Livestock wandering in the railway corridor is ‘dangerous for the animals, trains, and our customers’, KiwiRail says.
The state-owned-enterprise has asked farmers to check their fences and gates alongside the 4000km of rail tracks throughout New Zealand to make sure their animals were secure.
KiwiRail’s network general manager Rick van Barneveld said that records kept by the company showed that in the past three months, there have been 16 incidents of livestock on tracks coming into contact with trains.
“Eleven of the 14 incidents were for roaming cattle, two for sheep, one for deer, and two for unidentified ‘stock’,” he said.
“Two of those incidents occurred last week, when wandering cattle were hit by trains.”
Mr van Barneveld said that under the law, the onus is on the owners of the livestock, or the person in charge of them, to ensure they do not wander onto the rail lines.
When trains are damaged in the incident, costs can be recovered from farmers.
“Not only can it cost the farmer, who can lose several expensive animals, but they can then be liable for KiwiRail’s costs, which can also be substantial.”
He said one recent incident in the Wairarapa saw cattle make their way onto the rail corridor by pushing against an old wooden gate, which had become rotten, and breaking it down.
An early morning freight train then hit the cattle, killing two and injuring others. Police had to kill one due to its injuries.
The collision closed the track, because the train was damaged and needed repairs and the track had to be inspected. This cancelled commuter trains from the Wairarapa, forcing hundreds of people onto buses, delaying their arrival at work.
“The cost to KiwiRail was in the tens of thousands of dollars, and, no doubt, the cost to the farmer was also substantial for the loss of three cattle beasts.
“This could have been avoided by farmers checking and maintaining the fences and gates along the rail corridor, ensuring they are up to the standard required under the Rail Act 2005.”
Mr van Barneveld said train drivers could not be expected to avoid collisions with animals, as the trains could not swerve or stop quickly.
A freight train travelling at normal speed (up to 80kmh) can take about a kilometre to stop, because of its size and momentum.