The undesirability of the existing level crossing in Elizabeth Street because of the significant and ever-growing population to the east of it and the resulting congestion — as well as occasional complete blockages — has been a topic talked about on here ever since this blog began in January 2015; in last year’s election pamphlet we made a feature of it, stating that an underpass to replace the level crossing and so separate the road and the railway completely should be an essential infrastructure project.

The council has now decided that something needs to be done, but rather than the obvious and sensible solution of an underpass, has opted for just an emergency crossing when the main level crossing is blocked by a stationary train for various possible reasons.

Even with this, there will be no work done until the next financial year: July 2018–June 2019.

The report on the council website is here.

Both the NZTA (whose interest in the old SH1 will cease in the next year or so) and KiwiRail have given their approval for it, but in the latter case:

“Kiwirail has emphasised that it approves an emergency access on the basis that Council will not abandon pursuing a second permanent access to Waikanae East in the future either using the Hadfield Road crossing or planning for the construction of an underpass/bridge over ‘old SH1’ south of Waikanae or in Waikanae town centre.”

Neither the present Waikanae Ward Councillor, Michael Scott, nor the Council as a whole have ever expressed enthusiasm for an underpass, so “will not abandon pursuing” should be replaced with “will pursue”.

The problem for the council, of course, is the cost of an underpass and we looked at that in this post from 9 September 2016 in which we pointed out the estimate of $40 million for the elaborate proposal referred to in the report from 2010 is vastly in excess of what would actually be sufficient.

We think that with the present councilors, an underpass will only be favoured if:

A. Congestion becomes so bad that residents protest on the streets, or

B. There is a fatal collision in the level crossing.

To the details of the ’emergency’ crossing at the Goodmans site:

“Establishing an emergency route through the Goodmans site would involve the construction of a new level crossing at a layover location off the side of SH1, approximately 60m north of the Waikanae River Bridge. This crossing would be protected by gates on either side of the rail corridor, and would only be for use by authorised emergency services vehicles with a verified height of 4m or less as requested by Kiwirail. The NZ Fire Service Technical Details on Crossing Requirements stipulate a 4m minimum height for safe passage of their general appliances and its proposed to use the higher type used by the Waikanae Fire Station (the higher pump rescue tender appliance) to design the crossing. After crossing the railway line, the route would pass through the Goodmans yard to Anne Street.

“The primary concern associated with the Goodmans crossing is the potential for a stationary freight train to block both Elizabeth Street and the proposed Goodmans emergency crossing. The proposed crossing is located 480 metres to the south of the Elizabeth Street crossing. Although freight trains passing through Waikanae are typically around 650 metres long and can be up to 900 metres long, nearly 90% of the approximately 90 trains that traverse the Elizabeth Street level crossing on a typical 24 hour weekday period are short electric multiple units, of between 40 and 160 metres long. Therefore the risk of a long freight train blocking both Elizabeth Street and the Goodmans crossing site simultaneously is deemed to be low.

Waikanae people can at least be thankful that freight trains in NZ aren’t as long as they are in North America where 9,000 ft (2.74 km) is the standard!

It should be emphasised that this will be a crossing for emergency vehicles only and the gates for it will normally be locked.

Here are the overhead photos/maps relating to the intended Goodmans crossing: