Residents angered by crossing buck-passes

Monique Gray and concerned Spearwood residents say the railway crossing on Rockingham Road is dangerous and needs an overhaul. Could a better crossing have prevented one fatality? Photo be Steve Grant.

EVEN Wattleup – emptied out Wattleup – has a maze at its railway crossing.

So why are there only a couple of lines of lifting yellow squares to guide Spearwood’s pedestrians safely over the tracks crossing busy Rockingham Road, wonders Monique Gray and a growing number of the suburb’s residents.

Ms Gray is spearheading a new push to get the crossing upgraded, saying years of neglect and buck-passing have left it looking a shambles and posing a safety risk.

“There is a primary school 600 metres from this open double railway track, with only a dotted pedestrian line – if you can call it that – protecting the small children who walk to school,” Ms Gray said.

“There is also a bus stop on the other side of the road mere metres from the track which the public use every day.

Dangerous

“There is no fencing separating the tracks from the footpath making it very dangerous for everyday people, including pensioner scooters, getting across.”

The Coolongup resident became involved when she agreed to help out an elderly friend whose fence next to the railway line blew over during a storm earlier this year.

Believing vibrations from freight trains had weakened what she considered to be a dividing fence, Ms Gray looked for some help getting it replaced.

She said that’s when she discovered a myriad of other issues at the crossing – and the ducking.

She went to railway operator Arc Infrastructure which initially told her its lease on the railway line stopped short of the fence. When she pointed out their own maps said otherwise, Arc put up a temporary fence, but denied any further liability and said that’s as far as its assistance would go.

A letter from transport minister Rita Saffioti’s office set the tone early: “This one is not an easy one to help with,” it starts.

It concludes with the “general advice” that the landowner was on his own, particularly given the “precedent” of the government having to damaged fences along the state’s long railway corridors.

Local Labor MP Fran Logan was similarly pessimistic and pointed the finger at the Barnett government.

Pessimistic

“This matter is being taken up by the City of Cockburn and as this is only a freight line privatised by the previous Liberal/Nat government it is very difficult getting upgrades done on this line,” he said.

But Ms Gray said a meeting between the council, Arc and the landowner in mid-August resolved nothing.

With nowhere else to go, she started a petition calling for an upgrade and soon caught the attention of the Spearwood Residents Association, which had previously campaigned for  a crossing upgrade without success.

Association stalwarts John Cunai and Len Glamuzina grabbed hard copies of the petition. Mr Cunai says after just two hours of banging on doors they’d added 120 signatures.

“It’s been decades and nothing improves,” Mr Cunai said.

Mr Glamuzina says there’s a concrete ‘well’ just near the crossing which is only partially covered, and he worries some local kid will come to strife there if it’s not dealt with.

Ms Gray says as of Thursday afternoon, 593 people had signed the petition.

One of the crossing’s starker elements are two small wooden crosses that tell the story of a shattered family. In January 2009, 23-year-old Terry Malho was killed when a mate who he’d been drinking with crashed his car into the boom gates. Consumed by grief, the young man’s father Horacio took his own life at the same spot in May last year.

Ms Gray says while the elder man’s death had been brushed aside because it was a suicide, she wonders whether a physical barrier, better lighting and a less depressing atmosphere around the crossing might have prompted him to take a different path.

The petition’s at http://chng.it/7J65NLbS

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