A number of commenters on my post yesterday noted with great concern the potential effects of the latest Waterview Connection alignment on the viability of the Avondale-Southdown Railway Corridor. I figure that it’s probably worth exploring that matter in a little bit more detail, as I can impart a little bit of my knowledge of planning matters to help us analyse the situation.
The Avondale-Southdown railway corridor is a bit infamous in many respects, as it has been designated since around 1947 I think, yet today we find ourselves not really being any closer to constructing in than we were back in 1947. As the name indicates, it’s a railway line that runs from near Avondale to Southdown, which is an industrial area near Penrose. It appears in the 1946 transport plan for Auckland, which is included below:Primarily this line is likely to be justified in terms of how it would improve shifting freight between Northland – via the North Auckland Line (the Western Line) – and the industrial hub of Auckland around Southdown/Penrose/Westfield. At the moment all freight trains heading north need to pass through Newmarket and the inner part of the Western Line – which obvious means plenty of potential conflicts with passenger services. As passenger service levels increase in the future it is likely to become more and more difficult for freight to find an appropriate ‘window’ to operate in, particularly through busy junctions like Newmarket. This is where the Avondale-Southdown line would come in handy.
Furthermore, if there are other future network expansions, like rail to the airport or the CBD Rail Tunnel, then the Avondale-Southdown line might be a useful part of this network. We could run trains from New Lynn to Manukau City via the Airport, or potentially trains doing a big circuit of the CBD via the inner-Western line, the Eastern Line and the Avondale-Southdown Line. In other words, while construction of this line may not be one of the top priorities for Auckland at the moment, it’s certainly conceivable that it might be useful and necessary in the future.
Now, turning to the contentious area around the western end of the proposed line, we can see from the Auckland City Council planning map below, just to the south of Hendon Ave there is a shaded area which is noted as G08-05. This is the area designated as the Avondale-Southdown railway line. If we compare this designation with the most recent alignment of the Waterview Connection, shown below, it’s clear that there’s significant potential for some conflict. In fact, I think it’s fair to assume that under both the May 2009 alignment at the December 2009 alignment there would have been conflicts with parts of the Avondale-Southdown rail designation. Under this most recent alignment the “Proposed Rail Line” seems to shift northwards, to sit relatively closely to the southern side of Hendon Ave. Now of course the map above is just a diagram, and perhaps with a more detailed map we could learn more, but certainly the ‘proposed rail line’ appears to generally be in a different location to where the current rail designation is. Put simply, the motorway has taken its designation, so it has had to move northwards.
There are a few worrying factors relating to this. The first factor is that it seems as though KiwiRail/Ontrack will have to redesignate their corridor. This involves a fairly complicated process under the Resource Management Act, something similar to the process by which one applies for a resource consent. This means that the new designation’s environmental effects would have to be analysed, its benefits weighed up against those effects, and so forth. Furthermore, it could be challenged in the environment court and potentially declined by that court. So basically KiwiRail has to go through a complicated process to resolve a problem that has not in any way been caused by them.
The second factor to consider is that because Kiwirail/Ontrack “got there first” with their designation, in order for NZTA to “take” their designation, or slap another designation on top of theirs (yes, there are designations on top of designations, and it an get complicated), KiwiRail/Ontrack would have to give their approval. This is outlined in section 177 of the RMA, which I have included below:
To simplify the legalistic language used above, sub-section 1 says that the latter authority wanting to designate (NZTA in this situation) needs the permission of the earlier designating authority (KiwiRail) for this to proceed. Sub-section 2 limits the reasons for which KiwiRail could decline such permission, but the fact that building a motorway in the rail designation would clearly “prevent or hinder” constructing a railway line there means that I think KiwiRail absolutely would have the jurisdiction to tell NZTA to bugger off, for want of a better term.
I can’t see that happening though, as I doubt KiwiRail would have the guts to stand up for their own designation. Which means a heck of a lot of work for them in sorting out a new designation to the north, through a whole bunch of houses.