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2011 - July - Ross - Rail regeneration -  what are the risks? 2011 - July - Ross - Rail regeneration - what are the risks?

Alan Ross MSc, BSc, Grad Dip OSH, CMIOSH

Principal, A & K Ross Associates Pty Ltd (AKRA)

Rail regeneration in Australia is gaining some much-needed momentum, at long last. There are improvement schemes and upgrades all over the country, from the mining railways of WA to Regional Rail Link in Victoria, not forgetting the Adelaide Electrification Project.

Many of these projects have in common that they are undertaken in a live rail environment alongside an operating railway. It is not possible to shut down operating railways for extended (or even short) periods. It is also not uncommon for signalling systems to be shut down at certain times in projects to facilitate installation and commissioning of new equipment. The railway runs with a degraded mode of safe working, whilst trains continue to operate 'normally'. Such situations also arise in unplanned situations. Finally, the question of protecting track workers: have systems for protection kept up with other railway developments?

The risks associated with such a scenario are obvious and have resulted in a number of serious incidents. This paper will describe some of the incidents, highlight some of the lessons learned and consider ways in which the introduced risks can be eliminated or significantly mitigated. With the statutory obligation on rail operators to eliminate risks or, where that is not reasonably practicable, to reduce risk so far as is reasonably practicable, what is the role of the Regulator and are they up to the task?

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