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.

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