The Level Crossing Conundrum

Level crossings have long been a safety problem for both rail and road users. This article discusses some ways that level crossings can be made safer. The major problem at level crossings is that motorists expect trains to be able to stop quickly and take risks. Eliminating level crossings and replacing them with bridges or subways has been proposed, but would be cost-prohibitive as a short-term solution. Obstacle detection systems offer a more affordable potential solution. Obstacle detection involves identifying the presence of a vehicle or person on the crossing as the train approaches and communicating this to the train driver in time for him or her to stop before reaching it. Ideally, such a system would improve safety for all users. The main problem is the short time before the train arrives – which is when vehicle violations take place – and the even shorter time then available in which to bring the approaching train to a halt. Critics have raised serious doubts as to whether obstacle detection systems would have more than a marginal effect in reducing fatalities. However, others believe that obstacle detection may well have a useful application, perhaps in conjunction with other technologies or other forms of crossings. However, improving level crossing safety remains a complex problem without a clear solution.


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  • Accession Number: 01147936
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 11 2010 6:28PM