Auckland, New Zealand: Wheel chair stuck in flange-way gap – KiwiRail accepts responsibility

11 Jun

This story is a little old but still significant as it relates to the flange-way gap that has been implicated in a number of fatal accidents around the world. Please see the text of the KiwiRail media release which follows and is in turn followed by the links to the summary report of the independent investigator engaged by KiwiRail.

KiwiRail has today [May 9th, 2013] released the report on its investigation into the accident in which a young woman was critically injured when a train hit her wheel chair after it became stuck at the Morningside pedestrian level crossing.

KiwiRail Chairman, John Spencer, says the investigation has shown that due to a number of failings the degraded condition of the crossing was not identified and remedied as it should have been prior to the accident.

“We take our responsibility for meeting our own safety standards seriously and are very disappointed and apologetic for our failure in this instance.”

“If it wasn’t for the two brave people who intervened, the outcome would have been much worse. We have thanked them and think they deserve wider, public recognition for their actions.”

The report found that the width and depth of the flange gap, the uneven surface of the crossing and the angle of the crossing were contributing factors to the accident.

“Despite the crossing being fully rebuilt in mid-2011, its condition had deteriorated rapidly mostly due to the combined impact of storm-water flooding and a broken water pipe beneath it.”

“We have shared the findings of this report with the young woman’s family, and we will continue to remain in contact with them providing any appropriate levels of support for as long as is needed.”

Mr Spencer says that work has already begun to mitigate the risk of any accidents like this occurring again.

“We took immediate steps after the accident to re-seal Morningside crossing and inspect other similar pedestrian rail crossings nationally.”

“There were no crossings identified with the same level of deficiency as that at Morningside, but over the three days following the accident work was done on eight of the 60 crossings in Auckland to improve their underfoot evenness.

“KiwiRail staff immediately acted on the issues this incident made obvious and have already implemented some improvements.

“With the completion of this report we will act on its recommendations to review both pedestrian level crossing design and construction, and make further improvements to our inspection process.”

Mr Spencer says KiwiRail would be looking internationally to identify other methods that may help better manage the design, construction, inspection and maintenance needs specific to rail pedestrian level crossings.

“Our intention is to also continue to involve groups representing mobility impaired users and cyclists in this work. We have already taken the first steps with key staff taking part in field trips with wheel chair users in Auckland to understand the issues they face when crossing the tracks.”

“Level crossings are the interface between road/footpath and rail and it is critical that KiwiRail, relevant roading authorities and other agencies with an interest in, or responsibility for, safety at level crossings continue to work closely together to ensure appropriate solutions and processes are in place to best manage the public risks around New Zealand’s 4,000km long national rail network.”

To access the independent report go to: http://www.kiwirail.co.nz/uploads/Publications/Morningside%20Report%20and%20Summary.pdf

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