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23 December 2010

Don’t let lack of care around Level Crossings kill this Christmas

KiwiRail and the Chris Cairns Foundation are warning people to take care around railway lines this Christmas in light of recent statistics showing that people are continuing to take unnecessary risks around level crossings.

Almost 80 per cent of near collisions between motor vehicles and trains in the past four months occurred at crossings with either flashing lights and ringing bells or lowered barrier arms, says Chris Cairns Foundation Manager Megan Drayton.

Around 18 percent of the near collisions occurred where motorists deliberately drove around lowered barrier arms. That is nearly one in every five near-collisions.

 “We are reminding people that warning signs are there for a reason – they are to protect people and warn them that a train is approaching,” she says.  

“At all times, and especially over Christmas, we are urging people to take care and be aware around the railway, to always obey the signs and make sure the lines are clear of trains before crossing.”

The figures were analysed from data collected in the Foundation’s “Call It In” campaign, which began in August.

The campaign involved a nationwide blitz on the reporting of near collisions by the country’s locomotive engineers.  Since August there have been 79 near collisions at level crossings.    There have been 148 near collisions recorded this year to date, up from 93 in 2009.

KiwiRail Network General Manager Rick van Barneveld says there have been 20 collisions between vehicles and trains at public road level crossings this year resulting in injuries, but fortunately, no deaths.   Last year there were 31 collisions and four people died.

“It is pleasing that this number is lower than last year, and it is remarkable that no one has died,” Mr van Barneveld says. “But this doesn’t mean that people should become complacent. We are urging everyone to be careful around level crossings this Christmas, and particularly those people who live in or are traveling through the Wairarapa.”

KiwiRail will be diverting all its freight trains on the Wairarapa Line between Boxing Day and 9 January while the North Island Main Trunk Line is closed for work on the tracks.   “Very few trains currently use this line, so the increase in rail traffic creates an additional risk,” he says.

KiwiRail locomotive engineers are also hoping for a collision-free Christmas.

“The best thing we could give our staff this year would be a Christmas without any incidents,” Mr van Barneveld says.  “Our drivers are often the forgotten victims in level crossing collisions and near misses.”

One person was killed in a pedestrian level crossing in the Bay of Plenty this year and eight people have lost their lives while trespassing on the railway corridor.

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“...The profile he has given the issue in the short time since the Foundation’s announcement has already had a significant impact”.

From the speech of RT Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister of New Zealand, at the Chris Cairns Foundation Dinner 2006.