Better public transport is a step closer after two important milestones towards improving Auckland’s were reached yesterday as two train stations, one new and one upgraded got underway.
Preparation work has been going on for a while now but yesterday morning marked the official start to the $60 million rebuild of the Puhinui station. The upgrade will ultimately allow for easy transfers between trains and buses to the airport. A future stage will see those buses put right at the front door using a new bridge over the rail line connected to the upstairs level.
The Minister, Mayor and others gathered to celebrate the milestone and turn a ceremonial sod.
Frequent, fast and direct connections to Auckland Airport and its employment precinct are now a step closer with construction now underway for the $60M Puhinui Station Interchange.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff joined mana whenua and project partners today to mark the start of construction of the Puhinui Station Interchange – which will open in early 2021.
Mayor Phil Goff says the new Puhinui Station will be an impressive and world-class building, creating a congestion-free link and guaranteed travel times for Auckland’s growing number of visitors – as well as the increasing number of workers and commuters employed at the airport commercial precinct.
“It’s another step towards easing congestion and creating a 21st Century transport system with rapid transit from the airport, eventually linking it with Manukau, East Tamaki and Botany, joining up with the Eastern Busway to Pakuranga and Panmure.
“While a large share of the cost will be met by our partners in NZTA and funded centrally, Auckland’s share of the cost will be met from the Regional Fuel Tax, which makes the project possible.
“The project will be completed within 18 months and ease the pressure on our transport system that events like hosting APEC will provide.”
The Puhinui Station Interchange is an early improvement of the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project, and Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says it’s great to reach another significant milestone for the project.
“The upgraded station is the first step of a wider rapid transit network that will eventually connect with the Eastern Busway in Botany, traveling along Te Irirangi Drive, via Manukau, to the airport, unlocking new social, employment and educational opportunities in South and East Auckland.”
The upgraded station will work together with the new priority lanes, walking and cycling facilities; and safety and environmental improvements that NZ Transport Agency and project partners – Auckland Airport – have planned along State Highway 20B, with construction due to start before the end of the year.
I was at the event and one of the things that stood out to me in the speeches from all speakers was the comments about it being part of the eventual Airport to Botany corridor, which will link with the Eastern Busway and which itself links to the rail line at Panmure. It’s great that politicians are now talking about the fact we’re building not just a line but a connected network of high quality public transport.
It’s rare that I’m standing next to the rail line between Puhinui and Otahuhu but being at the celebration and seeing the existing station in the background really drove home how valuable this station will be for so many people to get to the airport. With both the Southern and Eastern lines stopping at the station it meant that every minutes another train would stop in each direction and it’s that frequency that makes it so useful meaning (at peak times currently) there’s a train every five minutes to/from the city and every 10 to Manukau and Papakura. And of course once the City Rail Link opens it will enable that frequency to improve even further. There’s no way we’d get anywhere near that level of frequency if we were just building a direct rail connection – not that it’s all that easy or pratical to do so.
If there’s any concern I have about the station, it’s that Auckland Transport won’t run the bus from Puhinui to the Airport frequently enough and that neither the bus or train will run late enough, but that is a solvable problem.
As a reminder, the station will close on 28-September until the upgrade is finished.
While not directly part of the Puhinui project, early improvements to SH20B as part of the wider airport access improvements are due to start soon. These early works will see an additional lane added to the road so buses aren’t as caught in congestion, although I understand this will only be a transit lane and not a full bus lane. The works include some supersized intersections planned, such as Campana Rd – why does a small gravel road need a slip lane and a three lane exit?
City Rail Link
Up the (future) tracks and with less fanfare, the second milestone was getting underway as the first works to build the Aotea station started.
The first stage involves locating and shifting utilities such and power and water lines along Albert Street between Wyndham and Wellesley Streets, and on some surrounding streets.
So not the major construction works yet but these are first works as part of the main contract that will see the new stations built and the tunnel bored from Mt Eden to Aotea. The main construction on the Aotea station will start next year.
They also recently published this timelapse of building the tunnels under Albert St.