On International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) this week, Iarnród Éireann released footage of incidents at level crossings and has called for renewed vigilance at level crossings.
Incident rates are stable, this may have been contributed to by reduced traffic volume due to Covid-19 restrictions, but as restrictions begin to ease, the company appeals for road users to be vigilant at level crossings.
In 2020, there were 60 incidents at level crossings, the majority of which were level crossing barriers being struck by vehicles which continued over the level crossing, even though the barriers were lowering and the warning lights were flashing.
"These incidents can cause significant disruption to rail services, and also place both the road user and railway users at serious risk," they said.
"So far this year, there have been 31 incidents at level crossings across the network. Some of these incidents have been particularly worrying and have been widely shared on social media.
"International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) is a UIC (International Railway Union) initiative to encourage members of the public to be vigilant when using level crossings to cross the railway.
"Iarnród Éireann continues to install additional train detection warning systems at user-operated level crossings around the country. These measures have now been introduced at 8 user-operated level crossings, with a further 10 to be commissioned in the coming weeks, and have been well received within the communities that are served by them.
"There are currently 948 level crossings on the Iarnród Éireann network. These are a combination of automated CCTV crossings, manned crossing and unmanned user-operated accommodation crossings.
"As part of our network-wide Level crossing elimination programme, Iarnród Éireann is working to eliminate as many level crossings as practicable. The company has closed 77 crossings between 2014 and 2021. A railway order has been lodged with An Bord Pleanála to eliminate seven level crossings on the Cork Mainline."
However, the company reminds users of the onus to use crossings responsibly:
At automatic crossings: stop safely when the warning lights begin to flash. Never go through crossings when barriers are about to lower, or lowering.
At staff operated crossings: respect gatekeepers, whose role is to ensure your safety and that of rail users. Stop immediately when the gatekeeper requests it.
At user-operated crossings: Always stop before crossing to check the line, check the line again after crossing, and always close the gate after use for your safety and that of others.
Almost 300 people die at level crossings across Europe every year and level crossing accidents account for 1% of road deaths in Europe but 31% of all rail fatalities. Although Ireland’s record is far stronger than the European average, and there have been no level crossing fatalities since 2010, vigilance is essential and Iarnród Éireann are bringing the message of International Level Crossing Awareness Day to Irish crossing users. The theme for this year is; “All Together we are stronger”
Jim Meade, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann said: “The number of incidents at level crossings is still too high. In recent months, we have had a number of very worrying incidents and level crossings and we would appeal to all road users to obey the rules of the roads at level crossings. They are for everyone’s safety.”
Sam Waide, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority said: “The purpose of an awareness day for safety at level crossings is to make all road users aware of the real dangers posed due to carelessness at railway level crossings, especially when using unattended Railway Level Crossings. There really is no room for complacency when it comes to level crossings, because if you take risks at level crossings you are gambling with your own life and the lives of others.”
The Road Safety Authority, Iarnród Éireann, and the Commission for Railway Regulation produced three information videos 'Safety at Level Crossings' a number of years ago aimed at making road users aware of the correct behaviour at railway crossings. An information booklet on Safety at Level Crossings also provides useful information on what to do at level crossings.
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