Nine people died at rail intersections last year despite preventative measures

Nine people died at rail intersections last year despite preventative measures
Credit: Belga

The number of deaths as a result of accidents at train level crossings is not decreasing in Belgium, despite measures being introduced to lower this figure.

In 2021, there were 46 accidents at level crossings, resulting in nine people dying and five becoming injured, according to figures published on Wednesday by Infrabel, the railway network manager.

“Despite repeated awareness-raising campaigns and inspections, there has been no immediate improvement in the figures. The number of fatalities also varies little: in 2021, for the fourth time in five years, there were nine fatalities,” a statement read.

Infrabel noted that in a number of cases, notifying the emergency services (112) could have resulted in a collision between a train and car being avoided.

It referred to an accident on Friday 10 December, during which a car became stuck after turning too soon on a level crossing. The car was jammed for several minutes before being hit by a train, resulting in the car being catapulted away. The driver was not in the vehicle, however, the material damage was very high and train traffic was halted for four hours.


Screen-grab of video showing a car stuck on the level crossing. Credit: Infrabel

“Calling the emergency services as soon as possible should become a reflex,” the company stressed.

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Infrabel reiterated there are three things a person should do when getting stuck on a level crossing: Bring yourself to safety and leave the tracks, notify the emergency services to stop the train traffic, and determine where you are by using the “identity card” on the level crossing posts, which contains the number of the railway line and the level crossing, the name of the street and the municipality.

The identity card on a level crossing post. Credit: Infrabel

Comparing years and causes

In 2020, the number of accidents at level crossings dropped significantly to 23, however, this was mainly due to the fact that there were fewer cars on the road overall due to the anti-Covid measures, such as increased teleworking. The 2021 figures were similar to those seen in 2019 and previous years.

The number of accidents increased in the autumn time, with as many as 18 accidents in October, November and December.

Meanwhile, not respecting the traffic rules (and the signalling: red lights, barriers, bell) remains the main cause of accidents at level crossings, followed by the careless behaviour of road users who still try to cross when the traffic situation does not allow this anymore.

Finally, around 10% of accidents are a result of weather conditions (rain, fog or sun) which cause people to misjudge the situation at the crossing.

Infrabel is working with the railway police, local police and Securail to carry out control actions to further increase awareness of the traffic rules at level crossings to lower the number of accidents.

It is also working with local communes to replace level crossings with alternative mobility solutions (bridge, tunnel, parallel road, cycle path) where possible. Since Infrabel was founded in 2005, the number of level crossings was decreased by 422.

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