Aucklanders warned to stay clear of overhead train wires

09 September 2013 11:11AM

A safety campaign has been launched this week warning Aucklanders they won’t get a second chance if they get too close to the overhead wires which will power the city’s new electric trains.

The first of Auckland’s new electric trains has now arrived in Auckland. Over the coming months these will be tested around the network in preparation for train services in 2014.

The overhead wires are now live 24/7 and potentially deadly to anyone who may get too close or come into contact with them, says KiwiRail Project Management Office General Manager Murray Hood. 

“As with ordinary power lines, the overhead power system on the rail network is built so that people doing ordinary things near them are perfectly safe,” said Mr Hood.

“Only reckless or mischievous behaviour poses a danger.

“Sadly, experience both here in New Zealand and overseas shows that some people ignore all safety advice and take risks with serious and usually fatal results.”

The overhead wires that will power the trains carry 25,000 volts, which is 100 times more powerful than that used in homes.

“You do not even need to touch these wires to be electrocuted - electricity this powerful can arc or jump across gaps so it is important to keep away and make sure anything you are carrying is also well clear,” said Mr Hood.

“So it is critical that the public must treat these lines as live and extremely dangerous at all times.”

An awareness campaign to get this message out has been developed by KiwiRail, Auckland Transport and Transdev – the three organisations which deliver commuter rail services in Auckland. Launched this week the campaign includes billboard, radio and newspaper advertising as well as a video available on YouTube and Facebook. A link to the video can be found on the KiwiRail website –

“Transdev is tremendously excited about this new era for Auckland rail but it’s vitally important that everyone who travels on or near the train tracks heeds these important warnings about electrified overhead wires,” said Transdev’s Electrification Programme Lead Mike Yeoman.

“You can help us share the safety message. We encourage parents to talk to their children about staying well clear of the overhead wires and taking care around trains and stations, the rail network is no place to play.”

There have been several incidents on the electrified section of the North Island Main Trunk railway line that runs between Hamilton and Palmerston North in recent years.

“Invariably, these have all involved young men trespassing on the rail corridor and getting too close to the overhead wires.  At best those that survived received serious burns,” said Mr Hood.

In 2003 a young male trespasser died after climbing on top of a stationary train in a freight yard in Hamilton.  And in 2007 another trespasser received serious burns, again after trespassing in the same area.

The wires have meant the introduction of height restrictions at the 31 level crossings on Auckland roads within the electrified area. However, most road users will not be affected by these height restrictions, as most vehicles and loads would not exceed them. 

Most level crossings will have a height restriction of five metres, however 11 crossings will be lower at 4.25 metres. Roadside signs will warn of the presence of wires and display the height restriction at each level crossing. 

Motorists with loads exceeding the height restrictions will need to apply to KiwiRail for written permission to use a level crossing.


Media Contact: KiwiRail - Jenni Austin 021 961 495; Transdev - Brooke Donovan 021 413 071

More Information


  • Treat the overhead wires and the fittings that carry them as live and dangerous at all times.
  • Keep clear of the tracks – only cross at level crossings.
  • Don’t take shortcuts along or across the railway tracks.
  • Always use dedicated pedestrian footpaths to access railway stations.
  • If you have children, make sure they are aware of the dangers of the electrical wires. Make sure they know not to play or walk near the train tracks.
  • Keep all objects such as ladders, poles, kites etc, well away from the overhead wires.


  • The overhead wires mean height restrictions are now in place at all level crossings in Auckland.
  • The safe height restriction is clearly signposted at each level crossing. It is set at 5 metres at most level crossings with 11 at 4.25 metres.
  • This restriction will not affect ordinary motorists or pedestrians.
  • All vehicles that are within the NZ Transport Agency’s dimension limits for height - 4.25 metres - can safely cross any level crossing within the Auckland electrified area.
  • Road users with loads in excess of the stated clearance at any of the 31 level crossings within the Auckland electrified area will need to obtain written permission from KiwiRail before using any of those crossings.
  • To obtain permission contact the KiwiRail Operations Support desk on 04 474 2323, visit or email
  • Applicants need to allow at least five working days for the permit application to be processed.
  • KiwiRail advise all operators of over dimension vehicles and loads who cross the railways to have the Train Control Emergency number, 0800 808 400 easily accessible in their cabs at all times
  • To stay safe, users of level crossings must always obey all warning signs and alarms at level crossings. 
  • They should not queue on a level crossing or begin to move across one unless they know their vehicle can completely clear it.


  • Be aware of your distance from the wires if you are using machinery or doing any work at your boundary. Maintain a minimum distance of 4 metres at all times.
  • Always look up when moving tall objects such as ladders and poles near your boundary.
  • Be careful if water blasting at your boundary – direct the water downwards.
  • KiwiRail will carry out regular inspections of the network to check no vegetation is growing too close to the wires. If you have a tree on your property you want to trim and are worried it may come in contact with the wires, contact a professional arborist qualified to work around live lines.