'Completely unnecessary': Debate erupts after hundreds fined for new light rail rule

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Police are cracking down on disobedient pedestrians who continue to ignore instruction to safely cross Sydney’s new tram tracks.

The new Circular Quay to Randwick line opened to the public on December 14 however pedestrians are failing to heed warnings from authorities about how to cross the tracks.

NSW Police have engaged in a series of pedestrian compliance operations in the proximity of new light rail routes since its opening.

As of Monday, marking one month of the light rail being in operation, 253 infringements for not complying with traffic signals have been issued, NSW Police confirmed to Yahoo News Australia.

Infringements consist of $76 on-the-spot fines with NSW road rules stating pedestrians can only cross a road either at a designated crossing, or at their own discretion 20 or more metres away from a crossing.

A pedestrian being fined for ignoring light rail crossing signals on Monday. Source: Reddit

“This operation aims to reduce the risk of collisions involving pedestrians through education and enforcement at locations identified as high-risk areas,” a spokesperson said.

On Monday officers were targeting pedestrians outside Central station at the junction of Elizabeth Street and Foveaux Street – one of the CBD’s busiest crossings and roughly 50 metres from the new Chalmers Street light rail stop.

Divided opinion over fines

An image of a woman being fined at the crossing was later shared to Reddit, prompting extensive debate from users over the crackdown.

Some were critical of the police response suggesting the employment of officers to catch pedestrians was “revenue raising”.

“How about issuing warnings instead of fines? Surely that will get the point across just as well? The fines are completely unnecessary,” one person wrote.

Some noted the crossing itself was “a joke” due to little pavement space and lack of crossing time. One person went as far as to say Sydney was the “most pedestrian-unfriendly city” they’d encountered.

However others commended the action taken against pedestrians who failed to observe instruction.

“This is not revenue raising, people are going to get hit by these things and die,” one person argued.

“If they stop morons from walking in front of trams it’s a good thing,” another said.

Police concern over pedestrian death toll

Authorities and NSW Transport embarked on a safety campaign months prior to the trams being in operation, urging pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to be vigilant to the changes brought with the light rail project.

“Safety is our number one priority and we’ve introduced a lot of measures to educate the community about being safe around trams,” Transport for NSW Coordinator General Marg Prendergast said ahead of the light rail’s unveiling.

Police are cracking down on pedestrians incorrectly crossing the light rail tracks following a series of warnings. Source: AAP

NSW Police revealed there has already been three pedestrian deaths in 2020 across the state, telling Yahoo News Australia pedestrians must take note of warnings to optimise safety and avoid adding to the death toll.

Police advise pedestrians to use crossings and to adhere to their signals.

Distractions are also a major concern, with authorities advising pedestrians to avoid using phones or portable media players “so you can hear vehicles and concentrate on crossing the road”.

And with smoke now regularly blanketing the city, pedestrians are urged to wear bright, light coloured clothing.

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