Rail cross­ing death is ‘an ab­so­lute tragedy’

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA WHITTAKER

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.

Photo: PETER MEECHAM

Track death: A 24-year-old man dies af­ter be­ing hit by a train at the Morn­ing­side rail level cross­ing.

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