KiwiRail was instrumental in the closure of the railway crossing by Holland Rd on State Highway 1B because of the threat of a derailment.
The 1B route is a popular one for drivers heading north from Cambridge, Tauwhare and Matangi residents and the Holland Rd detour following the closure is time consuming.
The intersection was closed to traffic at Telephone Rd last month, after a truck travelling over the rail lines dislodged a section of track. More than 38 trains a day use the railway line and that is forecast to rise to 100 a day in the next decade.
Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency Regional Relationships director David Speirs told Waikato Regional Council’s Regional Transport committee last week his organisation could not assure KiwiRail the line was safe.
“The road is there by KiwiRail’s approval, so they take priority,” he said.
“It’s been one of our high priorities for some time and it’s not safe.”
KiwiRail’s Angus Hodgson told the committee the line was one of the rail company’s busiest.
“Half the outboard freight from Tauranga goes on that line,” he said.
The operation repair frequency on the section at the intersection between Telephone and Holland roads had become intolerable and cost prohibitive, he said. The rail crossing is one of the most dangerous of 1300 in New Zealand by KiwiRail, using the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model.
Barriers are in place at the intersection of Telephone Road and Amber Lane and at the intersection of Telephone Road and Holland Road on the southern side of the rail crossing soon.
Traffic on SH1B will continue to be detoured around Seddon Road, Waverley Road, and Holland Rd while the closure is in place.
The disruption to regular users, particularly those travelling to Auckland, is likely to be alleviated when the Waikato Expressway through to Tamahere opens in eight weeks.
After that opens, SH1B will become a local road and handed over to Waikato District Council to control.
As part of this process, Waka Kotahi and Waikato District Council must agree about the current condition of the road. Waka Kotahi and Waikato District Council are discussing the intersection and its future once it becomes a local road.
Speirs said the handover would not take place until the rail intersection problem was solved.
“I’ve told the team to come up with solutions,” he said.
“If the option is we can keep it open for light vehicles, when that is complete, it will go to Waikato district.”