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Rail Safety Week – Launch

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NZTA Interim Chief Executive Mark Ratcliffe gave the following speech in Wellington to mark the launch of 2019 Rail Safety Week on Monday August 12.

Level crossing programme

  • As you’ve heard, the Government is committed to supporting rail as part of our transport system. Ensuring safety in the rail corridor is paramount.
  • The Transport Agency and KiwiRail are therefore working together to deliver a $26 million programme of level crossing safety upgrades on or near the state highway network, to prevent the tragic number of deaths and serious injuries at level crossings.
  • This is part of the overall $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme.
  • It is a terrible fact that since 2012, 42 people have lost their lives and 37 were seriously injured at level crossings.
  • Every one of these deaths and serious injuries has a devastating impact on families and on our communities.
  • And we can’t ignore the significant impact of near misses - on the individuals involved, the train drivers and witnesses to the incident.
  • We encourage people to be careful when using level crossings but there are actions we can take to help prevent simple mistakes leading to devastating  deaths and serious injuries.
  • That’s why the Transport Agency and KiwiRail are applying a range of proven safety treatments to level crossings to improve safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
  • So far this year, safety improvements have been carried out on eight level crossings, in three regions - Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury.
  • The safety improvements vary according to the needs of each level crossing, but include barrier arms, improved signage, installation of new track, or flashing lights and bells to warn people that a train is coming.
  • At some level crossings, the safety improvements are aimed at pedestrians, like maze gates, which slow people down and prompt us to look up and down the track before crossing.
  • Where possible we’re introducing innovative approaches to safety treatments, for example we’re using virtual reality technology to test the safety designs at level crossings.
  • We’re introducing active warning signs at several crossings, which are road signs with flashing lights that are activated when a train is approaching. These signs give drivers advanced warning they’re approaching a level crossing.
  • And then there are pedestrian pavement lights. These lights are activated by oncoming trains and are designed to alert pedestrians who may be looking at their phone or wearing headphones rather than scanning for trains. This approach is a first for New Zealand and is similar to technology used in Germany at tram crossings. These lights are being adopted at several sites being upgraded. 

Virtual rail field trip

  • It’s also vital that our young people learn about rail safety. Learning how to safely navigate railway platforms and tracks are essential skills.
  • The Transport Agency has therefore worked in partnership with TrackSAFE NZ to facilitate an online rail field trip through the LEARNZ programme, as part of Rail Safety Week this year.
  • From tomorrow, school students will be able to actively participate in this virtual field trip and engage in a variety of meaningful activities about rail safety.
  • There will be live web conferences and interviews with rail experts speaking on topics such as the important role rail plays in moving people and freight around the country, how trains are controlled to ensure a safe rail system, and the geographic challenges of the rail system in New Zealand.
  • Approximately 1200 students and 60 classes are currently enrolled in the rail safety field trip.
  • And resources will remain on the LEARNZ website following Rail Safety Week for ongoing use by schools. 

Conclusion

  • Once again, thank you for having me here today.
  • Rail Safety Week is an important event to remind us all to be safe around trains, tracks and level crossings.
  • Cross with care.
  • Nō reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
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