Rail operator, Pacific National, has called on industry and government to convene a national summit on level crossing safety.
The call for action follows a fatal collision on New Years Eve at a level crossing on the Barrier Highway at Bindarrah in South Australia (near the New South Wales border) that resulted in the the tragic deaths of two experienced Pacific National train drivers, Mick Warren and Kevin Baker, when the locomotive they were driving was struck by a heavy vehicle.
This is in addition to hundreds of near miss incidents that occur at level-crossings each year, weighing on train and vehicle drivers’ mental health and putting everyday Australians seconds from death.
There are more than 23,000 level crossings in Australia many of which involve constant interactions between rail operations, road traffic, cyclists and pedestrians. Excluding trespass and suicide, accidents at level crossings account for the largest number of railway-related fatalities involving members of the public.
Proposed topics for discussion and immediate action at the summit include a full audit of the nation’s level crossings to identify at risk locations, industry-led solutions to improve behaviour and safety around level crossings, increased investment in technology and infrastructure, increased penalties for blatant indiscretions and joint industry public education campaigns to protect drivers, among other measures.
In addition, on behalf of the families impacted by the tragic collision on New Years Eve, Pacific National has committed to a public advertising campaign to further educate the community and road users on railway level crossing safety. This builds on existing industry and government campaigns that run annually.
This follows calls from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) earlier this week to introduce a zero-tolerance approach to level-crossing safety, with cameras at all level-crossings nationwide.
“On Friday, I spent time with the families of Mick and Kevin, and what’s abundantly clear is no person should have to experience this type of grief,” said Pacific National CEO, Paul Scurrah.
“Tragedies at level crossings devastate entire communities and the message isn’t getting across loud enough. Losing concentration or being reckless about safety at a level crossing can kill.
“We are calling on federal and state governments to engage with industry on improved protections. This isn’t about pointing the finger at drivers or pedestrians but working together to overcome complexities and simply do better. If we don’t, more Australians will be subjected to senseless deaths.
“It can take up to 2km for a fully loaded freight train to stop. It takes a vehicle or a pedestrian a moment of clear thought and mere seconds to stop. Slow down, stop and cross with care.”