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Consultation on closure of crossings

KiwiRail is asking Featherston residents whether they want to close the Fox St or Bell St level crossing in the South Wairarapa town.

The consultation is part of a series of planned level crossing closures and other safety improvements to allow for a planned increase of train services on the Wairarapa Line from 10 a day to 20 in 2029, when new hybrid trains are expected to be in operation.

Both Featherston crossings have similar risk profiles and “only one needs to close to meet safety requirements”, KiwiRail’s Wellington metro upgrade programme director Andy Lyon said in a statement.

“KiwiRail is happy to be guided by the community on which level crossing is upgraded and kept open and which goes.

“The original proposal was to close the Fox St crossing because it was more in keeping with the South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] town centre master plan.”

There are currently 30 public level crossings on the 31km stretch of line between the Western Lake level crossing near Featherston and the Ākura Rd crossing in Masterton.

Lyon said this is a high number for what will become a “semi-urban connection.”

“With more trains on the lines travelling at faster speeds, the risk to pedestrians and vehicles at level crossings also goes up,” he said.

“To allow for more frequent trains, KiwiRail must reassess the safety of the line and submit proposed changes to the rail regulator, the New Zealand Transport Agency.

“This represents a variation to the Wairarapa Line’s existing safety case.”

The completion of formal safety assessments with recommendations from consulting engineers and rail specialists took place in mid-February, while the decision to close one of the crossings was made in late February after discussions with councils and stakeholders took place in late 2023.

In response to a series of questions from the Wairarapa Times-Age, Lyon said KiwiRail had also met with emergency service representatives in December last year as part of its region-wide engagement, none of whom raised any concerns about the Bell or Fox St closure affecting response times.

“We included the Fox St closure proposal in the SWDC master plan consultation process, which emergency services were aware of,” Lyon said.

Next week a meeting will also be held with local Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteers to discuss the Bell and Fox streets option.

“We are doing this additional survey to make sure everyone can have their say on which option works best for the community,” he said.

The public consultation will close on May 15; anyone wanting to submit can do so by visiting the KiwiRail website: kiwirail.co.nz

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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