The footbridge on Matapihi railway bridge, used by 500 people each day, will remain open to the public despite being declared unsafe by an expert.

 'DANGER': Matapihi footbridge carries 500 people daily.

'DANGER': Matapihi footbridge carries 500 people daily.

Mayor Stuart Crosby and three city councillors tried to have the footbridge closed immediately but were outvoted by the rest of the councillors who believed a closure would prompt people to take an even more dangerous option - walking across between the rail tracks.

A shock report showed it would cost nearly $800,000 to bring the structure back to a safe state of repair for the 500 cyclists and pedestrians using it every day.

The footbridge, bolted on the southern side of the rail bridge, already carried warning signs telling cyclists to walk their bikes, for pedestrians to walk in single file and not gather in groups because of the poor condition of some of the timber beams and steelwork.

The city council reacted with dismay yesterday at the report from consultant engineer Bryan Hudson, both because of the risks facing users and at the cost to make it safe - $720,000 more than the cash-strapped council had allowed in its budgets.

Mr Hudson was asked how much more the footbridge could deteriorate before it became unsafe.

"The report is telling you it is unsafe now," he replied.

It sparked Mayor Stuart Crosby to call for an immediate closure, saying he was not prepared to take the risk and rely on signs that might be misunderstood by foreigners.

He said it would be irresponsible to keep it open until it was fixed. There was enough evidence to say the footbridge was dangerous and he was not prepared to risk a tragedy.

"Safety is my priority," he said.

Mr Crosby was supported by councillors Larry Baldock, Tony Christiansen and Wayne Moultrie. Mr Moultrie said the last time he used the footbridge he thought it was dangerous and now there was a report to say it was dangerous.

"If we don't fix it, we are liable. It is a risk I am not prepared to take."

But most of the council opposed the move because of concerns it would lead to an even more unsafe situation.

They feared Matapihi residents would resume doing what they used to do before the footbridge was built 53 years ago - walking across between the railway tracks.

Councillor Bill Faulkner said closure risked going back to the situation that caused the footbridge to be built in the first place - people falling off the bridge and drowning.

Mr Crosby responded: "There is a thing called personal responsibility."

Councillor Rick Curach said that in the real world there was a high probability people would use the rail bridge and a tragedy could happen far sooner than if the footbridge was left open.

Councillor David Stewart said engineers were conservative and there was nothing in the report recommending closure.

The council agreed to get the repairs done urgently this year.

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