Fears for people crossing closed bridge

By Staff reporter

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People walking the railway tracks at the Matapihi Railway Bridge has sparked serious concern, as pedestrian access remains closed for repairs.

The pedestrian path way was closed on October 23 but since then several groups of people have been seen crossing the bridge on the railway tracks despite signage and warnings from security guards.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said people who crossed the bridge on the railway tracks not only risked being hit by a train but there was also a significant risk of tripping and falling off the bridge.

"This is a very serious safety issue and the last thing we want is someone being hurt or killed because they were stupid enough to walk across that bridge on the railway tracks.

"We have increased the security presence at either end of the bridge and surveillance cameras have been installed. The police will be contacted whenever anyone is seen walking across the bridge on the railway tracks."

Because of the obvious dangers, it is illegal to be on railway tracks and bridges (other than at proper crossings) and anyone doing this can be prosecuted.

The maximum fine is $10,000.

The repair work to the pedestrian and cycle way on the bridge is due to be competed by the end of January 2013. It involves replacing the timber decking, beams and struts as well as the steel supports. The ramps at each end of the bridge and the hand rails are also being upgraded. Once the work is finished the pathway will be safer and slightly wider.

The bridge is an important access route for pedestrians and cyclists between Matapihi, the Bayfair/Arataki area and the city centre with up to 200 people using the pathway on the bridge every day. Because Matapihi residents are the biggest users of the bridge pathway Tauranga City Council is providing a free mini bus service for Matapihi residents between Matapihi and Bayfair six days a week while the bridge is closed.

The Matapihi Rail Bridge is 88 years old. The pathway along the side of the bridge was added at the end of the 1950's to provide a safe way for people to walk over the bridge. This was as a result of numerous deaths and injuries to people walking over the rail bridge on the railway tracks.

A visual inspection done in January, followed by a structural investigation in March, indicated that there was significant rotting and rusting to the wooden beams and steel supports under the pathway that needed to be repaired.



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