Campaign for improved safety at level crossings gathers momentum

As a group of 12 families who have lost loved ones in rail crossing incidents continue to campaign for improved safety at level crossings, trucking groups have come on board to show their support.

Lara Jensen is among those campaigning for change, after her brother and two of his friends were killed on July 8, 2000, when their vehicle was struck by an unlit train at a passive level crossing in WA’s wheatbelt region.

She says that of the 12 families involved in the campaign, half lost loved ones who were driving trucks when they were hit by trains at passive level crossings.

Of the almost 24,000 level crossings around Australia, 80 percent of them are passive, which means they are only protected by Stop or Give Way signs. In WA alone, there are still 509 passive level crossings on operational lines – and of these 417 are fitted with Stop signs, with the remaining 92 only having Give Way signs.

Jensen reports that on average there are around 14 level crossing crashes and 200 near misses around Australia each year. In the 2020-2021 financial year alone, research compiled by the Office of the Rail Safety National Regulator (ONRSR) showed there were 34 level crossing collisions with vehicles.

“Our families and organisations supporting us believe it is time for rail companies to accept that they operate businesses that create serious risks and that they have a responsibility to mitigate these risks by doing all they can to ensure their locomotives and rolling stock are clearly illuminated at all times for rural road users,” Jensen said.

“Fitting auxiliary lighting to locomotives (hazard, side, and front lighting) is a minor expense for rail companies when you consider significant profit made by the rail industry, the enormous economic cost of rail deaths and trauma, the incredible toll on train drivers, emergency services and first responders, injuries requiring hospitalisation – not to mention the immeasurable human cost of these tragedies.”

Among the trucking associations which have shown their support for the campaign are the Australian Trucking Association, Western Roads Federation, the Queensland Trucking Association, South Australian Road Transport Association, NT Road Transport Association, Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA, and Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Victoria.

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