Level Crossings Working Group

A working group is being established to examine a variety of issues affecting the road-rail interface, both where the road and rail are adjacent to each other and where they intersect at level crossings.  This group will need to address issues around new cycling paths beside the rail corridor and level crossings for these.  The legal requirement for a collaborative approach to the management of level crossings was summarised in the RCA Forum comment on the draft recommendations of Coroner Elliott following the inquiry into the death of George Ellis at Ashburton in 2014.  See RCA Forum comment to Coroner Elliott.

Background

A Level Crossings Working Group was first established in 1999 to develop a policy for road/rail crossings and bridges and address the problems of getting access through the rail corridor for maintenance.  A Deed of Grant was negotiated with TranzRail and approved by the RCA Forum in 2002, but the Deed of Grant's  continued relevance was affected by the change to the rail network being managed by ONTRACK, a government agency. The Group then worked on the adaption for New Zealand use of the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM) and reviews of pedestrian level crossing issues, rail bridge strikes and a survey of public and private crossings.  Finally, the group prepared the new section of the Traffic Control Devices Manual: Part 9 Level Crossings.

The TCD Manual: Part 9 Level Crossings provides guidance on industry good practice, including where necessary practice mandated by law.  The latest version (2012) includes minor editorial changes to reflect current practices and policies.  It also includes new road signs, markings and guidance on responsibilities within adjacent road and rail corridors, as well as at the intersections of these.

Part 9 has Investment, State Highway and Local Guideline status.  The NZTA document sponsor is the National Manager Planning.  The proposed review date for the 2012 version is June 2016.  Go to Part 9 Level Crossings.

The RCA Forum was represented  on this national working group jointly sponsored by the NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail by Stephen Griffin (Buller District Council) and  Andrew Firth (Auckland Transport).  The working group met annually (see notes of last meeting on 13 March 2014) with subgroups progressing several workstreams.  Brett Williams (KiwiRail) addressed the Forum in Auckland on 8 August 2014 (go to presentation) and John Skilton (KiwiRail) provided a further update to the Forum in Wellington on 8 May 2015 (go to presentation).

Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM)  - ALCAM surveys and safety analyses of all public level-crossings were undertaken between 2004 and 2012. The survey data have also been used to recalibrate ALCAM for the New Zealand context. The ALCAM model projects that there are up to 44 deaths over a 10-year period from train incidents at level-crossings nationally. Individual crossing reports have recently been provided by KiwiRail to the relevant road-controlling authorities.  The release of a web-based upgrade of the ALCAM model is imminent.  KiwiRail has recently circulated its 2014 Level Crossing work-programme, which used the ALCAM assessments.   See ALCAM report.

National Level Crossing (Safety) Access Agreement – A sub-group of the working group is currently developing a Pro-forma Level Crossing (Safety) Access Agreement based on the document used in Queensland as a model for developing a New Zealand equivalent. Stephen Griffin, Christine Perrin and Adrian Price (AT) were the RCA Forum representatives on the subgroup.

Level Crossing Up-grade Financial Assistance Rate (FAR) -  Previously the National Land Transport Program (NLTP) invested 50% of the cost of Level Crossing improvements included in the KiwiRail Level Crossing Work Programme (Activity Class 131).  Local road controlling authorities, therefore, were not required to contribute financially. The recent FAR review reduced the NLTP investment to a RCA's normal FAR rate i.e. AOs pay 25%, NLTP contributes 25%, and KiwiRail pays 50%.  The local RCA therefore now has a direct financial interest in the operation and management of level crossings.