The Australian Rail Track Corporation is investing more than $100,000 in new high tech security lighting as part of its contribution to the ongoing multi-agency response to anti-social behaviour and rock throwing in Moree.
A total of 22, eight-metre-high solar-powered sensor lights are currently being installed along 600 metres of the Moree rail precinct to help deter trespassing along the rail corridor.
ARTC’s general manager asset delivery – Hunter Valley, Scott Chapman, said the lights are made to prevent vandalism.
“They’ve got a sheet of three millimeter thick polycarbonate over it and those sheets have mesh on it,” he said.
Mr Chapman said the installation is part of a multi-agency approach between Moree Plains Shire Council, Barwon Local Area Command, Roads and Maritime Service and members of the community to target the anti-social behaviour, including rock throwing, vandalism, trespass that has persisted since the opening of the Moree bypass.
“Ultimately we hope it’s a preventative measure – if people enter the area and trespass the lights come on,” he said.
“We’re still relying on the community to report to police that the lights are on down in the station precinct.
“It gives police an opportunity to identify who the perpetrators may be and we hope it prevents people from accessing the corridor.”
Mr Chapman said security fencing along the precinct has proved no match for the regular vandalism, with ARTC having to continually repair the fence between the railway line and the bypass after it was regularly being damaged.
Unfortunately, earlier this year the level of vandalism escalated and ARTC staff were finding broken glass, discarded syringes and other sharp objects along the fence line to discourage future repairs.
“That sort of behaviour and leaving that sort of debris around created another hazard for us,” Mr Chapman said.
The lights are just the first stage of the project to increase security around the rail precinct.
Moree Plains Shire Council director of planning and community development, Angus Witherby said plans are underway to install CCTV cameras in the area to further boost efforts to identify perpetrators.
“It gives opportunities for Moree Mobile Neighbourhood Watch and the police patrols to see and identify people early, particularly if a member of the public advises that somebody is on the rail corridor, there can be a quick response to that,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if people are being identified on the rail corrdior, if they are getting arrested for those things – because it is both illegal and dangerous – then we’ve got an opportunity to start changing some behaviours.”
Mr Witherby said this issue requires a whole-of-community approach, with members of the community encouraged to report suspicious behaviour and parents urged to educate their children of the dangers of rock throwing and trespassing along the rail corridor.
“Rock-throwing is a very dangerous activity, not only for people on the receiving end of the rock, but also for people throwing it,” he said.
“Rail corridors are very dangerous, as is the bypass, and it’s very much about parents working with their kids to understand that this is really quite dangerous for kids as well.”
Council, police, ARTC and RMS are continuing to work together to combat the rock throwing issue and are looking at rolling out education programs to local schools, Miyay Birray, Moree PCYC and various other groups and organisations.
As Christmas and the summer school holiday period approaches, ARTC would like to remind parents to ensure their children are not crossing or playing on the railway tracks
“It is a very dangerous place and there’s not only the impact it has on train drivers but possibly passengers as well if a projectile does actually go through a window,” Mr Chapman said.
“We’ll continue to do what we can in maintaining the fence and the installation of the lights, but it comes down to a combined community effort and educating people that it’s not acceptable behaviour.”
ARTC also installed new rubber panel pedestrian level crossings and renewed the path at the Moree Railway Station in October to encourage people to used the appropriate access.