Additional safety measures in the form of half arm barriers were installed at the Purnell Street level crossing in Wanganui this week. It is the first crossing to be upgraded by KiwiRail this financial year.
“The new safety measures should improve safety at the site by helping to physically prevent motorists from moving onto the tracks when a train is nearby,” says KiwiRail Infrastructure and Engineering General Manager Rick van Barneveld.
“The crossing had non-injury collisions in July 2004 and January 2010. These collisions and recent increasing numbers of freight trains on the line meant the level crossing moved up on our upgrade priority list.”
“While public road level crossing collision figures have hit an all-time low, we still urge drivers and pedestrians to ensure intersections are clear before crossing.”
“We work hard to install physical warning measures such as barrier arms, flashing lights and bells but we also need drivers and pedestrians to remember that trains have the right of way at crossings.”
“The collision average was previously around three per month but has now fallen to around one per month. This is a very positive reduction which has shown a declining trend since December 2009.”
“I think we can attribute some of the collision decline to the work we do to raise awareness about level crossing safety through various campaigns and our ongoing work to upgrade higher risk crossings around the country.”
There have been 60 public road level crossing collisions since 1 July 2009. Two of these were fatal.
“Fatal level crossing collisions are obviously devastating for the victims’ families but people often forget they also have an impact on our drivers. Our drivers are put in really tough positions when they occur. Trains are heavy, they can’t swerve and they do take time to come to a halt which often means collisions cannot be avoided. In addition our drivers are often the first on the scene, giving first aid and calling emergency services. One can only imagine what this must feel like, unfortunately our drivers are experiencing this more than we would like.”
There are 1334 public road level crossings on the KiwiRail network. 278 (21%) of these are protected by barrier arms plus flashing lights and bells. 422 (32%) are protected by flashing lights and bells. The remaining 47% are protected by signs and road markings.
KiwiRail upgrades around 8-10 crossings a year to help improve level crossing safety around New Zealand.
Public road level collisions per calendar year
2010 - 22
2011 - 16
2012 to date - 7