Too many near misses

Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014
Access Rd rail crossing
WELL MARKED: The Access Rd rail crossing in Kumeu is clearly marked. The vehicle pictured is stopped correctly for the traffic light phase where there’s room for about two cars just over the rail line.

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The train driver watched with heart in mouth as the motorist crossed the rail line just 10 metres in front of the train.

Flashing lights and bells were going at the Access Rd crossing in Kumeu on January 19 when the motorist took the gamble.

This just after Ron Murphy, 73, of Coatesville was killed on December 12 in a collision with a freight train at the Joyce Adams Place crossing in nearby Waimauku. Earlier the same month Jonathan Pettit, 61, was badly injured in a crash at the Boord Cres-Waitakere Rd crossing barely a kilometre from the Access Rd incident.

The latest Kumeu incident and other near misses around the country have prompted KiwiRail and police to urge drivers to obey level crossing warnings and exercise patience.

Train drivers have reported 19 "near collision" incidents this year at level crossings where motorists ignored safety measures and crossed in front of trains. Twelve of these were at crossings with flashing lights and bells.

In four of these incidents, motorists drove around other vehicles already stopped at the crossing and in one the motorist had to swerve to avoid the train, KiwiRail says.

"We are horrified to think motorists would deliberately put themselves, and any passengers they may have, in such grave danger," KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn says. "There is no journey so important that it can't wait a couple of minutes.

"Trains are large and heavy and can be travelling faster than they appear and simply cannot stop quickly.

"There is nothing our train drivers can do when confronted with a situation like this other than to sound their horn, and hope for the best."

National rail safety charity TrackSAFE NZ, formerly the Chris Cairns Foundation, also urges people to be careful.

"Unfortunately, if people continue to engage in the reckless and impatient behaviour that we have already seen this year then it is only a matter of time before we potentially have another tragedy on the railway," foundation manager Megan Drayton says. Where train drivers can get vehicle registration details these are passed to police for possible prosecution.

Last year, KiwiRail recorded 107 near collisions at level crossings, 43 per cent of them at crossings with flashing lights and bells.

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- Rodney Times

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