A couple of years ago there was a lot of debate about where the Manukau Rail Link should terminate – with Manukau City Council showing their true colours as a roads-loving council by not stumping up the few extra million to bring the link truly into the heart of Manukau City Centre. While I still think that was a big mistake, proposals for a tertiary institute right next to where the station will be located means that all is not lost, as we heard about in yesterday’s NZ Herald:

Integrating a new central Manukau rail and bus station with a tertiary campus building for 25,000 students, will attract development to the area, says the Manukau City Council…

…In March last year, the council decided that a 1.8km rail spur from the main trunk line would stop short of Davis Ave. It will instead terminate at Hayman Park.

Mr Brown said the campus deal meant a much bigger and better station building.

The council will contribute $19 million to creating a southern regional rail and bus hub.

Track and station building costs will be met by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and KiwiRail. Partners are being sought to develop the remainder of the council’s 21.5ha of land in the central business district.

There’s a good diagram of what’s going to happen in the area too:manukau-rail-link
As you can see from the diagram to the left, it would have certainly been smart for the railway link to link right through to the area between the council building and the Westfield Shopping Centre. The success of Sylvia Park railway station (fifth busiest on the Auckland network apparently) shows that putting rail next to shopping malls is a fantastic idea that works. Perhaps eventually it’ll be extended (through to Flat Bush and Botany via the Howick/Botany Line).

If the tertiary campus wasn’t going to be built on this site, then I probably would write the Manukau rail link off as a likely failure. Putting a railway station in the middle of a park, in what could be described as not quite the safest part of Auckland seems like something doomed to fail. But I guess these plans existed for a long time, and I must give some credit that the railway station will be well located for tertiary students.

Which leaves the only real remaining problem with the Manukau Line being that it’s initially only going to have a north-facing link with the main-trunk line. As it is very likely this station will be a “destination station” (like Britomart and Newmarket) I always thought those most likely to use it would be coming from the south – either to get to work in Manukau City or to go shopping at the mall and surrounding stores. Even with the tertiary campus one would assume that as it’s the most southern campus in Auckland a reasonably large number of its students will come from Manurewa, Papakura and so forth. Which makes the inability to run trains directly from Papakura to Manukau seem particularly idiotic.

I guess I shall remain hopeful that problem is sorted out.

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  1. OTOH, if the campus ‘blocks’ the railway and station off from the minds of other commuters, it could harm its wider patronage. There are some design issues to be worked through there.

  2. Good point George, it will be interesting to see a detailed design of the station (they’re damn hard to come by when it comes to railway stations actually).

    Jezza, I don’t know. I certainly hope so.

  3. This project is the biggest dud of the lot. BCR of 0.4 last time I saw it. It doesn’t serve a catchment of commuters, it serves a retail development. The jobs where this is located are filled by people who couldn’t use a train to get there if they tried (and the trains will only go to/from the north anyway, trains to the south would be so infrequent to be a crying waste). The real benefits in this region come from the completion of SH20 removing through traffic, so that road access is significantly enhanced.

    Trains offer no speed advantage to getting here, parking is not expensive, and the trains don’t serve the catchment area of suburbs from which most people come from. It is particularly notable that the transport many people in south Auckland use to get to jobs is shared vans, which of course the planners don’t recognise as being public transport, even though it is easily one of the most fuel efficient and road space efficient ways of moving people around. I remember Mark Gosche raising this as Minister of Transport early on, with his own scepticism about rail for people in South Auckland, and rejecting LTSA suggestions that the private arrangements regarding such shared vans be “licensed”. Of course, the ARC and ARTA are not exactly filled with people who relate much to south Auckland.

    Having said that, an improved bus interchange and improving bus connectivity throughout Manukau City will help. However this project is money down a black hole of the ego of local politicians.

  4. Liberty, I must admit that I have found myself thinking “who the heck’s going to use this?” when it comes to this link. I actually think that the Onehunga Line is likely to be more of a success, because it does have a residential catchment. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong though.

  5. Who the heck is going to use this? I sure am! Thats if adequate feeder bus services will be provided. I know a lot of students in the Manukau area who would use thhis train station. Though I must admit, even with the MIT campus to be opened here, it still is in the middle of nowwhere…Surrounded by the Puhinui Industrial area, Wiri (no mans land), Manukau City Centre (carparkville). The only suburb close is Papatoetoe, and if it was closer to Great South Road, I know for sure MANY people would have used it.

    Also, I could easily walk 10 mins to Great South Road from my home and catch the 472/471 bus and get to the city in 45 mins. When I am in a hurry, I will most likely use the bus.

  6. I read somewhere that the Manukau station is expected to become almost as busy as Newmarket. I think that’s rather wishful thinking – unless all the carparking area in Manukau City is turned into high-rise apartments and offices overnight.

  7. Still, at $50 million, it’s one fraction of the $1400 million being spent on another project with dubious merits. You could buy about 200 metres of Mt Albert motorway for that price. And at least this was needed anyway in order to create a number of other rail loops, so it’s going to find a use eventually.

  8. Look this should simply be shelved if even the rail enthusiasts here can’t see much point besides “it creates a rail loop”, and “well there is a bad road project as well”. That doesn’t justify destroying wealth (which spending that amount of money on something that isn’t worth what you spent on it, and doesn’t generate net benefits does).

    I’ve argued Waterview should be delayed, but at least it has a positive BCR, has a lot of users, and fills a key strategic gap (and benefits local streets and the existing networks). This is a cargo cult project solution looking for a problem. Extending the Melling branch across the Hutt River to Hutt city isn’t a great project, but it has more promise than this.

    $50 million can buy a lot of bus priority measures and intersection improvements. In most cases, it is the smaller projects that are the most beneficial.

    1. I think the main justification for this project is really its future potential, rather than how things are now. Manukau City Centre has a lot of spare space (currently used for carparking) so has the potential to intensify enormously. With that potential, plus the tertiary institute, then I guess it could end up being a pretty popular link.

      I’d rather the money went into a crap load more bus lanes though, to be honest.

  9. In a world with scarce resources, pouring millions into something with future potential, with a BCR that suggests that for every dollar spend on it, 60c is destroyed wealth, is nonsense. It’s money better kept in someone’s mattress or put in the bank. Unless a project meets the test of being money better spent than what the person paying would have otherwise spent it on, on average, it is wealth destruction.

  10. The problem with the Manukau line is that it is typically half arsed Auckland. The idiot who determined that it should end half a kilometre short of the shopping centre clearly is not familiar with the history of the Auckland railway stations. The line also needs to be oriented to the south as well as the north so that say half of the services on the north south runs could make the short trip in to the centre of Manukau. I was in Auckland recently and was surprised at the number of people getting off at Sylvia Park, presumably for the shopping centre.

  11. Ian, that idiot was the Manukau City Council, who wouldn’t stump up the extra $10 million needed to put the station in the right place. They had every opportunity to, but decided to save ten mil by keeping it on the other side of the road. It was about the same time they approved in principle to pay their share of the $1.33 billion dollar AMETI roading project, go figure.

  12. The alignment sucks too if they decide to continue it through to East Auckland (which after realising just how bad Auckland planning is probably won’t happen till oil hits $20 bucks a litre..!)

  13. It pains me to say it (as a rail fan) but – this project is a turkey!!!

    * Pepsi had an industrial siding that forms the start of the Puhinui-Plunkett Ave track – this was ripped up in late 1990s whule MCC & ARC & Tranz Rail dithered; each refused to fund the then cost of $10m for the total line.
    * MCC refused an extra $10m to extend the Manukau line to the council building (Kotuku House), but that was because the ARTA & Ontrack planners messed round so long that construction costs blew out. Funny how our recession isn’t bringing those costs back down, huh?
    * On that point, ARTA and Ontrack tend to gold-plate these projects, spending vast sums on flash concrete, steel & glass platforms & parking interchanges. This is where most of the time & money gets wasted. They should have got on extending the Pepsi siding as a single track to a humble single side platform at Kotuku House. Could have been done on budget and 10 years ago!!! Then expand as demand rises (having left the extra corridor width empty).
    * A southern rail track corridor is (supposedly) designated and having the earthworks done for it as part of the SH20-SH1 motorway linkup.
    * A Manukau City-Puhinui shuttle service is the only viable way to run this daft stub line. Current plans to run Britonart-Manukau via Puhinui trains means duplicate trains between Puhinui-Britomart, just so you can extend trains fro Puhinui-Manukau City. Insane 🙁
    * Running a Manukau-Puhinui shuttle also means these Manukau trains don’t require track crossings, which cuts out the possibility of delayed trains on 1 line (NIMT) causing a bottleneck on the other line (Manukau-Puhinui). This is especially important on short trips, which the Manukau line will predominantly attract (most passengers will be from adjacent suburbs Papatoetoe or Manurewa).
    * Anyone else notice the rail line & station are surrounded on all sides by roads? For ‘interchange convenience’ of course. Making it so easy to walk from station to park & shops… sigh.
    * The new MIT campus is a red herring – those in tertiary ed know MIT is not going to get 25,000 students. That’s almost the size of Auckland University (30,000 students), and about 10,000 more than MIT currently have. Pipe dreams. And 1 building would not house more than a few thousand even if was over 10 stories (and it is nearly under the Auckland Airport flightpath, so there are upper limits). So this ‘drawcard’ is mythical.

    Sorry to sound negative. The Manukau rail spur should be built, but quickly and cheaply without the bells & whistles these mad planners keep adding. Reality is it won’t be financially viable though until it is extended to Airport and Manukau East. And that is something MCC are not even planning for. Ask Mayor Len Brown if his council is currently designating a rail route for Manukau East and Auckland Airport? We all know the answer…

    Best hope is for top priority to go to extending Onehunga rail to Auckland Airport, then looping it back to Puhinui and into this rail spur to Manukau City, while leaving the route clear to extend further to Manukau East. This can be done by shifting the rail spur slightly onto Putney Way, and threading it beween Kotuku House and Foodtown, ready to pass under Great South Rd and SH1 to Manukau East.

    Thoughts? Suicide notes? 😉

  14. Sorry – but all the Manukau rail spur cash should go to designating the viable longer Onehunga – Airport – Puhinui – Manukau – Manukau East rail route first. That way the route can be progressively built as cash is freed up (when peak oil bites), instead of getting a stub rail line that loses money, and has extensions blocked by more roads & warehouses, as is rapidly happening.

  15. In typical New Zealand style it is difficult for people to be positive about any enhancement to Auckland (or anything for that matter). Short sightedness has lead to many transport blunders with our City. The harbour bridge could have had rail links and additional lanes when originally designed but was scaled back to the inadequate disaster we now have. Urban and transport planning should be considering urban growth out 20 years and beyound. South Auckland is a growing area and with Auckland population set to grow to 2 million people. The roads of Auckland are already choked. While this station is not perfect it is a very good start and as has been proven in many cities around the world good transport links brings properity to areas. This is not soley about the people beyound Manukau, it is about providing access to people from all areas. Issues such as the addition of a southern link can be addressed in years to come as demand increases. Britomart is a problem but this to could be solved with a little inovative thinking. Trains do not have to go all the way from A to B, you can have interconnections and stop trains at intemediate points where there is capacity, over comming the congestion of services at Britomart. At this point I suspect nobody on this blog understands the timetabling so are commenting with some naivety. International opinion is that railways are the way to transport people and Auckland is certainly well behind this thinking. Thankfully there has been some investment in Auckland with double tracking and eventually new rolling stock(This later point the current government having lost an oppotunity and made a blunder of the whole issue). It is proven that the better and safer the environment, the better the service and frequency patronage increases. The Auckland Metro service can actually demonstarte this. There was a time when the passenger numbers were so low that the commutter network was defunk, while now we have growing utlisation. What we need to see next is links into Botany and to the airport and when possible to the Northshore.

    Manukau is meant to be a kiss and ride arranagement where people are dropped of to join the rail network. I persoanlly see the argument for a park and ride, make the parking free and encourgae people driving into central Auckland. I comute in a car and every day see these tin boxes with a single person powering their way to work (including me). Manukau station has been designed with consideration for the future so that the rail can be extnded beyound the station.

    The government needs to consider a greater economic equation when assessing the value for money with regard to rail. Part of the economic benefit has to be the transition of people and freight from road to rail and the reduced investment needed for roading as a consequence. Roads just never seem to be able to cope with increased traffic, people just go faster and congest the network further up the line. Todays investment will seem pultry in years to come when costs are ever increasing

    The Manukau station is a good thing and in years to come it will be recognised as so, just give it a chance.

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