Safety ball put in KiwiRail's court
Improving pedestrian safety along a section of the East Coast Main Trunk rail line near Waharoa could cost up to $1 million.
But who will foot the bill is far from settled, with Matamata-Piako Mayor Hugh Vercoe saying KiwiRail should fund the costs.
The regional transport committee commissioned an investigation into how safety along the new 2.2 kilometre Tamihana passing track could be improved, after reports children were crossing the line to get to a nearby swimming hole.
Asparagus workers also cross the line to reach nearby fields.
The alternative to crossing the tracks is for pedestrians to use the busy State Highway 27.
Mr Vercoe said people had been crossing the tracks for years but the laying of a second line had created a potential safety risk.
"It's not a dangerous site per se but it has the potential to be dangerous," Mr Vercoe said.
"What you've got is a piece of land where local Maori have walked across from the marae and their houses to the river. If KiwiRail hadn't put in the second line we wouldn't be having this discussion . . . If KiwiRail come back with the best solution, whether it's an underpass or a crossing, and they pay the bill for it, I will support it."
KiwiRail's northern regional manager Stephen Collett said it was essential a solution be found to ensure safe walking routes for the community.
A working group comprising staff from Waikato Regional Council and Matamata-Piako District Council, together with officials from KiwiRail and NZ Transport Agency are considering a range of possible safety solutions ahead of a meeting with the Raungaiti marae community.
Constructing a walkway along one side of SH27 from Tamihana to Waharoa. Building an at-level crossing with bells and lights. Installing an at-level crossing using the Australian warning system. Constructing either an underpass or overpass at the end of Kutia Rd.