Taskforce to improve rail safety and reduce SPADs strengthened

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Employment & Training Law & Safety Political Queensland Government Travel & Transport


The peak rail safety body has come onboard to help reduce the number of Signals Passed at Danger (SPAD) as part of the highly skilled SPAD Prevention Taskforce at Queensland Rail.

The taskforce has prepared a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing the SPAD rate that includes a broad range of safety controls and new initiatives focussing on human factors, driver behaviour, increased levels of supervision and engagement and improvements in SPAD awareness.

Transport and Main Roads Minister said while Queensland Rail saw a slight increase in the rate of SPADs on its network from July 2017 to January 2018, since the implementation of initiatives by the Taskforce from February 2018, there had been a stabilisation of this trend with the SPAD rate per million train kilometres decreasing by more than 5 per cent from January to May 2018 (from 2.53 to 2.40).

He said safety was Queensland Rail’s utmost priority, and the organisation was taking every step possible to address SPADs, including partnering with the National Rail Safety Regulator to ensure the most effective SPAD prevention strategy is in place.

“The SPAD Taskforce has already implemented a range of initiatives, with further work on the horizon,” Mr Bailey said.

“Included in the strategy being implemented by the taskforce is the recent recruitment of a dedicated Organisational Psychologist specialising in human performance in safety critical settings to work with our train drivers.

“SPADs are not unique to Queensland Rail and are a problem faced by rail operators across Australia and internationally.

“All instances of SPADs are taken very seriously and fully investigated.

“I have requested that the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator works with Queensland Rail to provide further advice and proposed actions in relation to SPAD prevention strategies.

“The SPAD Taskforce has already progressed a number of initiatives including increased one on one engagement with train drivers by management to ensure we’re communicating with staff the importance of SPAD awareness and a new toolbox talk has been rolled out for network control officers to ensure they play their part in SPAD prevention.

“Through regular reviews of signalling infrastructure and SPAD data, Queensland Rail also recently identified an opportunity to improve the safety of signalling at Normanby, through the installation of a permanent yellow signal to be installed at the location to reduce the likelihood of drivers misreading the signals over the curved section of track. This work is expected to be completed in October 2018.

“Queensland Rail has also recently updated the Universal Train Control (UTC) for the setting of signals at Northgate, to improve the safe separation of trains through this area, while an in-depth review is currently in its final stages for the identification of improvements for a signal at Bowen Hills.”

Further initiatives to be implemented by the SPAD Taskforce include:

  •        Improving post-SPAD management and analysis in line with best practice approaches used in other safety-critical industries including aviation and healthcare
  •        Mandatory competency assessments for drivers at 18 month intervals, with both theoretical and practical SPAD avoidance components and one-on-one time
  •        Proactive use of data from previous SPAD investigations to undertake tailored coaching and performance improvement

“Over the last 8 years there has been a 36% increase in train kilometres being travelled on the Queensland Rail network," Mr Bailey said.

“Overall SPAD rates remain low, however we want to take every precautionary measure available to us to prevent these incidents from occurring.

“Dedicated resources are allocated to Queensland Rail’s SPAD Prevention Taskforce in order to accelerate the implementation of priority initiatives, based on detailed SPAD investigations, research, benchmarking, and industry best practice.”

Mr Bailey said the progressive rollout of the European Train Control System (ETCS) in the inner-city network from late 2019, would effectively eliminate the risk of SPADs through automated engineering controls, which will ensure the trains stop within the limits of its authority in the event of human error.

Minister for Transport and Main Roads
The Honourable Mark Bailey

* A SPAD is when a driver fails to stop at a red signal, and even though some of them can be as minor as 5-10 metres past the designated stopping point, all instances are taken incredibly seriously and fully investigated.

Mark Bailey MP, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads :
GPO Box 1412, Brisbane Queensland 4001, Queensland Wide
07 3834 2011
Mark Bailey MP, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads
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