9 February 2024

Level crossing upgrade behind schedule but Labor promises not to repeat 'mistakes' of Nationals

| Chris Roe
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Nationals MP Steph Cooke at the Goldfields Way level crossing. Photo: Steph Cooke.

Cootamundra MP Steph Cooke is pressuring the NSW Government to get moving on promised upgrades to the level crossing on Goldfields Way at Old Junee.

The commitments to safety improvements were made by the previous Coalition administration and were scheduled to be finished late last year.

“Having inspected the site myself last week, I was deeply concerned that work has not even started, let alone been completed,” Ms Cooke said.

“I immediately alerted the Regional Transport Minister to this lack of action, so I’m very pleased she has listened to my concerns – and those of the local community – and has included this rail crossing on a list of priority projects across NSW that will share in federal funding aimed at enhancing safety at high-risk level crossings.”

The busy level crossing on Goldfields Way has long been a point of concern for locals who have been assured that high-intensity LED flashing lights, bells, and retro-reflective boom gates will be installed.

“We have been promised that work will get underway on the Goldfields Way crossing very soon, and I will certainly be keeping a close watch on this, to ensure progress is made in the first half of this year.”

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Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison addressed the issue in Question Time on Thursday (8 February) and said Labor would not “make the same mistakes Steph Cooke and the former government did on level-crossing upgrades”.

Ms Aitchison confirmed that assessments were complete and “construction contract discussions are underway” and hit back at the Nationals member who had “12 long years to upgrade this level crossing”.

“Planning work on the level crossing upgrade was started in 2021-22 and the former government promised to complete it by September 2022,” Ms Aitchison said before confirming Labor’s commitment to follow through.

“The NSW Labor Government has received $28 million from the Federal Government to deliver this and 22 other regional NSW level crossing upgrades over the next four years.

“I am determined to ensure this level-crossing upgrade is delivered.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison addresses level crossing upgrades during Question Time. Photo: NSW Parliament.

In March last year, a similar level crossing on the nearby Canola Way was the site of a collision between a freight train and a grain truck.

The train was derailed, multiple carriages overturned and three men were taken to Wagga Base Hospital.

“While more warning signs have been erected, clearly more needs to be done to improve safety at the Canola Way level crossing,” said Ms Cooke as she urged the Minister to heed the warnings from locals.

“We need a greater focus and more investment on keeping people safe at level crossings.”


Train derailment at Old Junee in March 2023. Photo: NSW Ambulance.

According to Transport for NSW, there are 1307 level crossings on public roads and of these, 858 level crossings have a stop or give way sign.

Between 2001 and 2021 there were 164 crashes at level crossings between trains and road vehicles with 16 deaths and 26 incidents resulting in serious injuries.

That translates to slightly more than eight crashes per year, or one crash every six weeks at a level crossing in NSW.

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New technologies are being trialled at several locations across the state including Mary Gilmore Way at Bribbaree.

It’s hoped that augmented stop signs and advance warning signs with high-intensity LED lights will help to reduce collisions on regional crossings.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

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