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Breakthrough in train crossing safety

Jan 23, 2014Update

Following successful Victorian trials, Queensland rail is testing a new technology that provides a super-cheap solution to unsafe railway crossings.

Developed by Townsville-based NFA Innovations, the Emergency Signal Intercepting Device (Pixie) is installed on rail crossings and sends a warning message through nearby car radios whenever a train is about to approach.

Said to be a breakthrough in road and rail safety, the device will successfully warn drivers regardless of whether the radio or CD player is switched on or off, and will mute other sounds that may be playing at the time.

An audio warning to cars and trucks is sent out automatically when a trackside device detects signals from an oncoming train. The system has multiple redundancies and back-up functions to ensure it is fail-safe.

On average, 100 incidents and 37 deaths occur at railway level crossings each year. The major contributing factors are human error, complacency, and detecting hazards too late to avoid them.

The device costs approximately $4,000 per locomotive,  $4,000 for the trackside transmitter, and between $10 and $40 per road vehicle.

This contrasts strongly against the price tag of a road crossing boom gate, which can vary from $500,000 to $1 million. Even after the expense, half of all level crossing accidents occur at sites with lights, signals, and gates.

The RTBU is pursuing a national rollout of this technology, as one way to reduce accidents at the 23,000 level crossings in place across Australia. Even Transport Canada is onboard, seeking a trial to prepare for rapid implementation on Canada’s national network.