Question for signallers re: controlled crossings

martin2345uk

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This isn’t meant to be a moan, just something I’ve been wondering for quite a while now since passing out as a driver…

On my route there are a few controlled level crossings. There are a couple of them where, almost invariably, the signals don’t clear until I’m well past the double yellow and slowing for the the single yellow, meaning I often lose a couple of minutes timings. I just wondered if there was an operational reason for this..?

i did wonder if it was to try and minimise the time the crossing is closed but:

  • Slowing down for a single yellow and then waiting to get my brake back and accelerating again means I end up taking longer to cross than if I’d just kept going at line speed
  • The crossings in question are on very quiet roads and, in one case, closed and decommissioned
  • it only seemed to happen in one direction, going the other way the signals are usually cleared before I reach them

All this makes me think there is some other reason and as I generally know naff all about signalling I thought I’d ask here!
 
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TheEdge

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  • The crossings in question are on very quiet roads and, in one case, closed and decommissioned

I know this used to happen at Witham where the crossing was gone but it had to wait until there was signalling work to modify the signalling system to remove the approach timers and signal protection.
 

greatkingrat

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A train driver who "knows naff all about signalling"
Should we be worried?
Actually in the training they deliberately don't go into great detail about how signalling works, for example approach controlled signals don't "officially" exist as far as drivers are concerned.
 

66701GBRF

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So long as a driver know what signals and signs mean I don't suppose they NEED to know the intricacies of signalling. That being said, it is probably a good idea to get some knowledge on the subject if only for your own sanity and blood pressure. I've lost count the amount of drivers I have seen or heard get angry at or about signallers not knowing their hands are tied.
 

a good off

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What line is it on? Some crossings are obstacle detected and not actually controlled by someone pressing a button. On the Crewe to Shrewsbury line, the signalling often mistakes an express for an all stations service and this would create the situation that you mention above as the barriers at places like Prees, Wem and Wrenbury are lowered later to reflect a stopping train.
 

martin2345uk

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It's the Tilbury loop line, there aren't any Obstacle Detection crossing on it I'm fairly sure, I expect it doesn't affect the C2C trains as they can accelerate much better, but us freights can't get back up to linespeed anything like as quickly.

So long as a driver know what signals and signs mean I don't suppose they NEED to know the intricacies of signalling. That being said, it is probably a good idea to get some knowledge on the subject if only for your own sanity and blood pressure. I've lost count the amount of drivers I have seen or heard get angry at or about signallers not knowing their hands are tied.
Yup, this is exactly why I am asking! :lol:
 

Bald Rick

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I know this used to happen at Witham where the crossing was gone but it had to wait until there was signalling work to modify the signalling system to remove the approach timers and signal protection.

Motts Lane crossing at Witham was a miniature R/G stop lights and automatic - ie not under the direct control of the signaller. In all my time on the railway I’ve never known a crossing with more complex controls on the ground and in the interlocking - a diverging junction on approach from the London direction, converging loops even closer, bidi, a station that has trains stopping, terminating, and reversing, etc etc. The annual maintenance cost of all the kit on the ground was astronomical.

It's the Tilbury loop line, there aren't any Obstacle Detection crossing on it I'm fairly sure, I expect it doesn't affect the C2C trains as they can accelerate much better, but us freights can't get back up to linespeed anything like as quickly.

All those crossings are controlled from one workstation in Upminster IECC, and it is not a popular one to work! It is a regular occurrence that the signaller is having to deal with two or more crossings needing to be closed at roughly the same time, and inevitably one will have to come second, and thus be a little late.

Also, many crossings on the line are routinely misused and abused. Grays in particular is a pig, because the locals tend to treat the warning sequence as purely for guidance rather than being instructive; the sequence there often has to be stopped as the barriers are dropping.

I suggest you speak to your DM, and ask him or her to raise it with the LOM at Upmister to have a look. It would be useful to have specific crossings and times / dates / headcodes of any repeat events.
 

Eccles1983

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Actually in the training they deliberately don't go into great detail about how signalling works, for example approach controlled signals don't "officially" exist as far as drivers are concerned.


Only a poor trainer would not go into detail on this.

It gets explained at my TOC. And DTM's get told that they are wrong to say it doesn't exist.
 

martin2345uk

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Motts Lane crossing at Witham was a miniature R/G stop lights and automatic - ie not under the direct control of the signaller. In all my time on the railway I’ve never known a crossing with more complex controls on the ground and in the interlocking - a diverging junction on approach from the London direction, converging loops even closer, bidi, a station that has trains stopping, terminating, and reversing, etc etc. The annual maintenance cost of all the kit on the ground was astronomical.



All those crossings are controlled from one workstation in Upminster IECC, and it is not a popular one to work! It is a regular occurrence that the signaller is having to deal with two or more crossings needing to be closed at roughly the same time, and inevitably one will have to come second, and thus be a little late.

Also, many crossings on the line are routinely misused and abused. Grays in particular is a pig, because the locals tend to treat the warning sequence as purely for guidance rather than being instructive; the sequence there often has to be stopped as the barriers are dropping.

I suggest you speak to your DM, and ask him or her to raise it with the LOM at Upmister to have a look. It would be useful to have specific crossings and times / dates / headcodes of any repeat events.
Thanks mate, that makes sense about Grays, got almost stopped at a red there today before it suddenly pinged to green, I assume that was a case of what you describe!

The most annoying one, that literally happens every single time, is the now-closed Manor Way level crossing, in the down direction. Only ever comes off to greens as I'm approaching the single yellow. Hopefully at some point soon the signalling there will be changed to reflect the fact it's no longer a crossing! <:D
 

Bald Rick

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The most annoying one, that literally happens every single time, is the now-closed Manor Way level crossing, in the down direction. Only ever comes off to greens as I'm approaching the single yellow. Hopefully at some point soon the signalling there will be changed to reflect the fact it's no longer a crossing!

AFAIK it’s not a crossing in the controls - certainly the signaller doesn’t have to give crossing clear. The routes are all set by ARS. I suspect what is happening there is Rainham crossing (Ferry Lane) and following a train calling there, the signaller lifting the barriers quickly to let the pedestrians across for a short while.
 

martin2345uk

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AFAIK it’s not a crossing in the controls - certainly the signaller doesn’t have to give crossing clear. The routes are all set by ARS. I suspect what is happening there is Rainham crossing (Ferry Lane) and following a train calling there, the signaller lifting the barriers quickly to let the pedestrians across for a short while.
Ah well there you go see, now next time this happens I have a better understanding of what is going on! Thank you 8-)
 

Annetts key

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Actually in the training they deliberately don't go into great detail about how signalling works, for example approach controlled signals don't "officially" exist as far as drivers are concerned.
Approach controlled signals don't "officially" exist any more because the official terminology changed many years ago to “approach released” :E

For the vast majority of manually controlled level crossings, that are controlled by a signaller or by a crossing keeper, there are no approach release controls (*1). The respective signal will clear as soon as the level crossing is confirmed closed to road traffic (meaning correct red road lights on the wig-wags, barriers detected down, on some crossings the barrier motors have turned off), the signaller/operator has pressed the crossing clear button and the signal switch/route switch or equivalent has been operated.

For CCTV crossings, the signaller/crossing keeper must have also pressed the picture button.

(*1) Note that there may be approach release controls provided for some other reason. Normally when there is a diverging junction or facing points ahead and the speed for the lower speed line is substantially lower than the higher speed line.

The situation is different for some automatic crossings, where there may be an enforced time delay in order to give road users enough time to cross before the protecting signal clears to a proceed aspect.

As stated above, the main reason that a signal protecting a crossing is slow to clear, will be either road users ignoring the red lights (*2), the signaller or crossing keeper being busy with other duties, or sometimes if the crossing has been closed to road users for a while, the signaller or crossing keeper will lift the barriers as soon as the previous train cleared the crossing to allow road users across, then put the barriers straight back down again. Because the lowering sequence takes a short amount of time, the train ahead will have been able to move clear, so the signal protecting the crossing will go straight from red to green.

Note that if the signaller/crossing keeper stops the barriers or the lowering sequence at any point before all the barriers are fully down, say because of crossing abuse, when the lower button is pressed again, the barriers will not move immediately, but have to wait until the normal timing relay does it’s thing. This is to ensure that the red lights are displayed for the required amount of time regardless of what has happened.

Note that the described systems are based on the designs I have been trained on and have worked on. There may be some regional variations although there are national and legal requirements that have applied across England and Wales for many, many years.
 

Ken H

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what happens if a blue light vehicle approaches a crossing? Will the signaler abort the crossing sequence to allow it past?
I am especially thinking of Kildwick. its on the ambulance route to Airedale from the north west (Skipton and beyond). It stays down for ages sometimes. I was in an ambulance going to Airedale with appendicitis and the ambulance was stuck at the crossing. He did a U turn and went down station road, (full of road humps - ouch)
If I go to Airedale now, I always go through Steeton...
 

Annetts key

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Once any of the protecting signals has cleared to a proceed aspect across a controlled level crossing, it’s out of the signallers/crossing keepers hands. The road traffic has to wait until either the train(s) have cleared the crossing, or all the protecting signals have been put back to red/danger and a timer has run for (normally 2 or 3 minutes) to ensure that any train has either passed the signal or has had time to come to a stop.

Only then will the interlocking release the controls so the barriers can be raised.

If there was a request (and money) at the design stage, comprehensive approach locking may have been specified, so if there is no approaching train, then the requirement to wait for the timer to finish is waved.

If however, none of the protecting signals was cleared to a proceed aspect, and providing the signal switch (or equivalent) is at or returned to the normal (signal at red) position, then the signaller/crossing keeper can stop the lowering sequence at any time. Then press the raise button. The barriers will raise in the normal way. Once detected to raised to have raised to the required angle, the red road lights will extinguish and road traffic can cross.

What an individual signaller or crossing keeper does, I can’t answer…
 

Annetts key

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Unless the Signaller is actually located at the crossing they won't normally be able to see or know that an Emergency Services vehicle is approaching it.
Yes.

With CCTV crossings, the view the signaller or crossing keeper gets is limited to the crossing only. They don’t get to see much of the approaching road. And the CCTV equipment (cameras and monitors) are normally monochrome, not colour (*). Although now that monochrome equipment has become harder to get, colour equipment may be in use in some locations. There is also no sound system. So the signaller or crossing keeper can’t hear any sirens.

(*) Signaller and crossing keepers where monochrome CCTV equipment is in use, are always amused if the police ask what colour the vehicle was, or ask for number plate details.
 

cin88

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what happens if a blue light vehicle approaches a crossing? Will the signaler abort the crossing sequence to allow it past?
I am especially thinking of Kildwick. its on the ambulance route to Airedale from the north west (Skipton and beyond). It stays down for ages sometimes. I was in an ambulance going to Airedale with appendicitis and the ambulance was stuck at the crossing. He did a U turn and went down station road, (full of road humps - ouch)
If I go to Airedale now, I always go through Steeton...

Blue light vehicles wait, they're no different to any other road user, blue lights on or not. I control an MCB crossing and held up an ambulance with it's blue lights on yesterday for about 3 minutes.

For the OP. We're not deliberately trying to slow you down, a combination of crossing misuse and quirks of the signalling system in a given area can cause these things to happen.
 

66701GBRF

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Blue light vehicles wait, they're no different to any other road user, blue lights on or not. I control an MCB crossing and held up an ambulance with it's blue lights on yesterday for about 3 minutes.

For the OP. We're not deliberately trying to slow you down, a combination of crossing misuse and quirks of the signalling system in a given area can cause these things to happen.

Technically and legally you are right, they are no different...but I am sure you would do your up most to get them across if you saw them coming and hadn't cleared the signals...in that regard they are a bit different to other road users.
 

Gloster

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It always used to be understood that management would accept a train delay if a signalman had held or raised the barriers to let a blue light over. The signalman was free to do whatever he thought quickest within the limits of safe working.

Around 1981, I came on duty at 14.00 one day to find a fire service car sitting behind the box: as soon I had taken over my mate went down to speak with the fire officer. Earlier that day the fire service had been called to an incident at the nearby mill. The full timers came down the road leading to the crossing and found the barriers down. My mate decided to let the train run normally, rather than putting the Distant back and waiting until he was sure that the driver had seen it at Caution and slowed before raising the barriers. Unfortunately, the part-timers from the nearby small town had come via the back road avoiding the crossing and got there first. The full timers, or their chiefs, were not pleased and my mate had to explain why he had done things the way he did.
 

The Lad

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Local knowledge can help. I had an occasion when an ambulance approached just after I had pulled off. Stopped in line for a few seconds and then put the blue lights on. Now if they had given it the full works earlier it could have been different.
 
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As I understand it, unlike ordinary traffic lights, blue light vehicles are required to obey red "wigwags".
Indeed. A pair of flashing red lights carries a different meaning in the Highway Code - ABSOLUTE STOP. Do not pass. Which also applies to emergency service vehicles.
 

Ken H

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Surprised ambulances don't routinely do that too. Or Station Road if they take it slowly!
station road was not funny in a meat wagon with something horrible happening in my guts (Was a gallstone as I found out later)
 

O L Leigh

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Just an additional thought. Are you given any additional time allowance for pathing along that stretch?

Reason I ask is that the Stansted Express services stopping at Harlow Town on the Down used to get 2 minutes pathing allowance between there and Bishops Stortford to give allowance for the crossings at Sawbridgeworth and Spellbrook. If you went like a bat out of hell up to linespeed you’d get stopped at reds protecting both crossings, but if you took advantage of those two minutes you’d waltz across on greens.
 

martin2345uk

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Just an additional thought. Are you given any additional time allowance for pathing along that stretch?

Reason I ask is that the Stansted Express services stopping at Harlow Town on the Down used to get 2 minutes pathing allowance between there and Bishops Stortford to give allowance for the crossings at Sawbridgeworth and Spellbrook. If you went like a bat out of hell up to linespeed you’d get stopped at reds protecting both crossings, but if you took advantage of those two minutes you’d waltz across on greens.
Good point, not sure how I would know if I do? It doesn't mention it on RealTime Trains, is that the best place to check..?
 

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