Towards safer level crossings: existing recommendations, new applicable technologies and a proposed simulation model
Every year,more than 400 people are killed in over 1,200 accidents at road-rail level crossings in the European Union. Together with tunnels and specific road black spots, level crossings have been identified as being a particular weak point in road infrastructure, seriously jeopardizing road safety. In the case of railway transport, level crossings can represent as much as 29% of all fatalities caused by railway operations. Up to now, the only effective solution appears to involve upgrading level crossing safety systems even though in more than 90% of cases the primary accident cause is inadequate or improper human behavior rather than any technical, rail-based issue. This article provides results of research done on possible technological solutions to reduce the number of accidents at level crossings and demonstrate the effectiveness of the latter. Elements of these recommendations and related research activities constitute the main focus of the research work described in this paper. It is organized as follows: In Section 2, we consider statistical data related to LX accidents in certain given European countries. These statistics as well as a European Commission Directive related to safety targets are analyzed and the main trends are drawn. The study was carried out on the basis of the classification by the European Railway Agency of active LXs and passive LXs. These results form the foundation for the work described in Section 3. Section 3 focuses on advanced technology to improve LXs safety. The main thrust of the study is to evaluate low-cost, standard technology that can contribute to a direct decrease in the number of accidents, at an affordable cost. Existing surveillance technologies already used in rail or road transport are first considered. To facilitate LX bimodality, special emphasis is put on technical solutions which have already demonstrated high efficiency in both environments. In Section 4, the mode of operation of each potential solution is modeled and evaluated considering several operational scenarii, in order to evaluate the aggregate benefits of all the input. Setting models to describe the dynamics surrounding the LX environment will prepare a basis to support the decision making process of a joint rail and road sector strategy on how to control LXs. Finally, section 5 brings the study to a close with a list of the main areas in which to concentrate our future work.