Family wants council to repair unsafe road

Trains frighten truck drivers

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 11:30 19/10/2012
Jim West
Emma Allen

Blind spot: Jim West, left, and son Tony want the public road leading to their farm at Ward realigned so it is safer for big trucks crossing the railway tracks

Jim West
Emma Allen
West Road railway crossing, off SH1 south of Ward.

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A Ward family says it won't help pay for a public road to be realigned despite its concerns over the safety of a blind level crossing for trucks leaving their farm.

The West family said the Marlborough District Council should pay for roadworks to Wests Rd, off State Highway 1, which would allow drivers to better see oncoming trains.

Jim West and his son Tony said if the council could increase their rates by 22 per cent and "squander" money on roundabouts in Blenheim, it could invest money in road safety.

Wests Rd, which runs parallel to the railway tracks, needed to be realigned to meet the level crossing at right angles, Jim West said.

Trucks pulling up at the crossing could not see back down the tracks because the shape of the road meant their trailers blocked their line of sight, he said.

Tony West said some truck drivers had refused to go to the family farm because of the dangerous railway crossing.

"Truck drivers have had a fright from trains," he said.

The Wests had erected a mirror at the crossing to improve visibility but major roadworks were needed, they said.

Large trucks turning south at the intersection with State Highway 1 had to use the right-hand lane to turn safely, Tony West said.

Marlborough District Council assets and services manager Mark Wheeler said councillors planned to visit the Wests Rd crossing on Wednesday.

Council staff recommended against road and earthwork costing more than $50,000 last month, Mr Wheeler said.

However, councillors wanted to see the crossing before making a decision, he said.

The council had based its advice on a KiwiRail assessment that small-scale work would address any safety issues, he said.

Repainting road markings, repairing damaged road seal and better signage costing about $5000 was recommended, he said.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said those recommendations were in line with what it would suggest for a "low-medium risk" crossing. Wests Rd was rated as such because of the small number of trains and vehicle that used the crossing.

No train had ever collided with a vehicle at Wests Rd, she said.

Tony West hoped the council's site visit would kick-start the family's campaign for a road realignment.

"This committee can make a decision, they hold the chequebook."

Marlborough Roads manager Frank Porter said he couldn't comment on any possible road realignment until after the site visit.

Marlborough Lines operations manager Brian Tapp was unaware of any realignment plans but said Wests Rd was an important piece of road for its network. It gave access to power cables that served customers between Ward and Clarence, Mr Tapp said.

"If this road was not maintained, we might not have access to this important piece of power line so, if an outage occurred, it could last much longer."

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- The Marlborough Express

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