ILCAD SŽDC campaign

22.06.2010

Prague, 22.06.2010 – Act safely at level crossings – this is this year´s motto for the International Level Crossing Awareness Day, joined by the Railway Infrastructure Administration, state organization (SŽDC) on behalf of the Czech Republic. The end of June becomes the time of assessing public education events focusing on the safety enhancement at level crossings for railway organizations in 45 countries around the world.

Despite numerous efforts to enhance safety at level crossings, there are still too many accidents all over the world resulting in injuries or fatalities of the road users. In most cases, such accidents are caused by a lack of concentration or lack of observance of the basic Road Traffic regulations by drivers or pedestrians. SŽDC manages over 8,250 level crossings in the Czech Republic and is thus ranked among European countries with a high number of level crossings. By comparing the number of level crossings, the railway network density and the number of accidents at level crossings, the Czech Republic does not diverge from the European average; nevertheless the number of victims due to careless behaviour of drivers and pedestrians is too high.

The level crossings is as much safe as responsible is the driver!
After accidents with tragic consequences, the media mostly supply news with headlines „the railway kills“ or „dangerous level crossings reap again“. SZDC as the infrastructure manager, however, cannot identify with those headlines since the tragic occurrences at level crossings are mostly caused by road users. This fact is also proven by analyses of the recordings of the camera surveillance system installed at some level crossings by SŽDC. The results of this analysis focusing on 24-hour recording of one level crossing operation were more than alarming. Out of 137 cases of the active level crossing safety installation, the camera surveillance system detected the violation of the Act on road operation by drivers or pedestrians in 37 cases. Those running the risk were for instance bus drivers, i.e. professional drivers! They were driving onto the level crossing while the warning red lights were on. There was even one case when the camera system recorded a most dangerous situation when a driver was getting onto the level crossing while the gates were rising and due to an approaching train on another track they sank again, thus blocking the driver inside. If the drivers committed such a number of violations even at the half the number of crossings with half the frequency of trains than at our monitored level crossings, it would mean more than 500 000 cases of violation every day, but mostly needless hazard with health and life!

An ideal preventive solution of tragic occurrences is the elimination of level crossings
Mostly, unused level crossings are partially cancelled on service roads near fields and forests; even level crossings under big investment schemes on main lines are cancelled and new grade-separated crossings are installed (flyovers or underpasses). The replacement of one level crossing with a grade-separated crossing comes close to CZK 100 million in many cases. It is therefore evident that this solution cannot be applied on the whole railway network of the Czech Republic.

SŽDC aims to enhance the safety system of selected level crossings with flash light crossing signals, or possibly with gates. In 2009, SŽDC reconstructed or equipped 135 level crossings with the investment cost of almost CZK 800 million. Altogether, 63 unused or redundant level crossings were cancelled. SŽDC follows this trend even this year; in the 1st Quarter of 2010, 22 level crossings were permanently cancelled.

The best way is the prevention
SŽDC with its efforts to enhance the safety at level crossings focuses – in addition to investments in the technical provision of level crossings, their cancellation or replacement – on preventive projects as well. Early this year, a new educational film entitled „Drivers erring at level crossings“ was made, describing the function of relevant level crossing safety installations. The film demonstrates the correct behaviour of drivers and pedestrians at level crossings. This film can be downloaded for free on SŽDC´s website (www.szdc.cz). In cooperation with BESIP of the Ministry of Transport, we are currently working on a series of preventive-informative video clips depicting correct behaviour, solving critical situations at level crossings and the function of certain types of level crossing safety installations. SŽDC also prepares a project of short informative clips which will be shown at basic and secondary schools next year and will point out basic mistakes at level crossings.

Information on the international project ILCAD
The project was approached by 45 countries and includes the road sector, government agencies, railway infrastructure managers, the Police force and non-profit organizations focusing on education and safety at level crossings. The project involves European and International railway organizations (CER, EIM, UIC), the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) and the European Railway Agency (ERA). This year, the campaign has also been approached by the UN-ECE Transport Division, the Association of Latin-American Railways (ALAF) and the Australian Railway Association (ARA).

The European Commission is also actively involved in the ILCAD campaign; DG Move (Safety on Roads) of the European Commission for the Mobility and Transport organized a workshop in April 2010, focusing on the safety at level crossings and it financed a video clip addressing road users and pedestrians. The video clip helps national activities of the involved states spread the prevention in the form of public education on the safe behaviour at level crossings.

More detailed practical information and educational material focusing on the prevention of dangerous and careless behaviour at level crossings are available on the website of the project www.levelcrossing.net and other educational materials on www.ilcad.org.


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