The Transport Agency and KiwiRail have started work to trial a new approach to safety on rail level crossings.
In New Zealand there are over 2,500 rail crossings including public roads, footpaths, cycle paths and private access ways that create the potential for serious crashes. On average, each year three people die, six people suffer a serious injury and there are 140 reported near-miss incidents at railway level crossings. Due to their size and the time it takes to clear a crossing, trucks are over-represented in these near-misses.
Together the two organisations are looking at ways of reducing the risk alongside the number of deaths and injuries at level crossings.
A trial is underway at 9 sites across the country; five on state highways and four with ‘short-stacking’ issues on local authority roads. Short-stacking is where a road intersection and rail line are close together, so that long vehicles such as a truck that are required to stop may block either the crossing or the road.
Trial solutions for these sites are being looked at by an Auckland-based Safe Roads Alliance team, who will look at trialling a range of options across the different level crossings.
In addition to this the Transport Agency supports the promotion of rail safety education through the work of TrackSAFE NZ (external link) , a trust which runs awareness campaigns including Rail Safety Week.
With train and road travel increasing it is important that we continue to look at ways of managing the risk around level crossings and ensuring the safety of those travelling by rail and those crossing the tracks.