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KiwiRail offers Judds Rd options

After public backlash about its proposal to close the Judds Rd level crossing, KiwiRail has presented options to keep the road open.

KiwiRail staff attended a meeting last Friday with the steering group set up by local businesses opposed to the closure.

In May, the rail company proposed to turn Judds Rd into a dead-end as part of a wider project to decrease the risk of collisions between trains and cars on all 30 of Wairarapa’s level crossings before new passenger trains arrive at the end of the decade.

At last Friday’s meeting, KiwiRail proposed two options to keep Judds Rd open.

Both options attempt to fix the “short stacking” hazard – where the short section before the Ngaumutawa Rd intersection creates a collision risk by causing long trucks to leave their trailers hanging over the railway tracks when giving way.

The first proposal, which KiwiRail considers the “gold standard” option, involves installing traffic lights linked to train signals and barrier arms.

A traffic light could direct traffic to stop before the tracks when a train is coming and then stop traffic on Ngaumutawa Rd to allow trucks to turn without stopping over the tracks.

A KiwiRail spokesperson said because this work would need to happen in conjunction with the other rail upgrade work, a decision would need to be made and funding secured by November this year.

The second option proposed is a left turn only into Ngaumutawa Rd with barrier arms and a turnaround lane further south on Ngaumutawa Rd to allow traffic to merge right and then travel north.

The spokesperson said the option would be equally or even more expensive than traffic lights and more time-consuming to implement because it requires land acquisition and is out of the scope of the current rail upgrade project, which means it could take years to secure funding.

Steering group chair and Breadcraft owner John Cockburn told the Times-Age that discussions with KiwiRail are progressing, with many options being evaluated.

“The next step is for KiwiRail to come back to the steering group next month to show us more refined designs toward both options currently being considered and to also provide the team with an overview of the regulatory needs so we can understand how the options considered would or would not work for the rail safety regulator, Waka Kotahi,” Cockburn said.

“KiwiRail is listening to our ideas; we’re trying to focus on the problem in a more holistic manner from not just today’s needs, but for 20 or 30 years ahead when access will inevitably become even more valuable to our community as the population increases.”

Cockburn said KiwiRail is focused on a “zero risk” safety standard on the train tracks, while the steering group emphasises the impact that closing the crossing would have on vehicle access, carbon footprint, wasted time, and inevitable delays for emergency services.

The impact of closure is unacceptable to the steering group and to the wider community, Cockburn said.

“We are wanting to achieve a staged approach to reaching the KiwiRail ‘gold standard’ to reduce capital investment, but it appears the outcome will be an all-or-nothing deal.

“Funding will be needed, and the clock is ticking.”

The steering group is preparing to have its funding submission ready in mid-August.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty has previously said he will take the funding application to the Minister of Transport on behalf of the community.

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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