At about 1320 on 12 February 2013, the 1250 Swan Hill to Melbourne passenger train collided with the rear corner of a semi-trailer on the B. McCann Road level crossing near Lake Charm, in northern Victoria. The semi-trailer was travelling towards the Murray Valley Highway having taken on a load of gypsum at a nearby mine.
As a result of the collision there were minor injuries to one train passenger and to the drivers of the train and truck. The truck’s trailer was destroyed and there was minor damage to the front of the locomotive.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that the truck driver’s view of the track was restricted due to the acute road-to-rail interface angle and the resulting limited opportunity to observe the train through the truck cabin’s passenger-side window. When the truck driver stopped to look for trains, his view along the track to the north was probably no more than 220 m and insufficient to observe the approaching train.
An embankment in the crossing’s northwest quadrant also affected sighting and vegetation either side of the road approach meant that the installed give-way protection was inconsistent with the available sighting distances.
In the three years prior to the incident, the risk profile of the crossing had changed significantly due to a large increase in truck movements associated with a greater demand for gypsum from the mine. The safety interface management of the crossing by V/Line and the Gannawarra Shire did not identify this changing risk profile and did not involve consultation with a key stakeholder, the mine owner.
What's been done as a result
The operator of the gypsum mine has undertaken to re-align the road approaches to the crossing to address the acute road-to-rail interface angle, and to reduce the incline of the road on the approaches.
This incident highlights the need for rail and road authorities to be proactive in addressing identified sighting deficiencies at level crossings and to monitor the risk profile of crossings.
The occurrence also highlights the need to involve all key stakeholders in road-rail interface safety management processes.