There were 45 accidents, resulting in seven deaths and six persons seriously injured, at level crossings in Belgium last year, according to statistics presented by Infrabel on Wednesday.
Compared to 2018, the number of deaths went down by two, but there were seven more accidents, the utility, which manages Belgium’s railway network, explained.
Six of last year’s seven victims were vulnerable users and, in most cases, area residents were involved. Twenty-eight of the 45 accidents occurred on normal lines, while the remaining 17 were on lines used by goods trains or located in port areas.
The largest increase in accidents was registered in port areas, which saw seven more mishaps than in 2018: there were 12 collisions in Antwerp Port in 2019, four in Zeebrugge and one in Ghent. Infrabel announced two types of measures aimed at reducing such incidents: activities aimed at raising awareness among truckers and other port users, and adaptations such as improved signalling and additional road markers at the most accident-prone level crossings at the ports.
In the 60% of accidents that occurred outside the ports, a resident of the commune in question or a neighbouring one was involved. Infrabel described this as a sensitive point since it proved that the accidents were not linked to a lack of familiarity with the area, but rather a lack of vigilance. The statistics also showed that one in every four accidents occurred at rush hours: between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM and between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM
“The year 2019 was also marked by a traumatising and unprecedented accident: for the first time in its inexistence, Infrabel’s responsibility was under question in a level crossing collision,” the utility noted, referring to an accident in Langdorp in June. “The investigation currently underway will likely confirm it, but, following a human error during a very specific procedure in towing a train that had broken down, a vehicle was hit at a level crossing. This accident cost the life of the driver and two persons were injured.”
In 2019, Infrabel scrapped 23 level crossings on its normal lines and it now has 372 less than 15 years ago. Last year, the sum of 35 million euros, partly subsidized by Europe, was earmarked for scrapping and renewing infrastructure related to level crossings.