​​​To ensure fairness, a priority list is used to determine which level crossings will be upgraded first.​​

Upgrading protection at a level crossing might mean installing flashing lights and bells with “Stop” or “Give Way” signs or it may mean installing barrier arms at a crossing that already has lights and bells.

Other changes can be made to crossings to improve safety, such as increased signage, signs in advance of the crossing or road alignment changes.

Upgrading public crossings is usually a collaborative effort involving KiwiRail and NZ Transport Agency (and the local roading authority if the crossing is on a local (Council) road).

Objective criteria

To ensure fairness, a priority list is used to determine which level crossings will be upgraded first. The Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM) is used to evaluate the risk at each crossing. Factors considered include:

  • train, pedestrian and traffic characteristics
  • engineering experience (both rail and road)
  • local knowledge of driver or pedestrian behaviour
  • social and economic assessments and
  • standards and international best practice.

Crossings identified by ALCAM as high risk, or requiring improvement under KiwiRail’s engineering guidelines, are upgraded first.

Crossing upgrades are sometimes necessary because local roading projects, or a new public development may result in increases in road or rail traffic over a level crossing.

Any new crossings will require an ALCAM evaluation to assess any new risks.

KiwiRail recently adopted a new, holistic system which modifies the ALCAM risk score by taking into account other external safety factors. This system is the Level Crossing Safety Impact Assessment ("LCSIA"). Factors taken into account under the LCSIA include:

  • crash and incident data
  • personal and collective road risk
  • vehicle delay–short stacking, and
  • the opinion of locomotive engineers (train drivers).

The LCSIA is used to develop risk scores for both private and public road and pedestrian level crossings.

Costs of upgrades

The cost of upgrading a level crossing varies from site to site, depending on what measures are taken to reduce the risk.

Other than for minor works such as installing STOP signs, the cost of upgrading a level crossing can be anywhere from around $200,000 up to (and sometimes exceeding) $3 million.

Grade separating a level crossing (ie putting in a road overpass or underpass) can cost $5 million or more.

Who pays for upgrades?

The costs of installing and maintaining alarm systems at level crossings are generally shared 50:50 between KiwiRail and NZ Transport Agency or the relevant Road Controlling Authority (usually the local Council).

KiwiRail does not contribute towards funding of upgrades that become necessary because of roading projects or new developments outside the rail network.

KiwiRail Capital Works Upgrade Programme

KiwiRail is funded to upgrade around eight crossings per year. Other upgrades occur through separately funded projects.