V/Line train driver laments risky behaviour across all regional rail lines; urges people to think of drivers

Trespassers, near misses and a derailment. 

The Bendigo rail line has had ample examples of risky behaviour over the past year, but little thought is given to the impact on the driver, a V/Line supervisor says.

Regional driver supervisor Chris Barnett said, across Victoria, he would encounter at least two near misses a week with pedestrians and motorists taking unnecessary risks on the tracks.

“Trains are not just machines, there are people behind the controls of a train and we’re susceptible to what happens on the rail corridor,” he said.

“Not only are you putting their lives at risk, it can have a big impact on train drivers.”

Mr Barnett, who travels across regional Victoria, including Bendigo, said the incidents could be traumatic, highlighting the need for drivers to support one another.

“Everyone is really compassionate and it helps to speak with work mates, who have been through similar situations,” he said.

V/Line data shows there were more than 190 reported incidents involving trespassers, including both pedestrians and motorists, on the Bendigo line during the 12 months up to June this year.

Across the V/Line network, there were more than 900 reported trespasser incidents for the same period, which is down on the previous year when there were 1115 reported cases.

Additionally, there were 18 near misses on the Bendigo line over the past 12 months to August this year. 

A “near miss” is classified as when train drivers take evasive action such as sounding the horn or applying the emergency brakes. 

A V/Line train hit an unoccupied car near Kangaroo Flat in February. 

The crash caused $2 million damage to the track and train, which was carrying 64 people at the time.

The Bendigo Magistrates’ Court in May heard the accused was driving his four-wheel-drive on bush tracks near Kangaroo Gully Road when he became lost without a correct GPS reading, then attempting to accelerate over the train line before getting stuck.

In August, footage emerged of a man narrowly escaping the path of a Bendigo-bound train while crossing the railway line at Riddles Creek, prompting a further safety message from the sate’s regional rail operator.

V/Line CEO James Pinder said support was offered to all staff around the clock through the company’s Employee Assistance Program.

“The welfare of our staff is something we take very seriously,” he said.

“Everyone in the community has a role to play when it comes to level crossing safety so we urge people to stop taking risks.”