On 28th-29th October the 10th and biggest meeting of the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) took place at the offices of the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) of UK in London. Since 2005, this forum has brought together rail and highway safety experts from Europe and beyond as well as a number of European instances including DG TREN of the European Commission, the European Railway Agency or the European Transport Safety Council, in order to exchange information, provide experience on the management, performance and key safety issues concerning the “at-grade road/rail interface”.
ELCF over the last two years has become recognised by a number of established organisations and bodies including CER, EIM, the European Commission, the European Transport Safety Council and UIC. This meeting marked the end of mandate of current chair Jürgen Menge. In acknowledging the successful term of his mandate, Simon Fletcher, Regional Coordinator Europe at UIC, thanked Jürgen Menge for his contribution as ELCF first road sector chairman and announced that following the process set out in ELCF terms of reference, Alan Davies from RSSB would become the new chair with effect from January 2010.
ELCF works with 3 main criteria: Education of users, engagement of key stakeholders and enforcement of traffic rules. Regarding the key aspect of education, a presentation was made by Tamo Vahemets (Estonian Railways) on the adaptation of Operation Lifesaver, the well known U.S. road-rail safety awareness organisation and its use in Estonia. Additionally, Ilyas Daoud, Projects Coordinator for UIC, presented key findings of ELCAD: the first European Level Crossing Awareness Day project that took place in more than 27 countries on 25th June 2009 and its next steps. ELCAD was designed to raise awareness of the critical risks at the road/rail interface by focussing on education and behaviour of users at and around level crossings. Countries participating launched a series of various communication actions.
The project has been a great success engaging key players and stakeholders, supported by a number of non European countries and International bodies including the United Nations, and highlighted by a press conference held at the European Commission gathering high-level speakers. A CD gathering all related material and particularly more than 450 articles published on the event has been distributed during the meeting. UIC also announced the organisation of an International day of awareness due to take place in more than 35 countries across 5 continents next year building on ELCAD success and developing subprojects including a common video-clip on safety at level crossing targeting imprudent pedestrians and road users.
The meeting also gave an opportunity to Infrabel (Belgium), RFF (France) and RSSB to sign the European Road Safety Charter (www.erscharter.eu) engaging them to strong actions on raising public awareness on the danger of risky behaviour at level crossings and its consequences for rail operations. For them and following the joint UIC/CER/EIM/ELCF signature on 25th March 2009 (see e-news 136). This engagement means taking part in the international awareness day (ILCAD) as well as attending and contributing to ELCF developments. It is expected that many other organisations will sign the charter with a similar commitment including shortly NRIC (Bulgaria) and Israeli Railways.
The meeting included various presentations on technical issues amongst them the follow-up for the SELCAT project on level crossing safety and data collection, analysis on safety cost benefit of closure/upgrading, maintenance and enforcement. A number of projects have been identified and will be formally launched in the forthcoming weeks, notably one on signage and the application of European and international agreements on road signs and signals. Additionally, an important part of the meeting was dedicated to enforcement and the role of police forces in different countries to prevent risky behaviours of users. The British Transport Police gave an overview of its role and working methods to tackle the issue and officially supported the work done by ELCF to strengthen its projects and partnerships.
Regarding the main outcomes of the meeting, Mr Jean-Paul Repussard from the road safety unit of DG TREN announced several initiatives to strengthen ELCF work and put forward the multimodality of the level crossing issue:
A dossier on level crossing safety to be included in the European Road Safety Observatory website (www.erso.eu) managed by DG TREN.
An online questionnaire on the European Road Safety Action Programme for 2011-2020 that the European Commission is currently drafting. DG TREN asked for a joint input from ELCF members. A draft is being prepared and will be circulated to ELCF members for comments.
A possible funding for a common video-clip on safety to be used by the participating countries for the International Level Crossing Awareness Day.
A joint workshop to be organised by the DG TREN and ELCF focusing on education, signage and human factors in April 2010. ELCF steering committee will design together with the European Commission and the Railway Agency the targets, objectives and content of a workshop that is due to be the first in a series of such events.
The next steering committee meeting of ELCF will be held on 26th January 2010 in Brussels, followed by the joint DG TREN-ELCF workshop in April 2010 which will incorporate the plenary meeting.