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New European space project investigates satellite technology at level crossings

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is it possible that satellites in space could one day help reduce the number of collisions at level crossings?

This is the major issue being addressed by a new European project called SafeRail. 

The study is looking for ways to improve safety  at level crossings using different types of space assets in combination with existing technologies.

German/Austrian-based engineering company Berner & Mattner has been awarded a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to perform the feasibility study.

Chris Cairns Foundation Manager Megan Drayton attended an interview with Berner & Mattner this week by phone and says they were interested in the issues we face here in New Zealand. 

“They wanted to know whether I thought New Zealanders fully understood the meaning of signs at level crossings, because they believed that in Europe the meaning of traffic signs was not well known and that this could be one of the major factors contributing to their collisions.

“I said I thought New Zealanders on the whole had a good understanding of the meaning behind the cross buck, give way and stop signs, and that the majority of our incidents related to motorists becoming distracted, or taking unnecessary risks.”

Megan said the company was also interested in finding out more information about some of our own projects underway in Australasia.  “They wanted to know more about the ALCAM project that KiwiRail has completed, which surveyed all level crossings and gave them a risk measurement. “

KiwiRail’s system of reporting near collisions was also of interest to the company.  “They told me it was not common for drivers to always report near collisions in Europe and so they were very keen to hear more about the systems we use.”

Megan has also put the Europeans in touch with Public Transport Victoria which is currently involved in an ITS project (intelligent transport systems) looking at the possibility of trains and vehicles being able to ‘speak’ to either other, through in-vehicle radio communications.

KiwiRail’s Allan Neilson says that New Zealand will closely watch the SafeRail project outcomes.  “While we typically align ourselves with new Australian technologies to improve safety at crossings (such as ITS), we are also always interested in any new technologies adopted in Europe that are proven to be effective in improving safety at level crossings. “

The SafeRail study is currently in a preparatory phase – and the initial results will be published at a public awareness event later in the year.

 

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