27 Aug 2015

Kiwirail to install electronic gates at level crossing

6:21 pm on 27 August 2015

Kiwirail plans to install electronic gates at a level crossing in central Auckland where a pedestrian was killed earlier this year, it says.

This follows recommendations from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) that all pedestrian rail crossings in Auckland and Wellington should be urgently reviewed, in response to the death of a 24-year-old pedestrian at Auckland's Morningside train station earlier this year.

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Tejaskumar Patel got off his southbound train on 29 January and began walking along a ramp to cross the track. Twelve seconds after the 24-year-old got off the train, one heading in the opposite direction, arrived at the station. Mr Patel turned onto a footpath and stepped in front of the northbound train.

He was texting and wearing earphones.

Kiwirail said it was finalising plans to make the Morningside crossing safer, including installing gates at the pedestrian crossings that will close when a train is approaching, and warning messages which will play over loudspeakers.

Transport spokesman for the Albert-Eden local board Graeme Easte said Kiwirail and Auckland Transport should start separating railway tracks from vehicle and foot traffic using overbridges and underpasses.

TAIC said flashing lights, bells and car barriers at Morningside Drive were all working properly and the train that hit Mr Patel was being driven within rules and regulations.

But it said there were no active visual alarms or barriers to stop pedestrians who were leaving Morningside station from crossing the tracks by mistake when trains were coming.

"The active warning lights, bells and barrier arms protecting the Morningside Drive level crossing are positioned to warn vehicle drivers and pedestrians on Morningside Drive.

"Pedestrians exiting Morningside station platform to the south have only a yellow sign reminding them to 'look for trains'," the commission's report said.

Risk assessments for pedestrian rail crossings were not keeping up with infrastructure changes and rising passengers numbers, the report added.

TAIC has called for all pedestrian rail crossings in Auckland and Wellington to be reviewed and for safety issues to be looked at.

"There are 52 level crossings in the Auckland metro network that can be used by pedestrians. Records show that there were 13 other pedestrian accidents within the Auckland metro network and five accidents within the Wellington metro network between 1 January 2006 and 30 Anuary 2015."

Mr Patel's death at Morningside came almost two years after a woman was critically injured when her wheelchair got stuck because of poor maintenance at the same crossing. KiwiRail said in February that the crossing had every safety measure available.

Chief Commissioner Helen Cull, QC, told reporters that it is not the Commission's role to blame any person or agency for the death.

"I must emphasise that we are not able to say whether issues identified today contributed to the fatality.

"However, the Commission regards them as important and considers they need to be addressed with urgency," she said.

The Transport Agency has responded in the report that it is starting a stock-take of work already under way.

Safety issues raised by TAIC

  • No active visual alarms or physical barriers to prevent pedestrians exiting the Morningside station platform inadvertently crossing the railway tracks at the Morningside Drive level crossing when trains are approaching.
  • Regulatory and operational aspects of the Auckland metropolitan rail system do not expressly deal with responsibility for safety and control at the boundaries between station platforms and the rail corridor.
  • The level of protection for people using pedestrian rail crossings in the Auckland metropolitan rail network is unlikely to be adequate because the risk assessment process for pedestrian rail crossings is not keeping pace with the infrastructure changes and increasing patronage on the metropolitan passenger trains.

KiwiRail to bring in voice messaging technology

KiwiRail said in February that the Morningside crossing had every available safety measure.

In response to the TAIC report, the rail operator said it planned to use technology never before used in New Zealand to upgrade its safety.

David Gordon of KiwiRail said it was planning electronic gates and a new voice messaging system.

"This will be the first location in New Zealand to have the voice messaging technology installed," said Mr Gordon, the company's group general manager for asset management, engineering and innovation.

"The technology will improve safety awareness for all pedestrians and enhance the accessibility of level crossings for blind or low-vision pedestrians or passengers."

Speakers were likely to be installed at pedestrian crossing areas which are linked to alarm signals. A 'Caution - train approaching' message would then be broadcast, and there is also another message, 'Caution - another train approaching'.

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