Introduction – Crossing Safety in Waimakariri District [1]

Waimakariri District Council is a territorial authority in North Canterbury with a boundary that borders Christchurch City, Selwyn District, Hurunui District and the South Pacific Ocean. The main population of Waimakariri District is situated in the eastern coastal region of its territory, close to State Highway 1, State Highway 71 and the Main North railway line, and is mostly concentrated in the growing urban area bounded by Rangiora, Woodend / Pegasus / Waikuku and Kaiapoi, which together have more than 50% of total residents. Oxford, towards the western edge of the District, is the only other settlement with more than 1000 residents. Total area is 2217 square kilometres and total population around 66000.

In the context of this blog, “crossing” can refer to either road or rail, and “crossing” in the context of a road means an intersection, whilst for rail it means an at-grade or level crossing. For the purpose of this discussion, road intersections will focus on those off SH1 and SH71 only, which are relevant for traffic safety; the railway crossings relate to the District’s sole public railway, the Main North Line, which enters the District at 16 km (between Kainga and Kaiapoi) and exits it at 44 km, between Sefton and Balcairn. There are no branch lines within the Waimakariri District, although formerly there existed the historical branch railways to Oxford/Sheffield and West Eyreton. State Highway 1, whilst inland of the railway at the southern boundary of the District, crosses over it north of Kaiapoi and remains further east of the MNL throughout the District. State Highway 71 commencing on the outskirts of Kaiapoi parallels the Main North Line until crossing over it at Southbrook, terminating just south of Rangiora. Historically, SH 72 was the inland highway that ran from Winchester to Amberley via Geraldine, Arundel, Mount Somers, Staveley, Alford Forest, Windwhistle, Glentunnel, Coalgate, Waddington, Oxford, Cust, Rangiora, Sefton and Balcairn; SH 71 and SH 72 combined paralleled the Main North Line for most of its route through Waimakariri. As SH72 was removed from the state highway network in 1991, it is now referred to as the Inland Scenic Route 72 and is a local road in each district.

The main road crossings for the State Highways in Waimakariri District are as follows. Let’s start naturally with State Highway 1:

  • It is a four/six lane motorway where it enters the district, and has on/off ramps and overpasses at Tram Road (secondary route to Oxford and other western districts), south Kaiapoi (Ohoka Road) and north Kaiapoi (Smith Street). The motorway itself ends at the T intersection with Williams Street on the northern edge of Kaiapoi. When constructed in the 1970s it was four laned, but two additional lanes were added to the Waimakariri Bridge as an extension to the Christchurch Northern Motorway project of the early 2010s.
  • T intersection with Pa Road
  • T intersection with Sandhill Road
  • T intersection with Woodend Beach Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Rangiora Woodend Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Petries Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with School Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Gladstone Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Eders Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Parsonage Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with islands with Woodend Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Hewitts Road, Woodend
  • T intersection with Chinnerys Road, Woodend
  • Four way two-lane roundabout with Pegasus Boulevard / Bob Robertson Drive at Pegasus / Ravenswood
  • T intersection with Wards Road
  • T intersection with Preeces Road
  • T intersection with Gressons Road, Waikuku
  • T intersection with Macdonalds Lane, Waikuku
  • T intersection with Waikuku Beach Road, Waikuku
  • T intersection with Tulls Road
  • T intersection with Geisha Road
  • Overpass of River Road (Ashley River bridge)
  • T intersection with Wyllies Road
  • T intersection with Bells Lane
  • T intersection with Amesbury Road, Saltwater Creek
  • T intersection with Broad Road
  • T intersection with Banks Road
  • The Hurunui District boundary runs along SH1 at this point creating ambiguity about which territory this part of the highway is actually in, however there are no more intersections before reaching the absolute north-eastern boundary of Waimakariri District at Harleston Road (T intersection).

State Highway 1 skirts around Kaiapoi, but ends up passing directly through Woodend, which has grown considerably in recent years; Kaiapoi and Woodend are part of a growing urban conglomeration taking in Waikuku and Pegasus / Ravenswood. This has led to a growing clamour for a highway bypass to the west of Woodend as a taxpayer-funded alternative to creating parallel north/south access routes with reduced crossings. Any relocation of the highway would undoubtedly come with the expectation that poor town planning that has created many of these problems by utilising SH1 for local access to the urban areas, which have been developed on both sides of the highway, would be outlawed. As far as TSBNZ is aware there are no signalised crossings anywhere along SH1 itself in Waimakariri District, but they are provided to control traffic flow on some of the on/off ramps which intersect with the local road flyovers. It must inevitably be the case that some of the many T intersections, especially in Woodend, have high accident risk, and should be considered for signalisation in the foreseeable future. However the only significant intersection safety controls found, apart from grade separated crossings, are traffic islands and one roundabout at a handful of crossings. Due to reservations about the risk of large two-lane roundabouts, the four way intersection at Pegasus is also likely to have considerable concern focused on it in future years, given the growing level of urban development to the west of the highway. (To clarify, TSBNZ has not sought any road safety or crash rate data for Waimakariri District and is not intending to at this time). The highway does not have any median barriers in Waimakariri District (aside from the separated carriageways in the motorway section); flush medians are painted in the Woodend section, and right turning lanes are provided at key intersections. State Highway 1 in the District manages to avoid any level crossings with the Main North railway line, having one grade separated crossing adjacent to the Smith Street on/off ramps.

Now let’s look at State Highway 71, which is a short highway that runs from Kaiapoi to Rangiora. It is generally known as Lineside Road, and it commences at the western end of the Smith Street flyover / on-off ramps at the north edge of Kaiapoi. As a local highway there are a lot of crossings, with attendant issues. From south to north here is a list of them:

  • 4 way intersection with Revells Road, Kaiapoi. This is really too close to the on-off ramps to be safe.
  • 4 way intersection with Mulcocks Road / Bramleys Road, with a level crossing of the Main North Line on the Mulcocks Road side.
  • 4 way intersection with Power Road / Fernside Road, with a level crossing of the Main North Line on the Fernside Road side.
  • T intersection with Youngs Road.
  • Level crossing of the Main North line at Southbrook. Total traffic is around 10000 vehicles per day at this crossing and it is fitted with barrier arms, bells and lights.

SH 71 finishes at Southbrook although the road itself continues as a main arterial route through Southbrook and Rangiora, with many intersections.

As for the railway, three crossings are referred to above. The total list of public railway crossings in Waimakariri District is as follows:

  • Doubledays Road, Kaiapoi, 16.48 km, 380 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Courtenay Drive, Kaiapoi, 18.26 km, 50 MVs/day, half arm barriers
  • Williams Street, Kaiapoi, 19.08 km, 15000 MV/day, half arm barriers
  • Peraki Street, Kaiapoi, 19.39 km, 250 MV/day, bells/lights
  • Bridge 19, park access track overpass
  • Bridge 20, State Highway 1 underpass
  • Mill Road, Eyreton, 21.04 km, 50 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Mulcocks Road, Flaxton, 23.34 km, 200 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • Fernside Road, Flaxton, 24.78 km, 400 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • SH71, Southbrook, 26.54 km, 10000 MVs/day, half arm barriers
  • Marsh Road, Southbrook, 27.21 km, 250 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Dunlops Road, Southbrook, 27.41 km, 80 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Gefkins Road, Southbrook, 27.7 km, 50 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Boys Road, Rangiora, 28.1 km, 900 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • Northbrook Road, Rangiora, 28.89 km, 2500 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • High Street, Rangiora, 29.72 km, 6500 MVs/day, half arm barriers
  • Wales Street, Rangiora, 30.46 km, 1000 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • Coldstream Road, Rangiora, 31.04 km, 250 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • High Street, Ashley, 32.97 km, 70 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • Beatties Roas, Sefton, 35.41 km, 55 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • McGifferts Road, Sefton, 37.41 km, 34 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Pears Road, Sefton, 38.54 km, 100 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Toppings Road, Sefton, 39.57 km, 540 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Boyces Road, Sefton, 40.47 km, 26 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Harleston Road, Sefton, 41.35 km, 500 MVs/day, bells/lights
  • Broad Road, Sefton, 42.35 km, 239 MVs/day, uncontrolled
  • Rangiora-Leithfield Road, Sefton, 43.43 km, 85 MVs/day, uncontrolled

This list is interesting because it gives a very rough idea of what qualifies for control or signalisation (TSBNZ’s definition of controls differing from Kiwirail, who include consider stop or give way signs). There are other factors at play, for example at Ashley where the railway makes a sharp 90 degree curve immediately south of the crossing which would limit visibility of approaching trains were the crossing unsignalised. However, there are other unsignalised crossings on the above list which have track curvatures adjacent and should therefore qualify for at least bells/lights. This will be looked at in some detail in the next parts of this series which focus on the most dangerous railway crossings in Waimakariri District. Overall, as usual the most crossings are in the urban areas and are largely historical factors, representing the marked reluctance of territorial authorities to close crossings in towns despite the safety challenges. The District, nevertheless, has fewer urban level crossings than large cities like Christchurch, with a total of eight in Rangiora and three in Kaiapoi.

So – whilst the highway crossings are important factors in road safety in Waimakariri District, the next parts of this series are going to look at those which are combined with railway crossings to present a high risk to motorists and train crews alike.