Radio interview on 2BS with Toby Gough

TOBY GOUGH: The Australian Government has today launched a national advertising campaign as part of its commitment to improve safety around regional railway crossings. I’m delighted to welcome to the program Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King. Minister King, good afternoon.

CATHERINE KING: Good to be with you, Toby.

TOBY GOUGH: This campaign itself is all about reminding drivers of the risks around regional railway, emphasising the message to stop, look and listen for trains. It goes without saying that it’s an extremely important initiative. Talk us through some of the statistics and dangers behind railway crossings in regional areas like the Central West.

CATHERINE KING: Well, we know there are some 23,000 level crossings right the way across regional Australia and we have almost 1,000 near misses that occur on those crossings. Of course, not all of them result in an actual accident, but they put incredible stress and danger on our train drivers, our truck drivers as well. And so, it’s really at those level crossings where the workplace of train drivers, the workplace of truck drivers and the travelling public intersect. 

And we’ve got too many near misses and I think really, if you live in regional communities, it might be you travel that one road every single day, five or six times, and you just go through that level crossing all the time, it’s that one time when you’ve just not quite been paying attention or you can’t see the train or something happens that you’re just distracted or that really does impact on people’s lives. 

We have seen, obviously, fatalities occur at our level crossings, and really, this is about just making sure that we’re getting the message out that these are part of your community. It’s where we all interact. Really important that you stop, look and listen for trains.

TOBY GOUGH: Catherine, in a regional context, as you previously mentioned, you can see how locals commonly dismiss the dangers that are present on their roads. As you say, they always say, quote, they know this road well, therefore they’re more commonly likely to take risks and cause these accidents. Not only from a local perspective, but also from those who may be visiting regional and remote areas, how will this campaign make these people more aware of the dangers that are present in railway crossings?

CATHERINE KING: Well, it’s really just trying to raise awareness about really just taking your time to really slow down, stop, to actually look out – look out the window, have a look to see if you can see anything, and listen. You know, trains are noisy, but you can sometimes at these level crossings, they’re a bit obscured because there might be trees that have grown up, that might be dusk. I think the ad really emphasises all sorts of weather. Dusk, rain, bright light shining in your eyes, things that just might mean that you just don’t, you know – it might be a level crossing you’ve been through, as I said, a thousand times, never really worried about it, always been okay. But just that one time you might have radio up a bit loud, something’s happened. 

So, just really trying to get people to pay attention to the environment they’re in and the real risk that level crossings pose our regional communities right their way across the board. It’s of course, not the only thing that we need to do to try and make level crossings safer, but it is one of the things we need to do to try and build driver awareness.

TOBY GOUGH: It certainly is, Catherine. And this campaign is forming part of the Government’s $180.1 million Regional Australia Level Crossing Safety Program. Tell us a bit more about the other essential components in this program and its conjunction with the new campaign.

CATHERINE KING: So, there’s a few things we’re doing as part of that campaign. There’s $160 million going into states and territories to improve low level crossing [indistinct] that you might be able to do there again, cutting back bushes, signage, lighting, those sorts of things at some of these level crossings across the country, as well as more money into research. So, a couple of grant rounds for research to really look at what are some of the things we could do differently. 

It comes on top of the new train illumination code of practice that the rail safety regulator is doing as well, which will be a voluntary code that is really is trying to look at, if you illuminate, if you put lighting strips on the sides of trains, does that also help as well? So, a whole range of things that we’re trying to do to improve level crossing safety across those 23,000 crossings.

TOBY GOUGH: And Minister, just before I let you go, can you please tell all the listeners when this campaign will be appear and where?

CATHERINE KING: You’ll see it everywhere. I’ve seen it on TV already. It’ll be on radio, on outdoor advertisements such as billboards. You’ll see it on social media platforms as well. And it’s running across those until 30 June. Important to have a look out for it. I hope people not only like the ad, but actually also pay attention to the message of stop, look, listen for trains.

TOBY GOUGH: Minister, thank you so much for your time this afternoon and enjoy the rest of your day.

CATHERINE KING: Thank you so much, Toby.

TOBY GOUGH: Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King there, talking to us all about the Government’s new launch of a national advertising campaign as part of its commitment to improve safety around regional railway crossings.