Options for improving pedestrian safety at a point on the East Coast Main Trunk rail line near Waharoa could cost between $20,000 and $1 million, the regional transport committee heard yesterday.
The issue of safety was raised by Matamata-Piako District Council Mayor Hugh Vercoe at last month’s meeting. The committee then asked that an investigation be carried out into how safety at the site of the new 2.2 km Tamihana passing track could be improved.
The committee heard that the community has been crossing the tracks from Tamihana to access a swimming hole, as well as shops at Waharoa. Local asparagus workers also cross the line to reach nearby fields.
The alternative to crossing the railway tracks is to use the busy State Highway 27, which has no footpath or cycle lane.
“This is a long-standing issue. The local community has been crossing the tracks for decades and there was always a safety risk. But that risk has been magnified now with two lines,” Waikato Regional Council’s transport policy programme manager, Bill McMaster, told the committee.
KiwiRail’s northern regional manager Stephen Collett said it was essential a solution be found to ensure safe walking routes for the local community.
“There are a range of possible options for doing this and we will need to work through the feasibility of each of these with the other relevant authorities to find the best solution for this community,” Mr Collett said.
Prior to the new track at Tamihana opening on 12 November, KiwiRail undertook an education campaign targeting school children, local residents and asparagus workers. Trespass signs have also been erected and a camera installed to capture pedestrian movements.
Yesterday, the committee supported a KiwiRail recommendation to train up to three locals to guide residents across the railway lines as required.
Members endorsed a review of current walking patterns between Tamihana and Waharoa, to be undertaken by Matamata-Piako District Council in conjunction with KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and Waikato Regional Council.
A meeting of political and executive leaders of the four agencies and Raungaiti marae will be held as a matter of urgency to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, a working group comprising the four agencies will consider the feasibility of a range of possible safety solutions ahead of another meeting with the Raungaiti marae community.
The options being considered include:
- constructing either an underpass or overpass at the end of Kutia Road
- building an at-level crossing with bells and lights
- installing an at-level crossing using the Australian warning system
- constructing a walkway along one side of SH27 from Tamihana to Waharoa.