Dan Greig says it's lucky he trains as an ultra-distance runner, considering the effort needed to scale a 90m ramp to a new railway footbridge towering over Glen Eden.
The size of the $1 million-plus bridge has horrified many Waitakere City residents, who through their council have persuaded Government agency Ontrack to postpone plans to build similar structures farther west for its duplication of rail tracks to Swanson.
"It looks like a prison, it is totally unsympathetic to its surroundings," said Mr Greig, who owns a hairdressing salon across West Coast Rd from the bridge and is a member of a trust which restored the original 127-year-old Glen Eden railway station building.
"It doesn't fit in - it's as though the engineer who designed it didn't look at the site."
Mr Greig, whose ultra-distance running has included California's Sierra Nevada mountains, said ithad taken him 120 strides to reachthe summit of the new bridge andhe believed that it would test theendurance of non-athletes.
The bridge and ramp dwarfed the heritage station building, which his trust was required by the Historic Places Trust to treat with utmost care when making even the smallest modifications to convert it into a cafe.
He said that when the bridge was being built as part of Ontrack's $55 million track duplication stage between New Lynn and Henderson, residents had little inkling of how large it would grow.
"But it just got bigger and bigger, and higher and higher."
The rail agency says the ramp had to comply with a building code requirement for a grade no steeper than 1 in 12 for wheelchairs and cyclists.
But two wheelchair users who visited the site told the Herald they had yet to arrange for support people to accompany them up the ramp in case they could not make it to the top.
Ontrack spokeswoman Jenni Austin said people had been killed crossing the railway to get between Brandon Rd and the Glen Eden shops, and the footbridge was built because of the added danger to trespassers now there were duplicate tracks and more trains.
The bridge had to be built 5.5m above the tracks to provide clearance for powerlines for rail electrification.
But she acknowledged Ontrack's awareness of "mixed feelings" about the bridge, which was designed before the agency was given leadership of the duplication project.
"It is probably fair to say the bridge is a product of its time - we began its construction during a transfer of responsibilities within the rail sector in Auckland. The process has improved since then, with more clarity around responsibilities, and we are able to pay more attention to working with the local community."
She confirmed that Ontrack had agreed not to uplift building consents granted by Waitakere City Council for pedestrian bridges designed to similar dimensions farther west at the Sturges Rd, Ranui and Swanson stations for the next $35 million duplication stage.
It was working with Waitakere on alternative designs, and had given the council access to its architects, engineers and planning consultants before a public open day at Swanson on June 30.
Waitakere City councillor and Swanson Railway Station Trust member Penny Hulse said that there was a natural reluctance to criticise Ontrack out of gratitude for thelong-awaited track duplication, but the Glen Eden bridge "reallyis just terrifyingly huge".
"We want something, certainly, at Swanson - but when we saw what was built at Glen Eden, we said: 'Please don't give us one of those.' I've had people tell me they are absolutely devastated at the size of it."
Ms Hulse said it was to Ontrack's credit that it had agreed to put its building permits on hold while it explored options for "something slightly more sympathetic".
"Swanson is a gateway to the Waitakere Ranges, and we don't necessarily want a spaghetti junction over our rail track."
Fellow Waitakere councillor and former Glen Eden mayor Janet Clews acknowledged that although her community had been denied the benefit of an information open day, unlike others along the western railway line, council staff had been shown drawings of the new bridge.
"We really should have picked it up earlier - but nobody could ever have recognised from those, the scale that turned up."
She hoped that in time, people would get more used to the bridge "and it will become less obtrusive".
Mr Greig said it was all very well for Swanson residents to reap the benefits of hindsight, but his community was stuck with what it had. The only hope was for an ivy-planting day to make the bridge's concrete expanses less appealing to taggers.