AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Governments on board with level crossing technology

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Governments are showing strong support for research into the application of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to railway level crossings. This technology will not only result in collision avoidance, but will help to improve general safety consciousness on Australian roads. </span> <p><span class="Apple-style-span">According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), over 630 level crossing collisions have occurred in Australia between 2001 to 2009, with Victoria alone accounting for over 230 of these incidences.</span></p> <p>In addition to the financial loss running into millions of dollars, level crossing collisions have resulted in high level of tragic fatalities (over 70 deaths between 1997 and 2002). Recently there has been more serious involvement of heavy road vehicles in level crossing crashes.</p> <p>An investigation by the ATSB into 12 level crossing accidents between April 2006 and December 2007 observed that nine of these incidents involved heavy road vehicles. These&nbsp resulted in 19 deaths and an estimated financial loss of over $100m.</p> <p>Some major factors contributing to rail-road crossing accidents included lack of awareness of an approaching train, inappropriate driver behaviour, insufficient sight clearance for train visibility, alcohol/drugs and so on.</p> <p>Over the past few years, the federal and state governments of Australia have made several recommendations to improve safety at rail-road crossings.</p> <p>In late 2008, the Victorian Government recommended the national adoption of new and developing technologies, including ITS, to improve safety. It also recommended the urgent development and trialling of such technologies.</p> <p>Similarly in 2009, the federal government recommended a strong support for the ongoing research into ITS to enable rapid development of this new technology while also investigating early adoption methods with cut-in warning systems at level crossings for existing vehicles.</p> <p><strong>New technology</strong></p> <p>Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) is a new technology platform that has the potential to offer cost effective means of deploying an ITS, offering social, economic and environmental benefits.</p> <p>The technology is being standardised to provide a wireless ad-hoc communication platform on an international standard of 5.9 GHz.</p> <p>It will allow rapid and high speed communication between multiple vehicles and between vehicles and infrastructure to enable a range of safety and non-safety applications.</p> <p><strong>Multi-million dollar project</strong><br /> A new multi-million dollar project – “Visionary project C3-23 – Intelligent Transport System to Improve Road/Rail Safety – has recently begun, which aims to fast track the development and implementation of ITS in Australia.</p> <p>This high impact project is led by La Trobe University and supported by state and federal governments, AutoCRC, other universities and industry, and includes collaboration with National ICT Australia (NICTA), the CRC for Rail Innovation, Partnership for Advanced Computing (VPAC), Embedded Systems Technology (EST) and others.</p> <p>This project will be executed in three phases. In the first phase, an industry standard ITS simulation platform for level crossings will be developed that will allow research and empirical analysis of various technology and safety factors.</p> <p>The second phase will include implementation and testing of system architecture in laboratory environment with real hardware and software.</p> <p>The final phase of the project will involve conducting real world field trials of the system with 100 plus vehicles for verification, data collection and optimisation.</p> <p>The project will include human-centred design of the warning system to ensure effectiveness of the warnings and overall driver acceptance of the new technology.</p> <p>This project will result in development of a “deployment ready” safety solution for level crossings. It will not only result in immediate safety outcomes in terms of collision avoidance, it will also help in long-term behaviour change of drivers and result in an overall improvement in safety consciousness on Australian roads.<br />&nbsp&nbsp</p>