Call for New Zealanders to get on-board with rail safety

  • Hon Michael Wood

With additional trains operating across the network, powered by the Government’s investment in rail, there is need for a renewed focus on rail safety, Transport Minister Michael Wood emphasised at the launch of Rail Safety Week 2022.

“Over the last five years the Government has invested significantly to improve level crossings around the country, with more than 40 pedestrian and road level crossing upgrades complete in Auckland and Wellington, and 36 road crossings on the State Highway network finished nationwide,” Michael Wood said.

Since 2017 we have invested $8.6 billion to build a resilient and reliable network after decades of neglect and decline. Much of this is the bread and butter of our network replacing track, new culverts and bridges, upgraded turnouts, all of which are needed for a safe and effective network.”

“These are improving safety in our urban centres and regions, but people’s behaviour has an important role to play.

In the last decade, 155 people have died in collisions with trains in New Zealand, and 91 more people have been seriously injured. The year to June 30, saw eight people lose their lives in collisions with trains.

“The fact is collisions with trains are usually avoidable. We all need to make sure that whenever we approach a rail line – we are alert, obey signs, warning bells and barriers, and look both ways for trains.”

In the last year there have been 28 collisions at public level crossings, more than twice the 13 collisions in 2021. And more than 60 per cent of these collisions last year were at level crossings that already have protections, like barrier arms, flashing lights and bells.

“COVID-19 lockdowns, alert level changes and an increase in people working from home are likely to have contributed to the drop in collisions in recent years – with fewer cars and trucks on our roads,” Michael Wood said.

“But the jump in the last year is deeply concerning. With New Zealand welcoming visitors back to our shores, it is crucial that we take rail safety seriously and are cautious and patient around level crossings.”

“I encourage all kiwis to get behind KiwiRail and TrackSafe NZ’s 2022 Rail Safety Week Campaign, which is focussed on promoting a ‘blow left, blow right’ superstition.

“Thanks to the Government’s investment, in the coming years there will be more frequent commuter trains in Auckland and Wellington and more freight trains in our regions. It’s more important than ever that we learn and follow safe behaviours now,” Michael Wood said.

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