The Heath Marsh Road level crossing in Panmure is probably one of the most troublesome in the state, yet it seems to be receiving very little attention. On Anzac Day I was attending the memorial service at Panmure, and in the background you could hear the bells of the crossing tolling continuously. This went on for the entire length of the service, and I am told it is not an uncommon occurrence. Nearby residents tell me the boom gates are down at least once a week for extended periods of time, sometimes up to 8 hours. Not only is it annoying for those people who live nearby, but it is also dangerous.
I spoke to a resident again last week who told me the biggest fear is that one day the gates will be down for the right reason, and someone who is so used to them being stuck down will just go around the boom gates, ending in tragedy. That is the problem with this level crossing. If the gates are stuck down, it is not easy for vehicles to turn around and go the other way, especially milk tankers. Often drivers will navigate through the crossing. It is not the right thing or the safe thing to do, but when the gates are stuck down for hours on end there are few other options.
I am told that it often takes several hours for crews to respond, but if the boom gates are stuck down on a weekend, it can be days before someone is sent to fix the problem.
It seems odd to me that there were concerns about several levels crossings along the Warrnambool line and an upgrade program was rapidly rolled out, but for this one, with its continual problems and its potential to be a major safety risk, there is a continual bandaid approach to repairs and seemingly authorities are not looking to permanently fix this problem.
I have raised this matter with the minister and hope she will conduct a full investigation of this crossing. It is not just to eliminate the constant nuisance for my constituents but also to protect the integrity of the crossing so people can be assured when the gates are down that a train is actually approaching.