New station comes with safety message

By Mathew Dearnaley

Avondale Primary School pupils (from left) Brook Whiu, 9, Shivaanee Ram, 10, and Khushmita Ram, 11, check out the station. Photo / Dean Purcell
Avondale Primary School pupils (from left) Brook Whiu, 9, Shivaanee Ram, 10, and Khushmita Ram, 11, check out the station. Photo / Dean Purcell

School children and other neighbours of Avondale's new railway station are being urged to take extra care when crossing duplicated tracks sandwiched by its two platforms.

The station, which was officially opened yesterday but will not be used by passengers until next week, includes gates designed to shut automatically before trains pass a pedestrian crossing on the final section of the western railway line's $420 million track duplication project.

But that has not removed the need for KiwiRail to hammer a message to Avondale residents and children from three nearby schools that the extra tracks will allow simultaneous train movements in opposing directions, so they must always look both ways before crossing them.

Three road level-crossings have also been upgraded in the suburb, all with barrier arms and pedestrian "mazes".

Avondale Primary School is just across Layard St from the new station, so its children are in the frontline of the safety campaign, as well as having been called on to serenade guests at yesterday's opening ceremony.

The automatic gates have yet to be activated, but KiwiRail says the children will be shown how they work as soon as they start operating on Monday.

They are the third set of such gates to be installed on the western line, following a campaign by Wellington mother Cathy Turner, whose 15-year-old son was killed by a train on his way to school in the Hutt Valley seven years ago.

Avondale Primary principal Greg Chalmers said the initial proposal was for a pedestrian bridge to be built next to his school. Although he was at first disappointed the plan had been altered, he was now confident his pupils would be well-protected by the new gates.

"I think they are quite safe."

KiwiRail spokeswoman Brooke Donovan said the organisation had found that automatic gates encouraged a higher level of safety compliance among pedestrians than did bridges.

That was because bridges did not remove a temptation to take illegal short-cuts across tracks.

The new station is far closer to Avondale's town centre than the one it replaces, which was accessible only from a steep pedestrian ramp from Blockhouse Bay Rd.

Auckland Regional Transport Authority chairman Rabin Rabindran, whose organisation built its above-platform facilities for $1.6 million, said the new location fitted in much better with Auckland City's redevelopment plan for the town centre.

Avondale Community Board chairman Duncan McDonald said the price of land in the suburb tripled within 18 months of the opening in 1880 of the original station, which "just goes to show the importance of decent public transport when people are deciding where to live".

He said the future framework plan had identified the importance of moving the station close to the town centre, to connect with bus services and encourage the development of multi-storey apartments and townhouses.

"This type of development is going to be needed to house the extra population predicted who will want to work or study in the CBD but don't want to live there," he said. "Now this station is a reality I know of at least two developers who will be forging ahead with their marketing plans."

Auckland City Mayor John Banks, a former student of Avondale College, promised the children that one day they would be able to travel by train under Waitemata Harbour from Albany and to the airport.

- NZ Herald

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