In the wake of yet another tragic level crossing accident in Melbourne, a Melbourne train driver gives his perspective on the often frightening view from the driver’s seat…

Express running is the worst, or running empty cars back to a depot because you are not scheduled to stop but the punters are attuned to the stopping of trains at platforms.

You can't stop 250 tonnes on a dime

They assume you’re going to stop and if they quickly duck under the safety barrier they can still catch your train!

A couple of my fellow drivers have hit small children at level crossings. Imagine pulling the train to a stand still, getting out of the cab and being confronted with the grieving parent. One train driver even had the mother screaming at him and physically hitting him.

Often the person is not killed, in which case there is the very injured person to be dealt with. All the while you are responsible for the “scene” until the police arrive. The train controller needs to be informed of as many details as possible - i.e. your location, whether there is a fatality, whether an ambulance is required etc.

The police arrive, and the train assessors, and the first thing that happens is you are breath tested and assessed as to whether or not a drug test is to be recommended. Then you must consult the trauma clinic within 24 hours. This is necessary to start the ball rolling on a week to two weeks relief of duties. A second consultation is usually recommended after a few days to make sure you are ‘following the normal curve’ which is:

Days 1 to 3: letting the adrenaline subside and take stock of what has occurred. Your fellow drivers will usually contact you and even come around with some drinks and tale swapping.

Days 3 to 7: the dip into depression or blues.

Days 7 to 14: a noticeable swing out of the depression and a returning to some semblance of your “normal” self, then back to work. The main concern is if you don’t follow this pattern. Like the driver who is ready for work the next day, or not ready for weeks and months, both of which has occurred.

So far I have not had a fatality - touch wood. I have had some near misses, or close calls.

I was approaching Huntingdale Station at about 8.30pm coming back into the city from Pakenham. The speed limit at the section of the line is 80 km/h, then as you approach you slowly reduce the speed of your 250+ tonne train down to about 50km/h as you hit the platform, which brings you nicely to a standstill with the whole six car train at the platform.

Anyway, I set up to stop as usual, and as I hit the platform, a drunk passenger from a city train that had arrived earlier decides it would be quicker to jump into the pit and cross the tracks rather than use the passenger subway.

Unfortunately he trips on the tracks. Having seen what is about to unfold, I have already placed the brake into the emergency position (maximum braking). We lock eyes, and wait through those endless seconds as 280 tonnes screams its way to a stand still with him just dissappearing under the front coupler and out of my view.

He then rolls out, stands up and gives me the big middle finger with some verbal abuse and continues his illegal journey over the tracks and on his merry way.

I look up to the platform and there is this couple who have witnessed exactly what I have, both holding their heads in their hands, mouths wide open, unable to move. I ease the train fully onto the platform and scream. I mean a guttural scream into the night. I get out of my cab and share an incredulous laugh with the couple and bum a cigarette off them and smoke my first cigarette for a few years.

What are my options at this stage? Well, I am entitled to be relieved right there and then. This would entail me waiting there with the train until a standby driver could be sent out by taxi from Flinders St Station, which would take at least half an hour. If I drive the train to Flinders St, it would take about the same time.

Standing on a platform for half an hour with a train full of stranded Saturday night revellers opens you up to all sorts of ignorant abuse. So I finished the cigarette, make an anouncement apologising for the delay and head into the city.

I went half sick as soon as I got in, and now four years later, I still see the drunk guy’s eyes coming toward me closer and closer and closer whenever I relive the moment. Those eyes…

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68 comments

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    • Tedd says:

      05:17am | 12/10/11

      Aren’t the police called to charge ‘near-misses”, or to charge parents that abuse and assault drivers despite those parents being responsible for their children being hit by the train?

    • Mahhrat says:

      05:42am | 12/10/11

      What a fantastic article.  Unfortunately, you just can’t get over the stupidity of some people.

      It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where people think so little of their lives and the lives of others that this is an okay behaviour.

      To the driver, I hope you never hit anyone either mate.

    • Rocksteady says:

      09:51am | 12/10/11

      Agreed, we live in a society where personal responsibility is non-existent.
      Trip over a crack in the sidewalk - It’s the councils fault, sue for $40 k
      Drunk and fell down stairs in high heels - Pubs fault, get awarded $50k
        The list goes on and on. It sickening.

    • Willie Mac says:

      11:43am | 12/10/11

      Rocksteady, I think the problem is that there are simply too many lawyers. Some are necessary, but too many results in the current state where we have many ambulance-chasing bloodsuckers.

    • chungo mung says:

      10:09pm | 12/10/11

      what you say is true Willie Mac, but lets not take responsibility from the individuals, they are the ones who want something given to them for their own mistakes - a sense of deluded entitlement is part of it, but underneath, there is a lack of genuine value for their own life and the life of others. After all, the life of a train driver who is unwittingly driving the train that ends the life of someone - is also changed for ever.

    • gobsmack says:

      06:28am | 12/10/11

      There are far too many level crossings in Melbourne.

    • crizza says:

      08:06am | 12/10/11

      I can’t believe there are so many level crossing in Melbourne. We got rid of nearly all of them in Sydney years ago. I nearly had an accident when I drove across a train line at Mascot 30 years ago - for some reason the arm hadn’t come down. The big goods train blasted its horn and we just escaped.

    • Kate says:

      11:05am | 12/10/11

      No, there are far too many dickheads who don’t behave properly around level crossings.

    • Honeybee says:

      06:38am | 12/10/11

      Excellent article ... hope your luck holds out and you never hit anyone.

    • Fran Smith says:

      07:06am | 12/10/11

      Incredible article, Hunter, just incredible.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      07:11am | 12/10/11

      Excellent article. I have a lot of respect for train drivers and can’t imagine how terrifying those situations would be.

    • Andrew says:

      07:22am | 12/10/11

      Thanks alot for this great article, Hunter.  You saved that guys life.  That’s a big deal.

    • davo of Thorneside says:

      07:37am | 12/10/11

      A friend of mine, a driver, had hit and killed two suicidal people. Unfortunately for my friend, it slowly drove him into a long depression until his own death, from alcohol.

    • MarkS says:

      07:46am | 12/10/11

      People walking in front of trains is evolution in action. Pity that innocent bystanders & train workers have to be subjected to the trauma as well.

    • Fran Smith says:

      07:55am | 12/10/11

      What a disgusting thing to say Mark. Would you say that to the parents of Teresa Ho?

    • Pleasure O'Reilly says:

      08:06am | 12/10/11

      True. A friend of mine, in a bad mental state, lay down on the tracks one night. I hope the driver never found out, and I feel sorry for those who came upon the body.
      All the best to you, Hunter, great article.

    • Pleasure O'Reilly says:

      08:14am | 12/10/11

      What do you say to the parents? SORRY your daughter made such a poor choice, of course! It’s incredibly sad.
      My Gramps nearly shortcutted himself to death crossing the SYD /MELB line over at Glenroy -how do you tell an adult not to do that?

    • BTK says:

      08:27am | 12/10/11

      not to mention the delay to commuters that have to wait around for the details to be decided and the mess cleaned up, all major metropolitan areas and main lines should work much like the London Tube

    • TugboatBen says:

      09:11am | 12/10/11

      @BTK - The majority of the London Tube network is above ground, and I can tell you from very recent experience that large portions of the network can be crippled by one person on the tracks (ie at Hammersmith, closing the District, Piccadilly, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines, and stopping all trains to and from Heathrow). I do get your point though. However I think the cost implications of pushing entire networks underground would be a show stopper.

    • JS says:

      10:03am | 12/10/11

      @Pleasure O’Reilly - You shouldn’t HAVE to tell an adult not to do that. It’s common sense.

    • BTK says:

      10:06am | 12/10/11

      @TugboatBen - true that, although I was under the impression and correct me if I’m wrong, but I was told by a Londoner that nothing stops the tube, if people throw themselves on the tracks the trains keep going until about 3am and it’s dealt with then. that’s what we need, if people want to top themselves during peak hour they can wait to be cleaned up, I don’t see why I need to be inconvenienced just because someone wants to end their life, that’s what cliffs are for

    • TugboatBen says:

      10:38am | 12/10/11

      @BTK - I lived in London a few years back and can *fondly* remember during my couple of years worth of commuting that many things stop the tube, including the usual excuse of leaves on the track and “the wrong kind of snow”. Jokes aside, I don’t recall many incidents of people stopping trains but there were a few.

      The one I mentioned above (at Hammersmith) was my most recent Tube experience on a quick trip there about 6 weeks ago. The announcements were that the delays were due “a trespasser” / “a person on the tracks”. They didn’t mention anything one way or the other but I suspect it was a nice way of saying “body on the tracks”. Its shut all of the lines I mentioned for at least 3 hours (at approx midday), and in the end I missed my flight from Heathrow as a result.

    • Anne71 says:

      12:38pm | 12/10/11

      Fran Smith - what MarkS says is harsh but true.  He’s not talking about people who commit suicide by stepping in front of a train, but those people who decide to cross the line while one is approaching. Anyone with a modicum of sense knows it’s not a good idea to try to outrun hundreds of tonnes of metal moving at speed.
      I have zero sympathy for those who decide to take that risk - it is soley, 100% reserved for the poor driver of the train who has to live with it for the rest of his or her life, and for anyone else who sees it happen.

    • Fran Smith says:

      01:12pm | 12/10/11

      @ Anne 71 - you just don’t get it, do you? Teresa Ho did not decide to cross a train line while another train was coming from the other way. She unfortunately made a mistake, something you have obviously never done.

    • BTK says:

      01:48pm | 12/10/11

      @Fran - are you talking about the chick that had her head phones in, opened the gate, looked at the train coming and decided she could make it? She decided to cross, the gates were closed for a reason.

      Darwin award candidate

    • Anne71 says:

      01:56pm | 12/10/11

      No, Fran, I don’t think YOU get it. You seem to be one of those people who believe everything is always somebody else’s fault. Of course I’ve made mistakes. We all have, and we’ve all had to deal with the consequences. In the case of this young woman, the consequences were fatal.
      Yes, it is a tragedy, but as I said, my sympathy is more for the train driver than anyone else. He’s going to have to live with the consequences of her mistake for the rest of his life, even though it was something completely out of his control.  Not really fair on him, is it?

    • CBR says:

      07:52am | 12/10/11

      I have immense respect and sympathy for train drivers who suffer from the idiocy or selfishness of others. You just can’t stop a hundreds-of-tonnes train fast enough.

    • stevekag says:

      07:55am | 12/10/11

      Thank you for this article, it had me riveted all the way through.  My thoughts are often directed towards train & tram drivers when i hear of fatal accidents involving them. 
      Great read.

    • JT says:

      07:57am | 12/10/11

      Good on you Hunter.

      I ride the Pakenham line. Now I’m going to hope you are driving, although I’m sure your colleagues are all just as good

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      08:05am | 12/10/11

      As an ex train driver from Sydney, this aticle rings so true. The recommendation now is that the drivers pull down the blind or cover their faces if the inevitable is about to occur. The last thing suicide cases do is look straight into your eyes and this is the thing that haunts most drivers. I was told that 2.5 is the average number of fatalities for a driver over his/her career. I did not get any. (I only lasted 12 months, hated the job.) One guy was 28 years without a fatality. Another guy had 13 in 8 years. Roll your dice.

    • Mr Real says:

      08:30am | 12/10/11

      In Singapore, where they have started to roll out driverless trains on their Metro, there are of course NO level crossings. They also have full-length safety screens on the underground stations, and shoulder-high barriers on the above ground ones. The trains pull up precisely where the station doors are, which silently glide open when it is safe to do so.

      No drunks (if you are allowed to get drunk in Singapore) or suicide-victims can come to harm.

      But that is Singapore. Nothing like a modern metro seems possible in Australia.

      ps. Like most other readers, I was quite affected by this story. Nice one, Hunter.

    • iMitchy says:

      10:39am | 12/10/11

      I was trying to visualise what you have described in Singapore and the closest thing I can picture is the train (or maybe monorail) that connects the Kuala Lumpur International and Domestic Airports.

      An above ground Glass (or something stronger - but you know) tunnel running along the train line does seem like an effective and much cheaper alternative to sending trains underground.

      In Perth there are very few level crossings. Perth has done a great job of providing overpasses and underpasses, however this is mainly due to the fact that the main train line, which runs North to South from Clarkson to Mandurah is situated in the middle of the freeways. You literally have to walk over the top of four or five lanes of traffic to even get to the train platforms.

      Every now and then, if your driving on the freeway you might see a stopped train surrounded by emergency services personnel frantically working around a screened off area toward the rear of the train while passengers are being helped down ladders onto the tracks and led to buses. No level crossings around. These are the Suiciders.
      They tend to strike around the halfway mark between stations when the trains are neither accelerating or decelerating and likely travelling at their top speed, unable to stop before the person is hit.
      If you frequent the Mitchell or Kwinana Freeways it shouldn’t be too long before you see a similar scenario. But don’t bother switching on the news that night to see what caused the train delays because the media does not report the suicides, just the genuine accidents. So if there is no mention of it, you’ll know what happened. This is presumably so as not to run the risk of becoming an advertisement to others who might be considering ways to commit suicide.
      What a selfish way to go…

      Fantastic article Hunter. It’s good to get the driver’s POV.

    • Mr Real says:

      12:09pm | 12/10/11

      Sorry I wasn’t able to describeSingapore’s safety screens in words, iMitchy. Wikipedia has a picture and explanation in section 6. Safety, here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Rapid_Transit_(Singapore)

      The situation you mention in Perth is interesting…Here (Sydney) Perth is often held up as a prime example of how other cities do trains so much better (and cheaper). Running the line down the middle of a freeway explains a lot! No tunnelling, no expensive right-of-way negotiations, overpasses included in the cost of the road construction.

      Not a bad idea at all. And the would-be suicides may well be hit by trucks or cars before they even get to the tracks.

    • iMitchy says:

      01:08pm | 12/10/11

      It’s pretty similar, here is the KL one - Section 6.1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuala_Lumpur_International_Airport#Rail - To prevent rail deaths, the length of the tracks would have to be completely enclosed and the Singapore solution would fit perfectly with the underground stations (Perth City, Esplanade). The KL Airport glass enclosure is only inside the buildings though, it is an open air track outside but it is raised, out of the reach of people - not to mention the public cannot go onto the tarmac anyway to access the rail.

      But I can’t see this ever really happening. It would be a huge job and it could be very impractical at level crossings which is where the biggest probelm lies.

      As far as Perth rail in general, it’s pretty good but at peak periods on the main line, only every second train has 6 cars, while the other half have 3. The 3 car trains are packed in like sardines and the 6 car trains are crowded in the front 4 cars and virtually empty in the back 2. They could split the system to run 4 and 5 car trains respectively at no extra cost and make the whole thing a lot more convenient for everybody.
      At least the trains are only a few minutes apart in the afternoon though, and you can always let a small train go through and guarantee yourself a seat in the rear half of the next long one.

    • Anna C says:

      08:38am | 12/10/11

      I know it is expensive solution but I think we should get rid of all level crossings. They are just too dangerous.

    • Steve says:

      09:42am | 12/10/11

      They are not too dangerous for people who keep alert while driving, and around car traffic and rail lines.

      Level crossings are only dangerous for suicidal people and the extremely foolish.

      Removing level crossings would be very expensive and there are better uses for the money - unless you believe in the fiscal magic pudding.

      Why don’t we fence off the beach except for between the lifesaver’s flags? It would make as much sense, stopping all those suicides by drownings and people swimming dangerously while drunk or unfit.

      Great article BTW

    • Kate says:

      11:59am | 12/10/11

      A guy recently got hit at North Williamstown station. That station has an underpass and has had one for years. This guy just ignored it and decided to take his chances. No matter what you do, you can’t remove all avenues for people to make stupid decisions.

    • Anne71 says:

      12:23pm | 12/10/11

      Why should we get rid of level crossings? Most people with a modicum of intelligence know not to try to cross the line when there’s a train coming. 
      Seriously, when will people start taking responsibility for themselves, rather than expect the Government to bubble-wrap everything for them?

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      08:42am | 12/10/11

      People crossing the pit between platforms, people jumping off the ends of platforms, people going around the boom gates or through the emergency bypass gate, people walking alongside the tracks, car on the tracks (during a grand final weekend) that took out a signal and some overhead wiring, arranging taxis for the train drivers that hit someone, seeing the police and ambulance on a regular basis (usually on a Friday or Saturday night. Just life in the railway industry.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      11:21am | 12/10/11

      Forgot sheep on tracks and Prams rolling onto the tracks. (Please, Please hold onto that Pram while waiting at the platform)

    • Danny B says:

      09:07am | 12/10/11

      I think the best way to reduce the number of fatalities, is ultimately the education of the public.  The American have an organisation called ‘Operation Lifesaver’, which is dedicated to precisely this:

      oli.org

      Strikes me we need something similar here.

    • Danny B says:

      09:21am | 12/10/11

      Sorry, the link’s broken.

      Here’s the corrected one: oli.org

    • fairsfair says:

      10:39am | 12/10/11

      Queensland Rail is pretty big on education and warning.

      They recently tried this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsA_6qtrVgE

      However as with everything, it was just ignored. You can’t educate some people. You don’t need to be educated to not play chicken with a train, it is common sense. It is just people’s poor choices who get themselves in this situation and I struggle to work out what type or what amount of education would stop people from making idiotic decisions.

      I don’t think people ever think of the drivers. But then nobody ever thinks of the Firies who have to hose your blood off the road following a high speed accident (when the speed), the Police who have to find your body and notify your relatives after you suicide alone in your house. People just don’t care. All they care about is either ending their own suffering, or getting across to the other platform faster.

      Great article Hunter.

    • Phil says:

      10:57am | 12/10/11

      No we shouldnt.
      You dont need to be a professor to know that in the battle of Train Vs Meat Popsicle (us) the train will always win.

      We should avoid dumbing down the world for the stupid, before we become America as well look how that has turned out for them.

      You wont stop people who want to jump on front of a train to end it from doing so, the rest should be basic awareness as a human, if you dont have that then you arent going to survive long.

      This comes to mind with topics like this;
      http://youtu.be/gZAJJXK41ZA

    • JS says:

      11:10am | 12/10/11

      why do you think a person needs to be “educated” that they are going to come off second best to a train?

    • Leo says:

      09:09am | 12/10/11

      Very good article and a rare insight from the drivers perspective. It must be a similar situation with lorry drivers involved in accidents with cars. Big vehicles that give the victims little or no chance and the driver having to deal with the initial scene. I don’t think people realise just how many level crossings there are and the majority are rural with a very low volume of traffic. 99% of people would not have done what that young girl did the other day… sometimes we just can’t save people from the foolish decisions they make. Take away the level crossing and they will find some other way to get a Darwin award. Very sad for her grieving family and the poor driver who now has to live with this.

    • been there, done that says:

      09:11am | 12/10/11

      Been driving for twenty years. Level crossings in themselves aren’t dangerous. It’s people’s carelessness and impatience that make incidents happen.

      The only time I feel bad is when it involves little kids. The rest of the time? Well, I’ve seen too many who have no sense of self-awareness and personal safety. Not losing any sleep over them.

    • theo says:

      09:14am | 12/10/11

      Once upon a time i used to work at a bottle shop in ipswich, an hours drive from brisbane.
      As someone who has spoken to many train drivers on “stress” leave for unintentionally killing people, including the man who was driving the train that hit those 3 aboriginal children in Goodna a few years back, i can sincerely tell you that they rarely blame themselves which is fine with me.
      Most of those chaps have very thick skin and a very high tolerance for alcohol.

    • Fran Smith says:

      09:27am | 12/10/11

      Not losing any sleep over the tragic death of 15 year old Teresa Ho then, huh?

    • fairsfair says:

      11:24am | 12/10/11

      Whats you beef Fran? You’re response to Mark above is a little bit hysterical also.

      This young girl made a silly choice. Sadly she passed away. Now, she leaves behind many witnesses and the driver of a train who (like the author) will have HER EYES in his mind for the rest of his life.

      It is a horrific accident to which everyone feels for her and her family, but you have to be mindful that this wasn’t an out of control train that jumped a track. This wasn’t an event where she was pushed in front of the train. She chose to ignore the pedestrian measures and cross tracks when a train was coming.

      May she rest in peace and may her horrific demise be a warning to other people who listen to loud music and flout known safetly rules.

      Feel free to pen a tribute to Teresa Ho - I am sure the Punch would be all to happy to publish it.

    • Fran Smith says:

      12:10pm | 12/10/11

      @ Been there etc.. Your attitude is disgraceful. How about you speak to Teresa’s parents and tell them that their deceased daughter was an idiot.

      Your complete lack of sympathy for this young woman and her family is disgusting. Teenagers don’t always think before they act. Then again, neither do some adults who hide behind a computer and make comments without revealing their full name.

    • Ben C says:

      01:19pm | 12/10/11

      @ Fran Smith

      The only people who would be losing sleep over this incident are:

      1. The deceased’s parents, family and friends.
      2. The train driver who couldn’t stop the train in time.

      I would definitely call her an idiot for the following reasons:

      1. She went through an emergency exit to cross the tracks because a boom gate blocked access to the crossing due to a train approaching - she wilfully disobeyed a directive.
      2. She was crossing the tracks while she had earphones in her ears - she caused her own lack of awarenss of her surrounds.

      Her own recklessness led to her downfall, and inflicted a lifetime of suffering on her parents, family, friends and the train driver involved. Sad as it is, she paid hte ultimate price for her actions.

    • BTK says:

      01:53pm | 12/10/11

      none whatsoever

    • been there, done that says:

      02:31pm | 12/10/11

      Tell you what Fran, come with me for a day or two and see if we can have a fatality or two. We won’t worry about all of the near misses.

      Once you have been at the controls for a couple of them then I’ll let you have an opinion on how I should or shouldn’t feel.

    • Jos says:

      04:47pm | 12/10/11

      Jeez Fran, what is your problem? The girl made a deliberate and stupid decision. She died as a result of it. Why should the rest of the world feel bad for her and/or lose sleep for her? I think everyone feels sympathy for her parents, the bystanders and most of all for the poor train driver who had NO CHOICE in the matter. Teresa Ho had a choice, and she inflicted her decision on everyone else. She did not suffer but everyone else - her family, the witnesses, the driver - will suffer endlessly thanks to her poor decision making.

    • Emma says:

      01:45pm | 13/10/11

      Her friends were also screaming at her to stop but she ignored them too. My thoughts are with the driver.

    • LC says:

      09:57am | 12/10/11

      Interesting to see a driver’s perspective of this.  Level crossings and train stations are quite safe, it’s people’s impaitence that causes accidents. But you cannot save everyone from themselves. If you hit that drunk guy crossing the tracks I’d wouldn’t have shed a tear. The only time I have sypmpathy is when an innocent third party is involved. Like someone getting pushed in front of the oncoming train during a fight on the platform, or a child who gets hit by a train due to parents incompetence or carelessness.

    • Anne71 says:

      12:55pm | 12/10/11

      LC - it always chills me to the bone whenever I’m at a train station and I see small children running around as though it were a playground, even to the very edge of the platform, while Mum and/or Dad fondly look on.  All it takes is for them to slip or trip and it’s game over. Parents, please, keep your kids within arm’s reach when you’re on the platform, okay?

    • Traxster says:

      09:59am | 12/10/11

      Mr. Perske,if you aren’t already, you should be a writer,your article is much easier to read and understand than some of the stuff we get here in ‘The Punch”.Good luck and Godspeed.

    • Kika says:

      10:54am | 12/10/11

      Absolutely. One of my fathers friends was a ticket inspector for QR. He used to tell us that the amount of people being hit, almost hit and committing suicide on the tracks is much higher than anyone would believe. A lot of the time when they say there is disruption on the line, or a ‘police incident’ is exactly this.

      It’s not their fault. Unless they were drunk or on drugs, how could it be? You can’t stop a 280 tonne machine like that. It’s almost Darwinian. If people are dumb enough not to pay attention to their surroundings or their safety, or are so drunk they don’t even care - who’s fault is that? They take themselves out of the gene pool…

    • Audax says:

      02:25pm | 12/10/11

      A train driver I met once told me that on the Perth metropolitan train network, the average was 1 person a week being hit and killed by a train.  Details of suicides are rarely, if ever published.

    • Emily says:

      02:58pm | 12/10/11

      My last workplace was alongside a train line. The number of cars who queued across the rail lines even though the traffic lights were red never failed to amaze me.

    • stephen says:

      05:46pm | 12/10/11

      I predict the next fatality to be across Geebung railway line at the station.
      There are 2 sets of traffic lights each side of the crossing, and the gates will close for, most often, three trains.
      That’s a 6 or 7 minute wait and the traffic is lined up for at least 350 metres, which means if you are turning into on-coming traffic, you may as well be waiting for Tony Abbott’s en-passant.

      Drivers get bloody well impatient at this, and pedestrians and drivers will continue to take their chances crossing against the lights.

    • Adrian says:

      05:54pm | 12/10/11

      I am living in London and over here the dlr drives with no driver, the staff on the train just make announcements and operate the doors. If this same technology was used on the trains in Melbourne people would soon learn there is nobody to see them on the tracks and try to stop the train. So any death or injury there would be only one person to blame, that being themselves.

    • Flo says:

      10:51am | 13/10/11

      Very well written article Hunter. As the wife of a former QR employee, and friend of a number of drivers, I’ve heard some horrific stories over the years. What upsets me most in a lot of cases is the willingness of the public to blame the actions of the driver, or the company. One particular fatality in our area comes to mind, there were many stories about the poor young man who had been the victim of supposedly poorly maintained /inadequate crossing signage, and oft mentioned rumours that the driver was drunk or speeding. Out of sensitivity to the family, it was never released that the young man had committed suicide - waiting at night behind a building until the train was close, and then flinging himself in it’s path. It was labelled an accident and reported as such. Thankfully the driver’s name was also not released, so he has not had the added grief of people assaulting him, or blaming him directly. Sadly,  that didn’t stop the local know-alls from gleefully tossing the words manslaughter and murder about as though they had some sort of inside information. As sad as I feel for the injured or killed, and their families, my first thought is always with the driver - families can be comforted by the thought their loved one may have been killed so quickly that they never knew what happened. The drivers (as Hunter mentions) have the memory of those eyes.

    • Mel says:

      02:49pm | 13/10/11

      I was once in the position of the couple on the platform, watching to see if the train would be able to stop in time (in my case, the person either fell or jumped onto the tracks in front of the train, I don’t know which). I vividly remember the girl beside me saying “I can’t watch this” and turning away, but I couldn’t stop watching. To this day, I freak out anytime anyone goes past the yellow line. I feel terrible for the drivers - thanks for the article.

    • Cassandra says:

      09:17am | 17/10/11

      If you want to get read, this is how you soluhd write.

    • Steve V says:

      01:07pm | 05/11/11

      Great article HP.  Sadly this sort of thing is increasingly becoming “just another day on the job”.  They do what they do, abuse us for the privilege, then walk away into the night as if it never happened.

      It leaves you with an adrenaline surge that lasts for hours, and the lack of closure often makes you wonder if you’d have felt better if you’d actually hit them.

      On my last near miss - three teenagers walking in the middle of the track on a blind curve, I could hear the passengers behind the bulkhead having a good old laugh.  “Shoulda hit ‘em”, I could hear one saying.

      Lucky for them that they didn’t see it from my perspective.  Even luckier that I didn’t offer them my thoughts on theirs.  I wonder if they later had the nerve to complain about the ten minutes the train was delayed?

 

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