Call to fit beacons on trains

30 Jun, 2004 10:00 PM
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ALL locomotives should be fitted with rotating beacon lights to help make them more visible and reduce level crossing accidents, a report by the House of Representatives Transport Committee recommended last week.

The committee also recommended that locomotives and rolling stock be fitted with reflective strips or reflective paint.

Committee chairman Paul Nevill said more accidents occurred during daylight and at controlled crossings.

"But anything we can do in a cost effective way to reduce accidents at night and at passive crossings is worth considering," Mr Nevill said.

The acknowledgement that rotating beacons should be fitted on trains has been a long time coming after a 1968 State Government report recommended that all engines and guards vans be fitted with rotating bacons.

And a report by State Coroner Alastair Hope in October 2001 also called for immediate action to install some form of external auxiliary lighting high up on locomotives without causing problems for drivers.

The report's recommendations are a partial victory for a group of WA families who have been campaigning for almost four years to improve train visibility.

The Jensen, Smith and Broad families have been calling for the changes after Christian Jensen, Hilary Smith and Jessica Broad were killed after the vehicle they were travelling in collided with a freight train near Jennacubine in darkness at 6.05pm on July 8, 2000.

Jessica's mother Merrilea Broad and Karen Morrissey travelled to Canberra in December 2003 to urge the committee to enforce greater visibility standards.

Commenting on last week's recommendations, Mrs Morrissey said they were a step towards improving rail crossing safety.

"But it troubles me that the lighting standards for heavy haulage trucks have not been adopted for freight trains, which remain the heaviest and most dangerous of transport the cross over roads," Mrs Morrissey said.

She said it was essential the recommendations of the committee be implemented.

"Whether this will take place immediately, as it should, or whether, like earlier recommendations, a delay is tolerated, increasing the possibility of more unnecessary loss of life at our rail crossings, remains to be seen," she said.

"Reflector strips lose their reflectivity when washed, so there will need to be an improvement in their standard if this is to be the adopted lighting solution for the side of trains."

Annemaree Jensen agreed that the committee's recommendations did not go far enough.

"It just seems to be another example where the rail industry seems to be exempt from the normal lighting requirements for all other road transport," Ms Jensen said.

"Road trains have to have front and side lighting and unlike trains they stop and do give way, we've just got this double standard happening here."

Ms Jensen called for governments to force rail companies to put adequate lighting on trains, and not just on the locomotives.

Mrs Morrissey told the committee in December 2003 that lights on trains were needed to assist motorists in detecting that there was an oncoming train, recognising the train as a potential hazard, and estimating the amount of time the train would take to arrive at the crossing.

"Once the locomotive has crossed the road and its light has disappeared into the next paddock, there is a serious lack of visibility of the wagons as they cross the road," she said.

She said it was incomprehensible that the heaviest vehicle on land, incapable of stopping at short notice or swerving, could enter and cross roads in dark conditions without hazard and adequate illumination lights.

Mrs Broad said trains need to be clearly identified as hazards.

"Just like over-width vehicles, mining vehicles, emergency vehicles, shire vehicles, farm vehicles, planes, boats and railway maintenance vehicles are," she said.

"They all have strobe or rotating beacons to warn us of the hazard because they are attention getting."

The report will be forwarded to the Transport Ministers¹ Council which is not scheduled to meet until November 2004.

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