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Tawa pathway needs compromise on rail

Dec 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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MAKING TRACKS near Tawa College. Photo: hadleywood at Webshots

KIWIRAIL withdrew support for a level-crossing just two hours before a public meeting in Tawa last month.

The rail operator had supported a level-crossing with sliding safety gates across a planned pathway, at an estimated cost of $300,000, said Wellington City Council safe and sustainable transport manager Paul Barker (below). But before the meeting, he received an email indicating otherwise.

The community meeting was held to discuss the walk cycle-way project of which the rail crossing forms a crucial part, linking Tawa College to homes and facilities on the other side of the suburb.

Residents voiced concern about finding the safest and most cost-effective rail crossing to link the east and west sides of the Tawa valley, with a show of hands favouring a level-crossing to an underpass at a ratio of three to one.

mug4In the email, KiwiRail said it would prefer an underpass, costing approximately $700,000. The risk of a fatality at a rail-crossing was a one-in-57 year event.

Kevin Ramshaw, spokesperson for KiwiRail, says it wasn’t a question of withdrawing support at the last minute.

“Philosophically, our preference is for what we call grade separation – over or underpasses – rather than at grade, to reduce the number of level crossings in New Zealand.

“Given the amount of traffic travelling on the railway line at this point, an underpass appeared the better option.

“In our response to Wellington City Council, we asked the council to consider the alternative option of a pedestrian underpass. We said that if the council still wishes to proceed with a level crossing, we would like to hear from them on why they consider an underpass to be an unreasonable option.”

mug2Stephen Carruthers, the council’s transport planner in charge of the project, says the two parties are still investigating both options.

Mr Carruthers says construction of the walk and cycleway is still due to start in the New Year, and the level-crossing issue will not change that.

The subway tunnel or level-crossing will link the west side of the valley and the swimming pool with Tawa College.

Principal Murray Lucas (right) said he doesn’t mind which option is chosen, as long as the community does not spend 10 to 15 years debating it and missing a great opportunity.

Much of the planned six-kilometre walkway from Takapu Rd at the south end to Kenepuru in the north will use KiwiRail’s land beside the existing railway. The company signed papers agreeing to the corridor land use earlier in the day of the meeting.

mug1After three years of planning and lobbying by Tawa community groups, $3.5 million was granted by the New Zealand Transport Agency to fund the project.

Designed to increase foot and cycle traffic and decrease motor vehicle trips in the small community, Wellington City Council has budgeted $500,000 each year until the path is finished.

The public meeting heard supportive comments but a few complaints about the project.

One of the lobby groups behind the original proposal, Friends of Tawa Bush Reserves, says it’s disappointed with changes to the route.

mug3Spokesman Wayne Pincott (above left) says the group proposed a recreational walkway providing access to the Porirua Stream, but instead the project’s aim is to decrease car journeys.

Mr Barker, at Wellington City Council, says he makes no apologies for the changes to the original plans as the project would never have been funded as a recreational proposal. This plan is funded purely as a transport project.

Linda Dennis (right), a resident of Findlay St, expects the three-metre pathway will be right beside her home. She fears young people in cars will drive along the footpath rather than on the speed-humped road.

She’s also concerned elderly residents and children may be put at risk by residents backing out of driveways across the new path.

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is a student at Whitireia studying the National Diploma in Journalism (Multimedia).
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