Pukerua Bay residents forced to walk as Muri Station receives death sentence
Muri Station in Pukerua Bay will officially close at the end of April after the regional council decided that the costs to fix the risks to public safety were too high.
Muri supporters, including the two local regional councillors, have described the decision as "devastating", "bitterly disappointing" and "a tragedy".
Muri has been on Greater Wellington Regional Council's radar for closure for some time. A detailed risk assessment carried out in June last year identified 63 problems - including platform gaps (the worst in the region), inadequate lighting, structural defects and illegal station access points.
Upgrading costs were $600,000 for a partial redevelopment or $1.3 million for a total overhaul.
Peter Glensor, chairman of GWRC's economic wellbeing committee, said either option was "a huge amount of money to spend on a station that is used by about 30 people a day and is 800 metres from [Pukerua Bay] station".
He acknowledged that a hard decision had been made, and the "sad day" it was for the community who lived near the station, but said KiwiRail representatives had highlighted the safety risks.
"The chances of someone getting on the wrong carriage [only two of the new Matangi units would fit alongside the Muri platform] and stepping off the train into thin air are very real."
The Pukerua Bay Residents Association has described any decision to cut services as "short-sighted", especially as GWRC is heavily promoting public transport.
Iain MacLean presented the association's submission to the committee last Thursday and said the verdict was "bitterly disappointing".
He felt that GWRC had seriously considered all the options but was ultimately hamstrung by not having enough funding from the Government.
"It's a major setback, and you feel for the Muri users.
"We don't think everything was done to find an affordable option, and now they have to go to Pukerua Bay to catch a train; it's not ideal. Muri has operated for years, with no serious injuries we are aware of, and will be safer as a result of the smaller gaps following the introduction of the Matangi units."
The hour-long debate saw seven councillors vote for the recommendation, with one against and one abstention. Porirua/Tawa councillors Jenny Brash and Barbara Donaldson are not on the committee. Ms Donaldson, who was present at the meeting, said afterwards it was "a tragedy for public transport", but the arguments over cost and public safety won out.
Pamela Meekings-Stewart, who runs the The Woolshed Health Retreat in Muri Rd, said the station closure was likely to affect her business. Many of her clients preferred to catch the train to Muri and walk, and the ease of public transport was part of her business's appeal.
"Muri Rd is narrow with no footpath, and not suited to more traffic, and Pukerua Bay Station is too far away for [people] to walk in ... This closure will leave elderly residents, unable to drive, isolated from services and their community."
Mr MacLean said the association would move on to ensuring that the Muri users could get to Pukerua Bay Station safely, a sentiment backed up by Mr Glensor and other councillors, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Porirua City Council.
There is no footpath in some areas; it is at least a kilometre walk, often alongside State Highway 1; and, if driving, it involves pulling out on to a busy highway during rush-hour traffic.