Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand)

The evolution of the visibility Standard

The Rail Industry Safety Standards Board has released the latest version of AS 7531 Rolling Stock Lighting and Visibility Standard, the next step in an ongoing process to improving safety outcomes at level crossings.

The AS 7531 Rolling Stock Lighting and Visibility Standard was first developed and published by RISSB in 2006. 

It reflected the need for rail transport operators to eliminate safety risks at level crossings, through measures such as lighting on the front of a train and the installation of reflective strips along the side of a train.

Following a review, informed by research and testing by the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and Monash Institute of Railway Technology (MIRT), and two rounds of public consultation, the new version of the Standard was released to the rail industry on 21 December 2023.

The improvements to the Standard include:  

  • Design principles that consider the visibility of rolling stock from a road users’ perspective, visibility during day and night, and other environmental factors.   
  • Technical requirements for the use of LED light technology.   
  • Additional technical requirements for visibility lights.   
  • Detailed maintenance requirements for lighting fixtures, reflectors, and clarifications of operator responsibility to ensure the effectiveness of lighting and livery.

With further testing of the effectiveness of additional lighting on trains currently underway, the release of the revised Standard was just the first step in the review process, which will continue throughout 2024.

The rail industry now has access to the latest evidence-based, fit-for-purpose improvements to the Standard, which have been validated through an engineered testing process. As a Standards Development Organisation accredited by Standards Australia, RISSB is obligated to ensure that Standards reflect the needs of stakeholders, are up to date, are evidence based, and are acceptable to end users. 

ONRSR has commissioned further trials working with MIRT and the rail industry to understand the efficacy of side lighting and visibility beacon lighting. These trials will help industry better understand where to focus its resources to improve train visibility and safety at regional crossings. 

As findings from the trials and any associated technical requirements become known, RISSB will work with relevant stakeholders to consider further amendments to the Standard this year.

When MIRT finalises the next round of testing and trials of concepts such as side and beacon lighting in coming months, we will be looking at how the Standard can be updated.

As part of the consultation in 2024 and in addition to considering the findings from the trials, RISSB will take steps to engage with the National Level Crossing Safety Committee (NLCSC), subject matter experts and other interested parties to provide their input. 

This additional step acknowledges the importance of considering safety learnings from a range of stakeholders, ensuring Standards are fit for purpose and meet the needs of end users.

Alongside these trails, ONRSR is also in the process of developing the first Code of Practice for train visibility in Australia. 

The new code will assist rail transport operators to strengthen the overall safety management systems that underpin their operations where trains interact with people, drivers, and vehicles. 

There is no single part of any transport system can ensure safety in isolation. 

Road users, companies, governments, rail Industry bodies, train drivers and other stakeholders need to work together and contribute to improving safety at level crossings across Australia.

Federal and State Governments, rail Industry bodies (including RISSB), regulators and industry operators continue to work together to ensure focus remains on the most effective measures to reduce level crossing incidents. 

RISSB will be assessing its influence, efforts, and collaborative opportunities to assist industry and government in delivering safer outcomes at our level crossings.

RISSB is driven to deliver successful technical innovation and improvements for a safer, more productive and sustainable rail industry. We look forward to continuing to work with industry to ensure our Standards represent best practice.

As part of RISSB’s ongoing process to optimise the safety benchmark for level crossings, it will also be releasing two other products early this year, AS 7739.2 Digital Engineering: Data Model and Guideline Safe Operation of Restricted Access Vehicles across Level Crossings.