Wednesday 15 June 2011
Railway Safety / Level Crossings

7 June – International Press Conference “What else can be done to improve safety on rail-road level crossings?” in Warsaw, Poland

at the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) on 9 June 2011 worldwide

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At the invitation of PKP P.L.K. the press conference on the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) together with an exhibition of ILCAD partners’ communication tools took place on 7 June 2011 in Warsaw and coincided with the UIC statutory meetings hosted by PKP: or

The international press conference was opened by Mr Robert Kuczyński – Spokesman of Investments Implementation Centre IRRP – PKP Polish Railway Lines Company who welcomed all participants and journalists.
He was followed by four speakers: Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux – UIC Director General; Mr Andrzej Massel, Polish Ministry of Infrastructure; Mr Robert Nowak – Division of Transport, UNECE; and Ms Birgit Vahemets (Operation Lifesaver, O.L. Estonia) on behalf of Mr Tamo Vahemets (O.L. Estonia), Ms Helen Sramek (O.L. U.S.A., Mr Dan di Tota (O.L. Canada), Mr Lisandro López Piñeyro (O.L. Argentina).

At the beginning of the conference the UIC CEOs and journalists had the opportunity to watch the two main ILCAD videos used for the campaign: “Just in time”, financed by the European Commission in 2010 and available to all ILCAD partners for use on their websites and in public areas (screens in railway stations, on streets, on television, etc.) until 2015; and a montage of national CCTV footage of bad behaviour at level crossings submitted by ILCAD partners:

Amongst the biggest safety risks and concerns that railway companies have to face on a daily basis, is the risk at the interface between road and rail, to be found at level crossings. Fatalities at level crossings represent 30% of all fatalities involving railways and 1.7% of road fatalities for the 27 countries of the European Union.
Despite the huge efforts of the entire railway community (railway companies and infrastructure managers) to reduce this risk, there are still far too many people dying or being severely injured in accidents at level crossings every day.
This situation constitutes a permanent concern for railways, even if level crossings represent an easy way for people to cross the railway and are in principle completely safe if all safety rules, in particular the traffic rules for road users, are strictly followed. Actually it is very clear from the statistics that most of the accidents that occur at level crossings are caused by the inappropriate behaviour of road users, motorists, cyclists or pedestrians.
Therefore accidents at level crossings cannot be handled essentially within the rail transport sector as a pure rail safety problem. It is definitively an issue that must be jointly addressed by all players involved at these transport infrastructure interfaces: railway companies and infrastructure managers, of course, but also public authorities in charge of road safety and public works, police forces, representatives of all road users (including pedestrians, school children, etc.)
More than 40 countries joined ILCAD in 2011 including three newcomers: Croatia, Georgia and Ukraine. Other countries have developed their campaigns for this year and included additional partners or are designing an extended field of action. Among these are the U.S.A., Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, Israel and almost all the countries in Europe, including Poland who hosts this conference this year.”

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General

“Level crossings represent a critical point in the transport infrastructure. Poland has over 16 000 level crossings, 10 500 of which do not have barriers or signals but instead have a Saint Andrew Cross. Accidents at level crossings can be very negatively reported by the media and therefore have a very negative impact on public opinion. An accident, a fatality is always very tragic. The railways, with other stakeholders, have to change this public perspective. In 2010 there were 290 accidents in Poland resulting in 53 fatalities and 56 injured people. Late in April 2011 an accident occurred between a lorry and a passenger train running at 110 km/h at a protected level crossing with barriers and signals on the railway line between Gdansk and Szczecin. As a result, four railway vehicles derailed, two people died and many of the train passengers were injured. This kind of accident may happen because of the inappropriate behaviour of road users for various reasons. This is why ILCAD is very useful for helping to change people’s behaviour.
PKP P.L.K. is making efforts to modernise, upgrade or eliminate level crossings. We know that this represents a huge investment in Poland: 5 to 20 million zlotys for each level crossing removed. Even with European financial support, the railways cannot remove all level crossings; a huge number of them will remain in Poland and we thus have to improve education and enforcement of road users to help them protect themselves at very critical level crossings. The Polish Ministry of Infrastructure thanks and supports UIC and all the partners taking part in this international initiative.”

Andrzej Massel, Polish Ministry of Infrastructure

“More than one million people are killed and 15 million are injured or disabled in road crashes every year worldwide. In Europe alone 100 000 people are killed and 2 million are injured in road crashes each year.
Why use the term “crash” instead of “accident”? Once the road traffic risks are known and preventable, one cannot speak about accidents. This distinction must be made as it is crucial for policy design and its implementation. In general the known and preventable risks are: speeding, badly designed or poorly maintained road infrastructure, use of unsafe vehicles, etc. The known and preventable inappropriate behaviour and causes of accidents at level crossings include: zigzagging between the half barriers, frustration at waiting for trains to pass, stopping on the tracks, failing to understand specific instructions for long vehicles, distraction, misjudging of speed and distance, poor understanding of road signs and signals, poor visibility of road signs, low perception of risks, and familiarity.
Unless concerted action is taken, the road safety issue will remain an enormous global social, economic and health concern in the future. In many countries the media do not appear to pay sufficient attention to road safety.
The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly was launched across the world on 11 May this year. The global plan for the decade includes road safety management, road infrastructure, safer vehicles and road user behaviour. Crashes, fatalities and injuries at level crossings will also be addressed. In this context, the UNECE which is the unique global intergovernmental body concerned with road safety supports ILCAD and will soon create a group of experts to work on enhancing safety at level crossings. I would like to encourage all interested stakeholders to participate and contribute to its work.”

Robert Nowak, Division of Transport, UNECE

To watch the UNECE film made to launch the UNECE Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 go to

“The Operation Lifesaver inc. mother company created in the U.S.A. in 1972 ( now also exists in Canada, Argentina, Estonia, and soon in Israel. The mission of Operation Lifesaver is to end railway-related collisions, deaths and injuries. Their actions are concentrated on engineering, education and enforcement. O.L. is a direct partner to ILCAD in the countries mentioned above. Where Operation Lifesaver exists the number of collisions at level crossings has decreased dramatically: minus 84% in the U.S.A. On the occasion of ILCAD 2011, O.L. inc. launched an e-learning module for professional drivers on their website, in conjunction with AAR press conferences organised across the country.
O.L. Canada has developed three websites: one for adults (; one for children (; and one for young adults between 14 and 24 ( Since the creation of O.L. Canada in 1981 the number of collisions (where a train and motor vehicle collide) has fallen dramatically from 800 annually to approximately 200 in 2010.
O.L. also exists in Buenos Aires in Argentina (Operación Salvavidas). This year they combined their efforts with ALAF (Association of Latin American Railways) and together showed the ILCAD video in public areas, on their website and also on national television channels, and distributed safety leaflets at level crossings and schools:

On 19 November 2004 AS Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Raylway Ltd), Tamo Vahemets and Urve Miidla founded the non-profit organisation “Operation Lifesaver Estonia” (OLE) following the principles accepted by Operation Lifesaver Inc. Since its creation we have also experienced a high decrease in collisions:
ILCAD has been on our annual events calendar since 2009 and we participate actively in the campaign. The rapid development of ILCAD and its global nature are clear evidence that such a project is much needed. The effect of ILCAD is also proven by the fact that each year the list of activities conducted in different countries gets longer and longer. We organised a variety of activities for ILCAD in Estonia, among them a photography competition. We are very happy to be a partner in this international campaign aimed at educating people and saving lives.”
Birgit Vahemets, O.L. Estonia on behalf of all Operation Lifesaver organisations worldwide

NB The official ILCAD logo and motto “Act safely at level crossings”, which exists in more than 20 languages, and the 2011 CTTV film montage were provided on a voluntary basis by O.L. Estonia and ILCAD partners are very grateful to them.

“In Poland we have more than 16 000 level crossings on a 19 000 km railway network, which means that the average distance between two level crossings is less than 1.2 km. 97% of accidents are caused by road users and this is why it is so important to make them aware of the dangers at level crossings.
Since 2005 we have been promoting education campaigns in Poland and we are particularly proud to host the internationally recognised ILCAD 2011 in Warsaw. Our initiative has been structured under the auspices of Mr Andrzej Massel, the Polish Minister of Infrastructure, and has involved partner organisations such as the Police Headquarters, the Headquarters of Military Police and Border Patrol, National Road Transport Safety Board, Polish Scouting Organisation, a great number of national and regional TV and radio broadcasters, numerous editorial offices, public institutions, community organisations and private businesses. The “Safe rail-road level crossing…” campaign was recognised by PR establishments as one of the most interesting and professional awareness campaigns targeted at society as a whole.
We consider the awareness campaign to be one method of influencing safety along with improving the technical aspects of rail-road level crossings, supervising the work of personnel responsible for railway traffic safety and taking initiative to advance legal issues regulating the problem of rail-road level crossings in Poland.
I believe that the organisation of ILCAD by UIC is a very valuable initiative, providing great opportunities to share experiences and help to develop activities to save and protect human life and health. We have carefully observed the operations carried out by our colleagues from all over the world and have adapted some of them to our own circumstances. I also hope that Polish initiatives will one day become an inspiration and a benefit to others.
I would like to thank all the participants and journalists present today and invite you to have a look at the exhibition next door showing the various communication tools used by ILCAD partners around the world. I also invite you to participate in the complementary events organised by PKP P.L.K. on 8 June in the afternoon and 9 June which is actually THE big day worldwide.”
Zbigniew Szafrański – President of Management Board, PKP Polish Railway Lines Company

On 8 June 2011 the programme of events organised by PKP P.L.K. for CEOs and journalists in Warsaw city centre included (see pictures):

  • Impairment goggles – simulated effects of alcohol use
  • Vehicle roll-over simulator
  • Car crash simulator
  • Computer aided accident simulation device
  • Save and rescue actions
  • Demonstration of Polish Railway Police unit
  • Manoeuvring square, where guests can try driving special trolling vehicles

On 9 June 2011, ILCAD day, the programme of events organised by PKP P.L.K. for CEOs and journalists in Warsaw included (see pictures):

  • In the morning: a simulation of an accident on a rail-road level crossing at Zabraniecka Street in the suburbs of Warsaw, together with a press briefing with the three main national television channels and eight national and regional radio channels
  • In the afternoon: the opening of an exhibition devoted to LX safety problems
  • Public blood donation for accident casualties
  • Exhibition of the best Polish drawings submitted to the first UIC/ILCAD international drawing contest for children on level crossings. We received 380 drawings, of which 100 were Polish The 26 winners, of which six were Polish, in the four age categories will receive an official certificate and a prize from ILCAD/UIC. All contestants will receive a miniature Eiffel tower. Please visit for more details.

To see our other global activities and projects please visit our facebook page: and twitter:!/ilcad and our website:

More information on press conferences organised by partners, and videos posted on their websites or on youtube will be provided in due course.

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02. 9 June 2011: simulation of a train-car accident on a level crossing at Zabraniecka Street in the suburbs of Warsaw
04. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General
05. Andrzej Massel, Polish Ministry of Infrastructure
06. Zbigniew Szafrański, President of Management Board, PKP Polish Railway Lines Company
07. Robert Nowak, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
08. Birgit Vahemets, Operation Lifesaver Estonia
09. UNECE film for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020
10. Simon Fletcher (UIC Regional Coordinator, Europe), Isabelle Fonverne UIC (ILCAD Coordinator), Katarzyna Kucharek (PKP P.L.K. Coordinator for ILCAD), Katarzyna Gawlik-Tarnowska (PKP P.L.K.) and Magdalena Grobel (PKP P.L.K.)
Result of the international drawing contest organised in the framework of ILCAD 2011
4-7 years-Drawing contest results: the drawing of Maja Chwalinska, 4 years-old (from Poland) awarded
13. Educational performance for children “Aban and safe LX"
14. Driving software