It has been known for a while what the major congestion points for rail that will not be fixed by CRL are:

  1. Westfield-Wiri where a third main (track) is needed as most Auckland Freight movements, as well as two passenger lines the southern and eastern share limited tracks in this section;
  2. Westfield Junction which suffers from many of the same issues as the above where a proposed “Westfield Lite” upgrade is proposed. Consisting of an additional running line and crossovers extending from Otahuhu towards Sylvia Park, it will reduce conflicting moves at this critical junction by allowing freight trains running between the Port of Auckland and Westfield to be held clear of the main lines. This is effectively an extension of the 3rd main towards the Port and;
  3. Quay Park where Port of Auckland freight movements need upgrades such as lengthening the to the Port Arrival Road (Track) to allow longer freight trains.

We have known from AT board reports that KiwiRail has submitted a budget bid for all of the above. However, the question in my opinion if this is enough. Here are some extra rail projects we should be looking at doing in Auckland over the next ten years, especially to support the introduction of Regional Rapid Rail.

Fourth Main

The cost of a third main was costed in the business case at between $65 – $80 million while doing both the third and fourth main was costed at between $150 – $200. I wonder if doing them together and biting the bullet on cost would be worth it.

This is because:

  1. Tying the construction together will be cheaper in long run;
  2. We know we will need this in the future;
  3. Be much better for Regional Rapid Rail as well as local shunts and Port of Auckland freight movements. The latter could mean fewer trucks around events such as the Americas Cup etc;
  4. It means we only do one set of block of lines, instead of having a set now and a set in the future the more work we get done now the fewer disruptions post CRL when I suspect passenger numbers will jump through the roof;

Westfield Flying Junction 

The design for Westfield Flying Junction is pure genius allowing all types of necessary freight movements while aiding passenger movements.

For many of the same reasons, we should consider building the full flying junction instead of Westfield Lite. The other big issue is Westfield Lite will act as a sunk cost so, in the long run, we would be better off doing this right. This design will allow the third and fourth main to be fully utilised and solve a major pinch-point in the rail network in the country.

The cost of doing this right doesn’t look like it would much larger either and people wouldn’t think twice of a grade-separated junction if this was a motorway.

All in all, it may be better just to do this right,

Westfield Flying Junction

Doing the fourth main as well as the third alongside a full Westfield flying junction will make a huge difference to our rail network increasing capacity, allowing services to run faster, allowing more freight, and allowing Regional Rapid Rail to use both third/fourth mains to full effect.

Let’s be a little more ambitious.

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53 comments

  1. with regional rail and the crl, work should also focus on a third rail on the eastern line, a third rail between penrose and Newmarket, and third rail (if not forth) from wiri to papakura – without either of these I fear the network will be clogged (as the regional rail trains need to get to Britomart when the CRL opens, and there is freight of course)

    1. Yeah why does nobody talk about triple tracking the Eastern line (between Westfield and Quay Park)? I understand that Wiri-Westfield is top priority because it has Eastern line, Southern Line and NIMT freight, but why is Wiri-Papakura (Southern Line + NIMT freight) higher priority than Quay Park-Westfield (Eastern Line + NIMT freight)? Those two sections would have pretty much the same number of trains right? Is it just harder to do cause of space constraints? Or am I under-estimating how many freight trains go to Onehunga?

      1. I imagine it would be the construction difficulties. Panmure station would have to be rebuilt, as would an extra tunnel at Purewa, while the causeway would have to be widened, which would be a challenging consenting process given it is in the coastal zone.

        I think it will have to happen one day though.

          1. It would be difficult and expensive to triple track the NIMT (Eastern Line) compared to triple tracking Westfield to Newmarket and Parnell.

            Triple tracking Westfield to Parnell and quadruple tracking Westfield to Papakura would be the better and easier option to cater for current and future traffic, which is only going to increase.

            Having expess lines from Papakura to Parnell will also enable new express metro EMU services to operate, which would significantly reduce travel times from Pukekohe / Papakura to Newmarket / CBD.

          1. Where is the extra track designed to go? It looks to me that there are some reasonably solid concrete impediments on either side but I could be wrong though.

            If it is then three tracks to the Purewa tunnel would be relatively easy.

          2. 3rd main at Panmure is intended to run on the Panmure side of the station trench.
            So that platform where trains from Britomart stop, will become an island.
            Can’t go the other side – the road is there.

            Problem is that the bridge at Mountain Road which goes over the rail & road was only built for 2 tracks – the 3rd main will need to go through the eastern abutment/approach to that bridge.

            But once thats done and the abutment/approach rebuilt, should be straight through to the tunnels.

            Although the rail overbridge [at Merton Road] need to be widened too. which side it runs on through GI station I’m not sure. Maybe the west side?

            I assume they made the road over rail bridge at Morrin Road wide enough for 3 tracks when they upgraded it for electric.

          3. East side, you can clearly see the reservation for the third track here: https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-36.8973994,174.8501874,2a,75y,203.32h,86.14t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9vMZJvtGOm-N8IEM96K9yQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

            Greg, I’m pretty sure the spans of Mountain Road are also designed for the third track, the embossed concrete panels are just cosmetic. In this view you can see the bridge pier right next to the abutment, which makes me think the abutment is designed to be cut back because you’d never do both of those structures so close otherwise:
            https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-36.8967047,174.8504114,3a,75y,167.14h,95.49t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sCYm_UQq9yIVNBrFMgGA2wA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

          4. North of GI the third and fourth main could usefully climb much further up the hill.. as steeply as the EMUs can manage, with the freight trains using the existing tracks. That might get high enough for any tunnelling to be cut and cover? Noting that the gradient on the western side of the tunnel would be just as steep. Having those tracks as far up as possible (and on the eastern.. or northern side) might just allow a train station in a trench conveniently close to St Johns Road / Kohi Road / St Heliers Bay Road intersection. That would dramatically improve the eastern line’s walk up catchment and for that matter make bus to train transfers possible for the eastern suburbs.. there are currently no transit lanes on any of the direct city bound bus routes from up there until you get to Quay St.

            As for getting across Orakei and Hobson.. indeed through the spectacular and unique Pourewa Valley.. consenting should be easier than a motorway you’d think. Though the cycle way got stopped by the OBC throwing their weight around and even thr cyclong advocates going along with it and pretending that going round Hobson was just as good as going directly across. So yes prepare for a stoush at that point. Still that’s no reason not to build. Or indeed to build as far as St Johns Road meantime.

          5. Yes. If the whole of the area from Orakei to Glendowie was intensified as it should be – given how many people would love to be near those beaches – a pretty radical design for RT through the area is needed. Highly prioritised buslanes and cyclelanes feeding to the stations with a conservatively aligned 3rd and 4th main would work. But walk up catchment is key too so if other routes can be considered they should be.

            Given the political and demographical difficulties in the area, I wonder if a really radical approach is required… somehow appealing to a capitalist rather than socialist mindset, putting choices to the community with really positive outcomes for people along each possible route, so that instead of NIMBY resistance, different communities are competing for the route.

            If this can happen with a nuclear waste processing plant, I can’t see how it can’t work with a Heavy Rail route.

  2. $200m is absolute chump change. It’s a rounding error on planned spending for roading.

    Given the cost-benefit, it’s a disgrace its even being debated

    1. That’s why I don’t talk about triple tracking, only quad tracking.

      The language we use to describe the work we think should be done affects all those we talk to about the changes we anticipate in the network.

  3. Quite apart from the specifics of all these needs, they demonstrate that New Zealand needs a funded and scheduled program of Rail and PT improvement projects, in the same way it has a funded and scheduled road program. This would give greater certainty, consistency, allow long term planning, and encourage the relevant engineering skills to build up in the bureaucracy.

    It is not only Auckland projects, there are also Wellington, Christchurch and the various regional projects all waiting for funds. An annual program and budget would lead to better discipline and prioritising in the agencies proposing rail projects as well. A steadier supply of work might also drop costs.

  4. I thought Labour campaigned on completing the third main and extending electrification to Pukekohe?
    Between the Minister of Transport, Hon Phil Twyford, and the Associate Ministers of Transport, Hon Shane Jones and Hon Julie Anne Genter, there should be some planning going on to complete the work.
    Hopefully some details will be announced with the upcoming budget.

    1. Grant Robertson said Auckland’s 3rd rail, Wellington’s $90 million Wairarapara Line upgrade and the $7million double tracking between Wallaceville and Trentham on the Hutt Line should be in the May 2018 Budget.

    2. Labour campaigned on planting how many tree’s, building how many houses, cutting immigration by how many, regional rapid rail to Tauranga / Hamilton, and so many other things that they had no intention of following through on. Where do you think that the third main and electrification to Pukekohe sits?

        1. Some of those election promises relating to transport were for relatively small amounts therefore the expectation was they would be funded fairly soon. eg 3rd main, 4th main, inter city rail, electrification to pukekohe, westfield flyover, etc..
          So far they have not been and there is no indication govt is even considering them. Wish I was wrong

          1. “So far they have not been and there is no indication govt is even considering them. Wish I was wrong”

            Your wish is granted. Government have been working with HCC, WRC, and AT to deliver regional rail. They are also completely rewriting ATAP and the GPS to enable other funding.

  5. Just thinking how contentious building the East-West Link across Anns Creek was during hearings, I wonder whether it would be difficult to get so much of Westfield Junction built in what is now a mangrove forest with some probable archaeological remains.

  6. The Government should just bite the bullet and fund quadruple tracking from Papakura to Westfield and triple tracking from Westfield to Parnell.

    With the amount and scale of work required just for triple tracking the NIMT, it would make so much more sense to just quadruple track for what is a relatively small spend for a transport project.

    The amount of traffic and new services that could be carried would be well in excess of any roading project and well worth the money.

    1. I agree. There would be $ savings too. Estimators may calculate project costs from quantities, but in reality there is a lot of cost doing tendering and establishing a contractor on site with the right plant. Do both at the same time and you only establish and tender once.

    2. Robin – I agree with you. This will be future proofing Auckland’s rail network for increase inter-regional and long distance freight and passenger rail services in and out of Auckland.

  7. Planning should also be made to increase capacity to Northland with extending double tracking and electrification from Swanson to Kumeu, and the Avondale-Southdown line.

    A heavy rail loop should also be built from Onehunga to Puhinui via the airport.

    1. Ugh, you’ve just said they should bike the bullet and spend about five billion bucks on a bunch of projects we probably don’t need. I’m sure there are better priorities and efficiencies.

    2. Yes, those are the heavy rail projects we need asap. It would be interesting to see them costed, can’t see 5bn in them.

      1. “quadruple tracking from Papakura to Westfield” $200m Wiri to Westfield (https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2017/07/28/third-main-business-case-un-redacted-version/) So about $500m Papakura to Westfield.

        “triple tracking from Westfield to Parnell.” 11km at around $10m a km is something like $110m.

        ” extending double tracking and electrification from Swanson to Kumeu” $10m a km again, 14km, so $140m.

        “and the Avondale-Southdown line.” $1b not electrified (https://fyi.org.nz/request/5434-cost-estimate-southdown-avondale-link)

        “A heavy rail loop should also be built from Onehunga to Puhinui via the airport.” $2.2b +(https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/airport-and-mangere-rail/)

        Ok so with any luck it might be only $4 billion for that laundry list.

        But if we did have an extra $4b to spend on transport is that the way to spend it?

        1. I think you forgot the cost of the tunnel.

          “extending double tracking and electrification from Swanson to Kumeu” $10m a km again, 14km, so $140m.”

  8. Already put this on this mornings post. I vaguely recall someone commenting or something that the trains may run in driverless mode in the CRL sections of the rail network. If anyone want to get an idea of how this sort of works, here is a recent video…reasonably entertaining but dragged…. on this sort of thing in the UK – First Automatic Thameslink Train in Passenger Service. – this is “to get 24 trains per hour through the ‘Core’ section”.
    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4dhvcqCfeQ&w=560&h=315%5D

    REPLY

  9. Do it right, do it once.

    Our government has a bad habit of trying to save money by doing half baked jobs and ends up spending more in long term

  10. Surely if we can spend hundreds of millions on SH1-SH18 interchange at Constellation Drive, we can do the fourth main and Westfield properly? The fourth main had an indicative BCR range of 0.8-1.1 but performed better than the third on the NZTA analysis and it may very well be that the additional capacity it provides encourages demand which unlike for roads is a good thing.

  11. If we were getting the planning right, we would be going for quadrupal track Pukekohe to Westfield in anticipation of 100,000’s being housed Papakura to Pukekohe in the future….. There is already substantial freight train delays at pukekohe. I see it doesn’t seem to be an issue when it actually is and more so will be. Do the homework people.

    1. The current freight train delays at Pukekohe are due to suburban metro services occupying platforms located on the main line shared with freight trains, as well as having to change tracks to come back and empty DMUs coming in and out of the Pukekohe depot having to cross both up and down mains tracks due to the current track and signalling set up at Pukekohe.

      The congestion issue with freight trains at Pukekohe could be sorted by removing the platforms off the main line. The plan is once electrification to Pukekohe occurs, to build a new island platform off the main line in the present depot stabling yard and to build a new EMU depot with stabling sidings on the land at the south end of the station yard site (Subway Road). This will enable EMUs to come straight out of the depot, berth at the platform and then head out onto the main line at the north end of the station (with high speed points and crossovers) which will minimize any delays to freight trains.

      So with this plan, quadruple tracking will not be needed any time soon between Papakura and Pukekohe.

      Planning should however be made to extend suburban metro services to operate between Papakura and Waiuku utilising the Glenbrook Vintage Railway line during the weekday morning and evening peak periods which are days and times the GVR doesn’t generally operate. This would provide a commuter rail service to Waiuku and Patumuhoe residents and would provide new revenue for the GVR with track access fees for using their line, along with new motorised points and signalling for the connection between their railway and the Mission Bush Branch line – win, win for everyone.

      1. Do the home work, and we may have successful long term planning. The long term planning in this city wreaks of incompetence. There is more platforms and stops going in between pukekohe and papakura, and the frequency of services will be higher. The plan of shifting platforms at Pukekohe will not eliminate the delays. We are not accommodating conflicting train movements with Down services approaching Pukekohe, and through Up services. This is the current problem at Papakura.

      2. One would hope the new station overbridge etc is all future proofed for this. An old artist impression image, I have if it’s accurate, of the station shows 3 elevator/stair thingy’s, with the centre one to another island platform, which I guess you are referring to. The electrified two tracks are closest to the bus stop side and so has no island in between these two tracks. ie the centre new island has an electrified track and non electrified tack on either side. I guess this doesn’t matter as no one would really transfer here depending on how you would run regional rail through here & whether it’s an end point or not for any services.

    2. Will pukekohe quad tracking ever be necessary if the suggested bombays rail tunnel route is taken seriously?
      As for freight train delays at Pukekohe that only seems to apply to northbound trains. I have seen freights stopped south of the station awaiting a dmu to depart. What I don’t understand is why that line between the stabling sidings and the main line the dmu uses cannot be used for freights to just overtake a waiting dmu. Is it unsuitable for some reason?

      1. The loop can be used for this and it is sometimes but the speed along it is 25km/hr so very slow and cumbersome for long freight trains.

        The big mistake is the current timetabling with Pukekohe services sitting for prolonged periods on the mainline at Pukekohe, rather than at Papakura out of the way on either Platform 4 or 2.

        1. Would the simple solution to this be to make the loop the main line and the line next to the platform a loop? Upgrade where necessary the existing loop tracks and turnouts and realign to permit 90km/hr through running. Dmu or 6/9 car bemu/emu at station platform would not hinder freights running through north or south.

  12. Why not just move the ports right out of Auckland CBD and make full use of inland ports, then freight onto Mount Maunganui and as NZ First propose, Whangarei. This would have the added benefit of allowing full development of that land for other purposes.

    1. Agreed, but relocating the Ports of Auckland to NorthPort and moving more freight between Mount Maunganui and Auckland will require significant investment into the rail routes between both these ports and Auckland – which really ought to occur e.g. full upgrade of North Auckland Line with curve and grade easing, tunnel bypassing, passing loops, signalling installation, double tracking and electrification between Swanson and Kumeu, triple tracking Westfield to Newmarket and/or building the Avondale-Southdown line. With the NIMT, quadruple tracking Westfield to Papakura, full double tracking between Papakura and Hamilton. With the ECMT double tracking between Hamilton and the Kaimai Tunnel, along with electrification of the route between Papakura and Tauranga.

      Obviously this level of investment, which would be significant step by the Government towards reducing NZ’s carbon emissions and oil dependency, would also have flow on benefits for establishing new rail passenger services on these routes.

  13. Talking about bottlenecks, ask a Pukekohe commuter what train service they would like rather than the present transfer at Papakura and I am sure a large percentage would really appreciate a direct train to Manukau. The bottleneck is the southern turn-out onto the NIMT which is presently occupied by a pile of old tyres.
    Obviously this space is far better used by old tyres than as an important part of a commuter network (irony -or is it rubbery?).
    A direct connection from Pukekohe to Manukau would eliminate two train transfers on a trip to Manukau from Pukekohe. I can’t understand why Westfield isn’t lobbying to get all those potential Pukekohe customers down the line to their Manukau Mall. Completing this link and using the DMUs for this service will generate significantly more travel on the Pukekohe line. I realise it would generate some timetabling problems and that the points and signalling will cost millions, but it is a route that is obvious, will immediately generate extra rail traffic and will draw motorists off the overcrowded southern motorway. I would suspect the benefit /cost will be far better than any roading expansion south of Manukau

    1. Exactly my point about the planners and engineers getting it right. Yet another failed masterpiece in Auckland, the Manukau branch bringing and array of secret snarl ups to the whole city, and not even serving the public as it should. What really amazes me, the money that must have been spent on that motorway overbridge to accommodate a rail link that didn’t happen. Nothing short of pathetic.

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