KiwiRail cautions truck drivers after spate of Auckland bridge strikes

30 June 2021

KiwiRail is warning heavy vehicle drivers of the impacts of bridge strikes after two incidents this week where trucks hit rail bridges in east and south Auckland, closing rail lines and disrupting the city’s train users.

The incidents are the latest in a string where vehicle drivers have misjudged the height of bridges and struck them, causing damage and train cancellations.

KiwiRail General Manager Operations for the Upper North Island, Reuben Araroa, says that five rail bridges have been struck in Auckland in the past month alone.

“Some disruptions can’t be planned for, such as the wild weather we experienced in June, but these types of incidents are entirely avoidable and yet we are seeing them happen at an alarming frequency.

“Any strike in Auckland has the potential to disrupt thousands of members of the public who rely on the trains, along with our freight customers. It’s an extremely busy period for freight volumes and these bridge strikes delay the movement of goods in and out of Auckland.

“Every time a bridge is struck, a structures inspector needs to check over the bridge. Even if there is not substantial damage, we still have to close the line for a period while we make sure the bridge is safe for trains and people,” Mr Araroa says.

The first collision on Tuesday happened just after 9.30am at Merton Road in Glen Innes and meant Eastern line services had to be diverted along the Southern line. Later that day, a truck struck a rail bridge at McPherson Road just outside Drury, closing the line for two hours. Trains were cancelled between Papakura and Pukekohe while KiwiRail staff inspected the bridge to ensure it was fit for trains to travel over.

“Tuesday’s incidents are another reminder that drivers of trucks and heavy vehicles should always check the height of their vehicle or load before passing under a rail bridge.

“Today a vehicle collided with a passenger train at the Boundary Road level crossing which is concerning given the crossing has half-arm barriers. Thankfully there were no serious injuries to anyone involved, but this incident is a reminder to take care around railway lines and always obey the warning alarms.”

In the year to date, there have been 19 bridge strikes around the country involving over height trucks. Last year there were 28 bridge strikes recorded nationally.

“Bridge strikes are a growing problem and the message to motorists is to always obey the road signs which give plenty of warning of a low bridge. If you think your vehicle or load is above the clearance height, then do not try to pass underneath. Take an alternative route.” 

Mr Araroa says that anyone involved in a bridge strike, or who witnesses one, should report it to KiwiRail on 0800 808 400, or to Police immediately so the bridge can be inspected and any necessary repairs undertaken.

“The public and rail operators are potentially at risk if they travel over a damaged or seriously compromised structure. Any driver who collides with a rail bridge could be liable for the cost of repairing the damage, and any additional losses incurred, as could their company, so please always watch your height.”