“Throughout the year, OLI state programmes continue to work closely with the FRA and our safety partners to help people stay safe near tracks and trains.”
The US state of Illinois is taking action to lower the number of incidents on level crossings, announcing its latest intentions just weeks after preliminary Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) figures that showed deaths on crossings rose in the US by 4.7% between 2016 and 2017. Illinois will invest £138m ($194m) to improve the safety of its level crossings, which will be implemented from July, despite the fact that in 2017 Illinois has experienced the lowest number of incidents (86) since 2010.
The Midwestern state will be carrying out the work on 700 of its level crossings, equating to around 10% of its network, with a safety programme it calls the ‘Three E’s’: enforcement, engineering and education. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which oversees certain transportation activities including rail safety, said the enforcement aspect of the safety campaign would focus on fines of up to $500 for those attempting to cross tracks when alarms are sounding, while it will also install warning signs and signals for the engineering.
For education, the ICC has linked up with Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI), a public-private partnership that exists to raise awareness of rail safety, to encourage widespread compliance with crossing signs and signals. Speaking in reaction to the FRA figures, the OLI said it was concerned with the sharp rise in deaths on the tracks. “Throughout the year, OLI state programmes continue to work closely with the FRA and our safety partners at freight, passenger and commuter railroads and in communities across the country to help people stay safe near tracks and trains,” said interim OLI President Wende Corcoran.
Though few would challenge the motives behind the plan, the use of fatality figures at level crossings as a method of calculating safety figures are deemed by some as an unreliable method primarily because accidents are a function of random events, which can sometimes result in multiple fatalities in the same incident.
In related news, India is also taking a proactive approach to unmanned level crossings. The Khurda Road Railway Division which runs on the East Coast Railway has banished them all from the network two years earlier than the 2020 date set by the Ministry of Railways. Meanwhile, it was reported last year – ahead of the blanket ban of unmanned crossings – that Indian Railways has collaborated with the Indian Space Research Organisation to introduce satellite-enabled hooters that sound when cars approach the tracks.
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