Wednesday 11 June 2014
Railway Safety / Level Crossings

6th edition of ILCAD hosted by REFER on 3 June 2014 at Museo d’Oriente (Museum of the Orient) in Lisbon, Portugal

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On 3 June REFER, UIC and key partners celebrated the 6th International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) focusing on educational measures and the promotion of safe behaviour at and around level crossings. This edition once again brought together over 43 countries and concentrated its message on professional drivers.

The conference was preceded by a visit to a pedestrian level crossing (see photos).
Almost 100 persons participated in the international press conference and round table discussion emphasising the importance of road safety at level crossings.

ILCAD events were introduced jointly by Rui Loureiro, Chairman of REFER, Jerzy Wisniewski, Director of the UIC Fundamental Values Department and Alan Davies, RSSB, Chairman of the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF).

Rui Loureiro, Chairman of REFER said:

Since 2009, the challenge set out by the UIC to dedicate a day to the issue of safety at level crossings has been welcomed by REFER with great enthusiasm. The marking of this date has been regarded by us as an opportunity to draw more attention to this subject, broaden the debate, involve other partners and, above all, reiterate the need to comply with safety rules. This involvement has also provided a greater sharing of experience, knowledge, technical solutions, best practices and means of communication among our international partners. In the last 14 years, a great amount has been done by REFER to reinforce safety at railway crossings, with very positive results, as attested by the reduction of the number of accidents by 83%. This is a matter we take very seriously and for which we express our commitment to continue to allocate resources, with the ultimate goal of eliminating accidents at level crossings.However, for all this investment to have practical results, it is essential that members of the public are made aware that they also have a role to play in avoiding accidents. Therefore we will continue to raise awareness through alerts reinforced by the promotion of educational and communication campaigns.We have an aim which we are determined to achieve and we are counting on everyone helping us reach this goal.”

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, underlined in a video message:

Since 2009 the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) campaign has been spearheaded by the International Union of Railways (UIC) with the support of the railway community around the world. A growing number of road sector organisations, the European Commission and the United Nations - Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) are also involved in raising awareness of the risks at level crossings in order to change road user and pedestrian behaviour to “act safely at level crossings”.

Jerzy Wisniewski, Director of the UIC Fundamental Values Department added:

The 5th edition of ILCAD held on 7 May 2013 focused on young people and distraction from mobile phones and iPods.The 5th edition of ILCAD held on 7 May 2013 focused on young people and distraction from mobile phones and iPods – visit:
ILCAD 2014 is taking place again in many countries with bigger or smaller campaigns. The public targeted is professional drivers (school buses, coaches, taxis, minivans, tractors, trucks, heavy haul trucks, emergency vehicles...)."

Key speakers from various countries (Belgium, Estonia, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the UK) then had the opportunity to debate the three Es: Engineering, Enforcement and Education aiming at improving safety at level crossings.
Alan Davies, RSSB, Community Safety Manager at RSSB (UK) Chairman of the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) chaired and moderated the international session.

Jacques Marmy, Head of Technical Affairs at the International Road Transport Union (IRU) gave an overview on IRU activities and presented a common project with UIC on a guidance to give recommendations to drivers of commercial vehicles when approaching and traversing level crossings (see also UIC press release 21/2014), first extracts here:

In the framework of the Anniversary of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Union of Railways (UIC) have joined forces to initiate a Level Crossing Safety Checklist to raise awareness of transport professionals on the issue and reduce related casualties. 85% of road accidents involving professional drivers are caused by human errors.”

Since the core message this year for ILCAD 2014 was focusing on professional drivers it was even more obvious to work with IRU.

Virginie Taillandier, Advisor in charge of the level crossing programme at RFF gave a presentation on the “New policy on level crossings in France”: At the end of 2013 RFF and future components of the unified infrastructure manager (SNCF + DCF) have validated a new level crossing safety policy. Her presentation gave an overview of accidents according to their type, different improvement solutions put in place and future solutions envisaged through current tests being carried out. RFF will also present prevention actions undertaken in 2014. See video clips made by RFF to launch their national campaign on ILCAD day:

Tine Verheyden, Project Manager Safety at INFRABEL gave a presentation on “Effective low-cost communication campaigns: collaboration is the key”

Tine Verheyden, Project Manager Safety at INFRABEL made a presentation on “Effective low-cost communication campaigns: collaboration is the key”
Most infrastructure managers in Europe are faced with shrinking budgets for their awareness campaigns. That is also the case in Belgium. In this presentation, she exposed four projects that show that it is possible to create effective low-cost communication campaigns, if you collaborate with the right parties.

  • Campaign towards truck drivers in the port of Antwerp
  • Campaign towards level crossing users at “sensitive” level crossings throughout Belgium: Collaboration with railway-police, our security-teams and national and local press.
  • An educational “game of goose” teaching kids between 10 and 12 years old about the railway and its dangers: Collaboration with teachers for the development of the game, and with two schools and the responsible politician for the press campaign.
  • Level crossings in GPS-systems: Collaboration with GPS manufacturers and other European countries to get level crossings in GPS systems, both for professional and other drivers.


in French:

Katarzyna Kucharek, Head of the Awareness Communications Section at PKP PLK gave a presentation on their latest awareness campaign: Safe rail-road level crossing – "Stop and Live!”

Approximately 30-40 accidents involving professional drivers take place every year at level crossings throughout Poland. This number accounts for roughly 17% of all accidents occurring at level crossings. A number of activities have been planned to prevent routine behaviour of professional drivers. These include, inter alia, checkpoints at railroad crossings, lectures at driving schools and businesses, and cooperation with the company that produces satellite navigation and smartphone software informing drivers about approaching level crossings. We do believe that drivers spending all day behind the wheel and covering long distances will be transporting their loads and returning home safely.

Getter Toome, Training Coordinator at Operation Lifesaver Estonia (OLE) presented the activities of Operation Lifesaver Estonia and about the U.S. Operation Lifesaver’s national safety campaign “See Tracks? Think Train!” that was launched in April, 2014 in Washington DC. She also said: “During the ILCAD 2014 events, as in the previous editions, Operation Lifesaver Estonia organised many activities. We displayed our rail safety mascots “Sparkies” at level crossings, we sent a press release to the Estonian media, published the ILCAD TV ad on our website. Last but not least, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board shall pay more attention to road users crossing railways, making sure that they follow traffic regulations. The campaign was organised in cooperation with: Estonian Railways, South Western Railway, GoRail, Estonian Technical Surveillance Authority, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, Estonian Road Administration”.

Massimo Costa, Head of Unit, Italian Railway Investigation Body gave a presentation on how to reduce risks at level crossings and optimise the warning time for when the barriers come down: In some recent accidents on the Italian railway network in 2012, heavy vehicles have been trapped between the barriers and - in one of them - with deadly consequences for the driver of the train. The optimization of the time of notice between the turn on of the light signals and the beginning of the motion of lowering of the barriers is a possible very low cost solution.

It has been verified that the warning time between the lightning of the signals and the beginning of the lowering of the barriers should be optimized in its “standard values” and should significantly vary according to:

  • The situations that may affect the movement of road vehicles such as the presence of intersections in the proximity of the LC
  • The length of vehicles allowed to circulate on the road
  • The exact distance between the barriers

The second panel with five Portuguese speakers from different sectors was chaired and moderated by Nelson Oliveira, Director of the Research Office of safety and railway accidents:

Pedro Pereira (PSP) Commissioner at the Portuguese Traffic Police, gave a presentation on effective Education and Enforcement measures taken at level crossings. PSP publish and distribute safety flyers to the public at different seasons of the year and in different areas (access to beaches, bus or train stations). In the summer season they distribute flyers in Portuguese and English on any kind of risks that people may meet on the roads or at level crossings. People don’t know how fast a train runs: at 90 km/h a car needs 60 meters to stop, a train needs 10 times more to stop. PSP in addition to the railways Educate people but when Education fails, they have to Enforce misusers; fines can range from 250 to 3000 euros depending on the misuse. Overpassing or driving backwards on LCs can be fined with 120 euros. A non respect of traffic lights at LCs can be fined with 30 to 150 euros. 69 persons have been fined in 2013 when misusing LCs. He insisted on the fact that the most important at the end is really to Educate and Aware the public to make their work efficient.

Carlos Cipriano, journalist at “Publico” and “Gazetas das Caldas” shared an approach on level crossing accidents as far media are concerned. He is a well known journalist on a national level. He took examples of 2 collisions at level crossings he experienced in his life. He showed many examples of articles published in the media on train/road vehicle collisions: Journalists usually write “A man or a woman was killed or hit by a train”. He took many examples of the distraction issue. He teaches in a school and sees many teenagers using headphones and would like REFER to put in place a future campaign on this issue, organise a drawing contest for children. Media usually in their articles put the responsibility on the railways and the authorities and show sympathy to the victim and not stress on the real cause of the collision: the user made an error, or deliberately misused the LC. He made suggestions to change the mentality of the media: training sessions for journalists, park wrecked cars hit by trains along level crossings to show the public how terrible a collision can be.

Fatima Abreu representative from the “Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes (IMT)”/ Institute for mobility and Transport gave a presentation on Road Safety and driver training in Portugal. They are in charge of delivering drivers’ education programmes taught in driving schools and delivering driving permits to the public but also to the professional drivers. These professional drivers have to make a psychological and medical examination every 5 years. She showed the new Portuguese driving licence as delivered now in all European countries. The driver, the vehicle and the road infrastructure are the 3 pillars of the road safety. In our countries where the cars and the road infrastructure are of good quality, the human sometimes fails. Every future driver is evaluated when approaching LCs. Concerning professional drivers approaching LCs she has read again existing driving instructions manuals and there are lacks about risks at level crossings.

MIT proposes to review these manuals for professional drivers insisting on some issues (fatigue, distraction, speed, etc...). She showed different road signs posted at LCs existing in the international highway code of which drivers tend to forget the signification. José Carneiro (Mayor of Baião) explained the role of local authorities, municipalities as partners of railways in the upgrading or closure of level crossings. He is Mayor but also President of the Association of the socialist mayors of Portugal. He gave a political view on the issue of level crossing safety. He was elected as the Mayor of Baião in 2005 when REFER started to close level crossings. Some local citizens did not agree on these closures. In 2008 the local and regional authorities signed an agreement with REFER to find a common understanding on level crossing safety. The agreement relied on a consensus respecting different level of interests: REFER, LC neighbours, land owners and finally the local and regional authorities.

José Carneiro (Mayor of Baião) explained the role of local authorities, municipalities as partners of railways in the upgrading or closure of level crossings.
António Viana (REFER) presented REFER’s level crossing programme and strategy, results and targets. He presented REFER results and objectives: In 1999 Portugal gathered 2494 LCs, 154 accidents and a high density of LCs/km of lines (0.89) compared to the average in the EU. In 1999 by Law Decret- 568/99 it was decided to launch an LC safety programme foreseeing to upgrade, to close LCs, and not to open any new LC. They also decided to reduce the density of LCs/km of lines to 0.5 LC/km by 2006 (target achieved and anticipated in 2005: 0.48).

In 2005 REFER put in place a safety management system based on a risk model that targeted a reduction by 50% of the number of LC collisions by 2009 to count no more than 52 accidents, they actually counted 49 accidents in 2009). In 2006 REFER aimed to reduce the number of accidents by 60% in 2015 (representing less than 29 accidents). The target was achieved earlier with 27 accidents in 2013. In 2013 they counted 870 LCs (2494 in 1999), a density of LCs on 0.34 LC/KM Lines (0.89 in 1999). Over 50% are protected (26% only in 1999). New targets for 2014-2020: reduce the number of accidents by 40% (to achieve fewer than 17 accidents).

Then the round table with Portuguese and other European experts was followed by the signing of a contract between REFER and EFECEC to upgrade 12 passive level crossings into automatic level crossings.

A press conference chaired by Sérgio Monteiro – Portuguese State Secretary for Transport Infrastructure and Communication closed the international conference dedicated to ILCAD 2014.

He said:

Accidents at level crossings is not only a Portuguese but an international issue which is why we welcome ILCAD today in Portugal. A transgression at level crossing is 10 times higher than a transgression anywhere on the roads.
Involvement of Portuguese local and regional authorities with the railways in level crossing safety through a common understanding agreement shows decision makers on a national level how we can work together.
Over 1400 LCs have been closed, 687 upgraded from 1999. 345 million euros have been invested in this LC programme to save lives. The figures speak for themselves: 27 accidents at LCs in 2013 in Portugal versus 154 accidents at LCs in 1999.
Today’s strategic objective of REFER: 13 LCs to be closed by the end of 2014 which represents 6.7 million euros of investment. We also have a project to merge the railway and road infrastructure managers to improve the quality of services, rationalise maintenance operations. I take the opportunity today to stress the fact that this operation will improve the safety at this particular road/rail interface. This decision has been taken and will be put in place in 2014 to rationalise investments without putting safety at risk.”

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Portuguese State Secretary for Transport Infrastructure and Communication Mr Sergio Monteiro
MR Loureiro, REFER President
Signature of contract between REFER and EFACEC
REFER Team and International Speakers