Preventing accidents at level crossings

In 2016, Infrabel invested around 32 million euros in adapting, modernising and eliminating level crossings in order to improve safety on level crossings. However, the behaviour of road users is also crucial if we are to lower the number of accidents.

Don't risk your life! Stop at level crossings!

In 2016, there were 45 accidents resulting in 4 deaths and 8 injuries.

Most accidents are still caused by failure to follow the highway code. This puts people's lives at risk and is a genuine problem for society. Infrabel once again wishes to appeal to all road users to stop at level crossings whenever the bells are ringing, the red lights are flashing and the barriers are closed or in motion. 

Number of accidents at level crossings 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Number of level crossings 1857 1848 1818 1773 1751
Number of accidents at level crossings 52 43 47 45 45
Number of deaths at level crossings 13 7 11 11 4

 

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Details of 2016 Level Crossing Figures

Using a level crossing is completely safe, provided that you pay attention and obey the safety regulations and road signs.

  1. Slow down when you approach a level crossing. Keep an eye on the road signs and obey the lights, ringing bell and barriers. As soon as the bell starts ringing and the red lights are lit, you must stop, even if the barriers are not yet down. Wait until the barriers have been fully raised and the light signal is white again before you cross the tracks.
  2. Do not stop on the level crossing. Only start to cross the tracks when you are absolutely certain that you can cross them in one go.
  3. Never drive around lowered barriers. Even if one train has already gone through, a second train can always follow. The waiting time between lowering the barriers and a train passing is only 30 seconds on average.
  4. No ringing bells, lights or barriers? Look left and right carefully to check whether a train is approaching.

Elimination of level crossings

When cars, cyclists and pedestrians have to cross the tracks, there is always a risk involved – a train can't just stop. We have therefore been working on reducing the number of crossings of rail tracks and public highways for several years.

In 2016, Infrabel eliminated 22 level crossings. The best way to avoid accidents on level crossings is to eliminate the physical intersection between the track and the road. That's why Infrabel tries to replace level crossings with bridges, tunnels, parallel roads or cycle paths, wherever possible. Infrabel always works closely with local authorities and residents to find alternative mobility solutions.

However, we never simply eliminate a level crossing overnight. Amongst other things, we carry out thorough preliminary research, risk analyses and mobility studies beforehand. Together with local authorities and other stakeholders, we study how local residents, passengers and railway users can continue to cross the railway line. This can be achieved by building a bridge or tunnel, for example. In some cases, road traffic is diverted and a bridge or tunnel is built for cyclists and pedestrians.

Level crossing maintenance and modernisation

Where we are unable to eliminate a level crossing, Infrabel invests in modernising, adapting and maintaining it. This involves improving the road signs (installing lights, extra barriers for pedestrians and cyclists, etc.) and collaborating with the highway authorities to carry out the necessary works to increase the visibility of the level crossings.

In the event of a fault, level crossings automatically go into a 'lockdown' mode. The barriers descend and special procedures apply for trains in the area: they must approach the level crossing slowly and sound their horn. We have a detection system in place to see if there really is a technical fault at the level crossing. If this appears not to be the case, then trains can continue travelling normally.

A new ringing bell

Alongside the St Andrew's cross and the barriers, we have now installed a ringing bell at most public level crossings. The ringing bell warns road users at and just before the level crossing when the crossing is about to be closed, and starts ringing about 15 seconds before the barriers begin to descend.

In September 2014, Infrabel began modernising the ringing bells at all level crossings with active road signals. The mechanical bell is being replaced by a unidirectional, electronic bell that is similar to a loudspeaker. The new ringing bell requires less maintenance and is less likely to malfunction, which will benefit both road user safety and the punctuality of the trains. The final level crossings were fitted with the new ringing bell in early 2016.