One of the situations railroads fear most is when a vehicle is stuck, disabled, or deliberately placed in a crossing island, posing potentially horrific risks for both the railroad and the public. But there are ways to do something about it if the right people are notified soon enough – one utilizing PTC or similar wireless train control systems and the other using the existing cellular network.
Blocked Crossing Status Delivered Over PTC and Similar Train Control Systems
Train control systems such as ITCS - and in the future, PTC - utilize a communication-based crossing activation process. On approach, the locomotive on-board system undergoes a communication exchange with the crossing to verify activation and gate position. Using the easy-to-deploy Island Radar vehicle detection system, this health message returned by the crossing to the locomotive can include a status bit that verifies whether the crossing is clear or obstructed. Although limited to passenger and commuter trains which can stop within the crossing’s 30-60 second warning time, the addition of a ‘clear crossing’ status can provide the most important of health conditions.
Blocked Crossing Alert Notifications to Railroad Personnel
Almost once per month, a truck or other low profile vehicle becomes stuck or broken down while partially on a railroad crossing. And is struck by an oncoming train. The toll-free telephone number posted on the adjacent crossing bungalows is intended to motivate the general public to place a telephone call to report such conditions when they occur – but that call is sometimes not made.
As the following graphic illustrates, the Island Radar sensors can detect the situation where a vehicle moves into the crossing but stays stationary for an abnormally long period of time, for instance 60-90 seconds. The system can immediately send out an alert to railroad personnel via cellular text messaging - providing multiple recipients with an alert message that states the name and location of the crossing and including a static image of what the radar system has spotted in the crossing island. With a click on the provided streaming video link, alert recipients can see exactly what the condition of the crossing is at that moment - in real time and in time to avert possible accident situations.
The Island Radar and the optional cellular-based conveyance system can also be used to push notifications into centralized railroad dispatch systems and trouble desks. The Island Radar solution is unique in its ability to provide immediate alert and actionable information simultaneously to proximate railroad personnel, offices and locomotives.