Over five hundred extra crossings between Wales and England

TfW train at Lydney level crossing. Image: Network Rail

UK infrastructure agency Network Rail has made a safety warning over 564 extra level crossings. It’s even more on Saturdays. – 658 of them. More precisely, that’s around six hundred extra train movements over a series of existing level crossings, all 47 of them. It’s all down to a new, improved service between Wales and England.

Level crossings are places of concern for railway operators. A “dynamic interface” between road and rail traffic is never pretty and sometimes very ugly. That’s why Network Rail, Britain’s infrastructure agency, is eager to give level-crossing users a safety reminder. Additional services have begun between Cardiff and Cheltenham, and the agency wants users to take extra care following the timetable change.

Uniquely high number of level crossings

Transport for Wales, the government agency that runs domestic services in Wales and some cross-border services to England, has upped its game between Cardiff and Cheltenham. Services start in South Wales at Maesteg and Bridgend, calling at the Welsh capital and on to Newport before taking their turn up the Severn Estuary line and crossing the border to serve the English towns of Gloucester and Cheltenham.

It’s the Severn Estuary line that has the focus of Network Rail’s attention. It has been in the news before. The line required extensive engineering work in 2022 to stabilise the Victorian-era earthworks along the route. That, though, is not the line’s claim to fame. Network Rail has highlighted the line’s safety issue. It’s the uniquely large number of level crossings. That, say Network Rail, is an issue that everyone needs to address and take extra care of – especially since the service level on the line has been radically improved.

Remain cautious and vigilant

The increase in the number of services on the line, which runs alongside the lower reaches of the River Severn, numbers twelve additional passenger trains running on weekdays and 14 on Saturdays. That adds up to 564 extra individual “level crossing crossings” on a weekday and 658 on Saturdays. Network Rail says that represents a whole new level of safety precautions. Not only that, during the period 3 July to 18 July, services that normally use the Severn Tunnel will be diverted via the route to allow closure of the Tunnel for essential track maintenance.

DB Cargo UK oil tanker train at Lydney level crossing. Image: © Network Rail.

“We’re supportive of our colleagues at Transport for Wales as they increase the number of trains running between Cardiff and Cheltenham”, said Nick Millington, route director for Network Rail, Wales & Borders. “However, safety remains our number one priority, which is why we’re urging level crossing users to remain cautious and vigilant, to always obey warning signals, and to stop, look and listen.”

More trains running at different times

Quite apart from the additional traffic in July, the Severn Estuary is permanently host to a round-the-clock operation. Freight traffic moves 24 hours a day, mainly serving the steel industry in South Wales and oil traffic from the refinery near Fishguard. The passenger timetable is made up of the augmented TfW South Wales – Gloucestershire service. A variety of services operated by GWR and CrossCountry Trains, from origins all over England, also use the route.

Network Rail say that when people use a level crossing regularly, they often assume they know when trains will pass through. However, the new timetable means there will be more trains running at different times throughout the day, so they’re urging everyone to take extra care when using level crossings, no matter how familiar they are with them.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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