18 Apr

Diesel Train Service Now, Pragmatic Solution To Area’s Growth, Public Say

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourAuckland Transport (AT) continues its consultation on transport options to serve the region’s massive future growth, and locals favour passenger rail transport, but AT’s plans show unsustainable bias toward road based solutions for Huapai-Kumeu, say the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA).

“The high growth greenfields development happening now in Huapai-Kumeu on the North West outskirts of Auckland, is crippling State Highway 16” says local resident and PTUA chair, Christine Rose. “SH16 is a strategic, freight and service industry transport alternative to SH1, but is at a standstill now because of residential sprawl unmatched with decent public transport infrastructure. Auckland Transport are consulting on plans for transport improvements sometime, including new roads and a busway from Westgate into the city, none of which have real timeframes or funding, nor deliver the transport solutions people say they want”.

In the last consultation round, passenger rail solutions were preferred by the public more than any other option. Auckland Transport, to their credit have moved slightly in suggesting an investigation into benefits and costs of electric rail to the area. ”But in effect, we’re no further ahead, with the plans showing bias toward a road-based solutions which have no timeframe, no budget, fail to address SH16 congestion and won’t serve the current growth of Kumeu” Rose added.

“Meanwhile, we’ve got an existing railway line, railway station, and diesel rolling stock that can be used tomorrow on an uncongested, dedicated route. With smart timetabling to meet the rest of the regional rail network, this service could start tomorrow, with marginal additional cost” says Mrs Rose. “Surely that’s a better deal for ratepayers and residents than living with crippling congestion for decades until ‘if and when’ budgets and plans are developed?”.

Both Mrs Rose as previous chair of the Auckland Regional Council’s Transport Committee and PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves, have been involved with successful rail campaigns such as that which brought rail back to Onehunga. Mr Reeves says “that campaign showed that there will always be opponents of rail development. But in using existing railway lines, diesel rolling stock, and platforms, we save ratepayers money and increase capacity on roading networks for important freight and service vehicles, and we can provide a decent, truly congestion free public transport service now, not in 20 years when it will be too late”.

PTUA propose a ‘Western Connector’ rail service initially offering hourly rail services between Huapai and Swanson from 6am to 8pm daily. This shuttle will connect with the wider Auckland rail network in the exact same fashion as the successful Pukekohe – Papakura rail shuttle service. “The beauty of our solution is it can start immediately as everything is in place and ready to go. Only the will of Auckland Transport is blocking Huapai, Kumeu and Waitakere residents and ratepayers having a rail service.”

The rail service will also encourage visitors to Huapai and Kumeu villages and the cycling community will benefit as they can transport bikes right out west, which is impossible with buses.

“We know the community overwhelmingly see rail as a pragmatic solution to their existing transport needs” says Mrs Rose. “Now we just need to convince the authorities that the public are right”.

As a side note, voices further north are pushing for a total upgrade of the rail line from Swanson to Whangarei to enable tourist passenger trains to operate at faster speeds. While the concept is slightly different to the “Western Connector” commuter service for Huapai, it shows that there is a growing desire by the public for an upgraded rail service, after 40 years of government initiated decline of the passenger rail system.

The Public Transport Users Association are planning a public meeting at the end of May as part of their campaign for rail services to Kumeu. Discussions are underway with Auckland Transport Chairman Lester Levy in the hope he can attend.

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Helpful Links

Western Connector proposal details : http://ptua.org.nz/1/2015/03/western-connector

Western Connector Kumeu proposed timeline

12 Mar

COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR KUMEU RAIL GROWS

Western Connector Kumeu proposed timeline

Auckland Transport staff were overwhelmed with support for commuter rail services to the greenfields growth area of Huapai and Kumeu at a public ‘drop-in’ session on Thursday night.
Hundreds of disgruntled locals expressed strong frustration that the railway line runs through their town but transport officials canned planned services to the area. Auckland Council and the Government identified the area on the western outskirts of Auckland for accelerated growth as part of Special Housing Area (SHA) development. This adds to existing pressure as thousands of houses replace rural farmland along the rail corridor. The liberalisation of subdivision controls in the area is seeing another 3000 or so houses being built now, and another 3500 estimated through the SHAs.

The Public Transport Users Association have been leading a campaign to have rail reinstated and say despite more than a hundredfold increase in population, there’s been no Council investment in transport infrastructure for years. Local resident and former Auckland Regional Transport Committee chair, Christine Rose, who is also the chair of the Public Transport Users Association, says support for rail passenger services to the area overwhelmed all other transport options under consideration to serve urban development in the area.

‘At the public meeting run by Auckland Transport, there was almost unanimous support from the community for renewed rail services to the area given the infrastructure is already in place, and congestion is strangling traffic on State Highway 16.” “People logically see the uncongested rail corridor which sits in the heart of the community as an efficient use of existing resource”. “They don’t see the need to wait until 2030 for a busway to Westgate or road based solutions to transport constraints. The railway line should be offering connectivity and access to key communities of interest and work, education and recreation destinations in the rest of the Auckland network now.” “Locals know like no-one else, that growth has already outstripped the capacity of existing roading networks and a cost-effective solution exists in rail.”

The Public Transport Users Association proposes a ‘Western Connector’ rail service for the area extending services from the rest of the Auckland rail network at Swanson using spare rolling stock and timetable capacity to meet the high growth area’s transport needs now.

Jon Reeves, PTUA Coordinator says, “Auckland Transport promised a review of the 2012 report which was severely flawed in terms of costings, demand and did not take into consideration the growth caused by the Special Housing Areas in Huapai-Kumeu. So far we have not heard a peep out of Auckland Transport over the review so it looks like we need to reapply public-backed pressure on AT for immediate action. The spare diesel railcars are sitting idle and the station platforms are ready to be used in Waitakere and Huapai now.”
“Auckland Transport promised large savings from operating the new electric trains and they have recently increased fares so we are confident they can find the budget required to operate a Swanson-Huapai “Western Connector” rail shuttle. Auckland Transport are rapidly running out of excuses not to deliver the rail shuttle to the people of Huapai-Kumeu. They already operate diesel railcar shuttles to Pukekohe” Reeves added.
Western Connector details can be found at: http://ptua.org.nz/1/2015/03/western-connector/

Western Connector Timeline Proposal:

Western Connector proposed timeline

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10 Mar

Rail – Essential Option For High Growth Huapai-Kumeu

Now Auckland Transport and the Rodney Local Board are currently consulting local communities on transport options for dealing with future growth. But the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) is encouraging people to support passenger rail options to Kumeu-Huapai, even in the short term, given the massive growth happening now.

Kumeu-Huapai and nearby Riverhead, were established on the railway line, which continues to traverse its centre. ‘The existing rail line offers good connectivity to key communities of interest in the west and central city’ says PTUA Chair, local resident and former regional transport chair, Christine Rose. ‘But Auckland Transport recently scuttled long-held plans for resumption of rail services to the fast growing area, despite a surplus of rolling stock and timetable capacity to run a service’.

The area is undergoing the current development of several thousand new houses, and over 3500 additional houses have been fast tracked under the Government and Council’s Special Housing Area scheme. State Highway 16 which also bisects the area and runs parallel to the railway line, is already heavily congested for most of the day, and traffic volumes double in the weekend. Locals say congestion paralyses the local economy and their ability to efficiently get to work and educational facilities across the region.

‘The development already occurring in the area has created significant transport pressure,
thwarting the State Highway transport function’ says Mrs Rose. ‘We can’t road build our way out of this congestion given the existing constraints in Kumeu, but rail offers the community a congestion free corridor, available now’. ‘This is a location where rail offers clear advantages over alternatives, both for the present and the future’.

The Rodney Local Board is holding a series of future transport consultation meetings, as it grapples with rapid greenfields growth and an existing infrastructure deficit. PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves says ‘Given rates pressures facing the region, it makes sense to use existing resources and infrastructure, such as the North Auckland line and the existing railway stations, to serve high growth communities’. Mrs Rose, who was councillor for the area for 15 years, says ‘the area was chosen for growth because of its proximity to the railway line which was seen as an ideal transport solution for decades’. ‘All that changed in 2012 when AT received a report which condemned rail asan option, based on inaccurate growth projections, costings and timetable scenarios’.

PTUA says there’s considerable community support for passenger rail services to the area, now and in the future, and frustration it’s not already being actively pursued. ‘We encourage residents to have their say, and submit to both the Local Board, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, at every opportunity, in the interests of transport and rates efficiency both now and in the future’.
Auckland Transport invites feedback on its plans by March 17.

https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/transport-for-future-urban-growth/transport-for-growth-in-north-west-auckland/
Submissions can be made to the Auckland Council Draft Annual Plan until March 24.

16 Jul

Western Passengers Face Rail Cuts

waitakere-ripped-offWestern Passengers Face Rail Cuts. Commuters, communities and ratepayers are angry at Auckland Transport’s axing of all Waitakere trains from tomorrow.

After 133 years service the last commuter train will roll out of Waitakere station all because of an outdated, over-inflated report commissioned and signed off by the Board of Auckland Transport in early 2013.

The Public Transport Users Association has highlighted to the Board the many errors which worked against retaining Waitakere Station and extending commuter services to the growing North West Auckland communities of Huapai and Kumeu.

Auckland Transport’s Board decision rejecting rail services to the North West had nothing to do with benefiting passengers, nor the communities in the Nor West. In fact it will potentially turn many rail passengers off public transport all together. Since that report we’ve also had a Special Housing Area confirmed and more in the process for Huapai and surrounds. All these developments plus the flaws highlighted by the Public Transport Users Association defy logic for cutting back Auckland’s rail network at Waitakere, the first cut back of rail services in over 30 years, affecting one of the fastest growing areas in the region.

The PTUA has surveyed hundreds of passengers over the past 6 months who use Waitakere and Swanson stations. The fundamental reason why passengers have ceased using Waitakere station is the clear mismanagement by design on the part of Auckland Transport. “AT’s own data reveals the huge scale of train cancellations designed to make catching trains at Waitakere a gamble”.
“Passengers never know if they’ll get to work or school on time, or be able to get home in the evening. The bus replacement option is a joke, slow, inconvenient and unable to carry bikes, pushchairs or wheelchairs for disabled passengers” says Christine Rose, Chair of the PTUA.

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourThe PTUA has proposed the “Western Connector”, a regular diesel rail shuttle, between Huapai and Swanson connecting with the electric rail network. This is exactly the same concept as now operates at the southern end of the line between Papakura and Pukekohe and a good interim service until one day when electrification can be extended further west. “Trains are significantly faster than buses from Huapai to every single Western Line destination, including Newmarket, especially with recently announced added delays to the North Western bus service.

Jon Reeves said, “Auckland Transport should be a champion of the public transport user! AT’s continuing disservice to the rail passengers of Waitakere and further West is anything other than putting customers first.”

Due to a continuing campaign by the PTUA, Auckland Transport recently has decided to take another look at developments in Huapai-Kumeu and public transport needs. “PTUA has asked AT to advise us of the scope of the review. We want to make sure they do not use the outdated, flawed report as reference again and that they include a review of our common sense Western Connector proposal” says Mr Reeves.

“Every Local Board approached and the Auckland Council Infrastructure Committee agrees with us and our concerns. It is now time for Auckland Transport to prove they listen to the community it is supposed to serve.” said Reeves.

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