just got the barriers down when it leapt both of them with the rider hanging on to its neck for dear life. I kept an eye on it as it headed off down the road, but it slowed down and the rider sat up.
 

ryan125hst

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I don't have a picture inside the box of the crossing pedestal. However, that is how it works. You move to the panel to clear the signals and go from there regrading the other crossings. Not certain about the other boxes, including Tallington etc. It was probably a case of trying to cut costs at that time.
I have got more questions about the ECML gate boxes so I'll definitely be creating a new thread on this topic when I've chance.
I don't have a picture inside the box of the crossing pedestal. However, that is how it works. You move to the panel to clear the signals and go from there regrading the other crossings. Not certain about the other boxes, including Tallington etc. It was probably a case of trying to cut costs at that time.
I see, so pedestal to shut the local crossing, then you need to clear the signals using the panel anyway so you would move back there to do this and operate the other crossings. Presumably for down trains you would use the panel to close the CCTV crossings first and then go to the pedestal to close Ranskill before returning to the panel to clear the signals (unless there's an up train approaching as well - which is probably very likely!)

I know little about the particular sites being discussed here, but long before obstacle detection technology became a thing in the UK, many MCB crossings started being equipped with an 'auto lower' feature that could initiate the warning and lowering sequence autonomously when approaching trains passed a particular location. Before auto lower was developed, the same trigger usually set off an 'annunciator' alarm in the box. With either feature, the CCTV monitors (where applicable) would usually switch on automatically at the same time, and, before protecting signals could clear, the crossing clear confirmation would need to be given by the human signaller/attendant. Auto lower, like the earlier auto-raise feature, was a useful method to manage workload in control locations where supervision of increasing numbers of crossings was being concentrated. Not continuously observing the lower sequence cannot result in a train incident as long as the subsequent crossing clear confirmation is carried out correctly, but there is still a small chance of falling barriers striking a person or other obstacle on the way down, risking minor injury or equipment damage that might result in the inability to clear signals later, hence causing delay. Auto raise has been known to cause problems too, where people or animals have become entangled with the barriers before they ascend, and after the CCTV monitor has switched off!
Did the auto lower facility lower the exit barrier as well or just the entry barriers, therefore ensuring that vehicles and pedestrians can still leave the crossing until the signaller is supervising? Does auto lower still exist today? And do boxes such as the ones I have discussed with High Dyke above have annunciator alarms to warn of approaching trains entering the area they control?

I have not worked CCTV crossings, but have worked several boxes controlling a crossing. There were two types of control unit: in one a single press on the down button started the lights and the whole process right up to the barriers being lowered across road was carried out without any need to hold the button down or press it again. With the other a single press on the button would start the light sequence, but it was necessary to hold the button down to lower the barriers: until that was done they stayed up with the lights flashing and if you lifted your finger off the button while they were dropping they stopped. The visible difference was that the first type of control unit had a raised Stop button in the middle. The disadvantage of the first type was the habit of nipping away to clear a signal, answer a bell, put something in the train register, etc. I am sure I am not the only signalman to have had to hurl myself across the operating floor to hit the Stop button after misjudging the time away and having someone try to jump the lights. The worst offender at one box was the District Nurse in a Hillman Hunter.

I did once have a horse go over the barriers. It wasn’t in sight when I started the sequence, but may have been spooked by the bells. I had just got the barriers down when it leapt both of them with the rider hanging on to its neck for dear life. I kept an eye on it as it headed off down the road, but it slowed down and the rider sat up.

Looking around online it seems that some older local panels don't have a Crossing Clear button. One such signal box was the subject of a RAIB investigation and the report mentions how the signals clear once the barriers are lowered - Page 13 "when the barriers are fully lowered, the protecting signal clears without any further action by the crossing keeper". Other panels seem to have the Crossing Clear button even for a locally controlled crossing which seems a safer option to me. Were the ones without originally designed for mechanical boxes where a lever was used for interlocking?

It must have been frightening to see the horse jump over the barriers!
 

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Looking around online it seems that some older local panels don't have a Crossing Clear button. One such signal box was the subject of a RAIB investigation and the report mentions how the signals clear once the barriers are lowered - Page 13 "when the barriers are fully lowered, the protecting signal clears without any further action by the crossing keeper". Other panels seem to have the Crossing Clear button even for a locally controlled crossing which seems a safer option to me. Were the ones without originally designed for mechanical boxes where a lever was used for interlocking?


These were all manual boxes with semaphore signals, but there was no Crossing Clear button: once the barriers were down, you could put the barrier release lever back to normal, which allowed you to clear the signals. Until the signals were back to danger, the interlocking prevented you reversing the barrier lever and until that was reversed, the electrical interlocking prevented you lifting the barriers. If a gust of wind or some childish/impatient idiot lifted the barriers, the motors immediately cut back in and pushed them down again.
It must have been frightening to see the horse jump over the barriers!

Somehow I have displayed my usual technical incompetence. The second paragraph of the first box was my comment and “Not as frightened as the rider was.” should have followed the second. I don’t know where that went.
 

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Did the auto lower facility lower the exit barrier as well or just the entry barriers, therefore ensuring that vehicles and pedestrians can still leave the crossing until the signaller is supervising? Does auto lower still exist today? And do boxes such as the ones I have discussed with High Dyke above have annunciator alarms to warn of approaching trains entering the area they control?
The complete sequence is initiated with auto-lower at conventional MCBs without OD. When any new crossing is proposed or any significant changes are required at an existing level crossing, a new or revised level crossing order is applied for. The order is issued by the Secretary of State for Transport and specifies in detail the type, layout and method of operation. The infrastructure authority will draft a crossing order and the SoS may approve and issue or refuse such proposals. A feature such as auto-lower would be a detail requested in the draft order. The SoS may refuse it if they believe that functionality is not safe or otherwise appropriate for a particular site, due to road traffic characteristics perhaps.
Looking around online it seems that some older local panels don't have a Crossing Clear button. One such signal box was the subject of a RAIB investigation and the report mentions how the signals clear once the barriers are lowered - Page 13 "when the barriers are fully lowered, the protecting signal clears without any further action by the crossing keeper". Other panels seem to have the Crossing Clear button even for a locally controlled crossing which seems a safer option to me. Were the ones without originally designed for mechanical boxes where a lever was used for interlocking?
Thanks for the Lydney report link. I vaguely recall the incident but had not read about the details. According to the document, the crossing was one of the last installations to not include a separate crossing clear or even a slot control for the attendant to clear the signals or replace them in an emergency and the signal aspects did not continuously prove the barriers lowered after initial clearance. Box instructions and training for emergency scenarios were also considered lacking. The rules for new installations changed in the early 1970s, but many crossing had a local slot control feature effectively before this as the signals were controlled solely by the local signaller. The area has been resignalled since the incident with CCTV supervision and control at South Wales Control Centre.
 

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I see, so pedestal to shut the local crossing, then you need to clear the signals using the panel anyway so you would move back there to do this and operate the other crossings. Presumably for down trains you would use the panel to close the CCTV crossings first and then go to the pedestal to close Ranskill before returning to the panel to clear the signals (unless there's an up train approaching as well - which is probably very likely!)
Correct.

Just on the subject of the auto-lower facility, we have some crossings that only have one barrier on either side, that covers the width of the road - Ranskill is a good example of this. In this case you would stop the lowering sequence and raise the barriers again if someone became trapped.
 

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On a few occasions I had drivers jump the lights and dodge the descending full barriers on the approach side, but then have to stop because the other side is too far down to get around. The normal action was to pause for a few seconds - to let them think about the stupidity of their action - before lifting the barriers just enough to let them get past. With one serial offender (well, two or three times) I walked away and loudly pulled off the Up Inner Home that protected the crossing (it was only a few yards away). I waited a few seconds until the driver started hooting, walked back to the pedestal, wagged my finger at him and lifted the barriers. I should add that there was also an Outer Home and the train was a Down.
 

ryan125hst

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The complete sequence is initiated with auto-lower at conventional MCBs without OD. When any new crossing is proposed or any significant changes are required at an existing level crossing, a new or revised level crossing order is applied for. The order is issued by the Secretary of State for Transport and specifies in detail the type, layout and method of operation. The infrastructure authority will draft a crossing order and the SoS may approve and issue or refuse such proposals. A feature such as auto-lower would be a detail requested in the draft order. The SoS may refuse it if they believe that functionality is not safe or otherwise appropriate for a particular site, due to road traffic characteristics perhaps.

I see, so it's up to the Secretary of State for Transport to look at each crossing and work out what is appropriate for each one on an individual basis.
Thanks for the Lydney report link. I vaguely recall the incident but had not read about the details. According to the document, the crossing was one of the last installations to not include a separate crossing clear or even a slot control for the attendant to clear the signals or replace them in an emergency and the signal aspects did not continuously prove the barriers lowered after initial clearance. Box instructions and training for emergency scenarios were also considered lacking. The rules for new installations changed in the early 1970s, but many crossing had a local slot control feature effectively before this as the signals were controlled solely by the local signaller. The area has been resignalled since the incident with CCTV supervision and control at South Wales Control Centre.
I was suprised to see that there was no separate Crossing Clear button provider, nor was there a way, or need, to clear the signals after the crossing was closed. It certainly seems far better to have at least one of these things and ideally both as I believe is often the case now.
 

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I see, so it's up to the Secretary of State for Transport to look at each crossing and work out what is appropriate for each one on an individual basis.
I'm sure the department has an army of civil service minions to actually do the work, although I expect they've all been diverted to Brexit related activities at the moment!
I was suprised to see that there was no separate Crossing Clear button provider, nor was there a way, or need, to clear the signals after the crossing was closed. It certainly seems far better to have at least one of these things and ideally both as I believe is often the case now.
A requirement for all new installations from the mid-1970s I believe.
 
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