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Wheelchair train accident 'could have been avoided'

Tuesday 26 Feb 2013 4:54 p.m.

A disability advocacy group says numerous complaints about the railway crossing where a woman in a wheelchair was critically injured were ignored and the accident could have been avoided. The chairperson of the group says it's disgusting that it's taken a woman to be almost killed by a train for something to be done.

Wheelchair user Jenny Smyth has stopped using the Morningside station. She only returned there today to show how dangerous it is.

“I avoid coming by train because of the crossing, as one of my main reasons,” she says. “I fear crossing any track really because the track can be higher than the pavement or gaps.”

Yesterday a woman in a motorised wheelchair similar to Ms Smyth's became stuck. A freight train hit her and another woman who was trying to help her off the tracks.

Work was done overnight by KiwiRail to close the gaps. Ms Smyth tested it out for 3 News to see if it made any difference.

“That's still scary to cross to be honest,” says Ms Smyth. “They need to really redo the whole thing. There are still gaps further back there. It definitely needs to be level with the track.”

A disability advocacy group is angry it has taken this long for something to be done.

“This is a constant issue where disabled are reporting it constantly to either Auckland Transport or KiwiRail or the local board,” says Dr Huhana Hickey of the Disability Strategic Advisory Group. “They keep saying they will do something. They log it, but nobody is doing anything. So there are constant reports back to the authorities but nothing is being done.”

There was an upgrade to the station in 2011 for the World Cup, but no work was done on the tracks.

“The argument has always been: does KiwiRail pay or does the council pay?” says Dr Hickey. “My take on that is, frankly I don't care because we need lives saved. Why are we talking about money when someone's life is hanging by the balance?”

Auckland Transport said there has never been a dispute about money and it only has responsibility for the road 5m from the tracks. KiwiRail said that they've never had a complaint about the tracks.

The injured woman remains in a critical condition in Auckland Hospital.

3 News

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