Picture this: A young woman arrives at the train station.
She is running late and in a rush to catch the next train – something most of us will have experienced.
She tries to hurry on to the platform, but finds the pedestrian gate locked.
Instead of waiting at the gate, she walks back around and begins to cross the road at the level crossing.
She waits for the train to go past and immediately steps forward.
She is instantly hit by a train travelling in the opposite direction.
Not unlike many of my colleagues, I will never forget my first rail fatality.
I remember consoling members of the public who had inadvertently witnessed this horrific event which took a young woman’s life.
I remember having to look through the woman’s personal belongings in the hope of identifying her so we could break the terrible news to her loved ones.
I remember the heartbreaking feeling, knowing how avoidable this was.
My name is Senior Constable Lynne Woods and I joined the Queensland Police Service in 2007.
As part of the Queensland Police Railway Squad, I am one of the police officers who turns up first to a railway incident.
We know all too well that it only takes one slip up before you have devastating consequences.
I know that the young woman’s parents, family and friends are still grieving the sudden loss of their loved one.
I know the driver of that train is still agonising over that moment.
I know those who witnessed that young woman die are still living with the scarring memory, an upsetting vision that will never go away.
My role with the Queensland Police Service Railway Squad means that sadly, this is not all that uncommon to me. We see people putting themselves at risk as pedestrians when they cross rail crossings on a regular basis. We see people preoccupied on platforms; distracted by their mobiles, their music or even their thoughts.
Despite the fact that we attend and view the resulting carnage – something that no one should have to, we will never stop trying to raise awareness and prevent these types of tragedies from occurring.
This particular young woman obviously did not see the other train, as it was hidden from view by the first. Trains are not always as loud as you might think and a train driver’s visibility and stopping distance is very different from the driver of a car.
For those who catch trains regularly, you will know that there are a myriad of safety measures in place, from level crossings to yellow safety lines and even locking pedestrian gates. These safety measures are simple yet effective and are designed to keep us all safe.
After being one of the officers who have had to deliver that dreaded news to the young woman’s parents – what I maintain is the worst part of our job, I know that this kind of thing can be avoidable. I know it needs to stop.
What we ask of people around rail tracks and stations is simple, don’t rush, avoid distractions, stay safe and follow instructions.
Please do what you can to ensure that this isn’t a regular occurrence for us, for Queensland Rail staff or for your fellow commuters so that your family never needs to have us turn up to their doorstep.
Rail safety – it’s everyone’s responsibility.
For more information on rail safety this Rail Safety Week, visit the Track SAFE Foundation website: https://tracksafefoundation.com.au/railsafe-pledge