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What happened

On the morning of 27 July 2016, V/Line passenger train 8309 departed Melbourne for Shepparton, Victoria. The train consisted of a locomotive hauling four passenger cars and was crewed by a driver and conductor. There were 22 passengers on board when the train approached the regional town of Toolamba, south of Shepparton.

At about 1147 the train had passed Toolamba, and approached the Pogue Road level crossing travelling north at about 100 km/h. At about the same time, a utility vehicle was travelling east along Pogue Road and was approaching the level crossing. The crossing was controlled by a Stop sign (Figure 1) that required road users to stop near the crossing and look for trains.

Figure 1: Pogue Road level crossing viewed from the direction of the car’s approach

Figure 1: Pogue Road level crossing viewed from the direction of the car’s approach

Source: Chief Investigator, Transport Safety (Vic)

The driver of the car travelled this route almost daily and was familiar with the crossing. On this day, he had driven into town earlier that morning and was returning home. On the approach to the crossing, the driver’s view towards the train was obscured by an orchard and road side trees to the south-west of the crossing (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Pogue Road approach to the level crossing. The view to a train approaching from the right was obscured by road-side vegetation and an orchard.

Figure 2: Pogue Road approach to the level crossing. The view to a train approaching from the right was obscured by road-side vegetation and an orchard.

Source: Chief Investigator, Transport Safety (Vic)

When the train came into view, the driver applied the vehicle’s brakes, leaving skid marks on the gravel road about 40 m in length. However, the vehicle could not be stopped before the crossing and collided with the first passenger carriage behind the locomotive. The impact was to the underframe area of the carriage and dislodged a diesel fuel tank from the train. The passenger compartment remained intact and there were no reported passenger injuries. The road vehicle was severely damaged (Figure 3) and its driver suffered bruising injuries.

Figure 3: Damaged road vehicle and the fuel tank from the impacted rail car.

Figure 3: Damaged road vehicle and the fuel tank from the impacted rail car.

Source: V/Line Pty Ltd

The train driver had sounded the train horn as the train approached the whistle board that was located 400 m from the crossing, and again a short distance before the crossing. He reported that he did not see the road vehicle. The impact of the car on the train alerted the driver to the collision and he made an emergency brake application.

ATSB comment

Road vehicle driver

The driver was very familiar with the crossing and had used it many times without seeing a train, probably reducing his expectation. This factor and possibly other distractions led to the driver approaching the crossing with a reduced level of vigilance.

Level crossing

Pogue Road is a single-lane gravel road with a speed limit of 100 km/h. It intersected the 100 km/h train line to Shepparton at near right angles. The crossing was controlled by Stop signs (passive control) that required road users to come to a stop and check for trains before proceeding. The signage at the crossing and the advanced warning signage on the approach was in good condition and generally consistent with the Australian Standard for railway crossing signage[1], with minor variations not material to this incident. There have been no previous near-miss or collision incidents reported at this level crossing.

The road-side vegetation and orchard meant that the view to the track was obscured on the approach to the crossing. The provision of Stop sign traffic control measures is consistent with this configuration, as this required road users to stop in a position that would allow them to sight trains.

Passive control measures at level crossings

A range of studies have found that providing active warnings reduces crash rates by 48 to 88 per cent[2]. The same paper recommends further research into low-cost warning devices for passive crossings[3]. On passenger lines, the risk associated with collision extends to rail passengers.

Safety message

Road users are reminded to be vigilant when approaching a passive rail level crossing and check for trains in both directions before crossing.

Rail operators should continue to consider options for reducing the risk of collision at crossings with passive (only) control devices, particularly on passenger line corridors.

 

__________

  1. AS1742.7 Manual of uniform traffic control devices, Part 7: Railway crossings.
  2. Edquist, J., Stephan, K., Wigglesworth, E. & Lenne, M. (2009). A Literature Review of Human Factors Safety Issues at Australian Level Crossings, Monash University Accident Research Centre. p40.
  3. Ibid., p82.
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General details
Date: 27 July 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1149 EST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):Toolamba  
State: Victoria  
Release date: 19 October 2016 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: Minor 
 
Train details
Line operator: V/Line Pty Ltd 
Train operator: V/Line Pty Ltd 
Train registration: TD6502 
Type of operation: Passenger 
Sector: Passenger - regional 
Damage to train: Minor 
Departure point:Southern Cross Station, Melbourne, Vic
Destination:Shepparton Railway Station, Vic
 
 
 
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Last update 19 October 2016