ESA title


  • ACTIVITYFeasibility Study
  • STATUSOngoing
  • THEMATIC AREAInfrastructure & Smart Cities, Transport & Logistics, Safety & Security

Objectives of the service

In order to improve safety at rail level crossings, nowadays passive crossings are either removed or upgraded. Upgrades are expensive, which limits the number of crossings that can be upgraded. Additional costs have to be made for communication and signaling infrastructure in case of remote areas. SafeRail provides a low cost solution using Satellite Navigation and Satellite Communication technology, allowing railway operators to accelerate their level crossing upgrade programme. 

Based on evaluation of the present situation at level crossings and interviews with stakeholders across Europe who are relevant for the deployment of level crossing solutions (e.g. ÖBB Infrastructure (AT), JHMD (CZ), SZDC (CZ), train operators Stern & Hafferl (AT), Graz Köflach Bahn (AT), and ADAC (DE), Kuratorium für Verkehr (AT) and UIC (FR)), user key needs and opportunities for improvement were identified and translated into the SafeRail System. SafeRail is basically a satellite based train positioning system which enables continuous train detection and safe operation of level crossings. 

An upgrade of passive level crossings to active ones is possible at remarkably reduced costs compared with standard upgrading approaches / conventional systems, because of:

  • Strongly reduced initial installation costs: no track cabling required
  • Future upgrading of additional level crossings requires only additional infrastructure at the respective level crossing, the central part of the system is shared by all level crossing

Even for trains running at different speed the system can now provide homogeneous closure periods to the road user. 

SafeRail in its current state is targeted for Rail Operations, because the technical feasibility and business viability assessments have proven to be very promising. Future extensions of SafeRail may include services for Road Users and Rail Maintenance.

Users and their needs

The SafeRail study included a series of workshops and a few tens of expert interviews with users and other stakeholders in order to establish a description of the current situation (and challenges) at level crossings and to conclude on user needs and requirements.

Users considered in this study are:

  • Road User
  • Train Driver
  • Train supervisor
  • Rail Inspector

Stakeholders taken into account included:

  • Rail Infrastructure Manager (IM)
  • Railway Undertaking RU
  • National Rail Safety Authority (NSA)
  • Road Safety Authority
  • Railway Signaling Manufacturer
  • Telematics (Data) Provider
  • Road Vehicle OEM

The main findings in terms of user requirements are:

  • Railway companies want to increase the percentage of road users who respect the traffic rules at level crossings.
  • Road users want to be supported with appropriate hazard warnings if there is a specific danger while approaching the level crossing. The road user would like to pursue his journey without being obstructed and without feeling a lack of safety by the operations of the level crossing.
  • Traffic safety specialists want to support road users in perception and appropriate action of the situation at the approached level crossing.
  • Road users want to have in advance information regarding the status of the level crossing in order to perform an optimal routing.
  • Secondary line operators want low cost, yet safety-compliant active level crossing installations (legal conditions require upgrading many passive level crossings to active level crossings due to increased traffic density).
  • Secondary line operators and safety authorities prefer short closure periods (yielding less impatient road users crossing early).
  • Infrastructure Managers want to support the level crossing inspection with seamless data management and remote inspection.

SafeRail has no general geographical limitation and can be implemented world-wide. The first focus is on Central Europe.

Service/ system concept

The Service Concept depends on the finally prioritized User Needs and will be elaborated later on in more detail. Possible concepts include:

  • Augmenting Road User Awareness: The User should be informed in real-time about trains passing the RLC. To this end, the Rail Infrastructure Manager provides accurate real-time time tables for the RLCs. Satellite Navigation devices used by the road users consume these data in order to appropriately warn the driver if he intends to access the RLC. Possible intermediate data reseller depend on the technology (car manufacturer backend, digital radio broadcast, ..).
  • Support in Maintenance Activities: This concerns the inspection of the different components of an RLC at regular intervals, for instance the compliance of road signs and the requirements concerning the vegetation free area between road and rail. According to the regulations, rail or road staff has to access certain positions and verify the mutual visibility. Dedicated applications on handhelds can support this by proposing the procedural order and by using the sensors of the handheld. These data might directly be integrated in a maintenance data base of the responsible authority.

Space Added Value

SafeRail will provide an improved and stable train position information compared with currently existing standard GNSS solutions, based on Satellite Navigation in combination with a tailored integrity computation. Satellite navigation is also intended for the detection of road users in the surrounding of LCs and thus, to provide the road users appropriate information about LCs when they are approaching. Satellite Communication is used to provide a second communication link, enabling uninterrupted communication and redundancy for the envisaged safety critical application. SafeRail is designed to cope with:

  • Loss of GNSS signals
  • GNSS signal aberrations
  • Loss of communication
  • Delayed satellite communication

This added functionality provided by the satellite technology will be implemented in SafeRail and interfaces with existing systems. No major modifications of the existing systems are needed, as SafeRail will be adapted to the customer needs.

Current Status

The SafeRail team is currently preparing a demonstration project which will involve equipping at least two secondary rail lines in Central Europe with the proposed SafeRail solution. The aim of the demonstration project is the implementation of a pre-operational SafeRail solution which will be operated for at least 6 months in a “shadow” environment to gain further confidence in the sustainability of the solution. The demonstration project will benefit from a close collaboration with the potential customer and will show the benefits from the integrated use of Satellite Navigation and Communication. This pre-operational SafeRail will be transferred into regular operations after the demonstration phase. The consortium is currently in discussion with strongly interested Rail Infrastructure Managers about further details of the demonstration project.

Status Date

Updated: 14 January 2015