Morningside Level Crossing Incident
Morningside Level Crossing Incident

After another unfortunate incident at Morningside Level Crossing, once again questions have been asked of our level crossings. Morningside Level Crossing alongside Walters Rd in Takanini have achieved a sense of infamy over the years, some incidents have been covered below in the media, and as anyone who with any HSEQ background will know for each Incident there will be countless more Near Misses.

This post will look into the feasibility of closing Morningside Level Crossing to traffic, however still creating grade separated access for pedestrians/cyclists to the station on each side of Morningside Drive, understanding in tight budgetary circumstances that fully grade separating the crossing for all modes may not be feasible.

The area in question is below

Morningside Crossing Area
Morningside Crossing Area

Removal of the Level Crossing to traffic would hinder three major groups, each which could be mitigated

  1. Users trying to access St Luke’s Mall via Car.
  2. Bus Users for routes 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 some who may use the service for access to St Luke’s Mall.
  3. Residents who use Morningside Drive Level Crossing to Access New North Road.

Users trying to access St Luke’s Mall via Car

The closure of Morningside Drive may not adversely effect these users, at current St Luke’s is also accessible by two parallel major arterial routes, St Luke’s Mall via St Luke’s Road & New North Road, as well as St Luke’s Mall via St Luke’s Road & Sandringham Road.

Bus Users for routes 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 some who may use the service for access to St Lukes Mall

Under the New Network these routes have been simplified into 1 the 22, this service could easily diverted down New North Road which is better placed to have Bus Lanes due to its 2 Lane-Flush Median-2 Lane layout & according to AT documents have planned Bus Lanes as part of the Central New Network.

New Network Central - Bus Lanes
New Network Central – Bus Lanes

The users wanting to access St Lukes Mall will at glance lose out from doing this of course, however would they? The New Network suggests not, under the New Network 22 users have the ability to transfer onto 1 of 3 Services heading to/past St Luke’s Shopping Centre, these are the Outer Link, 202, & Crosstown 6. Both Peak & Off Peak these services have the aggregate of 10BPH each way, therefore someone transferring at New North Road from a 22 service would have a wait maximum of 6m, or on average around 3m for a transfer, with Simpler Fares now in place transfers no financial penalty exists.

Also in the New Network, the old 233 which is now the 24 no longer goes past St Lukes Mall at all. So in conclusion Bus Users wanting to get to St Luke’s Mall may not be worse off  due to more likely Bus Lanes speeding up travel times as well as not being subject to delays at the level crossing which will only worsen when the CRL is completed and train frequencies increase further. Users of the 22 not intending to go to St Luke’s Mall will also benefit greatly due to not having to divert via St Luke’s.

St Lukes New Network
St Lukes New Network

Residents who use Morningside Drive Level Crossing to Access New North Road

These residents may also not be to impacted due to being able to access New North Road via Sainsbury, or having 4 local routes to access Sandringham Road as can be seen by the map of the area above.

So in final conclusion, it would be feasible to close one of Auckland’s most infamous crossings to traffic due to other options existing, as well as the New Network having sufficient services to transfer to if the 22 was changed to follow North New Road instead of Morningside Drive.

What do you think?

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    1. Morningside Drive has other exits you know. Closing one end of one road, and all commerce stops? Really?

      Anyway the point of this is twofold:

      1. Simply because it would be to actually be putting safety first, like the platitude, and
      2. Because this would surely concentrate the minds of our squabbling agencies to pull finger and achieve a permanent solution.

      1. If you were to apply the “safety first” concept we would shut every level crossing in Auckland.

        I travel via this crossing once a week and an amazed at how people somehow manage to stuff it up. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the current arrangement and with trains slowing going in to or out of Morningside Station as the case may be impact speed is at a minimum anyway.

        Shutting this road to traffic would provide a massively long stretch of New North Road without a turn off to the Sandringham/St Lukes area. It would also push traffic on to smaller roads that aren’t designed to handle such traffic and further congest already congested roads.

        In summation this project should be the lowest of low priorities.

        1. I think a massively long stretch is a bit of a stretch tbh :P. Since S’ Road is just up the road, and if you go much further up NNR you would just use St Luke’s Road anyway.
          We should shut them down in my opinion, as they affect speeds of trains, will be unbearable for traffic anyway when the CRL frequencies are relized, and for safety. Some will be grade separated & some not, I am making the argument that the cost benefit of grade separating this crossing may not be as good as just closing it due to other options existing for people & the high expense to do it. If we make the decision that a crossing doesn’t need to be fully grade separated we should close it. A crossing like Walters I would argue the opposite they should be fully grade separated as the cost of doing so lower, and drivers having less options.

        2. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with the current arrangement”. There clearly is because people are dying.

          But I’d be interested to know, do you believe that is acceptable, and a fair price to pay so that drivers are not even slightly inconvenienced, or do you believe the answer is to magically make everyone smarter, so that people don’t do dumb things and get themselves killed at the crossing?

        3. Does it have to be closed off though? All over Auckland are busy intersections, many with higher traffic frequency then here, and these are usually controlled by traffic lights. Are these any different?

          Before resorting to closing the road. maybe we could try installing proper traffic lights that turn amber to red when it is the train’s turn to go through. Then going through the barrier would also be running a red light, and recognised for the dangerous driving that it is. This should also improve safety if the visual cue of a red light can inform drivers who think it’s safe to cross when it isn’t.

        4. Probably because it is illegal to do what you are suggesting.

          We should close the crossing. Eliminate the hazard and then figure out if we can mitigate it.

        5. David if drivers can’t get their heads around what to do at level crossings with flashing red lights, bells and barrier arms we are in for plenty of carnage when LRVs start running down the centre of roads and won’t have such protection at crossings/intersections.

        6. What’s wrong with a safety first approach anyway? Businesses and governments *routinely* take a safety first approach when they’re doing things that can kill or injure people, or result in significant damage to the environment or society. And that’s entirely sensible.

          Put it another way: If a supermarket chain had designed shelves that were (say) 5% easier to stock, but had an unfortunately tendency to fall over and crush a random customer two or three times a year, would you be saying that safety shouldn’t be a priority? Would you be in favour of a *private business* choosing to injure a few people in order to marginally increase the efficiency of their operations? Or would you insist that their social responsibility to not hurt people should outweigh their financial imperatives?

          That’s the trade-off facing Auckland Transport.

      2. If you are that keen on absolute safety then maybe close the Western Line at Morningside and build two stations connected by a footbridge. Passengers could get off one train and walk across to the other station. Leave it like that until someone at Kiwirail or Auckland Transport can figure out how to design a level crossing with full arms.

        1. That’s like saying motorists will have to hop out of their cars to cross. Which they wont of course because there are any number of alternative routes to avoid Morningside.

        2. Sure we could create 1000 times more inconvenience to achieve the same thing and e then have a dangerous pedestrian crossing place as a bonus. Our we could save lives in the most efficient way.

    2. I guess 2 things.

      1. Delays will occur to the area over time as frequencies increase post CRL meaning the route will be less time efficient anyway & there is alternative routes.
      2. The cost of grade separating the crossing for traffic is high, that would be a large subsidy to those businesses for small time savings.

    3. Why don’t you retain the level crossing, but reduce the amount of through traffic that use it? It’s a preceived shortcut from Kingsland to St Lukes (as a Kingsland resident I use it *all* *the* time*), despite the fact that, due to the level crossing, at many times of the day it isn’t actually faster. So if you close Morningside Drive at (say) Sainsbury Reserve, it wouldn’t affect any of the businesses near the railway lines, but would significantly reduce the traffic.

  1. “these services have the aggregate of 10BPH each way, therefore someone transferring at New North Road from a 22 service would have a wait maximum of 6m, or on average around 3m for a transfer”

    This is wrong. These buses will not arrive in a perfectly regular interval, more likely they will be clumped together. You can observe this today when looking at the 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 timetables. For example if you view the arrivals on New North Road during the PM peak between 17:00 and 18:00, you have a bus at: 16:54, 17:07, 17:10, 17:24, 17:40, 17:40, 17:54, 18:00. That’s roughly 6 buses per hour, but the biggest gap between services is more than 15 minutes.

    1. Noted that is correct, should not have used maximum, the theoretical average wait time is 6m. We will know more when timetables released next year.

      The point is there is plenty of services to transfer to, so is feasible.

        1. In practice the only frequency that will matter is the frequency of the outer link. Those non-frequent buses may or may not show up while you’re waiting for the next outer link. You can’t really count on it if you arrive at some random time. Predictability is one of the key properties of a frequent PT network.

          But yes transferring will be feasible (assuming they can get that big circular route to run smoothly), although not that frequent.

          The relevant example for me is the dog-leg of these 22x services above along Wellesley Street and Victoria Street, which is the obvious way to get from my apartment to the main PT routes on Symonds Street. Although the combined BPH suggests a frequent connection, there are a few large gaps in the timetable. (and an additional evil twist, they also start from two separate stops, 1053 and 1324, but that’s an entirely different subject)

  2. The 22 bus could still use Morningside drive by being diverted along Altham ave of Rossmay terrence but there could be issues getting on and off Sandringham rd.

    * editor’s note: deleted victim blaming, we have covered this on previous posts. This heartless is unhelpful.

    1. Unfortunately the train drivers are always victims too. Must be terrible knowing there’s nothing you can do. Be interesting if someone applied the new Health and Safety law to the interests of those employees in their workplace.

      1. The major change in the new H&S laws allows for the prosecution of the victim or anyone that saw them acting in an unsafe matter but didn’t do something reasonable to stop them. There is not really a definition of ‘reasonable’ but in the case of the rail corridor there is a very rarely used option of a $20,000 fine for being on the corridor unlawfully, it could be assumed that bypassing or ignoring a safety device (fence, barrier, lights bells etc) could be interpreted as being unlawfully on the corridor.

    2. While the crossings keep getting the blame and those that play Russian roulette every day remain blameless this will continue to happen.
      Near misses happen several time per day over the metro network, most are not reported due to the paperwork the driver has to do after every such incident.

      1. if you are aware of non-reporting of near misses please report it. It is a contractual obligation for drivers and the operators.

        1. Three ‘reported’ near misses with pedestrians so far today (couldn’t tell you how many ‘unreported’ ones) including one where there is an over bridge for crossing.

  3. I agree with closing the crossing for traffic (and many others too – Woodward for example).

    But I’m not so confident those seeking to access the mall would do so via St Lukes Rd – many would use Sainsbury Rd instead, which goes past a school. Reckon you’d need to address that as well – make it genuinely difficult for cars and give the entire area a treatment that made walking and cycling the only sensible options, so that traffic would actually go down to the main road.

    1. Agree in best practice world the school would have cyclelanes, and the local non main streets would be 30km/h but that’s another debate

  4. Just add one way tyre spikes like they have at carparks to the intersection. In an emergency (getting stuck between arms) you can still exit, but it will cost you your tyres!

  5. With the mall consented to get much bigger the resulting road traffic will cause further friction at this rail crossing. Fixing the intersection somehow is inevitable over the next decade. May as well pull finger before another person is seriously harmed.

  6. I think closing he whole crossing for one act of stupidity is overblown (and people can apply the same stupidity at other level crossings). Also surely a bridge can be built here for only $10m. Surely we can find some other project to remove to achieve quick grade separation of the Morningside Drive crossing (also a safety first type approach would place grade seperation of the Morningside Drive crossing a higher priority than the Sarawira Street crossing which to the best of my knowledge has no accidents, and far less vehicular traffic).

    1. Closing is always possible but Sarawia St has set a precedent for how much money can be wasted on grade separation.

      The crossing is only about 60m from the NNthRd intersection on one side and 60m form McDonald St on the other. So if a bridge were to go over rail, you’d need to raise the height of the intersections to give a reasonable grade each side of the bridge, similar to what has happened at the GtNthRd / St Luke intersection.
      Shifting the NNthRd intersection further up the hill to about 592 NNthRd might be an option, and perhaps Ethel St connected to Morningside further south.
      All adds up to much more than $10M.

        1. There were two other cheaper options,
          1) Furneaux Way (public works act)
          2) Underpass (this was recosted by a residents group? with different construction methodology? making it a cheaper option)

        2. Thats true, a precedent is being set for wasting money. The point I was making was that maintaining access to properties is probably always going to be a bottom line, but this issue doesn’t exist at Morningside Dr.

  7. In this case it looks like it was a particularly terrible gym access point:

    Making it left turn only for exiting and having a centre island would likely help alleviate the issue, but the entire crossing has had everything thrown at it. It’s a death trap, with no parties unaffected by accidents there

    1. edw4rdl sadly there is no efficient way to enforce a ‘no right turn’ (like at any other place in the country) out of the gym and a centre island will just direct anyone doing so onto the wrong side of the barrier and potentially into the path of another train.

    2. Is it just me or is that exit between the barrier and the crossing?

      If this crossing stays open at least there could be another set of lights which is visible from the gym.

      1. The lights are visible from the driveway and the bells should be able to be heard as they are clearly able to be heard at the Rossmay tce entrance to the St Lukes indoor sports centre but the barrier arm comes down effectively in the middle of the drive, if you come out the left side of the drive you are not on the railway side of the barrier but if you (like most others turning right) come out the right side at an angle towards the railway you are on the rail side of the barrier (lights are visible and bells can still be heard).

        1. A solution for the sports centre driveway is to install a barrier arm on the driveway that operates with the Morningside Drive barriers.

        1. They do, but that particular carpark looks like it is only from Morningside drive. This may be a case where the unitary plan actually has the capacity to save lives, by redeveloping the site to move access to the site well away from the crossing

    1. Jeremy you must not blame the victims (no matter what they do) this country is going away from personal responsibly, just like if you steal a car and run from the police it is the police that are at fault for chasing you if you crash and die not yours.

    2. We all pay for the outcome of other peoples ‘Darwinism’ when people are seriously injured (or killed) and transport routes are disrupted, so keeping the status quo is actually a less economic option.

  8. Fully agree with Harriet

    Morningside Drive is a high risk crossing and the many incidents suggests it needs a huge safety improvement. Deleting the crossing is the only logical outcome although the layout of the road/rail and station make grade separation extremely unlikely and/or extremely expensive.

    The new network should divert 22 onto New North Road and eliminate the deviation onto St Lukes Road/Morningside Road. Then permanently close the crossing, and maybe retain pedestrian/cycling access via an underpass.

  9. Stopping a road or installing an overpass is massive overkill in this case. Better measures include:
    – physically larger and more obvious physical barriers (the heavy duty gate-style ones – they are impossible to drive into but easy to escape out of if you’re trapped between them)
    – better separation of traffic lanes approaching the crossing; box vehicles in so they can’t turn around the barrier.
    – better red lights (eg traffic lights, and more of them)
    – auto-braking systems for trains, based on camera detection of impending collisions (probably already implemented?)
    – airbags/soft impact pads/deflection bars on the fronts of trains
    – extending bollards at crossings
    – additional warning sirens for vehicles in the path of a train, etc,
    – And my favourite: Mandatory questions on drivers exams and mandatory courses for new, elderly or foreign drivers.

    I just can’t imagine any sane, experienced driver would drive straight through a level crossing barrier.

    1. The thing is with Morningside is there is that gym that you can drive out of and into the crossing without control of arms. I have seen it many a time and its bloody scary when a car sails out into the crossing with the alarms going.

      1. just have an island extending from the level crossing down the road a bit, and throw a no right turn sign on the island at the gym exit and other driveways close to the crossing.

        1. Turn restrictions don’t work….. Example – No left turn onto motorway northbound from Gillies Ave from Newmarket only lane. Installing a barrier on the Gym exit would work.

        2. The down side to having a barrier arm on the gym exit is that all the people that leave the gym and want to turn left will have to wait whenever there is a train on the railway in the opposite direction to where they want to go.

  10. The best and most costly option is to lower the train tracks.

    Personally I support the closure because I don’t live anywhere near there. But the locals would be totally opposed to the closure. The local board would oppose and say a bridge should be built. AT won’t fight the local board on that issue.

    People do stupid stuff on motorways and they die and screw up the motorway traffic. People do stupid stuff on the tracks and die and screw up PT users. There is only so much that can be done. Some will continue to commit suicide in front of trains and AT cannot stop it. Shutting all the level crossings for cars wont stop pedestrians getting killed. You need to build bridges for pedestrians and cars and it would cost millions to build a bridge so you have to have a few non-suicides there before the government can fast track building and there is no guarantee that pedestrians will use the bridge either. So you could spend millions on a crossing that still wont stop stupid people dying.

    Like I said, lowering the tracks is the best option, but wont be done.

    1. Lowering the tracks causes it’s own problems.
      Increased gradient in the climb towards Mt Eden.
      The New North rd OVER bridge is not far enough to the west.

      Elevating the tracks from Kingsland is probably a better option but that would involve rebuilding the New North rd bridge while still getting the tracks down to the current level to go under St Lukes Road.

    1. In the USA, as here, private swimming pools must be fenced in most states.
      In the USA, each year, more people are strangled by their bedding than drown in private swimming pools.

      Therefore, bedding should require more stringent safety regulation.

  11. The reality is Auckland Transport probably wouldn’t close Morningside Drive. They are more likely to find some quiet residential street that nobody wants to drive down and design a monstrous bridge that would cost millions of public money and divert everyone onto that street. But first they would find three better options and reject each for ridiculous reasons. That is the AT way.

  12. Great post – I fully agree. If they can’t find the money for grade separation, close it. (I also like Sid’s idea of addressing traffic speeds in the whole area at the same time.)

    A further option for getting to the mall is the 24, with a five-minute walk via either Aroha Ave or Watson Ave.

  13. The vast majority of near hits and deaths are pedestrians. If there is going to be “grade separation” then is must be total and not ringy bells and gates that can be pushed past. They are pointless!

    1. I notice in google maps the yellow no parking lines on the gyms parking is the same colour as the rail crossing markings. Bad idea. Driver will be accustomed to it when exiting the gym park. Have the accidents been from people exiting here or just general other drive around the arms people? Perhaps they see other exit gym and follow/copy.

  14. Does anyone figure out the actual cost of retaining this level crossing versus closing it?
    I’m thinking of the recent accident, I don’t know how the cost of that event could be evaluated but apart from the obvious wrecked car, hospital costs,
    subsequent probable legal costs, damage to emu and other stuff, cost of emergency services attending accident, the delays and cancellation of trains, the thousands of hours that passengers lost, the AT pr disaster and its longer term impact.
    How many such events are statistically expected at this level crossing or maybe on past events are best prediction of future frequency of similar events.. Hence can an annual cost be evaluated or ranged?

  15. Remember about Mt Albert Road and Carrington Road was level crossing in 1960’s before new bridge building better and recently the new footpath bridge with new Station looks better now. Should be same the new bridge and footpath bridge join the Morningside Station.

  16. I think we have all read the examples of the hootenanny that accompanies the feared road closure that leads to the dreaded carmageddon myth. In practice this hasn’t always resulted in that effect. Perhaps closing the road would keep people safe, and cater to the hundreds of thousands who are affected by a train stoppage, without making that much of an impact on traffic and even encouraging people to use other transit options rather than a private motor vehicle for all trips.

    “On a Saturday morning in December 1973, a section of New York’s West Side Highway collapsed under the weight of a truck full of asphalt. The road was closed, seemingly for good, and the 80,000 cars that traveled it each day had to find a new way to their destinations. It ought to have produced traffic chaos, but it didn’t. The cars simply vanished. It was a moment of revelation: the highway had induced the demand for car travel. It was a classic case of “build it and they will come,” but for the first time the opposite had been shown to be true: knock it down and they will go away.” – Samuel L.Schwartz, 2015:p46 paraphrased.

  17. The Mt Albert Borough Council had been agitating for a traffic bridge at what was then the Argyle St level crossing since at least 1927, according to articles on the PapersPast website. Several fatal accidents were reported during the 1920s and 1930s.

  18. As a resident of Ethel Street who uses this crossing as the quickest and most efficient route to drive to the NW motorway going into the CBD/North and South I think this should be taken into account in this discussion.

    That and closing the crossing to people who can’t obey the most basic road rules and warning signs…

  19. God some people are idiots! Honestly with the bells, flashing lights and barrier arms how can people still not realise this means there is a train approaching. Frankly if someone is dumb enough to still risk crossing they are doing the gene pool a favour

    1. I hope you are ready for the censor to edit your comment as you are not allowed to blame the victims for putting themselves in harms way.

  20. And upon arriving at one of the many level crossing in Takanini this morning.

    The queue for entering Great South was 300m back PAST the crossing.
    10+ heavy trucks in the queue.

    I’m entering the crossing as the lights start to flash and I look across at the black car in the queue parked across the rails and think
    “Well I hope you can find a way out of this”

    Which he did, by driving off the road onto the shoulder.

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