Ambulance officers say they are often stuck at the Clayton crossing with sick or injured passengers in the back, a situation made more frustrating given Monash Medical Centre is so close - but across the tracks.
Paramedics say they dread driving north up Clayton Road for fear they will get stuck at the crossing, but say the route is unavoidable given the congestion across the south-eastern suburbs.
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One experienced paramedic, who declined to be named, rated the crossing the worst in Melbourne for time delays and said it was common for ambulances to be delayed for minutes at a time.
‘‘If you go into cardiac arrest, think how much of someone’s brain is going to die in one minute, two minutes, three minutes. These are people who don’t have time to wait,’’ she said.
‘‘Just fix the damn thing. It’s going to cost lives, it may have already cost lives. Just fix it. I don’t think there’s any other intersection ... that stands between people getting care and having care delayed.’’
A Southern Health spokesman said staff at the hospital were aware of the problems Clayton Road presented, but said he was unsure if delays had led directly to the death of patients.
Police have also labelled the crossing one of Melbourne’s worst, notorious for pedestrians lifting boom gates to cross the tracks.
Shoppers, traders and commuters are also desperate for something to be done to end long delays, and Monash Council says building an underpass would allow the state government to sell the land above as affordable housing or retail space.
The railway crossing — which carries trains from the Pakenham, Cranbourne and Dandenong suburban lines and freight and passenger trains from Gippsland — has for years sat high on the list of intersections earmarked for improvement but was overlooked when the state government this year allocated improvement works elsewhere.
In May the Baillieu government announced upgrades at 10 crossings across Melbourne, including two on Springvale Road, which were judged the most deserving by a 2008 government-sponsored assessment.
But a crossing in Brighton [ranked 223 on the list] is also set to be upgraded, ahead of Clayton [ranked seventh]. Brighton’s historic New Street level crossing is in deputy Liberal leader Louise Asher’s seat.
Monash mayor Greg Male said he had raised the issue with Transport Minister Terry Mulder, but had not had any word the government would address the problem. But he had heard of ministers being late for appearances in Clayton after getting stuck in traffic.
Cr Male said the government had the chance to be innovative, while making the project ‘‘budget neutral’’.
‘‘There is land owned by the government which could be developed for retail commercial and housing and the sale or the rental for that could effectively pay for the lowering of the station and the rail traffic,’’ he said.
‘‘The previous government and the current one pressured communities to densify, so here’s a chance. Let’s be bold and say there’s one here because there’s not a budget implication for us.’’
Cr Male said upgrading the Brighton crossing before Clayton was ‘‘a waste of time’’.
A spokeswoman for Mr Mulder said there were no plans to upgrade the Clayton crossing, but said the government had already allocated more funding to improving crossings than the previous Labor government.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/life-or-death-is-this-melbournes-worst-railway-crossing-20111122-1nrmb.html