Industry Infrastructure, Level Crossing Removal, Level Crossing Removal, Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Track Construction

Featherston’s Fox Street level crossing set for upgrade

South Wairarapa District Council’s Strategy Working Committee has voted to upgrade Featherston’s Fox Street level crossing and keep it open, meaning the Bell and Brandon Street crossings will close to vehicles. 

KiwiRail asked for the decision as part its work to upgrade the Wairarapa line and it was made after community feedback was sought.

Programme Director for the Wellington Metro Upgrade, Andy Lyon said the organisation is getting the line ready for faster, more frequent trains from 2029.

“More services are a great thing for the Wairarapa community, and as part of that it’s critical that all measures are taken to keep people safe,” he said.

“In Featherston there are five crossings.  We’re upgrading three and closing two.

“We’re aware changes like this are disruptive to communities, but there is documented risk around level crossings which only goes up when you introduce more trains moving at faster speeds,” Andy Lyon says.

“We’ve done all the work to assess the risk associated with each of the crossings and are confident this is the right balance to best maintain access and traffic flow, while addressing the risk you inevitably get when you have trains, cars and people all sharing the same space.”

The decision was informed by the results of an online survey run by KiwiRail to find out which of the two crossings residents would prefer to see upgraded and kept open.

The survey ran between the 1st and 15th of May and was promoted via stories in local media, flyers on trains and social media.  Information was also shared with the Featherston Community Board and KiwiRail met with the local volunteer fire service.

Feedback received during South Wairarapa District Council’s recent consultation on the Featherston Masterplan also supported the decision making by the Committee.

“Of the 167 people who responded to the survey, 131 said they would prefer to see the Fox Street crossing upgraded and kept open,” Lyon said.

“Most of the people selecting this option felt it was an important access point for the community, and in particular emergency services.  62 respondents said they would prefer to see Bell Street upgraded, and 10 selected ‘other’.

“We’d like to thank the community for their strong response.  We appreciate the time people have taken to get involved in the process and we will provide regular updates as we get on with the work of designing how the changes will look, and when they will happen.   We expect to be getting underway with construction around the beginning of 2025.  More information will be shared around these works in due time.

“In New Zealand we have around 3,000 level crossings, or one approximately every 1.5 kms on around 4,000km of track.  On the Wairarapa Line alone there are 30 public level crossings on a 45km stretch of line,” Lyon said.

“You can never do too much to keep people safe around trains, especially as trains get quieter and faster, and people are increasingly using personal technology which contributes to distraction around tracks.”