Calls for railway crossing safety

Default Profile ImageBen O'Connell
Railway Crossing Safety

By Ben O’Connell

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) are calling for improved safety measures at level crossings after a near miss between a bus and freight train in Christchurch last year.

On Selwyn Street in August 2022, a passenger bus came within 12 metres of a KiwiRail automotive after the level crossing was disconnected when a fault could not be fixed that day. There was no damage or injuries, but the near collision now places safety measures into question.

TAIC found the barrier arms were raised, bags were placed over the alarm lights to show they were out of service, and a rail speed limit was imposed, yet KiwiRail did not inform the council about the disconnected crossing.

New report looks deeper

Naveen Kozhuppakalam, TIAC’s chief investigator of accidents, says KiwiRail’s procedures did not adequately address the risk posed by leaving the level crossing unattended.

“The council, as the road controlling authority, wasn’t informed of the fault at the level crossing and wasn’t consulted on potential risk controls, because there was no requirement in KiwiRail’s procedures to do so for an unplanned disconnection,” he said.

“As a result, no form of temporary traffic management was put in place until after the near miss between the bus and train was reported on Monday 8 August 2022.”

TIAC have released a report into the incident, and call on KiwiRail to work with road controlling authorities to improve risk management for unplanned level-crossing disconnections.

Understanding the TAIC

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission opens an inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have – or are likely to have – significant implications for transport safety.

TAIC also open an inquiry when it may allow the Commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety.

Their goal is to improve transport safety by avoiding repeat accidents, rather than by ascribing blame.