Some residents and business owners in the South Armadale industrial estate are fuming after finding out that the Byron Rd level crossing will be closed permanently as part of the Byford Rail Extension.
The closure will effectively block direct access to the estate from the neighbouring suburbs of Brookdale, Armadale, Haynes, and Hilbert, with the only entrance and exit via the South West Highway.
“Traffic studies on the impacts of the Byron Road level crossing closure show that after the closure, access to the industrial estate from the east via Church Avenue and South West Highway will result in an extra travel distance of about 3.5km, and access via Eleventh Road to the south will result in an extra travel distance of about 4.5km, both increasing travel time by about 3 minutes,” a spokesperson from Metronet said.
There are currently more than 20 live-in business owners in the estate who will be affected by the decision.
Paul and Sue Magistro have lived in and operated their storage business on Burns Rd in the estate for the past 30 years.
They said they had no idea about Metronet’s plans to close the level crossing until their friends from Brookdale asked them how they’d cope with the change.
“We were devastated,” Sue said.
“It’ll effectively cut us off from all our customers who live over the rail line – maybe they won’t bother with us anymore and find somewhere more accessible.”
Sue said she was astounded that no one had informed them about the change and asked around to other neighbouring business owners to see if they’d heard anything.
“No one I spoke to was aware it was happening. And some were absolutely ropable,” she said.
“People are going to have to rethink their businesses.”
Metronet has said information about the intention to close the level crossing had been available online since last year.
“Information on the Byron Road level crossing closure has been included in project publications on the Metronet website since 2022, in online communications to project subscribers, in conversations at project shopping centre displays, and at a Business Armadale information workshop earlier in 2023,” a spokesperson said.
But Paul and Sue said it was ridiculous to expect affected local residents to seek out this information for themselves.
“Why can’t they do a letter drop? That would have been the best way to inform us,” she said.
They believe the closure will put an undue amount of stress on the sole remaining access to the estate, and predict traffic congestion could become a nightmare.
“We have a multitude of different trucks – B-Doubles, low loaders, semi-trailers, agitator trucks, an assortment of trailers from cabinet makers and other businesses, and not to mention all the workers’ vehicles – who will be forced to use the South West Highway,” Sue said.
“Of a morning, when I have to use the highway, it is not unusual for me to have to wait for 30 cars to go past and, luckily, I am only turning left with traffic. This will blow out enormously if I have to wait for a B-Double to turn right.
“We’ve been told this decision was made because of safety, but I can’t remember a single accident at the level crossing in the 30 years we’ve been here.”
Metronet has said Main Roads have recorded six traffic incidents at the level crossing over the past 10 years, three of them major ones.
“The level crossing will be closed to accommodate the increased frequency of trains once the Byford Rail Extension is in operation. The higher volume of trains would mean boom gates would be down more often, creating congestion delays, safety issues, and additional noise from warning bells and train horns,” the spokesperson said.
But Paul said he would rather the level crossing remain open, even with more interruptions from increased train activity.
The City of Armadale has said they have consistently encouraged Metronet to engage with the community and local businesses, and advocated for the level crossing to remain open, but were informed by the state government that it would ultimately be closed.
Paul said if it’s a done deal already, then some more information would be handy so businesses could plan for their future.
“We still don’t know anything about this. When is it going to happen? And are they going to do anything about the intersection at Dickens Place and the highway? Will there be traffic lights? It would be a good opportunity to upgrade the intersection and make it safer,” Paul said.
Metronet has said they are currently investigating the intersections at Eleventh Rd, Stone St and Dickens Pl. There is currently no closure date for the Byron Rd level crossing.
“When confirmed, the closure date will be advertised in the local newspaper and an update, including wayfinding information, will be provided to impacted residents as well as businesses to share with their staff and customers. One-on-one meetings to discuss the closure will also be offered to businesses,” Metronet said.
“Vehicular access between Byron Road and Wungong Rd will be maintained until any required modifications at the affected intersections with South West Highway are implemented.”