Crossing the line.

Since the Kerang rail disaster, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know that the safety aspects of railway crossings are a hot topic of debate at the moment.

It seems particularly pertinent to this region and not just because of the large number of railway crossings in the area. Who could forget the hypocrisy of the local media who (in stark contrast to the national and international media) refused to demonise and in some cases virtually lauded Christiaan Scholl, the driver of the truck involved in the collision which claimed eleven lives and affected many more. “Sure he killed eleven innocent people through his negligence and dereliction of his responsibilities as a road user, but he’s a LOCAL… we HAVE to support him” came the cry.

Parochialism? Give me a break.

Sadly, I remain unconvinced.

Disturbingly the exact same crossing (I believe the exact same passenger train service) was involved in another fatal traffic collision since then. This time the driver of the car was fatally injured.

The calls for mandatory boom gates and lights at level crossings have reached fever pitch, plans to compromise with rumble-strips don’t go far enough in the eyes of some commentators.

The recently completed “five mates” crossing just north of Albury, built at enormous expense and named for the occupants a vehicle involved in a collision with a train at the site seems to be taking the solution to it’s obvious -even ludicrous- extreme.

Officially it was never proven that the occupants of the car were racing the train to beat it to the crossing, unofficially…yeah right!!

In the interests of sensitivity I’ll refrain from suggesting that particular development on the Olympic Highway might have been more appropriately named “five idiots crossing” but you get the idea I’m sure.

I must admit I was swaying heavily towards the idea of boom-gates at level crossings as a mandatory reform, I think the financial cost is probably negligable in comparison to the cost in human misery caused annually by our road toll. That was until I hit upon this pearl of wisdom from bastion of all things fair and balanced (as long as you happen to be a retrograde neo-conservative ludite of course) the Border Mail.

I’ll summarise for those prudent enough not to follow the link, this guy, claims he had been waiting at a flashing boom gate for ten minuites, saw no train coming so decided to cross. Was caught on camera (they forget to mention it was the Border Mail’s camera NOT an official police camera) and fined by police after the Border Mail saw fit to publish said images in the April 5th edition of their scurrilous toilet-paper community minded publication.

Well it’s nice to see that Today Tonight and ACA don’t hold monopoly over journalistic vigilantism, not content to merely report the news, it seems the BM is now in the buisiness of drumming some up when the urge takes them or it happens to be a slow news day. Lovely.

So, let me pose the question rhetorically to you the reader, what would YOU do if you had been waiting at a level crossing for a full TEN MINUITES with narry a train in sight?

In this instance the chap in question claims to have been waived around the gates by an employee of the railway on a previous occasion so it begs the question was the boom-gate functioning correctly in the first place?

All legitimate considerations, that’s without the hypothetical “what if there was an emergency?” type questions which inevatibly spring to mind as legitimate reasons someone might not wait at a level crossing.

Well I’m glad you asked.

 “We’ve got skin like rhinoceroses (sic.) when it comes to excuses” says Wodonga police Sgt Cameron Roberts. To paraphrase, “We don’t care if you are right, wrong or in-between, we enforce the letter of the law and not the spirit it was intended to represent”.

Nice to know the empathetic approach is alive and well in law enforcement. Great police work Cameron, not only do you let the local newspaper do your policing for you, but you then go on public record with a statement about your own inflexibility and “robo-cop”type approach.

Do you think he’ll recieve an official commendation for that little escapade? Possibly, this is the Victorian police force after all.

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About alburywodongaonline

Hi I'm Jack Stone (a pseudonym), I'm a long-time Albury resident and I think it's a great place to live and work. I have a strong interest in local events and media and I started this site because I think a different perspective is often needed when reporting local news. I take a keen interest in local politics, as well as what's going on at the state and federal level, I'm also a supporter of social justice issues, the envirionment and the need for people to have a say in the events that effect their lives. I'm a fan of the Border Bandits and I'd love to see both teams take the flag this year, and next year, and maybe the one after that too.
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9 Responses to Crossing the line.

  1. raydixon says:

    I think the bloke might have a good chance of getting off at court if he takes the ‘no fault’ defence.

  2. who knows, I’d certainly appeal it in his shoes but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the grubby little scribbler from the BM turn up in a witness chair.

    They’d probably follow it up with a piece “valliant reporter aids community justice” to which I will retort “vigilante reporter turns dog”.

    It’ll be one of those “he said/ she said” scenarios I’m sure.

  3. My suggestion for the Bells Road overpass would be ‘five fools crossing’ as I share your scepticism about the causes of that crash. The five guys in the car were touted as Wagga’s ‘best and brightest’, I hope that was lionisation of the dead rather than a statement of fact, or Wagga’s in trouble.

    There are more level crossings in NSW than in the entire UK, the cost of boom gates for every crossing in Australia would be enormous, and the ongoing cost of then maintaining them makes the suggestion unfeasible.

    As for running boom gates, it’s potential suicide, even if you have been waiting for ten minutes. At the Chiltern crossing where the driver was photographed trains are coming through at about 120 km/h and the visibility isn’t fantastic. Because he had to manoeuvre the truck between the barriers he was on the track for longer than a normal crossing would take, he’s a fool. If he’d been previously waved through there it was by someone with the knowledge of the train movements at that time, something that he did not have when he made the decision to run the barrier.

    While the Border Mail’s beat up job was their normal nonsense I can’t argue with the sentiment. The guy was a tool and he got caught out.

  4. raydixon says:

    “Wagga’s ‘best and brightest’” = Wayne Carey … doesn’t that say it all?

  5. Obviously I’m not in the habit of running level crossings, I never have in fact. I think it’s clear that the individual merits of this case will be decided by a court (assuming the guy decides to appeal) who will presumably be in possession of all pertinent facts, something I don’t claim to be (I didn’t realise the driver in question was in a truck for instance, the reduced maneuverability of the vehicle and the assumption of the driver as a “professional” ie subject to more stringent testing to get the licence in the first place and actually on the job at the time of the offence, those things obviously DO make a difference).

    For the sake of debate, let’s assume that the guy in question was in the wrong, OK it still leaves the greater question of the “trial by media” treatment of this issue by the Border Mail.

    I’ll concede that on the prima facie evidence it’s hardly a “Gillette great moment” in driving history on the part of the individual driver, but it’s more a story about the scurrilous conduct and apparent absence of journalistic ethics on the part of the BM, and what MUST be one of the laziest examples of policing in Australian legal history.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with ANY private citizen, who having witnessed an obvious example of irresponsible driving, reports the matter to the police, it’s commendable in fact. The BM in this instance DIDN’T do that, they published the images for their own ends and the police found out about it in due course.

    This WASN’T a community minded act, it was a cynical and manipulative attempt to sell newspapers. Dressing it up as a “community service” is just an insulting affront to the inteligence of their readership.

    …and YES, Wagga is clearly a city in DIRE need of a luminary who ISN’T a brain-dead degenerate.

  6. raydixon says:

    I think Mark Taylor came from Wagga Wagga too, or some other cricketer. That’s their claim to fame it seems, a few sportspeople. Although Mark Taylor was at least of exemplary character, unlike Carey.

    Their other claim to fame is having a name so strange you need to say it twice.

    We’ve got a Nug Nug over here, what’ve you got?

  7. perhaps I can shed some light there, Wagga means “crow” in the Wiradjuri dialect. Wagga Wagga means “place of many crows” which is true, there are a lot of crows there.
    What the Wiradjuri word for “yobbo” is I have no idea.

  8. raydixon says:

    So Wagga Wagga means Adelaide? … where they eat a lot of crow.

  9. you know I used to go out with this chick from England a few years back, over there the term “crow” is actually a slang term for a booger.

    You can imagine her reaction when I told her people from South Australia were colloquially known as “crow eaters”.

    As I think I’ve previously mentioned, I spent my formative years in the festival state and never once have I eaten a crow, raven, vulture or any other kind of carrion bird.
    Nor do I know anyone who has for that matter South Aussie or not.
    I’m sure there is some story behind the origin of the term but I have no idea what it is.
    Just people from the eastern states being uncharitable I suspect.

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