Auckland Transport have lodged notice of requirement and resource consent documents for the Newmarket Crossing project which is a bridge from Cowie St to Laxon Tce and is so that the Sarawia St level crossing can be closed. The level crossing is currently the busiest in the country in terms of train movements and its proximity to the Newmarket Station and junction impacts on services across the rail network. For more information on here is a good fact sheet from Kiwirail that explains the rail impacts.

The bridge and approaches will be fairly narrow and designed to keep vehicle speeds down which makes sense giving this is a local road connect to a handful of households. Below is the concept designs for the road. There is a footpath on the northern/eastern side of the crossing and it appears the intention is for cyclists to share the traffic calmed road with vehicles.

There will also be connections to Newmarket Park and what appears to be a link down towards the train tunnels. I imagine that’s initially just for access for Kiwirail maintenance crews however longer term the local board want to open up the disused tunnel to use for a walking and cycling route.

Newmarket Crossing May 2015 Newmarket Crossing Cross Section

And here is the an image from the Notice of Requirement of the proposal showing the design footprint

Newmarket Crossing October 2015

Some of the residents of Cowie St have been particularly unhappy that the connection will be via their street. You may recall they even went as far as proposing their own connection of an underpass from Sarawia St. Below is an excerpt from the application assessing their proposal.

Sarawia St Underpass option - Cowie St residents proposal

In June 2013 representatives from the PCC and CSRA approached AT with a proposal for an alternative underpass alignment. The underpass was proposed as an alternative option to allow closure of the Sarawia Street crossing while retaining vehicle access to Laxon Terrace and Youngs Lane. It was suggested by the PCC and CSRA that this would be more acceptable to residents.

Following a decision made by the AT Board to select the Cowie Street Over Bridge option as the preferred option for the Sarawia Street level crossing closure in December 2013, there was a request from the CSRA to present an alternate underpass proposal. The underpass proposal presented by the CSRA (Figure 14) followed a different road alignment to that investigated by AT but most closely resembles the AT option shown in Figure 13 above. The CSRA proposal was subject to both an internal AT review as well as an external expert review (Opus), neither of which substantiated the underpass proposal as a superior option to the Cowie Street Over Bridge option.

AT’s assessment of both the April 2014 and August 2014 CSRA reports concluded that they did not convincingly make the case for overcoming the principal issues associated with an underpass at Sarawia Street that were:

  • High risk and disruptive construction phase when compared to alternative options.
  • Most challenging CPTED concerns compared to alternative options.
  • Significant traffic safety challenges when compared to alternative options.
  • A low benefit-cost ratio when compared to alternative options.

AT concluded that overall the underpass option, although a technically feasible option, still retains significant construction risks, rail disruption, CPTED concerns and traffic safety challenges. AT did not agree with the CSRA underpass design assumptions that resulted in the substantially lower cost estimate prepared for the CSRA report.

Recommended remediation for the identified CPTED issues included footpath widening, underpass widening, chamfering of approach, allowance for sightline issues relating to steep vertical grades, and the installation of a convex mirror. Similarly, remediation for traffic safety issues in the concept design would require widening of the underpass and chamfering of the approaches to improve vehicular sightlines and turning circles.

Several deficiencies were identified in the underpass concept design presented by the CSRA relating to structural and geotechnical design. Remediation for these deficiencies was considered to result in increased section sizes for the over-road bridge structure relative to those shown in the design presented by the CSRA, the use of piling at the abutments, and more sophisticated abutment articulation to provide seismic resilience, among other design modifications.

Identified constructability issues related to Block of Line requirements, KiwiRail access, lifting of precast elements, and sheet pile construction. These issues were considered by AT to be further compounded by all the changes to the current underpass concept design required to arrive at a viable solution. The resulting final underpass design would therefore be markedly different from the proposed concept design, with considerably increased construction time and disruption to the rail network

AT considered that the Cowie Street Bridge Option remained a superior option to the underpass option prepared for the CSRA.

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  1. Wouldn’t it be easier to just extend Furneaux Way into Laxon for vehicles and just put in a pedestrian/cycle bridge across the rail line?

    1. Yes and that remains my preferred option however faced even stronger opposition from locals from both of Furneaux Way and Laxon Tce – the latter of which would have had a longer route to get out.

  2. Given the length of time it’s taken to get to this stage and the amount of drama the process has caused, it’s great news that it’s ready for consenting.

    Another step towards world class PT in the city.

    1. Actually, it’s going to make almost no noticable difference. 90% of the trains that stop at Sarawia Street will continue to stop there after it’s closed. They are stopping for the poor (incomplete) junction layout, not the level crossing.

      1. Never mind the fact that the professionals who run it disagree with you, or the fact that the junction will be vastly simplified over the next decade which is nly possible through this project.

      2. Geoff if you know some of the background to this could you post a more complete comment. I have been trying to understand why they claim it creates additional delay for trains but I cant figure it out.

        1. Trains stop at the home signal to Newmarket junction waiting for trains to clear the western line and the platforms, that being the signal before Sarawia (tunnel side). That is because of the incomplete link to platform 4 to the western line, the fact that they must cross each other to access the western line in the current configuration and because all west trains (with the exception of specials) no longer use the direct link so they must stop at Newmarket. Tearing up Kingdon St platforms was dumb in the extreme. And the signallers sometimes forget a train is standing at a red light, true story!

          What it will do is speed up delays a little bit because of the timer delays at the level crossing when 2 trains cross but not exactly in sequence, but that is pretty minor and not a hold up every time. Geoff is quite correct on this one.

          1. OK so the point of building a bridge is to reduce delays for cars leaving and entering the residential area. It is not to reduce delays to train passengers as AT is claiming. If you didnt build a bridge the barrier would have to be closed more times each day.

    2. It is astounding that the massively cheaper, incredibly simple option of a joining road to Furneaux Way can’t be done.

      These are the very well to do types who bitch and moan about rate rises, too much council in our lives are the very types who can most afford such rises! But equally are so self centred that to allow a few cars from Laxon Tce to use their personal Eldorado is just too much. So all that cash that could go into something far more beneficial for the rest of Auckland gets wasted. Welcome to NZ 2015, me, me, me!

      The council should just invoke a compulsory acquisition in the public interest. Stuff these idiots!

  3. If this is what it takes to get 10 minute headways on the Western Line, well so be it. I look forward to finding out what the next excuse is for not having the same frequency that the Eastern and Southern lines get…

    Still, this bridge and access road are a nice illustration of one thing – how needlessly wide most of our suburban streets are. When AT really want to do narrow, they easily can – two traffic lanes, plus a generous footpath, in about half the width that Cowie or Sarawia Streets take up.

    1. Sarawia doesn’t stop 10 minute frequencies on the western line, the barrier arms are up most of the time in the AM peak between 7-8am with no network issues. Its an excuse but an invalid one for sure. There are some benefits to grade separating Sarawia, but western line frequencies isn’t one of them. Western line is just constantly neglected, cut short loosing a station that was given rubbish service, now Sturges to Swanson is getting the middle finger too with many services terminating at Henderson when there are delays and the last evening service Mon-Thurs still terminates in Henderson, 10 minute peak frequency has been promised for a long time now…

    2. Bidirectional peak TPH crossing Sarawia is 24 TPH currently, post 10 minute western frequency that will only increase to 28. Kiwirails document says the “typical” time of barriers down to barriers up is 1 minute, so even 28 minutes out of every hour is still under half, and it’s only at peak.

      Plus the post-CRL running pattern suggests only 6TPH (12TPH bidirecitonal) will cross Sarawia! Which defeats the need for this project almost entirely.

  4. These residents bought a house with vehicle access via a level crossing. They have additional cycle and pedestrian access via Furneaux Way or the path in Newmarket Park.
    1) Why does the ratepayer have to pay for this expensive 2 lane bridge?
    2) Why can’t the level crossing be retained? Even if barrier arms close it 80% of the time. Fire hoses could be run from Furneaux Way
    3) Many parts of NZ make do with single lane bridges, I’d bet some with far more traffic.

    1. It could actually be a one-way bridge with signals as the volume of traffic is abysmal. Not sure of the cost of signals vs extra lane on the bridge.

      I sat there for an hour at peak, about 20 people crossed on foot or bike, only 2 cars crossed, 1 was a kiwirail vehicle.

      1. Why the need for signals?
        Plenty of bridges in the south island are one way with a Give way sign posted for one direction, and just nearby Middleton Road, has a one way stretch as well, no traffic lights needed there.
        And the bridge will have better sight lines than Middleton Road does.

        1. Well i’m not sure of the LOS across this bridge, if there is some gradient on either end it may make it difficult to see someone coming from the other direction.

  5. The cynic in me says there could be another reason – our designers and engineers are getting pretty good at building bridges, and with the spaghetti junction at Waterview nearing completion, they could be looking at something to keep the boys in the country while getting ready for the next major job, whatever that is. I still believe that bridge is a complete waste of money when a bulldozer down the Laxon Tce pedestrian lane would do the same job for a fraction of the price. Actually, if you have a look at the 2016 edition of the Kiwimaps Auckland street directory, the work has already been done including bulldozing out the pedestrian lane

  6. The council wally planners shouldn’t have allowed the layout of that leaky subdivision via a railway crossing in the first place. Access should only have ever been via Furneaux Way. The extra traffic would not have been much. It’s not like a motorway was being put through.

    And so now the Council has to cough up to placate the sneery Parnell and Remmers NIMBYS.

  7. Yes for the price of one property you can connect Furneaux and Laxton. How does this justify the expense of a bridge?

    1. Have you looked at the two properties? They are both 3+ storey apartment buildings, presumably also in multi-title freeholds. Hardly cheap or easy, unless you legally force them to yield just part of their property (and don’t touch the buildings), and not sure how easy that would be. Even then, quite possibly years of legal fights before you could forcibly take their land.

  8. The B/C analysis seems to assume large delays to train users in the do minimum which are solved by the options rather than assuming higher delays to very few road users. It looks to me like a classic jack up!

  9. They (Greater Wellington Regional Council) closed Wellington’s Kaiwharawhara Station because the old footbridge needed attention and the cost of repairs or replacement apparently could not be justified based on the low usage of this station. This was a stupid decision that has inconvenienced a few people by a big amount.

    It’s a pity we could not just ship GWRC to Auckland, to work their miserly magic where it would be more use (closing Sarawia Street crossing and not providing any bridge), and have AT come down here to Wellington in order to get a new bridge built at Kaiwharwhara.

    As things stand, a dumb decision appears to have been made in both cases.

  10. It’s just a bizarre project.

    How many properties in Laxon are actually affected by the grade separation? Seems a huge cost to service such a small group of users.

    1. Because bizarrely the 2014 Review was instructed that cost was not a major factor:

      “The conclusion here was that the single lane option at Furneaux was preferred if cost was a major factor – this was considered value for money. However, in the context of cost not being a significant factor, participants opted for a more strategic solution in a bridge option, closely followed by the single lane option at Furneaux and the Sarawia Street to Laxon Underpass”.”

      (link in Alphatron’s post above)

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