By Steph McNicol
The theft of copper wire from train line infrastructure is causing boom gates to malfunction, causing serious safety issues for transport users.
Teresa Bisignano, of Wallan, has expressed her concerns after a near-miss caused by a boom gate malfunction at Wallan East.
While driving behind her son Antonio at night earlier this month, Ms Bisignano said she was confused to see her son completely stop at the Wallan train station before crossing the tracks.
“He was a fair while in front of me and all of a sudden he comes to an absolute stop,” she said.
“The lights weren’t flashing so I immediately thought something was wrong, and we pulled over just before the roundabout [past the Wallan railway tracks].
“Antonio stopped because he saw the train right there, metres away from the crossing. If he had not slammed on his brakes or slowed down, you just don’t know what would’ve happened.”
Ms Bisignano was concerned due to the lack of warning there was a train at the station, where usually the boom-gates would be down, and the lights would be illuminated.
“My husband and I called the police, and they closed off the road soon after. People have messaged me saying it’s an ongoing thing because the copper wiring gets stolen and that’s what causes the issues,” she said.
“After the train derailment, everyone’s scared of something happening again. Why is it always our line being jeopardised? Why isn’t anything being done?”
Sergeant Peter Brown, from Wallan police, said theft of the copper wiring was not uncommon.
Copper wire is a conductor of electricity for trains, and has high value, making it a big target for thieves.
“There is no real solution to theft, it happens all the time. The best thing people can do is get number plates or footage of people around the time it happens – which is usually three or four in the morning,” Sgt Brown said.
“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon, and north of Craigieburn it happens more often. No one’s using the roads at these times so they get away with it.
“They must have done their research to find out about the wiring because one of the wires, if it’s cut it could be fatal, you’d find them 60 metres away.”
An Australian Rail Track Corporation spokesperson said copper wire theft was unfortunately a common occurrence along the north-east line.
“We need to see those responsible for the thefts caught and prosecuted and stronger sentences to those that are caught,” the spokesperson said.
“We encourage anyone with knowledge or that see suspicious behaviour around the rail line to contact CrimeStoppers.
“We also work with train crew to ensure they stay vigilant and report suspicious activity in hot spot areas to our network control.
“Copper wire theft is criminal activity and a matter for the police, but ARTC recognises the impact that it has on its operations and other network users.”
Anyone who sees any suspicious behaviour near train tracks are encouraged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 and gather footage of the behaviour.