The country’s peak rail body has urged state governments, industry groups, private operators and unions to all work together to improve railway crossing safety.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed today’s announcement by Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King and Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads and Minister for Digital Services Bart Mellish of a new strategy on railway crossing safety and a roundtable as an important opportunity to tackle the issue collaboratively.
Chair of TrackSAFE Foundation and the ARA, Danny Broad, said the National Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2023–2032 provides a blueprint for national actions needed to improve safety at railway crossings.
“While there is already much work underway by both industry and government towards achieving improved safety at crossings, there is still room for improvement,” Mr Broad said.
“Any death or injury on the rail network is devastating - not just for the family and friends impacted but also for rail workers involved in the incident and the first responders called upon in the rescue effort.
“This roundtable is an important opportunity to examine what further measures can be implemented to prevent deaths and injuries on the network.”
Mr Broad said the key factor to improving safety at railway crossings is to make it a shared responsibility.
“The rail industry is committed to working with governments, the heavy vehicle industry, other road users, pedestrians and community groups to achieve better outcomes,” Mr Broad said.
“We also urge an ongoing commitment of funding by governments to remove higher risk railway crossings, as well as ensuring they do not increase the number of crossings in their state.
“On top of the devastating impact to rail workers and the community, there are also great economic consequences from disruption to the rail network, with hundreds of millions of dollars lost each year due to safety incidents.”
The rail industry is working with the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator on the development of Australia’s first Code of Practice for train visibility and a draft is due to be submitted to Federal and State Infrastructure and Transport Ministers for consideration and approval by mid-2024.
Mr Broad said the rail industry also supports recent calls for harsher penalties for ignoring warning signals and unlawfully entering the rail corridor, including allowing for the use of mobile cameras at crossings.
“While technology, environmental and infrastructure changes can improve rail crossing safety, car and truck drivers, as well as pedestrians, must always follow the road rules at railway crossings, including looking both ways for oncoming trains. It can take up to 2km for a fully loaded freight train to stop.
“The importance of railway crossing safety cannot be overstated. Everyone deserves to arrive home safely. We welcome the opportunity to participate in the upcoming roundtable, but a shared approach needs to be the starting point.”
The National Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2023–2032 sets out a clear vision for working towards zero harm on the level crossing network, including:
- Improving public education and enforcement
- Leveraging emerging technology and innovation
- Identifying early, low-cost and effective safety improvements
- Developing improved data and knowledge
- Increasing coordination and knowledge sharing by those responsible for safety.
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