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Who does what, where and why? Optimising allocation of functions in rail level crossing systems
Level crossings represent one of the key strategic risks on railways across the world. Recent research has indicated that collisions at rail level crossings (RLXs) may be better prevented through more sophisticated allocation of functions within these environments. The aim of the research described here was to explore this further and to identify potential design remedies. Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA) is a systems analysis framework that has been successfully used to identify how social and technical components within systems can be configured to enhance overall performance. Two CWA techniques were used to identify design options related to how functions are allocated within RLX systems. Based on an analysis of nine RLXs in metropolitan Melbourne, the findings highlighted an uneven spread of activity across the situations in which train detection and safety can occur and across the actors involved in these functions. The majority of activity currently occurs when users are closest to the RLX. However, there are instances where important activities could occur away from the RLX but typically do not. In addition, the analysis showed that the RLX infrastructure is currently responsible for most functions relating to safety, and there are parts of the system that could be better exploited to support and/or improve behaviour, including humans, in-vehicle systems and the surrounding infrastructure.