Vehicles cross the tracks by weaving through the booms when they are out of order. Picture: Supplied
Vehicles cross the tracks by weaving through the booms when they are out of order. Picture: Supplied

Kenilworth rail crossing ‘puts motorists lives at risk’

By Mwangi Githathu Time of article published Jan 7, 2020

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Cape Town - Motorists using the Kenilworth Road rail crossing over the festive season were dicing with death on the few occasions that the booms at the level crossing were out of order.

A resident of the suburb, Andrew Cunningham, said: “On December 23 the booms failed to open and cars were weaving through them. With the crossing closed and cars weaving through the booms, it's only a matter of time before a major accident.”

After unsuccessfully trying to contact his ward councillor, the City of Cape Town and Prasa, Cunningham got through to the police at Wynberg.

“The Wynberg police did send someone to sort out the situation, and for that they need to be commended. However, it is not their job; the responsibility lies with Prasa,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham, who has lived in the area for 35 years, said: “In that time there was practically no routine maintenance done on the Kenilworth railway crossing booms. As a result, they were constantly breaking down. Eventually, the machinery reached a stage where it was not repairable, and recently new automatic booms were installed which work intermittently.”

He said the new booms allow cars to weave through them and believes “the configuration is set up, I guess, to allow a vehicle caught between the booms as they descend to escape”.

Cunningham took photographs of cars dangerously weaving between the booms and sent them to the Cape Argus after the last incident.

Riana Scott, spokesperson for Metrorail Western Cape, said: “I have been assured that the level-crossing booms at Kenilworth are fully functional. All crossings are monitored, and technicians will repair faulty booms as soon as possible.

“Users should take note that trains, as a mass transport mode, legally have right of way at level crossings, and it is therefore advisable that road users heed road traffic signs and safety protocol on approach to level crossings.

“In the interests of public safety, we recommend that all road users take note of how the booms function and not do not tamper with the booms when they get impatient.”

Explaining how the booms operate, Scott said: “Approaching trains automatically alert the crossing attendant, who then activates the flashlights. The lights flash for 8 to 10 seconds and act as a warning to road users to stop, as trains are approaching the intersection.

“The entry booms close immediately after the lights stop flashing, and the exit booms five seconds later - this is to indicate to vehicles already in mid-crossing that the booms behind the vehicle have already dropped and the booms in front of the vehicle will close within five seconds.

"After both sets of booms have dropped, the lights will flash to indicate that the road is closed for vehicular and pedestrian use.”

@MwangiGithahu

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