Call for action on dangerous rail level crossings across regional NSW

Nana Glen resident Jodie Williams crossing the rail track into Hilltop Farm Riding and Agistment Centre.

NATIONALS MP Paul Toole has called on State and Federal Governments to provide major safety upgrades to railway crossings across NSW, with affected Coffs Coast locals echoing his concerns.

On Friday 2 February, the Federal Government released the National Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2023–2032.

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The strategy has been developed by the National Level Crossing Safety Committee, comprising representatives from federal, state and local governments, rail industry associations and regulators.

The strategy sets out a plan of upgrades, committing to reducing fatalities and injuries at the more than 20,000 level crossings intersecting with roads and pathways across the nation.

The upgrades needed are about improving railway crossing safety in regional areas and reducing serious and fatal accidents.

Mr Toole, who serves as the Member for Bathurst, has called for these upgrades to specifically include installation of the latest technology and safety equipment such as retro-reflective boom gates, audible warning devices, updated signage and LED flashing lights to increase the visibility of crossings on both sides of the roadway in response to approaching trains.

“Railway crossings are vital, however the current state of many crossings in New South Wales falls short of the safety standards required for a modern and rapidly evolving transportation landscape,” Mr Toole said.

“The need for these improvements has become increasingly evident, given the growing volume of rail and road traffic and the critical role that railways play in the state’s economy.”

Over the past thirteen years there have been more than 80 collisions involving trains and vehicles at level crossings in NSW alone.

The proprietors of Hilltop Farm Riding and Agistment Centre on Morrows Road in Nana Glen, Michelle Muller and her family have to drive over a railway line to access and exit their property, as do her equestrian clients.

“We’ve been trying for many, many years to get something done about our crossing,” Michelle told News Of The Area.

Due to visibility issues, drivers sometimes have seconds, not minutes, to safely cross the track.

Hilltop Farm is frequented by drivers with horse boxes, as well as produce trucks.

“One lady won’t come back because she had a near miss,” she said.

After a train derailment accident in Nana Glen in 2021, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) visited Michelle’s property, agreeing that the crossing did not meet safety standards.

However, no warning signs were installed.

Part of the problem, said Michelle, is that the companies which provide the rail maintenance change.

“The different contactors all come out and agree it’s unsafe, take photos, make notes and still nothing gets done,” she said.

Another resident of Nana Glen, Jodie Williams, President of the Coffs Harbour Branch of the Country Women’s Association of NSW, told NOTA she contacted ARTC about the crossing on Morrows Road at Hilltop Farm for two reasons.

“My main concern being that the crossing needs to have boom gates and at the very least warning lights and bells.
“I also requested that the road going over the tracks be maintained.

“I, as many do, regularly tow a horse float over the tracks to access Hilltop Riding and Agistment Centre.

“The gravel road was so poor and was a good few inches below the tracks that you really had to get up speed to get the vehicle and float over, a bit counter intuitive when the signage tells you to stop and look for trains,” she said.

“The second issue of safety is huge, especially as this crossing is right on a cutting, so you have no ability to either see or hear the train travelling north bound until it is less than 100 meters away.”

Jodie asked the ARTC to install warning bells and boom gates, as are installed at nearby Palomino Drive and East Bank Road.

“I asked at the very least that train drivers give a short toot, to warn us of an oncoming train.

“The road was maintained but I received no answer on the safety issue, which was very disappointing.

“It concerns me that safety in the regional area seems to be of no concern to the ARTC.”

Nana Glen local businessman and volunteer Glenn Locke lives near three rail crossings, one with a boom gate and two without.

“It’s not the gated ones that worry me, it’s the ones without a boom gate; I’m terrified of them.

“You’ve just got to be distracted for a second or two and you could be hit by an XPT (express passenger train).”

The rail crossing at the Jetty Beach Park however, does have safety bells and whistles.

When the train comes through several times a day the gates come down and the pedestrian crossing is locked, but some residents still describe it as a potentially vulnerable spot.

Born and bred Coffs Harbour local Tammy Mills-Thom, a Director of Coffs Harbour Yacht Club and frequent user of the crossing, told News Of The Area, “Better planning could have given us a major overpass which linked through to Howard Street from the southern end of the Jetty Precinct.

“I believe this option still has potential.

“However, the option of an overpass off Orlando Street is now highly improbable.

“Long term planning could have alleviated the difficulties we now have.”


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