Safety improvements are being made at 11 level crossings in Auckland following a raft of near-misses and deaths on the tracks.

The investment of $7.6 million by Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency will see new automatic gates and hazard lights installed.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff announced the funding to upgrade the 11 rail crossings at Glen Eden train station in West Auckland this morning.

The gates will be activated by a sensor on the tracks and have a safety zone with an emergency exit gate. When a train approaches these pedestrian level crossings, the bells sound, red lights flash on and off and the crossing gates close automatically.

The announcement follows several pedestrian deaths at rail crossings in the past year and 50 near-misses.

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"There have been too many stories of people getting hurt or killed by trains in Auckland. Improving the safety at rail crossings is one of the ways that we can help prevent harm to our kids and families when they're getting around the city," Twyford said.

"We know that installing automatic gates at rail crossings saves lives. Since the introduction of automatic pedestrian gates at Glenview Rd in Glen Eden and at Metcalfe Rd in Ranui, there have been no further records of near misses at these locations."

Between 2008 and 2017, 12 people have died at level crossings in Auckland. Nationally, there have been 20 pedestrian deaths at level crossings during that same period.

The latest upgrades are being touted by the Government as being particularly important in Auckland where newer, quieter and more frequent trains are to be rolled out in Auckland in coming years.

The quieter trains could also increase the chances of pedestrians and motorists not hearing one approach and increase the chance of an accident.

The roll-out is part of the Governments plan to make 51 level crossings in Auckland safer.

READ MORE: Automatic gates to block off rail crossings after fatal accidents

In April last year 16-year-old Keenan Matthes accidentally crossed railway tracks in front of a train at the Metcalfe Rd level crossing in Ranui, West Auckland.

Since his death his parents Presley and Karamea Matthes have been campaigning for all level crossings to be fitted with automatic gates throughout New Zealand. A swing gate was installed at the Rānui station where Keenan was hit in April.

Karamea Matthes, at the level crossing in Ranui, west Auckland where her son Keenan Matthes was killed after he was hit by a train last year. He was listening to music with headphones on at the time.
Karamea Matthes, at the level crossing in Ranui, west Auckland where her son Keenan Matthes was killed after he was hit by a train last year. He was listening to music with headphones on at the time.

Speaking today at the Glen Eden rail crossing, Karamea Matthes said the new funding acknowledged those families who had lost loved ones.

"A lot of people say we are brave but look around you and see young people using level crossings and housing developments. We need to keep going," said Matthes.

Her advice for anyone approaching a level crossing was to keep an ear out and put devices away.

"What drives us is our son. He was a beautiful, beautiful person going for a run in the school holidays.

"He was a very accomplished, determined person and to lose him, we don't want another family to go through this," Matthes said.

Presley Matthes said Keenan was shy but would be happy with what his parents are doing.

"The funding actually helps us big time ease the tension and pain," he said.

Last month, a person was killed after being struck by a train in West Auckland.

The number of people catching the train is rising with a record 20.3 million trips made on Auckland's trains over the past 12 months - 300,000 more than the year prior.

Goff said too many families and communities have lost loved ones due to rail-related deaths or are picking up the pieces because of a serious injury.

"The presence at our launch today of the Matthes family, who lost their 16-year-old son Keenan in a rail accident last year, is a reminder of the human cost of these accidents.

"With rail patronage increasing rapidly, with 20.3 million train passenger trips in past 12 months, and with risk rising with more trains crossing Auckland, the need for improved rail safety measures is urgent.

"Work is already well under way with Auckland Transport completing seven automatic gate safety upgrades in the past 12 months."

AT has successfully completed Phase 1A of its programme for the Automatic Pedestrian Rail Crossing Gates at seven sites along the Western Line, including Metcalfe Rd, Glenview Rd, Rossgrove Tce, Asquith Ave and Fruitvale Rd, Lloyd Ave and Woodward Rd.

The project team will now move on Phase 1B (St Georges Rd, Chalmers St, St Jude, Portage Rd), which is due to be completed by June, in the current financial year. Phase 2 (Te Mahia, Spartan Rd, Takanini, Munroe, Walters Rd, Taka St and Teiron Rd) is expected to be completed in the 2019/2020 financial year.


Fatalities at level crossings in Auckland between January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2017
Fatalities by year
2008 - 1
2009 - 0
2010 - 0
2011 - 0
2012 - 3
2013 - 1
2014 - 0
2015 - 3
2016 - 3
2017 - 1
Source: Auckland Transport.