Safety fears after fatal crash

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Urgent action is needed to prevent another tragedy on the Kingston Road after an Indian man was killed in a car crash near the Devil’s Staircase on Sunday.

That’s the view of residents and the boss of Southern Discoveries, operator of a bus carrying 14 passengers, which collided with Harpreet Singh’s car on State Highway 6, between Queenstown and Kingston.

There have been almost 200 crashes on the road since 2000, including six fatal and 12 serious collisions.

They’re calling for the road’s speed limit to be temporarily reduced until proper funding’s secured and for centrelines to be erased and realigned following the 25-year-old Punjab man’s death.

Tim Hunter, Southern Discoveries CEO, says it’s “imperative” for early action to combat a projected increase in traffic on the road, with 950 new homes in the pipeline for Kingston.

“The incidence of these crashes is unlikely to change until both road layouts change and the speed issues are addressed.

“We feel that speed limits should be reviewed with some urgency, especially in areas that are known accident spots.”

He says fatal accidents are rare on the road but if there are more crashes in the region, it may become “an issue for visitor safety”.

Graham Roebeck, a former civil construction and roading technician who managed a traffic safety service contract for 232 kilometres of SH6, SH6a and SH8 from Haast Summit to Kingston, wants action now.

Roebeck says central government funding’s urgently needed due to an increase in tourists driving with “little or no experience of NZ-style challenging roads”, as well as planned residential growth in Kingston.

He believes part of the carriageway has been a narrowed by changes to roadmarkings, after the installation of a post and cable barrier on the lake side, forcing heavy vehicles to cross the centreline.

Action needed less urgently includes building overtaking lanes and clearer signage for slow vehicles, he says.

Kingston Community Association chairman Athol Elliott agrees “something needs to be done urgently” about the road.

NZ Transport Agency senior safety engineer Roy Johnston says the agency will consider the proposed solutions but doesn’t believe urgent improvements are needed due to recent investment in safety barriers and rumble strips.

The NZTA’s investigating claims about the post and cable barrier having reduced lane width.

His paternal grandfather, Nirmal Bhatti, of Auckland, confirmed Singh’s death earlier this week but Queenstown police have not yet formally confirmed his name.

Singh arrived in New Zealand seven years ago to study and moved to Queenstown from Auckland earlier this year to continue working for Mitre 10 Mega.

Bhatti and friends paid tribute to a hard-working man who “everybody loved”.

No one else was injured in Sunday’s crash, which happened less than 48 hours after three people were injured in a head-on collision on the same stretch of road.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz