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ONTRACK urges caution at rural level crossings

14 March, 2008

ONTRACK urges caution at rural level crossings

ONTRACK, the Government agency that owns and manages the railway network, is urging drivers on rural roads to be particularly cautious at level crossings not controlled by electronic alarms.

The warning follows a reported fatality as a result of a level crossing collision at Orari in South Canterbury this morning.

"Every fatality at a level crossing is distressing and we feel deeply for the family of the individual concerned. We can't comment on this particular collision because at this stage we know little of the circumstances," said ONTRACK Chief Executive William Peet.

"All we can do is warn other drivers to be especially careful."

The train was travelling from Christchurch to Dunedin and 12 of its wagons plus locomotive were derailed in the collision. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission will be on site later today and recovery of the wagons will not begin till tomorrow. The line is currently closed.

There are approximately 1400 public level crossings on the rail network. About half of these have electronic warnings in the form of either flashing lights and bells or barrier arms. The Hawke Rd crossing is one of about 700 public level crossings protected only by warning signs.

"In these circumstances, it's important that road users exercise caution when they approach these crossings," William Peet said.

"Because rural roads often carry comparatively light road traffic, they don't qualify for upgrades to electronic alarms when their case is considered against crossings carrying higher traffic volumes."

Mr Peet said the road in question was a case in point. It carried light traffic and the last recorded collision was in 1986, resulting in only minor injury.

He said for a number of years to come, ONTRACK will be relying on drivers to be sure that the line is clear before they cross.

The decisions about which crossings to upgrade with automatic warning devices are based on criteria including the volume of road and rail traffic, the collision history of the crossing and other relevant factors like visibility along the line.


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