15 December 2022

Train and truck collide at notorious level crossing as promised warning lights remain delayed

| Edwina Mason
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This level rail crossing sits northwest of Bribbaree and has been the site of two collisions involving a truck and freight train, the latest on Tuesday evening. Photo: Google Earth.

UPDATED 5:15 pm: Since publication, a spokesperson from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has provided the following information to Region.

An ARTC spokesperson said the collision between the freight train and truck occurred around 3:55 pm on Tuesday.

Freight services between Stockinbingal and Parkes were suspended while the locomotive was inspected. The track was reopened at 5:15 pm on Wednesday, 14 December.

The spokesperson said the level crossing where the incident occurred is a passive level crossing with a stop sign and ARTC is currently in discussions with Weddin Shire Council and Transport for NSW regarding safety improvements at this location.

The crossing is currently part of a ‘smart sign’ technology trial being undertaken in partnership with Transport for NSW.

This trial aims to enhance the visibility of signage and increase road user safety.

12:30 pm: A collision between a freight train and a semitrailer west of Young earlier this week has rattled residents who are asking why promised warning lights have not been installed.

According to NSW Police, emergency services were called to Mary Gilmore Way near the small rural settlement of Bribbaree – 60 kilometres northwest of Young – at about 5:20 pm on Tuesday (13 December), following reports of a collision at a level crossing.

They say a semitrailer prime mover travelling west on Mary Gilmore Way collided with an eastbound freight train.

The impact caused the trailer to break away from the prime mover, however, the truck driver – a man aged 50 – was not injured.

The male train driver was also uninjured.

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This is the second such collision at the same crossing in recent years and this latest incident opens the Pandora’s box of concerns around level crossing safety that have been aired nationally thanks to the campaigning efforts of local nurse Maddie Bott.

Ms Bott lost her fiance Ethan Hunter when he and a work colleague, father-of-three Mark Fenton, were killed after their truck collided with a train on a private level rail crossing near the small village in February 2021.

Her subsequent push in petitioning the NSW Government raised awareness of the risks and safety shortfalls of level crossings throughout the state and garnered a substantial united national focus on the issue.

The petition also triggered an uncommonly concordant debate among ministers and MPs from both sides of the NSW Legislative Assembly in November 2021 – the then regional transport and roads minister Paul Toole declaring his commitment to making a difference.

The scene of the February 2020 collision between a truck and a freight train near Bribbaree. Photo: NSW Police.

He told the parliament a rail safety working group had been formed to investigate railway crossing safety solutions and, as the result of a Transport for NSW international roundtable, trials of emerging technology were slated along with investment in crossing upgrades and the reduction of speed limits at all active crossings.

In August 2022 came the announcement safety warning lights would be installed, on a trial basis, at the Dame Mary Gilmore level crossing – the scene of Tuesday’s incident.

Maddie Bott told Region yesterday the lights were to have been installed in September 2022 – well ahead of the summer harvest.

She’s less than impressed at the response and said her hopes were now pinned to a change of government.

In a joint statement this morning Regional Roads and Transport Minister Sam Farraway said Transport for NSW had confirmed the incident and he was thankful no one was seriously injured.

“This level crossing is one of two that will trial warning signs to improve safety,” the Minister said.

“Transport is in negotiations with ARTC who manage the site to progress the installation as quickly as possible,” he added.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the safety of level crossings was incredibly important and remained a priority of hers.

“I have spoken directly with Minister Farraway, and reiterated my concerns about this particular crossing,” Ms Cooke said.

“I am eager to see these upgrades continue and progress for the benefit of rail and road users across the region,” she said.

ARTC have been contacted for a response but none was forthcoming.

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