KiwiRail level crossings project engineer Eddie Cook at the Western Lake Rd rail crossing where additional warning signs have been installed to remind drivers to check for trains. PHOTOS/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
By Hayley Gastmeier
A rail blackspot at Western Lake Rd will see the trial of new technology to help alert Wairarapa drivers to the dangers of level crossings.
Two digital ‘expect trains’ signs with flashing lights went live this week at the crossing, which has been a crash site over the years and has claimed lives.
Level crossings controlled only by Give Way and Stop signs have been the site of 75 per cent of the country’s rail crashes over the last five years.
The KiwiRail trial, which also includes a set of signs in Marton, aims to reduce driver complacency at these sites.
The new signs are situated 100m before the Western Lake Rd level crossing, with the pair valued at $4000.
As well as the new signs, solar panels on the stop signs at the crossing have been installed to power detectors, which measure the speed at which cars approach, and infrared stop line detectors measure how many cars actually stop.
KiwiRail level crossings project engineer Eddie Cook said the purpose of the trial was to measure the effectiveness of lower cost level crossings, in comparison to arm barriers which cost $200,000 a set.
“They’re too expensive and we only have so much money so we have to prioritise.
“We can only install about three or four of them a year.”
Before the Featherston signs were installed, two weeks of data was collected measuring vehicle speed and whether they stopped at the crossing.
“This is a one-off installation to see if the signs will have an effect,” Mr Cook said.
“We’ll use the data to see if it’s going to be a good investor in providing safety benefits.”
Mr Cook said the Western Lake Rd level crossing was chosen as a trial site because “numerous incidents have been here over the last 10-year period”, and the “s-bend” in the road made for poor visibility of oncoming trains.
He said the last incident at the location was in March.