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Rail environment

Facts about trains

The greatest risk of a railway catastrophe is a passenger train being derailed by a heavy vehicle at a level crossing.

Statistically trains are the safest way for people to travel in New Zealand and throughout the world.  The railway is also a safe way to transport goods around the country. Trains can however pose significant safety risks if people do not follow the warning signs and give way to trains at all times.  In New Zealand trains are used to transport both freight and people over long and short distances.

The railway is private property

Railway tracks and rail yards are private property.  If you cross railway tracks anywhere other than an official level crossing, or if you enter railway property without permission, then you are legally trespassing and can be prosecuted.

Trains have right of way

You can also be fined for failing to give way to trains and other railway vehicles.  Trains always have right of way over vehicles and pedestrians.  If you fail to obey the warning signs and cross in front of an approaching train, your details will be recorded by the train driver and passed on to Police.

Trains are frequent

Trains can travel at any time of the day or night. Even if you think you know the train timetable in your area, these timetables can change and you may not necessarily be aware of the change.  Expect a train at any time and always check the railway line is clear of trains before crossing.

Trains are heavy

A fully laden freight train is extremely heavy and can weigh up to a thousand tonnes.

Trains are fast

Trains can travel up to 100kms an hour.  It is difficult for people to judge the speed of an approaching train and research has proven that you are more than likely to misjudge the speed of an approaching train. If you can see a train approaching, you should wait for it to pass, no matter how far away you think it is.

Trains can’t swerve or stop

Because trains are heavy and fast – they also cannot stop in a hurry.  In fact a fully laden freight train can take up to a kilometre to stop.  Similarly, a train is guided by the rails on which it travels, and cannot swerve to miss an object that may be on the tracks.  This is why a motor vehicle must always give way to a train or other railway vehicle.

This video of a staged collision shows the time it takes for a train to stop after hitting a vehicle.


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Latest news

Heavy vehicle safety research launched

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Four serious collisions between heavy vehicles and trains in three months have highlighted a worrying trend, according to rail safety charity TrackSAFE NZ, which is launching a research project to help improve safety for heavy vehicle drivers around railway level crossings.   Read more

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