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Crossing collisions decline but better education is crucial

Apr 20, 2012Update

The recent launch of the rail industry initiative TrackSAFE which aims to reduce level crossing, trespass and suicide incidents on the rail network is a timely reminder that more needs to be done at a government level to educate drivers and upgrade level crossings.

“Level crossing safety is a huge issue for our members,” says Steve Wright, RTBU Freight Organiser based in Newcastle. “In urban areas most of the crossings have boom gates but out in the country it’s still a big problem – it’s incredibly stressful for the drivers, particularly at night when you can see a car coming but have no idea whether they’ll see the train and stop.”

Analysis undertaken by NSW’s Independent Transport Safety Regulator (ITSR) shows that level crossings with boom gates have far fewer fatal accidents than those with just flashing lights, stop signs or give way signs.

Currently, just 21 per cent of level crossings in Australia are “active” with boom gates, the other 79 per cent are “passive” with a static stop or give way sign.

The federal government allocated $150 million in 2009 to upgrade crossings with the aim of targeting the 200 most dangerous. The good news is that the rate of collisions has decreased nationally from 85 per annum to 54 but there are still about 10 fatalities annually.

The study also showed that heavy vehicles are responsible for about 23 per cent of rail-related accidents and 30 per cent of fatalities, and that train employees and passengers account for the majority of fatalities in a these collisions.

“They will never be able to put boom gates on every crossing because many are on private land out in the bush and who will pay for them all?” said Steve. “There urgently needs to be a lot more education in country areas about crossing safety.”

For more information on rail safety and specific statistics on NSW collisions and derailments see the 2010-11 Rail Industry Safety Report at:


For more information about the TrackSAFE initiative go to: