The 11th GLX Symposium, organised by the Steering Committee of the GLX Symposium and hosted by JR East in cooperation with UIC, was held from 26 to 29 October 2010 in Tokyo, Japan. The GLX Symposium is a biennial event held in various locations around the world where railways, governments, and researchers discuss how to improve safety at level crossings. This was the first time the symposium was being held in Japan and it attracted 100 participants and 46 organisations from 16 countries.
In the opening speech on the morning of the first day, Mr Yoshio Ishida, UIC Chairman and Vice-Chairman of JR East, stated, “it is very important to discuss level crossings, not only for the future of railways, but also for the overall traffic network, including automobiles and pedestrians. Level crossings are the source of many problems and it is extremely difficult to take measures when accidents occur, as the railways are usually blamed even in cases where car users are at fault. Nevertheless, railways should be able to do something to minimise the risk. Let us have lively discussions and make it a meaningful symposium.” Mr Ogata, Vice-President of JR East, then added, “safety is a very important issue for the railways; however, differences of opinion exist between the automobile and railway sector concerning safety measures for level crossings. JR East considers safety the top management priority and has been upgrading a considerable number of its level crossings to 1st class level crossings, improving visibility, turning them into two-level crossings, and streamlining them in coordination with road administrators. I understand contexts vary around the world, but I believe the common direction towards solving problems can be found by achieving deeper mutual understanding.”
In a video message sent to the symposium, UIC Director General Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux stated, “level crossing accidents are very often due to negligence on the part of road users; road administrators and railways should cooperate to promote accident prevention. I hope that sharing a substantial amount of information will further promote safety.” In addition, on behalf of UIC, the Head of the UIC Safety Unit Mr Peter Gerhardt presented figures giving a picture of current developments in level crossing accidents in 20 European countries.
In his keynote speech, Mr Len Porter, Chief Executive of RSSB, emphasised the importance of managing assets, including human resources, in order to strike the right balance between cost and risk. Mr Akira Yonezawa, Deputy Director General for the Transport Ministry in Japan, then presented the status of Japanese railways, including the legal system, safety measures, action taken to raise awareness, etc. He also pointed out some specific situations existing on Japanese railways, such as level crossings which are rarely open to road traffic due to the great number of trains that run on them.
Mr Naoto Miyashita, Executive Director of JR East, presented the main topic of the symposium – “Toward further improvement of level crossing safety - Coordinated Approach and Individual Efforts” – and its 5 sub-topics.
Subsequently, 33 speakers gave presentations on the various sub-topics, leading on to discussions among participants.
- Sub-topic 1: Accurate risk assessment methods to identify potentially dangerous level crossings; Chairman: Mr Alan Davies (UK)
Presentations were given on a variety of methods for analysing and assessing risks at level crossings, and how to assess whether or not a level crossing on which service has been suspended for a long time should be forced back into service if operations have resumed on the railway line itself. The ensuing discussions focused on measures to reduce the factors and risks at the root of level crossing accidents.
- Sub-topic 2: Technical aspects of level crossing facilities; Chairman: Mr Terry Spicer (Australia)
Presentations were given on LEDs on the road, transmitting notifications of approaching trains to car drivers by using ITS (Intelligent Transport System) technology, shortening the closure time of level crossings through radio train detectors, improving the visibility of level crossings by means of high-visibility paint, and preventing level crossing accidents by using blue LEDs. Their potential uses and effects in practice were then discussed.
- Sub-topic 3: Action and psychology of level crossing users; Chairman: Mr Stephen Laffey (USA)
Presentations were given on psychological approaches for preventing level crossing accidents using the results of analyses of the action and psychology of level crossing users. Discussions followed on how to improve measures to raise awareness and the obligation in Japan for car drivers to stop before driving onto the level crossing.
- Sub-topic 4: Partnership to prevent level crossing accidents: Chairman: Mr Katsumi Ise (Japan)
Presentations were given on ERA’s measures against level crossing accidents and awareness campaigns involving the police and the legal sector to prevent level crossing accidents. Consequently, it was proposed that representatives of road administrators and persons in charge of regulations and legislation be invited to the next symposium.
- Sub-topic 5: Regulations and technical development in level crossing safety; Chairman: Mr Libor Lochman (CER)
Presentations focused on the need for easily understandable regulations and legislation, clear signs for users at level crossings and renewal of old level crossing facilities. In addition, it was proposed that the next symposium include one independent sub-topic on measures to prevent level crossing accidents caused by the elderly, an issue becoming increasingly prominent due to the ageing world population.
In the closing session on the third day, it was officially announced that RSSB, UK, would host the next symposium in 2012.