Trains cover record distances: ATSB

Safety report shows rail freight steady but fatalities and level-crossing collisions are on the way down

By Rob McKay | November 8, 2011

The total number of train kilometres travelled through the 43,000 km mark for the first time, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) figures for the past decade.

Biannual distances have continued a slow but steady rise, from 38,195 km to 43,06 3km, figures in the Australian Rail Safety Occurrence Data – 1 January 2001 to 30 June 2011 report show.

Western Australia has driven the increase, in both freight and passenger numbers since 2007.

Total freight distances for the nation have hovered around the 37,000 km mark since 2004.

WA’s freight distance totals however, have gone from around the mid-7,000s in 2004-07 to 13,167 km in the first half of this year.

A near 30 per cent dip in Queensland freight distances in the first half of the year can be put down to weather and flood interruptions.

Rail-related deaths and level crossing collisions have both trended downward nationally.

Measured at six-monthly intervals, deaths nationally averaged in the high 20s early last decade to 12 in each of the last half of last year and the first half of this year.

NSW continues to see the most fatalities, though the average has been about five deaths biannually since 2005.

The story was similar for level-crossing occurrences, with train collisions with road-vehicles trending steadily down from the mid-40s to an average of about 23 in each half of the past two years.

Here, Victoria led the table, though incidents had with numbers swinging wildly between single figures and teens but nothing comparable with the first six months of 2001, when 27 incidents were recorded.

Load irregularities remain stubbornly around 250 incidents mark and have not been under 200 since 2003.

Meanwhile, track infrastructure irregularities, at 1081 in the first six months of the year, passed into four figures for the first time. Queensland showed the greatest increase of all states here, with its figures doubling in the past three years, from around 200 to 550.

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