A new campaign by railway manager Infrabel aims to target people who “do not realise the danger” of level crossings after research showed nearly half of those asked would ignore rules. Close to half (46%) of participants did not respect the rules and 14% drove illegally on railway lines over a period of six months. This has led Infrabel to launch Railrespect, an action plan with support from the Government, railway police and Securail, the security service of the national railway company SNCB, to fight against dangerous behaviour on railways.
The survey was done by the GfK market study group among 1,000 Belgians living close to level crossings and/or occasionally travelling by train. About 77% of respondents said they would voluntarily ignore traffic rules at level crossings if they had a chance to do so, while 55% indicated that they would drive illegally on railway lines.
“It’s a real human drama,” said Infrabel CEO Luc Lallemand, noting that railway mishaps reached a dramatic level last year, with 13 people dying and 9 being injured while crossing railways and in level-crossing accidents. “It can’t go on like this,” said Thomas Baeken of Infrabel, according to reports “There will be new measures to increase safety at level crossings, and the police will tighten their directions. It is necessary because people still do not realise the danger,” he added.
Such mishaps cost railway travellers average delays of eight hours per day, which federal Mobility Minister François Bellot described as “unacceptable”.
The Railrespect action plan is based on three pillars: prevention, awareness-building and repression.
On the prevention side, two pilot projects will be launched in 2019 and 2020. The first consists of placing signs at 18 crossings to remind drivers that they must move forward only if they can cross at one go. The second aims to enhance the visibility of level crossings by equipping their barriers with LED lighting.
The awareness aspect of Railrespect hinges on “Jean-Pierre Barrière”, a fictitious character who is no other than a level-crossing barrier.
At the repression level, railway police will first carry out actions at sensitive points along the railway network; “a last warning before proceeding to repression,” Infrabel said, adding that serious offences would be penalised.
The actions would later be carried out by police in plain clothes. Offenders will then have to pay fines ranging from 300 to thousands of euros.