Wednesday 23 March 2011
Safety / Levels crossings

Operation Lifesaver Estonia’s (OLE): international educational conference on railway safety “Let’s save lives 2011” (15 March, Tallinn, Estonia)

2nd EU Workshop on Level Crossing Safety (16 March)

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Tamo Vahemets, from Operation Lifesaver Estonia (OLE), opened the conference inviting the 150 participants from 22 countries to observe a one minute silence in the memory of the Japanese earthquake victims.(OLE:

The first keynote speaker, Enrico Grillo Pasquarelli, Land Transport Director at the European Commission’s DG MOVE, stressed the importance of such a conference on level crossing safety and reported on the EU transport safety objectives through the EC Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020 “on the move for safer roads in Europe” to halve the number of fatalities on the roads. It includes the “shared responsibility” on road infrastructure including level crossings. Better engineering at level crossings (better visibility, modern technology) as well as training, education, awareness and enforcement are also needed to improve safety. Though rail has very good safety records, the interface of road and rail represents a very significant cause for concern. There are limited options for train operators, but there needs to be a tougher stance towards the road sector on the part of the authorities, which could include European funding going only to areas that meet requirements. Building underpasses and bridges are the key to decreasing the number of level crossings but these are difficult investment decisions. Various planning and maintenance actions are supported. According to article 18 of the Vienna Convention rail has priority. Human or technological solutions in conjunction with education in schools and driving schools are most important to increase safety which is being achieved by Operation Lifesaver.

Petr Kutcherenko, Chairman, Directorate of Community of Independent States and Baltic Railway Council, explained the organisational structure of the Council and added that the freight schedule planning is central to the organisation. The increase in road traffic has added to poor road driving behaviour and violations, and there is an urgent need for prevention, education and enforcement. The 2006-10 statistics show that the accidents are mainly caused by road users (98%).

Eero Pärgmäe, Estonian Deputy Secretary-General of Transport and Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environment, and a native of Tartu. When he used to go to school it was much quicker to take a shortcut across the rail tracks than to go the long way. He did it because he did not realise the risks involved. There was no education or prevention at that time. Nowadays this event is very important in helping to reach target audiences. The Ministry has investment programmes for new trains, stations, crossing replacements. But he thinks it is better to change the way people think.

Kaido Simmermann, CEO of Estonian Railways, explained that in 2004 EVR decided to make efforts to publicise public safety due to an increase of casualties in Estonia. This led to the creation of Operation Lifesaver in Estonia (OLE) that henceforth developed the outlined campaign activities.

Kirsi Pajunen, ERA (, outlined the purpose of the railway agency and the vision 0: the human being is part of the transport system and cannot be punished by the death sentence for making errors.

Anvar Salomets, Estonian Technical Surveillance Agency (Railways inspectorate), reported on the history of regulation since Estonia regained independence in 1991.

Don Wilson, Principal Inspector of Railways at the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR:, reported on the different types of level crossings in the UK and ORR’s role.

Esko Värttiö, Finnish chief rail accident investigator, gave a presentation on the Finnish safety administration that is independent and designed to improve overall safety covering all transport sectors: air, rail, maritime and ‘other’ branches.

Helen Sramek, President, Operation Lifesaver inc. (OLI) in the USA, the mother company of OL and a non-profit organisation founded in 1972. Their activities are related to level crossing and trespassing issues: 25% of all accidents are caused by professional drivers. Since 1972 the number of collisions have declined by 84%. They reached 3 million people in 2010: drivers, law enforcement people and students (their website also exists in Spanish: Their targets: distracted drivers, children and young people. They also organise E-learning with simulators in cabins for professional drivers (mainly truck drivers).

Dan Di Tota, National Director of Operation Lifesaver (OL), Canada (English); (French)

Since 1981 Canada has adopted a bilingual version of OL. Operation Lifesaver is a partnership initiative of the Railway Association of Canada and Transport Canada and works in cooperation with the rail industry, government, police, unions, and many public organisations and community groups. Canada counts 20,000 public level crossings and 20,000 private ones. 54% of incidents at LX are due to trespassing.

Victor Cherkassov, Head Dept. Labour Protection, Industrial Safety and Environmental Monitoring at the Russian Railways said they are interested in the accidents taking place between or at stations, not at level crossings. These accidents have decreased by 30% between 2004 and 2010 and occur mainly in suburban areas.

Martina Pavlikova on behalf of Jan Nastisn, ZSR Slovakia, presented their network and the number of level crossings in Slovakia and talked about the importance of human factors and education.

Michael Calé, Traffic Psychologist at Israeli Railways, introduced the issue of the boring side of road traffic signs. They are so boring that people do not pay attention any more. Their role is to make them aware of new signs and encourage them to be more cautious, for example to take notice of new signs on the ground signalling a level crossing is approaching.

Vassiliki Danelli-Mylonas (R.S.I., President of the Hellenic Road Safety Institute, and John Lawlor, Chief of the Irish Contingent of Scouts: R.S.I. has been created to increase awareness and sensitivity among citizens, and most importantly to rally key Public and Private Organisations to act for Road Safety. Since 2007 they have been making road safety awareness campaigns (TV, Radio, publications and posters on level crossings). They participated in ELCAD 2009 and ILCAD 2010 in cooperation with TRAINOSE and will continue in 2011. Since death through road injury is the most significant killer of young people globally between the ages of 5 to 29 years (source WHO 2008) R.S.I. has formed a partnership with the Scouts Contingent to make awareness campaigns in which ILCAD will be associated. The World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) is composed of 28 million scouts in 160 countries and is the largest children’s and youth movement in the world.

Isabelle Fonverne, UIC, presented ILCAD 2010 in which more than 40 countries worldwide participated with smaller or bigger campaigns. She showed the EC financed video “Just in time” and informed participants that the date for 2011 has been fixed for 9 June:
The campaign has been registered on the WHO website as part of road safety campaigns; therefore by supporting and advertising on the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 she may use the logo of the UN campaign on ILCAD communications media.

Urmo Reitav (UNICEF Estonia) presented UNICEF actions for children and campaigns in Estonia. He talked about cooperation without which no project can be supported.

Werner de Dobbeleer (Belgian Road Safety Institute) presented the CAST project and recommendations to increase the chances of success of awareness-raising campaigns:

Robert Nowak, UN-ECE Geneva, Secretary of the Working Party 1 on Road Traffic Safety, covered the 1968 Vienna Convention relating to road signs and repeated that UN-ECE intends to initiate a Road/Rail Interface Safety Group (UIC again invited to participate at WP1 session on 22 March).

The International Conference was followed by the 2nd restricted European Commission Workshop on Level Crossing Safety on 16 March 2011 in which 50 people from EU countries took part and was composed of two panels: one on education and one on enforcement (when educational measures have failed or in combination with education).

Alan Davies, ELCF Chairman, introduced the event and summarised European statistics and priorities.

Timo Aaltonen, European Commission’s DG MOVE, talked about EU policies on road safety and the context of level crossing safety.
Ann Mills, RSSB, gave a presentation on Human Factors – errors and violations. She started with GB data and then explained the use of the Level Crossing Risk Management Toolkit and the high risk activities identified as well as the role of education.

Tamo Vahemets, Operation Lifesaver Estonia ( ), presented their national education campaign (media, TV, posters, publicising in schools). Volunteers consisting of mainly police officers are taught by OLE giving them a basic railway background and communication indicators to give 45 minute-presentations mainly in schools. Children who have been taught are then good teachers to their own parents!

Paulo Soares de Melo, REFER, Portugal, presented REFER’s national awareness campaign – ‘Pare, Escute, Olhe’ = Stop, listen and look. Even though they have closed half of all level crossings in Portugal during the last 5 years, they now have new objectives – to reduce accidents by 50% from 2009-2105 through a new risk analysis tool, low cost solutions, campaigns (TV, website, banners, flyers, logo on locomotives, Facebook, outdoor advertising, radio spots, headphones, and an educational video).

Katarzyna Kucharek, PKP PLK Poland, presented their awareness campaign. She worked alone on the project in 2010. In 2011 27 volunteers in her company will be helping her nationwide all year round. In 2010 they issued bookmarks, puzzles, literature, an electronic form on their website to report LX failures, a monthly newsletter sent to 300 subscribers, downloadable ring tones, organised 53 educational shows in 15000 schools, campaign graphics on trains, distributed 300,000 leaflets and 5,000 posters, created 1200 billboards and 313 banners at crossings, a TV show, a car crash test filmed by journalists, media picnics, TV and radio spots, a navigation software, distributed promotional gadgets, 200 press articles, contests and competitions in schools, driving schools, scout clubs, 50 company vehicles covered with slogans, a quiz show seen by 6 million people, and promotion of the “Safe Monday”.

Helena Höök and Olle Mornell (Swedish Transport Administration) examined the responsibility of system designers to make the transport system safer to users.
If users fail to comply with the rules, designers should counteract risk of death or injury. They made a video aimed at young people shown on TV, cinemas and to Safety Officers working at public and driving schools, based on knowledge and science rather than opinions.

Riho Tänak (Police and Border Guard Board, Estonia): many police officers are trained by OLE (85% of volunteers). Good example of police involvement with the educational process. Help to educate drunk drivers. They also have traffic supervision activities and are involved in railway activities and supervise the level crossing approaches. 100 police patrols cover traffic safety including railways and the surrounding area. The number of violations at level crossings is decreasing.

Isabelle Fonverne (UIC) on behalf of Philippe Feltz (RFF) explained the roles and responsibilities of RFF. 18,354 level crossings in France – a new policy since 2007.

216 crossings closed. They now concentrate on upgrading the worst (better visibility, limitation of speed, speed cameras, automatic enforcement cameras (at 2 LX) from 22 June 2010. They combine engineering, education and enforcement actions. Consequently they have seen a major reduction in the number of accidents at these level crossings since enforcement measures have been put in place. RFF wants to increase enforcement and explain to people through the media that they risk getting a fine and four points taken off their driving licence when misusing LX.

Martin Gallagher, Network Rail, presented enforcement actions in the UK. Accidents are mainly caused by bad behaviour (distraction, familiarity). The road traffic has increased (particularly on rural roads), heavier vehicles, more elderly drivers, leisure users (sports, etc.). Enforcement is one of the tools to change behaviour. The British Transport Police (BTP) organise joint operations with train operating companies: mobile camera vans (10 pieces by late 2011) and fixed camera data and evidence gathering. They are also in contact with insurance companies: people who misuse an LX will pay a higher premium and people who respect the rules will pay a minor premium.

Ester van Dam and Jeroen Nederlof, Prorail, NL, are a very small country but have the second highest density of railway lines in the world (2886 km lines and 2656 LX many of which have automatic barriers). They presented the joint actions they put in place with their 50 railway surveillance officers. Since 1975 The LX fatality trend has decreased. However one incident with a bus could change all that. The targets to educate through awareness campaigns in the NL are mostly pedestrians and cyclists (teenagers and now elderly people). The misuse of LX: trespassing, zigzagging, vandalism, pollution, cable theft in NL cause 30% of delays.

Alan Davies, ELCF Chairman concluded: Even when improving engineering, education and enforcement are to be prioritised to change road users’ and pedestrians’ behaviour but they cannot be dissociated. In addition the awareness campaigns have to be conceived according to the targets aimed (age, kind of persons and type of level crossings). It seems also that professional drivers should be increasingly targeted. All these measures contribute to make the road and rail interface safer and finally save lives!
He also announced the next main events: ILCAD on 9 June 2011 and the 12th Global Level Crossing Symposium in October 2012 in London.

For more information please contact Isabelle Fonverne: and visit the website:

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Enrico Grillo Pasquarelli, Land Transport Director at the European Commission’s DG MOVE
Kaido Simmermann, CEO of Estonian Railways
Tamo Vahemets, Operation Lifesaver Estonia
Petr Kutcherenko, Chairman, Directorate of Community of Independent States and Baltic Railway Council
Eero Pärgmäe, Estonian Deputy Secretary-General of Transport and Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environment
Helen Sramek, President, Operation Lifesaver inc. (OLI) in the USA
Isabelle Fonverne, UIC Project Officer Safety and Interoperability
Exhibition of national campaigns
Dan Di Tota, National Director of Operation Lifesaver (OL), Canada
Alan Davies, ELCF Chairman