‘Fire escape’ crossing will remain open

THE Swallow Lagoon railway crossing, near Munro, will remain open after the state Public Transport Minister intervened last week.

Previously, residents were told V/Line would close the crossing.

However, a public meeting showed strong public support for the crossing, with V/Line told it was a key escape route during bushfires, and so the decision was reviewed.

Minister Jacinta Allan said she shared the community’s concern about V/Line’s public consultation.

“I hear them loud and clear about how important this level crossing is for community safety,” she said.

“I’ve expressed this to the chief executive of V/Line and I’ve requested that this level crossing remain open and they come back to government with advice on potential safety upgrades.

“V/Line have been completing regular safety assessments at all passive level crossings between Traralgon and Bairnsdale, and this will continue over the coming months.”

Ms Allan said there were no plans to close any level crossings on the line, and the expectation was that if there were to be plans, proper consultation would be carried out.

Bev Richard, who lives 200 metres from the crossing, said no one was expecting such high level involvement.

“We were surprised,” she said.

“Consultation needs to be improved.”

A delegation of Munro residents met with Wellington Shire Council officers last week to discuss other rail concerns, including methods of consultation, upgrading back roads — which have increased traffic since the Sandhill Rd crossing was closed — and upgrading other crossings, including at Munro-Stockdale Rd and on private land.

Munro residents previously accused the rail authority of avoiding consultation over the Swallow Lagoon railway closure by announcing its plans during the Christmas holiday break, and only informing three residents and the CFA.

The Swallow Lagoon railway crossing is one of a few railway crossings between Stratford and Bairnsdale with no signals or gates.

A V/Line letter sent out in mid-December stated that the crossing did not meet safety “standards”, and gave objectors one month to argue against its closure.

Ms Richard previously said Swallow Lagoon Rd was the major route to and from the Princes Highway for many people in Munro, and its closure would cause a huge “disconnect”.

“They’ve said the crossing doesn’t meet safety standards — well then make it meet the standards and keep it open for the benefit of the community,” she urged.