AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Q&amp&semicolanA: level crossing safety in Australia around the world

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Australia’s rail industry’s goal of zero harm at each of its 23,500 operational railway level crossings is, according to the UK’s Community Safety Partnerships director Aidan Nelson*, an ambitious one. Aidan sat down for a Q&ampA to review Australia’s level crossing safety goal from an international perspective. </span> <p><strong>What are some figures on level crossing safety in Australia?</strong></p><p>Using the average fatality data contained in the 2010 Australian level crossing strategy, level crossings were responsible for 1.66 fatalities per million population, and 2.46% of national road fatalities. The figures also worked out to 1.57 fatalities per 1000 level crossings in 2010.</p><p>Current data suggests that the Australian indicators will have improved when rebased to cover the five years through to December 31st, 2012.</p><p><strong>Do you see a correlation between social awareness and the rate of level crossing accidents? </strong></p><p>Jurisdictions where fatal level crossing accidents are rare see far greater media coverage of the accidents than is the case where there are many such accidents.</p><p>Media pressure as an influence on societal pressure to do more to address level crossing safety is greatest in the best performing jurisdictions, although a concentration of accidents in less well performing jurisdictions can have a similar effect, particularly where there are children killed.</p><p><strong>Do you have any advice for industry on how it can maintain stakeholder focus on level crossing safety?</strong></p><p>While level crossing accidents are in reality road accidents that have a railway dimension, this class of accident is rarely at or near the top of their prioritized areas for action. Therefore the rail sector should take the lead in putting the framework in place within which to engage highway and other stakeholders.</p><p><strong>Here in Australia, there’s been renewed discussion about the investment needed to eliminate or upgrade crossings. Given fiscal pressures and the reality that level crossings remain, what other actions could governments implement to reduce risk?</strong></p><p>First thing is to make sure that the investment available is spent in a way that top-slices risk. I’m a great believer in targeted awareness raising and increasing the penalties applicable to those misusing level crossings and a vigorous enforcement programme.</p><p><strong>The only thing that railways have in common is that each and every one is different. Given the unique characteristics of Australia’s railways and the work already underway to improve safety, where would you advise we look to learn further lessons? </strong></p><p>It’s easy to focus on differences as a reason for not doing something tried elsewhere when, in reality, there is a very high-level of similarity from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Why focus on the 1-2% differences when there is a 98-99% similarity?</p><p>I would look towards civil aviation and the military. A Boeing 737 flown by Virgin Australia or QANTAS and an Airbus A320 of Jetstar operate within the same infrastructure and, after all, the weapons systems available to the Australian military are essentially compatible with those of Australia’s allies.</p><p><strong>You’ll be discussing the ‘five E’s at our upcoming Rail Safety conference in Melbourne. What can attendees except to hear from your talk? </strong></p><p>My message is that the five Es: Enabling, Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Evaluation are essential elements of a national initiative to reduce risk arising at level crossings and that using each of them individually is sub-optimal.</p><p><em>*Aidan Nelson spoke with Informa transport conference producer, Tina Karas.</em></p><p><strong>Rail Safety 2013 will start with a comprehensive half-day workshop on level crossing safety on Tuesday 5th March 2013. The workshop will feature national and international updates before breaking out into interactive groups to look at the impact and effectiveness of these initiatives.</strong></p><p><strong>For more information on workshop and three-day conference in Melbourne this March, visit: </strong><a href=""><strong></strong></a></p>