The Aramoho Rail Bridge underpass, which has been closed for four years, will not be reopened, with the Whanganui District Council saying repairs will cost too much.

The underpass, which had provided an alternative route for vehicles to and from Aramoho if the stretch of Somme Pde over the rail line could not be used, has been closed since the 2015 flood.

Ross Fallen, who used to live in Aramoho, said he was concerned that the council had not told residents about its intention to permanently close the underpass.

"I think it's somewhat contradictory and flies in face of future bridge painting and footbridge replacement around 2021," Fallen said.

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"You pretty up one aspect but close off another re cost?

"I can live with the purported extremely high repair cost issue to some degree, and that it may be a reasoned 'financial sacrifice' in order to focus on protecting Somme Parade.

"However, residents in Aramoho, Brunswick and Papaiti deserve at the very least, after four years of silence, to be updated, informed of the truth of that position and reassured of a known alternative emergency entry and exit should it be needed in the future. Most think it will be repaired and it will be their emergency entry/exit point.

Concern exists about the state of the Aramoho Rail Bridge and the closure of its underpass.
Concern exists about the state of the Aramoho Rail Bridge and the closure of its underpass.

"Would it hurt WDC to do a letterbox drop and some signage at the two closure points? The residents of these suburbs deserve that clarity and support after four silent years.

"If you know, you are better prepared."

Sam Mordey, who operates the MV Wairua on the Whanganui River, said he was concerned about the state of the bridge for Whanganui's reputation and preservation of its history.

"With passengers on board, you can see how this area is very tired," Mordey said.

"I have 3500-4000 people a year on board. Why can't the bridge be painted or the area developed more? It feels like a bit of a bad look."

The railway bridge was built in 1877 with timber spans and lattice work. New steel spans were built on top of the old wooden bridge in the 1960s. Trams used the underpass to access Aramoho.

"It would be lovely to reinstate the access and have some information there about the trams and riverboats," Mordey said.

"I'm trying to promote the heritage of Whanganui with what I do. I would argue that the bridge is as important as a heritage building. It's important it looks like the lights are on and someone's home."

Brent Holmes, the council's senior roading engineer, said the 2015 flood damage had made the underpass area unstable and unsafe to use.

"The council has decided to close it rather than spend money resurrecting a temporary route that could be taken out at any time by another flood," Holmes said.

"Any repair would require extensive geotechnical works. It is not a prime use access way, so it would not attract [a New Zealand Transport Agency] funding subsidy - the council would bear the full cost of repair."

The council did not want to risk further damage to the area by using heavy equipment on it, he said.

Concern exists about the state of the Aramoho Rail Bridge and the closure of its underpass.
Concern exists about the state of the Aramoho Rail Bridge and the closure of its underpass.

The alternative route was a 16km detour via Brunswick Rd, Blueskin Rd and back on to Kaikokopu Rd to link back to Somme Parade, Holmes said.

"If any significant KiwiRail breakdown happened that would block the Somme Pde thoroughfare for longer than one day, we have the option of channelling traffic down George St, through the rail yards and on to Kelvin St to Kaikokopu Rd, back to Somme Pde.

"This route has been used previously and can be resurrected in a matter of hours. If that deviation was required, the council would immediately advise residents, emergency services, logging operators and other businesses."

Decorative planting could be considered in future to improve the appearance of the underpass area, Holmes said.

Ross Fallen (left) and Sam Mordey are concerned about the state of the Aramoho Rail Bridge and the closure of its underpass.
Ross Fallen (left) and Sam Mordey are concerned about the state of the Aramoho Rail Bridge and the closure of its underpass.