Themes: Safety
07. November 2015

Automatic alarm button for emergencies on level crossings

Pro-Rail Alliance demands expansion of emergency alert system eCall

There is still plenty of space on this dashboard: an alert button for emergencies on level railway crossings could prevent fatal collisions between trains and HGVs in the future. It is now up to the EU.
Berlin, November 7, 2015. In view of several major accidents involving heavy goods vehicles on level railway crossing in recent days, the German Pro-Rail Alliance has demanded an expansion of the automatic emergency alert system eCall, which will be obligatory in cars and small commercial vehicles from March 2018. Instead of just transmitting a GPS based alert to the general emergency number 112 there should also be an independent alert system for dangerous situations on level crossings, explained the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, on German television in the ARD programme ‘brisant’. “We can even imagine an extension to the eCall system that involves a second button alongside the standard system for road traffic accidents that is clearly visible for emergencies on level crossings,” said Flege on Saturday in Berlin. “In this way, every car driver who is stuck on a level crossing anywhere in Europe could directly alert the railway traffic controller. The driver of the next train approaching the level crossing could quickly be identified and informed.” Although the number of accidents on level crossings in Germany has been falling for many years, accidents on level crossing are always particularly difficult, not only for drivers, but also for the hundreds of unsuspecting train passengers, added Flege. “The EU parliament would be well advised to extend the already approved eCall system to cover emergencies on level crossings.
At the same time the Pro-Rail Alliance rejected demands by the SPD in Bavaria to equip every level crossing with a special emergency alert system. After the fatal accident on Thursday in Oberpfalz (Bavaria), the social democrats in the state parliament at the weekend called for level crossing to be fitted with the appropriate equipment. “Apart from the fact that many level crossing are already fitted with extensive safety equipment, we can also see a considerably increased risk of misuse,” said the Pro-Rail Alliance managing director. “The advantage of the eCall technology approach is that it is directly located in the vehicle responsible and works across the whole of the EU,” said Flege. This is why it is necessary that the EU-wide automatic emergency alert system should also be obligatory in heavy goods vehicles, not only small commercial vehicles from March 2018.