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How educating students in Greece will improve rail safety

Greece’s rail network is sadly no stranger to fatalities. Kostas Kapetanidis and Stefanos Avdis from the Regulatory Authority for Railways (RAS), and Nikos Kondylas from the Hellenic Organization for Railways (OSE), explain how they have joined forces to create an information programme for students in a bid to raise awareness and, ultimately, save lives.

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There have been recurring fatal accidents in the Greek railway network, where the victims have been students both of primary school and, particularly, secondary school age. For example, in Larisa city as recently as October 2017, two students lost their lives. Furthermore, between 2010 and 2017, five students were killed by electric shock from the overhead power lines of the rail electrification system.

Our aim is simple: to reduce the number of student-involved accidents on the Greek railway network.

There have been recurring fatal accidents in the Greek railway network, where the victims have been students both of primary school and, particularly, secondary school age.

The Regulatory Authority for Railways (RAS) – the Greek National Safety Authority (NSA) – and the Hellenic Organization for Railways (OSE) – the Greek rail infrastructure manager – have joined forces to fulfil this aim.

Through an information programme entitled ‘Guide for Safe Living with the Railway Network for Students’, we aim to provide information and raise awareness of the risks of the Greek railway among students. The programme will be presented to all schools within proximity to the rail network.

As three experienced railway engineers, we have taken on the challenge of designing and implementing the information programme and creating a presentation for students. The programme is addressed to schoolchildren from the age of 10 up to 17 years old. The presentations are made by RAS and OSE staff inside schools.

In order to engage and interest our students, the presentation uses many graphics, pictures, posters, and videos. Most of them have been kindly granted by the UIC-organised International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD), the unique road/rail safety awareness global campaign, with the support of Isabelle Fonverne, ILCAD’s Project Manager and Coordinator.

As three experienced railway engineers, we have taken on the challenge of designing and implementing the information programme and creating a presentation for students.

Other videos came from TRAINOSE (Greek RU), Panos Mylonas (the Greek Road Safety Institute), ÖBB (YouTube crash test), and Network Rail (YouTube near accidents). Level crossings videos were filmed by the creators of the programme, at the most important level crossings in Athens, to keep them realistic and engage with the schoolchildren by using locations they will likely already be familiar with.

Content of the programme

The programme focuses on where most accidents have occurred in Hellas in recent years, concentrating on the issues of:

  • Dangers at level crossings
  • Dangers due to electrification
  • Incidents with pedestrians along the railway line.

Regarding level crossings, the presentation focuses on:

  • Analysis of train specifications in comparison to cars: i.e. huge mass and metallic wheels, which means a train cannot always stop in time
  • Presentation of three types of level crossings: automated, with and without protection (using videos of real level crossings in Athens for each type)
  • Instructions for correct behaviour for pedestrians and drivers
  • Accident analysis and a presentation of common mistakes by pedestrians and drivers
  • Presentation of actual incidents from security cameras of near misses on level crossings.

On the subject of electrification, the presentation focuses on:

  • Presentation of the train electrification system
  • Particularities of electricity (not shown – no warning)
  • Particularities of electric trains: railway voltage is 25.000v – equal to 100 domestic voltage 220v/no contact electrocutions
  • Description of causes of accidents: for instance, students climbing on wagons for graffiti or to take selfies
  • Protection measures – how to avoid electrocution hazards.

A special informative piece designed for students, entitled ‘Learning to live with electric trains’, with the 10 rules of protection against electrocution, is issued by OSE and distributed to all students at the end of the presentations.

The programme’s implementation

The programme was submitted to the Ministry of Education in June 2018 and approved on 6 November 2018.

Presentations were initially launched in December 2018 in the city of Larisa (central Greece, with a population of 200,000 residents). In January 2019, presentations were launched in the Greek capital of Athens (with approximately four million residents). The programme was subsequently extended to other cities throughout Greece, such as Patra (200,000 residents), Katerini, and Edessa. We aim to extend the programme to all cities throughout Greece.

By the end of 2019, the programme will have been presented to approximately 120 schools and 20,000 students of primary and secondary school age all over Greece.

By the end of 2019, the programme will have been presented to approximately 120 schools and 20,000 students of primary and secondary school age all over Greece. The number of students is huge, considering that the presentations were made by us – the three engineers who created the programme – with the help of three assistants. Furthermore, all six of us are working voluntarily for the programme, in addition to our regular daily work.

Upon invitation by Isabelle Fonverne on 26 March 2019, the programme was presented at the Headquarters of International Union of Railways (UIC) in Paris, during the 21st European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) Plenary Meeting.

Next steps

We are constantly thinking ahead and hoping to expand the programme further to enhance safety. Our target for the 2019-2020 school year is to bring the programme to all of the other schools in the big cities, such as Thessaloniki, which has approximately one million residents.

Our target for the 2019-2020 school year is to bring the programme to all of the other schools in the big cities, such as Thessaloniki, which has approximately one million residents.

In June 2019, RAS participated with IOAS Panos Milonas at ILCAD 2019. Our goal is to participate in all future ILCAD’s and take the initiative to organise further events for railway safety, such as distributing informational material for drivers and pedestrians on the busiest level crossings in Athens.

We also aim to expand the programme to adults, educating about the hazards of the electrified railway to those in areas where electric trains are still relatively unknown.

Kostas Kapetanidis holds a Civil Engineer degree and MSc in Construction Management. He has 26 years of experience as a Railway Engineer (Athens Metro, Ergose SA, RAS). His current role is Head of Internal Audit at RAS. He is a co-creator of the ‘Guide for Safe Living with the Railway Network for Students’ programme.

Stefanos Avdis has a Civil Engineer degree and MSc in Underground Works. Currently working as Head of Safety at RAS, he has 17 years of experience as a Railway Engineer (Ergose SA, RAS). He is a co-creator of the ‘Guide for Safe Living with the Railway Network for Students’ programme.

Nikos Kondylas holds an Electrical Engineering degree. He has 30 years of experience as a Railway Engineer (Ergose SA, OSE), and currently occupies the position of Head of the Electrification Department of Central Greece at OSE. He is a co-creator of the ‘Guide for Safe Living with the Railway Network for Students’ programme.

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