Skoda has announced it is trialling new train detection equipment for its vehicles, claiming the UK sees an average of around 100 near misses a year. According to the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), there were 992 near misses between trains and vehicles at level crossings in Britain between 2011 and 2021.

The figure, which equates to an average of 99 near misses a year, does not include so-called “misuse” incidents, where a vehicle enters a level crossing when it is unsafe to do so. The RSSB’s figures show UK drivers do this almost 1,200 times per year on average, with more than 8,000 incidents recorded between 2014 and 2021.

According to Network Rail, there are nearly 6,000 level crossings in Britain, but only a third feature some form of alert to warn drivers of an approaching train. A Freedom of Information request by Skoda UK found there were four collisions between trains and road vehicles at level crossings in Britain in the 2021-22 financial year.

Car speeding on empty mountain road in Dartmoor National Park Devon UK

Drivers face a minimum fixed penalty fine of £60 and three penalty points if they disregard level crossing regulations. And those who stop on a level crossing or drive around the barriers can be prosecuted for dangerous or careless driving, which could result in a larger fine and a 12-month driving ban.

Now, though, Skoda is piloting train warning software with the help of fellow Czech company Leo Express. The system can access the cloud to find train locations in real time, then transmits that information to cars when they are near a level crossing and a train is approaching. The warning about the approaching train is shown on the central infotainment display along with a warning spoken audibly, informing the driver to stop.

Derailed train in Missouri

Skoda is currently piloting the system in the Czech Republic, but it is already working on integrating the system with other railway companies across Europe. The plan is to integrate the train warning technology with a currently available app called Skoda Traffication, which provides real-time alerts when drivers encounter nearby traffic hazards. The app is offered in all current Skoda models apart from the Enyaq iV, as long as the car is fitted with Skoda’s latest-generation MIB-3 infotainment system.

At present, the app runs automatically once the car starts and warns drivers of severe weather, motorists driving in the wrong direction and nearby accidents, regardless of whether the navigation system is running. Advanced warnings can also be provided by other Skoda cars using cloud technology, with poor visibility identified by other Skoda drivers switching the fog lights on, while drivers can manually report traffic hazards to warn other Skoda drivers in the UK.