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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Is our 'upgrade' a step back in time?

Residents of Marion have long memories.  Here is a potted history of what people have told us about what they recall of rail deaths at Marion and neighbouring stations.  It appears that the decision to build an underpass amounts to an expensive step backwards for residents and rail users.

The overpass at Marion was constructed for $35,000 in 1970 after a boy at Westminster School collided with a train while riding his bike at the southern end of the station in 1967.  At that time the northern end of the station, the end furthest from the school, had a pedestrian maze. That crossing was not involved in the incident. 
At the southern end, closest to the school, there was no pedestrian maze and no impediment for the boy to ride down the platform and swoop across the tracks without first looking for trains. The current overpass was built after the boy’s death.

The underpass at Ascot Park achieves grade separation (that is pedestrians and trains are physically separated by engineering so that they can never collide accidentally).  It is the sole means provided for pedestrians to safely cross the rail line, however, the darkened tunnel and blind corners make it a magnet for criminal, destructive behaviour – including assaults. The lengthy slope and sense of threat also tends to make it unsuitable for aged, mobility impaired and disabled users. 
Stations with only an underpass and high fences (which is what is now proposed here at Marion) have no emergency escape if a child accidentally ends up on the track. In the 1990s a young man was accidentally killed by a train while crossing the tracks to avoid using the underpass. Ascot Park is the only station we know of on the line that had an underpass installed in the 1970s, but no additional maze crossing added later in the 1990s and that is because the geography does not allow it.

After being ‘upgraded’ to a single grade-separated crossing, all these stations later added at level maze crossings in response to community concerns about the need for personal safety and protection from other pedestrians. A recent project to upgrade Oaklands station, near Westfield Marion, involved removing an underpass tunnel and installing electronic gated level crossings that prevent pedestrians wandering onto the track.

In all likelihood, if an underpass is built at the northern end of Marion Station, a maze crossing will eventually be required once an assault in the underpass takes place or if a child accidentally ends up on the track.
 A maze crossing will then be created at the southern end of the platform nearer the school, making the underpass redundant, expensive and probably more dangerous than available alternatives. It will also unnecessarily remove stands of mature trees planted by long-term residents over decades to beautify the area.

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