Home of the worst level crossing
HOW long will it be before there's a gruesome tragedy at the Somerset Road level crossing at Gracemere?
It's well overdue. According to a new report from Queensland Rail, the crossing, just off the Capricorn Highway, is the most dangerous in Queensland.
There were 39 near misses at the crossing between September 2009 and August this year – a near miss is recorded when a train driver has to take action to avoid a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian.
No other crossing in the state causes train drivers so much fear, or places so many lives at risk.
Surveillance cameras were installed in August in a desperate attempt to dissuade drivers from taking a chance on beating the gargantuan coal trains which trundle along at about 80kmh. There are no boom gates.
Truck and car drivers caught on camera running the red lights which guard the track now face a $300 fine.
The Transport Workers' Union seized on the report yesterday to call for urgent investment “before lives are lost”.
“Near misses are only seconds away from becoming fatalities,” said state secretary Hughie Williams.
He believes it's time all levels of government got serious about the issue.
QR wants to close the crossing on safety grounds and applied to Rockhampton Regional Council a year ago to end the potential nightmare of a collision between a train carrying 10,000 tonnes of coal and a bus-load of passengers.
Network asset manager Rod Sweeney told councillors QR was fearful of loss of life at the crossing if changes were not made.
He said the crossing was steeply graded, which caused heavy vehicles to move through it slowly.
And he pointed out that vehicles regularly gambled on beating trains – some making the other side by a matter of metres.
There had been two near misses with fuel tankers and two with buses, he said.
But that request wasn't just rejected – it met with derision.
Councillors voted unanimously to keep Somerset Road open and said it was unthinkable to restrict access to the town.