Ensuring safety at railway level crossings remains a significant challenge on the Australian continent. According to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) accidents at level crossings still make a significant contribution to the total number of railway-related fatalities that involve members of the public. With 23,000 level crossings in Australia and many in remote locations, assessing these crossings as safe for road transport users is resource intensive and costly to undertake.
One of the key safety concerns at level crossings is maintaining adequate sighting distances. The sighting distance is the distance from which drivers can first see an approaching train, which is critical for their safety. Adequate sighting distances ensure that road users have early visibility of approaching trains and are essential in preventing collisions.
The Challenge of Measuring Sighting Distances
Traditional methods for measuring level crossing sighting distances involve sending personnel into the field to take measurements manually.
Sending workers into the rail corridor greatly increases the human and organisational risk profile as they are exposed to road traffic, potential oncoming trains and other hazards from walking on uneven surfaces.
Manual measurements performed in the field are not easily auditable without going back into the field to check measurements. This is especially true at remote locations. While this can be somewhat addressed through checks at sample locations where crews have been, it is no substitute for a quality assured and verified measurement process.
LiDAR Technology: A Game-Changer for Level Crossing Assessments
With LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) datasets now being routinely used in rail routine maintenance in a fully auditable way, level crossing assessments present one of the most compelling use cases for LiDAR at a national level.
LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that can revolutionise the measurement of sighting distances at railway level crossings. LiDAR technology uses laser beams to measure distances with high precision. It can be used to create detailed 3D maps of the environment, accurately capturing the terrain and any obstacles to sighting distances such as vegetation.
LiDAR can be mounted on vehicles or drones, allowing for remote sensing without putting personnel in harm’s way. This greatly enhances safety and efficiency.
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