Last night train services were once again disrupted following a serious incident at one of Auckland’s most notorious level crossings.
Emergency services are at Morningside train station in Auckland where a car has been hit by a train shortly before 4.30pm.
A Herald reporter at the scene said it appeared the car had been sitting on the tracks in an area marked by yellow lines when the train hit it “dead centre” on Morningside Drive.
The blue hatchback then spun off the tracks and its airbags deployed, she said.
A woman was freed from the car by fire crews shortly after 4.45pm and taken to Auckland Hospital in a serious condition.
From the images in the media the driver appears to be extremely lucky. Quite why anyone would drive around barrier arms is beyond me.
Over the last few years I think Morningside has probably featured in the news more than any other level crossing in Auckland and probably all of New Zealand but it’s far from the only crossing with a bad record. Regardless of who’s at fault these incidents, and I don’t think it’s ever the train, they can seriously impact on the lives of a lot of people and it’s well past time that our transport agencies put more focus on removing level crossings.
Sure, not every incident involving trains will disappear but they will likely be severely reduced and I see level crossings as one of those all too rare transport investments that ticks every major box.
- Safety for all modes can be considerably improved
- Public transport users benefit – as I understand it signalling the network becomes easier so public transport users can benefit from improved speed – especially around stations
- Drivers benefit from less time waiting at crossings
The map shows the 45 level crossings within the electrified network of Auckland. Of them 31 are road/pedestrian crossings while a further 14 a pedestrian only crossings. As you can see the majority are on the Western line with the rest are primarily along the short Onehunga Line with another cluster around Takanini. Auckland Transport are currently in the process of getting approval to replace the Sarawia St crossing but it is currently being dragged through the environment court. In addition to that the only two crossings that I’m aware of being actively looked at are Porters Rd and Normanby Rd and they’re only being addressed as part of the City Rail Link works.
The last we heard on this topic I said this:
Auckland Transport have developed an evaluation criteria based on the approach Melbourne is using and with input from the NZTA, Kiwirail, Transdev and the Council. The have used this to assess all level crossings within the electrified area to determine the priority for removal or grade separation. This criteria includes looking at aspects such as how long the barriers will be down and safety risks. The highest priority crossing is Sarawia St which is the crossing that has the highest number of train movements through it in the country – more on that below. AT say that a number of crossings close together will need to be dealt with as packages. As such the crossings with high priority are:
- Southern NIMT – Walters Road, Manuroa Road, Taka Street, Spartan Road
- Western Line – Normanby Road, Porters Ave (within CRL footprint)
- Western Line – Morningside Drive
- Western Line – Woodward Road
- Western Line – St Jude Street, Chalmers Street, St Georges Road
- Western Line – Glenview Road
- Western Line – Bruce McLaren
As far as I’m aware this isn’t in any particular order and AT say more work is needed on each of them such as traffic modelling, design and costing as well as business cases. They also won’t say just what option – removal or grade separation – they’ve selected for each crossing as some will require property purchases – the extent of which won’t be known until more design work is done.
Sadly, I’m not aware of a single peep that has come out of AT on the issue since I wrote the information above over a year ago, that’s really disappointing. Funding is obviously a big part and other than some money for early investigation, there is no no serious funding in the current plans until some time after 2018. I hope that a new mayor is able to push and help reprioritise funding to get some of these dangerous level crossings removed. From a traffic point of view, many really need to be done before the CRL is complete as the western line in particular is expected to get a lot busier based on AT’s current plans.