Trying to stop people from crossing the train tracks

Trying to fence off all the train tracks in Australia isn't the best way to stop people from trespassing on rail lines. Picture: Michelle Mossop
Trying to fence off all the train tracks in Australia isn't the best way to stop people from trespassing on rail lines. Picture: Michelle Mossop

Fences or other barriers won’t solve the problem of people walking on train lines.

Instead, it’s up to each person to take responsibility for their own safety.

That’s the message from Naomi Frauenfelder, executive director of TrackSAFE – an industry body set up to reduce injuries and fatalities on the rail network.

The South Coast line is one of the worst in the state for rail trespass with almost 100 people spotted walking on the lines in 2016-17.

There have been a spate of incidents in recent months, from a trespasser who prompted a rail shutdown at Corrimal in March to police concerns about people walking on the tracks at Clifton.

Ms Frauenfelder said the group was aware people chose to cross rail lines, usually as a short cut.

“We do see some people not obeying the signs and signals around the network,” Ms Fraudenfelder said.

“Our key message would be that the safety signs and signals are in place to keep the public safe. So it’s really important to obey them – always cross at a designated pedestrian level crossing.”

If a train comes along, a person taking a short cut across the line can affect on the driver – even if the trespasser gets out of the way.

“Incidents can have a profound and lasting impact on drivers, but so can near misses,” she said.

“The train driver doesn’t know, for example, if the person will get out of the way in time or if someone has gone through a level crossing when they shouldn’t have.

“Even once they put on the emergency brakes it can take a long time to stop so near misses can have just as severe an impact on the train driver as an actual incident can.”

She said fences had been successful when used at certain locations, but with 44,000 kilometres of track in Australia, fencing all of it would be too expensive.

“Even if you could fence it all there are over 20,000 level crossings,” she said.

“The nature of our network means it is quite accessible in some areas and that’s why we do so much around education and awareness.”

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