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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ENDS

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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03 Jun

FUNERAL TRAIN UPDATE

ptua funeral train for waitakereThe Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) will hold a special “Funeral Cortege Train” complete with mourners, the grim reaper and a coffin this coming Thursday morning (4th June). The train will depart from Waitakere Railway Station at 6:58am and arrive at Britomart Station approximately 8am.

The coffin will symbolise the pending death of Waitakere and Huapai-Kumeu railway stations as Auckland Transport (AT) refuses to listen ratepayers, residents, business associations and public transport users who want commuter trains retained to Waitakere while the case for having trains extended to the Nor-West growth centres of Huapai-Kumeu is reviewed.

AT CEO David Warburton has been invited to address the cortege when it arrives at the entrance of the AT Headquarters, lower Queen Street.

FULL SCHEDULE FOR 4th JUNE:

Waitakere Railway Station, Waitakere Township, West Auckland.

    • 6:40am Costumed mourners and grim reaper meet at station with coffin
    • 6:50am short speech about the reasons for this action by PTUA
    • 6:55am Cortege and coffin join train
    • 6:58am Scheduled train departs, stopping at all stations en route to Britomart. Commuters will be handed information about planned cuts to Waitakere trains as they join the train.
    • 8:00am Approximately train arrives at Britomart Transport Centre. Coffin carried out of train, through Britomart Transport Centre, across lower Queen St to the Auckland Transport Headquarters entrance (HSBC building, 1 Queen St)
    • 8:15am Auckland Transport representative invited to address the PTUA and supporters cortege. Then speech by PTUA Chair Christine Rose and Coordinator Jon Reeves. Questions and answers.
    • 8:30am service ends.

To ensure everything runs to time media are requested to be in place well in advance of the schedule above.

25 May

Funeral Service Mourns Demise of Nor-West Rail

waitakere-ripped-offThe 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”.

waitakere invite funeral

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 NorWest 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”.

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourChristine 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.”

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28 Apr

Western Connector Trains Gathers Steam

Waitakere and Huapai Kumeu trains

Image courtesy of M KilgourRepresentatives from the Public Transport Users Association say they were “listened to, but not heard” at their presentation to the Auckland Transport Board meeting today. The group’s Chairwoman Christine Rose and Co-ordinator, Jon Reeves, today took their concept of the ‘Western Connector’ to the Board for the first time.

The Western Connector seeks to retain existing rail services to Waitakere township and extend them to the growth areas of Huapai-Kumeu, using existing rail lines, stations, rolling stock and other infrastructure.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN OUR PETITION TO RETAIN EXISTING SERVICES TO WAITAKERE & FURTHER EXTEND THEM TO SERVICES THE FAST GROWING HUAPAI-KUMEU AREA!

The plan to kill current services to Waitakere and long-planned extended services to Huapai-Kumeu was made last year. The Public Transport Users Association says that decision was based on false, outdated information, with inflated and gold plated costs. Their critique of the report, and huge development occurring in the area leads them to ask the report be reviewed, before the current services to Waitakere are cancelled in early July.

Auckland Transport acknowledges the report needs to be reviewed, with fresh analysis of the case for retained and extended services in light of the Special Housing Areas bringing an extra 2,500 houses to Kumeu-Huapai.

But PTUA say it’s premature to cancel the service with all the growth occurring and given peoples’ current transport needs. Christine Rose, a Kumeu resident and long term public transport user, says ‘The Waitakere service has been run down, with over 1400 services cancelled last year. But that’s no excuse to stop the service altogether. The existing and future residents of the “far-west” need reliable, comfortable and direct rail services to key employment, education and commercial centres.

In all aspects, rail provides a superior service to the west than buses. These services should be put in place while the planning for massive growth in the area proceeds – especially since much of the growth is adjacent to the currently moth-balled Huapai station”.

PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves says “We were somewhat disappointed at the reception we received from the AT Board. While they agreed a review of the report was required, they failed to engage with our proposal”. “We understand a review of the report is scheduled for October, but we believe this is a premature decision which undermines the need for transport services, reliability, regional rail equity and integrated transport and land use”.

Mr Reeves says “we know we have the public mandate for this campaign, and more and more local politicians are in support – including the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, Waitakere Councillors, Rodney Local Board members, and Auckland Council’s Infrastructure Committee”.

Mrs Rose adds, “Our campaign is gathering steam – and despite the ambivalence from the AT Board, we have more campaign initiatives in the wings, we won’t give up our efforts to ensure the area has the public transport services it deserves – using existing lines, assets and infrastructure”.

Mr Reeves says “we know we have the public mandate for this campaign, and more and more local politicians are in support – including the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, Waitakere Councillors, Rodney Local Board members, and Auckland Council’s Infrastructure Committee”.

Mrs Rose adds, “Our campaign is gathering steam – and despite the ambivalence from the AT Board, we have more campaign initiatives in the wings, we won’t give up our efforts to ensure the area has the public transport services it deserves – using existing lines, assets and infrastructure”.

ENDS

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