Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Boom gate upgrade bypasses Goornong rail crossing

A group of Goornong farmers are disappointed a rail crossing they use has been left out of V/Line boom gate upgrades along the Bendigo/Echuca line.

ELAINE COONEY January 22, 2013 4:33am

Goornong farmer Ross McKinstry will face unlocking and locking a gate near his property up to 40 times a day due to a decision by V/Line to install gates on a crossing instead of an automated boom gate.

Eight Goornong farmers will be forced to lock and unlock a rail crossing multiple times a day following a V/Line decision not to install boom gates.

The gate is located off the highway and is used solely by farmers who need to drive across it to access paddocks on the other side of the road.

V/Line decided to give gate keys to the farmers who use the crossing under the provision they re-lock them after use.

The Victorian Government recently put forward $5.6million to upgrade 13 level crossings with boom gate barriers between Bendigo and Echuca but the Goornong crossing was not on the list.

The upgrades will allow trains to increase speeds from 80km/h to at least 100km/h.

Goornong farmer Ross McKinstry said he could use the crossing up to 40 times a day while carrying out farm duties and during rainy days it was the only passable crossing from the hay shed to the farm on the opposite side of the highway.

‘‘Every other crossing has boom gates and signals and we are the only exception,’’ he said.

His primary concern was that in the absence of automatic boom gates, the lockable gate system could take up to 20 minutes to go through which could impede on his time significantly while carting hay to and from his hay shed.

He said the farmers might even need to employ someone to operate the gate all day during busy periods.

A spokesperson for V/Line said the installation of the lockable gates was not meant to impede access to the properties, but to ensure the safety of the property owners as well as the passengers and crew on the trains.

‘‘As a responsible rail operator, we have safety as our number one priority,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘The process of locking and unlocking the gates means the person will need to stop and get out of their vehicle before driving across the tracks, so they will be more likely to check for approaching trains.

‘‘We want to do everything possible to avoid a collision between a train and a private vehicle or a farm machine at one of these private crossings.’’

Mr McKinstry said he understood this and was happy the train service was improving in the area but felt farmers should not have to pay someone to man the gate.

Each boom gate crossing costs $400,000 and V/Line said it was not feasible to upgrade every crossing in Victoria.

The eight Goornong farmers who use the crossing met with V/Line representatives recently to reverse the decision but did not succeed.

Mr McKinstry said he was disappointed a representative from the City of Greater Bendigo council did not attend.

City of Greater Bendigo Cr James Williams said he agreed a representative should have been present and was not supportive of V/Line’s decision.

Cr Williams said the decision was discriminating against rural residents as it impeded on their daily work.

Mr McKinstry said it was hard to get services in rural areas such as Goornong and felt the farmers were being ignored.

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