After listening to submissions at GWRC's 23 November hearing on our proposal, we are writing to advise that the Trust has revised the walkway specification, increasing the walkway / cycleway width to 4.0m, and reducing the gradient of the contour route to 0-5%.
After listening to the submissions, we quickly determined that the specification as originally submitted was an inadequate replacement for the current rail trail facilities. We heard that the original maximum gradient would be too steep for touring cyclists and the width of the track was too narrow. We have increased the walkway / cycleway width from 2.5m to 4.0m, and reduced the gradient from a maximum of 12.5% to a range of 0-5% to better match the current high standard of facilities on the rail trail. A good example of a slope of similar grade is Willis Street between Manners Street and Dixon Street.
5% gradient section of Willis Street, between Manners and Dixon Streets.
Additionally, we have submitted a further option for the Pakuratahi Gorge between the Pakuratahi Tunnel and Ladle Bend bridge. In this option the walkway/cycleway and railway would follow the same route, and share the historic Pakuratahi railway truss bridge to cross the river. Options for safe sharing of the bridge include a road-rail deck with level-crossing type protection systems, or a clip-on walkway that would provide separation from trains. The Pakuratahi Gorge option would also help off-set the additional expenses in widening the walkway.
The new walkway will be constructed in stages ahead of the corresponding railway reinstatement to ensure continuity of walking and cycling activities for park users.
The proposed railway deviation to the east of the former Kaitoke station will include an adjacent walkway / cycleway. This will improve connectivity between Tunnel Gully and the new walkway / cycleway from Kaitoke to Summit.
We hope that these changes will provide a more acceptable accommodation for current walking and cycling use of the rail trail. As we've discussed, we believe that our project can bring significant economic benefits to the region while at the same time working in harmony with existing walking and cycling activities.
The benefits of such a railway have been demonstrated overseas in several countries. Not only will the proposal reinstate a railway of national significance to the founding of New Zealand the proposal will create jobs in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the railway. The Trust estimates that, based on the BERL Feasibility Assessment’s estimated visitor numbers, the railway will inject between $4 – 5 million per annum into the Upper Hutt economy. The economic benefits of the heritage railway has parallels with the benefits of the national cycleway promoted by the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Economic Development and Positively Wellington Tourism in that it will also bring export dollars into our economy, boost local businesses and create jobs in communities near the railway. There will also be opportunities for businesses to serve the railway and the walkway / cycleway including train plus cycle hire packages.
We welcome your feedback on the changes, which can be viewed online at www.rimutaka-incline-railway.org.nz/project/new-walkway.