Kenilworthlevel crossing woes

A man squeezes his way past the closed boom.

It’s only a matter of time before faulty boom timing and poor warning signals cause a serious accident at the Kenilworth station level crossing, say residents.

John Matthews says he has been in talks with Metrorail and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) for more than a year to resolve some of the issues at the station, including the faulty boom, illegal crossing at the level, inadequate warning lights, illegal structures and broken lights around the station.

Mr Matthews, of the Kenilworth Village Residents’ and Businesses’ Association, said he had corresponded regularly with Prasa officials since April last year.

“We have met on site at least three times with no visible action being taken. I have emphasised the potential dangers of an accident happening at the booms and the poor state of the facilities at the station,” he said.

“We laid out 12 points that needed attention on which we still do not have resolution.”

Mr Matthews said he had driven over the level crossing on Saturday September 1, at 2.40pm, to find the booms up, with no warning light flashing, as a Cape Town-bound train approached the station.

“Traffic was still moving across the railway lines because the booms were up and the lights not flashing,” he said.

“I went down the road on Thomas Road and drove back to ensure that the lights were not working. The lights started flashing at about 2.48pm and the boom operator then dropped the booms to control the traffic,” Mr Matthews said.

In a string of emails, sent to a Prasa official, residents told of their experiences with the booms.

One resident said: “Today I personally experienced the erratic operation of the booms at Kenilworth station. I was driving down Kenilworth Road and the red lights at the crossing were flashing. So I stopped, but the booms did not come down.

“Vehicles from below the line continued to cross the line, and, after much hooting behind me, three cars drove around me and crossed the line. Eventually, after the booms had not come down, and amidst much more hooting, I crossed the line and was halfway down Kenilworth Road, and still the lights were flashing and the booms had not come down.

“It is this type of erratic operation which causes motorists to ignore the flashing lights, and will one day result in a serious accident.”

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott, however, said she was not aware of any complaints relating to the booms and said there was not a problem with the timing of the booms according to their technical team.

“All Metrorail level crossings are checked and tested meticulously. Safety at level crossings is predominantly governed by the principles contained in South African Road Signs Manual and all level crossings comply fully with legal and statutory requirements.

“Trains sound their sirens and operate with their head lights on as additional safety measures,” she said.

Ms Scott said there had not been any recent reported accidents at the crossing and only one incident of a vehicle damaging the booms had been recorded in July this year.

Another resident, Rory Moore, believes the crossing must be made more visible and a hump before the booms would help.

“There are a lot of vehicles and trucks who use this crossing to get from one side to another. Visibility needs to be emphasised to make people aware of the level crossing,” he said.

Mr Matthews said a camera had been installed in July, at the request of residents but had not been connected to the traffic centre in Goodwood.

“We are pleased that the cameras have been installed but if they are not linked to the traffic centre, then it defeats the purpose. If in working order, the cameras could help to improve driver behaviour,” he said.

Ms Scott said the cameras were part of Prasa’s operational signalling system and were meant to be linked to the Goodwood traffic centre.

Asked if there were plans to replace the booms, Ms Scott said Prasa had committed to a level crossing elimination programme where all existing level crossings would eventually be replaced by either overhead bridges or underpasses.

“In terms of the original agreement between the City of Cape Town and Prasa at the time, the Kenilworth level crossing was to have been closed on completion of the Stanhope Road bridge.

“Both parties have not pursued the matter, but the tacit agreement to keep it open despite the original intent may have to be reconsidered and expedited in light of the elimination strategy,” she said.