With all the safety measures that are in place on Britain’s railways, including the need for the railway being fenced throughout its length, it is only at level crossings that trains interact with people. Pedestrians, cars, buses, trucks and babies in pushchairs share exactly the same space as 125mph trains.

It is not surprising, therefore, that making level crossings safer is a priority for Network Rail as well as for community leaders and Government. The problem is being tackled by the increasing use of proven technology that offers improved reliability and enhanced safety as standard.

Through its national level crossing framework contract, Infrasig, a joint venture (JV) company that unites Carillion and Bombardier, is renewing level crossings. By utilising Bombardier products and knowledge along with Carillion’s delivery teams, the JV is improving safety and reliability across the UK rail network.

Every installation is different

The Infrasig team has recently completed the design and build renewal of a number of level crossings on the Cumbrian Coast – Askam MCB (manually controlled barrier), Parksouth MCB, and Sandscale AOCL (Automatic open crossing, locally monitored) . It is currently in the construction / commissioning stage of St.Bees and Silecroft MCBs.

During the delivery of the crossings at Askam, Parksouth and Sandscale, Infrasig worked closely with Network Rail’s IP Central (North) delivery team in a collaborative working approach that successfully delivered the three level crossings within the extremely tight timescale of five months, as opposed to the industry average of nine.

As with all level crossing works, Infrasig had to meet challenges along the way. For example, at the Askam level crossing in Barrow-in-Furness, it transpired that the signal box and adjoining structures were Grade 2 listed and therefore required a different approach from the norm.

Items such as the URX (under road crossing), turning chambers and LCU (local control unit) had to be re-sited and bespoke construction methodologies were introduced including the removal, and replacement, of a large section of the Grade 2 listed wall to allow the installation of the URX cross-road ducting. This process was time-consuming and the Infrasig team had to work within some very precise and strict working guidelines with each brick being removed, recorded, washed down and then replaced back in its original position.

As well as the design and build contracts, Infrasig is also carrying out single option development contracts in Carmarthenshire (three MCB crossings), Stroud Valley (three MSL – miniature stop light – crossings) and Dovey Jcn to Pwellheli (three ABCLs and one TMOB – Trainman Operated Crossing with Barriers).

A kit of parts

For level crossing solutions, Infrasig draws upon Bombardier’s EBI Gate product family. This comprises a number of ‘tools’ that together make up a toolkit from which any particular application can be derived. These tools include EBI Light road traffic lights, EBI Gate 630 barrier machines, EBI Track 200 axle counters for wheel detection and EBI Gate 200 and 2000 level crossing controllers.

Bombardier has been working collaboratively with Network Rail for the past five years to improve crossing safety and reliability through the introduction of new technology. EBI Gate 200 is the first in the UK to achieve product approval for a safety critical PLC-designed level crossing system. It is now significantly more sophisticated than the early design concept in 2009, with continual data logging, reduced deployment restrictions and the ability to remove restrictive timers.

One of the enhancements to the EBI Gate 200 solution is a more robust auto-restore function that includes a full axle-counting feature. Therefore the system does not just detect the presence of a train but also fully counts the train in and out of the relevant block section and detects the direction the train is travelling.

The auto-restore functionality means that, during engineering works around the crossing area, there is no requirement to manually restore the system. The first train through the crossing area will restore the system to operational status, therefore improving availability to the crossing user.

These continual enhancements are part of a long-term product road map and Infrasig’s commitment to improve safety and reliability across the UK rail network. Bombardier is now working with Network Rail to integrate EBI Gate 200 within its Intelligent Infrastructure reporting system, while Carillion is improving the design, installation and testing methodology to achieve delivery savings.

Fully-integrated system

The next stage is to bring Bombardier EBI Gate 2000 to the UK. This is a full level-crossing system designed with the flexibility to be deployed as a total overlay solution, or as a renewal for an existing level crossing which can either be interfaced to existing signalling systems or fully integrated within an ERTMS signalling system.

When fully integrated, EBI Gate 2000 is completely controlled by object controller devices, therefore no conventional relays are required, improving reliability and reducing maintenance requirements. The system has a product design life of 25 years and is fully supported by Bombardier, therefore product lifecycle and obsolescence is proactively managed. The EBI Gate 2000 system is designed in accordance with CENELEC standards to SIL4 and is a complete self-contained factory tested system. In reality, this means removing the requirement for prolonged road closures, hence improving level crossing renewal efficiencies.

The full EBI Gate 2000 system consists of the EBI Gate 630 barrier machine, one thousand of which have already been proven in over one million operations. Deployed throughout Europe, it has the capability to drive 12-metre booms, well exceeding the current UK requirement of 9.1 metres. Its low current consumption, when compared to conventional approved barrier machines, will bring energy savings and deployment efficiencies with significantly reduced cable size requirements

This article was first published in Rail Engineer April Issue 126