It’s rail safety week – and as part of their latest safety campaign, Kiwirail have highlighted just how many collisions and near misses there are:

In the year to 30 June, 40 vehicles or people collided with trains across the national rail network and there were 305 near misses.

At public level crossings alone, there were 11 collisions and 192 near misses. Near misses at level crossings have steadily increased since a low of 150 in 2021. All of the collisions at level crossings and 77 per cent of near misses were at crossings that already have active protection.

“Collisions with trains are unforgiving. The average freight train weighs well over 1,000 tonnes and cannot swerve to avoid a person or vehicle or stop quickly. Our locomotive engineers can blow the horn and put on the emergency brakes, but there is often little else they can do,” KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy says.

“Sadly, 10 people lost their lives in collisions with trains over the past year. At the same time, it’s very worrying to see near misses at level crossings continue to rise. One second more and a near miss could be a collision – resulting in serious injury or death. People just can’t afford to take that risk.

“It’s also deeply troubling to see that all of the collisions and close to 80 per cent of near misses at level crossings were at crossings that already have flashing lights, bells or barrier arms.

“It’s so important that all of us are cautious and vigilant any time we approach a rail level crossing. For this year’s Rail Safety Week campaign, we’re promoting a simple behaviour that will keep people safe – taking a proper look in either direction, a ‘steely stare’ and not just a fleeting glance, when you approach a level crossing.”

They’ve also broken these numbers down by region and the type of incident. There are two sets of numbers, one just for public level crossings and one for the entire rail network.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Where were there collisions with six heavy road vehicles in Auckland? Given they’re not at public level crossings, I’m assuming they’re at the port or in freight depots.

Tied to this is why Kiwirail are calling for level crossings to be closed.

The high number of crossings across New Zealand’s rail network is creating unnecessary risk, according to KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy.


Reidy didn’t say which crossings might be scrapped, but said that KiwiRail was “in conversation” with councils in Auckland and Wellington about reducing their number.

“For example, 30 level crossings in Wairarapa is unnecessary. It creates an increased risk.”

And, in response to criticism over a specific proposal to close crossings in the Wairarapa, it’s good to see Reidy being unequivocal about safety being more important than a bit of disruption. It would be good if we saw that more from other organisations:

Reidy acknowledged the rail agency had been met with opposition to this proposal, but the hassle it will cause motorists would be worth the lives saved.

“It’s not an easy thing to close a crossing. It will cause disruptions, but we need to reduce the number of incidents.”

In Auckland, Auckland Transport are looking to to close a number of pedestrian level crossings. But as I pointed out at the time, why are they not also doing the easy road crossings too?

Almost a decade ago a study of level crossings found that based on traffic volumes and road function, up to ten could feasibly be closed with a further five possibly being added to that list. Those feasible and possible crossings closures for the Western Line included Fruitvale Rd, Rossgrove Tce, Asquith Ave, and George St.

The Asquith Ave crossing is notable because it even has a driveway that joins the road inside of the existing barrier arms.

Closing this crossing and the nearby Rossgrove Tce crossing could even help make for some great little low-traffic neighbourhoods.

Share this


  1. There will be the inevitable feeling of “loss” in the travelling public through crossing closures. The “win” of improved road safety doesn’t resonate as much. How can we shift this from the zero sum approach to an “all parties win”?

  2. I have no doubt the controlling authorities will want a higher “body count” to justify closures. Kiwi Rail are clearly going into bat for their workers,must be traumatic for train driver’s at times. Defacto LTN,s ,served up by the rail line,would need active mode crossings,under or over?

  3. I’ll sometimes cycle the Asquith Ave crossing. Its quite a good compromise for traffic, grade, total vertical metres and distance travelling Mt Albert to cycleway at St Lukes interchange.
    I’d like to see a level crossing plan, giving years for when each of them will either be closed or grade separated. Surely we can grade separate one per year.

  4. “Auckland Transport (AT) is required to remove all level crossings across the rail network to improve safety and enable more frequent trains after the City Rail Link (CRL) is open to the public. This is because of existing safety regulations associated with the frequency of trains through level crossings.”

    “Across the electrified network there are currently 45 level crossings, 31 are road/pedestrian crossings while a further 14 a pedestrian only crossings. The majority of level crossings are on the Western line with the rest are primarily along the short Onehunga Line with another cluster around Takanini.”
    Greater Auckland, 22 February 2017

    AT doesn’t have the will to close or replace 31 road crossings. Neither does it have the money. Waka Kotahi requiring AT to do something doesn’t mean AT will actually do it.

  5. Level crossing removal is no good for pedestrian permeability. The cynic in me suspects that KiwiRail is removing the pedestrian-only level crossings on spurious safety grounds, even though they are useful.

    The real reason for removal may be to avoid the long-term costs associated with managing the automatic gates. These costs are minimal in the scheme of things, yet there is bound to be some sullen bean-counter in KiwiRail who has identified level crossing gate removal as a money-saving wheeze.

    The REAL way to remove level crossings is to have a rail elevation programme, as they have been doing in Melbourne since 2014. This would require initiative and ambition, so it’s highly unlikely that KiwiRail will ever support such a plan.

  6. I feel like rail safety is too often considered in isolation from everything else. For example, the header image in this post shows a pedestrian crossing of the railway line that’s used by lots of kids to get to Gladstone Primary School in Mt Albert along quiet back streets. It has automatic gates etc. already.

    Closing this crossing will force those kids to walk along New North Road and Carrington Road, both busy roads with narrow footpaths.

    How is this making things safer???

      1. Removing the controlled pedestrian crossing isn’t really a saving anyway because inevitably you will end up having to spend money on installing and maintaining additional anti trespass fencing if you don’t provide a viable alternative route for pedestrians. Or maybe they think they can get away with ignoring the trespass issue but that just shifts it form being a managed risk to an unmanaged risk.

      2. Or – either raise the tracks and allow a subway under – or build a footbridge over. Both helluva expensive – but both valid responses.

    1. It’s not quite true to say AT chose to spend nothing. It chose to spend 18 months on a report; that report recommended it spend nothing.

      1. Meaning that AT could then spend $242.7 million on the report, before doing nothing? Those consultants can be expensive!

  7. How unique when I learned the road code for the drivers licence the city speed limit was 30 mph, to go passed a school bus was a 1/3 of that at 10 mph to go over a railway crossing tracks was ½ that at 15 mph. A few decades later there seemed to be a surge in accidents with road vehicles verses trains, then later while looking in the newest road code showed the reduced speed going past a school bus was still there in kph speed, but for road traffic going over rail way tracks the road rule had gone away.

    Just before the French revolution for some strange reason back in the 18th century, François-Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778) a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher said;

    If there’s life on other planets, then the earth is the Universe’s insane asylum. ~ Voltaire 1694 ~ 1778

  8. Closing both the Rossgrove Terrace and Asquith Avenue level crossings is suggested as creating a low traffic neighbourhood but would also increase community severance. Given that the two crossings are very close (the train lines are at approximately 45 degrees to the local street grid) there is a suggestion that a single underpass and a short link road could replace the two crossings but might involve removal of (say) half a dozen houses. Otherwise, hundreds of affected residents will face a considerable detour. Not one of the top list for resolution but all crossings on the Western line will have to be resolved in the next few years – and right now there is not a cent allocated for that. Council has begun the early work on reviewing its next Long Term Plan (2024-2034) which it must sign off by 30 June next year so hopefully they can be persuaded to include some hundreds of millions to at least make a start on the highest priority crossings such as Morningside Drive

  9. It has to be recognised that unfortunately, for some people, railway tracks are a viable suicide mechanism. Knowing that you are stepping out in front of a means of transport that literally cannot stop, makes a fairly definitive statement. Aiming for a car or truck head-on is so unreliable – you might survive. Multiple cases of this happen in NZ every year, some as death by truck, some as death by train. All of them undoubtedly traumatic to the driver concerned.

    And then you also have some people who suffer death from the stupidity of crossing train lines while wearing headphones and not looking left or right – not deservedly dead, but not entirely surprising. A gross reduction in teh number of level crossings should work magic on those numbers…

  10. While there have been a few cases of suicide over the years on or near level crossings the predominant cause by far is miscalculation of the risk or inattention (wearing of headphones has lead to many near misses and the fatality at Morningside Drive). While some blame the victims, we should have a system where people and trains are never in the same place.

      1. This is what we got from Te Huias TM and a real person on AT platform speakers system and even then it took AT 3/4 hr to sort it out until they came up with a vehicle .

  11. I know it’s not “funny” funny but a couple of years ago I saw a police car stopped on the yellow cross hatches at the O’Rorke Road & Station Road intersection have the barrier arm lowered on its roof/lights. Nothing flashing, no emergency, they just decided that the danger zone was a good place to sit with the warning lights and barrier in their blind spot. Wish I’d had a dashcam going…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *