Raising rail safety awareness in rural New Zealand is the focus of a campaign launched by KiwiRail as part of Rail Safety Week this month.
New research reveals more than three quarters of serious vehicle collisions with trains occur in provincial towns and rural areas with fewer than 75,000 people. Farmers and rural workers are over-represented in statistics when it comes to serious-injury and fatal vehicle crashes.
KiwiRail Executive General Manager for Operations Siva Sivapakkiam says while the Rail Safety Week campaign is calling on provincial New Zealand to wake up to the danger posed by trains, it is an important message for everyone, regardless of where they live.
“Train accidents are unforgiving. The average freight train weighs 2000 tonnes or more and cannot swerve to avoid a car, or stop easily.
“We are seeing at least one vehicle collision on train lines around New Zealand every three weeks, and a near miss every few days.”
It is not only people at risk in the rail corridor.
In the past 12 months, KiwiRail train drivers recorded 65 incidents of hitting livestock, usually with catastrophic consequences for the animals.
“These incidents are obviously disastrous for the animals involved, but also can be traumatising for our locomotive engineers, farmers and others who may be required to euthanise injured animals and clean up the locomotive and tracks,” Mr Sivapakkiam says.
“KiwiRail will pursue the cost of damage and delayed services but we’d rather raise awareness to avoid incidents occurring.”
Costs associated with livestock collisions can include repairs to the locomotive, specialist cleaning and animal welfare or vet services. KiwiRail is asking animal owners to take all practical steps to ensure their stock is contained, and to maintain secure fences along boundaries with the rail corridor.
“Farmers must have a Deed of Grant Agreement from KiwiRail before livestock can be moved across the rail corridor at a designated level crossing.
“Rail lines are dangerous for the public and for animals. Incidents are preventable and KiwiRail wants to work alongside the rural sector to reduce the high financial and emotional cost of such events.”
Rail safety advice:
- Always expect trains, they can arrive at any time from either direction
- Be aware and pay careful attention to your surrounds
- Trains can approach faster than you think, and can be quiet
- Farm vehicles can be noisy so when using one ensure you stop and look both ways before crossing a rail line
- Only cross when you are sure there are no trains approaching and ensure there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle.
- Check all fences and gates are secure along boundaries with the rail corridor
- Keep control of livestock while crossing
- If stock get loose in the corridor, immediately call KiwiRail’s emergency line: 0800 808 400
- Do not enter the rail corridor to retrieve animals. You must have KiwiRail supervision.