Level crossing alarm bells
KiwiRail has 742 public level crossings with bells. These bells are the main warning sound for pedestrians.
There are a small percentage of level crossing bells turned off between 10.30 pm and 7.00 am. This does not comply with international best practice and we are phasing this practice out. Even when signs advise the bells are turned off at road crossings with barriers, the bells still operate for a short period for each train while the barriers are driving down as protection for pedestrians and cyclists.
Quiet electronic bells are installed at 56 crossings. All of them, except one, are in residential areas of major towns.
The benefits of a quiet bell are:
- The sound level can be adjusted below the normal standard of 85 - 105 dBA to a minimum of 75 dBA
- Compliance with internationally accepted safety standards
- The sound radiating pattern is omni-directional, and more localised than traditional electro-mechanical bells.
Installation of quiet bells
KiwiRail plans to eventually install quiet bells at those few crossings where the bells are still switched off at night. At other crossings KiwiRail will consider the installation of quiet bells if there are residences very close to the crossing and a number of residents consider the bells to be a noise nuisance. In either case quiet bells will only be installed when the local roading authority has agreed.
The local roading authority needs to be involved because:
- Reducing the normal sound level of the bells is a reduction in safety for pedestrians
- The authority may know of local circumstances that would make quiet bells more dangerous, e.g. there may be a high level of background noise or the level crossing is used by visually impaired persons.