Councillor Samantha McIntosh will reintroduce a motion calling for the restoration of the historic Lydiard Street railways gates at the scheduled City of Ballarat meeting on Wednesday night, while a heritage expert says the accident which damaged them should not be used by V/Line as an excuse for their removal.
The heritage-listed gates, partially destroyed when a late-night Melbourne to Wendouree train struck them on May 30, dated from 1885 and were one of only two sets of their kind left fully operating in the state. Lydiard Street has remained closed to vehicle traffic crossing through the site since the accident, and Cr McIntosh is also concerned ratepayers should be allowed to regain access to thoroughfare quickly.
Cr McIntosh had originally proposed a motion at the June 24 council meeting supporting public submissions on the issue by historian Anne Beggs-Sunter and heritage expert Lorraine Huddle. After debate over wording and a division it was deferred to the upcoming September meeting.
Cr McIntosh says she also wishes to reaffirm council's original commitment to retaining the gates, made in the 1990s when V/Line first proposed their removal.
Councillors Tillett, Rinaldi and Hudson spoke in support of the motion at the June meeting. Cr Harris spoke against the motion, leaving Crs Johnson, Taylor, Moloney and Coates to speak Wednesday evening.
Cr Moloney, who has worked for V/Line , has previously written he would not object to the gates being removed.
Ms Huddle, whose father was a railway signalman, says it is 'unthinkable' council would take any position other than the restoration of the gates, which remain a critical part of in the Ballarat Station Heritage Precinct (as part of the Victorian Heritage register), and as such require permit approval from Heritage Victoria for their alteration or removal.
She paid tribute to the original residents who had fought to preserve the gates with limited council support in the 1990s, saying they had saved the gates, although V/Line had insisted on the installation of booms at Humffray Street and the automation of the opening. Ms Huddle said there was no evidence boom gates were any safer.
In a statement V/Line said "the safety of our passengers, staff and the community is our highest priority, which is why we are taking the time to complete a full investigation into the incident and determine the best options for the future."
"We thank the Ballarat community for their patience and understanding and we'll work with the City of Ballarat and Heritage Victoria to keep the community informed as these investigations and assessments progress."
V/Line says while investigations are underway, it is progressing with expert internal and external assessments to help determine the 'safest option for the future in the location'.
The accident, still under investigation, was not caused by any failure of the gates,
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