Accident prompts repairs to dangerous track

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013

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Immediate repairs have been made to a rail crossing where a young woman was hit by a train after her wheelchair became stuck this week.

The 23-year-old is fighting for her life at Auckland City Hospital after having suffered head injuries and multiple fractures as her chair was hit and dragged by an oncoming freight train on Monday morning, despite the attempts of two bystanders to free her.

A temporary fix was put in place on Monday night to narrow the gap between the rail line and asphalt. 

A Kiwirail spokesperson admitted: "The problem was the gap was too wide." 

Previously scheduled work on several Auckland stations this weekend will now also include the Morningside crossing where the woman was hit. All lines through the station will be closed while the gap is permanently sealed. 

Kiwirail has launched an investigation as has the police serious crash unit.

The traumatised train driver is off work indefinitely and receiving counselling.

"It's very distressing for all involved," the spokesperson said.

The woman attempted to cross the tracks while barrier arms were up, but her chair became wedged in the gap. 

As the barriers came down and warning bells sounded, architecture graduate Matthieu Mereau, 24, and a female jogger struggled to free her.

They managed to tip the chair, but the woman was dragged and the jogger injured her leg.

The crossing was upgraded in mid-2011 and since then there had been no other incidents. 

But the accident prompted calls for more disabled-friendly crossings.

Accessibility campaigner Minnie Baragwanath said it was important urban planners  considered people in wheelchairs. 

With an aging population more people would be wheelchair bound, so the issues needed addressing.

"We should cease to be surprised about these things,'' she said, and instead focus on fixing problems before they caused injuries.

''If we can plan up front the costs shouldn't be any greater.''

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- Auckland Now

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