Monday 3 October 2022

The 8th edition of the ProKolej Conference on Level Crossing Safety took place on 12 September 2022 in Warsaw, Poland

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How can railway crossings be made safer?

It will never be possible to stop roads and railways intersecting and therefore there will always be places such as level crossings, which pose a risk to safety. There are certain steps which need to be taken to reduce the number of tragic events on rail-road crossings, such as increasing investment and educational activities, modifying the law and enforcing appropriate driver behaviour. These were the main topics of the 8th edition of the "Pro Kolej" foundation’s conference entitled “Railroad Crossings 2022: Problems and Solutions” which was organised on 12 September in Warsaw.

In the opening speech, the President of the Office of Rail Transport (UTK), Dr. Eng. Ignacy Góra emphasised that Poland has the 3rd most level crossings in Europe, as in 2021, there were 12,172 rail-road and pedestrian crossings over active railway lines with 706 others being closed over the past five years.

Don’t put your life at risk, stay away from tracks!

Safety problems at crossings between the road and rail are a universal problem, said Isabelle Fonverne from UIC (International Union of Railways) in her presentation. In 2017, there were approximately 532,000 level crossings worldwide, of which 40% were in the United States and just over 20% in European countries. In these countries, accidents and fatalities at railway crossings also account for almost 30% of all rail incidents, and taking pedestrian-crossing-related accidents into account, this figure rises to 91%, and even to 95% in the USA. According to the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), in recent years, there has been an average of 6 fatalities and an additional 6 seriously injured at EU railway crossings per week.

The reasons for these accidents are always the same, regardless of country or culture; they are caused by road users who consciously take risks, misjudge the situation or are not concentrating. The most effective countermeasures are to engineer solutions that eliminate the most dangerous road and rail intersections. However, it would not be possible to immediately close all level crossings while, at the same time, also not being feasible for economic and social reasons, with the inconvenience to users remaining a central issue. To increase safety, education by raising road user awareness, as well as strong law enforcement should be used to discourage misbehaviour at level crossings and around railway tracks. For these measures to be successful, it is extremely important for the railway and road sectors to work closely together.

An example of such cooperation is the global campaign “the International Level Crossing Awareness Day” (ILCAD) spearheaded by UIC. The campaign was launched in 2009 and since then, each edition of the campaign has been kicked off at annual international conferences held across the globe. For this year’s ILCAD awareness safety activities were carried out on 9 June 2022 in Poland with the motto: “Don’t put your life at risk, stay away from tracks."

Next year, the 15th edition of the ILCAD campaign will take place on 8 June 2023.

The first iteration of an additional public safety awareness campaign “TRESPAD”, which focuses on preventing trespassing on railway tracks, will also take place on 7 June 2023.

The conferences to launch the TRESPAD and ILCAD campaigns will be held on 7 and 8 June 2023 and will be followed by a technical visit on 10 June in Warsaw, Poland. The events will be hosted by the PKP and PKP Group Foundation.

These companies work closely with UIC as the PKP Group Foundation’s CEO, Katarzyna Kucharek, is the Vice-Chair of our UIC working group on level crossing safety (GLCN) while Krzysztof Mamiński from PKP Chairman of UIC.

Eliminating driver and pedestrian gaps in knowledge.

Poland has carried out numerous successful education campaigns, with specific focus on drivers and young people. Between 2017-2021, UTK ran a national information and education campaign called Kolejowe ABC. The campaign, co-financed by EU funds, targeted children, their parents, and teachers. 764 awareness sessions were organised in schools preschools and nurseries, during which 21,400 children were given information on how to behave safely around tracks, on platforms, in railway stations, and aboard trains.

Educational adverts were also broadcasted on TV, shared on the internet and shown in cinemas. The Railway ABC II campaign is now underway, in which a friendly rhino explains to children how to behave at level crossings. Various different parts of the campaign will continue until the end of the third quarter of 2023.

The railway infrastructure manager (PKP PLK) has also been running the “Safe crossing” campaign for some years. Its basic goal is to shape the right attitude in all road users. In 2015 the campaign’s message shifted, with the focus being on education and forming sensible and lawful behaviour in drivers at railways crossings. A new slogan “Don’t risk it!” was introduced.


Summing up the conference deliberations, the president of the Pro Kolej Foundation, Dr. Jakub Majewski, emphasised that ensuring safety at this crucial point of contact between railways and roads requires close cooperation between both transport systems as well as with the government. Simultaneous action is necessary on various levels, i.e. education, monitoring level crossings, and effective law enforcement, to change driver and pedestrian habits. Of course, this will necessitate investment, but, with reasonable planning, would also reduce the cost of accidents at crossings. Valuing the unit cost of personal losses is essential for identifying the most cost-effective road safety measures. Only a combination of all these initiatives can contribute to reducing the loss of life, health, or property at level crossings.

Useful links

For further information please contact Isabelle Fonverne, Senior Safety Advisor:

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