It wasn’t picked up much by the media last week, but the one truly new piece of information that was revealed in Auckland Transport’s announcements on the City Rail Link was the inclusion of something they’re calling the “Inner West Interchange”. It’s highlighted in red in the picture below:

In many respects, the inclusion of the Inner West interchange answers a few questions that we’ve been asking on this site for a while now, particularly in relation to the scenario where the eastern link is not constructed. A big question that we were all thinking about on this site related to how some of the trains would be turned around, if they’re unable to travel directly between Newton and Grafton directly.

Without the eastern link, the rail system effectively becomes like a single line, from the west, through the CRL before branching off into a number of lines at the other end of the CRL (eastern line, southern line, Onehunga line, Manukau branch). As you obviously don’t need to run anywhere near as many trains in total on the western line as you do on all those other lines combined, you need somewhere to turn some of the trains around. After much discussion and debate, I think (and pipe up if you disagree fellow bloggers) everyone writing on this site is of the opinion that the eastern link is necessary.

With Kingsland Station and Newton Station being relatively nearby (not to mention Mt Eden station, although its future seems far from certain given the bizarre location it’s shown at in the image above), it would seem as though there are two choices:

  1. Build the eastern link and therefore don’t build the Inner West Interchange Station
  2. Don’t build the eastern link and therefore build the Inner West Interchange Station

Let’s take a bit of a close look at the area this station seems to be located:

The yellow line is 200 metres in length, which I presume would be about the requirement for an interchange station – if trains were going to be held there for any length of time before turning around to head back through the CRL. I also imagine the space requirements here in terms of width are going to be fairly extensive. Remember that we’re going to have two tracks coming out of the CRL tunnel plus the existing two tracks heading towards Grafton and Newmarket. As some trains will be turning around here you’re going to need at least four tracks and platforms: two for through trains and two for trains that will be turning around to head back through the tunnel. Presumably that means four tracks all the way between this station and the southern tunnel portal – not the prettiest thing to plop in the middle of the inner suburbs one would think.

One possible positive out of this station, however, becomes apparent when looking at the image above – it’s right next to that horrible interchange between New North and Dominion roads. With an incredibly busy station on its doorstep, we could demolish the defacto motorway interchange, narrow down the roads to something a bit more normal and create a really fantastic little transit-oriented development node. The whole section of New North Road between Mt Eden Road and Kingsland is ripe for large-scale redevelopment – and the station here could be the catalyst which enables that to happen.

Overall though, given the choice I think I’d take the eastern link. We can find other ways of removing the defacto motorway monstrosity without compromising efficient operation of the whole rail network.

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  1. This area has excellent bus services right on the edge of the CBD. All buses that will pass this station will also pass Newton for those that do have a reason to transfer so close to town. To be honest, I don’t see much point in this station’s existence from a people-transit point of view, it’s solely to turn trains around. In my opinion “Interchange” should be “Terminus”.

  2. It is very hard to how such an elaborate construction would turn out to be either much cheaper or more useful than just building the more versatile full junction at the southern portal. And surely one of the advantages of the CRL is to eliminate the need for a similar delaying movement at Newmarket why build another one at this point?

    Fixing the terrible road system here is needed and while those plans and their redevelopment opportunities should be coordinated with the rail network design in the area it is a separate issue and can, as you say be sorted without a new big station.

    The location indicated above is too close to Kingsland Station anyway. This looks like a poor option to me, born of a stubborn attachment to a clumsy and outdated running model that focuses on moving trains more than people. We are working to change to a transfer positive model that requires fast and frequent services, not more sitting in idle trains while the driver switches ends. With an Eastern Link a rider leaving the CBD would be at Newmarket long before the train had left this new station, or if on a west bound train would be well past Morningside…. I can see the need of a station between Kingsland and K Rd and if Newton is to be delayed then one that helps bridge the barrier of Dominion rd will be needed (ie east of the position above), but not a four track monster instead of the Eastern Link. Grade separate.

  3. It seems ridiculous to introduce another terminus station to the wider CBD, given the limitations that arise from the existing one we are trying to fix.

    The question is, if we ditch Mt Eden station, is the gap between Kingsland and Newton too great and therefore mising out on a good catchment? Someone earlier suggested (I think) moving Mt Eden Station closer to Dominion Road, but staying the eastern side.

  4. Really bad idea to rip out the Dominion Rd interchange, as that’s what keeps the roads flowing. Turning two of the busiest roads in Auckland into a at-grade intersection would create a massive amount of congestion and fumes in the area. Hardly a positive! Personally I regard it as the most efficient intersection in Auckland. Two busy roads criss crossing each other, and all the cars are free flowing.

    I would widen out the space beneath it, add in the extra tracks, and use the free flowing nature of the road interchange to get Dominion Road buses in and out of the rail interchange with no fuss and no muss.

    Of course it should all just be left as is, and build the eastern link instead. I can’t imagine must cost being saved by having to regrade the railway between George St and Dominion Rd (it’s currently too steep for a station) and buying all those properties to fit the tracks and platforms. I’d say $50m minimum to build the interchange.

    1. “would create a massive amount of congestion” – initially, perhaps. But traffic != water; traffic is just the sum total of individuals’ decisions on how to travel, including which mode and which route; it’s not some kind of fixed environmental factor, like rainfall.

      There’d be some initial snarl-ups, perhaps – though I’m not even convinced of that (people are self-interested enough to avoid an altered route given sufficient advanced warning) – but over time people would change their route (or mode of travel – anyone living within walking distance of Dominion Road and heading to the CBD can easiliy catch a bus).

      And quite frankly this one intersection creates an enormous scar on the landscape – walking through here as a pedestrian is a mind-numbingly unpleasant experience. Anything to reduce the sense that you’ve somehow stumbled into a motorway interchange would be a massive positive for pedestrians, cyclists and the general urban form of Eden Terrace. In my humble opinion, of course.

      1. Would one set of traffic lights really cause a massive amount of congestion? There are already seven between St Luke Rd and the Symonds St bridge, why would number eight be the harbinger of the armageddon?

        It would also fix the George St issue. The only reason George is still open is that it provides for left hand turns from Dominion to New North. Replace the flyover interchange with a normal intersection and you’ll be able to turn left there to your hearts content.

        1. George St could easily be replaced by simply adding an additional offramp at the interchange. It was actually designed for it anyway.

          I’ve walked through there, and don’t see any problem with the pedestrian links. They are actually good, as they keep pedestrians and road traffic well separated, instead of walking alongside cars/trucks and being subjected to their fumes. The grass areas provide a nice green space.

          Grade separated junctions work best for transport links, and this is one of those locations where they got things right first time.

  5. This Inner West Interchange/Terminus would be a terrible idea. Why the hell would we want to actually build in a massive network limitation like this?! Over in Melbourne and Sydney we have both cities spending billions to untangle their lumbering land and resource intensive commuter rail systems… and over here in Auckland in the second decade of the 21st century we are planning what they realised was incredibly ineffective decades ago. Who would actually go out an intentionally design a system like this? Did they step into a cryosleep unit in the mid 1970s and recently emerge to pick up their rail planning carreer right where they left off?

    We are all very familiar with the limitations of the Britomart throat tunnel and terminus arrangement, so why replicate it? Instead of bringing trains in the tunnel to terminate at Britomart then sending them back where they came, we’d be bringing them through the four tunnel stations to terminate before sending them back again. That gets folks to stations closer to their destination, but it doesn’t do much to increase capacity.

    Sure we could take the western line out of the equation, but apart from that we still have to bring everything in, terminate, and send it back again on the same two tracks from Quay Park. It’s the same damned problem we are trying to solve! Given that those return trains start their run on the edge of the CBD there are going to be few if any people waiting at the Inner West Interchange to catch it in the counterpeak direction, the trains bouncing back will be as good as empty. That means a third of the trains running through the new tunnel would be empty, or extremely close to it. A full third of the capacity of our rail network occupied by shifting empty trains! Who designs these things?

    Without the eastern link to connect tunnel back to south-east side of the network, every line apart from Western Line is still forced to run in and out of the CRL through the same constrained throat tunnel at Britomart. So the only capacity you gain are the slots previously occupied by western line trains. If you think about it, this means the only capacity increase the CRL would allow is what we could reasonably run on the western line. That would be maybe 10, 12 trains an hour at the most before we just start moving around lot of empty trains.

    So a two billion dollar tunnel that only manages to add 10 or 12 trains an hour to the system because of some lugheaded thinking. Add in the fact that it orphans off Grafton Station to who knows what end, plus that it forces every single train through Newmarket to follow the Parnell-Britomart-Aotea path through the CBD (even though Newmarket will see more than enough trains to provide quick frequencies in both directions). It also means that only half the lines can be through-routed, meaning the other half are guaranteed a forced transfer to make it to non-CBD destinations.

    Realistically, this is what we could have:
    -Current capacity at Britomart: ~20 trains an hour
    -Without an eastern link and an inner west terminus: ~30 trains an hour.
    -With an eastern link and at-grade junctions: ~40 trains an hour

    So why is this option even on the table? A quick figure of capacity constraints would reveal it isn’t worth progressing.

    1. Nick perhaps they intend to not reverse trains through the CRL but send them to Grafton and south? Although why you’d want to pause them at an ‘interchange’ station instead of allowing them to go direct is close to impossible to fathom. Very hard to see any advantage in this idea over a proper junction south of the portal. Sure this will involve buying more crappy commercial properties but so will this pointless station. Where is the upside?, if it is capex I love to see how much exactly (looks like short termism again) as well as what sort of running pattern they are proposing….

      1. I highly doubt it. For a start it would be technically difficult. The aim to build a four track section to a partial terminus station suggest the aim is to remove the junction from this location. To allow trains to move from the CRL to the Grafton section via a turnaround at station (and vice versa) would require either a flat junction crossing all four tracks, or an extremely elaborate arrangement of ramps and weaves. I can’t see either work.
        Also, reading between the lines we can assume they are working to a peak hour CBD commuter service model. If trains didn’t bounce both ways through the tunnel then you have some lines that aren’t servicing the CBD directly

        1. I’m not sure I agree with your last point Nick.

          If we could use this station to route trains from Onehunga via Grafton to Manukau via Glen Innes, and vice-versa (although you’ve convinced me there are issues with this), former admin Josh’s suggested operating pattern would be able to be used.

          I see this suggested operating pattern as the only optimal one, as it would allow for the greatest frequency’s on all lines, with minimal grade separation required in the future, and the Newmarket reverse eliminated.

          Therefore I don’t see why routing in this way would not be “servicing the CBD directly”.

        2. Sorry probably a bad turn of phrase there. My point was that going from the south via a turnaround detour in Eden Terrace it would be an indirect way to get to the CBD, so not likely on a peak commuter centric model.

  6. It will be interesting to see what the costing of a station here would be,

    Why is the Eastern portal such an effing problem,
    Is it a money issue? or engineering?
    They have had years to plan this link and now they think they need a new station to turn trains round at because they cant turn one branch of the the tunnel to face east??

      1. In my opinion it’s an engineering problem in the context of a poorly defined strategic purpose. It may be one solution to the engineering problem, but only if you are asking the wrong question.

  7. A properly costed Inner West Interchange is a necessary part of examining alternatives. After some land acquisition and track regrading, it will quickly work out to be more expensive than building the eastern tunnels. Then add in the 30-year costs of running trains between the Inner West Interchange and Brittomart, and the eastern tunnels will look like a bargain.

  8. Why not use the existing Mt Eden station location as the interchange?
    The route is described as two parallel separate tunnels. It would be easy to split them at the intersection of New North Rd and Mt Eden Rd, follow each road for a short distance, then loop around to meet at each end of the platform(s).
    In this way, passengers from the west could transfer to go to Newmarket & south, and vice versa, without reversing or without having to backtrack from Newton Station.

  9. Would anyone one like to draw us a picture of a likely track layout. I am thinking it might not be to bad. Better than Quay park junction and Newmarket anyway.

    1. I don’t know the exact plans but I believe something like this, the idea being that west traffic has a clear run through the station while terminating trains could access either platform from any direction.

  10. I would like to know the plan for the NAL through Mt Eden. If the CRL emerges below Porters Ave, then will the NAL be sunk to the same level, or will it still go up over Porters Ave?

    1. I am hoping that as part of the project we at least get Porters Ave. If we go with the Eastern Link then we should be able to do Normanby Rd. With the Inner West station I would hope we would sort out George St

        1. See my comment above. The pressure to close George St has been resisted so far because it functions as the left hand turn from Dominion to New North, which you can’t do at the flyover interchange. Replace the flyover with a normal intersection and problem solved (and much better local environment, with new land and street frontages to develop).

        2. Easier and cheaper to add the left turn offramp to the interchange, which it was designed for.

          Turning a free-flowing junction surrounded by green space, into a place with traffic congestion, fumes and car parking (for the buildings you want to replace the green space with) would be a huge step backward.

          It wouldn’t be better local environment at all, it would be just another large multi lane intersection where air quality exceeds WHO standards. We have enough of those already, let’s not add another.

        3. Oh Geoff we know you have a problem with imagining change but really you are completely alone [except perhaps for the odd retrograde like Mr L Scott] in seeing value in this absurd dinosaur… have you actually been there, had a walk around? You and exactly nobody else; as the place is vile- dangerous to humans, and such a tremendous waste of valuable land. A place made by people who only value much further out elsewheres. The idea that replacing this silly overbuilt interchange will bring Auckland to a halt is specious.

          Your environmental argument is even stranger; taken to its logical extreme you would see free flowing roads everywhere and never a place to stop. Just motorways and planting. No destination. Oh how very close to the NZTA/MoT ideal: No city just driving and planting; so Green! Funny.

  11. The Dominion – New North intersection is a huge black hole , with almost no pedestrian traffic. Looking at the area before this intersection was another mini town centre like Kingland. However was totally destroyed and now is light industrial. Have walked through here a couple of times but it is very bleak and scary, so segregates areas that should be easily walkable.
    Yes it would cause a bit of local traffic congestion but that would be a good thing, as Ian McKinnon Drive mostly feeds cars to Queen St and Symonds St which is totally silly. Most of this traffic should be on PT. The inner west interchange should give a bit more capacity on this corridor so help reduce congestion. And of course in general the CBDRL will give much higher levels of service to this area from the West which should further reduce traffic through this interchange.

    1. Nail on the head there Liam. If the eastern link is built then we don’t need the Inner West interchange and that new building (exactly the type of development we want much more of in Auckland) is saved.

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