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CRIME PREVENTION & PASSENGER SAFETY


Another train coming A


Michael Woods, head of operations and management research at the RSSB, considers the importance of vocal warnings to improve safety at level crossings.


ccidents at level crossings are often covered in the news even though they are


relatively rare compared to those occurring on the rest of the road network.


Compared to other countries in the rest of Europe and beyond, Great Britain’s record of managing – and reducing – the risk is very good and getting better. But every case of an accidental injury or a fatality is a human tragedy and RSSB has been active in supporting Network Rail and its partners in the road sector in their efforts to reduce accidents still further.


Most peoples’ mental image of a level crossing accident will involve road vehicles, a busy road, flashing lights, barriers or gates, and, inevitably, a train. But actually most level crossing fatalities are to pedestrians. Some of these will be on roads and at crossings with full protection, but most actually occur at footpaths or farm crossings, frequently away from a built-up area.


The Road-Rail Interface Safety Group, which is chaired by Network Rail, has members from the highways and rail sectors, the British Transport Police and the Office of Rail Regulation and is facilitated by RSSB. It acts as the sponsor for research into level crossing issues, which is managed by RSSB as part of the industry research & development programme.


Over the last few years the emphasis of this research has gradually moved towards consideration of the


risk to pedestrians as well as road vehicle accidents which can, of course, also lead to a serious train accident.


One of the first of these pedestrian studies looked at the risk to people, often but not always individuals, using crossings at or next to railway stations. At these crossings in addition to the typical level crossing risk issues there is also often the issue of distraction caused by people being in a hurry to catch a train.


A related study looked at users deceived by the fact that they had seen one train pass but who were not aware of the possibility that there could be another train coming.


RSSB research project T652, ‘Examining the benefits of ‘another train coming’ warnings at level crossings’, investigated a number of possible ways of delivering the message that another train is coming: static signs (plated signs), dynamic signs, audible warnings and certain combinations of these.


The project investigated which might be the most beneficial solutions under which circumstances, e.g. the type of crossing and its closeness to a station, and how practicable the solutions might be. It recommended that for audible warnings there ought to be a warble for one train and a higher pitched more quickly


oscillating warble plus a spoken warning once the second train is detected. This research involved the various solutions being assessed by a panel of over 600 people to gain an understanding of their potential effectiveness.


Drawing on RSSB’s research, upgraded audible warnings using a warble and spoken alarm when a second train is detected are to be installed by Network Rail at 63 of its crossings. It is hoped that these clearer instructions will reduce the risk from someone mistakenly believing that it is safe to cross after the first train has passed.


The first few of these warnings are being rolled out across the London North East route near York at Hunmanby Station, Nether Lane, Nafferton, Cranswick and Arram level crossings and near Selby at Wressle and Eastrington and more are set to follow.


Meanwhile RSSB has just started work on a wider research project to understand the underlying reasons of why pedestrian accidents happen at level crossings. It is known that a series of common factors have characterised many of the most recent accidents; older people, dog walkers, other leisure walkers, vulnerable people (but generally, not children) and people hurrying to catch a train.


112 | rail technology magazine Aug/Sep 12


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