New signs to encourage drivers to look for trains at crossings are being trialled near Marton.

The signs say "expect trains" and have a detector to set off flashing lights when a car approaches.

The signs have been put up at the Williamson's Line rail crossing and will be part of a nine month trial. The only other place they have been installed is the Wairarapa.

"We've got a big problem in New Zealand with our railway crossings," Kiwirail level crossings project engineer Eddie Cook said.

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"Seventy five per cent of our crashes are at these stop and give way crossings. The big reason for that, the research shows, is driver complacency. Drivers aren't expecting to see trains, they're not taking it seriously."

Eddie Cook stands with Horizons Regional Council roadsafe co-ordinator Glenda Leitao in front of the new sign. Photo/Stuart Munro
Eddie Cook stands with Horizons Regional Council roadsafe co-ordinator Glenda Leitao in front of the new sign. Photo/Stuart Munro

During the trial, they will monitor vehicle speeds as they approach the crossing, and a detector at the crossing will monitor whether vehicles stop at the stop sign. Surveys will also be sent out to nearby residents, asking about general behaviour at level crossings.

In November, a specialist team from Australia will come over to check eye tracking and head movement at railway crossings.

"This is one of the main aims, is to increase people's eye tracking and head movement, because that's what we want people to do, is look for a train."

The Williamsons Line crossing was chosen for the trial as there have been a few "incidents" there, and drivers approach at high speed with a poor view of the line.

Mr Cook said the traditional "flashing lights and bells and half arm barriers" cost about $200,000 to install, and they could only afford to do three or four a year.

As there were roughly 600 crossings around the country, there was no chance of upgrading them all with barrier arms, he said.

The new signs, on the other hand, cost $2000 to install.

If the initiative is proven to have benefits, Kiwirail will look at rolling out the signs nationally in association with councils and roading agencies.