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Crossing the boundaries

View looking along the access track

A collision with a passenger train at a level crossing sent a utility vehicle spinning off the track, leaving the motorist seriously injured.

The ATSB is once again warning the drivers of motor vehicles to be vigilant at railway level crossings after an accident in Inverleigh, Victoria.

The accident occurred on 31 August 2013, when the passenger train known as The Overland was travelling from Melbourne to Adelaide. At around 10.00 am, as the train approached the Mahers Road level crossing at Inverleigh (about 27 km west of North Geelong ), the level crossing flashing lights, bells and boom barriers began to operate.

The Overland was travelling at 78 km/h, with its headlight illuminated. As it drew near to the level crossing, the crew saw a Holden Rodeo dual cab utility travelling along an unsealed maintenance access track adjacent to the railway.

This accident highlights the need for road and rail authorities to work together in maintaining the integrity of fences and structures to exclude public access to the railway corridor.

The utility continued along the access track and then, to the train crew’s surprise, it entered Mahers road and turned into the lowered level crossing boom barrier, striking the end of the boom. The utility came to a stand across the railway line.

The train driver made an emergency brake application, but the train could not be stopped in time and collided with the front of the utility. The utility was spun around and it came to a rest on the side of the track. The train stopped about 370 m beyond the level crossing. The sole occupant of the utility was seriously injured and transferred to Royal Melbourne Hospital. The locomotive crew suffered from shock, but none of the train’s 103 passengers were injured.

The ATSB investigation found that the road used by the utility, known locally as the ‘Gallagher Road Extension’ was, in fact, a railway maintenance access track located entirely within the railway corridor on land leased by the Australian Rail Track Corporation. Nevertheless, many commercial mapping providers, including VicRoads, had incorrectly identified the maintenance access track as a road. It was regularly used by local traffic, but since it was not a public road, there were no level crossing traffic control devices (flashing lights or road signage) provided.

This accident highlights the need for road and rail authorities to work together in maintaining the integrity of fences and structures to exclude public access to the railway corridor. In the wake of this accident, the Australian Rail Track Corporation and the Golden Plains Shire have advised that they will work together to isolate the rail corridor from Gallagher Road permanently.

Read the ATSB investigation report RO-2013-023

Related: Rail Crossing
 
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Last update 05 June 2014