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Crossing collision risk increases in southern NZ

Level crossing collision risk increases in southern New Zealand

The statistical risk of being involved in a level crossing collision increases in the southern half of the South Island, analysis prepared by railway infrastructure agency ONTRACK shows.

The research has been released as part of Australasian Rail Safety Awareness Week which begins officially on Monday 21 July.

ONTRACK Chief Executive William Peet says almost 40 percent of level crossing collisions over the past five years have been in or south of Christchurch and 15 percent have been south of Dunedin.

“We’re not altogether pointing the finger at southern drivers because the network from Christchurch to Invercargill has 37 percent of the country’s level crossings. But we are saying there are risk factors which we want road users to be aware of.”

Mr Peet said Invercargill City and Clutha District along with Christchurch City recorded seven collisions over the past five years, the second highest collision rate in the country.

The worst collision history was Selwyn District immediately south of Christchurch. The district recorded eight collisions over the five years on its 43 public road vehicle crossings.

“We used to talk about the ‘Gore factor’,” said Mr Peet. “Gore did record five collisions over the five years on its seventeen level crossings but the collision rate has slowed and it would be unfair to use the town to define road user behaviour at level crossings in general.”

Throughout New Zealand, there were 149 collisions at 1398 crossings over the five years.

In the North Island, Tauranga City (six collisions), New Plymouth (five collisions) and Carterton District (five collisions) stand out.

“We are wary of trying to draw conclusions from the analysis because there can be any one of a number of factors which determine the cause of level crossing collisions.

“However it does suggest that districts with comparatively few trains but many level crossings are particularly susceptible. This may be because road users take it for granted that trains won’t be coming when they cross the line.

“Lines that carry particularly heavy traffic are a second problematic area. It’s interesting that Christchurch and Tauranga figure prominently because both sit at one end of two of the busiest freight lines in the country.

“In Auckland and Wellington where commuter trains operate, a combination of heavy road and rail traffic generally means crossings are protected by barrier arms and road users have become accustomed to taking level crossing safety seriously.”

Mr Peet says the bottom line for road users around the country is that trains have priority at crossings and cannot stop quickly or swerve to avoid motor vehicles.

“As we enter Rail Safety Awareness Week I urge road users to obey warning signs and signals and don’t take it for granted that a train won’t be coming.”

Mr Peet said that it is encouraging that level crossing collision statistics are trending down. Collisions over the past two calendar years have been below the number recorded in the preceding seven years while the current year’s count so far of 11 collisions suggests that the end of the year total will be around last year’s 23.



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