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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31571

Mr NEVILLE (5:11 PM) —Although this particular item is not on the Notice Paper, on behalf of the Standing Committee on Transport and Regional Services, I present the committee's report entitled Train illumination—inquiry into some measures proposed to improve train visibility and reduce level crossing accidents, together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence given before the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr NEVILLE —by leave—I thank the House for the opportunity to present this report today. Its contents need to be on the record. Our examination of the question of train lighting followed a briefing that the committee received about a level crossing smash that occurred in Western Australia in July 2000, with the tragic loss of three young lives.

The details of the accident were outlined to the committee by two people, Mrs Merrilea Broad and Mrs Karen Morrissey, who were both closely touched by this tragedy. On behalf of the committee I thank those ladies most sincerely for bringing this matter to our attention and for the valuable contribution they made. Recounting those horrific details must have been a very distressing experience for them, but we appreciate the wonderful job they are doing in trying to raise national awareness of the problems at level crossings.

We may never fully understand all the factors that contributed to that accident in Western Australia but it demonstrates the need for trains to be more conspicuous at level crossings. The argument is sometimes made that when a train is already part way through the crossing the unmarked wagons are too hard to see, especially in the dark. However, we found the lighting of the front, rear and sides of trains is not that simple a matter.

Surprisingly, we found that serious accidents occur during daylight hours and at active crossings—those are crossings that are lit or have mechanical devices on them, like boom gates—not just at passive, unlit crossings during the night. A majority of accidents involve a collision with the front of a train. Specifically, we found studies that showed that approximately 70 per cent of vehicle-train collisions in Australia occur during daylight hours; that most crashes occur where the driver has local understanding of the crossing; and that only 32 per cent of crashes occur at passive crossings. Road vehicle hits to the sides of trains occur in only 36 per cent of cases at passive level crossings. Nevertheless, we found that more could be done in a cost-effective way to improve the visibility of trains and we believe that this could make some significant contribution to reducing the number of accidents.

Sadly, the lighting of the sides of all rolling stock would be a prohibitive cost and, in light of the foregoing figures, unjustified. Our principal recommendation is that all locomotives and rolling stock in the Australian rail industry be fitted with standard reflective—by that I mean iridescent—strips or reflective paint, and that all locomotives be fitted with rotating beacon lights. This should significantly increase the visibility of the sides and fronts—respectively—of trains and help prevent collisions at passive crossings. We have also recommended that a level crossing risk scoring system, based on the Queensland model, be adopted as a national standard. Our other recommendations deal with the installation of rumble strips on the approaches to level crossings and the need for a level crossing education program for vehicle drivers. Thanks are extended to our secretariat leader, Ian Dundas, to Tas Luttrell, the inquiry secretary, and to Shane Read, the research officer, who compiled this excellent report. I commend the report to the House.