Fatalities & injuries on the Australian heavy 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. More information about the impact on the train driver is explained here.

They also cause disruption and delays to hundreds of services each year impacting customers and economic efficiency. The average annual economic burden of railway safety incidents in Australia during the period 2007-2015 was estimated to be approximately $360.1 million.

Working closely with rail organisations, the TrackSAFE Foundation is actively engaged in a wide range of rail safety activities including public awareness campaigns and facilitating Rail Safety Week each year. To prevent suicides on the rail network, TrackSAFE advocates for fencing and other barriers to reduce access to the rail corridor, encourages individuals to seek help before and at the time of crisis and will launch Suicide Awareness Training for rail staff in September 2023. TrackSAFE also promotes the responsible reporting of suspected and attempted suicides by the media. In partnership with Lifeline Australia, TrackSAFE implements public awareness campaigns to encourage individuals to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, whether they are in crisis or just needing someone to talk to. The Pause.Call.Be Heard signage is used widely in the rail corridor as well as being delivered digitally in bursts to those in and near the corridor.

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 2001-2022 there were 2,250 fatalities – 1,620 suicides or suspected suicides and 630 other fatalities.  This is a total annual average of 102 fatalities per year (74 suicides & suspected suicides and 28 other fatalities), or almost 2 each week

Most occur in Victoria (43%) followed by New South Wales (31%), Queensland (12%), Western Australia (9%) and South Australia (5%) and 7 in the Northern Territory, 5 in Tasmania and 2 in the Australian Capital Territory.

Since 2016 rail operators have been required to report to ONRSR occurrences – be they fatalities, injuries or near misses in accordance with the National Rail Safety National Law.  Between 2016-2022 there were:

  • a total of 1,273 fatalities, injuries and attempted suicides with no injuries reported on ONRSR, an average of 182 per year. 
  • 588 fatalities, an average of 84 per year.  500 of these fatalities were suspected suicides (an average of 71 per year and 85% of all fatalities).
  • 449 attempted suicides.  There are likely to have been many more attempted suicides and threats of self-harm that did not meet the regulatory reporting threshold.
  • 53 fatalities and 100 injuries to trespassers.  In addition, there were 5,747 near misses with trespassers, an average of 821 per year.  There are likely to have been many more near misses that did not meeting the regulatory reporting threshold.
  • 20 fatalities and 118 injuries as a result of collisions with a road vehicle at a level crossing and 13 fatalities and 16 injuries as result of collisions with a pedestrian at a level crossing.  In addition, there were 6,572 near misses at level crossings, an average of 939 per year. There are likely to have been many more near misses that did not meeting the regulatory reporting threshold.
  • There were 2 other-struck by train fatalities and 2 injuries.

National & state reports

The reports below include fatalities, injuries and near misses, as well as suicide, suspected suicide and attempted suicide on the Australian heavy rail network.

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