WE HAVE commented before about the commercial threat to rail of introducing heavier lorries into Europe (RG 10.06 p641). But another risk was graphically demonstrated in Australia’s Northern Territory on December 12, when the northbound Ghan hit a road train on an open level crossing at Ban Ban Springs, about 120 km south of Darwin.Although nine of the 21 coaches were derailed, none of the 64 passengers and 18 crew was seriously injured. Nor did any serious injuries result on October 20 when a freight train loco was derailed after it hit a road train crossing the line near Darwin.There are many tales of recklessness by road train drivers, but both incidents probably reflect a general unfamiliarity with the railway, which opened three years ago, and the relative infrequency of the three or four trains a day. It could, of course have been very much worse. Level crossings have been identified as one of the biggest sources of external risk to rail safety, and crashes with lorries have led to some serious accidents in recent years. In November 27 people were killed in South Africa when a train hit a lorry carrying farm workers on a level crossing near Cape Town.Israel Railways is already working to eliminate all level crossings on its network following several fatal collisions. Spain’s Ministry of Development is investing more than k1bn in a six-year programme that will see 1 931 out of 3 234 crossings closed by 2012 and protection improved at many of the remainder.n