Coal train plan set to increase crossing delays

 PLANNERS have increased the potential delays at level crossings from coal trains running between the Cobbora coalmine at Mudgee and Central Coast power stations.

 Last September, Cobbora’s environmental assessment said the Adamstown and Clyde Street gates were already shut for nearly eight hours a day and an extra six train movements a day would add about 40minutes to the wait.

This was based on an estimated gate closure of 7.5minutes for a full train.

But after measuring the real delays at each set of gates, planners say motorists might have to wait nine minutes or more at Adamstown and 8.5minutes or more at Clyde Street, depending on the ‘‘train route and stopping scenario’’.

 ‘‘The calculated minimum level crossing closure times for future southbound 1500-metre long loaded coal trains will typically be between five and nine minutes per train,’’ a new report on Cobbora’s rail transport requirements says.

The Cobbora open-cut mine near Mudgee was proposed by the previous Labor state government to provide cheap coal to privatised state generators.

The project was referred to the Planning Assessment Commission last October, and a new report on display with the NSW Department of Planning shows various changes have been made to the Cobbora plan.

The  report noted that Newcastle MP Tim Owen had announced ‘‘a real-time information system’’ for motorists at the two level crossings.

‘‘Variable electronic signs will provide advice to approaching motorists as to when the level crossing gates are closed for coal and other freight trains, and of the remaining waiting times,’’ the report said.

It said there had been ‘‘no timing’’ on installing the signs but they would need to operate before the predicted start of Cobbora trains in July 2015 ‘‘to mitigate the predicted additional traffic delays’’.

The  report also said that loading facilities at Eraring and Vales Point were too small to take full-length  trains.

If the loading facilities were not upgraded ‘‘it may limit the amount of coal delivery to the power stations’’.

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