Solar Powered Level Crossing Signals for Railways


A railway tragedy in the Australian state of Victoria this week has so far taken the lives of 11 people. A truck and a passenger train collided at a level crossing. The accident has highlighted the issues with getting power to vital remote location infrastructure. According to an accident researcher from Melbourne's Monash University two thirds of Australia's 9,000 level crossing have no signals warning road users of oncoming trains. Dr Eric Wigglesworth has suggested that solar powered level crossing lights and bells could improve safety at such intersections. He figures that for around $40,000-50,000 AUD ($33,000 to 42,000 USD) per crossing, sun-powered signals could substitute for more expensive mains operated ones. "The harnessing of today's technology to this 20th century problem is overdue," he says. Citing successful trials of solar powered systems some years ago in Victoria, he noted that, "They worked 100% of the time," even in cloudy locations. Got us wondering—are such apparatus readily available? A quick Google search says, yes. We unearthed Solagard. It's a solar-powered level crossing radio warning system developed by Central Electronics, the largest manufacturer of solar photovolatics in India. (They also make rail signals!) Solagard "provides audio and visual alarms at the crossing through a VHF link activated by an approaching train when it is between 5 and 2km (3 to 1.2 mile) from the crossing." As with LEDs for road traffic lights it may be that the eco answer is also the safer solution. ::CelSolar, and ::News in Science.

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