The rail crossing at Ngaumutawa Rd, Masterton. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES
Improvements have been planned for at least 27 railroad crossings in Wairarapa, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced on Monday.
The statement kicked off Rail Safety Week, an initiative from KiwiRail and the awareness group TrackSAFE, which sought to reduce collisions and deaths in New Zealand’s rail network.
There have been several incidents at rail crossings in Wairarapa over the past few years: in 2013, a 15-year-old girl was killed after a ute she was a passenger in crashed into a train on Wiltons Rd, Carterton; in 2017, a passenger train and a logging truck collided, also near Carterton, spilling logs all over the road; and in January this year, a car and train crashed, again near Carterton, leaving the car driver with injuries.
KiwiRail said a near-miss was experienced every day by a New Zealand train driver.
Megan Drayton, manager of the nonprofit Tracksafe, was calling on people to take greater care when crossing the railway line.
“In the last twelve months KiwiRail recorded more than 300 near misses across the rail network.
“Of these, 191 near misses occurred at public level crossings, and the majority of those crossings had flashing lights and bells or barrier arms.”
Twyford said that near misses and collisions had dropped, but that people should still remain vigilant about the extreme danger posed by rail crossing.
“While lockdown has meant a 30 to 40 per cent drop in near misses and fewer collisions compared to last year, there has been little change in the number of collisions at level crossings that already have protections.
“Anyone crossing the rail corridor needs to pay careful attention to their surroundings, look for warning bells and barriers, and take the time to check for trains.”