As a keen student of Green Party sensibilities, Alf today is wondering how Jan Logie would react if the Kapiti Coast was wiped out by a tsunami as devastating as the one that has hit Japan.
Logie – a Green Party candidate in her neck of the woods at this year’s election- has a very low threshold when it comes to being shocked, startled, dismayed, thunderstruck and so on.
Shock (Alf thought) is something that jars the mind or emotions as if with a violent unexpected blow, or the disturbance of function, equilibrium, or mental faculties caused by such a blow; violent agitation.
It can also be a severe offence to one’s sense of propriety or decency; an outrage.
Mrs Grumble reckons she would be shocked if a flasher exposed himself to her.
So how shockable is this Logie woman?
Highly shockable, it transpires.
The closing of a bloody railway station will throw her out of whack, even when there’s another railway station within spitting distance and the pending closure has been the stuff of local politicking for the last year or so.
Like the trains that hurtle up and down the line umpteen times a day, she should have seen it coming.
Apparently not in this case.
And so in the past day or two she banged out a media statement to express shock at the announcement to close Muri Station.
“For a relatively small percentage of our region’s transport budget, a mere $400 000, a decision is being made which will affect Pukerua Bays growing community of for years to come, Jan Logie says.
“Kiwirail says the issue is one of safety. They say the gap between the platform and the train is too wide.
“What they’re not taking into account is the risk they’ve just transferred to this community. Now residents – young and old – will have to walk or drive at least 1.2km extra to get to Pukerua Bay Station – on a very thin strip of footpath along SH1, within literally an arm’s length of heavy traffic.”
Here in Eketahuna our railway station was closed years ago.
We were pissed off but not shocked, because it was foreshadowed.
Unlike Muri, we do not have another station within easy walking distance.
Let there be no misunderstandings.
Alf does not think it’s a great idea to oblige people to walk along that footpath, because – true – it is narrow, and the traffic is heavy.
He would rather risk his neck stepping across the gap between train and platform at Muri.
This being so, he delights in drawing attention to the name of the outfit that made the decision.
According to the official announcement, the Muri Station, on the Kapiti Line, will be closed indefinitely from the end of April, Greater Wellington’s Economic Wellbeing Committee decided.
Actually, it’s a very apt name.
The committee’s job – obviously – is trying to save money by closing things like the Muri railway station so that rates will be kept down and ratepayers’ economic wellbeing is promoted.
Alf would commend the establishment of an Economic Wellbeing Committee to every local body in the land and will be drawing the idea to the attention of Bill English as a neat way to curb government spending.
The personal safety of commuters who now must walk along state highway one presumably is the responsibility of another regional council committee, the Health Promotion and Protection from Harm Committee or some such.
But the council’s official statement does emphasise that those who must walk down the main drag won’t have to go much further than they do now, because –
The station is at Pukerua Bay, 800 metres north of the recently refurbished Pukerua Bay Station.
Oh, and let the record show this decision was not lightly made.
Peter Glensor, Chair of the Economic Wellbeing Committee which oversees public transport, said the decision was an extremely difficult one to make.
“This was a really hard decision and it’s a sad day for the small community around Muri Station. However our decision is based on several disturbing facts.”
He cited an independent risk assessment, commissioned by KiwiRail late last year as part of its safety requirements.
Alf loves the use of the word “independent” on these occasions.
The assessment found “some very serious safety issues”.
It identified 63 overall hazards.
The key ones were excessive gaps between the platform and trains (the worst gaps on the Wellington network); inadequate platform lighting; a wooden extension of the platform that is decaying significantly; structural defects, possibly from subsidence; extremely limited disabled access…
The council will save buckets of money (except that Alf’s experience is that they are likely to squander it on some other daft public project).
On the basis of the report, KiwiRail recommended two main options – either a $600,000 partial redevelopment or a $1.3million redevelopment of the station.
“The partial redevelopment is a very expensive option as the improvements would be minimal and the full redevelopment is a huge amount of money to spend on a station that is used by about 30 people a day and is 800 metres away from another station. We have just spent $1 million on refurbishing Porirua Station, for instance, but 600 to 700 people use that station daily.”
But let’s get back to the shock suffered by the delicate Logie lass.
She really ought to have been better prepared for the emotional blow that has struck her, because a report in the local rag back in 2009 said the future of Pukerua Bay’s Muri Railway Station had been further thrown into question.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council then was saying it would require $900,000 of improvements to service the ‘Matangi’ trains.
But at that time the problem seems to have been that the plaform was too bloody wide for new trains being introduced to the line.
Greater Wellington’s public transport procurement manager Angus Gadara says the station’s platform has the tightest curvature in the region.
“Some parts of the platform at Muri station would need to be cut back to prevent the new trains from hitting the platform. Tracks would have to be raised to enable the access ramp for wheelchairs, buggies, and mobility scooters on the new trains to operate properly. This work would cost about $100,000.”
On the other hand, Alf is reminded that the ESS report said one of the station’s only positive aspects is “its incredibly low patronage” – 17 to 20 people use it a day at peak, so the risk of accidents is considerably lower.
Dunno if that’s an argument for keeping it open or for closing it.