GAWLER traffic descended into chaos for over two hours on Friday after a technical error caused several sets of boom-gates to stay lowered, leaving King Street as the only open access to and from the north.
According to a Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) spokesman, an internal power failure to the railway signalling system at 12.15pm on Friday affected three level crossings between the Gawler Central and Gawler railway stations.
The spokesman said these included the now-defunct crossings at Murray Street and Edith Street, and the active crossing at Victoria Terrace.
However, the boom-gates at the Howard Street crossing were also seen to be affected.
“This (power failure) resulted in boom-gates being automatically dropped to ‘fail safe’ position to protect level crossings, until the problem was fixed by 2.30pm,” the DPTI spokesman said.
“Trains were able to continue on the line at a reduced speed, which caused up to 15-minute delays to services along the Gawler line.”
Police blocked off the roads running over the crossings – diverting traffic away from Murray Street at the Cowan Street intersection, near Gawler Central – and allowed traffic to trickle over the Edith Street crossing, where trains no longer run to, under their guidance.
However, many motorists turned to King Street to cross the railway track, causing a gridlock over the bridge – which some locals are concerned will be removed in the future due to the impending Gawler rail line electrification project.
At 2pm, SA Police took to social media to advise motorists that “traffic is very congested… please avoid the area, if possible”, while technicians assessed the problem.
Taylor & Forgie Funeral Directors’ Mark Forgie said, from the vantage point of the funeral home on the corner of Cowan and King streets, there was significant traffic confusion in the area, which coincided with the holding of a funeral.
“It was very testy with traffic (around Light Square) because we had a funeral in progress and, of course, nobody knew where to go,” he said.
“People were just totally confused – Light Square was full of cars, and they couldn’t go from Light Square into King Street because of the no-entry there, which actually works well normally.
“It just clearly demonstrates we need something other than level crossings in Gawler, because level crossings can block access to the north.
“It also shows the need for the King Street bridge…we’d have nothing if it wasn’t for the King Street bridge.”
It’s not the first time an issue with local boom-gates has disrupted traffic, with the most recent disturbance occurring in March.
The DPTI spokesman said the signalling system is being replaced along the Gawler line to improve reliability, as part of the $615 million electrification project.