Rail crossing plea ignored board

By Mathew Dearnaley

A woman is treated by a paramedic at the Morningside Drive rail crossing after she tried to help a disabled woman whose wheelchair became stuck. Photo / Brett Phibbs
A woman is treated by a paramedic at the Morningside Drive rail crossing after she tried to help a disabled woman whose wheelchair became stuck. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Auckland Transport has been accused of failing to acknowledge long-held safety concerns of local politicians whose turf covers a railway crossing where a disabled woman was hit by a train.

Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme East told Auckland Council's transport committee on Wednesday that it was not even given a receipt of a notice of motion it passed more than two years ago, calling for the progressive separation of roads from railway lines at all level crossings.

He said his board, whose territory includes the crossing at Morningside where the woman was hit by a freight train after her wheelchair jammed in railway tracks last week, passed the resolution at its first meeting after being elected in late 2010.

Yet it was only after last week's drama that he became aware of a draft report in which Auckland Transport has identified Morningside as the third most urgent crossing for removal out of 23 across the region.

Despite plans for more frequent services after electric trains start running next year, and hence a greater risk of accidents, he said the only financial allocation in the council transport organisation's long-term plan was $1.06 million for detailed investigations not due to start for at least 16 months.

He asked the councillors to call on their own officers for a report to bring that funding forward by a year, and to allocate "a meaningful amount of money so we can start knocking these [crossings] off one by one", even though the overall cost could be more than $100 million. He also called for early discussions about equitable funding support from the Government's Transport Agency and KiwiRail, which says it is not responsible for building road bridges over railway lines or passes under them.

The committee agreed to ask council staff to report on strategic priorities for level crossings to enable informed decisions to be made in annual planning deliberations.

Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said that her organisation had been working on a report since early 2011, and had been in consultations with KiwiRail about it, but had yet to release a final version.

She could not say why it had not acknowledged the local board's resolution, but said it would brief that body before releasing the report.

- NZ Herald

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