Barriers to stop motorists

Oamaru Steam and Rail Society general manager Harry Andrew  observes traffic on Humber St...
Oamaru Steam and Rail Society general manager Harry Andrew observes traffic on Humber St crossing the rail line owned by the society, which runs its diesel-powered train from Harbourside Station every Sunday. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
The Oamaru Steam and Rail Society feels it has no alternative but to install barrier arms at a rail crossing at the intersection of Humber and Itchen Sts in Oamaru, after a series of near misses.

The society runs its diesel-powered train from Harbourside Station in Itchen St to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony every Sunday and other days throughout the year when requested.

At present, warning lights and bells alert motorists when a train crosses Humber St. Traffic turning left into Humber St from Itchen St across the rail line is controlled by a stop sign.

In the past, nearby sections of Humber and Itchen Sts have had temporary speed limits of 30kmh in place.

However, Oamaru Steam and Rail Society general manager Harry Andrew said despite those measures, many drivers, and at times pedestrians, continued to flirt with danger when the train was running.

"We’re just having cars that refuse to stop [for the train] and some cars just don’t stop at the stop sign and just carry on through," Mr Andrew said.

He said that on four Sundays in January alone he counted at least 12 vehicles ignoring the warning lights and bells and had seen many more examples since.

The society, after consulting  the NZ Transport Agency and the Waitaki District Council, had bought some  second-hand barrier arms from KiwiRail, which  would  be installed within the next two months.

Mr Andrew said he would rather not have to install the barrier arms, but felt he had little choice.

"We could spend that money on other things. It will slow the traffic down. All it’s going to do is add another minute or two."

As with the lights and bells, the barrier arms will be automatically activated when a train approaches the crossing from the harbour  and manually activated via a switch as the train leaves Harbourside Station.

As part of the $12,000 project, louder bells would also be installed over the next fortnight.

It was possible barrier arms would also be installed at the rail crossing in Wansbeck St in the future, he said.

Director of nearby business William Bee General Merchants Sarah Jennings approved of the idea and hoped it would make the area safer, given increased traffic flows.

"I think it’s a good idea because I’ve seen some near misses. There’s just such a growing number of tourists down here."

The society bought  the track it uses from the New Zealand Railways Corporation  in 1989. 

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