Resetting rail alarms is ruled out

22:41, Aug 07 2014
level crossing
EXPOSED: The barriers at the Main St roundabout level crossing, in central Blenheim, do not prevent pedestrians from walking across the tracks as a train passes. 

The flashing lights at a level crossing in Marlborough cannot be programmed to start earlier to signal an oncoming train because they are governed by a national standard, KiwiRail says.

A spokeswoman said the alarms at level crossings were set to standards agreed between KiwiRail and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

On Tuesday, a 60-year-old Blenheim woman stepped into the path of a southbound KiwiRail freight train at the Main St roundabout in Blenheim. The woman, who was wearing a hood, was seriously injured and flown to Wellington Hospital.

A hospital spokesman said yesterday afternoon she was "on the mend". She is in the intensive care unit and her condition had improved from critical to serious, he said.

The KiwiRail spokeswoman said alarms at level crossings were controlled by a grade crossing predictor.

Lights started flashing and the bells sounded 24 seconds before a train reached the level crossing.

The barrier arms came down nine seconds after the lights started flashing. There was no set point on the track which triggered the alarm, as it depended on the speed of the approaching train, the spokeswoman said.

"There is a balancing act needed. We need to ensure there is enough time for anyone already committed to crossing the tracks, whether in a car or on foot, to have time to get fully clear," she said. "But if the alarms operate for too long before a train it causes frustration and pedestrians ignore bells and vehicles drive around barrier arms."

At the time the woman was hit, the crossing monitor had recorded 26 seconds before the train reached the beginning of the crossing. Marlborough Road Safety Council secretary Geoff Powell said the council was planning two surveys at the weekend to monitor driver behaviour as they approached the level crossing at the Main St roundabout.