Freight Rail, Safety, Standards & Regulation

Focus on private level crossings after 2017 fatality

Queensland Rail is reducing the number of private level crossings used by public vehicles as a result of a fatal collision north of Mackay last August.

A report released this week found the frequent use of a level crossing near Yalboroo had worn down and widened the junction, potentially contributing to a fatal collision between a truck and train on the morning of August 29, 2017.

On the morning in question, the driver of the Aurizon freight train saw a truck approaching an unsealed level crossing ahead, and sounded the train horn.

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report, the train driver observed the truck appeared to be facing slightly away from the approaching train as it sat at the crossing.

The truck then entered the level crossing.

According to the report, the driver gave a second sustained sounding of the horn, placed the brake handle into the emergency position, and moved into the foot-well for protection.

The train collided with the driver’s cab of the truck. The truck driver sustained fatal injuries. The train drier was shaken, but not physically injured.

The ATSB said the truck driver’s ability to sight the approaching train was probably restricted because of the truck’s cab-design, and the likelihood the truck was stopped at an angle not perpendicular to the track.

This angle may have been influenced by wearing of the road at the crossing point.

“Vehicles had progressively cut the corner when entering/exiting the private road, resulting in the gradual widening of the junction,” the Bureau said this week.

“This could influence the position of road vehicles when stopped at the crossing and in turn, affect the ability for drivers of some larger vehicles to sight an approaching train.”

Private crossing used often by public

The level crossing, labelled ID 5318, is a private road providing vehicle access between Wagoora-Yalboroo Road and the Bruce Highway.

While it is classified as an occupation crossing, the fact the road provides this access means it was “almost certainly used as a public thoroughfare,” the Bureau said.

The crossing is controlled by stop signs.

Following the incident, Queensland Rail conducted an audit of the crossing, and found it to be consistent with the QR standard. “However, some enhancements were identified and programmed for installation under routine maintenance activities,” the report states.

By way of a wider response, QR said it was liaising with private property owners to enter into licence or interface agreements, to ensure the safe operation and use of private crossings.

“Where appropriate, private crossings would be closed or, if used by the general public, upgraded to public crossing status,” the Bureau’s report states.