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.

Puhinui Station

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.

Here’s part of Auckland Transport’s press release and you can also see Phil Twyford’s press release here.

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.

A new render of the station from platform level

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.

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  1. I believe that Campana Rd intersection is showing an entirely new road, ” to allow for future development south of the state highway”. The existing Campana Rd remains the same scale, at the top of the image.

    1. Yes, you’re right. And that soil is top-class agricultural soil, so I imagine this will be a funky design that puts local food production right there in the midst of mixed use development, so people living and working there are connected with their food… but maybe I should just check that with our Council planners. Cos I might be dreaming of that other Auckland, where they make good planning decisions, and where they don’t keep ruining soil, widening roads, building massive carparks, causing climate change and pretending to be green…

      1. Hmmm yes seems when there is what *appears to be* apparently average value green space things happen big & wide & quickly as there is little resistance.

        We still think we are in the pioneering days.

        1. The only thing you need for a stable food supply is a port, and an endless supply of cheap oil to run those container ships. Who needs top class soil?

          Now I hear the Iran and Saudi Arabia are in the news…

        1. I don’t know, but easily could be for other reasons. Quick look on Google maps shows there is the Perrys Berrys on the north side and a tree nursery to the east so generally there looks to be good?

        2. Why do you say that, SDW? A number of different factors determine the use a piece of land is put to, so you can’t always assume from the land use what the fertility of the soil is. Also, pasture isn’t inherently deleterious.

          My vegetable garden as I grew up was filled with soil from Puhinui Rd because it so good it was worth taking to a different part of town! And that was from a farm that had been in pasture for about 70 years. Soil deepens, improves and grows higher in pasture, as long as it isn’t mistreated, and well-managed pasture is a way to sequester huge amounts of carbon.

        3. Continuous cropping burns soil carbon. Pasture with its continuous cover of the soil sequesters carbon and keeps the soil cool. The more carbon in the soil the better it retains and absorbs water making it more resilient in floods and droughts. A higher carbon soil will also retain more nutrients which leads to less leaching of nitrates and phosphate and also volatilisation of nitrous oxides which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Water from transpiration of the pasture rises into the troposphere and is broken down into hydroxyl radicals which react with methane turning it into carbon dioxide and water. This moisture also forms clouds which reflect the incoming sun rays back out into space. Further cooling from well managed pastures with healthy moist soils arises because the evaporation and transpiration of water requires heat which rises with the moisture into the troposphere and condense into clouds and then rain, this heat is given up high in the atmosphere where a significant proportion can radiate out into space. Compare this to an arid soil which can heat up to 60 degrees centigrade and form a heat island of high pressure this heat is re radiated at just the right frequency to be absorbed and trapped by greenhouse gases. The high pressure areas also impede low pressure rain systems from forming or moving over the land which leads to further droughts.
          So there is nothing wrong with healthy pastures and contrary to current government thinking the amount of hydroxyl ions formation can easily negate the methane produced by our farm animals. The presence of herbivore managed in a rotational grazing system builds soil fertility and sequesters carbon while continuous cropping depletes carbon. So pasture is good just what we need in and around our city as long as the farmer isn’t pouring on copious quantities of fertilisers pesticide or herbicides which will damage the soils health. Of course nutrient leaching and runoff into our waterways is a separate thing but again good soils along with riparian plantings can negate this. So don’t feel guilty about your lamb chop. Apologies about this rant but I just wanted to get it straight in my head.

      2. Maybe the owners will be able to figure the highest value use for their land themselves. I am sure if growing cabbages gives a higher return than commercial activities then they will grow some cabbages. Otherwise they might build large buildings on the land and create value that way.

        1. Relying on the market today to ensure we retain ecological health to provide for tomorrow’s needs is a kind of neolib madness, I would’ve thought, miffy. Today’s market is based on exploitation and unsustainable growth, with little attempt to price externalities or make polluters clean up or pay, so it’s a pretty poor proxy for good planning.

  2. The other day Hamilton Councillors voted 12 to one to approve $25,000 towards a business case on enabling the Hamilton to Papakuru rail service extended to Puhinui Station’
    ‘Hamilton’s trains require a separate platform and while Auckland Transport have future proofed a platform in the Puhinui Station construction, it will not enable to work to be done’

  3. Excellent that A2B is now formally underway.
    Worry not the foamer brigade have been busy spamming my posts over on CBT so we know the authorities have it right.

    As for the Hamilton service coming to Puhinui, that is waiting on NZTA to stop dragging the chain and allow the Third Main to be funded, once it is and built the 3rd of 4 platforms can be built. But good to see Hamilton starting the ball rolling.

    As for SH20B. I checked the Unitary Plan maps and north of SH20B is Future Urban Zone while south is the Puhinui Gateway Light Industry Complex. The Kirkpatrick Group who own that land got consent to connect Prices and McLaughlins Road as part of a wider consent to develop the land. I am going to take it the new Intersection is in preparation for it (yay someone is actually running infrastructure ahead for once).

    In any case onwards to Stage 2 for A2B!

    1. Thanks for details. Yes would be good to get that Hamilton train to stop at Puhinui sooner rather than later. I guess not possible while the Puhinui interchange is under construction anyway, even the Auckland ones won’t be stopping there then. March 2020 seems the starting date for the Hamilton to Auckland service.

    2. I thought that the Government has already provided funds for the 3rd rail and Kiwirail is in the process of finalising the their plans.

  4. That is good news indeed! Puhinui needs a much better station than the present one.

    What is the current journey time from Britomart to Airport via Papatoetoe in the 380 vs the 45 minutes the new station will avail (once the busway is built)?

    1. I’ve done it a few times in 45mins to the domestic terminal. Have to be lucky with traffic and the bus connection though. Would be faster without the loop through several intersections and indirect route in the airport area.

  5. It’s good to see Puhinui station development getting underway. Sadly it’s nothing to do with improving railway transit, instead an adjunct to further road transport, so called improvements on state highways to hopefully permit freer running for busses. Busses that will still bunch and bottleneck on sh20b at the restricted bridge at airport entrance.
    And that bridge has all the potential to become another ihumatao even if relevant iwi accept some substantial payment to soothe their mana. No matter how much lipstick is applied to this pig in a poke bus transit to airport and now that light rail is assigned to permanent prevarication, it is time to do this airport transit properly and seriously plan a rail junction at Puhinui to take the first stage of a rail loop to the airport. To deflate the naysayers who always state there is no east south line slots then get that 3rd and 4th main W2W done as part of this wider rail link.

    1. Bus bad train good is arguably the most boring and ill informed transport reckon ever.
      If there’s two things Auckland has proven definitively over the last decade it’s that 1. we love to ride buses when they’re run well (eg Northern Busway) and 2. we will gladly transfer, including between modes, if there a clear advantage to (eg Panmure).
      So to run this well what does it need? Priority at the bridge for buses, and Airport Co to allow a good efficient circuit on their land. And good bus frequency of course.

      Already there’s great train frequency at peaks, less so the rest of the day.
      More track there would improve reliability and reduce delay on network, but doesn’t increase capacity. That will still be limited by Britomart pre-CRL and by the two track CRL afterwards.
      Another branch off the southern line would spilt services reducing frequency to the airport and elsewhere (and cost billions).
      The only mystery here is how come rail fans understand so little about how railways work…?

      1. Yes there is also the opportunity cost of other projects & you don’t get all the other station catchments north that LRT could achieve (likely two alone near the airport (Ascot & Favona). This bus link with quality interchange is a great first step; happening quickly & at relatively low cost.

    2. “an adjunct to further road transport, so called improvements on state highways to hopefully permit freer running for busses.”

      This is happening all over, Christine. Where a simple reallocation of a general traffic lane to a bus lane is required, they widen the road instead. Where widening for one bus lane is required, they widen the road for several new lanes. The road capacity expansion in the name of public transport is definitely PT-wash, and we need to call it as such.

      But bus is often a better solution than rail. Here, it is superior for a few reasons, even if you only consider the fact that bus allows the existing bridge to be used. Technology for bus priority is well-established. Heavy rail here would create more problems – it can’t be put on the existing bridge, and would require a new crossing that’s either a bridge – so you’d have to go against the express wishes of Maori – or a tunnel, which would be very expensive, and create numerous problems.

      Let’s have a consistent approach to a low-carbon transport network, and look at the whole network of public transport for Auckland. Far more important than access to the climate change-inducing airport is getting accessible transit routes into the existing urban fabric, something that heavy rail is not well suited to.

    3. “And that bridge has all the potential to become another ihumatao even if relevant iwi accept some substantial payment to soothe their mana. ”

      Wow, racist much?

    4. A rail bridge will have the same challenges with getting iwi approval, you’re going to have to come up with a better red herring than that.

  6. I notice that Goff and Tywford weren’t wearing safety boots talk about going against health and safety rules and with them telling everyone else to obey them , so is with them saying do what we say , not what we do ?

      1. They are standing next to a beuatiful toe crushing machine to start with and if using the spades they might misfire with the spade and chop the ends ends off their shoes which would make difficult to walk for a while . And also they are within the confines of a building site where all safety gear is required , and the way the council , AT and their contractors are going on about safety you would think they would lead from the top . And don’t tell me those shoes have toecaps in them .

    1. Only one thing worse than plonkers turning up to site in a suit, and that’s plonkers turning up to site in a hi-viz jacket and steel caps and hard hat, despite knowing they’re going to be doing zero percent of bugger all.

      1. They did do something , they picked up a shovel with a sod of earth on it but it looks like someone else dug for them as it was too neat compered to what the average joe could do .

    2. Well done – you found something minor and largely irrelevant in the article to complain about. Here’s your certificate of achievement from Miffy School

      1. Thanks for the award .

        The one item I did loike was the youtube video of Albert st trench , they should show it to the owners of the stores that have complained about the work taking so long , as goes to show that you manpower to build it not automanise machines . And it goes to show it can’t be built in a day , the boys have done a great job there .

  7. Matt L -“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.”

    As they are doing this for the 1st stage of Aotea Station my question is what is the coverage/clearance between the station and the Vector tunnel which runs along the section of Albert st ? and follows up to the corner of Mayoral drive before it goes to Turner st .

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