10 August 2022

High tech lights to boost safety at Bribbaree rail crossing

| Edwina Mason
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NSW Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke with Transport for NSW Director West Alistair Lunn and rail safety crossing advocate Maddie Bott. Photo: Steph Cooke MP.

Two and a half years after a truck driver miraculously survived a collision with a train at a level crossing outside the Hilltops village of Bribbaree, flashing lights are to be installed at that very location.

The level crossing on Mary Gilmore Way, two kilometres north-west of Bribbaree, will be one of the first level crossings to be part of a new statewide trial of new warning technology geared to reduce the risk of level crossing collisions between trains and vehicles in the regional areas.

The trial will see innovative signs with LED flashing lights installed to increase and improve awareness and safety at this site and another near the Western NSW town of Narromine.

The trial in Narromine will evaluate the effectiveness of a stop sign with LED warning lighting.

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The Bribbaree trial will also monitor the effectiveness of stop signs with LED warning lights and LED streetlights.

A truck driver from The Rock survived this collision with a freight train north-west of Bribbaree in 2020. Photo: NSW Police.

Announced during Rail Safety Week, the news has been welcomed by locals who have long campaigned for better visibility of freight trains which frequently travel, day and night, along the rail line network between Stockinbingal and Parkes.

Among them is local nurse Maddie Bott, whose resolute campaigning for improved safety controls at level railway crossings has echoed across the nation.

Maddie’s fiancé, Ethan Hunter, 27, was one of two men who died when the B-double they were travelling in collided with a train at a private level railway crossing, about seven kilometres away, at Eurabba Station about 5pm on 21 February, 2021.

The other was a work colleague and father-of-three Mark Fenton, aged 50, of Grenfell.

The accident occurred almost a year to the day after a driver from the NSW Riverina town of The Rock was travelling north-east on Mary Gilmore Way when his truck collided with the front wagons of a freight train about 7am on 18 February, 2020.

That crash resulted in a derailment but the driver escaped the wreckage and according to police was able to return home from work that day.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said she had been working hand in hand with Ms Bott in advocating for improved safety and was delighted to announce the local trial.

“If successful we could see these rolled out across the electorate and potentially save more lives and ensure everyone gets home to their loved ones,” Ms Cooke said.

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With more than 2700 road level crossings on the NSW rail network, Ms Cooke said she wanted to improve safety in country areas.

The trial is funded through the Digital Restart Fund and will commence later this year with the data collected used to determine the effectiveness of the new technology.

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said a contract had been signed with Sage Automation and the detailed design work was underway.

“Level crossing crashes devastate families and communities, which is why we want to use innovation and technology to help save lives,” he said.

Regional Transport and Roads minister Sam Farraway said the government had listened to concerns raised through the community petition led by Maddie Bott.

“Sixty-eight per cent of public road crossings use only stop and give way signs to warn about the presence of a level crossing and the need to stop to look for trains,” Mr Farraway said.

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He said Transport for NSW had developed a new strategic direction to help fast-track improvements at level crossings which involved trialling the use of new technology.

“On top of this we have reduced speed limits to 80km/h at more than 50 level crossings across regional NSW as part of the Level Crossing Speed Zone Reduction Program,” he said.

“We know a lot of crashes at level crossings occur where the road speed limit is 100km/h or greater, so reducing the speed limit gives drivers more time to see the level crossing ahead and stop for oncoming trains,” Mr Farraway added.

Maddie Bott presented at the 2022 Australian Rail Safety forum in Sydney. She provides updates to her campaign for level rail crossing safety through the Facebook page Eurabba Heroes.

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