THE DEATH of 11 people in a collision between an inter-city DMU and a lorry at Kerang in Victoria on June 5 is another regrettable addition to the growing list of fatal level crossing accidents. In the Australian state alone, 65 people have died in level crossing incidents over the past 17 years, of which no less than 27 were killed in the past three years.

Victoria's Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said there would be 'no knee-jerk response', although the government is planning to spend more than A$200m on upgrades and grade separation at many of the state's 2 273 crossings over the next decade.

Israel Railways, continues to agonise over level crossing safety after a series of fatal collisions. Although work is pushing ahead to grade-separate 154 road crossings, ISR has taken the unusual step of introducing watchmen at every crossing, to monitor the behaviour of road users and report any flagrant breaches of safety rules.

On May 31 the European Railway Agency published statistics showing that 29% of the 1 464 recorded fatalities in railway accidents during 2005 were using level crossings or 'unlawfully entering railway property'.

There were 7 023 'significant train accidents' across the EU's then 25 member states, leading to 62 passenger deaths. Although the definitions have not been harmonised, a significant train accident is defined by ERA as 'any accident involving at least one rail vehicle in motion, resulting in at least one killed or seriously injured person, or in significant damage to stock, track, other installations or environment, or extensive disruptions to traffic.'

Executive Director Marcel Verslype said ERA is developing 'a common European database for reporting accidents, recording safety performance and logging the results of accident investigations', as well as a common methodology for risk assessment.

Noing that there were 41 500 fatalities in 1 272 000 road accidents in the same 25 countries during 2005, Verslype confirmed that 'travelling by rail is relatively safe'.