Nor-West News – By Rebecca Stevenson – 12 October 2016:
North west politicians call for rail from Kumeu to Swanson.
“It is just nuts.”
Kumeu Subdivision local board member Phelan Pirrie says reinstating rail to Kumeu-Huapai is a priority – and his Rodney First team are targeting the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan as the document which could get rail in the area moving.
He says it’s an issue that can no longer be ignored. State Highway 16 is often gridlocked at peak times and the solution is right there – the rail line that runs alongside the highway.
Rodney Local Board Kumeu Subdivision members Cameron Brewer, Phelan Pirrie and Brent Bailey have put rail to Kumeu-Huapai on the top of their wish list this term.
Local board member Cameron Brewer says a diesel shuttle service from Huapai to Swanson could be started “tomorrow”. It will need a subsidy, but he says all train services in Auckland are subsidised and residents are paying their share of the cost of other transport projects – but are not getting a service that is badly needed.
Pirrie points out some diggers moving earth on land just across the rail line. It’s a special housing area development that’s set to house thousands – but how are they going to get around?, he asks.
“We are solving the problem of where people are going to live, Government has sent us the refugees from the CBD, from Remuera,” local board member Brent Bailey says, “and they are used to public transport.”
Kumeu and Huapai have a train line but no passenger trains.
The region is earmarked for dramatic growth, with 30,000 new inhabitants expected to move in. The threesome say we must get ahead of the growth now and plan public transport before traffic grinds to a halt.
Down the road in Riverhead about 1000 new homes will be built. More than 1000 homes are going to be built right next to the abandoned Huapai platform.
A number of developments are planned for the “Huapai triangle” near the town centre. They can’t all commute in cars, Pirrie says.
Traffic on State Highway 16 is an issue at peak times while the train line is empty.
He says Auckland Transport are guilty of sending mixed messages. They say they want people out of cars, except when it comes to Kumeu?
A poll on the Nor-west News Neighbourly page shows locals who voted overwhelmingly support rail, with 95 per cent of people in favour of trains to Kumeu-Huapai.
In the longer term making the train tunnel taller at Waitakere would allow the line to be electrified. This will take lobbying central Government and Kiwirail, Brewer says.
WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
So how would rail to Kumeu-Huapai work? Much like the diesel shuttle service which is running from Papakura to Pukekohe.
Pirrie envisions a peak-time service starting at about 6.30am with the last service at about 8.30am. It would leave from Huapai and stop at Swanson where passengers could then switch to the electric train service into the city. Then again at the other end of the day a similar service.
He says the service would take about half an hour to get from Huapai to Swanson.
The benefit of rail, other than getting cars off the road, is that it allows commuters to work – not an option when you are riding a bus, Pirrie says.
He says the north west has been targeted for growth but unlike the south which saw the Drury/Pukekohe area identified as a spatial priority the north west has been neglected in terms of infrastructure.
The key message the local politicians have for their fellow residents is simple. Show your support for rail to Huapai, give them the mandate to lobby Auckland Transport for a short-term solution to Huapai’s traffic woes.
“We need people to engage with us so we can lobby the governing body to deliver something. It’s up to us to convince council to deliver it,” Brewer says.
AUCKLAND TRANSPORT SAYS
As part of the Transport for Future Urban Growth work, Auckland Transport, New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Council are identifying the required transport networks to accommodate an additional 30,000 households and 12,000 jobs in the Whenuapai, Red Hills, Riverhead, Kumeu and Huapai areas.
Approximately one-third of this development will occur in the Kumeu-Huapai area and two-thirds in Whenuapai-Red Hills area.
To assess what transport networks will be required to accommodate the additional residents and employment and provide good access across the region a number of options have been identified.
In looking at public transport options we have considered improvements to the rail network and tying into the proposed busway along State Highway 16 (SH16) from Westgate to the central business district (CBD) and State Highway 18 (SH18) from Westgate to Albany. The extension of the Rapid Transport Network (RTN) along SH16 and SH18 provides accessible public transport to the employment centres on the North Shore and to the central business district within approximately 45 to 55 minutes of travel once the RTN is in place.
A fully electrified, twin-tracked rail RTN will also provide a 55-60 minute trip to the CBD once the City Rail Loop (CRL) is in place. Without the twin-tracked electric network, rail services on a single track will take significantly longer to access the CBD and will probably only be able to provide an hourly service from Huapai to Swanson. The RTN system adjacent to the state highway network provides access to employment areas and provision of greater frequency of services.
Due to the similarity in journey times identified above between a post CRL electrified twin-track network to Huapai and a Northern Busway style RTN from Huapai to the CBD – Auckland Transport is exploring a number of options for the bus and rail systems, including bus lanes, and different rail options including provision of a diesel shuttle, electric trains with and without double-tracking. The investigations will look at potential passenger numbers, frequency of service, connectivity to the existing network and capital and operating costs.