Drivers angered by arm failures

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 08/01/2013

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Frustrated motorists have been making dangerous manoeuvres around a malfunctioning set of railway crossing barrier arms near a state highway at Woodville.

Police were forced to intervene, but KiwiRail believes the fault has now been fixed.

The arms have sometimes stayed down, blocking traffic even though no trains are coming.

Woodville Senior Constable Carey Williamson said the barrier arms at the crossing in McLean St - which becomes Masterton Rd, State Highway 2 - had been causing problems in the past two weeks. The arms started coming down and remaining down for extended periods of time. Mr Williamson was aware of it happening six or seven times.

One of the busiest times the arms had come down was about 3.30pm on Sunday, when people were heading home from their holidays.

Mr Williamson said he managed to keep traffic flowing with a short delay.

He said it posed a danger of people getting impatient and crossing the lanes when the barriers were down when no-one was directing traffic.

The problems have also come shortly after the death of Glen Lyons, 38, who died at an uncontrolled crossing on the outskirts of Woodville just before Christmas, when his truck collided with a train.

Mr Williamson had been left to direct traffic at the McLean St crossing for around 45 minutes on one occasion while waiting for a KiwiRail representative to arrive.

He was at the crossing again yesterday, after coming across Tararua District Council staff and KiwiRail representatives, when a truck reportedly clipped a barrier arm shortly before 11am, causing it to fall off.

Mr Williamson said he did not know what had caused the arm to come off. Council contractor Brian Barnes said he was approached by a member of the public and told that a stock truck had hit the barrier arm as it came down, so he went to help manage traffic until police arrived.

One barrier arm was on the ground when he arrived. The other stayed down, and the lights and bells continued. A train came and went, and the lights continued.

KiwiRail spokeswoman Sarah Pomeroy said there had been an intermittent fault with the barrier arms, but every time a representative arrived, it had already cleared itself. The crossings were designed to "fail safely". If there was a problem, barrier arms would always come down with lights and bells going, rather than alarms or barrier arms not working at all, she said.

Representatives at the scene yesterday found a "circuit termination issue" which has since been fixed. They hoped this would rectify the issue once and for all.

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- Manawatu Standard

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