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Motorists or pedestrians who ignore warnings that a train is approaching a rail crossing and race into it can now be fined $8800, a frustrated Transport Minister Scott Emerson has announced.
The maximum fine has been doubled - up from $4400 - after a string of incidents last week caused accidents and triggered hours of transport congestion.
‘‘I have had a gutful of drivers who ignore the rules and go into these areas causing incidents at our level crossings,’’ Mr Emerson said.
‘‘These idiots cause massive disruption to our public transport system,’’ he said.
"That is why I think it is quite appropriate to damage the maximum penalty to $8800.’’
The state government will also chase the motorists - or the pedestrians - for any cost of damage to boom gates.
‘‘That is on top of any damage they have to pay for to pay for to our (rail) infrastructure, and possibly losing their licenses if they are found to have been dangerously or recklessly driving.’’
brisbanetimes.com.au on Saturday posed similar questions to Mr Emerson after two lobby groups - the RACQ and Rail: Back on Track - debated tougher penalties.
The new regulation - added to the Transport Act’s existing regulations - will come into effect from next month.
In the past 12 months, boom gates have been struck by vehicles 194 times and 180,000 rail commuters have been delayed.
The higher fines cannot be applied retrospectively, Mr Emerson said, but he warned that the Transport Department would still seek money from about 60 motorists who had previously ignored signs.
The tougher fines would apply even at rail crossings where there were no flashing lights, Mr Emerson warned.
‘‘Yes, the fine is for entering a level crossing area,’’ Mr Emerson said.
‘‘As you appreciate many of our level crossings - the majority of them - are ‘open’,’’ he said, meaning without boom gates.
Queensland Transport is investigating radio break-in technology, so that drivers get a warning on their vehicle’s radio as they approach a rail crossing.
The department may also embed lights in the road near rail crossings which will light up as a train approaches.
Mr Emerson said the government would strongly consider major changes to more level crossings after finishing work at two Brisbane level crossings at a cost of around $240 million.
The State Government is now co-funding overpasses at Telegraph Road at Bracken Ridge and Robinson Road at Geebung, an election promise in March 2012.
‘‘We will obviously look forward to doing more of that, but it is not cheap to do," Mr Emerson said, putting figure of $240 million on the two level crossings.
‘‘So (while) they are easy to do, they are not inexpensive to do,’’ he said.
Rail: Back in Track spokesman Robert Dow said doubling the fines was a step in the right direction.
Mr Dow proposed putting portable traffic signals at other open level crossings because motorists ‘‘instinctively’’ followed traffic signals and waited until lights turned green.
‘‘The penalties are only part of it, really,’’ Mr Dow said.
He also suggested taking an aggressive media campaign to truck drivers; at heavy vehicle loading stations, large car parks and petrol stations.
Mr Dow suggested a big display on the danger of rat-running rail crossings at Brisbane’s Central train station was ‘‘preaching to the converted’’.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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