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This page clarifies the terms used within this section of the website. These definitions are in line with Section 4 of the Railways Act 2005(external link) (the Act), where applicable.

Note: This doesn’t include definitions of the accident/incident categories. These are contained on the Accident and incident categories page.

Glossary of terms

  • Accident

    According to the Act, the term ‘accident’ refers only to serious events, which means all rail accidents require immediate notification. The definition is provided below:

    An accident means an occurrence associated with the operation of a rail vehicle or the use of railway infrastructure or railway premises that causes:

    • the death of, or serious injury to, individuals; or
    • significant damage to property.
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  • Contractor

    A person, and any employee of that person, who has a contract of service to carry out work for a rail participant and is carrying out that work.

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  • Incident

    An incident means an occurrence, other than an accident, that is associated with the operation of a rail vehicle or the use of railway infrastructure or railway premises that placed, or could have placed:

    • a person at risk of death or serious injury, or
    • property at risk of significant damage.
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  • Level crossing

    A level crossing is an area where a road and a railway meet at substantially the same level, whether or not there is a level crossing sign on the road at all or any of the entrances to the area.

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  • Metrage

    Metrage is marked out by trackside pegs every kilometre and every half kilometre, and is used as a way of communicating the track location of features such as culverts, train signals, or tack faults. Metrage is measured and read in kilometres.

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  • Near collision

    Any occurrence where the driver of a moving train or rail vehicle, takes emergency action, or would have if there was sufficient time, to avoid impact with a person, vehicle or other obstruction and no collision occurred. Emergency action includes continuous audible warning and/or brake application.

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  • Passenger

    A person travelling or intending to travel on a train, including:

    • before and after travel, but while on railway premises, irrespective of whether they have a valid authority to travel
    • an employee travelling while not on duty
    • person boarding or alighting from train
    • person travelling without a valid ticket
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  • ‘Placed’ vs. ‘Could have placed’

    Distinguishes how close an incident was to potentially injuring someone or damaging property:

    • Placed: People or property avoided harm only through luck and/or emergency action (eg a train passes unauthorised into a section with workers on-track, but stops in time after the driver spots them).
    • Could have placed: People or property avoided imminent harm because further preventative safety controls intervened (eg in-service failure of a safety-critical component but further safety controls were available).
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  • Public

    In relation to an accident or incident, public refers to any person affected who is not rail personnel, a passenger or a trespasser.

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  • Rail activity

    The rail activities of a rail participant, or for which a rail participant is responsible, are as follows:

    • in the case of an infrastructure owner, the ownership of railway infrastructure
    • in the case of a rail vehicle owner, the ownership and management of rail vehicles
    • in the case of a railway premises owner, the ownership and maintenance of railway premises (whether or not the railway premises owner is also a maintenance provider)
    • in the case of an access provider, the operation and maintenance of all railway infrastructure that is, or relates to, the railway lines controlled by the access provider (whether or not the access provider is also an infrastructure owner, maintenance provider, or network controller)
    • in the case of a rail operator, the operation and maintenance of rail vehicles (whether or not the rail operator is also a rail vehicle owner or maintenance provider)
    • in the case of a maintenance provider, the maintenance of any railway infrastructure or rail vehicles or railway premises
    • in the case of a railway premises manager, the management and operation of railway premises
    • in the case of a network controller, the authorisation of rail vehicles occupying or moving on a railway line, and
    • in the case of a class of person prescribed as a rail participant by regulations, the activities prescribed by regulations as being the rail activities of persons of that class.
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  • Rail participant

    A rail participant means any of the following:

    • an infrastructure owner
    • a rail vehicle owner
    • a railway premises owner
    • an access provider
    • a rail operator
    • a network controller
    • a maintenance provider
    • a railway premises manager
    • any other class of person prescribed as a rail participant by regulations.
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  • Rail personnel

    Rail personnel, in relation to a rail participant, means an individual engaged by the rail participant or by an agent or contractor of the rail participant, whether as an employee, agent, contractor, or volunteer, for the purposes of carrying out, or assisting in carrying out, rail activities of the rail participant.

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  • Rail vehicle (aka Rolling stock)

    Means any vehicle that runs on, or uses, a railway line; including:

    • a locomotive, rail carriage, rail wagon, railcar, light rail vehicle, rail maintenance vehicle (whether or not self-propelled), and any other vehicle prescribed as a rail vehicle by regulations, and
    • a vehicle designed to operate both on rails and off rails, but only when that vehicle is running on rails.
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  • Railway infrastructure

    Railway infrastructure means:

    • railway lines:
    • rail traffic control equipment
    • communications equipment
    • electrical traction equipment, and
    • any other property specified as railway infrastructure in regulations.
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  • Road vehicle

    A vehicle or any device in, on, or by which any person or property is permitted to be transported on a public or private roadway.

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  • Serious injury

    Serious injuries are also known as ‘notifiable injuries’. Section 23 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link) defines a notifiable injury as:

    • any of the following injuries or illnesses that require the person to have immediate treatment (other than first aid):
      • the amputation of any part of his or her body
      • a serious head injury
      • a serious eye injury
      • a serious burn
      • the separation of his or her skin from an underlying tissue (such as degloving or scalping)
      • a spinal injury
      • the loss of a bodily function
      • serious lacerations
    • an injury or illness that requires, or would usually require, the person to be admitted to a hospital for immediate treatment
    • an injury or illness that requires, or would usually require, the person to have medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance.
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  • Train

    One or more rail vehicles coupled together, at least one of which is a locomotive or other self-propelled unit that is designed to be operated on a railway.

    Train type


    Freight train

    A train that is designed and used for carrying freight, whether or not it is carrying freight at the time of an occurrence

    Metro passenger train

    A passenger train that primarily travels within designated metropolitan areas

    Non-metro passenger train

    A passenger train that travels outside designated metropolitan areas

    Tourist and heritage passenger train

    A passenger train operated by a designated tourist and heritage rail operator

    Track maintenance train

    A type of train that is designed and used for track inspection and maintenance work


    A specific type of passenger train running on rails that includes being laid in a public road

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  • Trespasser

    A person who is on railway infrastructure, railway premises, or rail vehicles, whether intentionally or negligently, with no right or authority to be there.

    Examples include a person:

    • with an intention to commit suicide
    • travelling in a place not authorised for their use (eg outside trains)
    • who uses, without authority, a recognised ‘staff only’ crossing at a station (eg a staff foot crossing)
    • who acts in disobedience of warning signs or signals, or strays away from the normal route of the level crossing
    • crossing the track anywhere other than at an authorised crossing point
    • electrocuted while dangling or throwing objects from a position on non-railway property onto overhead line equipment, conductor rails at bridges etc.
    • who falls or jumps from a station platform , unless the person did not have an intent to fall or jump (in which case they should be treated as a ‘passenger’, ‘employee’ or ‘public’)
    • on railway premises with an intention to carry out illegal activities
    • carrying out maintenance or construction activity without a permit to do so.
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  • Volunteer

    A person who undertakes railway work for a rail participant on a voluntary or unpaid basis and is carrying out that work.

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  • Wrong-side failure

    A wrong-side failure describes a failure condition in a piece of railway signalling equipment that results in an unsafe state. A typical example would be a signal showing a 'proceed' aspect (eg green) when it should be showing a 'stop' or 'danger' aspect.

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