Close calls at level crossings are taking a huge toll on train drivers and those who narrowly miss death.
Close to 300 near misses last year between people, vehicles and trains at railway level crossings has prompted a new safety campaign being launched at Parliament today.
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 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.
“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.”
“For this year’s campaign we’ve installed ‘near miss memorials’ around the country at 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,” says Ms Drayton.
“We hope that these memorials will cause people to take greater care around trains and recognise that with growing populations, more trains services and faster and quieter trains, there’s no room for complacency.”
The near miss memorials will be in place at road and pedestrian level crossings throughout the country for the duration of Rail Safety Week. 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.
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