As part of Rail Safety Week, near-miss memorials have been erected around the country at the locations of known near-misses, mostly at level crossings
Near-misses still taking their toll at level crossings
Close calls at level crossings are taking a huge toll on train drivers and those who narrowly miss death.
WEB EXCLUSIVEClose to 300 near-misses last year between people, vehicles and trains at railway level crossings has prompted a new safety campaign which was launched at Parliament at the start of this year’s Rail Safety Week in mid-August.
KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ are encouraging everyone to be more vigilant around railway tracks, with at least one near-miss on the rail network being recorded every day.
KiwiRail group chief executive CEO Greg Miller says it is important to take time to check and pay careful attention to your surroundings when near trains or railway lines. “These close calls are happening daily and they take a huge toll on our locomotive engineers and everyone involved. In a lot of cases people are missing death or serious injury by seconds. It is often just luck that they are not killed.“Although no one gets physically hurt in a near-miss, the driver, other rail staff, witnesses and of course the pedestrian or motorist all experience a level of trauma,” says Mr Miller.
“Near-misses can be one of the hardest parts of locomotive engineers’ jobs. They start to develop a sixth sense for danger, as they try to anticipate how a pedestrian or motorist will behave at an approaching level crossing.
“Tragically, some of our drivers have been involved in collisions that have resulted in deaths and they don’t want to repeat the experience, so that’s why we are calling on people to cross with care,” says Mr Miller.
TrackSAFE NZ foundation manager Megan Drayton says that near-misses with trains can be reduced if people comply with signs and signals in place to help people to cross safely.“In the 12 months to June, KiwiRail reported there were 415 near-misses recorded. Of these, 299 occurred at public level crossings, and the majority of these crossings had flashing lights, bells or barrier arms installed,” Ms Drayton says. “For this year’s campaign we’ve installed ‘near-miss memorials’ around the country at the locations of these known near-misses, mostly around level crossings.”
The near-miss memorials are a half white cross, and represent the hundreds of New Zealanders who have narrowly avoided a serious or fatal collision on the railway tracks in the past year, explains Ms Drayton. “We hope that these memorials will cause people to take greater care around trains and recognise that with growing populations, more train services and faster and quieter trains, there’s no room for complacency.”
Some memorials at busy pedestrian crossings are interactive, with a QR code that members of the public can scan with their phones and be taken to a near-miss video clip on the campaign website: nearmisses.co.nz
The week-long campaign is coordinated by KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ in close partnership with the NZ Transport Agency, NZ Police, Auckland Transport, Transdev Auckland, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Transdev Wellington and councils throughout New Zealand.
Rail safety advice
- • Cross with care – trains can arrive at any time from either direction
- • If you’re driving, obey the warning signs and look carefully in both directions for trains
- • Listen, be aware and pay careful attention to your surrounds
- • Trains can approach faster than you think, and can be quiet; they are heavy and cannot stop quickly
- • Always ensure there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle
- • If you’re on foot, only cross at a formed level crossing or an overpass or underpass
- • Remove your headphones, stop and always look both ways for trains before crossing the tracks
- • Only cross if you are sure there are no trains in sight
- • Obey the warning signs at the crossing – if lights are flashing or bells are ringing, this means a train is approaching
- • If a train has passed or is stopped at the station, always check both ways again to make sure another train is not coming; two tracks may mean there is a second train.