Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The battle of the crossings

What is the best way of providing for pedestrian access across railway lines? Car drivers generally despise boomgates and want some sort of grade seperation. Train-car or train-pedestrian accidents at level crossings are usually serious and disrupt services for an hour or two. If reducing the number of level crossings reduces the number of accidents, a grade-seperation program should also help train reliability.

However other factors (as well as the cost involved) can come into play as the following from local newspapers demonstrate:

'Split Road and Rail'

Caulfield-Glen Eira Leader article

From the above it sounds that an underpass might be the go. If not for cars, at least for pedestrians. But the following article, along with some reported incidents, suggests that tunnels have safety issues of their own.

'Tunnel of Fear'

Dandenong Leader article

I have visited the Noble Park underpass. The residents are right; it's narrow, visibility is poor and it's cut off from areas of human activity. The wall and right-angled bend when heading south don't help either. Streets are usually safer than claimed, but the underpass as stands doesn't present a good impression or encourage people to use public transport.

Is the suggestion of an overpass any better? Apart from the long ramps required for an accessible overpass (which unduly delay pedestrians) these are not cure-alls, as the poor reputation of Kananook station attests. And whether they are over roads or railways, it is not unknown for people to throw objects or even themselves from them, so safety issues different to underpasses arise.

Every access method has benefits and risks. Pedestrian overpasses are merely ugly, while those involving roads can ruin half a station precinct, such as can be seen at Sunshine, Moorabbin, Oakleigh or Huntingdale. A rough table comparing the attributes of at-grade crossings with underpasses and overpasses is below.

No one option is clearly superior, but it's notable that the strengths and weaknesses of at-grade pedestrian crossings versus underpasses are complementary. Overpasses are a half-solution, normally inferior to other types.

My conclusion is that having both underpasses and at-surface crossings in the one area combine the benefits of both. For example, if poor safety is perceived, pedestrians can choose to use the surface crossing with good visibility. On the other hand, if a train is coming or there are large crowds, then the underpass offers convenient access.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Not a bad idea. But how much more do we have to do to protect people from their own foolishness? I except wheelchairs from that though. There is no reason why they should not be able to cross rail tracks at a crossing without getting stuck.