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KiwiRail levels with public at meeting

KiwiRail fronted up to hundreds of Carterton residents yesterday at a public meeting about its proposal to turn four Carterton streets into dead-ends.

Alex Maciver, KiwiRail’s Wellington metro upgrade manager, took a cautious and moderate approach as he fielded two hours of questions from locals, emphasising KiwiRail’s willingness to consult with the community.

“We are here with an open mind – nothing here is set in stone,” he said.

KiwiRail proposes closing four of the seven level railway crossings in Carterton as part of its major upgrade to Wairarapa Line.

The four proposed Carterton closures are Brooklyn Rd, Victoria St, Pembroke St, and Rhodes St.

With more frequent and faster trains coming to Wairarapa at the end of the decade, KiwiRail needs to prove to rail regulator Waka Kotahi that it has taken every reasonable step to increase safety on Wairarapa Line.

To that end, KiwiRail plans to install flashing lights, bells, and barrier arms on all the crossings it doesn’t close between Masterton Station and Remutaka Tunnel.

Wairarapa Line is also getting a signalling system, which it doesn’t currently have.

Maciver said the signalling system would correctly synchronise barrier arms and lights with approaching trains, ending the current situation where incorrect or delayed signals sometimes cause long traffic delays at crossings.

Yesterday’s meeting came after a public meeting on Friday about the proposed closure of Judds Rd in Masterton, but while Friday’s meeting was a series of speeches, yesterday’s meeting was structured as a question-and-answer session.

One local said that increasing the number of trains should not make a crossing more dangerous.

“If a crossing is safe for one train, it should be safe for 20 trains; saying otherwise is bureaucratic nonsense,” she said.

Many people raised concerns about how closing the crossings would divide Carterton in two – lengthening journey times for emergency services and general motorists by forcing all cross-town journeys through at Belvedere Rd.

Another common theme was how being unable to cross the tracks would force people to use SH2 when they preferred to use safer backroads.

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said the council and the community will continue to consult with KiwiRail about the issue.

    A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at 6.30pm at Carterton Events Centre.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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