The rail crossing on State Highway 1B Telephone Road, one of the most dangerous in the country, will remain closed to traffic for the foreseeable future.
The crossing east of Hamilton was closed in April 2022 due to repeated incidents where low vehicles damaged the railway tracks. Damaged tracks could cause a derailment on this increasingly busy train line between Hamilton and Tauranga.
A detailed investigation was commissioned by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to determine the best long-term solution for safety at the rail crossing, taking into account the opening of the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway and the intention to return SH1B to local road status.
The report took a thorough look at all the available solutions, including the low-cost solutions put forward by the community. The report found that the proposed low-cost solutions failed to meet all of the safety requirements, with the solutions that resolved all the safety concerns estimated to cost between $8 million and $11 million.
“Unfortunately there is no funding available for a safe solution during the current funding cycle (the 2021-24 National Land Transport Programme)” says Rob Campbell, Regional Manager Maintenance and Operations.
“However we will put the Telephone Road rail crossing forward for consideration in the 2024-27 funding cycle.
“This does not guarantee that the project will receive funding as all projects across the country are weighted and scrutinised to determine priorities.”
A small group of community representatives will meet with Waka Kotahi, KiwiRail and Waikato District Council to discuss the best option to put forward for funding.
“Until we can go through the funding application process the only safe option that meets the safety requirements of Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail is for the crossing to remain closed,” Mr Campbell says.
“We realise that this decision will be disappointing for the local community, and we apologise for the inconvenience that this causes.”
This rail crossing has been assessed by KiwiRail as being one of the most dangerous of 1300 public rail crossings in New Zealand, using the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM).
The full report is available to read at nzta.govt.nz/projects/sh1b-telephone-road-rail-crossing(external link)
While the crossing will remain closed for vehicles, Waka Kotahi is planning to build a pedestrian/cyclist crossing over the railway line, with a school bus stop on the Holland Road side, subject to final approval from KiwiRail.
The rail crossing was closed due to repeated incidents where low vehicles have damaged the railway tracks, raising the risk of a derailment for the approximately 38 trains a day which use this line.
The railway line is higher than the road on either side of it and this has caused some longer and lower trucks to scrape and dislodge sections of track as they cross.
Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail made the decision to close the crossing while the long-term future of this intersection is decided.
This rail crossing is currently assessed by KiwiRail as being one of the most dangerous of 1300 public road crossings in New Zealand, using the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM). This is due in large part to the proximity of the Holland Road/Telephone Road/Marshmeadow Road intersection to the crossing. The railway line is one of the busiest in the country with 38 trains a day, and this number is expected to increase.
The available options with approximate costings are available to view in the report, available at www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/sh1b-telephone-road-rail-crossing(external link). The cost of these options range from an estimated $8 million to $11 million.
A Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) analyses a potential project and looks to give a figure for how much value the project will have compared to its cost. In any given funding period, Waka Kotahi will have more projects proposed than there is funding for, so a BCR is used to compare projects across New Zealand to determine which will be funded.
With the opening of the Hamilton Section of the Waikato Expressway a large amount of traffic has shifted away from Telephone Road, making it harder to meet the BCR requirements.
Allowing partial access is risky and is difficult to enforce. Both Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail believe this solution will not provide the necessary levels of safety to allow the rail crossing to reopen.
Restrictive barrier options are generally only used in low-speed environments as they can create hazards for high-speed vehicles. This solution also doesn’t address the issue of the short distance between the rail crossing and the intersection, and the risk to vehicles and trains.
With the opening of the Hamilton Section of the Waikato Expressway SH1B is undergoing a process known as revocation, where the road reverts from being a state highway to a local road, in this case with Waikato District Council as the road controlling authority.
As part of this process, Waka Kotahi and Waikato District Council need to be in agreement about the current condition of the road and discussions about this intersection are continuing.
Waka Kotahi realises that being used as the SH1B detour has impacted Holland Road, Waverley Road and Seddon Road and we are committed to keeping the roads maintained so they are fit for purpose.
Since the Telephone Road rail crossing closure we have funded maintenance on the detour route and we expect to fund further work in the future.
We are also committed to providing accurate signs to help navigation.
Further work will take place at the rail crossing on Telephone Road to ensure that it remain closed to traffic for the foreseeable future. A crossing for pedestrians and cyclists will be built, subject to final approval from KiwiRail.