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Spotlight placed on light rail red signal breaches

Inner West Light Rail, CAF rollingstock. Photo: Creative Commons / Abesty

An intense emphasis on stopping large trains from passing stop signals is great, but more attention is needed on the same issue impacting light rail, one rail expert has said.

Anjum Naweed is a researcher from CQUniversity, studying human factors and applied cognitive science.

Dr Naweed will on Wednesday chair the second day of the Australasian Railway Association’s Light Rail 2017 conference on the Gold Coast.

He says while there is an intense focus on preventing passenger trains and freight trains from passing signals when danger looms, less emphasis is placed on the issue in light rail systems.

While the ‘risk gradient’ might be different in light rail, the tram driver and safety, security and efficiency of the network are still under threat, he points out.

Dr Naweed’s presentation is centred around collision and derailment avoidance in trams and will aim to “unpack” the heavy human dimensions of a light rail system.

“The intensification of light rail that we’re currently seeing around the country presents an ideal time to determine the size of this problem and what could be done to mitigate it,” he says.

“At Light Rail 2017, I will provide an overview of the pertinent human dimensions of tram driving and collision avoidance in this domain, as a call to arms for increased focus on its prevention.”

Dr Naweed says it’s obvious why there’s a focus on SPADs (Signals Passed at Dangers) and derailment mitigation in heavy trains.

“In tram systems, SPADS are called Red Signal Breaches or RSBs,” he notes.

“But don’t let the change in terminology fool you. They are still one of the largest safe working failure modes around.

“The speed and size of trains mean that they carry significant derailment and collision risk. While trams are lighter and typically slower, they still carry significant implication for serious injury and loss of life, as we saw from the tragic tram derailment in Croydon last year.”

Light Rail 2017 is taking place at Crowne Plaza, Surfers Paradise.