When KiwiRail disconnected a level-crossing in Christchurch, no form of temporary traffic management was put in place and a bus was almost hit by a passing locomotive, but who was at fault?
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has released its report into the incident at the Selwyn Street level crossing.
The crossing had been disconnected on 6 August 2022 when a fault could not be repaired that day.
KiwiRail’s procedures did not adequately address the risk posed by leaving the level crossing unattended, TAIC Chief Investigator of Accidents, Naveen Kozhuppakalam says.
“The council, as the road controlling authority, wasn’t informed of the fault at the level crossing and wasn’t consulted on potential risk controls, because there was no requirement in KiwiRail’s procedures to do so for an unplanned disconnection.
“So no form of temporary traffic management was put in place until after the near miss between the bus and train was reported on Monday 8 August 2022.”
A Go Bus-operated Christchurch Metro passenger bus drove across the Selwyn Street level crossing as a KiwiRail locomotive approached. The bus passed approximately 12 metres in front of the locomotive. There was no collision, no damage and no injuries.
The report records that when the Selwyn Street level crossing alarm system was disconnected from its power source the barrier arms were raised and secured and bags were placed over the alarm lights to show they were out of service.
Train control imposed a 10 kilometre per hour speed restriction on any rail traffic approaching Selwyn Street and the other affected level crossings.
“This wasn’t adequate in the circumstances. Although the speed restriction reduced the momentum of the locomotive, there was still a higher potential for a collision with a road user entering the level crossing without taking adequate observations.”
TAIC has recommended that KiwiRail adequately address the risk posed by disconnecting level-crossing protections, whether planned or unplanned; and work with road controlling authorities to develop processes for notification, risk assessment and traffic management measures for unplanned level-crossing disconnections.