Risk assessment and assurance processes are among the areas of focus of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s on-going investigation into a collision between a car and an express passenger train at a Brisbane level crossing earlier this year in which the car driver was fatally injured.
An ATSB preliminary report detailing factual information from the investigation’s early evidence collection phase notes that at around 1330 on Friday, 26 February 2021, the driver of a small four-door hatchback had left their friend’s address in Brisbane, to drive to Wynnum.
Approaching Lindum station in West Wynnum, the hatchback travelled in an easterly direction along Lindum Road, which runs roughly parallel with the Cleveland line railway before reaching a T-intersection with North Road, part of a large junction which incorporates the Kianawah Road level crossing.
The driver’s friend stated the driver, who was a resident of the Sunshine Coast, was unfamiliar with the area, and it was likely they were using a GPS navigation system.
Approaching the T-intersection, the driver’s intention was to turn right, pass through the level crossing, then turn left down Sibley Road, on the other side of the railway.
Two cars were already waiting at the stop line, also to turn right. The first turned and passed through the crossing during a pause in traffic.
At that time, around 1340, a Queensland Rail (QR) express train, travelling in an easterly direction towards Cleveland, automatically activated the level crossing protection on its approach.
The second car ahead of the hatchback turned right as the crossing’s lights were flashing, and crossed the railway as the boom gates were already lowering.
The driver of the hatchback then had to pause and give way to two other vehicles turning off North Road into Lindum Road.
The driver of the second of these vehicles observed the boom barrier was horizontal and saw a train approaching as they turned. After turning, they noticed in their rear-vision mirrors the hatchback had moved off and was approaching the crossing. They witnessed the car pass onto the level crossing and collide with the train.
CCTV footage from Lindum station showed the hatchback passed to the right of the boom barrier’s lowered arm, but to the left of the faded dotted turn guide line.
The hatchback was destroyed, and the driver, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The train sustained minor damage and the only two occupants, the driver and guard, were not injured.
A Queensland Police Service post-accident assessment of the level crossing identified the boom barrier passed by the hatchback did not extend to the edge of the painted median island, the preliminary report notes.
The relevant Australian Standard for boom barrier design states that boom barriers shall extend to the dividing line or centre of a roadway. However, the gap between the edge of the median island and the tip of the boom barrier when lowered was 3.1 metres.
The CCTV footage showed that the boom was lowered for about 10 seconds before the hatchback passed on to the crossing.
“The ATSB is continuing to examine the risk assessments conducted for this level crossing, and the processes used for those risk assessments,” said ATSB Acting Chief Commissioner Colin McNamara.
“The investigation will also assess the assurance activities conducted by the rail infrastructure manager and the road manager relevant to risk at level crossings, including the development of an interface agreement.”
QR, the rail infrastructure manager, advised the ATSB that prior to the accident the last assessment of the Kianawah Road level crossing under the national Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model was conducted in 2002.
Separately, the preliminary report notes that Rail Safety National Law legislation requires an interface agreement between the rail infrastructure manager and the road manager be in place to outline the shared responsibility for safe railway operations at level crossings.
While this requirement had come into place in Queensland in 2012, no interface agreement had been formalised at the time of the accident.
QR has advised the ATSB that it has since formalised an interface agreement with Brisbane City Council encompassing all level crossings within the council area. Further, QR has commenced engineering activities to source and trial usage of a longer boom barrier for the northern side of the Kianawah Road level crossing.
The rail operator and the council are also participating in the Lindum Station Precinct Study, which was initiated by the Department of Transport and Main Roads in 2019. The study is reviewing short, medium and long-term options for improving safety in the Lindum Station precinct.
The ATSB notes on 23 July Brisbane City Council confirmed it had already commenced work on immediate upgrades to the level cross intersection on Kianawah Road, including signalisation and reconfiguring the intersection.
Mr McNamara said the ATSB’s preliminary report does not include any safety findings or analysis, which will be detailed in the investigation’s final report.
“The ATSB’s investigation will further assess the recorded data and sequence of events leading up to the collision, along with the level crossing’s design of the and its similarity to other crossings,” he stated.
“The investigation will also further examine maintenance activity associated with the level crossing and approach roads, the history of inspections by the rail and road managers, and the history of incidents and accidents at the level crossing and connecting intersections.”
A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation.
You can find here the report: Level crossing collision between passenger train and road vehicle, Wynnum West, Queensland on 26 February 2021
Last update 05 August 2021