Axe set to fall on rail station

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2013
Kaiwharawhara Station user Anita Martell
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
RELUCTANT MOTORIST: Anita Martell, a commuter from the Hutt Valley, has found it difficult getting to work since the Kaiwharawhara Station closed.

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Kaiwharawhara railway station looks destined for the scrapheap after regional council officers decided the cost of saving it could not be justified.

Structural engineers say repairing the station's heavily corroded pedestrian overbridge will cost at least $550,000, but could easily top $2.4 million.

Greater Wellington regional councillors will vote tomorrow on whether to repair, replace or scrap the 63-year-old structure, which was closed in June because of extensive corrosion.

Scrapping the footbridge would result in Kaiwharawhara Station being closed for good, as pedestrian access would not be possible.

In a report due be tabled at tomorrow's meeting, council officers have said closure is the most prudent step, given that only 14 commuters are said to use the station during the morning peak.

Repairing or replacing the overbridge is problematic, because the new version is likely to require access ramps, which the existing bridge does not have.

Council officers say a new bridge with ramps would cost $2.4m because the station is so narrow and there is not enough space for them.

A best-case scenario would be that Wellington City Council grants its regional council counterpart an exemption to touch up the existing bridge without ramps for $550,000.

"But even if WCC allow us to repair the existing structure . . . the question needs to be asked whether or not this money is well spent to retain the station for approximately 14 morning-peak passengers," the report says.

According to council data, Kaiwharawhara Station is the least-used station on the Wellington metro network. It is also the most hazardous, because of its narrow platforms and the fact that not all services stop there, meaning a lot of trains pass by at high speeds.

Council officers said repairing the overbridge would delay other station upgrades by at least a year, disadvantaging a much greater number of passengers.

Commuters would not be disadvantaged if Kaiwharawhara Station was to close because there were several other public transport options servicing nearby Hutt Rd, including eight different bus services from Monday to Friday.

Even if the station were closed, it was likely the platforms would be retained as a disembarking point should an emergency happen just north of Wellington Railway Station, the report says.

Nine people made their disappointment known to the regional council when the station was unexpectedly closed. No business made a complaint.

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Kaiwharawhara Station is about 2.6 kilometres north of Wellington Railway Station.

It has two platforms and is serviced by trains running on the Melling, Hutt Valley and Kapiti lines.

FROM QUICK COMMUTE TO 30-MINUTE DRAG

Anita Martell used to enjoy an easy 10-minute commute from her home in Lower Hutt to work in Kaiwharawhara.

But since the station's closure in June, she has had to leave home an hour earlier, catch two different buses in both directions, and spend a lot more on transport than she would like.

So, instead, Ms Martell, a sales assistant, now drives to work each day from Maungaraki. The trip takes 30 minutes.

She hopes that Greater Wellington Regional Council will not vote to close the station tomorrow.

"I reckon it's just stupid, really. They're just ruining it for people.

"Because it's a small station they think it's not affecting anyone, but it is . . . maybe there would be more of an uproar if they got rid of some bus stations."

Ms Martell doubted the council's estimate of just 14 people using Kaiwharawhara Station during the morning peak.

Based on what she had seen of people waiting on the platform, she believed the number was closer to 50.

If the council did end up closing the station, she said it should also commit to reviewing the bus services connecting Kaiwharawhara with the north, to make it more accessible.

"If they could rework the bus schedule, that would be good, or maybe put on a shuttle service for people who need to get there. There are other options."

THE STORY SO FAR

July 2011: Greater Wellington Regional Council buys most of Wellington's rail assets, such as trains and stations, from KiwiRail.

November 2011: Greater Wellington assesses the condition of all its infrastructure. Parts of the Kaiwharawhara Station overbridge are found to be near the end of their serviceable life, in particular the rail iron supports and the steel deck beams.

December 2012: A visual inspection of the overbridge finds its condition has not improved. It is recommended a full engineering inspection be carried out within 12 months.

June 2013: Engineers recommend the overbridge be closed immediately when dangerous levels of corrosion are found after a basic visual inspection.

August 2013: Structural engineers say the overbridge is beyond repair and recommend it be replaced before the station reopens. 

- The Dominion Post

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