The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)
General Manager's Message — The Safety Of Rail Transport
General Manager's Message
The Safety Of Rail Transport.
With the summer holiday period approaching and travel plans in the air, some reference to the safety element which the railways provide is worth while. Consideration of some of the facts upon this point by those contemplating travel may well lead to a decision to use the rail whenever possible by such as desire to obtain to the full the benefits to be derived from their annual or Christmas vacation.
It is a policy throughout the entire railway world—now amounting to a tradition—to press ever onward in the development of safety appliances and, in recent years, great progress has been made in this direction with this definite result—that the accident figure in railway travel has decreased with an increasing traffic.
Railway expenditure has been very heavy to secure this greater margin of safety, but the benefit to travellers has been most marked.
The question is sometimes raised as to how far a transport organisation is justified in proceeding with additional expenditure in order further to safeguard the lives of the travelling public. Railway administrations the world over have certainly not been niggardly in expenditure for this purpose, and the records of safety in transport established, particularly by the railways of Great Britain, are outstanding tributes to the spirit of generous treatment towards their passengers and personal responsibility in relation thereto, which have marked the policies of the companies in question regarding the personal safety of their clients.
In New Zealand, during the last three years, we have put up rather a remarkable record in the safe conveyance of passengers. In examining the Department's Annual Statements for these years, I find that during the period referred to, some 77 million passengers were carried by rail. The same Statements contain tables indicating that no passengers were killed in train accidents for the three years ended the 31st March, 1929. Through the current year to date also, the same record holds of no train accident fatalities amongst railway passengers.
A comparison with the incidence of accident on roadways is here appropriate. During the last three years, deaths from motor-vehicle accidents in New Zealand have totalled 463, the “overturning and collision of cars and such like accidents” accounting for the ominous total of 176 deaths during 1928, i.e., for one year alone. Road fatalities in Great Britain last year totalled 5,489, or at about the same proportion to population as in New Zealand, namely one in every 8,000. That is a very high annual accident death-rate from one cause alone. It means that in a life prospect of 60 years one in every one hundred and thirty-three will be killed in a motor vehicle accident.
Upon the railways it is, of course, our job to carry passengers safely. It gives occasion for modest pride that we have done it so successfully in recent years. But it is good to know that this comparative immunity from accident is not itself accidental—it is the result of careful examination after every accident to discover what means could be evolved to prevent a recurrence; large expenditure upon safety systems and appliances; careful preparation of, tutoring in, and examination regarding rules of safety to be observed by everyone of our employees; and most important of all, a strongly developed sense of responsibility amongst all our train operating staffs for the safety of passengers who place themselves in our care.
General Manager.page break