Transport for NSW has reminded regional road users to be alert around level crossings over the coming months, as harvest seasons gets officially underway.
“It’s around this time of year when grain trains will be operating on lines that see little or no traffic for much of the year, so motorists will have to be extra cautious,” Centre for Road Safety acting executive director Bernard Carlon said.
At least one driver has already been killed in a collision with a grain train in the state so far this season, with a fatality reported by NSW Police after a collision on September 23 near Tullamore, in central NSW.
“Heavy and long vehicles require longer distances to slow down,” Carlon continued.
“Some trains can take up to 14 rugby fields to stop and can’t swerve to avoid a pedestrian or a motorist who has ignored the level crossing controls, so we need all road users to pay attention and obey the rules.”
Between 2001/02 and 2014/15 there were 122 collisions involving trains and road vehicles at level crossings throughout NSW.
Longer working hour during harvest season – which starts in the state’s north in October and extends south until early 2016 – increase the chance of fatigue, one of the biggest killers on Australian roads, Carlon added.
“Fatigue is a common factor in rural crashes, so drivers need to plan their rest and be aware of any signs that they might be tired.”
GrainCorp spokesperson Angus Trigg stressed the importance of community awareness during an unusually busy time on grain railways, noting some rail lines in farming areas are used only to transport harvested crops and will be busy with trains heading in both directions during the harvest months.
“In the harvest rush, we all have somewhere to get to and it’s easy for us to forget the need to stop and look before moving machinery and other vehicles when level crossings are on your farm,” Trigg said.
“The harvest period is a very active time for farmers and many have their tractors and harvesters running almost 24 hours a day. This is not a time for us to be complacent – patience and understanding will ensure that we all get there safely. Don’t rush to the other side.
“Farmers are normally very cautious about driving on roads and we make sure we maximise visibility with lights and signs on our vehicles.
“However, we urge everyone in rural communities to exercise extra caution during the season to help make it a trouble-free harvest.”
Transport for NSW has allocated $29.2 million – $7.3 million a year – to its Level Crossing Improvement Program over the four years from 2014/15 to 2017/18.
The program aims to accelerate engineering safety improvements to level crossings at priority sites.
Transport for NSW says the program will also raise community awareness of level crossing safety issues, support police enforcement initiatives, and promote new technology to improve level crossing safety.