29 Oct 2014

Warning over unfenced Te Kuiti tracks

12:17 pm on 29 October 2014

A retired train driver warns more people will be killed crossing railway lines in Te Kuiti unless the entire tracks are securely fenced.

On Sunday evening, a 14-year-old boy died when he was hit by a freight train as he crossed tracks in the centre of the King Country town.

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Dennis Murdoch drove trains for 40 years and was involved in five fatalities in that time.

He told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme Te Kuiti is a particular trouble spot due to the main line running through the centre of town.

Mr Murdoch says some security fencing was installed a few years ago, but only at the southern end, not the middle and northern sections.

"Where there are trees, children tuck themselves underneath it to dash across'" he said.

Dennis Murdoch said modern electric trains and rolling stock were now much quieter and people often did not hear them coming.

"Big locomotives, the Class-30 electrics, descend into Te Kuiti from the south on the down hill run with no power on, they just roll and pick up speed," he says.

Mr Murdoch said a driver never forgets the seconds before their train hits someone. "The looks on some people's faces of absolute astonishment when they see you and almost in sheer terror take a step or two backwards thinking how the hell did I miss that," he said.

KiwiRail says the latest fatality is tragic and a timely reminder of the need to be vigilant at all times near rail tracks.

The Mayor of Waitomo District, Brian Hanna, said even though there is an overbridge in the central of town, people still cut across the unfenced railway lines as a shortcut.

He plans to meet with KiwiRail to push for more fencing, particular in the centre of the town where the latest accident happened.

Charitable trust Tracksafe Foundation says cutting across railway tracks in many places in this country is the cultural norm.

Trust manager Megan Drayton said it was about changing attitudes and behaviours. "There is a place for fencing and overbridges but education is a really big part of it." she said.