Introduction: Reduction of Accidents in Unmanned Level Crossings

This is a comprehensive solution to reduce accidents at unmanned level crossing. but first, What are these unmanned level crossings? Well as the name suggests these are crossings where the track intersects with the road and there is no one stationed here as it is considered unimportant.

These unmanned crossings are so large in number that in India itself, there are about 13500 such crossings and over 50% of the level crossings around the world are unmanned. You may wonder how this matters. Well, neglecting these level crossings results in a minimum of 100 accidents a year and several deaths.

The main cause of these accidents is because of 2 major things:-

  1. People not being warned about the coming of the train.
  2. People ignoring these warnings and acting casually.

Sadly we cant do anything about the second reason but we can tackle the first issue.

And for this i present a 3 step solution:

  • Level 1 : Activation of high decibel siren and blinking red light alerts, 15 minutes or 30 Km before arrival of train
  • Level 2 : Activation of automatic gate closing 10 minutes or 20 Km before arrival of train
  • Level 3: Activation of emergency stop signals to alert trains to brake 7 minutes or 14 Km before arrival of train if gates are not closed due to any reason.
    • Signals turn green only after gates have closed and the train starts moving.

Step 1: Small Scale and Methodology

How it works!

We do this through a 3 level protocol:

  • Level 1: This is where the train is 15 mins or 30 kms* away. Here we place load sensors on the track. These load sensors are components which will automatically complete the circuit when a particular weight is placed on it. Here we define the cutoff as 2 tons as only a train can weigh that much on the tracks. You might ask why load sensors and not anything else. I will be getting to that in a moment. So as the train passes by it activates a set of high decibel sirens and lights indicating to the people that there is a train coming.
    • Why load sensors?- well its because of 2 reasons
      • any other sensor would trigger anything even cattle and would cause people to panic
      • Load sensors are components that have been there for a very long time and hence is tested technology and can be banked on.

  • Level 2: Here we again place load sensors but 20kms or 10 mins* away.These complete the circuit and automatically initiate the shutting of the gate. We also place a speed gun** over here that would send signals to a counter placed at the level crossing intersection.If for any reason the gates haven't been shut we move on to level 3.
  • Level 3: Here we again place load sensors on the track but at the intersection and define the cut off as about 500 kgs. This is an emergency level that is activated only when the gates havent been shut due to an obstruction. Signals are placed 14 kms or 7 mins* away from the crossing. When a obstruction is present at the intersection it triggers the sensor and signals to the driver through lights and sirens. The train then breaks and only after the gates are shut is the train allowed to pass and only after the train clears a certain distance of 2km is the gate opened again.

Step 2: Understanding the Math!

*Relation between the distances and times:

  • The average speed of trains is about 120km/hr-
  • This means that the train will cover in 15mins about 30kms and hence on.

**Speed gun and time?:

  • s=d/t
  • distance is known to be 20kms, speed is measured and hence we can find the time to be displayed at the intersection.

The distance required for a train travelling at a speed of 120km/hr to break safely is 2kms

Step 3: Conclusion and Cost

Given the advancement in reliable and durable technology, the cost of installation of the above is not expected to be more than a few lakhs and per level crossing. Prioritisation to cover unmanned level crossings near villages and towns to be priority.


Synergies (author)2015-04-30

Have you considered why people ignore the warnings? I suggest that is because they consider the warnings excessively conservative. Do you really think a 15 minute delay will cause more people to stop... or would it make more people think they have plenty of time to ignore the warning? Depending on how long the train is (freight trains can take a long time to pass by) quite a few minutes are taken out of an already busy day, so adding more waiting time will be another reason some people will be more inclined to risk ignoring the barriers.

Therefore, I suggest, that instead of making the interval longer, you
should make it as short as possible to encourage people to take it

If the crossing is in a rural area, maybe a siren would be OK, but if there are any houses or businesses around that noise pollution would not be tolerable

To help notify drivers in time, perhaps a preliminary warning 100 meters on either side of the tracks would get them to slow down in plenty of time. Perhaps that would eliminate the panicky confusion shown in the video.

carlos66ba (author)2015-04-24

Seems to me that you can't do much to deter human stupidity as you show in the video, short of making it completely impossible to cross when the barrier is down (i.e., a 5 m tall barrier that completely blocks the way). That is unlikely to happen so in the end let evolution play its course ;)

tejas.sudarshan (author)2015-04-23

Lets go through what you just said
*ppl living near will have a problem- when you talk of an unmanned level crossing , it isint an relevant place to station a man, and these are areas wwith scarce population and these seirons which save lives.
*10 minute wait n video comparison- in the video , that's the current method used but I'm just increasing the time to 10 minutes to ensure safety.
It can be 7 mins to but then when would v alert the train driver? 5mins away?
Well b pushing it too tight as it would take about 2 mins to completely
Hope this satisfies your quarries!

verence (author)2015-04-23

So you want people to wait 10 minutes for a train that is still 20km (i.e. not even remotely visible) away? The video you have as opener shows people that don't want to wait for a train that is 10 seconds away.

High decibel sirens for 15 minutes? If there is only one train per hour, people living close to the crossing will have to endure this noise 6 hours a day (and night).

Signal oncoming trains (in a sensible way - lights for cars, ringing bells for pedestrians that don't look at lights) - yes, closing gates - fine. But for a reasonable amount of time, not 15 minutes. I.e. give the slow granny time to walk off the tracke and the donkey cart time to clear it.

Apart from that, a train crossing is one of the last places where Darwin can do his work. Stupid people doe (and ever will) ignore any (ANY!) sensible signs.

seamster (author)2015-04-23

This looks like a great idea!