Information published on 7 May 2013 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 345.

5th edition of ILCAD hosted by UNECE in the framework of the 2nd United Nations Global Road Safety Week (Palais des Nations, Geneva, 7 May 2013)

We act safely at level crossings!

  • Level Crossings

Today UNECE, UIC and key partners celebrated the 5th International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) focusing on educational measures and the promotion of safe behaviour at and around level crossings.

60 persons participated in the international press conference and roundtable discussion emphasising the importance of road safety at level crossings.

ILCAD events were introduced jointly by Eva Molnar, Director of the UNECE Transport Division, Jerzy Wisniewski, Director of the UIC Fundamental Values Department and Alan Davies, RSSB, Chairman of the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF).

Eva Molnar, UNECE, Director, Transport Division said:

We are very proud to host this event today within the 2nd Global UN Road Safety Week. Safety is a war! But the objective is peaceful: Save lives! UNECE has a 360°vision to tackle road safety as a whole: measures to improve road infrastructure, safety of vehicles, improve the behaviour of road users and pedestrians. A lot of improvements have been made, but there is still a lot to achieve. One key message from yesterday’s event on drink driving that could be retained also today on level crossing safety is the culture and the group influences on individuals. You cannot only implement enforcement measures but you can also influence people’s behaviour through their community. Yesterday we also had an event with the world scouts movement and we have stated that by educating scouts we estimate that we can reach half a billion people in the world because of their influence on their parents, relatives…Road/rail interface is very often forgotten because the number of casualties is small compared to road fatalities as a whole. But when there is a crash with a train, the social impact is much higher than in a classical road accident. The economic costs are also very high: train and road traffic stopped, damages on vehicles, injured or killed people, consequences on the family, on the society as a whole. All players together we can make a change!”

Alan Davies, RSSB, Community Safety Manager at RSSB (UK) Chairman of the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) added:

Trains cannot break easily when road vehicles stop at level crossings, trains can take a distance of 20 football fields to brake.
In 2006 when the EC started to collect data on level crossing fatalities there were 367, it went down to 304 in 2011. The number of people killed on the roads of the European Union has come down by 50% in the last twelve years. In Europe only 1% of all road fatalities occur at level crossings when railway fatalities amount to 30%. The majority of those accidents are due to incorrect use of level crossings, by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. People need to be aware of the consequences of misbehaviour so that they will use crossings properly and safely. ILCAD brings together road and rail safety experts with a strong commitment to reduce accidents and fatalities at level crossings. ”

Jerzy Wisniewski, UIC Director, Fundamental Values Dept. on behalf of Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General, said:

UIC represent the biggest world railway organisation and Safety is the priority number one for the railways. We have seen that Human Factors is also a big issue in accidents and the railways take them more and more into account. Railways try to solve these problems of safety through engineering measures, and awareness campaigns to improve user’s behaviour. This is why since 2009 the UIC and ELCF have been coordinating the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) campaign running under the motto “Act safely at level crossings”
The UIC, representing the railway community worldwide, has been working with a small but growing number of road sector organisations, institutions like the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), in order to raise awareness among road users and pedestrians of the risks at level crossings and to change their behaviour. New countries have joined the campaign: Nigeria, Mongolia and Pakistan...we are convinced that this campaign will continue to grow over the coming years.
Key speakers from various countries had the opportunity then to debate on the three Es: Engineering, Enforcement and Education aiming at improving safety at level crossings: Estonia, Greece, India, Italy, Switzerland, U.K.

Toni Flint, Senior Human Factors Specialist at RSSB, chaired the first panel on Education:

Safety at level crossings relies on all users being aware and using the crossing correctly. Behaviour at level crossings is determined by user’s understanding of what they need to do and the consequences of getting it wrong. It is also strongly influenced by the design of the crossing and the information provided to the user. Acting Safely at Level Crossings is a responsibility for the crossing user and also for railway organisations and wider society. Wider society includes any organisation or individual whose actions can influence on how someone behaves at a level crossing, such as highway authorities, government, regulators, schools and more. It is essential to take into account the characteristics and capabilities of all the different users of level crossings and positively influence them through education, enforcement and good design.”

Tina Hughes, Network Rail level crossing user champion. In 2005 Tina’s daughter Olivia and her friend Charlie, were killed at Elsenham level crossing. It’s an experience Tina doesn’t want anyone else to go through. Tina supports Network Rail’s safety improvement programme bringing a user’s perspective and said:

The more I can do to help Network Rail get this change implemented, to help people think about the reasons why it’s really important to get level crossings managed properly, and reduce risks; that’s absolutely my motivator.”

Tina encourages everyone in Network Rail to support the level crossing team, to report incidences of misuse and involve the local community in the safe management of level crossings. The first Network Rail campaign after Elsenham accident was called “Don’t take the risk!” Years after, next campaign called “They are not time Wasters, they are Live Savers!” Tina thought at a time that Network Rail should focus on distraction (earphones, mobiles, teenagers’ behaviour...). In 2012-2013 they issued an advertising campaign for TV: “See track, think train! This new video has also been used as a viral campaign. She insists on the fact that level crossings are not abused but misused! Sometimes people don’t consider they necessarily take risks and sometimes they only make errors.

Tamo Vahemets, CEO, Operation Lifesaver Estonia presented OL activities in his country said:

We cannot force people to act safely but we can increase their awareness and save lives! OL is delighted to see that the concept of ILCAD attracts each year more and more countries and organisations. This indicates that we have chosen the right path, as good initiatives tend to grow. ILCAD is growing into something similar to a public railway charter for which countries and organisations commit themselves by talking about railway crossings issues. I believe that ILCAD will continue to grow also in the forthcoming years and becomes eventually an international level crossing awareness day during which various public railway safety issues could be discussed and people be requested to cross railways safely. During ILCAD 2013 events, as in the previous editions, Operation Lifesaver Estonia organise many activities. We will display our rail safety mascots “Sparkies” at level crossings, we will send a press release to the Estonian media, publish the ILCAD TV ad on our website. Finally the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board shall pay more attention by following rules when crossing the railways. The campaign is organised in cooperation with: Estonian Railways, South Western Railway, Estonian Technical Surveillance Authority, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, Estonian Road Administration … “

Vassiliki Danelli-Mylona, President of BoD of the Road Safety Institute “Panos Mylonas”:
Her organisation created safety banners and flyers. They have given interviews on the radio. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, the University of Fine Arts and elementary schools were invited to draw posters and drawings on level crossing safety which will be exhibited the whole week at the UN. The death of her son some years ago gave her motivation to change the situation. She mentioned different projects in which she is involved with her organisation: new project AVENUE, NEST. 50 000 children, the Army Academy and Scouts throughout the country have been educated on road safety. She reminded the events with scouts yesterday in the UN.
They started a new project called ERMIS which is an education (not enforcement) programme made with the collaboration of the Greek Ministry of Justice to address young delinquent drivers.

They introduced also awareness at level crossings through ILCAD.
The second panel on Engineering and Enforcement measures to improve safety at level crossings was chaired and moderated by Martin Gallagher, Head of Level Crossings at Network Rail:

Improving safety at level crossings is my number one priority. Understanding what is needed to deliver this change is the critical component. A new type of level crossing or a new safety feature is not enough; improvements have to be system wide to achieve sustainable change, including people, organisational capability, intelligent systems, research, innovation and assurance. These are fundamental elements and requirements for the approach to achieving real improvements in level crossing safety.”

Solutions to improve safety through engineering, enforcement and education measures seem to be interactive. In the UK they have made risk assessment at each of their over 6000 level crossings. Today we are having more than 100 events at level crossings in the UK to aware people. They have mobile safety enforcement and fix safety enforcement cameras at level crossings. They have improved risks by 22% by now since the implementation of their risks management programme.

Jurg Süter, Risk Safety Management at the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT/BAV/OFT) presented the situation in Switzerland: Switzerland has a very dense railway network, very disseminated population, consequently many level crossings.
They have 4 types of equipment at LC: the safest are of course equipped with full and half barriers, others with flashing lights, the new type of equipment is called MICRO installed at level crossings with low traffic. They are reducing the number of LC and increasing the number of LC with barriers. But the number of collisions (over 100 incidents or near misses) at level crossings with barriers is increasing, this means that the behaviour of road users is becoming worse and the number of LC equipped with barriers is increasing too: 7 fatalities in 2012. The causes of accidents are mainly: dangers are not known, less respect for rules... 2000 LC will be upgraded or eliminated by 2014 due to their reconstruction plan. They also organise Education awareness campaigns, public information.

Massimo Costa, Head of Unit, Italian Railway Investigation Body, presented the situation on level crossing safety in Italy. Due to different accidents at level crossings in Italy there is a wish to change the road traffic rules. They have known cases where trucks were blocked between barriers at level crossings. In their national road regulation, it is forbidden to stay parked at a level crossing as in many countries. They modified the national regulation to inform the drivers that they may break the barriers to drive through and not stay on the level crossings. The other possibility is to send rapidly a message to the train operator.

They are also carrying out a study on the closure time of level crossings.
These are two main aspects to improve safety at level crossings. They also try to upgrade level crossings where pedestrians used to walk below the barriers and cross the tracks (3 fatalities in one month at only one level crossing).

Alok Kumar, Director Safety, Ministry of Indian Railways, said:

Currently Indian Railways have 64,600 line km and transport about 23 million passengers a day. The index of accidents per “Million Train Kilometre” has been brought down from 0.44 in 2003 to 0.14 in 2013 through huge efforts. Despite this the incidences on level crossings contribute to 41% of all train accidents, accounting for 63% deaths and 33% injuries. The Vision 2020 of the “Indian Railways“ envisages to eliminate all the unmanned level crossings on Indian Railways by the end of this decade through various means like construction of road over/underpasses, diversions, closures and manning. The causes of fatal accidents are mainly: people in an extreme
hurry, misjudging the speed and distance of incoming trains. Some accidents were due to the use of headphones, sporty mood while driving powerful cars, and the overconfidence of illiterate drivers.” Tracks are not fenced; people live along the tracks, which is a big issue in India.

Finally Eva Molnar, Alan Davies and Jerzy Wisniewski concluded by thanking all participants and speakers in the room and also all partners worldwide for their contribution to the success of ILCAD 2013.

Alan Davies added:

We heard of engineering measures providing devices to use level crossings properly. If it is not enough signs can also be improved to enable users to make the right decision at the right time, we also have to ensure education and enforcement. But the word to keep in mind is really EDUCATION! EDUCATION!
EDUCATION! We thank UNECE for hosting this event today and Act safely at level crossings! "

Jerzy Wisniewski informed the audience that Turkey and India among other countries in Asia are very active members at UIC and they are here today. We have a safety platform in which these countries could become members, we also have a safety database which is very useful. UIC is also coordinator of a European project called RESTRAIL on suicides and trespassing issues that is also of interest to all railways.

Eva Molnar thanked the speakers who were very convincing to follow the 5 Es, some of them are priority ones. Innovation is also a very important issue in the transport sector led by the automotive industry which leads to improve safety on the roads and could also be a solution at level crossings. She mentioned the creation of the UNECE multidisciplinary group on level crossing safety that shall occur during the second semester. WP1 UNECE group on road transport safety deals with road signs and signals so she invited participants to be part of that group to make eventual changes on road signs and signals at level crossings.

Then side events included a poster signing ceremony and concluded with the opening of an exhibition featuring: entries from an international children’s drawing contest on safety at level crossings, posters made by UIC for ILCAD partners’ needs and other posters issued by ILCAD partners from various countries on the 5 continents for their own campaigns.

Photos of the events and the conclusions will be available soon on the ILCAD dedicated website

For further information please contact Isabelle Fonverne: