Another rail crossing death leads us into Rail Safety Week

This month there have been five level crossing deaths in New Zealand. Based on value of statistical life that’s a loss of $12.5m at current valuation or $20m in proposed revaluation in just one month.
Apparently, OnTrack only has sufficient resources to install or upgrade seven new alarms per year (PDF 39kB). Not only are they costly but take specialist resources and time to develop.

Rail Safety Awareness Week is supported by Land Transport New Zealand and we are going to get “a series of hard-hitting television advertisements will screen throughout the week”. Why? “… to drive home the messages that tracks are for trains, and even a moment’s inattention around the rail network can lead to tragedy.” In other words - if you get killed at a rail crossing - it’s your fault. I also hope that the initiators of these “hard-hitting” advertising campaigns are mindful of habituation and consider infrequent showings of these ads which will provide greater long-term benefit than a couple of weeks saturation. The cynical might suggest that a saturation advertising campaign is just there to show that something is being done - but we remain ever optimistic.

Over at the New Zealand Safety Council they have taken a close look at the dangers inherent at level crossings and found a number of safety issues. For example, “Alarms were inaudible at 25 metres inside a vehicle with the engine turned off.” Good luck to Jonah Lomu listening to his car stereo.

Where has “safety” gone from LTSA?

Put “LTSA” into Google and in the search results you’ll see “The Land Transport Safety Authority is a stand alone Crown entity charged with promoting safety in land transport at reasonable cost.” (my emphasis) Unfortunately that’s out of date - the current website has sparse metadata, so Google is using the old (2004) stuff.

Looking at the Land Transport LTSA website archive page, the LTSA was disestablished in December 2004 and merged with Transfund to form Land Transport New Zealand. The Performance Agreement between the Minister of Transport and the LTSA for 2004/2005 (PDF 450kB) set some Outcome Targets. These include: the 2004 total social cost of road accidents (injuries, fatalities, property, emergency services, road users,…) should not exceed $2.75 billion, rail level crossing injury accidents should go from average 21.3 per year to 16 per year in 2010 calculated on 7-year moving average.

Take a look at Land Transport’s 2006 Annual Report and see if you can find performance data on road and rail accidents and injury. The various Output Classes do not seem to include any actual safety statistics.

This stands in stark contrast to the LTSA Cessation Report for the five months ended 30 November 2004 (PDF 1.1MB) in which the first statistics you find on page 9 are “Road safety outcomes and targets” or the last Annual Report 2004 (PDF 600kB) where on page 11 you’ll see the “Report on Safety Outcomes”.

Given road crashes are a $2.75+ billion problem, where has the focus gone?

Leave a Reply