FOLLOWING the rail incident on Monday night, Upper Hunter Shire Council has again demanded an emergency rail crossing and is frustrated by the lack of action and accountability from state and federal government departments.
The council has requested a crossing be available to emergency service vehicles while longer-term plans for a crossing are being developed by the state government. Upper Hunter Shire Council mayor Lee Watts said she was frustrated by the lack of action and red tape.
“Everyone knows what the issue is and the government needs to acknowledge that it is a matter of time until this situation results in a death,” Cr Watts warned. “I’ve spoken with
three ministers about this in the last week and they all agree this should have already been done, but it has simply not happened.”
The council’s general manager, Daryl Dutton, said they had proposed several emergency
options, but the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) had refused to act on any of them.
“There is Noblet Road,but if it is raining emergency service vehicles won’t be able to get through. We need an all-weather road for it to be formally recognised as a route for emergency service vehicles, which comes back to the RMS,” Mr Dutton said.
“There is also the possibility of Kingdon Street being reopened or another crossing just
north of the town,” he said. “The RMS has to sort out what they are doing, what they are looking at long-term, but what are they doing about short-term? They have left us high and dry.”
State member for Upper Hunter George Souris said he had been unaware of the situation.
“First I’ve heard of these interim emergency suggestions by council,” Mr Souris said. “As they involve the crossing of the rail track, a first port of call is ARTC to see whether they would be open to such a suggestion.”
Federal member Joel Fitzgibbon said the buck-passing needed to stop before there was a fatality.
“It’s time to dispense with the buck-passing and get on with properly investigating council’s
interim solutions,” Mr Fitzgibbon said. “If it requires the cooperation of the ARTC that is absolutely something I will personally take up; this is regulations gone mad.
“The RMS has taken an unbelievably long time to study this – they have taken 18 months – when I believe they should have taken three. I spoke with the prime minister only last week about the need to ensure the overpass receives funding from the proceeds of the Mineral Resources Rent Tax.”