On 12 December 2006, a double trailer road-train truck drove into the path of The Ghan passenger train (1AD8) on the Fountain Head Road level crossing at Ban Ban Springs approximately 130 km directly south-east of Darwin (NT).The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has found it is likely that some passive level crossings in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia that are controlled by ‘Stop’ signs and are used by high combined gross mass road vehicles may have deficient sighting distances.
The ATSB has released a supplementary report on this potential problem as part of its continuing investigation into the 12 December 2006 collision involving The Ghan on the Fountain Head Road level crossing at Ban Ban Springs, NT.
The Fountain Head Road level crossing signage at Ban Ban Springs directs road users to stop at the level crossing and to give way to trains that may be either on or approaching the level crossing at a line speed of up to 115 km/h. The road intersects the rail line at 90 degrees in a north-south direction with a slight rising grade for vehicles approaching from the north and with slight road curvature either side of the level crossing.
While not a factor in The Ghan collision, ATSB investigators identified that the time taken for larger road trains commonly used in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia to traverse level crossings, and the available sighting distance, may be a safety issue.
The ATSB organised a timing trial to test the adequacy of the level crossing sighting distances by measuring a range of clearance times for the largest road-train combinations which routinely use the Fountain Head Road level crossing at Ban Ban Springs (and indeed similar crossings in the NT, and other states).
B+2A Road-Train Combination
Tests conducted on 53.5 m long B+2A road-trains at the Fountain Head Road level crossing, Ban Ban Springs, found that the theoretical models used to calculate sighting distance were likely to be inadequate for the truck configuration tested. It is probable that sighting distances at other level crossings controlled by ‘Stop’ signs, used by high combined gross mass road vehicles, may be similarly deficient and more research is needed to accurately assess this risk.
Accordingly, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has advised that State and Territory road transport authorities and rail regulators should consider the implications of this safety issue and take action where it is considered appropriate.