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Trains to move faster through Ashburton

Trains to move faster through Ashburton

All trains are now set to zoom through Ashburton at 80kph – but KiwiRail says it has no plans to upgrade any crossings.

The Fairfield Freight Hub will open next month, shifting the shunting out of the centre of town.

KiwiRail future state freight general manager Mark Heissenbuttel said it means people won’t need to wait for trains shunting across level crossings, but they will need to recognise that most trains will now be travelling at normal speed through town.

“Trains already go through Ashburton at 80kph, the normal line speed, and there are currently no plans to upgrade any level crossings in the town,” he said.

“The level crossings in central Ashburton are compliant with safety standards.”

While the normal line speed is 80kph, when trains had to slow or stop in town they travelled more slowly while they got back up to full speed.

Recent intersection improvements on State Highway 1, at Walnut Avenue and in Tinwald, included upgraded rail level crossings, but the others will remain as they are.

The majority of crossings have active protections such as barrier arms, lights and bells.

The two pedestrian-only crossings that extend from Burnett Street and Tancred Street to the West Street carpark have safety signs, Heissenbuttel said.

“We are putting additional signage at each crossing and are also launching a rail safety campaign to raise local awareness about train movements in the wider Ashburton area.

“People may have become used to trains moving slowly through town and they may have crossed the tracks in front of stationary trains.

“We urge people in the area to be extra vigilant at all level crossings, pay close attention to and obey the warning systems and signage and always look both ways for trains before crossing the tracks.”

Ashburton District Council infrastructure and open spaces general manager Neil McCann said the council is working with KiwiRail and the Tracksafe Foundation Charitable Trust on a range of communication methods to minimise the risk around the increased train speeds, with a focus on the pedestrian crossings in the CBDs.

“Council is discussing improved safety measures at the crossings with KiwiRail.”

Meanwhile, a delay in upgrading the level crossings at Fairton means for about seven months locomotives will have to shunt wagons across the Fairfield Road level crossing, as part of daily work putting together freight trains for the hub, Heissenbuttel said.

“KiwiRail is redesigning how the signals in the area work, which will resolve the issue, but it is expected to take until October for the new system to be operational.

“To avoid having to wait at the crossing, until then we recommend people avoid using Fairfield Road at specific times.”

From April 8, the shunting will impact Fairfield Road with freight trains moving wagons across the road between 9.30am and 10.30am every morning and between 8.45pm-9.30pm and 1.30am – 2.15am at night.

At these times the level crossing on Fairfield Road will be blocked for up to 10 minutes as wagons are positioned to be loaded at the new Fairfield Freight Hub.

The Fairfield Road level crossing is equipped with flashing lights and bells and barrier arms.

By Jonathan Leask