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Kids play ‘chicken’ on Featherston train tracks

A train driver’s quick thinking potentially saved the lives of several children playing on the tracks.
A group of children were reportedly playing a game of ‘chicken’ on the railway line in Featherston on Wednesday evening. The game, ‘chicken,’ involves standing on the tracks in front of an oncoming train for as long as possible. The last person to move is crowned the winner.
A passenger snoozing in the last carriage said she woke abruptly when the driver slammed on the emergency brakes.
“Luckily, it was semi-close to the actual stop. A lot of passengers were standing and getting ready to leave the train.”
The passenger said she hoped the kids were made to understand the consequences of their actions.
“It could have all gone so horribly wrong, and our poor driver, their family and friends. So much unnecessary grief.”
A spokesperson for KiwiRail said the incident was incredibly dangerous.
“A Wairarapa commuter service travelling from Wellington made an emergency stop in Featherston at around 6.30pm on Wednesday August 31 because of children on the line at Fox St.
“There was no collision and no injuries, and the train was delayed for around four minutes.
“Unfortunately, it is not unusual for people to trespass in the rail corridor. The latest incident again underlines that it is both dangerous and illegal to be in the rail corridor without authorisation.”
The incident was not the only one on Wellington region’s train lines this week. Police confirmed a person struck by a train yesterday morning in Paekakariki had subsequently died. Emergency services responded to the incident near MacKay’s Crossing at Whareroa Rd at 10am.
A diversion was put in place for traffic in the area. Police confirmed yesterday afternoon that the person had not survived.
Although there was a slight increase in near misses between people, vehicles, and trains over the past year, the increase in collisions has been significant.
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said the number of collisions at public level crossings alone had more than doubled, from 13 in the year to June 30 2021, to 28.
“Train accidents are unforgiving. The average freight train weighs well over 1000 tonnes and cannot swerve to avoid a person or vehicle or stop easily.
“Sadly, eight people have lost their lives in accidents with trains over the past year.”
Reidy said new technology was in development to help reduce the number of fatalities.
“We continue to work with councils and other organisations to upgrade level crossings, and we’re trialling new technologies – such as AI cameras that can identify trespassers on railway lines and alert approaching train drivers in good time.
“The increase in collisions in the last year shows that people need to change how they act around the rail network.”

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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