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Rail safety petition passes 20,000 as CWA lends its support

Edwina Mason23 June 2021
Maddie Bott standing outside NSW Parliament House

Since her fiance, Ethan Hunter, and his work colleague were killed in a collision west of Young in February 2021, Maddie Bott has been campaigning for better safety measures at level railway crossings. Photo: Eurabba Heroes Facebook.

The NSW Country Women’s Association (CWA) has stepped in to reinforce the campaign by a Young nurse calling for urgent action on safety at all level crossings across the state.

This news emerged last week after the CWA’s annual conference in Bega passed a motion of urgency requesting the NSW Government to immediately commit to increasing safety measures at all level crossings in NSW “so that wherever possible and practicable, all public level crossings are equipped with warning lights as a minimum safety feature”.

The motion was put to the conference following the death of two men when their B-double truck was hit by a freight train at a passive level crossing at Bribbaree, about 70km northwest of Young, on 23 February, 2021.

Since then, Maddie Bott – the fiancee of one of the men, Ethan Hunter – has been agitating for better safety measures, including petitioning the NSW Government.

With a goal of 20,000 signatures on the parliamentary ePetition, Maddie was thrilled to hit 20,163 well ahead of the deadline of 5 July.

“I wish I could be sitting with Ethan today having a beer and watch together as our petition ticked over to the magical 20,000th signature,” she wrote on Facebook. “But undeniably he’s somewhere close and counting down with me.

“From the very bottom of our hearts we thank every single person who signed and shared our petition. We hit it and still have two weeks to go! We are off to Parliament for a debate!”

The CWA is encouraging its members to “support the petition as a matter of urgency”.

The motion also includes a call for advocacy for increased safety measures at private crossings.

Maddie Bott and Ethan Hunter

Maddie Bott with her fiance, Ethan Hunter, who was killed earlier this year at a level crossing. Photo: Eurabba Heroes Facebook.

The motion applies to the high number of ‘passive’ level crossings, or those that are only marked by a stop sign or give-way sign.

NSW CWA president Stephanie Stanhope said safety at level crossings where there are no flashing lights or boom gates have always been an issue, and it is time something more was done to prevent further lives being lost.

“We know there are more than 3800 level crossings on both public roads and private roads in NSW, and many fall into this ‘passive’ category,” she said.

“We also know that a range of factors can impede people when it comes to seeing a train coming towards these crossings, and without a clear warning, such as flashing lights, drivers can mistakenly believe it’s safe to cross.

“Obviously there is a cost attached to these kinds of upgrades, but we’d argue the human cost is far higher, and that rural and regional residents should expect the same measures of safety as those in metropolitan areas.”

Ms Stanhope said with the endorsement of the motion by CWA conference delegates, the association will now make representations to the NSW Government and do whatever is necessary to have this important issue prioritised.

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