Information published on 1 July 2009 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 147.

A great success of the European Level Crossing Awareness Day on 25 June in more than 28 countries all with the same slogan: Stop accidents! Europe for Safer Level Crossings!”

  • Safety
  • Level Crossings

Several UIC members of the other regions supported this awareness day by organising the same type of events in their countries

Each year too many people die in accidents at level crossings. In Europe, at least 600 people fall victim of accidents at level crossings every year. 95 % of these accidents (according to UIC calculations) are caused by road users. Therefore, the rail and road sectors organised together a pan-European Level Crossing Awareness Day on 25 June, to make people understand that these accidents could be avoided if they obey the traffic rules and address misbehaviour at and around level crossings.

The European Level Crossing Awareness Day focused on educational measures and the promotion of safe behaviour at and around level crossings. It has been built on existing national events which were held jointly at various locations in every participating Member State on 25 June and constructed around the common message “Stop accidents! Europe for Safer Level Crossings!” Many communications actions took place all over Europe: flyers handed out at level crossings, schools, driving schools, scouting clubs etc., posters displayed in railway stations and other central places, special messages broadcast on radio and television, press conferences organised with national and local press.

The project involves road sector, government agencies, railway undertakings, infrastructure managers and police forces from all EU countries and some third countries as well as the European and International rail associations (CER, EIM and UIC), the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF), the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the European Railway Agency (ERA) as well as the European Commission and media. Additionally, several countries outside Europe, such as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan as well as the well known U.S. road-rail safety awareness organisation Operation Lifesaver fully supported the initiative and will used the European Awareness Level Crossing Awareness Day as an incentive to communicate on this issue in their own countries.

The European Level Crossing Awareness Day is a joint commitment following the signature of the European Road Safety Charter engaging both road and rail sectors to strong actions on raising public awareness on the danger of risky behaviour at level crossings. This was agreed last March and welcomed by Vice-President and Transport Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, who stated: “Road safety is a priority issue for the European Commission. It is my personal conviction that such initiatives should be encouraged. I am sure that activities like the European level crossing awareness day will help to improve the safety at level crossings.”

Level crossing accidents account for 2% of road deaths but a third of all rail fatalities. On 20 March road and rail organisations acknowledged their shared responsibility to deal with this issue by signing the European Road Safety Charter. The charter is an initiative of the European Union, with the objective of developing concrete actions, assessing results and further heightening awareness about the need to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities through the exchange of best practices in traffic safety in Europe, while adding a European dimension to individual or collective initiatives.

The European Commission hosted a press conference introduced by Fabio Pirotta, spokesperson of Antonio Tajani, Vice-President and Transport Commissioner , broadcast live on Europe by Satelite. Speakers included :

Enrico Grillo Pasquarelli, Director for Inland Transport at DG Tren of the European Commission statet that accidents at level crossings represent 2% of road deaths but 30% of all rail fatalities. This shows how safe railways are compared to other modes but it also shows how serious the issue of level crossing accidents is for the rail community.Apart from the human dimension (that is always there), level crossing accidents involve heavy costs in economic terms: train traffic is interrupted for a long period, the damage to the rail network can be important and environmental consequences can be devastating. Therefore our attention must focus on the specific features of accidents at level crossings and the concept of shared responsibilities. This is illustrated by the signature of the European Road Safety Charter by the rail community and its commitment to launch this European Level Crossing Awareness Day.

Herman de Croo, Chairman of ETSC (European Transport Safety Council) and former Belgian Transport Minister underlined that ETSC is an active member of the European Level Crossing Forum and supports the rail community towards a proactive action on level crossings He highlighted that “this multimodal issue must have a multimodal approach which means partnership, shared responsibilities and engagement in a permanent way. He also insisted on education as with education you can reach all citizens and make stakeholders in enforcement of the regulation and the strict prosecutions in case of violations of rules. He pointed out that it is also extremely important to combat indifference. 95% of level crossing accidents are caused by the road users. They are responsible and it is something they have in their hands. Just so many accidents become ‘natural’, with so many accidents we feel that it couldn’t be true but we accept …..We have to react!”

Inés Ayala Sender, Member of the European Parliament, member of the Transport and Tourism Committee added « Developing public awareness is key to promote safe behaviour at level crossings. Indeed, road users and especially young drivers behaviour is a very sensitive issue. I am thankful to the organisers of ELCAD for raising awareness of the public and institutional bodies on these risky behaviours. Improving infrastructure and maintenance is important, but developing awareness is imperative to effectively tackle this issue. I am already engaged on road safety issues as citizen but also as MEPt, and I can say that together with the Commission we will be committed not to forget this aspect in our objective of reducing the number of road deaths and accidents in Europe.”

Jürgen Menge, Chairman of ELCF (European Level Crossing Forum) stated that to reduce the excessive number of level crossings accidents caused by road users and pedestrians, the road and rail sectors are working together to raise awareness of the risks of misbehaving at and around level crossings. This is the purpose of the ELCAD project in conjunction with 28 countries and a wide number of important stakeholders. There is a clear need to focus on educational measures and the promotion of safe behaviour.

Luc Lallemand, CEO of Infrabel (Belgian railway infrastructure manager) recalled “It is important that such initiative as the European Level Crossing Awareness day is organised. Focussing on safety is in anybody’s interest. Safety is the first argument to take the train. Railway Safety is an absolute priority for everybody in the railway sector all over Europe. It is a matter of iinterest for the travellers, the employees and in general for citizens. “It takes only about 3 seconds between hearing a train and the moment a train is passing you. This demonstrates that you really DO have to comply with the traffic rules at level crossings at all cost. It is not much but it is a basic rule so let us not forget this “3 second rule” and let us be fully aware of it!”

Anders Lundström, European Railway Agency, Head of the Safety unit emphasized that the risk for a road user to be killed is 10 times higher if he/she violates a rule at a level crossing than if he/she violates a rule at a normal road crossing with a red light. It’s a risk the road user is not aware of”. As accidents at level crossings represent 2% of road fatalities it can be understood that it is not always seen as priority from a road safety perspective concentratings its actions mainly speed- and drunk-driving control measures. Therefore it is important that the railways take this initiative.

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, gave a world approach of the level crossing issue. He underlined that accidents at level crossings are a world concern. Several countries from the other regions supported the European Level Crossing Day: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and particularly the United States that organised the same type of events in 10 major cities. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux also mentioned that the United Nations have come into the picture and he is happy to discuss with them the opportunity to coordinate organise a World Level Crossing Awareness Day along the lines of ELCAD framework, presumably June 2010. One of the key issues is consistency in the awareness actions, education and UIC is delighted that the action goes on and will support its members and organise communications actions partners on this very sensitive issue where the death toll has to go down.

You can find detailed information on good practices and educational material designed to highlight the issue of risky behaviour at and around level crossings by consulting the dedicated website for level crossing issues at www.levelcrossing.net

A feedback meeting of the “European Level Crossing Awareness Day” task force on will take place on 8 July from 10h00 to 16h00 at INFRABEL offices in Brussels The idea is to take stock on all the 28 national awareness measures, assess our collective and individual results and to start thinking about the International Level Crossing Awareness Day.

For more information : Ilyas Daoud, Project Coordinator, phone +32 2 213 08 34, e-mail Daoud@uic.org