Rail tragedy brings crossing safety back under the spotlight

A section of rail track in Estonia (photo is illustrative).
A section of rail track in Estonia (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

A recent tragedy has brought rail safety and more specifically safety around level crossings, both for vehicles and pedestrians, back into focus again, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Monday.

Tamo Vahemets, head of Operation Lifesaver Estonia, which promotes better rail safety, told AK: "These accidents are not happening as a result of the infrastructure being equipped, or not equipped, in one way or another with additional aids - be they warning lights, road signs, barriers or something similar - but because we are accustomed to crossing the railway line in the manner in which we have previously done."

At the same time, Vahemets emphasized that barriers still have their place. 

According to Rain Kaarjas, manager at freight rail operator Edelaraudtee, on whose territory a recent fatality occurred, the crossing in question meets requirements, and no barrier is needed in addition to traffic signs as things are.

Kaarjas told AK: "It is understandable that were traffic signal barriers installed at all railroad crossings, things would certainly seem safer, but there had not been a single accident at this specific crossing since 1998."

Nonetheless, the number of accidents, both non-fatal and fatal, involving trains has been rising.

Companies say they are constantly discussing how to improve road safety, while more warning signals have been installed than is prescribed by the regulations.

Kaarjas added that the law is currently being amended, in order to specify in which cases signaling should be installed and in which cases crossings should be upgraded in category.

Tunnels or overpasses are also a solution he supports.

"It should still be highly considered whether we move more railroad crossings and crossings to different levels [in relation to the road]."

"It doesn't matter if they are above, as stairs, or underground, it is important that they be on different levels," said Kaarjas.

However, these facilities would largely only refer to pedestrian safety, whereas the most recent accident involved a collision between a road vehicle and a train.

In the future, the speed of passenger trains in Estonia is to rise to 160 km/h, with the arrival of new locomotives next year, so this will also necessitate new safety requirements.

Friday's accident was the fourth fatality on the rails this year and happened when a car was struck by a train at an unregulated level crossing at Lohu, Kohila Rural Municipality, Rapla County.

A four-year-old child traveling in the car was killed, while the driver was hospitalized, Postimees reports.

Evening paper Õhtuleht reports that the train's onboard camera shows that the driver of the vehicle did not slow down on approaching the level crossing.

AK reported that such accidents are often the result of complacency on the part of those who regularly use the crossing.

Other non-fatal incidents include one in which a van driver collided with a train at Kabala, Lääne-Viru County. The configuration of the approach roads and the crossing's warning lights may have been a factor here.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Iida-Mai Einmaa; Postimees; Õhtuleht

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: