The transport committee meets next Tuesday and there is quite a bit on the agenda. I will look at aspects at a later date but one that caught my eye is something that has been discussed a bit here recently, the Manukau Southern Rail Link Connection (page 213 – 6.9MB). We have talked about a bit in the past here and here. This report doesn’t really add anything new but does summarise many of the issues. The link is shown in red below and the intention is that it would allow for trains from south of Manukau to directly access the Manukau station.

Southern Link

The report confirms that there are some potentially big barriers to building the link. The first of which pretty much confirms that some really poor planning went into this entire area, but I guess that is fits with how Manukau has always been. About the only thing that was done right was done by the NZTA who designed the motorway bridge piers to enable it. Since that time, Kiwirail have built an Inland Port on the Eastern side of the tracks, partially covering the path of the southern link. That will only serve to add costs to the project.

As we also know, a key rail project will be a third main line that will help to separate freight trains from passenger lines however that is going in on the western side of the tracks. It means any freight trains accessing the inland port HAVE to use the same tracks as our passenger trains, increasing the chances of delays occurring. Auckland Transport is also building the EMU depot on the opposite side which will see a lot of train movements in the area, especially when combined with the Manukau junction itself. In my view the EMU depot and the Inland Port should have been on opposite sides.

Even if it can be built cheaply enough, there are also potential operational issues from doing so, in particular could the two track Manukau terminus station handle all of the trains from both North and South not to mention the inevitable conflicts between freight trains and passenger trains in this area?

As always with these things, the biggest issue will end up being if the benefits outweigh the costs. There is no information given as to just how much the physical works however the report does say that just to run a 15 minute service between Papakura and Manukau would require an additional 3 EMU. Those cost around $7.5 million each to buy and at least $400,000 each per year to run.

It is worth remembering that there is still a lot of development and services to add to the existing network. By the time electrification is finished and all of the electric trains rolled out we are expected to see a train every 10 minutes to/from both Papakura and Manukau. With those higher frequency services and a quick transfer at Puhinui, the benefit of a direct service from the south to Manukau reduces significantly. That means it may only really become a viable after significant growth in Manukau as well as particularly the greenfields expansion that is proposed south of Papakura.

Overall the most interesting thing about the report is that it suggests Auckland Transport are currently working on updating their rail development plan which will set out what they intend to do to improve the rail network out to 2041. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out of it and I wonder if they will still be using the same models which underestimate rail trips?

p.s. Nice of the council to use an image from the blog, the map has obviously come from this post.

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  1. From what I have seen so far most freight to inland port was running at night. Only see daytime inland port trains rarely.

  2. Also in this area the proposed Manukau-Airport line would need to be fed though if it ever eventuates? I fail to see how they will accomplish this without great expense with all of other the developments that are currently happening; Is this another case of bad planning?

  3. It’s good this is on the agenda, regardless. Couldn’t the DMUs be put to work on Papakura-Manukau duties…?

    It’d be hard to integrate Manukau/Papakura with an airport spur by adding another north to west bi-di curve. You’d need a lot of crossovers. Really, such a curve should come off the third main – as the airport might have freight demand too.

    I think that would be a ‘change at Puhinui’ scenario – so perhaps it could become a proper interchange. Then again, direct would be best.

    1. And then down to MCC having the misfortune to have Quax as a member at the time critical decisions about the rail were being made. If Quax wasn’t such a dick (I’ll be here all week) there might have been more acceptance of planning this properly.

  4. Your memories are short ….the inland port was built well before the Manakua Branch was on the drawing board and there is a southern connection design allowed for but AT (ARTA at the time) did want it as it wasnt in their train plan to come from south which is why tnere is a station just north of th junction

    1. Are you confusing the inland port at Southdown with this one, the rail portions were only built in the last few years (you can see in historical imagery that it didn’t exist in 2008

    2. Other way around – the Manukau Branch was planned first, from 2001. The port sidings were a much later development, and KiwiRail knew very well that the southern link was already planned when they set about drawing up a conflicting plan for the port sidings.

      You only need to look at the 2008 Ontrack electrification drawings to see the conflict clearly shown on the track layout. The Ontrack plan shows both the southern link and the port sidings, directly crossing one another.

      The conflict was easily avoided, and the future cost of changing the port sidings and hard stand should be met fully by KiwiRail, as it was their poor planning that has unecessarily upped the cost of the link significantly.

    1. That was the plan for Manukau yes. The purpose of building the branch was the divert Britomart-Papakura services via Manukau, making Manukau one of the busiest stations of the Southern Line, similar to Newmarket, and finally ending the poor placement of Manukau City (wrongly built away from the railway). However, the project was passed on to ARTA, who changed the scope of the project, ditching the southern link and shifting the focus of patronage targets from Manukau, to the other end (Britomart). It has been a spectacular failure, so now they are grasping at straws, hoping a campus or connecting buses will undo the failure. Hopefully they’ll complete the original vision, build the link, and get Manukau onto the Southern Line. It also introduces operating savings – fewer trains, fewer staff, lower track access fees etc.

  5. Is there any likelihood of rail ever being extended beyond Manukau along Te Irirangi Dr to Botany and Pakuranga in the distant, distant future? Then if an Airport to Puhinui/Manukau link ever eventuates it could continue further east.

    1. I don’t think it’s on any of the even 30-year plans that exist outside this forum. It’s proving difficult enough to get separated bus lanes constructed along Pakuranga Rd to Panmure, never mind building an actual rail corridor.

    1. Sod-all to do with Auckland, actually. The motorway is a state highway which means it’s under the control of NZTA for design and construction, and the railway line is under the control of Kiwirail for design and construction. Auckland gets to ask politely but those agencies are both under the thumb of central government.

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