Pedestrian safety the focus for this year’s Rail Safety Week

13 August 2012 6:06AM

“Use your brain, tracks are for trains” is the new safety message being delivered throughout the country for this year’s Rail Safety Week.

The campaign is aimed at reducing the amount of trespassing and improving pedestrian safety around the rail network.

KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn says trespassing is the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in New Zealand.

“The theme ‘Use your brain, tracks are for trains’ puts the emphasis on actively thinking about the potential danger around railway lines and being vigilant anywhere and everywhere along the rail corridor,” he says.

Trespassing can include taking short cuts down or across tracks; using tracks as a footpath between stations; loitering around railway property; and committing acts of vandalism in the rail corridor.

Since 2000, 147 pedestrians have died on railway tracks, of which 126 were classified as trespass. In the last seven months alone there have been more than 30 trespassing incidents – nine of which were fatal*. Thirteen of these incidents were in Auckland; seven were in the Greater Wellington region; and ten were spread around the rest of the country.

New Zealanders are also being urged to act responsibly and to always obey the warning signals when crossing at level crossings. Mr Quinn says it’s important that New Zealanders understand that trains can’t stop suddenly or swerve to avoid a hazard.

“It’s not a new message, but it’s one of the realities of our business we have to keep working on until it’s embedded in the minds of every pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle driver.

“There have been far too many incidents lately where people have been harmed at either crossings where there have been lights and bells or barrier arms in operation, or while trespassing on the tracks.

“Every single death or injury on the railway network is avoidable if people approaching it actively recognise the hazards that exist and obey the warning signs and signals. KiwiRail takes these incidents extremely seriously. Not only do they cause an immense amount of harm to the people involved, but they also have a terrible impact on our drivers and staff,” says Mr Quinn.

Rail safety campaigner and former international test cricketer Chris Cairns says the growing use of mobile devices is increasing the risk of harm for people who need to cross the rail corridor.

“Trains, especially passenger trains, are very quiet and when people have the added distraction of either music in their ears, or someone speaking to them on a cellphone, then the risk of being hit by a train increases.

“We are urging people this year to stay alert around train tracks, to only ever cross at legal pedestrian crossings and to always remove their headphones and not use cellphones when crossing tracks.”

“So the message is simple,” says Mr Quinn. “‘Use your brain, tracks are for trains’ is survival code to be used not only during Rail Safety Week, but the other 51 weeks of the year as well.”

Rail Safety Week is being launched in Wellington today with events also being held in Auckland, New Plymouth, Mt Maunganui, Tauranga, Levin, Greymouth, Westport and Ashburton.

KiwiRail is also running an online rail safety quiz at www.kiwirail.co.nz , where people can enter a free prize draw to win one of the following: an iPad 2; a family return ticket, plus car, on the Interislander ferry; a family return ticket on one of the KiwiRail scenic train journeys (the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific or TranzAlpine); or a $20 iTunes voucher (one of ten).

ENDS

*This includes self-harm incidents

Media enquiries:

KiwiRail: Sophie Lee, (027) 435 9464

Chris Cairns Foundation: Megan Drayton, 0274 727 002

Notes to journalists:

  • Rail Safety Week is an annual Australasian event organised in Australia by the Australian Rail Association, and by KiwiRail and the Chris Cairns Foundation in New Zealand. RSW provides an annual focus for raising awareness of rail safety. Every year there is a different campaign and a range of activities to encourage behaviour change and improve rail safety.
  • Previous campaigns have focused on motorists to try to reduce the number of collisions at public level crossings.
  • Trespassing is illegal and punishable by up to $10,000.