Families across Australia unite to campaign to stop further rail crash tragedies

Amanda Dempster was struck and killed by a prepare on her household’s farm 5 months after her father acquired a letter to inform her the crossing warning lights the household had begged for had been “on the backburner”.

Eight weeks after her dying, the lights had been put up.

The deadly crash in February 1993 adopted an extended battle by her mother and father and grandparents to get the federal government and its rail operator to set up warning lights on the harmful crossing.

Amanda’s youthful sister Milly Dempster is now a part of a campaign by grieving households across Australia who say little or no has been completed in many years to make rail crossings and trains safer.

Despite quite a few tragedies a scarcity of stringent rules means vans have higher lighting. 

“(Our crossing) was originally built on a blind corner from both directions,” Ms Dempster mentioned.

Amanda, 22, had simply had a cup of tea together with her father and was transferring a tractor across the rail line when she was hit.

Three women walking towards rail-side memorial holding bouquets of flowers
Annemaree Jensen, Milly Dempster and Lara Jensen have all misplaced siblings in rail crashes.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell)

“She would have, I assume, got up to the line and looked both ways but tractors move quite slow and by the time she was crossing, the train was coming and there was no time to get across,” Ms Dempster mentioned.

Milly’s shock and grief had been compounded when, seven years later, two of her former boarding faculty associates, Jess Broad and Hilary Smith, had been killed at one other unlit degree crossing 20 kilometres away. 

Their pal Christian Jensen additionally died within the collision with the loaded wheat prepare that evening.

The crossing lights might have ultimately been put in on the Dempster’s farm, however the households say the shortage of motion to put flashing lights on hundreds of different degree crossings and strobe lighting on trains to make them simpler for drivers to determine is ‘”a cruel blow” and placing different Australians in peril.

They have joined the chums, kinfolk and supporters of rail crash victims in New South Wales to campaign for reforms they are saying have been stonewalled for many years regardless of suggestions from particular committees and the Western Australian coroner.

rail train at dusk
Campaigners complain about trains’ lack of visibility.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Cecile O’Connor)

Poorly lit

At an inquest, a yr after the deaths of Christian Jensen, Jess Broad and Hilary Smith, Coroner Alastair Hope mentioned that “there was no lighting on the train designed to provide an effective warning to motor vehicle drivers at railway crossings.”

He beneficial “immediate action” to put strobe lights on trains to be a focus for drivers, significantly at crossings with no warning lights or growth gates.

The households, and one of many trains two drivers, consider the three might have mistaken the trains headlight for one of many many tractors in surrounding paddocks that evening. 

Christian Jensen’s sister,  Lara Jensen, mentioned her household, together with the Smiths and Broads had been optimistic following the inquest however after 20 years they’re nonetheless ready for these suggestions to be acted on.

“At the moment they have been able to get away with this for decades this unconscionable lack of action,” Ms Jensen mentioned.

“We know with flashing lights that is the accepted indicator of a significant hazard, that is why they are there and that is why we want them on trains because they are dangerous.”

woman in dress standing and looking down at a cross and memorial near a rail line
Maddie Bott’s fiance was killed in a collision with a prepare. (ABC Central West: Arianna Levy)

In February this yr Ethan Hunter and Mark Fenton died when their truck collided with a freight prepare at a passive crossing (with out warning lights or growth gates) close to Young in New South Wales.

Mr Hunter’s fiancee Maddie Bott mentioned they’re decided to see rail reformed.

“It is disgusting that 21 years ago these recommendations were not implemented and the stuff I have had to do in the last seven months to try and speak to the government, it is just not good enough,” Ms Bott mentioned.

“If there was better lighting on that train or lights at the crossing Ethan and Mark would still be here today.”

Man with grey hair and grey goatee smiling in front of dark corrugated iron wall.
Lenny Norton says most prepare drivers have skilled ‘close to misses’ and a few stroll away from the job after deadly crashes.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell)

Emotional toll on drivers

Train driver Lenny Norton mentioned that “every driver out there has had near misses” they usually take an emotional toll. 

“I have had colleagues who have never come back to work after a fatality,” Mr Norton mentioned.

He mentioned the state of some degree crossings within the Wheatbelt made visibility troublesome for drivers. 

“Quite often the undergrowth and scrubby trees are pretty close to the track so there is a visibility problem out there, some are better than others,” he mentioned.

Deputy PM proclaims evaluate

In a press release, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, whose portfolios embrace transport, says that “a review is underway into train visibility in Australia”.

He mentioned in August he met with the CEOs of main rail freight companies and requested them to take a critical have a look at steps they will take to enhance rail security, together with the higher adoption of lights and reflective supplies on trains.

Road security stricter

Transport researcher and highway security advocate Dr Brett Hughes mentioned the way in which lighting on vans and trains is regulated is totally totally different.

“In road safety trucks are required to have certain types of lights in certain places,” Dr Hughes mentioned.

man wearing yellow fluorescent vest standing in front of lights at a railway level crossing.
Brett Hughes mentioned highway prepare operators are compelled to have particular lights on the automobiles however that’s not the case for trains.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett)

“They are required to have, obviously, front lights but also side lights and outlying lights. Whereas in rail safety there are standards for trains; what’s called ‘conspicuity’ — but they are not so prescriptive.”

“In principle the train operators will operate safely, in practice they may decide to do less than they possibly could do whereas with the road operators they must comply at least exactly with the rules that are prescribed in the vehicle standard regulations.”

He mentioned there have been important enhancements in know-how to make the enhancements extra inexpensive. 

‘Change the regulation’

Another of Christian Jensen’s sisters, Annemaree Jensen, mentioned laws is required to pressure change. 

“It seems to be that they have got away without any sort of consequence or any regulatory action at all and in a country like Australia where we have so much land and so many passive crossings, it is not good enough, it seriously is not,” she mentioned.

Hilary Smith’s father George Smith mentioned regardless of the tragedy that claimed his daughter’s life he’s not anti-rail, however he’s bewildered by the shortage of motion to save lives.

“Light up the trains so they can be seen,” Mr Smith mentioned.

“Just make them visible. I do not understand why it has not happened.”

Christian Jensen’s father Laurie Jensen agrees. 

“If you are driving along at right angles to a crossing and there was a light flashing on a train 100 yards, 200 yards, half a mile away, you would see it out of your vision,” Mr Jensen mentioned.

“You see these things on the highways all the time and the immediate reaction when you see something like that is to pay more attention, slow down and watch that is the first thing you do.”

 “Until something is done and done properly, we have just got to keep pushing as long as we can.”

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