Bells, lights ignored too often
Moments before a Blenheim woman was hit by a freight train yesterday morning, three cars were seen darting across the railway tracks as the warning lights were flashing.
Phil Brown Motors owner Phil Brown said people regularly drove across the tracks after the lights had started and the bells were sounding.
Brown was unlocking the gate at his Main St business when he saw the woman thrown into the air and land on the ground.
The barrier arms, lights and bells at the crossing were working, he said.
"People just don't stop for those flashing red lights," he said.
"It's a bit of a game to them, trying to get across before the barriers come down."
Pedestrian and driver behaviour needed to change at Blenheim's main intersection, Brown said.
He saw at least three drivers a day cross the tracks after the red lights started flashing. The most cars he had seen in one day was seven.
He was surprised a car had not already been hit by a train at the roundabout.
About two weeks ago, Brown saw two near-misses on the same day.
In two separate incidents, a car coming from Grove Rd tried to get across after the red lights started flashing but got stuck on the tracks because of traffic.
"The last car was still on the tracks, desperately trying to get across before the barrier arms came down," he said.
Pedestrians normally stopped at the red light, but he often saw high school students running across the tracks when a train was coming.
One of them only had to trip for it to turn into a tragedy, he said.
Brown felt sorry for the people driving the trains, he said.
"They've got no chance of stopping."
The solution was simple - people needed to stop when the red lights were flashing, he said.
"Everyone just seems to be in a hurry, they don't want to wait for a train," he said. "People don't realise when you take on a train, you come second."
Mechanic Justin Kenward, who was at One Stop Brake & Auto on Redwood St opposite where the woman was hit, said he heard the train sounding its horn before the collision.
He was sitting in the office when he heard the train coming.
"He [the driver] sounded the horn once coming up to the roundabout, then he was on it for about five seconds," he said.
The train driver hit the brakes and came to a stop about 200 metres further along the track.
He often saw people walking across the intersection not paying attention to their surroundings.
People frequently crossed the road while listening to music and playing on their cellphones, he said. "I've seen a lot of close calls. It'll probably happen again."
New Zealand Transport Agency Marlborough Roads manager Frank Porter said there had been nothing to alert the agency of a serious problem at the Main St roundabout.
All parts of the Marlborough road network were regularly reviewed. The roundabout had an extremely high volume of traffic, he said.
The agency was aware it wasn't a crash-free site, but nothing had been flagged as a serious problem.
The Marlborough Express