Acting traffic sergeant Shayne Nolan rode the train on the Wairarapa line to assess intersections that posed the greatest risk. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
By Hayley Gastmeier
Acting traffic sergeant Shayne Nolan joined the early morning Masterton commuters yesterday, taking a train trip to Wellington as part of Rail Safety week.
His mission was to observe the intersections along the Wairarapa line and gauge the ones that posed the greatest risk.
“I was speaking to the [two train] drivers, who between them have about 60 years’ experience, and between them they’d had eight fatal crashes where people drove onto the tracks in front of them.”
Mr Nolan said trains were “a force of nature” and were not to be reckoned with.
“They sweep away everything in front of them – they’re like a tsunami – and you’re just a fool trying to tempt fate by trying to race them through a crossing, or not checking.”
During his trip he witnessed a vehicle “go straight through the crossing in front of the train” at the intersection just south of the Carterton Station.
Mr Nolan said by the time a train driver sees something in the train’s path it was often too late.
“It’s over a kilometre for the train to come to a stop with the emergency brake.
“They can only hit the brake and hope the car gets out of the way.”
People must take notice of traffic signals and stop signs at rail crossings, he said.
The two intersections in Wairarapa which the engineers on yesterday’s morning train, Bruce Scott and Peter Taiaroa, said posed the most risk for crashes were Moffats Rd near Matarawa Station and the crossing on Norfolk Rd in Waingawa.
Megan Drayton from TrackSAFE NZ said research from 2014 indicated Wairarapa drivers in rural areas were often complacent, especially around level crossings controlled by stop and give way signs.
She said a new safety trial was being conducted by KiwiRail at the Western Lake Rd level crossing in Featherston, where an advance warning sign would soon be installed.
It will be activated by approaching vehicles and will flash lights to remind motorists to look for trains.