Manukau station under construction

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The Manukau Courier has a full report on the progress the city’s new station is making:

Diggers have started excavating the 300-metre long trench where trains will draw up beside two platforms at the new railway station at Davies Ave.

KiwiRail project manager Paul Crawford says the start of digging is an important milestone along the track to the Manukau rail station opening by early next year.

“It’s going very well,” he says.

The rail trench will be seven metres deep and up to 18 metres wide.

The trench, two 180-metre platforms, the station, its surrounds and services should all be finished by September.

Work will then start on laying 1.8km of tracks between Davies Ave and the southern line at Puhinui.

“All steam ahead on new link”

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The Howick and Pakuranga Times reports that construction of the new branch from the Southern Line (NIMT) to central Manukau City is now well underway.

Electrification – the beginning, not the end

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It has been an interesting year so far for Auckland’s public transport. Probably the biggest story of the year so far was the cancellation of the Regional Petrol Tax back in March, which put most of the public transport improvements that we can expect in the next few years, into doubt.

In the months since then it seems like everything has been about “cleaning up the mess” that Steven Joyce created in March through his transport announcements. Fortunately, most of the mess has now been cleaned up: with a decision on integrated ticketing being made last week, NZTA coming to the party and funding upgrades to Onehunga and New Lynn, the Manukau rail link going ahead, and funding for the below track part of electrification being outlined in the May budget. All we are really waiting for now is NZTA to confirm that they will provide the necessary funding subsidy for integrated ticketing (to be finalised in September I think) and for the funding of Auckland’s electric trains to be announced. Goodness knows when that will happen, although rumours suggest it might be this week.

So, we’re almost back to where we were a few months ago then. The question I wish to ask is “where to next?” It seems like the government is convinced that the money they’re going to spend on finishing ProjectDART (upgrades to the rail system  that have been ongoing for the last few years) and electrification, that’s it. Auckland’s transport planning documents suggest that this is the case as well, with funding for public transport infrastructure after electrification is complete almost disappearing. As a public transport advocate I think it’s important for me to state that I believe we’re only at the beginning of this process to truly create a top-class public transport system for Auckland. Electrification and ProjectDART cannot be seen as endpoints, but rather the first step of a process. We must develop a vision for how we want Auckland’s public transport system to look like in 30-40 years time, and work out how we’re going to get there. With higher fuel prices a certainty in the future, combined with the need to reduce CO2 emissions from our transport sector, I think that it’s critical that we back up the “talk” of quantum shifts with a real plan. And we fix our broken funding system to ensure that the money’s available to do it.

Unfortunately, I doubt the current government has the vision or desire to do anything more than the bare minimum when it comes to public transport. Maybe a future Super-City Council will be just what we need to push the need for better public transport?

Manukau Rail Link

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Well at long last construction of the Manukau Rail Link has begun. This will be the first new stretch of railway to be built in Auckland in around 70 years (no wonder we’re so auto-dependent), and is a fairly short link between the existing Southern Line and Manukau City Centre. It will fix a bit of an annoying situation where the centre of South Auckland is completely cut off from the railway line that services much of the area – largely due to fairly silly thinking in the 1970s when Manukau City Council decided to build their council headquarters in the middle of a farm, miles from anywhere.

manukau-linkBut anyway, today sees the start of work on this important rail link, that will hopefully result in the new Manukau City station becoming on the busier on Auckland’s railway network. This project has had a bit of a chequered history, and certainly what we’re getting (see image above) could be better. For a start, the train station should ideally be a few hundred metres further to the east – so it could be within easier walking distance of Rainbow’s End and the Westfield Shopping Centre. Secondly, it should have a link to the south – so that people can catch trains from Manurewa, Papakura and so forth to Manukau City. Hopefully the southern link will eventually happen. Furthermore, there are plans for a tertiary campus to be developed on part of Hayman Park – so that should be a pretty big patronage generator for the station and should also mean that it’s not quite so “in the middle of nowhere” as it current is.

But for now I guess I can’t be too grumpy, we are at least seeing some investment in the rail network (although the current government certainly cannot take any credit for this, as it’s been planned and funded for many years). It should be a pretty popular link and will hopefully lead to more people using the rail system (and therefore more pressure on government and local councils to further improve it).

Once again, the big question is “when will it be done?” Seems like by the end of next year:

Ontrack project manager Paul Crawford says the rail link is a real milestone for the network.”"This is the first new rail route to be built in Auckland in nearly 80 years. It’s also exciting because we’re extending the reach of the network into a community that hasn’t yet experienced the benefits of rail transport.”Mr Crawford says the main construction is scheduled to start in August and trains are expected start rolling by the end of 2010.

2010 is shaping up to be a pretty exciting year for Auckland’s railway system – with Newmarket station opening, the Onehunga Line opening, the New Lynn station project being finished off and now this. It should also be the year we see a lot of the electrification works take place.

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