The Public Transport Users Association is holding a funeral service to mark the demise of Nor-West rail options, with the closure of Waitakere station as currently planned by Auckland Transport. Mourners will travel by train from Waitakere Station to Britomart, and the Auckland Transport offices in QE2 Square.
Waitakere train station was opened in 1881, but will be closed in July this year. This decision is also the death knell for passenger services at the next stop on the line, at Huapai-Kumeu, a significant greenfields and Special Housing growth area on Auckland’s fringe.
Waitakere rail station was upgraded with a new sealed carpark and other improvements in 2013, and a new station was built in Huapai in 2008, “meaning good infrastructure currently exists to support the continued and expanded Nor-West service” says PTUA chair, Christine Rose. She says “We’ve got the railway line, the stations, the rolling stock, and the population growth”. “To close the line and options for expansion, is dead thinking”.
PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves says the organisation hopes Auckland Transport will review their decision to pull the plug on the area’s public transport life support system, given that decision was based on outdated and overinflated information – information that the AT Board have committed to review. “At the time the report damning Nor–West rail was written, the current growth boom in Kumeu-Huapai had not begun. The SHAs had never been imagined.” “But the report also gold-plated the infrastructure requirements. We’re looking at a low cost public transport solution using existing resources, that require virtually no infrastructure upgrades”.
Christine Rose, a long-time local resident and public transport user, and a former District and Regional Councillor for the Kumeu area, says “the Council and the Government are looking for solutions to transport issues related with SHAs in the Kumeu district. PTUA provides the answer with the ‘Western Connector’, our low-cost, resource efficient proposal for passenger rail.” “The answer is obvious. No new tracks, stations or trains are needed on this dedicated, congestion-free line.”
Funeral trains are nothing new for the North Auckland line. In the early 20th century, coffins were carried from Auckland to Waikumete (Waikumiti), in both general services and special funeral trains.
The PTUA Nor-West Rail funeral service and cortege will leave Waitakere Station on the 6.58 train service on 4 June, arriving Britomart at 8am, proceeding to the Auckland Transport offices for a short service.
PTUA say they will be hoping for a resurrection of the service when AT review the issue sometime this year. “We’d be happy to bring this service back from the dead, and breathe some life back into public transport rail services to the Nor-West.”