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Car-train near misses in Wairarapa rise in 2019

Near miss signs at Woodside Rd near Woodside Station in Greytown. PHOTOS/EMMA BROWN

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At the railway crossing along Woodside Rd, near Woodside station, a half white cross memorial has been put up for a male pedestrian with a QR code leading to a video of his near miss with a train.

‘Near miss’ is a term Wairarapa-Wellington line train driver John Woodley knows only too well – sometimes it’s just too close.

“One near miss, I could see the kids in the car – not a good example for them”.

This year’s Rail Safety Week campaign has focused on near misses with the half white cross memorials popping up at key level crossings around the country to raise awareness about the risks of unsafe behaviour.

KiwiRail Masterton operations manager Donna Harley, left, with Wairarapa-Wellington line train driver John Woodley.

Wairarapa has a bad history at level crossings, Masterton-based KiwiRail Operations manager Donna Harley said.

In the 12 months to June, KiwiRail reported 415 near misses nationwide. Of these, nearly 300 occurred at public level crossings with flashing lights, bells or barrier arms installed.

In 2019 there have been 10 near misses for light road vehicles in Wairarapa. This is up dramatically from two last year, while two near miss heavy road vehicle-train collisions this year, is up from one last year.

In the past five years there have been three collisions at public level crossings in Wairarapa and 23 near misses.

Harley said that those who have been hit and survived often said they drive the road all the time and did not see the train coming.

“We encourage all our drivers to report near misses so that we can log it,” she said. “Each driver reacts differently. Because they [the train driver] can’t do anything, except brake.”

Woodley agreed. “At rural crossings, people forget they are there.”

Watersons Line in Dalefield, Andersons Line near Carterton, Wiltons Rd in Waingawa and a few other crossings along the line keep him alert due to past experiences.

“Some rural crossings you can see them coming.”

He said he often thinks about what can be done to make crossings safer.

“I would love the crossings to be 100 per cent safe, but they never will be.”

KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ are encouraging everyone to be more vigilant around railway tracks with at least one near miss on the rail network recorded every day.

The memorials are designed to make people think about taking greater care around trains.

Woodley said people need to stop and think, “hey, there is a railway crossing, I need to check to see if there is a train coming”.

“What is 30 seconds to wait for a train.”

Harley’s message to the public is, “You have only got one life, look for a train and stop”.

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