May 21, 2012

Melbourne trials new level crossing safety system

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TRIALS of a new train-to-car wireless communications system designed to improve safety at level crossings are taking place this week in Melbourne.

Developed at La Trobe University, the intelligent transport system uses dedicated short-range communications technology from which cars and lorries transmit and receive information about their own and other vehicles' position, speed and direction to calculate whether a collision with an approaching train is likely to occur.

Around 100 motorists and a specially equipped Metro Trains Melbourme emu are taking place in the test programme on two level crossings on the mixed-traffic Frankston suburban line. Tests have already taken place in regional Victoria, but the range of the signal will be limited in urban areas. Automated sound, voice and visual warnings can alert drivers to trains that are up to 500m away with the message intensity increasing to a shrill warning when a collision is imminent.

La Trobe has developed the technology under a $A 4m ($US 4.2m) programme funded by the state and federal governments and several industry partners. The $A 5.5m Melbourne trial will take three years to complete and as well as testing the technology will also test driver's reactions and what messages are most effective at drawing a response.

"We will be trying out a number of different messages such as: 'A train is coming, slow down' and 'A collision is about to happen' – with all bells and whistles blaring – and see how they react," La Trobe's Dr Jack Singh told the Melbourne Herald Sun.

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