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Local Focus: Wairarapa Rail Crossing Crash Concerns

With a train recently hitting a car at a crossing at Norfolk Rd in Masterton on the 22nd July, the discussion has been further raised in the Wairarapa on how to improve road and rail safety.

The vehicle that collided with the train was carried several metres along the track. Ambulances, fire crews and police arriving on the scene quickly cordoned off the intersection, while the car was cut open to retrieve the driver. None of the train passengers or the train driver were injured.

Melelisa Tusini-Hetutu was at the scene not long after the crash, quite visibly shaken by what she had just witnessed.

“I often thought that one day this is going to happen, or worse, someone will die, and all they have to do is put a barrier up. And they’ve got the 100k speed limit along here, which never made sense to me.” Said Tusini-Hetutu.

With just a sign, lights and bells at the crossing responsibility is on road users to slow down and check for trains. The 100 km speed limit may also be a factor to catch drivers off guard.

“Commonsense does apply when crossing, but that doesn’t mean not everyone will have that,” observed Tusini-Hetutu, “It’s pretty obvious that a barrier needed to come up.

I’m always having to stop the check because the barrier arms are not out there. You just have to do the double, triple check.

Each year, on average, three people die, six people suffer a serious injury and there are 140 reported near-miss incidents at railway level crossings.

The injured driver in the car was lucky. A helicopter airlifted her to Palmerston North Hospital and fortunately has not sustained serious injuries.

For Tusini-Hetutu she hopes that changes to the level crossings will be coming soon, “I’m in disbelief. This was just waiting to happen. Like that girl almost died. So is this preventable? Absolutely.”

With more trains set for the Wairarapa line, new safety measures and barriers are planned for the 30 public level crossings between the Remutaka Tunnel and Masterton. There is also a proposal for five crossings that are considered dangerous to be closed.

Questions still remain as to how effective will the new barriers be and how will people in local communities accept  these closures.


  1. I watch Wairarapa drivers drive through stop signs at railway crossings multiple times a day. 70Km/h through the stop sign is quite common. They have no hope of stopping if a train is there and are quite simply playing Russian Roulette. If you play that often enough you will encounter a chamber with a bullet in it one day!

  2. its easy stop look listen all drivers crossing the rail line have to give way to the train its in the road code

  3. It’s called an accident and they do happen. Putting barriers up would have prevented it but bells and lights should be enough. We have Traffic lights, pedestrian sign, stop and give way signs, just to mention some. Please let drivers drive and the few that are so worried about accidents should learn the road code or dont drive because you are a danger to every other driver.

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Phil Stebbing
Phil Stebbing
Phil Stebbing is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. He regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional cat.

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