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KiwiRail takes on board community complaints

All trains are being replaced by buses this Easter weekend to allow KiwiRail to complete critical infrastructure upgrades, including further work on the Remutaka Tunnel, but while it might inconvenience some, local businesses in Featherston have been granted a small reprieve.

Featherston business owners were left fuming when KiwiRail chose to complete work on the Fitzherbert St SH2 level crossing during Wellington Anniversary weekend, closing one lane and forcing commuters travelling back to Wellington to take a detour that bypassed a significant stretch of businesses.

Local business owners, South Wairarapa councillors, and Wairarapa MP Mike Butterick all appealed to KiwiRail to improve communication and reconsider and re-evaluate when closures for works are scheduled.

Scheduled work for this weekend includes working on the contentious Fitzherbert St crossing but it doesn’t involve any lane closures this time around.

Mike Butterick said he was happy to hear KiwiRail had listened to the Featherston community’s feedback.

“I have been in regular contact with KiwiRail on a number of matters but have stressed the need for clear communication and engagement with commuters, businesses, road users, and pedestrians,” Butterick said.

“I have been talking to members of South Wairarapa District Council about some suggested improvements for businesses affected by the recent road design changes in the centre of the town and hopefully we can make progress with KiwiRail.”

KiwiRail chief asset development officer David Gordon said some of the work couldn’t be completed during nights as it wouldn’t be completed by the time weekday commuter trains would need to run.

“Public holidays, when passenger numbers are low, allow us to work much more productively and make substantial progress,” Gordon said.

“Having four full days to work uninterrupted over Easter allows us to replace a worn but critical piece of infrastructure so that trains can continue running on the Melling Line, continuing work on the old track in the Remutaka Tunnel ahead of the big push at Christmas, and a range of other maintenance work.”

Greater Wellington transport committee chair Thomas Nash said the tracks have suffered from years of underinvestment “so getting this work done when there are fewer people travelling is extremely important if we ever want to progress. The quicker we can get certainty that investing in rail renewal is in the government’s transport priorities for Wellington alongside Lower North Island Rail Integrated Mobility and substations in the draft Government Policy Statement, the quicker the tracks, signals and infrastructure can get up to standard.”

Work this Weekend will be done in the Remutaka Tunnel ahead of the major track replacement work at Christmas.

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