By Julian Bajkowski
Australia’s rail industry has launched its annual community safety awareness blitz, Rail Safety Week with a blunt message about the often lethal consequences of being on the wrong side of the tracks when it comes to moving trains.
In a release unambiguously headed ‘Train yourself (or die)’ passenger and freight rail operators, police and governments are again attempting to drive home the message that commuters and drivers must maintain heightened vigilance around railway lines, level crossings and stations.
According to a statement from the News South Wales Police “there are about 180 fatalities as a result of people walking on train tracks or in rail corridors and taking risks at level crossings.”
While vehicle collisions often make for the most dramatic pictures on television news or newspapers, there is also an equally horrific if less obvious death toll mounting from needless fatalities involving young people who persist in spray painting trains and walls and fixtures on railway lines despite often grizzly consequences.
Another forgotten legacy of railway fatalities and accidents is the life-changing trauma suffered by train drivers, railway staff and emergency personnel who attend critical incidents and are often later forced to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder throughout their lives.
The NSW police are similarly worried safety messages are just not being heeded as well as they should be.
They note and apparent increase in complacency among drivers around level crossing with actions taken against motorists for level crossing offences jumping 9 per cent from 2011-2012 to total 306 incidents.
“A motorist entering a level crossing contrary to lights/bells can receive a $405 fine and lose three demerit points, while a driver who enters a level crossing when the road beyond is blocked can be fined another $405 and three demerit points,” NSW Police cautioned.
The big rail safety campaign comes even though rail easily remains the safest form of land transport. But the big problem for rail operators, authorities and those ultimately unfortunate enough to collide with trains is combatting the complacency that can lead to often unintentional risks being taken.
“Railway safety remains one of the industry’s highest safety priorities with Australia’s rail network being the sixth largest in the world, with 44,000km of track and 23,500 level crossings,” said Bryan Nye, chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, and TrackSAFE Director.
Mr Nye said that apart from preventable deaths and injuries, there are 5,000 trespass incidents, 70 level crossing collisions and thousands of near misses every year and that “all are a direct result of taking risks and disobeying the rules around railway lines and level crossings.”
“Anyone choosing to take shortcuts, walk on or near train tracks, or ignore railway level crossing signals is not only risking their own lives but the lives of the train driver, crew, and passengers. Just like you, rail employees want to make it home safely,” Mr Nye said.
For motorists driving near rail lines the safety blitz will be hard to miss.
According to TrackSAFE this year’s awareness campaign feature a gigantic “supersite billboard” on the Hume Highway near Goulburn with the week long campaign message ‘Train yourself’ aiming to reinforce the fact that the onus is on the individual to always obey the rules around railway lines and STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, THINK.
More information on the rail safety campaign is available at www.railsafetyweek.com or via Twitter @TrackSAFE/#RailSafetyWeek2013
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