Truck lobby calls for rail crossing upgrades after crash report

By: Jason Whittaker

Governments must agree to speed up work on fixing Australia’s level crossings as a result of today’s accident report into

Governments must agree to speed up work on fixing Australia’s level crossings as a result of today’s accident report into the collision between the Ghan and a road train in 2006, the truck lobby says.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Stuart St Clair, made the call after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released its report into the accident.

St Clair says the report shows the level crossing was only protected by a stop sign, with no boom gates or flashing lights. The trees and dirt mounds to the east of the road meant the truck driver would have first seen the train when his truck was just 17 metres away from the tracks.

"The truck driver should have stopped at the stop sign, but he had gone over the level crossing about 800 times during the previous month. He had only seen four freight trains during that time, and as a result expected the crossing would be clear," he says.

"The report confirms that level crossings without active warning devices like flashing lights are a safety risk. They do not provide drivers with enough cues to remind them that they face a potentially dangerous situation."

St Clair says transport ministers should use their next meeting on February 29 speed up work on level crossing upgrades.

He says the upgrades should include ramble strips and reducing signane clutter, improving sight lines and installing flashing lights and boom gates. Trains should have high visibility strobe lights and their speed reduced near high risk crossings, he says.

"It is particularly important to upgrade level crossings on roads used by 53.5 metre B+2A road trains, which consist of a prime mover and four trailers. These road trains are longer than the one involved in the accident, but are used across outback Australia," ST Clair says.

"The ATSB’s tests show that a 53.5 metre road train could take up to 71 seconds to go over a level crossing after stopping at its stop sign. During this time, a high speed train would travel 2,275 metres. But under the current Australian Standard, a level crossing like the one involved in this accident only has to provide drivers with 937.8 metres of visibility up and down the tracks.

"In other words, there is nothing the truck driver of a 53.5 metre road train could do to avoid an accident if a train was on its way. Road train drivers shouldn’t have to rely on luck and hope when they go across a level crossing.

"The crossings on roads used by 53.5 metre road trains must have flashing lights installed as a matter of urgency, or the trains must be required to slow down to a safe speed."

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