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As school holidays get into full swing, MSF Sugar has seen an alarming spike in dangerous behaviours such as cane train surfing around its cane rail network and is calling on parents to be more vigilant.
The behaviours have been witnessed by locomotive drivers across Far North Queensland, who say they have the potential to lead to catastrophic outcomes.
In addition to cane bin surfing, children have been seen leaving objects on the tracks in a deliberate attempt to derail the trains.
There are also cases of children tampering with turnout mechanisms, which sends the cane train onto the wrong track.
This behaviour is particularly dangerous as sections of the cane rail network are shared with Queensland Rail, so the culprits are putting multiple lives at risk.
Ken Hall, cane supply manager for South Johnstone Mill said the situation was dire and causing high levels of stress to locomotive drivers.
“Locomotive drivers become very stressed at the thought of possibly injuring someone. They don’t know that kids are riding on the bins – if they did they would stop the locomotive and secure the train.
“Not only do these kids attempt to ride on the bins, they have been known to leave objects on the tracks such as rocks and timber and sometimes take great delight in setting off the active lights”.
The situation across the network has escalated to the point that Queensland Police are conducting regular patrols through known hotspot areas in a bid to discourage the behaviours.
MSF Sugar CEO, Mike Barry is shocked at the extent of the behaviours and disappointed at the risk these children are taking.
“Our locomotive drivers have a big job to do in getting cane safely to our mills.
“Many of them are parents themselves and don’t want to be hurting kids – it’s worst case scenario for them.
“We place a great deal of importance on the safety of the MSF Sugar team and our communities.
“Public safety is our highest priority and we would like to remind the community, particularly parents and children, about the dangers of playing on or near cane trains and railway tracks.”
Dennis Wright, cane supply and rail manager for Mulgrave Mill is equally frustrated by the situation.
“It’s important that children understand just how dangerous cane trains can be.
“There’s an incorrect assumption that cane trains are ‘small’ and can’t hurt you, but this is far from correct.
“The average loco weighs 18 to 40 tonnes and the stopping distance for a loco under load is approximately 250 metres - this is assuming a dry straight track with good stopping conditions.
“When hauling a full load of bins, the 18 tonne loco weighs up to 600 tonnes while the 40 tonne loco weighs up to 1000 tonnes.”
MSF Sugar operates an extensive cane rail network which travels throughout the Cairns, Babinda, South Johnstone and Silkwood areas, comprising 800 kilometres of track, 397 road crossings and 319 bridges.
Across the network, 24 locomotives operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mr Barry summed up the situation with a simple statement.
“Parents, I implore you to watch your children these school holidays.
“Take the time to know where they are at all times.
“With the behaviours we’re seeing, we’re genuinely concerned at what the outcomes might be for your family, our locomotive drivers and the wider community.”
This article first appeared on www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au
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