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Safety at level crossing is your responsibility

Published 8.6.2022 9.00

Stop, look left and look right. The international level crossing awareness day is held on 9 June every year to remind you of the most important stop of the day. There are still about 2,600 level crossings on the Finnish rail network. Crossing the tracks safely is always the responsibility of the road users. The level crossing programme of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency is significantly improving safety at level crossings.

Level crossings are the most significant safety risk on railways. Roads and railways intersect in about 2,600 places in Finland, and most of these locations are on branch lines. Level crossings have already been removed from higher-speed lines, such as the rail line between Helsinki and Oulu.

"You should always be alert when at a level crossing. You should never rely on timetables because in addition to scheduled services, there are also other trains using the tracks. In fact, routines of the road users and using the same level crossing every day are the main factors causing people to become less alert," explains Kaisa-Elina Porras, Specialist, Safety and Security at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency. "One should also remember that trains cannot swerve, they are fairly quiet and the braking distances are long."

There are road signs warning of level crossings, and about one in four of all level crossings in Finland are equipped with barriers. Lowering of the barriers and flashing lights warn of the approaching train.

How to act at a level crossing:

  1. Prepare to stop when you see a level crossing. Stop at the stop sign.
  2. Look and listen to make sure that there are no trains coming. If there are no warning devices at the level crossing, look left and right to check whether there are any trains coming. If necessary, also open the window to hear whether a train is approaching. If there are no trains coming, cross the tracks without delay. Remember that a level crossing is not a zebra crossing and that the train always has the right of way.
  3. Do not cross the tracks if the barriers are lowering or you see a train coming.
  4. Wait for the barriers to rise and until the light turns white. The flashing white light indicates that you can safely cross the tracks. Make sure that there are no other trains coming.

The work to remove level crossings is continuing

The purpose of the level crossing programme of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency is to remove and improve level crossings classified as particularly dangerous. Sharp intersection between road and railway, or buildings or vegetation blocking visibility make a level crossing unsafe. "The best way to increase safety is to remove level crossings. If this not possible, safety can be enhanced by building overpasses, underpasses or diversions, or by equipping level crossings with warning devices", explains Mikko Heiskanen, Project Manager at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.

"Once the funding has been secured, we discuss the matter with the landowners and hear the views of local residents. Removing a level crossing will improve safety but a familiar and maybe also a quicker route will be replaced with a new one. Citizens have the right to express their opinions on this", adds Heiskanen. In most cases, agreement is reached: More than 400 level crossings will be removed or improved as part of the level crossing programme extending to the year 2023.

Information on level crossing projects under way: The projects and more information can be found on this map (the website is in Finnish).  

Inquiries:

Safety at level crossings: Kaisa-Elina Porras, Specialist, Safety and Security, tel. +358 295 34 3864
Level crossing programme: Mikko Heiskanen, Project Manager, tel. +358 295 34 3808
email: [email protected]