It’s easy to fall into a routine when you commute every day, but when you are routinely distracted around rail crossings and tram tracks, the results can be fatal.
Rail crossings warrant your full attention, so please refrain from using your phone, lower your volume and always check your surroundings.
Here are some useful tips to keep you safe around public transport and always remember to STOP BEFORE YOU CROSS.
Rail Safety Week runs from 13 to 19 August and is the ideal time to highlight the need to be alert to the dangers when crossing rail or tram trucks, or moving around public transport stations or stops.
Train: Safe use pedestrian crossings
It is everyone's responsibility to use level crossings safely:
- Cross railway lines at marked crossings only.
- Stop one step back from the edge of the crossing before looking and listening in all directions for approaching trains.
- Think about when it is safe to cross. This is when the tracks are clear and there are no trains approaching.
- If a train is coming, wait for it to pass, then stop, look, listen and think again before crossing. Another train may be coming.
- Always obey all warning signs.
- Never jump fences, gates or barriers at crossings.
- Never force pedestrian barriers open or use the emergency escape to enter pedestrian crossings, except in case of an emergency.
- Children should always be supervised around public transport. Hold the hand of children up to five years old when crossing rail lines.
- If using a wheelchair or mobility aid, or pushing a pram or stroller, and the barriers start to close while you are on the crossing, always go to the emergency escape gate ahead of you and not back to where you entered the crossing.
Tram: Safe use of pedestrian crossings
Trams can take much longer and further to stop than you may think. It’s important to be extra vigilant when crossing tram lines whether you are a pedestrian, motorist, or cyclist, so here are some tips to be aware of:
- Watch and listen for oncoming trams in both directions when crossing tracks
- Watch and listen for traffic when crossing roads to get on and off trams
- Pedestrians should cross tram tracks at designated pedestrian crossings only
- When one tram has passed, be aware that another tram may be passing behind it in the opposite direction.
Always keep tracks clear
Impatience can be fatal. It takes a train more than 200 metres to stop therefore:
- Never enter a level crossing if red lights are flashing. Wait for the lights to stop flashing before driving across railway tracks.
- Never drive under ascending or descending boom gates as an oncoming train is in the vicinity or a second train may be approaching.
- Never drive around boom gates when they are down - it is very likely that an oncoming train is close to the crossing.
- Never queue on a railway crossing - if you have stopped on a crossing and a train is approaching, immediately drive off the track or get out of your car and move clear. It is more likely than not, that the train will not be able to stop in time.
- Do not move into the path of an oncoming tram, for example when turning right over tram tracks.
- Remember that you must give way to trams at roundabouts.
Slow down and be prepared to stop
It is important to take extra care when approaching a railway crossing and get into the habit of stopping, looking and listening for any sign of a train:
- Not all railway crossings have warning bells and lights - for your own safety, always expect a train to be coming, keep your eyes open and your wits about you
- Never rely on just a timetable to know if a train is due
- Never race a train to a railway crossing
- Trains can be travelling in either direction along the same track and on multiple tracks - be alert for more than one train passing through the crossing at the same time
- Don't be fooled by an optical illusion - trains in the distance are often closer and travelling faster than they appear.
Using farm crossings
Take care when using farm crossings:
- when entering a property, stop well clear of the tracks, open the gate and then drive across after looking and listening for approaching trains
- when leaving a property, never park a vehicle on the tracks while closing a gate - in the time it takes to open and close a gate, a train can be upon you.
Heavy vehicle drivers
Trains always have the right of way. Use your experience to protect yourself at railway crossings. This is particularly important at unprotected crossings in regional areas:
- Think about stopping distances - Some crossings have lights and boom gates. Others have a stop or give-way signs but all crossings require you to stop. Prepare early, make sure you give your truck enough time to pull up.
- Look out for short-stacking - This is when your truck hangs over the crossing because there is not enough space ahead. Make sure your path is clear before you start to cross. You don't want to realise you are stuck halfway.
- Check for problems with visibility - Some conditions make it harder to check for trains at crossings. Don't gamble at s-bend roads, in glare or when roadside objects obscure your view. Slow down and make sure you are safe to cross.
See also VicRoads' Trains and level crossings road rules.
The Victorian Railway Crossing Safety Strategy 2018 to 2027 aims to save lives and reduce incidents at level crossings.
The TrackSafe Foundation was established by the Australian rail industry to reduce near collisions, injuries and fatalities on the rail network. For more information, see the Tracksafe Foundation website.