Rail crossing campaign launched in Rangitikei +video

By Anne-Marie McDonald

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A rail campaign aimed at making rural rail crossings safer was launched in Rangitikei on Monday.

The campaign is called "Always expect trains" and features a very large train-like billboard on the side of Wanganui Rd near Marton, near the Union Line rail crossing.

The billboard was unveiled in a small ceremony attended by staff from KiwiRail, the New Zealand Transport Agency, New Zealand Police, Horizons Regional Council, TrackSafe, as well as the Rangitikei Mayor, Andy Watson, and the Rangitikei MP, Ian McKelvie.

Rangitikei was the third district to have the "Always expect trains" campaign, after Carterton and Central Hawke's Bay.

"Five years ago we had five trains a day from Whanganui; now it's about 60-65 trains, and that's only going to grow."
KiwiRail's Phil Austin

Adrian Stephenson from NZTA said the campaign's message was that motorists should not be complacent about rail crossings in rural areas which, unlike many crossings in urban areas, did not have warning bells and barriers.

"People become complacent. They don't see trains often, so they don't expect to see trains."

Mr Stephenson said the wider Manawatu-Whanganui area had many rural train crossings and as a result had the fourth-highest rate in the country of vehicle accidents involving trains.

Phil Austin from KiwiRail said the risk to rural motorists in the area would only increase as timber and milk powder production increased and was transported by rail.

"Five years ago we had five trains a day from Whanganui; now it's about 60-65 trains, and that's only going to grow," Mr Austin said.

Rangitikei Mayor, Andy Watson, said some agricultural contractors would travel over the rail crossing at Union Line 50 times a day.

"Forty-nine times they will never see a train; but it's the 50th time we have to worry about.

"I feel for the train drivers who have to deal with the trauma of rail accidents. They can't stop - we can," Mr Watson said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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