Satnav Technology helps drive down West Mids level crossing incidents

Britain’s motorists are set to benefit from a world first in Satnav technology which will improve awareness of level crossings and encourage safer driving.

A free downloadable application which alerts drivers with a train whistle sound as they approach a level crossing has been developed by Network Rail and leading satellite navigation provider Garmin.

Network Rail route director Jo Kaye said: “Langley Green level crossing is a particular problem for us and we often have to stop the road barriers lowering because somebody is making a last minute dash across. Pedestrians and cyclists are just as guilty as car and lorry drivers, as our latest CCTV clips show. Stopping the barriers in mid sequence results in delays to trains and possibly missed connections for passengers.

“Vehicles weaving round lowering barriers or speeding through them pose a danger to themselves and other road users and pedestrians. There is also a real possibility that they will collide with the barrier, damaging both the level crossing equipment and the vehicle.

“Satnav technology has proved to be a great help to motorists in alerting them to what’s ahead on the road, so developing an app around level crossings seemed a smart idea. If we can reduce the number of incidents at level crossings we can save the taxpayer money and improve the punctuality and reliability of train services.”

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It is hoped the new technology will encourage safer motoring and reduce the number of incidents which cause damage, disruption and a number of deaths each year. The news comes as the rail company is supporting international level crossing awareness day where around 40 countries are organising activities to promote safety at level crossings.

The free application can be downloaded onto Garmin nüvi or nüLink Satnavs from its website. Similar to choosing options that alert you to approaching speed cameras, the device whistles like a train and an ‘X’ appears on the screen with the name of the level crossing so motorists can approach and cross with care*. The companies are also looking into developing an intelligent version where motorists can choose to set a journey to avoid level crossings. They also want to develop the application so the Satnav would alter your route to avoid a level crossing where the barriers are down for a significant period of time, if the alternative was quicker.

Anthony Chmarny, Garmin head of communications said, “The development of this free level crossing application shows the ongoing commitment we have to ensure our Satnav customers have the very best travel information at the tip of their fingers. We believe this will help to save time, money and most importantly improve drivers’ safety during their journey.”


Acting Inspector Stuart Middlemas, of BTP, said: “Level crossings are perfectly safe when used correctly. Sadly, though, there are a number of people who seem content to take unnecessary risks at crossings just to save a few minutes.

“I cannot over-emphasise just how dangerous this is. The warning signs and barriers are there for a reason – to protect people – and those who fail to heed the warnings are putting themselves and others at risk.

“That some people are still prepared to run the risk of serious injury to knock seconds or minutes off their journey time is simply staggering.

“We will continue to take action against those who misuse crossings and will work with Network Rail to carry out further days of action to drive home the message that level crossings should be respected.”

Network Rail, British Transport Police, West Midlands Police and representatives from Centro will be at Langley Green level crossing during the morning (on 9 June) talking to motorists and pedestrians about the safe use of the crossing.

The app was launched on the day Network Rail released two new CCTV clips from Langley Green.

In one clip recorded in January 2011, a pedestrian is given a safety awareness leaflet by Network Rail staff. She is then seen dashing over the crossing, even though the lights are flashing and the warning klaxon is sounding. The barriers then have to be stopped from lowering and the pedestrian is spoken to by a police officer. She is then seen arguing with the officer and waving the safety leaflet at him. The woman was given a £50 on the spot fine for trespassing on the railway.

In the second clip (recorded in March 2011) two cyclists make a dash for the crossing even though the barrier sequence is well advanced. The first cyclist gets through unscathed but the second rides head first into the lowering barrier.