Melbourne’s level crossing for aeroplanes
During a browse through my Melway a few months ago, I came across a point in Essendon Airport which was labelled ‘jet crossing’.
Turns out that this is one level crossing that the LXRP (ex-LXRA) probably won’t be removing any time soon.
In the north-western area of Essendon Airport, Wirraway Road crosses a taxiway heading to some hangars. This has required a whole suite of interesting infrastructure to keep planes, vehicles and pedestrians safe.
There are large orange and white-painted gates on all four sides of the crossing. When aircraft require access to the runway or corporate jet parking, these gates close to allow aeroplanes to move through safely.
Wirraway Road at this point is one lane in each direction with a dividing strip down the middle. There are also footpaths on each side with separate gates for pedestrians.
It is quite a distance to get across as a pedestrian – about 62 metres. I can’t imagine that there would be too many people trying to do this on foot though.
There are some unique signs on the approaches to the crossing. This ‘prepare to stop’ sign with a plane icon and flashing lights when the crossing is closed for vehicles and pedestrians would have been a specialised order.
As far as I can tell, this intersection of a road and taxiway is the only crossing of its kind in Australia. The most well-known level crossing at an airport in the world is probably the road crossing at Gibraltar where there is a similar arrangement. This is arguably even more challenging because the road crosses an active runway.
While I was there I did notice that one of the hangars on this side of the Airport was surrounded by construction equipment. According to the signs, a new car dealership is being built there. The 2004 and 2013 Masterplans indicate that the land on which some of the hangars are currently located will be developed. Presumably this will eventually mean less plane traffic across the level crossing.
Despite these changes, it does look like this unique piece of infrastructure is here to stay. The latest 2013 Essendon Fields Masterplan does not seem to suggest that the taxiway will fall out of use or that the corporate jet area will be removed or relocated.
If you are interested in visiting this site yourself, it is about a 10 minute walk from the route 59 tram terminus or most stops along Matthews Avenue. Several bus routes also run close by.
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
Of course there were airports in Australia where a railway line crossed a taxiway (Mascot, Sydney) and an active runway (Wynyard, Tasmania). In Sydney the rail line has been relocated, and at Wynyard the runway has been truncated. In Sydney a DC3 collided with a train once.
I think there is a traffic light (or warning lights) at the Point Cook airfield where the runway is very close to the road, but does not cross it.