Experts in level crossings from all over Europe attended the 13th European Level Crossing Forum near Oslo, Norway, on 3 and 4 May. An extensive programme consisting of both presentations and technical visits was presented to and by the attendees.
“The strength of these meetings is not just the formal meetings, but also the connecting events and what happens outside the meetings,” said Alan Davies, chairman of ELCF. “These meetings are getting stronger and stronger, and better and better. We work well together and we take this information out of the forum and into our own organisations.”
The European Level Crossing Forum was established on the foundations of a working group originally initiated by the European Commission High Level Group on Road Safety. The group prepared a report on the risks, safety, regulation, signage and equipment at level crossings.
“The European Commission group worked very well together and thought that work should continue,” said Mr Davies. “The first meeting of the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) was in February 2005 in London, and we meet every six months or so. We also do workshops.”
In addition to Mr Davies from the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB), UK, who is chairman, Isabelle Fonverne from the International Union of Railways (UIC), holds the position of project officer. The forum’s meetings are organised in turn by the members. Although representatives from Norway have participated several times, this was the first meeting organised by Norway.
“Everyone seemed pleased with the meeting, so I’m happy,” said organiser Tore Fagervold from the Norwegian National Rail Administration. “Everything worked out rather well. The technical visits were successful and the presentations enlightening. We hope everyone will benefit from the event and improve safety at level crossings over time.”
The topics presented and discussed at this year’s forum included research on behaviour at level crossings in the Czech Republic, research on signage in Britain, pilot tests in Denmark and new technology connected to car navigation systems and to a new level crossing warning system.
The technical visits included three different level crossings; one which was secured by signs, lights and half barriers, one in a low traffic area secured with a sign and a light, and a testing site for new technology where sound waves are used to detect approaching trains.
Valérie Carra from Infrabel in Belgium has attended all but one of the ELCF meetings since its start-up in 2005.
“The best part was the technical visits because we get to see new things,” said Ms Carra. “This is a good group of people who are very focused, and we exchange a lot of good ideas. I like to go and see what other countries do and take the best ideas home with me.”
The ELCF has an action plan focusing on the best way to raise awareness in order to improve safety at level crossings. It encourages collaboration with driving instructors, insurance companies, enforcement agencies and road and accident officials, in addition to continuing its work with the EU.
The ELCF is open to everyone, and Mr Alan Davies particularly encourages road and accident officials to attend. The next meeting will be held in connection with the 12th Level Crossing Symposium organised by RSSB in London from 7 – 12 October 2012. To register: http://www.levelcrossing2012.org/Pages/home.aspx