Children putting lives at risk as mill bosses call for stop to dangerous holiday incidents
Fed up TNQ locomotive drivers fear a kid will be seriously hurt or killed after reporting an "alarming" spike in cane bin surfing during the school holidays.
Drivers have also reported children are leaving objects on the track to try to derail locomotives and have been tampering with turnout mechanisms, with South Johnstone Mill cane supply manager Ken Hall saying the dire situation was causing high levels of stress.
The situation has become so bad that police have been called in to conduct regular patrols at known hotspot areas to identify the kids responsible and to discourage others from taking part in the potentially dangerous activities.
"Locomotive drivers become very stressed at the thought of possibly injuring someone," he said.
"They don't know these kids are riding on the bins, if they did they would stop the locomotive and secure the train.
"Not only do these kids ride on the bins, they also leave objects on the tracks and sometimes set off the ative lights."
The situation has been described as shocking with MSF Sugar chief executive officer Mike Barry saying he is disappointed children were taking risks around locomotives and not taking notice of simple safety messages.
"Our locomotive drivers have a big job to do," he said.
"Many of them are parents and don't want to be hurting kids, that's the worst-case scenario for them.
"Public safety is our highest priority and we would like to remind the community about the dangers of playing on or near cane trains and railway tracks.
"With the behaviours we're seeing, we're genuinely concerned at what the outcomes might be."
The average loco weighs 18 to 40 tonnes and when fully loaded this increases to up to 1,000 tonnes.
It can take a fully loaded loco up to 250 metres to come to a stop during an emergency.
Mulgrave Mill's cane supply manager Dennis Wright said the situation was becoming increasingly frustrating and called on parents to teach their kids about keeping away from trains and the tracks.
"It's important that children understand just how dangerous cane trains can be," he said.
"There's an incorrect assumption that cane trains are 'small' and can't hurt you, but this is far from correct."
MSF Sugar operates an extensive can rail network from Cairns, Babinda, South Johnstone and Silkwood areas, comprising about 800km of track, 397 road crossings and 319 bridges.
During the crushing season, 24 locomotives operate across the network 24 hours a day, seven days a week.