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HIMA – Making level crossings safe

HIMA, the world’s leading independent provider of smart safety solutions, has helped ERB Technologies save money and increase safety in an advanced electronic level crossing system. Using HIMatrix safety systems from HIMA, it is South Africa’s first COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) level crossing to meet CENELEC SIL 4. Following a successful level crossing pilot project near Rosslyn, South Africa, the company plans to roll out this technology across South Africa’s rail network in a bid to make level crossings safer.

A recent report by the country’s Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) indicates that inadequate level crossing signage one of the main attributes to the recent 25% increase in fatalities and injuries. To address this, RSR is currently updating the (South African National Standard) SANS 3000 technical standard for level crossings, which was introduced in 2012. In order to guarantee radical safety improvements, the new -2-2-1 version refers to European IEC standards and CENELEC.

Responding to these changes, ERB Technologies approached HIMA to work with them in developing a new safety system for level crossings to replace the old relay-based system. The ERB evoCROSS is based on HIMA’s HIMatrix safety system, which the company found to be the market’s best-suited product, meeting all the requirements.

The level crossing for the pilot project is right in front of the main entrance of a busy factory. Previously it was protected by a stop sign only. Although train traffic is low, in the order of 1 to 2 trains per day, its use by vehicle traffic and pedestrians is very heavy. During a recent factory upgrade, the company initiated an upgrade to the level crossing.

Though the physical layout of the level crossing is complex, with 4 lanes of traffic, a pedestrian rail crossing and a pedestrian road crossing, the newly adopted traffic light system is very effective – this is a very new requirement in South Africa, hence its uniqueness to the pilot project.

The ERB/HIMA system offers many advantages to rail operators. While being cost-effective and readily available due to its COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) status, the HIMA hardware’s SIL 4 (CENELEC) certification meets EN 50126, 50128 and 50129. This certification is backed by a proven track record in rail and other industries. In addition, the RSR was involved during the complete project lifecycle.

Operators also enjoy great flexibility and freedom, as the HIMA system complies with open standards for easy interface with another vendors’ equipment, while avoiding vendor lock in. The system is modular and configurable and, with an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of over 100 years, it is highly reliable, helping to reduce costs throughout the operating life.

Further savings are achieved as the system is easier and faster to troubleshoot, while being easy to maintain – unlike relay systems, which required extensive physical work. During operation, Sequence of Events can also be automatically recorded. Reliability is further enhanced through ERB Technologies’ extremely sturdy vandal-resistant steel cabinet design, which features a double skin and forced air cooling.

Commenting on the project, Brad Ogilvie, Sale Manager for Sub-Sahara Africa at HIMA said: “Full SIL 4 compliance and COTS availability, enabled ERB to reduce costs, while ensuring environmental resilience, high reliability, full modularity and easy, open standard interfacing to other vendors’ equipment.”

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