POLICE have been delayed by a coal train at Liverpool Street on their way to a woman trapped in a car in rising flood water at Upper Dartbrook.
Witnesses report the police officer got out of the car and looked down the rail line to assess the length of the train.
Upper Hunter Shire mayor Lee Watts said the emergency highlighted the need for a proper long-term solution to the crossing issue and she’s increasingly frustrated by the Roads and Maritime Services’ lack of action.
“We were pleased that last week the Australian Rail Track Corporation sat down with council to sort out an emergency crossing, while the RMS just keeps dragging its feet on this issue,” she said.
“The rail authority will start work in August on two new crossings for emergency service vehicles, but that is not the total solution, as this emergency
has demonstrated,” she said.
“Both of the proposed emergency crossings are level crossings, so no matter where the emergency vehicles go, they will still have to wait for trains.
“If you are trapped in a car with water rising, those minutes that your rescuers have to spend waiting for a train may be critical.
“I don’t understand why the RMS is taking so long to complete their plan. It is ridiculous that they were not prepared to come up with the emergency crossings until the end of the year and I am glad the rail authority had more sense and acted more quickly.”
Upper Hunter Shire Council general manager Daryl Dutton agreed the meeting with the ARTC was fruitful.
“They came back to us the next day with an agreement on the two options we proposed: opening Kingdon Street and another rail crossing near the sale yards,” he said.
“The emergency vehicle crossings will have access codes and protocols will be developed so that local police will be advised and can help manage traffic.
“It is good news, but it is a very poor second to the longer term solution we need, but at least it is something and better than nothing.”
Police agreed the emergency solutions were welcomed, but were not the total solution.
“We welcome the new emergency solutions for the short term, but we still need the longer term solution so that vehicles aren’t kept waiting,” Andrew Nichols, Crime Coordination for the Hunter Valley, said.
Federal member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon said he was frustrated by the RMS’ inaction, despite the federal government providing funding to them for a solution.
“The RMS is taking a ridiculously long time,” he said.
“We have given them funding for the study and I am as frustrated as anyone. The prime minister, the treasurer and minister (Anthony) Albanese are all very aware that the Scone rail situation is my number one priority.”
Member for Upper Hunter George Souris was unavailable for comment, but said he would raise the issue with the minister for roads.
The distance of the crossing in Kingdon Street to the new crossing near the saleyards is about 2.2km.