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Town cross at closure plan

Closing Featherston’s Fox St rail crossing to traffic would “impede” emergency services response times and “lives will be lost”, South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] has heard.

The permanent closure, which is proposed as part of KiwiRail’s level crossing investigations across the Wairarapa Line, was incorporated into the council’s draft masterplan for the southernmost Wairarapa town.

There are currently 30 public level crossings between Remutaka Hill and Masterton, and to support the new hybrid trains coming in 2028-29, KiwiRail needs to complete safety improvements to these crossings.

Bell St is available as an alternative closure to Fox St, KiwiRail has said previously.

However, when making concept designs for the masterplan, SWDC assumed the closure of the Fox St crossing, along with upgraded crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This will assist with reducing vehicle movements in Fox St, supporting the proposed upgrades to the ‘Town Heart’,” the council said in its draft masterplan document.

As part of the engagement process for the plan, council staff met with the Featherston Fire Brigade whose volunteers said the closure of Fox St would “prevent their access to and from the fire station and could have implications in an emergency”.

Featherston fire chief Colin McKenna wrote in the brigade’s submission that the Fox St rail crossing was a major access route for firefighters
turning out to fire calls.

“This, alongside narrowing the section of Daniel St alongside the police station is going to have a major impact on the time it takes for our firefighters to arrive at the fire station and then for the fire engine to attend to a fire call.

“We deal with a lot of life and death type emergencies where every second counts.

“Our preference would be for the Bell St crossing to be closed, as this crossing is used a lot less than the Fox St crossing and would have less impact on our organisation.”

The council also asked residents if they “support the changes which are proposed to the level crossings” as part of the consultation.

At last week’s masterplan hearing, residents campaigned for the Fox St rail crossing to remain open to traffic, with some using colourful expressions to convey their disapproval of any potential closure.

One resident wrote in their submission that closing the Fox St crossing to traffic was “the stupidest idea since Julius Caesar decided to invade Caledonia”, while another said it was “by far the dumbest, most senseless, fundamentally flawed and unnecessary proposal”.

Resident Lesley Christian, who spoke at last week’s hearing, lives with a view of the intersection, and said if the flow of emergency services was impeded, “lives will be lost”.

Of the 87 submissions received on the draft Featherston Masterplan, a majority were against the closure of the Fox St level crossing to traffic.

Other key areas of concern for submissions included the impact of reduced parking in the town centre, and how to ensure a connected central business district.

SWDC’s Strategic Working Committee will undertake deliberations on the Draft Featherston Masterplan on April 17.

-NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. What a joke? First barriers for vehicles know for cyclists and people. We learn about Crossings at SCHOOL AND WE HAVE A DRIVING LICENSE FOR VEHICLES. What a nanny state 😍 👏 ❤ Stop wasting money 💰 🤑. SOCIALISM TACTICS.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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