Status: The consultation on this project is closed. We are drafting instructions to Parliamentary Counsel for work on our draft Bill and expect to report our recommendations in the first quarter of 2013
There are between 7,500 and 8,000 level crossings in Great Britain. Level crossings represent the largest single risk of catastrophic train accident on Britain’s railways. The current law on level crossings is complex, outdated and difficult to access, creating problems for regulators, owners and operators and increasing the safety risk for users.
This project is concerned with examining the legal framework with a view to its modernisation and simplification. It engages a wide range of areas of the law: railways, highways, health and safety, land, planning, crime, and disability discrimination. The aim is to make recommendations with a view to reforming the framework so that it is more coherent, accessible and up-to-date, allowing for better regulation and the reduction of risk.
This review of the law relating to level crossings is being conducted jointly by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission. On 22 July 2010 we published a consultation paper, which contained our detailed proposals for law reform. The consultation period concluded on 30 November 2010, and the Commissions have now reviewed and analysed the responses. The final report is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2013, together with an analysis of the responses and a draft Bill.
During our four-month consultation period, we held meetings with stakeholders and presented our proposals to a number of organisations. We also attended several site visits on the mainline railway network, a heritage railway, and a number of tramways lines. We received over 100 responses to our consultation paper from a wide range of interested parties, including railway operators, highway authorities, local access forums, Members of Parliament, and disability rights groups.
The provisional proposals put forward in the consultation paper represented our initial view about how the law should be reformed. We have now reviewed these proposals on the basis of the responses to the consultation paper, and have had our proposed policy approved by the Commissioners of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission. We are now instructing Parliamentary Counsel on the preparation of our draft Bill.
We have produced a number of supporting documents:
- Impact assessment
- Regulatory theory - sets out the different approaches to regulation and considers their application in the context of level crossings. This paper accompanies the discussion of regulatory approaches in Part 7 of the consultation paper.
- Example of a special Act - as discussed throughout the consultation paper, the early railways were constructed and maintained by private companies, normally on the basis of Acts of Parliament known as “special Acts”.
- Example of an Australian interface agreement - as explained in Part 8 of the consultation paper, recently innovative use had been made of “safety interface agreements” in the Australian states. Under the Australian system, it is compulsory for highway and rail authorities to enter into such agreements in relation to all level crossings. These then operate as the principal risk regulators of level crossings. This is an example of an interface agreement for New South Wales.
- Advisory group members - an initial meeting with our advisory group was held in July 2008 to outline the scope of the project, discuss the main issues, and invite assistance from members. A further meeting was held in December 2009 to discuss and receive feedback on our preliminary conclusions and proposals. We also met with our advisory group members in September 2010 to provide members with more detailed information on the provisional proposals in our consultation paper, and in April 2011 to review our provisional conclusions following consultation. We are very grateful to our advisory group and key stakeholders. The feedback from these meetings helped us to formulate the provisional proposals and questions for consultees set out in our consultation paper. Advisory group members continued to provide valuable assistance during the consultation period while we worked through several of the difficult issues that affect the law of level crossings.