Major changes to improve passive level crossing safety

Following a major safety review into WA’s public road passively-controlled level crossings, 87 sites will soon be upgraded, with all but six of these located in the Wheatbelt region.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has backed the announcement: “Congratulations to the West Australian Government for accepting all the recommendations of a safety review into passive level railway crossings,” it said.

Across WA, there are currently 960 public road level crossings located on operational rail lines, with around half of these fitted with active level crossing controls (flashing lights or boom gates).

There are 491 level crossings fitted with passive controls (405 with stop signs and 87 with give way signs).

A safety review commissioned by Main Roads in mid-2021 involved visiting all 491 passively-controlled level crossings and undertaking detailed site assessments at each crossing location, in line with an Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM).

The ALCAM process involves the collection of data through a combination of level crossing site surveys as well as train and vehicle volume information from respective rail and road authorities.

Each level crossing is assessed uniformly using a standardised procedure to gather and interpret level crossing data. ALCAM identifies key safety risks, whilst also producing a unique risk score for each individual crossing.

Following a completion of the review in December 2022, Main Roads assessed the information with the key findings as follows:

Of the 491 passively-controlled level crossings, 87 are to have upgrades made to their regulatory control. This includes:

  • An upgrade of seven give way-controlled crossings to active flashing light controls, with an estimated cost of $6.16 million;
  • An upgrade of six stop sign-controlled crossings to active flashing light controls, with an estimated cost of $5.28million; and
  • An upgrade of 74 give way-controlled crossings to stop sign controls, with an estimated cost of $370,000.

Of the 87 level crossings to be upgraded:

  • 81 are in the Wheatbelt region;
  • 2 are in the Goldfields-Esperance region;
  • 2 are in the Great Southern region;
  • 1 is in the Mid-West Gascoyne region; and
  • 1 is in the metropolitan region.

The 13 crossings proposed for upgrade to active flashing light controls will be undertaken as part of the 2024-2029 5-Year Level Crossing Capital Works Program, with the remaining 74 give way-controlled crossings to be upgraded to stop sign control by June 30, 2024.

The proposed changes will improve safety, and help prevent accidental collisions and near misses, particularly in the regions where roads cross railway tracks.

“The recommendations in this review, which our government supports and will deliver, means there will no longer be any level crossing on a public road in Western Australia that is controlled by a give way sign,” explained Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

Lara Jensen, whose youngest brother, along with two of his friends, were killed at a passive level crossing in WA’s wheatbelt region in 2000, has been tirelessly campaigning for change to help improve rail crossing safety for over 20 years – together with 12 families who have lost loved ones.

WA Member for the Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies, has also been behind the push to upgrade passive rail crossings in regional WA. “Congratulations to Lara Jenson and the families and supporters that have been campaigning for change – it’s a significant milestone toward improving safety for everyone on our roads and for rail users,” she said.

“The work continues to ensure appropriate lighting on trains is mandated across our nation.”

Following implementation of the changes there will no longer be any give way-controlled level crossings located on main line railways within WA. Additionally, more than 50 per cent of all public road level crossings in WA will now be controlled by flashing lights or boom gates, which is above the national average.

“The upgrades of 13 level crossings to either flashing lights or boom gates means more than half of the level crossings on public roads in Western Australia will have active controls, one of the highest proportions of any state or territory in the country,” Saffioti added.

It is expected the changes will result in a 33 per cent reduction in the cumulative ALCAM risk score across these 87 locations.

There will be no changes to the existing 469 actively controlled level crossings.

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