KiwiRail and Tracksafe NZ are calling on Auckland motorists to take more care when using level rail crossings, after figures reveal that more cars are hitting protective barrier arms at level crossing surges.
James Brailsford, KiwiRail’s network service manager for the Auckland Metro rail network, said that 331 level crossing barrier arms had been hit by vehicles across the metro area since 2012. “That’s 331 times where safety has been compromised,” Mr Brailsford said.
40 incidents have occurred at Woodward Road crossing in Mt Albert alone since 2012, while Manuroa Road in Takanini and Metcalfe Road in Ranui have seen 39 and 34 each.
Last year, 114 incidents of vehicles hitting the barriers were reported from across Auckland’s metro system, indicating that the risk of harm is increasing. Brailsford said that KiwiRail was concerned that “more motorists think they can beat the warning signals and the train”, and that many drivers are evidently overlooking the serious consequences of hitting the barriers.
“When a vehicle hits a barrier arm it means motorists have not made sure they had the space or the time to cross and fully exit the rail crossing, and that is dangerous.”
Brailsford explained that every time a motorist hits these barriers it can potentially damage the safety systems that keep those using the crossing “separated and safe” from trains using the tracks.
“When the barrier arm is damaged, train speeds must reduce until a full safety inspection is carried out, and that means delays to commuter services,” he said.
While KiwiRail said that the rise in incidents is partly due to the increase in Auckland’s population and better reporting of their occurrence by the public and train drivers, TrackSAFE foundation manager Megan Drayton said that drivers had been ignoring warnings, and reminded them that they needed to have more patience when using level crossings.
“Always obey the warning signs and look carefully in both directions for trains. Stay focused, keep the cross hatching clear and ensure there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle before you cross,” she warned drivers.
“Never overtake a vehicle that has stopped for a train or try to race a train over the crossing – trains are usually travelling faster than you think.”
The Auckland figures, which were released for International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD), also indicated that 92 near misses between vehicles and trains and 77 near misses with pedestrians had been recorded.
Ms Drayton said that the figures indicated that motorists had to take heed of the potential dangers of using level crossings and act accordingly.
“Every year there are hundreds of near collisions reported by train drivers. Research in New Zealand has shown that distraction, complacency and impatience are the key causes of level crossing collisions in our country.”