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Motorists who ignore warnings at rail crossings should have their driver's licences cancelled for 12 months, the state's leading rail lobby group said yesterday.
Queensland Transport yesterday revealed boom gates on Brisbane's train network were struck by vehicles 80 times in 2011-12.
Already Queensland Transport has taken legal action against 38 people and recovered more than $200,000.
Rail Back on Track spokesman Robert Dow yesterday called for licences to be cancelled.
"Not only should there be full cost recovery for these careless and dangerous acts of irresponsibility, they should also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months for the first offence," Mr Dow said in a statement.
"For the second offence, it should be life.”
However, Transport Minister Scott Emerson said those penalties were too severe and a matter for the courts.
Instead, Mr Emerson backed a call from the RACQ, the state's motoring lobby group, to toughen the awareness program around rail crossings, rather than penalties.
Mr Emerson said Queensland Transport now planned action against a further 63 claims where boom gates were damaged.
"We are fed up with the costly damage and will continue to pursue drivers for the repair costs of infrastructure," he said.
"We ask that people obey the warning signs and signals and stop – this could save them not only money, but also their life."
RACQ spokesman Paul Turner said while RACQ's "big picture" program was to eliminate level crossings altogether, he said it was time to re-focus the government's safety strategy, rather than simply increase fines or cancel licences.
"We need a bit of a campaign from the government around rail crossings, rather than going straight to the penalty," he said.
"Maybe it's a case of raising the awareness as well."
Mr Turner said the indifferent attitudes of motorists and commuters at level crossings were causing major traffic congestion and chaos.
He did not think increasing the fines would have an impact.
"People are just being silly and they shouldn't try to rat-run a rail crossing," he said.
"It doesn't end well.
"It can either cost them their lives, or it is costing parts of Brisbane several hours in travel congestion and rail chaos."
Mr Emerson said 427 people risked their lives at level crossings in 2011 alone, often forcing train drivers to take emergency evasive action.
He agreed that a new awareness campaign was needed.
"In fact we recently launched a campaign called Crosses," Mr Emerson said.
"This campaign highlighted the risks and devastation associated with people racing trains on our level crossings.”
A million-dollar level crossing safety trial is also underway, he said.
"Three companies have since been shortlisted as part of the Rail Level Crossing Safety Technology Trial," he said.
"While these trials will look to improve level crossing safety, motorists and pedestrians must continue to play their part and follow the rules."
On Thursday, there was a level crossing crash at Beams Road that interrupted Caboolture line trains between Northgate and Bald Hills.
Yesterday, Gold Coast and Beenleigh trains were interrupted after a vehicle ran through a boom gate near Runcorn.
On September 14, at Banyo there was extensive damage when a Shorncliffe line train collided with a truck that had become wedged in the rail tracks. The truck driver was badly injured.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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