A new smart safety system could save lives at level crossings in the regions.
The Smart Level Crossing Safety Technology Trial has been implemented in part as a response to the tireless campaigning of Grenfell nurse, Maddie Bott.
Tragedy struck Ms Bott in 2021, when her fiancé Ethan Hunter's truck was hit by a freight train.
Mr Hunter was driving across a rural level crossing on Eurabba Lane at Bribbaree with his coworker Mark Fenton in the passenger seat. Both were killed.
This spurred an outcry in the community, and ultimately a petition signed by over 18,000 people for better signage at level railway crossings.
This led to the new technology trial, which has been installed at the nearby Mary Gilmore Way crossing. A radar-activated LED stop sign and advanced warning signs are in place.
Hilltops Council mayor Margaret Roles said the death was still raw in the community.
"The death of any young man is a tragedy - especially one that had his future on the land," she said.
"His fiancée has worked really hard. In many ways, she's given her last two years to make sure that losing Ethan leads to some positive results."
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At the time of the crash, Ms Bott said there was limited signage, and the view of the track was obscured by scrub - it was an accident waiting to happen.
The LED advanced warning signs will also be installed at a level crossing at Blackwater Road in Narromine and the LED stop signs are being installed at a site on Dandaloo Road in Narromine.
There are more than 2700 level crossings in NSW, including 1347 on public roads. From 2001 to 2021 there were 164 crashes at level crossings between trains and vehicles in NSW, resulting in 16 fatalities and 26 serious injuries.
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said the government was working closely with regional communities and transport authorities to improve the safety at these crossings.
"Crashes at level crossings can have tragic outcomes, leaving families and communities devastated. This trial harnesses technology to improve visibility at these rural sites with the aim to save lives," she said.
"The safety of road and rail users across our road network is a top priority, and after extensive investigations into making level crossings safer, this flashing lights trial has been introduced.
"Transport for NSW selected three locations with characteristics typical of many regional level crossings to ensure a representative trial of the technology in varied conditions."
The trial is a $1.8M investment as part of the NSW Government's $47 million Smart Places Acceleration Program, through the Digital Restart Fund.
In addition to this trial, the NSW Government last month completed a seed limit review at 103 level crossings across regional NSW, reducing speeds from up to 110 kilometres per hour at some sites - another safety measure asked for in Ms Bott's petition.
Cr Roles said it was important people respected the danger that trains posed, and hoped the new safety system would prevent more unnecessary death in the future.
"I think the community is happy to see some action being taken, and hopeful it'll be successful," she said.
"We hope it'll lead to improved safety on our level crossing.
"We're appreciative of the work our local member Steph Cooke has put into it, and it was encouraging to see the Minister for Rural Roads was supportive of the rollout, and showed much empathy towards the communities and individuals that have been affected by accidents at level crossings."
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke presented Ms Bott's petition to NSW parliament in November 2021, where it received support from across the political spectrum. She joined Minister Aitchison and Ms Bott at the switch on of the new system.
"It is my hope that the data collated at Bribbaree will lead to a broader roll out of the technology to passive level crossings in other parts of the electorate," she said.
"We have seen how the roll out of flashing lights at school zones for example has helped to boost driver safety and awareness, and this trial is an important step in response to calls for a boost to level crossing safety."
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