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Level crossing

The term level crossing (American English: grade crossing) -- i.e. a crossing on one level, or "at grade", without recourse to a bridge or tunnel -- is used with particular reference to the situation where a road crosses a railway line in such circumstances.

It also applies when a light rail line with separate right-of-way crosses a road; the term "metro" usually means by definition that there are no level crossings.

US city rail crossing

There are standard signs and markings for drivers to warn of such a crossing, varying of course by nation and region. Many of these crossings are blocked with gates of various kinds when a rail vehicle will be using the track. Often there are lights and audible warnings.

In the United States, and in countries that take their railroad practice from US practice, a train must have a bell that sounds continually until the train is completely past the crossing, and the whistle or horn must be sounded as the train approaches the crossing. Some American cities, citing noise pollution abatement, pass laws prohibiting the sounding of bells and whistles, but their ability to enforce such rules is debatable.

Third rail electric systems may also have level crossings: there is a gap in the third rail over the level crossing, but in spite of that the power supply is not interrupted due to the fact that trains have current collectors at each of their ends.

On many level crossings where a busy road crosses a railway, automatic gates or barriers are lowered when a train approaches, to prevent a collision. On less important roads and railway lines level crossings are often "open" without gates to protect them, but these often have some kind of warning lights to warn of approaching trains. Unguarded crossings represent a serious safety issue. Railways in the US are adding reflectors to the side of each train car to help prevent accidents at level crossings.

Modern railways avoid level crossings with flyovers or overpasses/underpasses.

At train stations there is sometimes a level crossing just for pedestrians, to reach the platforms if there is no tunnel or bridge, while the station is not a terminus.

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