This is a guest post from Harriet. 

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Recently we have had Rail Safety Week, the aim was to increase awareness of level crossings and their danger. Unfortunately we have had many deaths and injuries, with countless more near misses over the last few years. When an incident happens on a level crossing so many lives change- from the person hit, to the person driving, as well as both’s families. The slogan was “Expect Trains” as “Trains can appear any train from either direction” this has been an important message especially due to the increase of trains on the western line from 8 trains per hour  to 12 trains per hour, and the many level crossings going .

As an Avondale station user I have seen a few near misses under the following scenario. When the Westbound train is stoppedpeople cross assuming the level crossing is safe to cross, as they are watching the train, forgetting that within minutes, often 1-2, that the Citybound train is approaching the station at speed. All it will take is for the Citybound train to be a little early, or the Westbound to be late for that assumption to become an incident, which will highly likely result in the death of that person and traumatisation of the driver.

The Rail Safety campaign for me is interesting as I work in an industry which deals a lot with contractors. We are very conscious regarding HSEQ, so as someone who has a basic understanding in the area find the Government’s view interesting.

The new Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 has lead to a massive shift in our HSE law coming about due to the disaster at Pike River where 29 workers didn’t come home. In HSEQ the main issue is the controlling of hazards. There is a hierarchy of the effectiveness of these controls, these can be summed up as either Eliminating the Hazard or Minimisation of the Hazard however in more detail they are the below.

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The campaign to educate people regarding level crossings as you can see is low on the hierarchy of controls, being an ‘Administrative Control’. In the workplace, this would be comparable to having a control for forklift hazards as telling employees to just “Expect Forklifts”.  In the case of an incident, this level of control wold most likely not meet the duty set out in Section 36 of the act as not doing everything as is reasonably practicable.

Worksafe would probably ask: Why wasn’t there a radio control of persons informing forklift drivers of a person exiting/entering an area; walkway line marking creating safe zones for persons walking through? or why wasn’t technology used such as proximity beacon card which would inform a forklift driver if they were coming to close to someone walking through?

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In the case of level crossings (if of course transport was ever held to the same standards :/) there are far superior controls that can be implemented.  Engineering controls such as gates, safer rubber crossings which are harder than the wood to get stuck as the lady at Morningside was, as well as better lights and sounds to alert users could be used. Far more importantly, especially in urban areas with high levels of train movements, level crossings can be grade separated which eliminates the hazard completely.

Surely if the government was serious about the safety of people, it would seek to eliminate the hazards, or at the very least minimise them rather than just relying on administrative controls.

Across in the ditch in Melbourne this is exact thinking, in 2015 the Level Crossing Removal Authority was formed to remove 50 level crossings in 8 years with at least 20 by 2018.

The budget for this project is large, however when you look at it in detail it includes track upgrades, massive station upgrades as well as a 3 section totalling 8.2km elevated line. The argument for removing level crossings is safety, as well as travel time benefits to road, active mode users as well as rail users.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYT5F-gcr40

Back in Auckland we have 45 level crossings, with only one crossing scheduled to be removed before 2018 (Sarawia), and two more as part of or coinciding the CRL works (Porters Avenue and Normanby Road). Only 26 million is budgeted for level crossing removal between 2018-2025. The Onehunga level crossings were planned to be removed during the SMART project, however with the route now either being LRT or BRT no public plans that I know of exist for these crossings. One of the Glen Innes entrances could be removed tomorrow as a grade separated access exists for the northern end of the station.

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Unfortunately these level crossings will more likely be removed after the CRL due to delays to traffic as a result of the increased CRL frequency, rather than for people’s safety, but I am very happy to be proven wrong.

I understand there is only so much Tracksafe can do as better solutions require Local and Central Government, the work is appreciated and the message still important.

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70 comments

  1. I remember a video showing a similar scenario to what you talk about at Avondale. A train is stopped at a station and pedestrians are crossing a nearby level crossing where the rails, lights and bells are going because they assume the train at the station is setting it off.

    Then a train comes down the other track (from behind the parked train) at full speed (80km/h plus). The video freezes when the train has a couple of metres to go before it will directly hit a woman pushing a stroller.

    1. Yeah, its dangerous I believe its only a matter of time, the fact is in HSE if you let Near Misses build up like that, it really is a matter of when, not if.

    2. I live near the station and the number of near misses I see are on a daily occurrence. It is only a matter of time before someone is struck and killed. In the first few weeks after services went 6tph on the Western Line there were rail safety campaigners at the pedestrian crossing nearest St Jude Street. Someone may as well be there permanently.

    3. I think AT have a plan to fit the pedestrian paths on road level crossings with automatic gates (as done recently at Morningside) at some more sites. I suspect they will target those crossings near to stations (like St Judes) where there is this risk of people thinking the crossing is down for the train they see is stopped and then getting bowled by a train on the other line coming into the station.

    4. Part of the problem is the barriers and lights being triggered too early. If people think that they still have time to cross after the bells start, they will. Surely the train at the station should not trigger the crossing until is it about to start. You can make things ‘too safe’ with the result that the safety measure is ignored. I think some of the new health and safety regulations come into the same category. The only people they protect are the administrators.

  2. I used to get off at Homai southbound as the northbound train arrived. If I didn’t see the TM standing outside, I was not crossing the line – even if all doors were open. I also made sure I got around the iffy design and the driver could see my face standing well back. Why does nobody else use their brain? The number of idiots who’d barge past me was crazy.

  3. So rail safety week appeared to be primarily aimed at raising rail dangers with the public and passengers, especially at pedestrian rail crossings.
    But what about AT? Do they also benefit from rail safety week in becoming aware of passenger safety areas that need attention?
    I don’t apologise for again raising a blatently obvious passenger safety issue at Newmarket station caused by the ‘closed’ platform 2.
    That hectic rush of passengers alighting from a southern train arriving at platform 3, racing down the platform to the escalator, somtimes running up the escalator, dashing over to the platform 1 escalator then often rushing down it, all to try and make it onto a waiting swanson bound train at platform 1.
    If AT spent just an afternoon observing these procedures it would be very clear how dangerous it can be.
    Ok, it is easy to blame passengers for being impatient and perhaps get security to prevent running, place lots of ‘Don’t Run’ signs but its just a fact that passengers hate unnecessary delays so will continue to run/rush to make a connection.
    But there is a really simple solution, enable the opening of doors to platform 2.
    Please AT, no tech excuses, just do it, show you really care about passenger safety and service.

    1. What is the safety concern about having doors open on both sides? Driver (or guard, if that’s the way you do it), checks one side, closes doors on that side. Checks the other side, closes door on that side. What is unsafe about this scenario? Someone please tell me. I really want to know.

      1. People give different answers and blame different people depending on who you ask. Some Transdev guys basically say they want to but AT says no, but they don’t know why.

        If there is a decent reason then fine, otherwise I want to start a campaign on the issue tbh been thinking about it for a bit, but until I know why I can’t write a post on CBT FB or submit to editors here

      2. As Newmarket is the only place in the whole network where it is possible to have passengers enter or exit from both sides I can’t see it being very high on the priority list to be reprogrammed when there are still many things to iron out in their programming.

        1. They have opened the doors on the other side before, when there were platform issues, so it doesn’t seem to be that hard tbh.

          1. You wouldn’t open both sides as its about facilitating the easiest transfer, they have opened the doors on P2 before, Northbound trains would open on P2, this will allow better transfer to Westbound trains on P1. While Eastbound would continue to open on P3 to allow better transfer to Southbound on P4.

            We have real time boards, and people would quickly get used to it.

            For relatively low cost we can ease transfer which would make a lot of people happy, as well as assist people with mobility issues, who at the moment have to take 2 lifts to transfer west.

            Opening on both sides would be a mistake agreed, didn’t realise the person said that as the complaint is usually open on the wrong side

          2. Well that sounds like something you have been told before, it needs to be taken up with AT as they set the rules. Just as AT have 6EMUs running around in the evening when they are not required.

          3. That’s what I said though that the Transdev guys say its AT that wont let them, so its defs an AT issue, however when I emailed AT they just passed it to Transdev.

            They run 6 car EMU’s because it doesn’t cost that much more to run them, but to change them down to 3 car would mean they need to be taken out of service and uncoupled. Basically it isn’t worth it. They were useful 6 car EMU’s at peak when they were in service as well.

          4. Uncoupling does not require them to be taken out of service as it already happens every week day at Manukau, Papakura and Swanson around 9am a 6EMU arrives and uncouples with the next two services being 3EMUs, with the next four 6EMUs to arrive going into a depot for the day. The reverse happens around 2pm with a 3EMU coupling with the 3EMU that arrived before it ready for the school runs followed by peak.

          5. And such other cities include Wellington, where doors are open on both sides at both cable car termini (and are driver operated!).

  4. When Avondale station was first mooted for redevelopment as part of the Dart project in 2004(?) we were assured by members of ARTA and Ontrack there would be a pedestrian over bridge and possibly a lift at the northern end of the platform. It’s the end that’s used by local students (primary through to secondary), so an over bridge seemed like an intelligent way of minimising the risk of an incident. Components for the over bridge were delivered (they’re still there in the adjacent yard) but with the election of National in 2008 and swingeing cuts in rail capital expenditure it seems that both ARTA and KiwRail decided that the over bridge was surplus to requirements. I’d hoped that with the proposed trackside shared path AT might consider revisiting the issue, but they didn’t. The controlled gate that has been installed in place of the bridge is often ignored, even when private security guards are posted. It’s a disaster waiting to happen and it’s a scandal that the issue of at-grade crossings has been deliberately avoided by those in authority for as long as it has.

    1. I think Avondale station will need a major upgrade due to St Jude level crossing, I can’t see you keeping the road open, and grade separating it without major station adjustment.

  5. Having campaigned for a decade for the allocation of a long-term capital works budget for grade separation of our level crossings (as they have in Melbourne) I am getting tired of the excuses for inaction. So far it has never seemed a high enough priority – even to set the relatively low goal of eliminating one or two crossings each year which would take a generation to resolve all of Auckland’s crossings but would certainly be better than doing absolutely nothing. The current 10 year plan only has chump change for doing investigation work and making existing crossings safer (improved barrier arms for example). Meanwhile, since 2004 we have actually gone backwards [yes, we have closed 4 crossings (Kingdon Street and 3 more as part of the New Lynn Station upgrade), but then we have gained 8 more when the Onehunga Line was re-opened]. And train frequencies have doubled and doubled again in that time. The best news I have heard a whisper of is that a very large number (hopefully hundred of millions of dollars over a decade) has been requested as part of the ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Project) process which is due to be announced very soon.

    1. Basically my hope is similar, however also one of the reasons they mentioned they can’t run the Crosstown service post CRL is the level crossings, I would presume the same principle applies to running to full CRL capacity on the Western as well. ATAP mentioned rail network upgrades, which I would hope covers this. The other thing is level crossings will be dealt with the more annoying they become to road users, so hopefully these two things will create a push for grade separation.

      The best time to remove the Western crossings other than the CRL related ones is now because the line will just get busier and busier. However the best time on the Southern I think will be to do it as part of the third main works so you are completing works together once. On the Western St. Judes & Woodward should be priority followed Morningside, then by Baldwin ones, then later the other western ones.

      St Judes is going to be a nightmare to fix though, very ironic though since St Jude is of course the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.

    2. It is disappointing that AT/NZTA/KR haven’t got their heads together and looked at the low hanging fruit. There are a few crossings in Auckland which can be closed due to having other crossings or bridges nearby that go to the same place. It was disappointing that the Onehunga branch opened with the number of crossing that it has. For example, Galway and Victoria street crossings both lead onto Princes Street (about 300m apart), so close one of them. Likewise Captain Springs and Mays Road (about 150m apart!) join together on one side of the railway and both connect to Church Street on the other. These 2 examples are easy and would cause practically no disadvantage to road users. Then you could close others with slightly more disadvantage to road users (i.e. longer detours), depending how hard you want to push this strategy.

      Church Street East near Penrose is another crazy one. It feeds about 5 businesses, which back onto another another road, that they also have access to (but no through traffic is allowed).

      Lets pick off the low hanging fruit first, while we are getting budget together for bridging other harder ones.

  6. You can only do so much to save idiots from themselves. Trains can’t swerve, so any collisions are always the fault of the innatentive.

    1. Even if you don’t care about the users’ safety there’s still good reason to fix these issues. The first is that a serious accident requires the rail network to be shut down for investigation. The second is that such accidents cause considerable trauma for train driver and wider society.

      Make sense?

      1. No, it doesn’t. It’s entirely possible we could (and should) shift our model from investigation focus to service focus. Same with the police, whose efforts after a crash simply turn what could be a short sharp problem into an hours-long agony for the city, congesting traffic across the entire isthmus.

        I’ve often suggested we should have a heavy-lift chopper (CH-53 equivalent) on standby; major accident, chopper turns up, car is winched away, road is back in service within minutes.

    2. Oh, charming. That’ll really take the edge off for everyone at (God forbid) the next high school memorial service.

      People of all ages sometimes make incredibly lousy judgments and it’s a mark of a functioning society that we don’t just accept that those dumb moments might result in injury or death. And we aren’t remotely close to the limit of what can be reasonably and practically done with rail safety in Auckland.

    3. Your logic is faulty though, since the lady who nearly died at Morningside’s wheelchair got stuck in the cracked crossing. Was she at fault?

  7. Isn’t this as much of a waste of time as saying ‘don’t smoke crack’. You have to be fricken stupid take on a train, will this really help?

  8. At many of the intersections in the central city, the pedestrian crossing changes from green man, to countdown timer, to red man.

    Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to install some countdown timers at level crossings that could advise people when is not safe to cross using real time data on train locations.

    Next train in > 5 minutes. Green man.
    Next train in three minutes. 3.
    Next train in two minutes. 2.
    Next train in one minute. 1.
    Next train in less than 1 minute. Red man.

    What am I missing. This seems like an obvious solution.

  9. Why are pedestrian underpasses not implemented anymore? The ones at Kingsland, Morningside and Mt Albert work really well imo. I know they are a bit spooky but just throw in some good lighting and CCTV and they are a bit better, plus there is a bunch of them already so whats the harm in a few more?

    1. That’s what I’ve wondered. There are Underpasses all along the Hutt Line in Wellington and not only do they go under the tracks, but under the busy roads as well. So they emerge onto the footpaths on both sides of the roads as well as the Platforms.

      1. I doubt if many users of the Hutt subways would promote their use elsewhere. They’re long and narrow with blind corners, and feel unsafe at night. I know people who won’t use them as a through route after dark.

        Subways work when they’re well designed, with good sightlines, good drainage, as much natural light as possible, easy convenient access and good lighting, and it’s often not easy to achieve all these. If you don’t achieve them people will tend to use an alternative, which may well be less safe than the initial problem.

  10. A disproportionate amount of level crossing fatalities, and roughly half of the near-misses around Auckland in recent years have been in the scenario where the victim/near victim has seen the flashing lights, and can see the train has passed, and so cross the tracks as soon as the train passes, only to be hit by, or almost hit by, a second train. It’s not that they have ignored the warnings, it’s that they are not extending their awareness of the situation to the expectation of a second train operating within the same single activation of the warning devices.

    This hazard was identified by New Zealand Railways decades ago. It’s for this reason that New Zealand Railways always installed “Second Train Coming” flashing signs at pedestrian double track level crossings, instead of ordinary dual flashing lights as found at traffic crossings.

    Unfortunately, around 2007, Ontrack chose to get rid of these “Second Train Coming” flashing signs from all new installations, and to phase out existing ones, in favour of having ordinary dual flashing lights (as found at ordinary road traffic level crossings) at pedestrian crossings instead. I presume this was a case of aiming for a financial saving through having a “one size fits all” approach to level crossing warnings.

    The ordinary dual flashing lights were installed at all the pedestrian crossings on the Western Line when it was double tracked. People have been dying on these crossings in the above scenario ever since, and the number of near-misses from the same scenario is now in the thousands.

    Personally, I believe the decision to get rid of the “Second Train Coming” warning flashers has cost lives. How many of the people who have seen the flashing lights and chosen to walk past them without looking for a second train would still be alive if those flashing lights had been flashing the “Second Train Coming” message in their face instead?

    Since the problem worsened, and in response to several deaths caused by this scenario, both Auckland Transport and KiwiRail have undertaken safety campaigns highlighting the second train scenario, but, to date, have not reversed the decision to get rid of the “Second Train Coming” flashers.

  11. Fail to plan, plan to fail.
    There have been plenty of studies and talk about the risks and dealing with level crossings, e.g. here is a list of priorities http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/aboutcouncil/committees/transportcommittee/meetings/transportcomagp287-36220130416.pdf
    Who is responsible for not planning the implimentation?
    Under the new safety legislation (post Pike River and Tamahere Cool Store), are they now personally liable?

    1. All this talk about the dangers of level crossings quoting the near misses but how many ‘hits’ have been on level crossings? I can only think of two (including today’s one) in the last year within Auckland, there have been plenty of others that have been nowhere near level crossings.

        1. …in any other field but *road* transport. Near misses are taken very seriously in all other transport modes, hence the existence of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, whose coverage (bizarrely) explicitly excludes by fat the the most dangerous mode of transport.

          1. True in some respects, however accountability not the same for example in the workplace. Rail transports main issue is funding, Kiwirail doesn’t have the funding, we need NZTA to be a multi modal agency that can fund level crossing removals. After all isn’t much of the rail network in Auckland of national significance.

  12. “I can’t imagine why people would think twice about using the Glen Innes underpass as opposed to the crossing” said no one who has used it, ever.

    1. Fully agree with this and can’t agree with Hariet’s view that the northern entrance to the station could be removed tomorrow. The underpass needs a lot of work to make it usable and safe, including removal of blind corners, putting in adequate drainage (it becomes a very dangerous mud slide after a bit of rain) etc. It’s like a dark alley that your avoid if at all possible. If anyone is going to recommend this to be the only access from the east side, then please test it first before recommending it just because it exists.

      1. Definitely, it also comes back to the safety of people at the shops by the entrance and the bus-stop. Glen Innes doesn’t need the Panmure treatment but the car park at the station is a bit of a write-off and that space could be better used if it meant a safer, better station.

    2. I have used it, its not the end of the world however agree it could be upgrades, however the cost of not closing the level crossing is a driver has a death on there hands, someone only died on that crossing a few months ago.

      AT & Kiwirail have had years to fix the underpass at GI like Morningside and Mt A, there is no excuse, we are spending millions on the Manukau interchange and the Parnell station, the money was there to fix the GI undepass.

      1. The effect of making access to the railway station more difficult, eg by closing an access, will be to encourage people who would have used that access to consider their options. One of those options will be to use another entrance, but other options will involve travelling differently. Given that train travel is much safer than most of the alternatives this is likely to increase the overall level of risk, not reduce it.

        If we’re really serious about safety we should be encouraging as much use of public transport as possible, and that has to include making stations more (not less!) accessible.

          1. Of course people use subways, but closing a level crossing to force people to use a less convenient subway or a less safe alternative mode makes absolutely no sense without consideration of *all* safety aspects.

          2. Question, not argument would you support putting level access to stations without with difficult accesses, like S Park, Penrose etc.

          3. Sure would supporting putting in step-free access – it improves access for everyone, which is why many transport operations treat it as an important objective (even in NZ, with low-floor buses and level-boarding trains being near universal). But (sorry!) such initiatives would have to take their place in competing for scarce resources (as they always are) on the basis of a full economic and operational assessment, including all aspects of safety, both rail and road.

          4. Fair enough, I think that is the only decent argument against grade seperation tbh and at least you stand by the idea completely which I can respect.

      2. The unofficial connections between buses and trains in Glen Innes are also a bit slim (especially on weekends), so that it’s the difference between sitting half an hour in Glen Innes or using the pedestrian crossing or even making the trip or not.

  13. The health and safety act changes have been made to increase safety in the workplace.

    Where this includes the public they have to be protected. Failure to take sufficient protective action can, and does, result in heavy fines to those found lacking.

    As our rail system is a workplace with public access why are we not seeing heavy fines due to lack of preventative measures or is it that no one has seen a fatality as a failure to protect the worker, train crew, from harm?

    1. A lot of discrepency though. Service station forecourts have moving vehicles and highly flammable fuels, but the rules only protect employees, not the public. High-viz, safety goggles, gloves and steel-capped boots are all mandated as being necessary for the forecourt environment. Just not for the actual public.

    2. Three schools on this one

      A) No because a level crossing isn’t a workplace for the person crossing.
      B) Yes, because to the Driver it is, and the potential of hitting a person is high, and could cause massive mental health issues.
      C) No because even though b) is true, the measures needing to be taken are expensive and thus are not reasonably practicable.

        1. More people are killed in motor vehicle incidents than rail, therefore we should only fix road safety, faulty logic?

          2015 Stats
          597 – Near Mises & Incidents – Track Intrusion
          360 – Near Mises & Incidents on Level Crossings

          That’s over 340 near mises that could potentially result in a death on a level crossing.

          Just because they don’t doesn’t mean they can.

          1. But in practice we’re not “fixing road safety”.

            Although the fatality rate has dropped from a high of 843 in 1973 to a low of 239 in 2013, it has climbed again and now sits around the 300 mark. Obstinately consistent and predictable. And this only part of the story. Injury-rates and overall crash-rates are a much more realistic measure of what is really going on out there, and these have fallen far less over the same period. The supposition is that improved rescue and rehabilitative services done a great job in making the roads *look* safer, while the reality is that the crash-rate continues unabated.

            As Harriet points out, Rail-crossing risk is judged as much on near-misses as it is on “hits”. And rightly so, because near-misses are often a mere stroke-of-luck away from being hits. Yet when it comes to roads, I doubt anyone has any idea of the near-miss rate because most near misses don’t get reported. If the rail-crossing Near-miss : Hit ratio of 340:20 (Harriet’s figures above) are applied to the 2015 “Hit” figure of 9,446 injury-crashes on the roads then the near-miss figure becomes over 160,000. And even this is likely to be understated, since there are likely to be many minor-injury and non-injury road “hits” which will not be included in the 9,446.

            So although it may be “faulty logic” to suggest that we should “fix only road safety”, the facts speak for themselves that the level of risk on the roads is far-and-away our No1 safety problem. And we are not tackling it with anything like the same vigour as we do with, say, workplace safety, or indeed, rail-crossing safety.

            http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Import/Documents/Pages201520to202420from20Motor20Vehicle20
            http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/roadcrashstatistics/motorvehiclecrashesinnewzealand/

  14. Do the rules only ‘protect’ the employees?

    My clear understanding is that they are to cover the publlc as well.

    If works on a road or footpath cause member of the public injury the employee will have action taken on them if they failed to take all the precautions needed, if the employer is shown to be at fault they will be liable.

    My point is that a death on the tracks causes injury to the train crew and therefore the employer has to show they have taken all steps to prevent that injury. Remember that the injury does not need to be physical.

    In reality I suspect that my approach has not been tried ….yet.

    1. Deaths on the roads cause many more deaths and injuries than anything connected with the railways, yet we’re happy with vehicles at 100+ km/h immediately adjacent to pedestrians, and vehicles with a closing speed of 200+ km/h separated just by paint. On the other hand, railways have to be fenced and very large amounts of money are spent to ensure that trains don’t come within cooee of each other (or anything else, with the glaring exception of level crossings, of course).

      If the legislation really means what you say it does, I don’t envy anyone who is a PCBU (person in charge of a business or undertaking) in charge of an RCA (road controlling authority).

      1. tbh I don’t think the HSAWA really applies to transportation agencies in regards to how they build infra due to the words reasonable practicable & the meaning of workplace, I don’t think Worksafe would prosecute Kiwirail for example not removing St Judes for example, however the Lady at Morningside whose wheelchair got stuck in the cracks if level crossing maybe a different story.

        You are correct the double standards that Rail Controllers are held to compared to Road Controllers are bs though

      2. Correction – Railways do not have to be fenced in NZ.
        I can think of many locations where they are not. Two locations are: either side of Matamata and alongside Maunganui Rd Mt Maunganui.

        1. Correct, Don – my mistake. But it is an offence punishable by a $10,000 fine (used to be $20,000 or 6 months in prison) to trespass on the railway, while we happily tolerate the risk presented to people by fast-moving road vehicles being immediately adjacent.

  15. It is interesting that the only level crossing that will be removed in the short term is Sarawia St where there isn’t a safety problem. They are doing it because they claim there is delay to trains.

    1. There is a safety issue, they had one car go around the barriers and just missed the train in one recorded near miss. However you are correct the main reason is to speed up trains through the Newmarket line.

  16. Regarding the Morningside incident – I know the woman concerned and her wheelchair, simply because I had rescued her from a similar incident the previous week. I think that in that case Health and Safety needs to have a look at the wheelchair itself and the fact that it has been designed for indoor use only, but is often seen being used outdoors. There are wheelchairs available overseas that are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, but so far I havn’t seen them being imported into New Zealand. Just over a year ago I was confined to a wheelchair following a medical problem, and I made it clear to my son that if I was to be confined to a wheelchair for life I wanted him to import a suitable chair that would enable me to safety use it outdoors as well as indoors. Luckily, through a lot of hard work by the physiotherapists at Auckland Hospital I was able to walk again, but I am not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination.

  17. Harriet, your statement, “Surely if the government was serious about the safety of people, it would seek to eliminate the hazards. . .”, should apply far more widely than simply for rail crossings.

    More appropriate would be, “Surely if the government was serious about the safety of people, it would seek to eliminate road transport” !

    The only way road transport persists – at least in its present, abysmally-regulated form – is by our governing authorities turning a blind eye to hazards which are glaringly obvious and which would be totally unacceptable in any other area of normal societal activity.

    By contrast, rail crossings present only a tiny problem, and much of this is again due to road-transport laxity.

    Yes, it is important to ensure the bung is present in the drain-hole of your boat, but if that same boat has a huge gash in its hull then there is a much greater priority than plugging the drain-hole.

    Unfortunately this illustrates the response of our governing authorities and most people (plus your statement above) unthinkingly seem to go along with this.

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