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Fallen tree closes rail track

A fallen pine put a railway track near Carterton out of action for 90 minutes on Monday. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

High winds and rain to disappear

KAREN COLTMAN
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A call from a local to the KiwiRail emergency number to inform them that a tree had fallen on the Wairarapa line just south of the Carterton station on Tuesday afternoon had chainsaws in action within 30 minutes.

The fallen pine tree branch was chopped into pieces within minutes of the crew’s arrival. But it was 90 minutes later that the line got the ‘all clear’.

The old pine tree about 40 metres high, uprooted just north of the Lincoln Rd crossing in high winds and after a few days of heavy rain.

It crashed through a farm fence and across the track.

The 12.45pm train coming from Wellington was ordered to halt at Featherston where it stayed put until 3.10pm.

The fallen tree was one in a row of five tall pines on private property.

KiwiRail production manager Allan Lehmstedt said there had been a few similar incidents over the past few days.

“We’ll take the pine next to it down too because there is a large branch hanging over the track and this weather can uproot them and cause an accident or death,” Lehmstedt said.

“Just look at the state of the roots of the tree, they are very shallow, and the trees are tall so can’t hold on in this weather.”

After high winds on September 17 last year, a branch from a tree fallen on the railway track near the Woodside station went straight through the commuter train cab and injured driver Robert Scott.

Scott was taken to hospital with head cuts, and train services were suspended.

“That accident really showed how dangerous it is for these old trees to be so close to the track,” Lehmstedt said. “We have been going through the line for a year now to get on top of this problem.

“These trees are old and were planted too close to tracks, and they are not topped.”

Lehmstedt said they were fortunate on Tuesday that a man from Ticehurst Timber Processors right next to where the tree fell offered the company’s digger to lift the branch out of the way quickly.

The KiwiRail Upper Hutt-based crew were close by at the time and started the clearing job. Once the two crews had teamed up, Treescape had arrived and it was decided to take off the branch of the tree next to the one that had fallen.

A Metservice spokesperson said that the weather pattern of high winds and rain was set to change by today and warmer weather was coming.

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