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What happened

On the morning of 29 August 2017, freight train 8279 (one locomotive and 23 wagons) was travelling north from Mackay, Queensland. At about 0945, after passing over the Wintons Road level crossing, about 64 km north of Mackay, the train driver observed a truck approaching the next level crossing. The unsealed crossing (ID 5318) provided vehicle access between Wagoora-Yalboroo Road and the Bruce Highway. It was equipped with passive traffic control devices (stop signs).

The train driver sounded the train horn while observing the truck slow and stop at the crossing. The train driver noticed that the truck appeared to be facing slightly away from the approaching train when stopped, before it then proceeded to cross the track in front of the train. The train driver gave a second sustained sounding of the horn, placed the brake handle into the emergency position, before moving to the foot-well for protection.

Soon after, train 8279 collided with the driver’s cab of the truck. The truck driver sustained fatal injuries. The train driver was shaken but otherwise unhurt.

What the ATSB found

The truck driver’s ability to sight the approaching train was probably restricted due to the truck’s cab-design and the likelihood that the vehicle stopped at an angle to the railway track. Once the truck proceeded into the path of the train, there was insufficient time for the train driver to stop the train before colliding with the truck.

The investigation also noted that road vehicles had progressively cut the corner when entering/exiting the private road, resulting in the gradual widening of junction at Wagoora-Yalboroo Road. This could influence the position of road vehicles when stopped at the crossing and in turn, affect the ability for drivers of some larger vehicles to sight an approaching train.

In considering the Queensland government’s long-term level crossing safety strategy, the ATSB found that private (occupation) crossings had been specifically excluded. However, the ATSB notes that providing unrestricted public access to a private (occupation) crossings could present a level of risk similar to that of a public road crossing. While the program has achieved a wide range of positive safety initiatives and improvements, the ATSB found that exclusion of private (occupation) crossings from the strategy potentially removes an opportunity to further improve safety outcomes for all level crossing users across Queensland.

What's been done as a result

While the Queensland Level Crossing Safety Group (QLCSG) focus remains on the higher risk public level crossings, they acknowledge that private (occupational) level crossings also require management under the Rail Safety National Law. Stakeholders of the QLCSG agree to review the status and treatment at private level crossings used by the public (such as in this case). Where appropriate, private crossings will be included as a subset of public level crossings for the purposes of their safety strategy.

Queensland Rail (QR) conducted an audit of level crossing ID 5318. The installation was found to be consistent with the QR standard. However, some enhancements were identified and programmed for installation under routine maintenance activities.

With respect to all private (occupation) crossings in Queensland, QR is liaising with private property owners to enter into licence or interface agreements to ensure the safe operation and use of the private level crossings. Where appropriate, private crossings would be closed or, if used by the general public, upgrade to public crossing status.

Safety message

Truck drivers are reminded that cabin designs can limit their view to the left out of the passenger window. As a result, when stopped at a rail level crossing, this can influence the distance away a train approaching from their left can be seen. Taking care to maximise this sighting distance is important to ensure a safe crossing.

Rail operators and governments should continue to implement programs for improved safety at railway level crossings. This should include considering safety strategies for private (occupation) crossings, especially where the level of risk may be similar to that of a public road crossing.

Download final report
[ Download PDF: 1.56MB]
 
 
 

The occurrence

Context

Safety analysis

Findings

Safety actions

Sources and submissions

 
General details
Date: 29 August 2017 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0945 EST Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination 
Location   (show map):Level crossing 5318 near Yalbaroo Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Level Crossing 
Release date: 11 September 2018  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: Fatal 
 
Train details
Line operator: Queensland Rail 
Train operator: Aurizon 
Train registration: 8279 
Type of operation: Freight service 
Sector: Freight 
Damage to train: Minor 
Departure point:Mackay, Qld
Destination:Townnsville, Qld
 
 
 
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Last update 11 September 2018