Saturday, May 14, 2011

If you though Brisbane level crossings were bad!

If you thought that Brisbane's level crossings were bad, this You Tube video will make you think again! The video shows a level crossing at Totsuka, near Yokohama, Japan. The boom gates stay down for 70 minutes, only raise for 6 seconds, and then stay down for another 30 minutes in the morning peak! The video is sped up at x10 speed. The 6 tracks handle services on the busy Tokaido Main Line, Yokosuka Line, and Shonan-Shinjuku Line.

How is this relevant to SE Queensland's rail system? Well, it seems that nearly everyday there is yet another level crossing incident in Brisbane's suburbs. Most QR CityTrain lines have level crossings with a high incident rate. These incidents are caused by a combination of both idiotic motorists, and dangerous road layouts around the site of the level crossing. This situation is only going to be made worse by increasing train frequencies. For example, the Caboolture Line will from June, be running 18tph in the am peak direction, which aside from a few gaps, will result in trains running every 3 minutes towards Brisbane. This means that level crossings will have the boom gates down even more frequently than at present, increasing the risk of crossing accidents, which have, and can be fatal! 

Back to Japan, since the 1960s there have been laws in place to aid the elimination of level/grade crossings that rarely open, by either building road bridges, or elevating the railway line to reduce the accident rate. This has been quite successful, with many of the worst level crossings having been eliminated, or currently being eliminated. Unfortunately, in SE Queensland, despite there being a priority list of level crossings to be eliminated (mainly on the Caboolture and Ferny Grove Lines), there is little action being taken by the cash strapped state government to actually build the required road bridges. BrizCommuter would like to see the highest priority level crossings eliminated with some urgency before a fatal commuter train vs vehicle crash occurs. These are the only road infrastructure projects which BrizCommuter sees as requiring prioritisation! In the mean time, penalties for motorists running around closed boom gates or obstructing crossings need to be increased. Instead of a $100 fine and a slap on the wrist, how about a loss of driving license, heavy fine, and recovery of resulting damages? Maybe, cameras need to be installed to catch out dangerous drivers, or highlight where poor road layouts may be increasing risks? BrizCommuter is very concerned that if the state government continues to drag their heels on level crossing upgrades, then there will be blood on their hands if a fatal train/vehicle collision occurs!

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