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No lights, no boom gates – more must be done to fix unsafe level crossings

6 April, 2021
No lights, no boom gates – more must be done to fix unsafe level crossings Image

During a trip to Nyngan recently the Bogan Shire Council raised the need for the Government to fund an upgrade to the Hoskins Street rail crossing.

If you’re not familiar with Nyngan it’s divided by the railway line, that’s used by large freight trains to take grain and ore from Cobar and Nyngan to the ports along the coast. On one side of the track are the schools and the Bogan Shire Medical Centre, the CBD and on the other side the hospital, ambulance and fire station.

There are three railway crossings within the township of Nyngan at the Moonagee Street crossing there’s flashing lights and pedestrian maze, at the Mitchell Street crossing boom gates, flashing lights and pedestrian maze and at the Hoskins Street crossing just stop signs.

Trains whip through Nyngan at 80km/hr and the lack of adequate safety measures at each crossing has the community concerned – a petition obtained hundreds of signatures from locals. The Council has written on numerous occasions to the NSW Government, previous Transport Ministers, and the current Regional Transport Minister, John Holland Group, and the former Member for Barwon. Their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

They’ve now commissioned their own independent Risk Assessment which says something must be done. I’ve taken this issue up on behalf of the Council and the Nyngan community.

When I posted on my Facebook page about my call for the Nyngan rail crossing to be upgraded a number of people started to get in contact with me about unsafe crossings in their communities. Tragic stories about people losing their lives at crossings without adequate safety measures. In NSW, the majority of rail crossings are classified as passive – meaning they only need to have a Stop or Give way sign, despite being in use. Every year there are over 1000 documented near misses from people ignoring these signs.

There is currently a Petition on the NSW Parliament website “Improving safety at level crossings” started by the Fiancé of a man who lost his life at a level crossing the Petition reads: 

To the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly,

I would like to draw your attention to the issue of level crossing safety. On 23/02/2021, at a passive level crossing my Fiancé and his work colleague lost their lives when their truck collided with a train. As a passive crossing it only had a stop sign. Visibility at this crossing was affected by many factors including over grown grass, trees blocking the view, and the road they approached the crossing from is not at 90 degrees to the track. Had this crossing had lights these factors would have been irrelevant as they would of been notified of the oncoming train and would not of proceeded to cross the railway track.

We have more than 3,800 in New South Wales. There are 1,363 public level crossings in New South Wales and only 30% of these crossings have active warning controls, the rest are passive. By 2030 heavy vehicle traffic is predicted to increase by 50% and rail freight to increase by 90%.These numbers are from predictions made in 2012 as part of research for the Level Crossing Closures Policy. However this predates the inland rail project which will lead to more traffic and greater risk of these types of collisions.

Therefore the undersigned petitioners are requesting the legislative assembly to:
1. Make warning lights mandatory at all level crossings.
2. Decrease speed limits on highways as approaching level crossings.
3. Make trains more visible with reflective material and better lights.

I encourage you to sign so we can put pressure on the NSW Government to upgrade these unsafe crossings. I’ll also be taking this issue to the Parliamentary Road Safety committee I sit on.

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