A cattle truck trundles across the Somerset Road level crossing yesterday.
A cattle truck trundles across the Somerset Road level crossing yesterday. Allan Reinikka

Council rejects calls to close crossing

NEAR misses with fuel tankers and buses prompted Queensland Rail to call for the closure of a level crossing near Gracemere yesterday.

QR said coal trains had narrowly avoided 16 vehicles at the Somerset Road level crossing in the last seven months and asked Rockhampton Regional Council to urgently consider shutting it on safety grounds.

But the request met with an angry response from councillors who rejected the plea.

Cr Greg Belz labelled QR's request “short-sighted and dangerous” and said the crossing, linking industrial development land with the Capricorn Highway, was essential for future economic development.

And his colleague, Cr Sandra O'Brien, said closure could even threaten lives.

“I'm absolutely opposed to any closure. It's unthinkable at this time, when there are so many bushfires, to think of restricting access across the railway line.

“We need the crossings to help fight the fires and as an escape route,” she said.

Cr Belz said he was really disappointed to see Queensland Rail could even consider calling for the closure of one of the two crossings between Kabra and Gracemere.

“This has been a football kicked around for too many years. We need more reliable and safer access to that industrial corridor, not less.”

Members of the council's Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to reject QR's request to close Somerset Road level crossing.

In a letter to councillors, QR's network asset manager Rod Sweeney said the coal haulers were fearful there would be loss of life at the junction if changes were not made.

He said the crossing was steeply graded which caused trucks and other heavy vehicles to move slowly through the crossing.

There were no boom gates and vehicles regularly gambled on beating the trains, despite the flashing lights.

There had been two near misses with fuel tankers and two with buses and if there had been a collision there would almost certainly have been deaths.

“Although flashing lights are installed at Somerset Road, the statistics prove that this will not prevent an accident occurring,” he said.

He proposed closing Somerset Road so Queensland Rail could design and install boom gates at the nearby Malchi Road level crossing this financial year.

Malchi Road was preferred because it was flatter.

But the council's engineering services manager Martin Crow saw it differently.

He recommended that the council should not support the closure of any level crossings near Gracemere Industrial Estate until an agreement was reached with State Government agencies to improve access for B-doubles and road trains.

In August train drivers reported the Somerset Road crossing was a “hot spot” with at least one near miss every week.

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