A campaign to make New South Wales level-crossings safer has gained crucial traction after state parliament recognised its importance and was given a pledge from regional transport and roads minister (and NSW Deputy Premier), Paul Toole.
The campaign was led by Maddie Bott, a nurse whose fiancée, Ethan Hunter, and his co-driver, Mark Fenton, were killed in their B-double at a private crossing near Quandialla, near Bribbaree, in February.
The level crossing where the incident occurred at was classified as passive so it only had a stop sign and the view was obstructed with trees and overgrown grass.
Bott’s efforts were rewarded when her petition gathered 21,011 signatures, with co-petitioners all agreeing that present signposting and warnings are far from adequate, including the state’s Country Women’s Association (CWA).
Once the petition had been presented to the Legislative Assembly, Paul Toole responded to the issue via social media.
“Maddie Bott has been fighting to improve safety at level crossings since her partner Ethan Hunter and his colleague Mark Fenton were killed at a level crossing in February,” said Toole.
“Steph Cooke MP and I have been working closely with Maddie since May, and today Maddie watched on as a petition with more than 21,000 signatures was debated in parliament.
“We will continue to work with all levels of government and stakeholders to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make level crossings as safe as possible.”
Toole’s department has now formed a working group, including representatives from the Centre for Road Safety as well as freight experts to determine a global best practice. Additionally, he University of Technology Sydney was asked to deliver a research project using multiple data sources to identify potential hotspots.
“From that, they will initiate a project exploring private level crossing technologies that currently are in use nationally and internationally to improve safety at private level crossings,” said Toole.
“The project included discussions with suppliers to understand technology, how it could be adapted to a level crossing context and what outcomes they think could be achieved with technology in this space.”
Transport for NSW hosted will also conduct a roundtable discussui with 20 stakeholders from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to deliver ways of improving level crossing safety.
“The workshop provided us with an insight into potential technology to improve safety to these crossings,” Toole said.
“In parallel, Transport has sought new solutions from industry. We are planning a trial of emerging technologies in the new year in regional New South Wales.”
There are currently over 2,700 operational road level crossings on the New South Wales railway network, 1,360 on public roads and the remainder on private properties.
From these statistics, 434 have active traffic controls such as boom gates and flashing lights; whilst the other 926 have passive traffic controls like stop or give-way signs.
Between 2008 and 2021 there were 84 collisions between trains and cars at level crossings in New South Wales, resulting in 10 fatalities and 15 serious injuries.