Rail crossing death is ‘an absolute tragedy’
KiwiRail says the death of a young man at a rail crossing last week serves as a reminder to pedestrians about crossing safely.
Tejaskumar Patel, 24, was killed at the Morningside Dr rail level crossing at about 6.50pm on Thursday.
He was hit by the second of two trains going in opposite directions, at the barrier-controlled road and pedestrian crossing.
His death comes two years after a woman using a wheelchair was hit by a train at the same spot.
She survived and KiwiRail accepts that the incident, which happened after her wheelchair became trapped in the poorly maintained crossing, was its fault.
Police are investigating the latest incident and there have been reports that Patel may have been texting near the crossing or listening to music on his phone at the time of the collision. KiwiRail is responsible for the infrastructure at the station and a spokeswoman says that all the lights, signals and safety features were working at the time of the accident. ‘‘The footpaths that were clearly an issue when the lady in the wheelchair was hit are also in good condition,’’ the spokeswoman says.
‘‘It’s an absolute tragedy. Our thoughts are with the family of the young man who died.
‘‘It’s a timely reminder to people at level crossings to always be aware and be sure to look both ways. It is like crossing a busy road,’’ she says.
Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte has been advocating for more than a decade to get rid of rail level crossings.
He favours a grade separation which involves having bridges or tunnels over or under the line so pedestrians and motorists are not forced to cross the tracks.
Morningside Dr is one of the most dangerous in Auckland, he says.
‘‘The point is that people are always capable of being distracted. The only way to eliminate the situation is to not have trains and people in the same place.’’
A plan for the work exists but there is no funding or a timetable for it, Easte says.
‘‘It will be expensive. Even if we’re really really short of money we should at least commit to a programme of doing it as the funding will allow.’’
‘‘We can’t do all of them to start with but for god’s sake can’t we at least do one,’’ he says.
An Auckland Transport spokesman confirms that Morningside Dr has been identified as a crossing in high need of grade separation.
The agency has been working on plans for grade separation over the last 18 months.
‘‘[Morningside Dr] is a difficult site to grade separate and we need to do a more detailed investigation,’’ the spokesman says.
There have been two other recorded accidents at the crossing. A pedestrian died in 2002 and a woman was injured in 2013.
Track death: A 24-year-old man dies after being hit by a train at the Morningside rail level crossing.