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Railway Level Crossing Safety Bulletin

Summary

Since 1970 fatalities resulting from accidents between road vehicles and trains at level crossings have reduced by about 70 per cent. However, recently there has been an increasing number of accidents involving heavy road vehicles.

Between April 2006 and December 2007 the ATSB investigated 12 level crossing accidents. Of these 12 accidents, nine have involved heavy road vehicles, four of which have been collisions with long distance passenger trains. In addition, during the same period State authorities have investigated a further three significant accidents between heavy vehicles and passenger trains.

These accidents have cost the lives of 19 people, 13 on board the trains and six occupants of the road vehicles. In addition, over 60 people have been injured and the damage bill is estimated at well over $100 million.

Although fatalities and injuries resulting from accidents at railway level crossings are only a small proportion of the total fatalities and injuries that occur on Australian roads each year, railway level crossing accidents, particularly when they involve heavy road vehicles, have the potential to be catastrophic.

Heavy road vehicles such as road-trains and larger freight trains have become the norm in Australia for the good reason that they are an efficient way to transport goods over long distances between our metropolitan and regional centres. However, with the increased size comes an increased consequence in the event of a level crossing collision. It used to be somewhat rare to hear of a train derailing or of significant casualties on board the train as a result of a collision with a road vehicle. This is not the case today.

Some recent accidents have involved significant loss of life, the worst case being the tragic accident at Kerang when a semi-trailer collided with a Melbourne-bound passenger train on 5 June 2007. Eleven people were killed and 20 injured in this accident.

Another major collision between a B double truck and a freight train occurred at Lismore, Victoria on 25 May 2006. This accident resulted in the death of the truck driver and an estimated damage bill in excess of $30 million.

Type: Safety Education Material
Author(s): ATSB
Publication date: 22 April 2008
Related: Rail Crossing
 
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Last update 07 April 2014
 
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