Fatalities & injuries on the Australian light rail network

Every life lost and injury on the rail network is a tragedy and the impacts on family, friends, communities, rail and recovery staff and witnesses can be profound. These incidents together with thousands of near hits each year can cause trauma and work-related stress and illness to rail and recovery staff. They also cause disruption and delays to hundreds of services each year impacting customers and economic efficiency.

Working closely with rail organisations, the TrackSAFE Foundation is actively engaged in a wide range of rail safety and suicide prevention activities including public awareness campaigns, facilitation of the annual Rail Safety Week and knowledge sharing activities across the rail sector, the commissioning of new research and working with and advocacy to governments.  

Light rail vehicles (trams) have been an important part of the public transport network in many of Australia’s cities over the last century.  However, with the increasing prominence and affordability of private vehicles, some of these networks were retired.  But the last couple of decades has seen a renaissance and new light rail services.

Light rail vehicles have been operating continuously in Melbourne since 1906 and the Yarra Trams network is the largest operating urban light rail network in the world (250km).  Light rail operations were closed in Sydney and Adelaide by the 1960s.  In 1997 new light rail operations were opened in Sydney and subsequently extended to a 25km network and reintroduced in Adelaide (16km network) in 2020.  The Gold Coast light rail (20km) was opened in 2014 and Newcastle (3km) and Canberra light rail (12km) in 2019.  The Gold Coast and Canberra light rail networks are currently being extended and a new service will be opened in Parramatta NSW in 2024.

Some people may find the content of this report confronting or distressing. The information included here places an emphasis on data, and as such, can appear to depersonalise the pain and loss behind the statistics. If this material raises concerns for you contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Between 2016 – 2021 there were 5 fatalities and 855 injuries  plus 10 people who attempted suicide but were not injured.  Most incidents occur in Melbourne which has the largest light rail network.

Of the fatalities, 1 was the result of a fall on a light rail vehicle and 4 were incidents with pedestrians.

Most (62%) serious and minor injuries were the result of slips, trips and falls onboard or alighting or disembarking.

13 people attempted suicide on the light rail network between 2016-2021.  1 incident resulted in serious injuries, 2 incidents resulted in minor injuries and in 10 incidents there were no injuries.    There were no fatalities that were suspected suicides.

The TrackSAFE Foundation report Fatalities & injuries on Australian Light Rail 2016-2021 is available here.

Other useful resources:

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, Key occurrences interactive data

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, annual Rail Safety Reports

TrackSAFE Foundation, Fatalities and Injuries on the Australian Heavy Rail Network

Australasian Railway Association, Light Rail