A few months ago I outlined an idea for the route of a “Howick/Botany Line” that could provide high quality public transport to a significant part of Auckland that completely lacks any form of half-decent public transport at the moment. The concept of providing a rapid-transit link between Manukau City and Panmure/Glen Innes via Flat Bush and Botany Town Centre has emerged in a few plans that ARTA has put together over the years – but never anything more than a vague arrow. Furthermore, the vague arrow generally follows a route that is parallel to Ti Rakau Drive – which means that most of the “far east Auckland” area is still not served particularly well at all by public transport.
The route between Botany Town Centre and Manukau City is fairly set – determined by the way in which Te Irirangi Drive was constructed with an extra-wide median strip to allow rail (light-rail was proposed, but I think heavy rail would be possible too) down the middle of this arterial route. So the main point of conjecture was deciding what route the line should take between Botany Town Centre and wherever it linked up with the current Eastern Line. As I said above, ARTA’s plans have it running fairly close to Ti Raku Drive. However, due to the limitations of that particular route a few people on the bettertransport.org.nz forums had a bit more of a think about it, and in the end it was someone going by the name of “Saljen” who proposed the route shown below:
As I explained in my post on this line a few months ago, this route is quite remarkable in that it avoids houses quite successfully while also servicing some important development hubs – the Ben Lomond Crescent commercial area and Highland Park town centre. It also brings much of this part of Auckland within a short feeder-bus trip of a railway station. With a train likely to take around 30 minutes to travel from Botany Town Centre to Britomart – even with some waiting time at bus stops, train stations and on the feeder bus I think it’s pretty likely that this option could provide a time saving over driving at peak hour from this part of Auckland into the CBD.
Since “Saljen’s” proposed route was first aired there has been a (staggeringly rare) almost general consensus that this is the best route for this line to take. There have been some further enhancements proposed though (by Saljen actually), particularly around the northern part of the line.
I shall quote in full the changes proposed:
Here is a suggestion for an amendment to the route. To cut out the big curve before Highland Park and just tunnel basically in a straight line under Pigeon Mountain Rd, and then to the mangrove inlet.
The one before went around in a big curve to the north of Highland Park and had a tunnel of about 650m under Casuarina rd to the Pakuranga college grounds.. This one has a tunnel of approx 830m but is much straighter and keeps all the park land around Pigeon mountain and Pakuranga College untouched . I dont know what the extra cost of that would be. Its only a little bit longer anyway.
The little white bit to the north is where some property would probably have to be bought. The lighter orange/yellow tunnel would be under houses. . Where it cuts Prince regent Drive is actually 19m above the mangroves so there is probably the ability to tunnel into that hill under the houses. The darker orange tunnel could be cut and cover under Pigeon mountain rd. Pigeon mountain rd is 19m above the mangroves as well. the tunnel would then rise to surface on the southern side of Pakuranga rd, (at 16m). The tunnel is only 180m or so longer than the other one and the entire route for that part would be a full 600m shorter. So the costs may turn out to be about the same. It doesnt allow a station at Prince regent however as its too close to Highland park. The train has to climb 15 or so metres over a km which shouldnt be hard.
I also put in where i thought the station at Highland park should go. I reckon they should buy the old Placemakers site and put it there. They are having trouble anyway because Mitre ten and Bunnings opened up down in Botany. So the red rectangle would be the station, and the light blue would be the parking/bus transfer area, with two entrances, one on Pakuranga rd/Pigeon mountain rd, (where there is already a set of lights) and the other would be on Aviemore drive. Plenty of space for park and rides, and also two entrances , one with a set of lights already there, always helps.
A useful map is also provided:
I think that this is a further enhancement of this proposal for a number of reasons. Firstly, making the line a bit shorter might shave a minute or two off the time it takes for trains to travel along it. Any time reduction is a good thing and is likely to make the line even more popular. Secondly, by putting a section of the line in a tunnel the environmental effects of building it are reduced. Sure, it does increase the cost a bit – but then at the same time it is likely that the cost of mitigating the environmental effects would be fairly significant too. And thirdly, the proposed station location at Highland Park is excellent – with plenty of potential for that area to be significantly redeveloped into a nice transit-oriented development rather than the big-box store area it is now.
Whilst of course the Howick/Botany Line could never be built before Britomart’s capacity issues are resolved, I really do think that this project would have an enormously positive effect on this part of Auckland. The Howick/Pakuranga/Botany part of Auckland is the most car-dependent part of the city and therefore at most risk of suffering most harshly the effects of rising petrol prices over the next decade or two. Public transport servicing this area is incredibly poor at the moment – with buses taking up to an hour and a half to travel from Howick to the CBD. There is a desperate need for a solution to this problem – and this line is that solution.