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Level Crossings and Traffic Jams

I live in a small city south of Munich, which has around 18,000 inhabitants. This city is the final stop on Munich’s local transport system, the S-Bahn. Just a few kilometres down south, there is another city with around 24,000 inhabitants. A few years ago somebody figured that it would be a really clever idea to extend the railroad down to this city.

As a matter of fact, there is already a railroad track connecting our two cities. A few times each week, this track is used for freight transports, chemicals and other stuff you probably do not want to know about. The local train is not allowed to use that track for security reasons. For a change; I will not blame my self-proclaimed, security-paranoid friend and colleague Arne Blankerts for complicating matters. However I have to admit that I feel rather comfortable knowing that the likelihood of a passenger train running a into freight train loaded with dangerous chemicals in the middle of my hometown is somewhere close to zero.

Next to the train station there is a railway gate because the existing railroad crosses a major east/west road. Since only a few freight trains per week pass by, this is not an issue. In fact, I have never seen the railway gate closed in more than five years.

The plans to extend the railroad, which is undoubtedly a good idea in itself, have sparked a heated discussion: Is a railway gate suitable or should an underpass be built? The frequency of passing trains will increase from a few trains per week to one train going forth and one train going back every twenty minutes.

As you can imagine, local politicians, employees of the railroad company and, of course, citizens have been taking part in this discussion. I have to admit that due to time constraints, I have never attended those discussions, but I have read through the meeting minutes. The discussion boils down to one party claiming that a level crossing will cause disastrous traffic jams, while the other party claims that given the short closing cycles, the impact on car traffic will be barely noticeable.


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