The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has welcomed the federal government’s new railway crossing strategy and roundtable.
TrackSAFE foundation and ARA chair member Danny Broad says the 2023-2032 strategy 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,” Broad says.
“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 measure can be implemented to prevent deaths and injuries on the network.”
Broad says the key factor to improving safety at railway crossings is by making it a shared responsibility for all of the industry and governments.
“The rail industry is committed to working with governments, the heavy vehicle industry, other road users, pedestrians and community groups to achieve better outcomes,” Broad says.
“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 ARA says that the rail industry is working with the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) on the development of Australia’s first train visibility code of practice.
A draft of the code is due to be submitted to both federal and state infrastructure and transport ministers by mid-2024.
Broad says 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 two kilometres for a fully loaded freight train to stop,” Broad says.
“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.”