Ute, train on crash course
A POTENTIALLY fatal rail dis- aster just outside Grafton was narrowly avoided on Friday night after the XPT was warn- ed to stop with just minutes to spare after a utility became stuck on rail lines. A phone call to police from a concerned Junction Hill resi- dent almost certainly made the difference between an inconve- nient delay and a horror night for the hundreds of south- bound passengers on board the train. Around 8.20pm a highly in- toxicated 41-year-old Ramornie man drove towards the Baker Street rail crossing, just off Back Lane. As his dual-cab Toyota ute crossed the lines, the vehicle left the road and became stuck on the tracks, stranded on a collision course with the XPT which was due to come roar- ing down the line about 10
minutes later. The resident, who did not wish to be identified, had been returning from dinner when the ute's lights high on the rail lines were noticed. "I rang the police but they couldn't stop the train (from South Grafton) and I knew at 8.30pm, it about 8.20pm at the time, that the XPT from Bris- bane would be coming through," the resident said. "I'm glad I called because I had no idea of what could of happened next, that call might not have just saved the driver of that car, but the driver of the train and all the people on it." Grafton police rushed to the crossing to assist the man, all the time trying to raise the alarm with State Rail's region- al headquarters in Newcastle. News of the stricken vehicle eventually reached the XPT's
driver about 5km from the crossing, allowing him just enough time to apply the brakes and avoid a collision. With the help of a tow
truck, police managed to push the vehicle off the line to let the XPT pass. The driver of the ute was taken to Grafton Police Sta-
tion, where he was found to have a blood alcohol content more than four times the legal limit. He was charged with drink-driving.