LeCross - Improving Safety at Railway Level Crossings

The LeCross study identifies and assesses the feasibility of an integrated service solution to improve the safety at railway level crossings by supporting prevention of accidents and improving emergency operations. It specifies a future system and service which will meet the needs of those using, building and operating railway level crossings, whilst utilising added-value space-based technologies, systems and capabilities. 

The LeCross solution, developed during the course of the study, utilises satellite machine-to-machine services and train positioning data to offer a cost effective solution to improve safety at currently unprotected level crossings. It designed and priced to enable wide spread deployment at low traffic density crossings across railway networks.

EU Member States reported that in 2010 359 level-crossing users were killed and 327 were seriously injured in a total of 619 accidents occurring on more than 120 000 level crossings in the EU. Level crossing accidents represented approximately 30% of all railway fatalities. Level crossing accidents also result in damage to infrastructure and rolling stock and delays in rail and road traffic, with substantial associated costs. As such, level crossings remain one of the core safety challenges for European rail networks. 

The overall objective of the LeCross study was to evaluate the added value and feasibility of introducing space assets to improve safety at railway level crossings, and specify a viable and sustainable integrated solution and associated services in support of this. 

In support of this, the study included the following activities:

  • Engage with users and stakeholders to identify priority needs and requirements.
  • Undertake an analysis of current system and services, identifying capability gaps addressable by a space based solution.
  • Specify an integrated solution and associated services.
  • Assess the economic and non-economic viability of the proposed solution.
  • Perform a Proof of Concept on a sub-set of critical service solution elements, in order to assess the feasibility of those elements
  • Develop a roadmap for its implementation as a fully operational service identifying the key milestones, risks and success factors.

Users and their needs

The specification of LeCross was established through interaction with a range of stakeholders in Finland, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, including the Rail Infrastructure Managers who ultimately hold both the procurement budgets and liabilities for level crossings. 

The study accommodated a broad range of stakeholders involved including:

  • Railway Infrastructure Organisations, who own, operate and maintain railway level crossing systems.
  • Railway Undertakings which operate passenger and freight rail services.
  • Non-Rail Users: Pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and other users crossing railways at level crossings.
  • Railway Safety Authorities and Regulators are controlling railway safety standards and interoperability regulations on the railway network.
  • Road Operators and Authorities are responsible for the development, operation and maintenance of road infrastructure.

The LeCross solution is targeted at Railway Infrastructure Managers in any country where safety risk at currently unprotected level crossings is an issue of concern. 

The consortium is currently in discussion with users, including those who have contributed to this feasibility study, to determine the precise shape of a follow-on demonstration project. 

The consortium remains open to further expressions of interest from additional parties who are interested in participating in this activity.

Level crossing safety remains one of the highest priority areas of improvement targeted by railway infrastructure operators. The importance of improving level crossing safety has been increasing, driven by growths in road & rail traffic, public liability concerns and regulatory intervention. 

Rail safety is being continuously improved by implementing automatic barrier systems or removing level crossings altogether on high-speed busy sections of line. Though costly, the benefits from making these improvements are clear. More challenging is the improving of safety on remote sections of line that do not have sufficient rail traffic to justify expenditure on conventional solutions, even though up to 80% of level crossing accidents occur at these locations in some countries. 

Across Europe there are a large number of crossings which provide no user side warning or protection - in 2010 47% of level crossings were passive (unprotected) and less than a third incorporated physical protection measures such as barriers. The same kind of proportions can be found in other parts of the world (such as Australia and US). 

A particular focus is on improving safety at rural unmanned crossings, many of which have no active safety measures. The improvement of safety at these crossings is challenging due to the sheer number of them and the lack of trackside infrastructure (power, communication and signalling). The costs of fitting and maintaining active safety measures at the site can be considerable, and the economic viability of doing so is questionable considering the relatively low density of rail traffic in these areas. 

There is a clear demand from railway stakeholders for alternate solutions that could cost-effectively be deployed across the large numbers of such level crossings.

Service/ system concept

The LeCross service concept is illustrated below.

The core LeCross services are the trackside warnings delivered to level crossing users and maintenance information delivered to Infrastructure Managers in order to support system operation. 

These services have been identified as the essential functionality required by Railway Infrastructure Managers, who are themselves identified as the principal customers of the LeCross service. 

Other value-add services have been identified to offer additional benefits if required on particular rail networks. These can deliver emergency reporting, crossing request and multi-channel (internet, smartphones) information services with minimal additional investment through re-use of the central LeCross ICT infrastructure.

Space Added Value

Utilised satellite services offer the following key benefits for LeCross

  • Satellite Navigation: GNSS services allow train position and speed of the train to be precisely and continuously determined.
  • Satellite Communication: Services provide coverage in remote or inaccessible areas with little or no terrestrial connectivity. 

Product Benefits

The LeCross solution utilises satellite machine-to-machine communication services and train positioning data to offer a cost effective solution to improve safety at currently unprotected level crossings. In particular it offers: 

  • Improved knowledge of train location, direction and speed at these level crossings
  • Direct control of automatic safety measures (warning lights, digital signage) for non-rail users at rural or remote locations
  • Capital and operational cost benefits when compared to existing solutions 

It offers substantial safety benefits at remote or rural level crossings where traffic densities are too low to justify closing level crossings or deploying conventional solutions. 

It is designed to offer: 

  • Increased public safety: by delivering up-to-date reliable information on train location to level crossing users
  • Reduced CAPEX: through the use of low-cost, compact trackside units, with no reliance on trackside power or communications
  • Reduced OPEX: through continuous monitoring and condition based maintenance
  • Network wide coverage: through the use of satellite services in remote or rural locations
  • Failsafe behaviour: in the event of power, equipment or communication failure
  • Value-add options: to support  services including emergency reporting, object detection and smartphone apps

Key Issues

The following key issues, relevant for safety at low traffic density level crossings, were taken into account in the study:

The reduction of systematic safety risk at level crossings.

  • Capital and operational cost limits that facilitate wide-spread deployment of services to low traffic density level crossings.
  • The impact on rail network capacity and efficiency.
  • The cost and complexity of installation and maintenance .
  • Interoperability with existing rail infrastructure and technologies.
  • The requirement to be certified and authorised by the relevant rail safety authorities.
  • The need for a service that can operate continuously in a wide range of (sometimes difficult) environmental conditions.

Current Status

The LeCross feasibility study was launched in January 2013 and completed in August 2014.

Subcontractor

CGI

United Kingdom

http://www.CGI.com

Project Managers

esa phone
+31 71 565 56033

Contractor Project Manager

Ari Virtanen
Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O.Box 1300
FI-33101 Tampere
Finland
+358 20 722 3609

ESA Project Manager

Rob Postema
ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1, P.O. Box 299
2200 AG Noordwijk
Netherlands
+31 71 565 56033

Status Date

Created: 21 May 2009 - Updated: 15 February 2014