Transcript - radio interview - Triple M Toowoomba, Queensland
LEE FAULKNER: Now in our part of the world and certainly you go west of the Garden City, and rail level crossings – a real concern and they can be a killer. The Hon. Catherine King, MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, joins me this morning because the Federal Government is on a campaign to try to reduce those risks at those crossings that have claimed so many lives, including a number of years ago, a friend of my family. And thank you for joining us this morning, Minister. I really appreciate it.
CATHERINE KING: Thanks for having me on, Lee, and I'm so sorry about your friend. And really, this is what's driven the program and the announcement we're making today. It's actually been family members of people who've lost their lives at level crossings. I know there are issues all over the country, but in country and regional areas, particularly where there's large freight trains and you're trying to get through to work, there's often risks that are taken and real dangers in the sighting of both the way in which the level crossings are on the road but also the way in which the trains are. And if you're sort of driving home in the dusk, it's sometimes pretty hard to see them. And that's really what we're trying to do today, is we've already announced grants for actual improvements to the level crossings themselves. There's $160 million going out the door for that, looking at lighting and things like that as well. But this is really about research grants to try and find out; are there other things we can be doing that really make a difference, to alert people that there's a train on its way and you shouldn't take that risk and go through this crossing.
LEE FAULKNER: Absolutely. And making it more prevalent for them to see that is definitely a step in the right direction. And as I mentioned, you go around our Western Downs region, there are a lot of these level crossings. But even here in Toowoomba, a city of 160+ thousand people, now, we've got a couple of level crossings where we can find ourselves trapped in the middle of the CBD, waiting for a very lengthy coal train, which is very disruptive to our business area.
CATHERINE KING: Yeah, you certainly have very long trains.
LEE FAULKNER: Yes.
CATHERINE KING: Does take quite a while to get through. I guess, really, there are broader issues around – different governments are removing level crossings largely. That's happening in urban areas where there's lots of lots and lots and lots of traffic. And this really is about trying to improve the safety of them. And obviously the message is loud and clear to people. If you've got boom gates then don't risk it and try and go through, if you've got lights, don't do that either. But often on these level crossings, there's nothing at all. It's really you've got to stop and look. And particularly that's what's happening in many of the accidents that we're hearing is just people just haven't seen them. Or the angle of the road where it intersects with the level crossing may mean it's impossible. You might have had bushes grow over, so the line of sight is not there, or just simply you're a bit distracted and doing something else. And that terrible one second of lapse in concentration just means that you've had a terrible, terrible accident and often a fatality.
So really what we're trying to do is think of what are all of the things we can really do. So lighting is obviously important. Trying to improve the actual line of sight and things like that, but even things like noise, but also just really trying to think about – with industry – in the way in which they're building their trains, the colour of them, the way in which they do that. Can they think of things and do some research about what might work to really try and mitigate against what are really tragic circumstances? They're the ones we know about, I'm sure there are hundreds and hundreds of near misses every single day.
LEE FAULKNER: Grants.gov.au is a place that you can go to find out more information, eligibility and how to apply for the grants. And just finally this morning, as the Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister, the other massive story in our part of the world, of course, is the second range crossing. From a federal level are you happy with the way Nexus is dealing with this? So that this massive, very important piece of infrastructure for our area and very expensive infrastructure is being looked after and that we have good sustainability for this piece of infrastructure going forward.
CATHERINE KING: Well, really, I rely on the State Government and councils to tell me what's happening on the ground. I'm obviously based in my own electorate of Ballarat and up here in Canberra, so I'm not across any – I haven't had a latest briefing on that project, but I'm happy to talk again about that when I've had one.
LEE FAULKNER: Wonderful, well, thank you. I appreciate you making a comment at all. And we do again urge the State Minister to the Transport Minister to come and have a chat with us because it is so important in this part of the world, as is those level crossings. The Honourable Catherine King, MP. Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional, Development and Local Government. Thank you very much for your time this morning.
CATHERINE KING: Really lovely to talk to you.