In Transport

Victoria Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder

World’s Largest Trial Of Technology To Improve Safety At Level Crossings

Victor P Taffa

New technology with the potential to significantly reduce accidents at railway level crossings was demonstrated at Highett Railway Station today, Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder said.

Based on GPS and mobile phone style communications, the Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) technology enables cars to ‘talk’ to trains so that drivers receive warnings of approaching trains at a crossing.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV), La Trobe University and the Automotive Cooperative Research Centre (AutoCRC) are in the final stages of the world’s largest trial of the technology at level crossings. Frankston line level crossings at Highett and Cheltenham and on the Swan Hill line at the regional town of Dingee are participating in the trial.

Preliminary results of the trials have exceeded expectations.

Mr. Mulder said safety was a key priority which was why the Victorian Coalition Government had provided $1.2 Million of funding toward the $5.5 Million three-year project.

“Collisions between cars and trains have devastating consequences. The Coalition Government is committed to doing everything it can to improve safety at level crossings and eliminate the senseless loss of lives and suffering these collisions cause.” Mr. Mulder said.

Professor Tim Brown, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) said La Trobe University was delighted to be involved in the project since it fulfilled its key mission to make a difference to the community.

“This project will greatly benefit driving safety in Victoria, with the added potential of being able to export leading-edge Australian technology and expertise.” Professor Brown said.

La Trobe University’s Centre for Technology Infusion Director, Professor Jack Singh said the benefits of the technology extended well beyond improving level crossing safety.

“Collision warning systems including Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems technology have been hailed by the motor vehicle industry as the next area of major road safety innovation, following in the footsteps of seat belts, airbags and ABS systems to save lives on the roads.” Professor Singh said.

Professor Singh said the technology is expected to be available in new cars by 2014.

AutoCRC CEO, Dr. Matthew Cuthbertson said the research centre prioritised co-funding the project as the technology promised significant safety benefits for road and rail transport in Australia.

“The Australian automotive industry AA2020 Technology Roadmap recently identified wireless vehicle communication as a key opportunity for future competitiveness and exports. This trial is the first of its kind, teaming an Australian world-class project team and wireless technology to demonstrate its application and benefits.” Dr. Cuthbertson said.

The findings of the Intelligent Transport Systems for safer rail level crossings project will be presented at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Vienna and the Global Level Crossing Symposium in London.

With today’s trial following Rail Safety Week, Mr. Mulder said it was a timely reminder for people to always take responsibility for their own safety.

“As we work to improve safety systems on the rail network, we are also urging people to be vigilant and keep safe around trains and trams. All of the warnings in the world will not prevent an accident if crossing users are inattentive or careless of the risks.” Mr. Mulder said.

“While ‘Stay behind the yellow line’ and ‘Mind the gap’ may be phrases people hear every day, this is a good time to be reminded of their importance.”

Research has been conducted by La Trobe University’s Centre for Technology Infusion.

How the technology works:

  • The system delivers six levels of warning, graduating in urgency and volume;
  • The lowest level warning advises of the presence of the crossing (‘there is a crossing ahead’), with subsequent warning levels advising of a train in the vicinity in a similar way to conventional flashing light warnings;
  • Finally, when a collision is imminent, an emergency train horn sound and image which conveys ‘STOP’ is used.

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