On track for a tragedy
The image speaks for itself – a child on a bicycle, and a train bearing down.
The grainy CCTV shot shows the youngster dicing with death on a Wellington railway crossing, just after school finished for the day.
Ignoring the crossing’s flashing lights, lowered barrier arms and bells, the girl coasts in front of a train travelling at 55kmh.
The train would have had no chance to stop, according to Megan Drayton, foundation man- ager of TrackSafe.
The incident at the end of last month was the second reported near-miss at Tawa level crossings in five months, and both involved children.
It was also exactly a year since two boys were nearly hit on the same Redwood crossing, she said.
‘‘In both cases, the children have crossed while the flashing lights and bells at the crossing were operating.’’
When the most recent child made her dash, the passenger train had slowed in its approach rail safety group to the station. But Drayton said up to 10 freight trains travelled through Tawa each day, and they did not stop or slow down.
She is pleading with young people to treat railway tracks with more care, amid worries the close calls are getting more common.
According to TrackSafe, there have been 32 near-collisions between pedestrians and trains on Tawa’s level crossings since 2008.
Of those, 14 reportedly involved school students. In 2012, a person was hit by a train, and a car was struck in 2010.
In 2017, there have been two recorded near-collisions so far with people, compared with five in 2016, and six in 2015.
Drayton said the child on the bike was identified through the CCTV footage and, along with her school and parents, was spoken to.
Incidents involving children were particularly stressful for train drivers, who could not swerve or stop in a hurry, she said.
‘‘If there is something up ahead in front of them, all they can do is apply the emergency brakes and hope for the best.’’
A KiwiRail spokesman said the number of near-misses had grown steadily since 2009, and Tawa experienced an annual average of 3.8 near-collisions since 2008.
He said the Redwood crossing had a maze, barriers, flashing lights and bells but would not comment on whether it would get a voice messaging system.
KiwiRail would meet with the community to discuss the crossing and its warning devices, he said.
CCTV footage captures a child riding their bike in front of a train at a level crossing in Tawa last month.