ESA title

Space for Level Crossing Safety

  • Activity Feasibility Study
  • Opening date 26-04-2023
  • Closing date 07-07-2023
  • Webinar 05 April 2023 - 12:00 CEST Register


In August 2021, the European Union revealed its plans for a Single European Railway Area (SERA) that would connect Europe and help the agency to meet its goals related to carbon emissions. 

The shift to rail transportation has been identified by policymakers as a key element in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Today only around 11% of passengers and goods are transported by rail in Europe.

Expanding the capacity and utilisation of the SERA has the potential to increase the exposure of both the general public and users of the railway system to risk, emphasising the need to further reduce key contributors to railway operating risk. 

Figure 1 illustrates statistics for significant railway accidents in the EU in 2020. The largest category was  accidents to persons caused by rolling stock in motion (representing 51% of significant accidents). Accidents at level crossings including pedestrians are the other main category (with a total of 350 accidents, representing 26% of significant accidents). Meanwhile level crossing accidents were responsible for 31% of railway fatalities in 2020.

Figure 1: Rail accidents in the EU by type of accident (2020) – Image Courtesy of Eurostat


This call for Feasibility Studies aims to assess the technical feasibility and business viability of innovative services / products to improve level crossing safety, using one or more space-based assets. Feasibility studies will be performed in close cooperation with stakeholders and users supporting the study. The key activities will include:

  • Consultation with stakeholders/users to analyse the needs and refine the requirements for the proposed service / product
  • Definition of the service architecture and major building blocks
  • Addressing the technical feasibility of the proposed service / product, including development of a proof of concept
  • Addressing the viability of the proposed service / product, considering economic and non-economic aspects (e.g. regulatory requirements, certification)
  • Definition of a service implementation roadmap


This call is open to topics on improving level crossing safety using one or more space-based assets. Topics of relevance include (but are not limited to) the following: 

  • Improving level crossing train approach warnings to road users and/or pedestrians (e.g. innovative technologies for reducing lifecycle costs of warning systems at level crossings, cost-effective treatments for low-exposure crossings, cooperative intelligent transport systems)
  • Automated level crossing condition monitoring (e.g. checking that level crossing controls and railway controls are not obscured by vegetation or other visual impediments, level crossing road surface, or other conditions that could affect the safety of the crossing)
  • Enhanced collection of level crossing safety data (e.g. the detection of unsafe level crossing behaviours, monitoring of user compliance, collection of level crossing usage statistics)

Studies shall be performed with a cost-benefit analysis.

The target users and stakeholders for this tender may include those from the following (non exhaustive) categories:

  • Railway infrastructure managers (responsible for building and maintaining the railway infrastructure and managing train traffic on railway lines)
  • Railway undertakings (who operate trains and are responsible for the elements of the signalling system on-board the train)
  • Road authorities and local councils (responsible for management of the road and pedestrian interfaces to the railway)


Space-based assets such as Global Navigation Satellites Systems (GNSS), earth observation satellites and satellite telecommunications can be enablers of innovative services and technologies for improving level crossing safety, with the potential to substantially reduce the cost that accidents, injuries, and fatalities at level crossings have on railways and society.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS/SatNav) can be used for global positioning, localisation, and navigation. Some examples include:

  • Positioning and localisation of trains, road vehicles and pedestrians
  • Activation of warning systems installed at low-exposure level crossings via radio (e.g. flashing lights), where GNSS could be used as part of a safety-related train positioning system
  • In-vehicle warnings for road vehicles, where GNSS could be used to locate the vehicle with respect to level crossings within a digital map and warn the road user as needed 
  • Asset conditioning monitoring and locating areas where obstructions (e.g. vegetation, construction) could undermine the safety of level crossings. GNSS could be used in combination with other space assets and/or terrestrial sensors to support these applications

Satellite Telecommunications (SatCom) enables telecommunications with ubiquitous coverage, complementing or replacing mobile and terrestrial networks. For example, Satcom (e.g. Internet of Things) could enable the exchange of data collected at level crossing or on board trains in rural areas with limited terrestrial connectivity, to facilitate the collection of safety data for analysis and risk management.  

Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO) allows the comprehensive monitoring of level crossings and surrounding areas. For example, SatEO data in combination with other images potentially collected through sensors on board of trains, could be used to detect the obscuration of level crossing signals / reduced sighting distances caused by vegetation with appropriate machine learning algorithms.


We look for teams that have identified an attractive market opportunity with real potential to engage customers. Motivation, business experience and domain expertise are all important aspects. We would like to hear about your ideas that involve the utilisation of either space technology or space data.

Feasibility Studies explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g. SatCom, SatNav, SatEO, and spaceflight technology). Feasibility Studies should explore the technical and economic viability of the service but include the ultimate objective of eventual development, demonstration and commercialisation of the service investigated thereafter (if proven viable). 


We offer funding and support to companies, both for business case assessment and for the development of new, space-based services. Our offer includes:

  • Technical & commercial guidance
  • Access to our network and partners
  • Use of the ESA brand for your service
  • Zero-equity funding

ESA will co-fund 80% of the acceptable cost, up to a maximum of €200K, per awarded study. 


Responding to an open competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) requires the submission of a proposal. The proposal will be evaluated according to ESA regulations and procedures.

The consequential evaluation of proposals results in a recommendation for a winning bid. In the event that several proposals of good quality targeting different and/or complementary aspects are submitted, the Agency reserves the right to place parallel contracts for each of the open competitive ITTs in coordination with the relevant national delegations.


Register by completing the online questionnaire on Home - esa-star Registration System (this provides the minimum ‘light registration’)

Visit esa-star Publication and search for this opportunity to download the official tender documentation. Official documents will include proposal templates, a draft contract, and additional information about this opportunity.

Use the official documents to prepare your proposal.

Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below). Submit your proposal via esa-star tendering by the deadline. 


Teams from companies or organisations registered in the following Member States are eligible to apply for this opportunity. To date, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have subscribed to ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS). 

Applicants must inform the National Delegation of the country they are residing in to obtain a letter of authorisation allowing the funding of the proposed activity. The contact details of each national delegate can be found at National Delegations | ESA Business Applications.


  • 11:00 CEST, 05 April 2023. Use the register button at the top of the page to sign up.
    External speakers: Jo De Bosschere (ERA) and Chris Harrison (RSSB).