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National Rail Safety Week


A new nationwide awareness campaign is being launched tomorrow for National Rail Safety Week – and it is the trains in the big cities that will be carrying the message “Stay Clear. Stay Safe.”

In Auckland and Wellington two train carriages will carry a graphic rail safety image.

Rail safety campaigner and former international test cricketer Chris Cairns says the graphic is shocking and is the worse case scenario for a rail collision, but he hopes it is one that people will take notice of and think about.

“Collisions at railway level crossings have the potential to be catastrophic. We hope that when people see this image they will remember the simple steps they can follow to keep themselves safe around the railway.”

He says the onus is always on motorists and pedestrians to give way to trains, and that they always need to obey the warning signs at level crossings. “Trains can’t stop in a hurry, and they certainly can’t swerve to avoid a car or person on the tracks.”

KiwiRail Chief executive Jim Quinn says there have been 16 vehicle collisions at public level crossings in the past twelve months with one fatality.

“We want these avoidable incidents to stop,” he says. “Not only do they cause immense harm to the people involved, but they also have a terrible impact on our locomotive engineers who drive the trains. These guys don’t want to turn up to work and have to witness some of the horrific things they encounter.”

Mr Quinn says he is also concerned about the number of reports of motorists who queue across level crossings, and that this year’s campaign is also focusing on changing this behaviour.

“People should always leave room for their vehicle on the other side of the crossing before they drive across – otherwise they run the very real risk of the barrier coming down on their car, or in a worst case scenario being hit by an oncoming train.”

Reports from locomotive engineers show that there have been almost 150 near collisions in the past 12 months, with around 78 percent of those events occurring at crossings protected by automatic alarms.

Suzanne Butters will attend the launch of Rail Safety Week in Wellington tomorrow, along with her 11-year-old son Joseph. In 2004 Joseph was traveling in a Kohanga Reo van that was hit by a train at a crossing protected by flashing lights and bells.

He suffered a severe brain injury and was in a rehabilitation centre for three months following the collision.

Suzanne is sharing their family’s story to raise awareness about the risks around the railways and to show people the impact that collisions can have. “People just need to take their time at level crossings, and always pay attention, because the consequences are just not worth it,” she says.

This year’s nationwide campaign will also involve a nationwide rail safety roadshow being conducted by KiwiRail, radio advertising and other promotional activities around the regions.

A new website, www.railsafety.co.nz, has also been launched to raise awareness and educate the public about rail safety. It also includes links to resources for primary schools on the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website.

The campaign is supported by Greater Wellington Regional Council, KiwiRail, NZ Police, Veolia Transport, Auckland Transport, Tranz Metro, NZTA and the NZ Automobile Association.

The Chris Cairns Foundation is a charitable trust that aims to raise public awareness of the responsibility each and everyone has when approaching level crossings on New Zealand's rail network.

Through awareness and education its aim is to reduce loss of life, harm and suffering for the victims of rail accidents.

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