A spate of near-collisions between motorists and trains at level crossings have prompted a warning to drivers.

Train drivers have reported 19 incidents this year where motorists have ignored active safety measures, such as flashing lights and bells, and crossed in front of approaching trains, KiwiRail said.

Four of those incidents involved motorists who drove around other vehicles already stopped at the crossing. In one the driver was forced to swerve to avoid the train.

"We are horrified to think motorists would deliberately put themselves, and any passengers they may have, in such grave danger," said KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn. "There is no journey so important that it can't wait a couple of minutes.


"Trains are large and heavy and can be travelling faster that they appear and simply cannot stop quickly. There is nothing our train drivers can do when confronted with a situation like this other than to sound their horn, and hope for the best. It is a very distressing situation for them."

He urged drivers to pay attention to level crossing alarms and not to cross if they see a train coming.

National rail safety charity TrackSAFE NZ repeated his call for caution.

"Unfortunately if people continue to engage in the reckless and impatient behaviour that we have already seen this year, then it is only a matter of time before we potentially have another tragedy on the railway," charity foundation manager Megan Drayton said.

The figures showed almost two thirds of the near-collisions this year were in the South Island, with five on the line between Rolleston and Greymouth, and four on the line between Christchurch and Invercargill, she said.

Registration details of drivers who try to cross in front of trains would be passed on to police, she added.

In 2013 KiwiRail recorded 107 near collisions with vehicles at level crossings, compared to 154 in 2012.

Reefton dairy farmer Jane Sluys, 56, died on Saturday, nine days after her ute and a fully laden coal train collided at crossing near Inangahua east of Westport.

The investigation into that incident is ongoing and there is no suggestion that Ms Sluys was at fault.