Wednesday 16 June 2021

On 10 June, an online conference was co-organised by UIC and Network Rail to launch the 13th International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD)

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300 people from 47 different countries around the world participated in the conference, which was streamed live at UTN-BA in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and at other locations worldwide.

We had a great variety of English, Spanish, and French-speaking presenters from the road and the rail sector, representing international organisations and institutions in the USA (AAR, Operation Lifesaver inc.), Argentina (UTN-BA, OPERADORA FERROVIARIA S.A.), Uruguay (AFE), Morocco (ONCF), South Africa (RSR) Belgium (DG Move, INFRABEL), France (SNCF, VALEO), Spain (AESF), and UK (Network Rail, RSSB).

Mr François Davenne, UIC Director General, and Mr Allan Spence, Director of Regulator Liaison, Network Rail, and Chair of the UIC Global Level Crossing Network (GLCN), kicked off the conference.

  • Allan Spence said: “Today would have been a very proud day for me in hosting as many people as could reach us in person in the fabulous city of York and in particular the events’ location which was to be at the National Railway Museum, the spiritual home of railways worldwide. Sadly, last year and this year we were unable to get people together across the national boundaries because of the global pandemic, that means that we are not able to make the most of the social gatherings which would have been organised under the egis of UIC and Network Rail but it does mean that we perhaps reach more people by being able to hold this event online with 300 attendees from 47 countries around the world.”
  • François Davenne highlighted the various activities in relation to level crossings, carried out by almost 50 countries marking ILCAD today. He said: “Because safety is at the heart of our rail activity, the UIC and the rail community shall spread level crossing safety awareness messages more than ever on June 10. The level crossing safety is not only a national topic but a global one, which is why the UIC, must tackle this issue on a worldwide level. In addition, this interface between the road and rail should not be a concern only for the rail only but also for the road sector.”
  • Mr Robert Wainwright, Head of Level Crossing Safety at Network Rail, gave an introduction on level crossings and level crossing management in Britain and outlined Network Rail’s strategy for enhancing level crossing safety in Britain. He also explained this year’s ILCAD campaign theme: distraction . He highlighted why it is important for us to remind level crossing users of the importance of not being distracted at level crossings. After all, distraction kills !

ILCAD 2021 video:

  • Dr Ann Mills, Head of Health, Safety, and Wellbeing at RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board), presented the sources and types of distraction and the impact they have on car drivers, pedestrians, and level crossing users before proposing a human-centred approach to improving level crossing user performance.

Session 1 was then dedicated to road/rail interaction

  • First, Mr Jean Todt, President of FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, delivered a video safety message:
  • Mr Keir Fitch, Head of DG MOVE’s Rail Safety and Interoperability Unit, said: “The only safe level crossing is one that has been removed, especially if we are distracted when approaching a rail track. Unfortunately, we are far from achieving it soon. There are still more than 100,000 level crossings in the EU and if the current trend continues, there will still be some 35,000 level crossings on the Union railway network by the end of century. That means we need to do more to strengthen safety around level crossings. A wide range of measures (legislative, educational, and technical) have been taken by the Commission in the last year.
  • Ms Virginie Taillandier, SNCF, and Mr Richard DENIS, Valeo (a world-leading global automotive supplier), presented a joint innovative road and rail project intended to improve safety at level crossings:
    After capitalizing on its initial successes in communication with connected vehicles, the SNCF Innovation & Research department joined forces in 2020 with the international automotive supplier Valeo to combine rail and automotive expertise and study how level crossings might evolve in order to support the emergence of autonomous vehicles.
  • Mr Mohamed Rabie Khlie, CEO ONCF and Chair of the UIC Region Africa, provided an overview of the safety issues related to railway premises on the African continent and the distinct characteristics while focusing on initiatives undertaken by the region as part of the ILCAD Day to raise awareness among the various stakeholders about the issue at hand and the importance of mobilizing efforts at all levels to eradicate, or at least gradually mitigate, the negative impacts of this affliction. He also shared the experience of the Moroccan rail network in terms of securing level crossings: strategy adopted, resources mobilised, spinoffs generated, and openness to the future.
  • Dr Mabila Mathebula, Manager: Education and Awareness for RSR South Africa, presented how to target value-enhancing stakeholders with a view to managing at-risk behaviour at level crossings in South Africa.

Mr Pablo Martorelli, Instituto Argentino de Ferrocarriles (IAF), and Mr Carlos de Candia, Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, Facultad Regional Buenos Aires (UTN-BA) (SP), introduced the Session 2 with the two following South American speakers and stressed that UTN-BA and IAF have been supporting ILCAD since 2012 by organising annual conferences in Spanish for ILCAD with the support of Isabelle Fonverne, UIC

  • Ing. Alejandro Leonetti, Professor for Operational Safety, Master of Railway Transport at the National University of Technology of Buenos Aires and Operational Safety Manager at OPERADORA FERROVIARIA S.A., explained the serious problems generated in Argentina by third-party failures related to violations of the standards by motor drivers passing railroad level crossings with low barriers. He provided information on current projects involving the design of functional or organisational safety barriers in order to reduce the risk of collisions at level crossings.
  • Mr Miguel Vaczy, President of the Administration of the State Railways in Uruguay, then presented the railway network in Uruguay, ERTMS, and the level crossing safety situation in his country.
  • Mr Luis de Santiago, Head of the Infrastructures department at AESF (Spanish Railway Safety Agency), presented an approach to level crossing safety from the point of view of a national safety agency and the safety flyers that they have produced for all kinds of users.

These guides provide good safety practices for the safe use of level crossings and track crossings between platforms at stations.

  • Mr Vincent Godeau, Advisor for Safety Management, presented an in-house invention called “Warning Box”: a safety device that warns (by means of an acoustic signal) level crossing users that they are committing an offence by crossing a closed (or closing) level crossing. This represents a new tool aimed at making vulnerable users of level crossings more aware and intended to change their risky behaviour.
  • Ms Annelies De Keyser, Communication Advisor at INFRABEL, presented the company’s national level crossing safety awareness campaign in Belgian harbours. The message of the campaign is clear: red = stop!
  • Ms Rachel Maleh, Executive Director at Operation Lifesaver, Inc. USA, presented OL Inc. and shared information on their new educational resources and public engagement materials and provided an overview of several successful campaigns.
  • Mr Allan Spence, Network Rail, wrapped up the conference by stressing the rich variety of presentations and the amount of valuable information shared that day.
  • Finally, Mr Andy Elkins, AAR, USA (on behalf of the ILCAD 2022 Organising Committee), gave a brief overview of US railroads. He said: “First, let me thank all of the organizers and sponsors of this amazing event. I am very impressed that we have so many participants from all around the world, participating from so many locations. This was not easy, and I want to recognize and show my appreciation for all of you that have helped bring this event together. On behalf of the Association of American Railroads, Operation Lifesaver Inc., the United States Federal Railroad Administration, and many other North American Railroad partners, I am very pleased to be here.” He finally invited all the guests to attend the “in-person” ILCAD 2022 events to be held in Denver and Pueblo Colorado, USA, from 8 to 10 June, 2022. ILCAD is on Thursday, 9 June, a Trespass and Suicide Prevention session takes place on 8 June in the afternoon, and a technical/social event on is planned for Friday, 10 June. Coincidentally, 2022 coincides with Operation Lifesaver USA’s 50th birthday.

At level crossings, distraction kills! Beware of the bubble! Spread the word!

Thanks again to all speakers at the conference and to all the dedicated people behind the scenes everywhere in the world who contribute to saving lives!
A special edition is set to be published on several ILCAD activities from around the world.

For more information, please visit

#safety #ilcad #saferlc #EUYearofRail #UICrail

For further information, please contact Isabelle Fonverne, Senior Safety Advisor:

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Allan Spence, Director of Regulator Liaison, Network Rail, and Chair of the UIC Global Level Crossing Network (GLCN)
François Davenne, UIC Director General
Robert Wainwright, Head of Level Crossing Safety at Network Rail