A recent surge in trespassing by anti-coal protestors on Aurizon’s Queensland railways has led the operator to launch a public safety campaign emphasising the safety and mental health of its drivers.
Aurizon chief executive Andrew Harding this week condemned increased activity by climate activists, saying on-track protests had become one of the primary safety concerns for the business.
“Trauma and mental health remain one of the rail industry’s biggest challenges for its driver community and can have flow on effects for their families as well,” Harding said.
“We don’t want our drivers bearing the emotional burden for something that could have been prevented, and potentially being so traumatised they can’t return to work or drive a train again.”
One Aurizon driver with more than 40 years’ experience on the railways spoke of the devastating impact of near misses, and said he feared one day he would kill someone.
“Those couple of incidents are absolutely engraved into my mind, picture perfect, from those days,” he said.
“I can still sit here talk about how it went and exactly what happened, so the fear of actually running over someone and actually killing someone, it would be just devastating, totally devastating.
“It’s putting too much stress on the train drivers, worrying about whether we’re going to get home to our families if something serious happens, and whether we as a group could run over someone and potentially kill one of these protestors locked onto the track.”
The driver said rail corridor tresspassers don’t seem to have an idea of how long it takes to stop a train.
“We just can’t pull up on a whim. We’ve got 10,000 tonnes of coal at the back of us and when we’re hurtling along at 80km per hour, it takes at least two and a half kilometres to pull up and stop the train,” he said.
“If we come around the corner and they’re on the track, all we can do is put the emergency brakes on and then close our eyes. They seem to think that we can stop at any time.
Aurizon has launched its public safety campaign will feature in newspapers, across radio and social media.