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
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
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.