With the election of a new Government, it is highly likely we will see Light Rail from the City to the Airport via Dominion Rd and the Southwest built within the next decade. This was not only a campaign policy of the Labour party but a major part of the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour Party and the Greens.
It is also likely that the East-West link as proposed by the previous Government will not go ahead, instead being replaced with a more fit for purpose corridor upgrade.
This presents an opportunity to have a little re-think of the Light Rail’s alignment. Currently, the plan is for light rail to pass over the top of the Onehunga train station and Neilson St, now that the rail bridge has been removed. It will then follow the old rail corridor for a short distance before crossing over the Manukau harbour and passing underneath the existing motorway bridge as seen below.
Panuku is currently working on a plan of urban regeneration through a project called Transform Onehunga, which was covered by Matt here. This exciting project was hugely undermined by the now cancelled version of East West Link. One of the major parts of the plan was the redevelopment of Onehunga Wharf post-2023 into a mixed-use waterfront precinct, the Wynyard Quarter for the Manukau Harbour.
At the same time, discussions are happening over the replacement of the over Old Mangere Bridge now over 100 years old. While a new pedestrian and cycling bridge has been consented, it was put on hold due to East West Link. More about the design can be seen from this Bike Auckland post.
The combination of above together creates a great opportunity. What if, instead of building the Light Rail as originally proposed, we had the Light Rail included in the replacement of the Old Mangere Bridge with a station to serve the development by Panuku at Onehunga Wharf? This is similar to what TOES suggested, minus their proposed alternative motorway interchange. This alignment would mean:
- One less structure over the harbour;
- A new station serving Onehunga Wharf, increasing feasible transit orientated development. Imagine being able to go see Wynyard Quarter to admire the Waitemata then catch the Light Rail to Onehunga Wharf to admire the Manukau;
- A re-thought Old Mangere Bridge would likely result in even better cycling/walking upgrades;
The new alignment would also create the ability for a better-placed station further west, much closer to Mangere Bridge Town Centre. This would be a much better catchment than just by the motorway. All in all, realigning the Manukau Harbour crossing could have many positive benefits especially enabling a fantastic opportunity of transforming the Onehunga waterfront.