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In order to improve safety at rail level crossings, nowadays passive crossings are either removed or upgraded. Upgrades are expensive, which limits the number of crossings that can be upgraded. Additional costs have to be made for communication and signaling infrastructure in case of remote areas. SafeRail provides a low cost solution using Satellite Navigation and Satellite Communication technology, allowing railway operators to accelerate their level crossing upgrade programme. 

Based on evaluation of the present situation at level crossings and interviews with stakeholders across Europe who are relevant for the deployment of level crossing solutions (e.g. ÖBB Infrastructure (AT), JHMD (CZ), SZDC (CZ), train operators Stern & Hafferl (AT), Graz Köflach Bahn (AT), and ADAC (DE), Kuratorium für Verkehr (AT) and UIC (FR)), user key needs and opportunities for improvement were identified and translated into the SafeRail System. SafeRail is basically a satellite based train positioning system which enables continuous train detection and safe operation of level crossings. 

An upgrade of passive level crossings to active ones is possible at remarkably reduced costs compared with standard upgrading approaches / conventional systems, because of:

  • Strongly reduced initial installation costs: no track cabling required
  • Future upgrading of additional level crossings requires only additional infrastructure at the respective level crossing, the central part of the system is shared by all level crossing

Even for trains running at different speed the system can now provide homogeneous closure periods to the road user. 

SafeRail in its current state is targeted for Rail Operations, because the technical feasibility and business viability assessments have proven to be very promising. Future extensions of SafeRail may include services for Road Users and Rail Maintenance.

Users and their needs

The SafeRail study included a series of workshops and a few tens of expert interviews with users and other stakeholders in order to establish a description of the current situation (and challenges) at level crossings and to conclude on user needs and requirements.

Users considered in this study are:

  • Road User
  • Train Driver
  • Train supervisor
  • Rail Inspector

Stakeholders taken into account included:

  • Rail Infrastructure Manager (IM)
  • Railway Undertaking RU
  • National Rail Safety Authority (NSA)
  • Road Safety Authority
  • Railway Signaling Manufacturer
  • Telematics (Data) Provider
  • Road Vehicle OEM

The main findings in terms of user requirements are:

  • Railway companies want to increase the percentage of road users who respect the traffic rules at level crossings.
  • Road users want to be supported with appropriate hazard warnings if there is a specific danger while approaching the level crossing. The road user would like to pursue his journey without being obstructed and without feeling a lack of safety by the operations of the level crossing.
  • Traffic safety specialists want to support road users in perception and appropriate action of the situation at the approached level crossing.
  • Road users want to have in advance information regarding the status of the level crossing in order to perform an optimal routing.
  • Secondary line operators want low cost, yet safety-compliant active level crossing installations (legal conditions require upgrading many passive level crossings to active level crossings due to increased traffic density).
  • Secondary line operators and safety authorities prefer short closure periods (yielding less impatient road users crossing early).
  • Infrastructure Managers want to support the level crossing inspection with seamless data management and remote inspection.

SafeRail has no general geographical limitation and can be implemented world-wide. The first focus is on Central Europe.

Current Status

The SafeRail team is currently preparing a demonstration project which will involve equipping at least two secondary rail lines in Central Europe with the proposed SafeRail solution. The aim of the demonstration project is the implementation of a pre-operational SafeRail solution which will be operated for at least 6 months in a “shadow” environment to gain further confidence in the sustainability of the solution. The demonstration project will benefit from a close collaboration with the potential customer and will show the benefits from the integrated use of Satellite Navigation and Communication. This pre-operational SafeRail will be transferred into regular operations after the demonstration phase. The consortium is currently in discussion with strongly interested Rail Infrastructure Managers about further details of the demonstration project.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Rainer Grimm
Berner & Mattner Systemtechnik GmbH, Erwin-von-Kreibig-Str. 3
80807 Munich

ESA Project Manager

Rob Postema
ESTEC - TIA/AFS, Keplerlaan 1, P.O. Box 299
2200 AG 2200 AG

Status Date

14 January 2015 - Created: 13 November 2015