Illawarra level crossing runners at risk

 NSW TrainLink's Rob Mason has advised people to be patient at crossings. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

NSW TrainLink's Rob Mason has advised people to be patient at crossings. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

The number of Illawarra residents darting in front of trains at level crossings is probably much higher than reported, NSW TrainLink chief executive Rob Mason says.

Mr Mason was in Wollongong on Tuesday as part of the Pearly Gates campaign - part of a long-running effort to get people to act responsibly at level crossings.

The idea being that if you rush to the other side of a level crossing, you could be running straight through the pearly gates of heaven.

NSW TrainLink statistics released on Monday showed that based on incident reports filed by station staff and train drivers, Bellambi station is equal worst in the state for people ignoring boom gates at level crossings.

There were eight reported incidents, and five at Corrimal. But Mr Mason said the real numbers could be even higher.

"To be honest, that's just the tip of the iceberg," Mr Mason said.

"There are a lot more than that and we need to encourage our staff to continue to report. If they see it every day, they stop reporting it.

"We want them to report all incidents and then we can get the police to act - because it's a $400 fine if a driver does something wrong at a crossing."

He said it didn't make sense for someone to risk their lives to save what would amount to just a few seconds of waiting behind a boom gate.

"One of our jobs is to make sure that traffic is delayed as little as possible," Mr Mason said.

"Our engineers have to work on that to make sure the gates are down for as little time as possible. We've done all that but the quid pro quo is the drivers and pedestrians have to behave properly."

Mr Mason said train drivers referred to incidents of pedestrians and motorists trespassing on level crossings as "near hits", rather than near misses.

He said these actions had the potential to deeply affect drivers and rail staff.

"The drivers are the innocent victims.

"Them, the guards, the station staff as well. If they hit someone, they're scarred for life. They've got kids, they've got families to look after.

"We do a lot of work with our TrackSafe Foundation around Australia to try and educate and provide the right trauma support for the drivers."

The Pearly Gates' visit to Wollongong station was part of Rail Safety Week, which aims to get people to be careful around rail lines.

"People should remove their headphones if listening to music, stop talking on the phone and stop texting until they are safely across the crossing or when boarding a train," Mr Mason said.

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