List of rail accidents in New Zealand

List of rail accidents in New Zealand

This list is of railway accidents in New Zealand sorted chronologically.

2010 – present

  • 3 September 2013, Mercer - A northbound freight train derails leaving one carriage lying across the tracks, and 2 containers stranded on the road. An investigation is pending, but KiwiRail suspects that the incident was due to a mechanical fault.[1] Not entirely surprising since we are talking about a train. One of the containers was full of frozen cakes, which was considered by most to be a terrible waste.
  • 20 May 2013, Kaiwharawhara, Wellington – The rear car of a morning southbound commuter train derails just south of Kaiwharawhara station after an air reservoir tank for the braking system comes loose from the carriage and is driven up through the floor, knocking the carriage from the tracks. Four passengers suffer minor injuries.[2]
  • 31 October 2011, Paekakariki, Wellington – A 12.6-metre long three-axle low-floor bus becomes stuck on the Beach Road level crossing waiting at a Stop sign to turn right onto State Highway 1, and is hit by a southbound freight train. No injuries were reported. The accident was caused by the bus stopping in a position where its single driving axle was off the ground above a drain, combined with an insufficient 'stacking distance' between the level crossing and State Highway 1, meaning any vehicle over 10 metres long could not stop without either encroaching the railway line or the State Highway.[3]
  • 21 June 2011, Kaikoura, Marlborough – A northbound Main North Line express freight between Christchurch and Picton derails after hitting a slip just south of Kaikoura. Both locomotives and several wagons are damaged. The lead locomotive DFT 7117 is extensively damaged with the trailing locomotive DQ6376 suffering moderate damage. The locomotive engineer escaped with minor injuries.
  • 1 February 2011, Ngaio, Wellington, At about 1 pm a Johnsonville bound suburban multiple electric unit derailed at the passing loop switch when leaving Ngaio station and ran off through a barrier fence, stopping about a metres into the station carpark. Although no one was injured, about 16 passengers were kept on board the train for around 20 minutes until the overhead electricity could be turned off, so they could disembark and continue on their journey by replacement bus. Services were replaced by buses for the afternoon but were restored by 7 pm. A crane was used to rerail the train. KiwiRail intended to investigate the cause of the derailment.[4][5][6]
  • 12 January 2010, Flint Road level crossing, Stratford – About 9:15 am a New Plymouth bound freight train collides with a utility vehicle at a level crossing only controlled by stop signs, killing one person and seriously injuring two others in the vehicle. This was the fifth crash, and second fatality, at this crossing since 1992. Local residents considered the crossing was an accident waiting to happen because it was close to the highway, had limited visibility and many drivers did not stop for the crossing. They felt that barrier arms were needed. At the time of the crash, KiwiRail had been intending to install flashing lights at the crossing within the next two years, as the crossing was high on the priority list to be upgraded.[7][8][9]
  • 30 September 2010, Plimmerton, Wellington – A mid-afternoon northbound Wellington to Paraparaumu electric multiple unit hits a landslide on the line and derails into the path of a southbound Paraparaumu to Wellington multiple unit; two injured.[10] The two heavily damaged components of the Ganz-Mavag units are withdrawn from service and the undamaged components are marshalled together as a new set.

2000 – 2009

  • 10 July 2010, Wellington – Morning passenger services suspended after two trains bring down overhead lines. About 10,000 passengers affected.
  • 23 July 2009, Maymorn, Wellington – The locomotive and first carriage of an evening northbound Wairarapa Connection derails after hitting a mudslide at the exit to the Maoribank Tunnel; no injuries were reported, but the line was blocked for three days.[11]
  • 12 June 2008, Bryndwr, Christchurch, Canterbury – Two freighthopping men riding on top of a southbound Main North Line freight train are knocked off after hitting an overhead footbridge; both men were killed.[12]
  • 1 April 2003, Silverstream, Upper Hutt – Upper Hutt to Wellington Express electric multiple unit fatally strikes pedestrian at the Silverstream station crossing, despite warning devices operating. Coroner finds pedestrians often ignore warning devices at this crossing and recommends gates be installed to prevent pedestrians accidentally walking onto tracks. The first gated pedestrian railway crossing was subsequently installed at Silverstream, and served as a prototype for other busy pedestrian crossings.[13][14]
  • 26 July 2002, Te Wera, Taranaki – A westbound express freight on the Stratford - Okahukura Line derails due to excessive speed on a curve. One crew is killed while the other is injured and trapped in the cab for several hours until rescued. Investigations find that both crew had fallen asleep and that the driver (who was killed) had consumed alcohol prior to commencing his shift. As the train was also several kilometres ahead of its schedule recommendations are also made concerning train control operations. One DC class locomotive (4657) is written-off.
  • 8 January 2001, Canterbury – A southbound Southerner hits a cattle truck. 25 passengers are injured, two seriously, and 10 cattle are killed.

1950 – 1999

  • 20 October 1999, Waipahi, Otago – A northbound Main South Line express freight train collides with a stationary southbound freight train after a misunderstanding of track warrant conditions by both train drivers; one killed, one seriously injured.[15] One of the locomotives involved (DC4202) is written-off and scrapped.
  • 18 June 1997, Glen Innes Railway Station, Auckland – At about 11:50am an empty Silver Fern railcar returning to it depot and travelling at 80 km/h fatally collides with a pedestrian who had just disembarked from a suburban train travelling in the opposite direction at a pedestrian level crossing without warning devices. The coroner finds that the pedestrian was unable to see or hear the railcar, due to the weather and noisy environment, and directs that warning devices be installed at the crossing, as a minimum. Also finds that train drivers have a duty of care to pedestrians, despite having right of way, and recommends trains slow down near the station.[16][17]
  • 25 August 1993, Rolleston, Canterbury – The driver of a concrete mixer truck turning right off State Highway 1 fails to notice the level crossing alarms on the George Holmes Road level crossing and collides with the side of the locomotive of a southbound Southerner passenger express. The truck's mixer bowl bounces off the carriages, ripping two open; three killed, seven seriously injured.[18]
  • 7 August 1991, Oio, central North Island – Locomotive Engineer Graeme Peter Orange is killed and two 4000 hp EF class electric locomotives (EF30036 and 30088) are subsequently written off after striking a washout.
  • 13 December 1989. Southbound Coastal Pacific Express passenger train derails when attempting to avoid car versus truck collision on a railway crossing.
  • 7 August 1984, Edendale, Southland – An Invercargill to Balclutha shunt derails after a section of track was washed out; one killed.[19]
  • 18 August 1981, Waiouru, Manawatu-Wanganui – A Silver Fern railcar derails on a curve and falls 8 m down a bank due to a missing speed restriction sign; four killed, 16 injured.[19]
  • 21 May 1980, Otira, West Coast – An eastbound coal train derails after a 50-metre section of track was washed away during stormy weather. Driver Owen Fitzgerald was trapped in the cab of his locomotive and subsequently drowned.[19]
  • 24 March 1980, Wellington, Wellington – A Porirua to Wellington suburban unit crashes head-on into a diesel shunter with six empty carriages that had somehow strayed onto the wrong line; two killed, at least 77 injured.[19]
  • 17 October 1979, Wellington, Wellington – A Porirua to Wellington suburban unit rear-ends a stationary Taita to Wellington suburban unit on the approach to Wellington station; at least 44 injured, five of which seriously.[19]
  • 19 March 1979, Matapihi, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty – A freight train operating along the Mount Maunganui branch collides with a vehicle at a level crossing and derails. The locomotive (DA 1436) is written-off.
  • 25 May 1978, Pukerua Bay, Wellington – DA 1470, returning to Wellington light engine from Paekakariki, derails on a curve due to excessive speed and almost falls onto State Highway 1 below the line; two killed.[19]
  • 23 March 1977, Newmarket, Auckland – A Wellington to Auckland freight train collides with an Auckland to Helensville suburban train near the Parnell Tunnel, after human error during a signal failure directed the passenger onto the wrong line; one killed and both locomotives (DX2639 and DA1426) are written-off.[19]
  • 5 November 1975 DA returning to Taumarunui light engine after banking train up to National Park derails at Raurimu. The driver (Mr Bunty Arahanga) is killed while his assistant (Mr Patrick Arahanga) is injured.
  • 21 November 1975, Silver Fern derailed in level crossing accident.[20]
  • 15 February 1971, Dashwood, Marlborough – A Picton to Christchurch railcar collides with a cattle truck on a level crossing; one killed.[19]
  • 19 May 1966, Dashwood Pass, Marlborough – A Christchurch to Picton mixed train (popularly named the "Cabbage Train") derails at the southern portal of Tunnel 22, after the driver takes a curve at twice the speed restriction; one killed, two seriously injured.[19]
  • 3 November 1962, Te Kauwhata, Waikato – A northbound freight train ran a red signal and crashed into the back of a stationary freight train after the driver of the first train falls asleep at the controls; one killed. This crash sparked the introduction of vigilance devices in diesel locomotives.[19]
  • 5 February 1958, Pinedale, Waikato – A Rotorua to Frankton, Hamilton freight train derails on a curve, after an air leak lead to brake failure while the train was descending a 2% (1 in 50) grade; one killed, one injured.[19]
  • 21 October 1957, Wellington, Wellington – An Plimmerton to Wellington suburban unit rear-ends an Upper Hutt to Wellington suburban unit on the approach to Wellington Station; 23 injured.[19]
  • 20 July 1955, Takapu Road, Wellington – A Paekakariki to Wellington suburban unit, after hitting a slip on the line, derails into the path of the other line, and is subsequently hit by a Wellington to Paekakariki suburban unit; eight injured, one later dying of their injuries.[19]
  • 24 December 1953, Tangiwai, Manawatu-Wanganui – Tangiwai disaster: An overnight Wellington to Auckland express falls into the Whangaehu River after the rail bridge crossing it was swept away by a lahar from Mount Ruapehu's crater lake minutes earlier; 151 killed.
  • 5 December 1952, Kaukapakapa, Auckland – A Maungaturoto to Auckland freight train crashes into a stationary Auckland to Opua mixed train standing at Kaukapakapa Station; one killed, one seriously injured.[19]

1900 – 1949

  • 25 February 1948, Seddon – Six people were killed and 63 injured when the engine tender overturned, causing the engine to also oveturn, as the Picton to Christchurch express train was exiting a tightening curve. The driver admitted a "terrific error" in misjudging his speed. A board of inquiry found the driver guilty of driving at excessive speed but a jury found the driver not guilty of manslaughter and ascribed the accident to "inefficient administration" by assigning an acting first-grade driver, who was not familiar with the route, to drive the train.[21]
  • 20 August 1946, Manawatu Gorge – Two engine crew presumed drowned when a goods train derailed by a slip and fell into the Manawatu river. The body of the driver was recovered from Foxton Beach; the body of the fireman was never found.[21]
  • 22 May 1946, Makarewa, Southland – A Tuatapere to Invercargill mixed train rear-ends a stationary worker's train that was about to leave the station; one killed, 4 injured.[19]
  • 8 November 1943, Haywards, Wellington – An Upper Hutt to Wellington suburban train jumps the tracks on a poorly aligned section of line that had been run down due to wartime conditions; three killed, 28 injured. The steam locomotive hauling the train, WAB 794, was repaired and is now in preservation.[21][22]
  • 4 June 1943, Hyde, Otago – Hyde railway disaster: A Cromwell to Dunedin passenger train derails on a curve due to excessive speed and the driver being intoxicated; 21 killed, 47 injured.[21]
  • 28 October 1940, Mercer, Auckland – The locomotive of an overnight Wellington to Auckland express jumps the rails on the approach to its destination; two killed, the driver & fireman; ten seriously injured. The driver was speeding over a tight (8.2 chain or 160 m radius) curve just south of Mercer.[21][23]
  • 26 March 1938, Ratana – Fireman and six passengers killed and over 40 injured, with 13 hospitalised after a Wellington to New Plymouth Good Friday Easter train derailed and engine overturned on a tight curve after the driver misjudged his speed and location due to fog and the general lack of speed recorders in NZR steam engines.[21] The date or other train name is incorrect as Easter Sunday in 1938 was 17 April, making Good Friday 15 April.
  • 9 October 1936, Featherston, Wellington – A southbound Wairarapa class railcar is blown off the rails during a 130 km/h (81 mph) northwesterly gale; eight injured.[21]
  • 30 August 1936, Paraparaumu – The Auckland to Wellington express derailed after hitting a slip. Three passengers taken to hospital with injuries, two discharged, but the other subsequently died.[21]
  • 22 September 1925, Opapa – Two killed and several others seriously injured after the Wellington to Napier mail train derailed as a result of excessive speed entering a curve. The driver was subsequently convicted of manslaughter.[21]
  • 6 July 1923, Ongarue, Manawatu-Wanganui – An Auckland to Wellington express derails after hitting a landslide blocking the line; 17 killed, 28 injured.[21][24]
  • 15 May 1919, Mataroa, between Ohakune and Taihape – A runaway goods train derailed at a curve beyond Ngaurukehu station after exceeding 100 miles per hour when Westinghouse brakes failed to respond when applied in the guards van. The train was wrecked, with the contents and parts of wagons being thrown more than 100 yards ahead of the engine. The driver was fatally injured and the fireman severely scalded.[21]
  • 8 November 1918, Mataroa, Manawatu-Wanganui – An Auckland to Wellington express derails after hitting a landslide blocking the line; four killed.[21]
  • 27 May 1914, Whangamarino, Waikato – A Wellington to Auckland express train rear-ends a northbound freight train after it passes a faulty semaphore signal that incorrectly displayed clear instead of danger; three dead, five seriously injured.[21]
  • 3 August 1907, Mamaku Incline, about halfway between Putaruru and Mamaku – When locomotive crew noticed a fault in the second engine hauling a 230 tonne train up the 1 in 36 Mamaku Incline, they stopped the train to investigate the problem. After applying both the Westinghouse brakes and hand brakes on the lead wagons, the crew decoupled the engines from the train to investigate the engine fault further. However, when the Westinghouse brakes lost pressure the train ran backwards down the steep slope and could not be stopped by hand brakes applied in the guard's van and passenger carriage. After passing through Ngatira at 70 miles an hour, the guard's van derailed on an S bend and took the rest of the train over an embankment into a gully, fatally injuring the guard and seriously injuring 5 of 7 other passengers on the train; the wreckage caught fire and 45 cattle beasts were also killed or had to be destroyed, although 37 others survived.[21]
  • 29 March 1907, Bankside, 1 mile north of Rakaia – Head on collision between a northbound troop train and a southbound special train that had not waited at Bankside station for the troop train to pass. Only two persons injured and two horses killed because the passenger carriage behind the southbound engine was empty when it telescoped under the engine tender and was demolished and the horsebox behind the engine on the troop train carried just one person.[21]
  • 26 March 1907, Lyttelton – The train carrying passengers to the inter-island ferry ran out of brakes and overran the stop block at the end of the wharf. Fortunately only the front half of the engine went over the end of the wharf, and being of Fairlie's Patent design only the cowcatcher and driving gear fell into the sea. When the driving gear was recovered, the diver also found a goods wagon that had been missing for a year.[21]
  • 24 June 1905, Chaneys, near Kaiapoi – Christchurch to Kaiapoi train derailed when an embankment collapsed after being weakened by floodwaters. Two killed and one seriously injured after being crushed between carriages.[21]

1899 and earlier

  • 11 March 1899, Rakaia railway accident at Rakaia, Canterbury – Two Ashburton to Christchurch excursion trains collide when the second train rear-ends the first; four killed, 22 injured.[25]
  • 11 September 1880, Rimutaka Incline railway accident on the Rimutaka Incline, Wellington – The leading three carriages on a Greytown to Wellington train are blown off the track in strong winds near the Siberia tunnel; three killed, 11 injured.[26]


External links

  • Regulation and monitoring of rail transport in New Zealand
  • Rail Occurrence Reports, Transport Accident Investigation Commission – Reports of rail occurrences (accidents and near misses) from April 1993 to present.

Further reading