Level crossing collision

A new ATSB investigation report highlights the caution that road vehicle drivers must take when approaching railway crossings.

Damage to freight train 8426N

The ATSB’s investigation into the collision between a freight train and road-train truck reflects the ongoing concern of safety at level crossings.

The incident occurred on 11 July 2017, as a road-train was proceeding down the Cobb Highway from Broken Hill, New South Wales (NSW) toward Condobolin, NSW. The road-train was hauling two trailers, loaded with 43.7 t of road-base material. The driver knew there was a level crossing ahead, having used it on many occasions over the previous month, including multiple times that very day. The level crossing was equipped with flashing lights, an audible warning device (bell), as well as passive warning signs posted on the road approaching the crossing.

As the road-train negotiated a sweeping right-hand turn before the road straightened towards the level-crossing, the driver saw the flashing lights indicating that a train was approaching. He would later recall that the alignment of the road’s bends and the roadside vegetation meant that he did not see the flashing lights until his vehicle had travelled through the bend and was within 180 m from the crossing.  

The driver started to brake, but then assessed that the road-train might not stop in time, so he accelerated to cross ahead of the train.

It is troubling that this continues to be a problem in Australia.

The train driver saw the road-train accelerate and he sounded the locomotive’s horn. The train consisted of two locomotives and 27 wagons loaded with lead and zinc. About 100 m from the crossing, the train driver made an emergency brake application and activated the ‘emergency in progress’ alarm on the train radio. The train crew then relocated to the floor of the locomotive cab in preparation for a collision.

The train subsequently collided with the rear corner of the last trailer of the road-train, travelling a further 319 m before stopping. The train crew and the driver of the road-train were shaken but otherwise unhurt.

ATSB Executive Director, Transport Safety, Nat Nagy says that collisions at level crossings occur too frequently.

“From July 2016 to June 2017, there were 27 railway crossing collisions between trains and road vehicles,” Mr Nagy said. “That is too many.”

Although motorists are primarily responsible for avoiding a collision with a train at railways crossings, prudent road design and/or advance warning of a train’s presence at railway crossings should be considered as a strategy to lower the risk of road and rail vehicle collisions.

The ATSB report urges road and rail authorities to consider measures to enhance the awareness of motorists approaching railway crossings, especially at location with restricted sighting due to curved approach roads.

“It is troubling that this continues to be a problem in Australia,” Mr Nagy said. “The risk of continuing fatalities or serious injuries is real.”

Read the final report: RO-2017-005: Level crossing collision between freight train 8426N and road-train truck, Cobb Highway, Ivanhoe NSW on 11 July.

Last update 02 May 2018