Keep a level head

Level crossings are one of the weakest links in the railway system. To highlight the dangers, this Friday 2 June in France is National Road Safety at Level Crossings Day.

The message of this year’s campaign is: “Don’t risk your life at level crossings, follow the highway code!”

    Photo source:

    To raise awareness, volunteers nationwide will distribute flyers (prevention messages + safety rules) to vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

    In 2016, 111 collisions were registered at level crossings in France, 31 people died, and 15 were seriously injured.

    The figures for 2015 were 100 collisions, 27 fatalities, and 15 people seriously injured.

    For over a decade, together with government, we have been working to raise public awareness of the dangers of level crossings, says French rail network manager SNCF Réseau. These actions essentially involve:

    • improving or removing existing crossings;
    • avoiding building new ones;
    • developing prevention to remind users of the right way to drive over;
    • sanctions for road drivers based on data (speeds and the moment vehicles cross the tracks) captured by radars.

    As of 1 January, 2017 there were 15,459 level crossings in France, compared to 25,000 in 1980.

    Source: Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire

    SNCF Réseau is also exploring new safety solutions such as:

    • equipping crossings with LED lights to improve visibility;
    • marking ‘this barrier breaks’ on the inside of barriers to avoid fatal collisions when vehicles are stuck on the tracks;
    • installing obstacle detectors;
    • studying out the behaviour of users.

    1 June_Level crossings_cover

    Figuring it out

    According to SNCF Réseau, one out of two collisions between a train and car is fatal for the driver. In comparison, 5% of road accidents result in deaths.

    In 98% of cases, accidents at crossings are caused by the behaviour of users such as impatience, habit resulting in a lack of attention, and failure to follow the highway code – driving too fast, zig-zagging between the barriers, not stopping when the lights are red.

    In 90% of cases, collisions involve a light motorised vehicle (under 3.5 tonnes).

    Photo source:

    SAFER-LC – safety, risks and solutions

    With level crossing safety across Europe in its sights, SAFER-LC held its kick-off meeting this 11 May in Paris. Funded by the European Commission within its Horizon 2020 research & innovation programme, the campaign is spearheaded by the International Union of Railways (UIC) and will run 36 months.

    Around 40 participants attended the launch, representing 17 European partners from 10 countries in Europe and Turkey.

    The objective is to improve safety and minimise risk by developing a fully-integrated cross-modal set of innovative solutions, together with tools for the proactive management and design of level-crossing infrastructure.

    Approaches to be explored include smart detection solutions; advanced infrastructure-to-vehicle communication systems; adapting infrastructure design to end-users; enhancing coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders from different transport modes.

    Said Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC director general: “Rail transport’s high levels of safety and security are part of its appeal as the sustainable transport mode of choice for our planet, on the condition that rail is able to constantly challenge itself, update its requirements, and upskill.”

    2 June_level crossings_end article


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