Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Australasian Railways Association, Level Crossing Removal, Industry Safety

National Level Crossing Safety Strategy released

The Australian Government has released the National Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2023–2032 supported by the Australasian Railway Association.

Level crossings remain the highest public safety risk on the rail network. Sadly, two rail workers lost their lives in December, 2023 following a fatal level crossing accident.

The strategy has been developed by the National Level Crossing Safety Committee, comprising representatives from federal, state and local governments, rail industry associations and regulators.

It represents an ongoing commitment to reducing fatalities and injuries at the more than 20,000 level crossings intersecting with roads and pathways across the nation.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King spoke about the strategy.

“The Australian Government is committed to working towards zero harm at our rail crossings,” she said.

“The community and stakeholders have long advocated for improved investment, better safety measures, education, enforcement, and harnessing technology – and this strategy sets out a clear path to achieving those aims.

“I would like to thank the National Level Crossing Safety Committee for their collaborative, national approach, acknowledging that delivering a safer network for Australians is a shared responsibility.

“I am confident the vision set out in this 10-year strategy and the practical actions it will facilitate will help save lives across the next decade, and into the future,” King said.

The strategy sets out a clear vision for working towards zero harm on the level crossing network, including:

  • Improving public education and enforcement
  • Leveraging emerging technology and innovation
  • Identifying early, low-cost and effective safety improvements
  • Developing improved data and knowledge
  • Increasing coordination and knowledge sharing by those responsible for safety.

To identify any further action that could be taken by governments, regulators, and industry, a rail level crossing safety roundtable, will be held in Brisbane on 6 March.

Rail workers including train drivers will be represented through their unions.

The Australian Government is already providing $180 million for the Regional Australia Level Crossing Safety Program, including $160 million over 4 years from 2023-24 to 2026-27 to support lower-cost, high-priority railway crossing upgrades.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed the announcement.

Chair of TrackSAFE Foundation and the ARA, Danny Broad, said the National Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2023–2032 provides a blueprint for national actions needed to improve safety at railway crossings.

“While there is already much work underway by both industry and government towards achieving improved safety at crossings, there is still room for improvement,” Broad said.

“Any death or injury on the rail network is devastating – not just for the family and friends impacted but also for rail workers involved in the incident and the first responders called upon in the rescue effort.

“This roundtable is an important opportunity to examine what further measures can be implemented to prevent deaths and injuries on the network,” he said.

Broad said the key factor to improving safety at railway crossings is to make it a shared responsibility.

“The rail industry is committed to working with governments, the heavy vehicle industry, other road users, pedestrians and community groups to achieve better outcomes,” he said.

“We also urge an ongoing commitment of funding by governments to remove higher risk railway crossings, as well as ensuring they do not increase the number of crossings in their state.

“On top of the devastating impact to rail workers and the community, there are also great economic consequences from disruption to the rail network, with hundreds of millions of dollars lost each year due to safety incidents.”

The upgrades include installing flashing lights, audible warning devices, boom barriers, enhanced signage, and pedestrian mazes upgrade to increase the visibility of crossings on both sides of the roadway in response to approaching trains.

To read the strategy and for more information, visit the website.