The crossing over the Waikato River at Ngāruawhāhia is one of two pinch points of single track on the rail line between Auckland and Hamilton, the other being through the Whangamarino swamp north of Te Kauwhata.
The crossing also is a hot spot of near misses and fatalities with an 11-year-old girl being struck by a train very recently. This follows a death on the crossing in 2003 and another in 2002. The bridge is popular with kids in the area with jumping off the bridge off it being seen as a right of passage.
A recent debate on Twitter led to the suggestion that maybe the bridge should be upgraded to accommodate this fact, acknowledging that kids are going to try jumping into the river, and that maybe the best solution is to provide somewhere safe to jump, very much like the places you can jump in Wellington.
My suggestion was that this would be very feasible as it would make sense to provide cycling, walking, and jumping facilities as well as upgrade the existing crossing to be double tracked at the same time.
- Give the community better cycling and walking connections;
- Give the kids a safer place to jump;
- Hopefully reducing track trespassing giving the train drivers peace of mind;
- Remove a pinch-point on the strategically important Auckland – Hamilton rail corridor;
Providing an upgraded crossing of the Waikato river at Ngāruawhāhia could be a great candidate for the Regional Development Fund ticking a whole bunch of boxes.