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:
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