Transport planners are letting down both residents and visitors to Auckland in the decision to abandon heavy rail to Auckland International Airport says the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA).
“Transport authorities are foreclosing future options and compromising optimum long term solutions for airport access, just when they should be protecting the airport rail route and providing connections for heavy rail into the rest of the regional rail network” says PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves.
“Nearly every major airport in the world is served by rail. Dedicated, uncongested and seamless links between city hubs and airports are critical to provide certainty to travellers, but the New Zealand Transport Agency rejects this conventional wisdom in its current thinking”.
“NZTA and Auckland Transport(AT) are proposing busway and/or tram-light rail solutions to the airport. In doing so they are rejecting the strong arguments in support of rail – an existing railway line already reaches within a few kilometres of the airport, whereas light rail or dedicated bus corridors require significant land and infrastructure development costs. Political and public support for conventional rail services from the current Onehunga terminus is high. Extending the link through Mangere will improve that community’s access to the regional rail network and to the airport, while using existing infrastructure wisely”.
“Light rail/trams and a busway are a dream, while conventional rail is already a successful reality for Auckland, and offers travel and construction time savings, cost savings, and it’s imminently do-able”, says Mr Reeves.
“NZTA and Auckland Transport are overlooking obvious solutions while putting faith in uncosted, undeveloped plans that are in some undetermined future. The agency is foreclosing heavy rail solutions even while light rail options are hypothetical, certainly not guaranteed”.
“In the decision to abandon conventional rail which serves the region so well, and compromising future development by removing the Neilson Street overbridge, NZTA and AT are putting the cart before the horse” says Mr Reeves. “Yet this is just when planners need certainty as Auckland International Airport redevelops. NZTA are leading the process which is more rightfully an Auckland Transport role. But what we get as a result is a failure of leadership all round”.
“AT and NZTA seem to have talked themselves into a corner which delivers poor outcomes for Onehunga, Mangere, the airport, Aucklanders, and travellers to and from the airport gateway. Meanwhile they exhibit a failure of imagination and common sense in rejecting the most rational use of existing corridors and infrastructure provided by heavy rail”. “We suggest both NZTA and AT go back to the drawing board, or at least carry out an independent review of their arguments against existing wisdom and investment, in favour of an alternative which is really just a wish and a dream”.
The PTUA supports the Campaign for Better Transport and Cr. Mike Lee’s abhorrent disbelief at the decision not to progress with planning for Airport Rail. Public opinion is set to grow against this highly flawed decision by NZTA and AT.
Reeves said “These two agencies should be ready for a well deserved public backlash in the lead up to local body elections and the general election next year. It could well be a matter the Government will need to step in to sort out as it is clear NZTA and the Council Own Organisation (AT) are lacking competence and common sense.