Last week Auckland Transport and Kiwirail announced that from next September the line between Papakura and Pukekohe would be shut down while Kiwirail upgrade and electrify the line.
KiwiRail and Auckland Transport (AT) are suspending the passenger train service that connects Papakura and Pukekohe from September 2022 until the second half of 2024, to allow for the work needed to extend the electric train service to Pukekohe.
The announcement comes as work picks up to ready Auckland’s rail network for the opening of the City Rail Link (CRL) in late 2024. The service will be replaced with buses and then restart with the electric trains that are currently used on the remainder of Auckland’s metro network.
KiwiRail’s Chief Operating Officer, Todd Moyle, says Aucklanders are now seeing a major step change in the amount work being done to improve the city’s rail network over the next three years.
“The City Rail Link is going to be a game-changer for Auckland, allowing more frequent and more convenient commuter services to get people around the city. But to get to that point there is a vast amount to be done over the next few years.
“We are working closely with Auckland Transport to develop a multi-year work schedule across the network that will give the best outcome for rail users and allows us to get the work done safely and to schedule. It will create some disruption for commuters and neighbours, but we will make sure Aucklanders are informed about what will be happening and when.”
“This includes the significant work that needs to be carried out on the 19km section of line between Papakura and Pukekohe until 2025. This includes installing the electrification masts and wires, modernising the existing track infrastructure ready for CRL operations, redeveloping Pukekohe station and building new stations at Drury and Paerata.”
“Most of this work will require at least one track, and often two, to be closed at multiple locations along the route. Without suspending the commuter service, we would not be able to get the work done safely on schedule for the opening of the CRL.”
To enable the works to be delivered safely and on schedule, Auckland Transport has agreed to replace the ageing Papakura – Pukekohe diesel shuttle service train with buses from September 2022, until electric units can run on that stretch of track.
“The alternative would see rail passengers travelling between Papakura and Pukekohe facing many years of disrupted journeys and a delayed completion date.
“The electrification between Papakura and Pukekohe is expected to be completed by the second half of 2024, and in early 2025 new stations at Drury Central and Paerata should be open to the public. The new stations will provide convenient access for locals and commuters in the south will no longer need to change trains at Papakura.”
It’s great that electrification is happening and they say they’re not just electrifying the line but also rebuilding the track formation and drainage but even so, two years seems a long time for ~19km. Presumably freight trains will continue to run and the Te Huia train between Auckland and Hamilton will too.
In addition to the wires, a third substation is being built near Drury to help power the network and support the additional trains that will be running on it.
At Pukekohe the station is being redeveloped to handle six car trains, and is being futureproofed to make the platforms able to be extended to handle nine-car trains in the future. A new stabling yard is also being built. The images below come from the consent application.
They also noted that in early 2025 the new stations at Drury Central and Paerata will open. Those are currently going through a fast-track consent process and despite all the talk of making these new areas high-quality, compact, sustainable communities, they sure look like they’re being planned for auto-dependency as I feared earlier this year.
The Drury-Opaheke Structure Plan of 2019 showed a concept of a station opening out to a plaza surrounded by multi-storey buildings.
What we’re getting though looks quite different.
On the plus side, the station will have two platforms initially but is being future proofed for four tracks/platforms and there is a decent amount of space being set aside for bike parking, which when fully developed will have space for around 500 bikes.
The big concern here is the huge park and ride and stormwater pond that helps to cut the station off from any immediate housing. Typically 800m is considered as a good walking catchment (8-10 minutes for most people) but with this design around a quarter of that is going to be lost just on getting to parking. The only potential benefit is that it could be redeveloped in the future but until we see that happening at other P&R sites, I won’t be holding my breath.
Perhaps it’s just the level of detail for these drawings but there doesn’t even seem to be any pedestrian crossings planned.
The staging plan is shown below with Stage 1 being what is delivered as NZ Upgrade Programme.
Here’s a cross section of the station once fully developed.
The roads accessing the station will be wider than many of the arterials on the isthmus
Down the tracks at Paerata it’s a near identical story though in this case the Park and Ride is on the opposite side to where most of the development is happening and that means a new road and bridge over the rail corridor is needed.
That new road connects to SH22 and has a similar cross section to the one shown above. The station itself also has a near identical cross section.
Why didn’t they put the station closer to the road bridge so they can have public access straight down off that instead of having to loop around the stormwater pond. They should also include a path from the road along the western side of the rail corridor to the station.
The bridge is being designed to be wide enough for four tracks and also for an active mode corridor on the eastern side.
The staging is also near identical to Drury Central with the attributes the same.
There is expected to be some development on the Eastern side of the tracks, and zoning for up to 6 storeys will be a requirement out of the government’s housing rules, but most of the planned development is focused to the Northwest – the new road to access the station is the southernmost black line.
It seems it’s not just us that suffers with these kinds of designs, such as this tweet I saw recently from Scotland
Every time you see a proposal for a new station it's a big car park and access road, a couple of fugly lift towers and a bus shelter stuck on the platform as an afterthought pic.twitter.com/zOBjlWEe1K
— Andy Arthur (@cocteautriplets) October 19, 2021
The proposed Drury West station hasn’t been included in the application even though it is meant to be being built as part of the NZ Upgrade Programme though we can likely expect it to be very similar based on what we’re seeing above.
There has been a bit of noise about it recently though with it appearing that the developer of the nearby Auranga development is running a campaign to get the station moved closer to their development. Through an apparent residents group they say the current proposed location is “yet another example of poor investment, poor planning” and that it is in the middle of nowhere which will make it harder to access by foot and bike thereby encourage more driving and emissions. They’ve even quoted us and our previous comments about the location of the Parnell Station.
But this is a different situation to Parnell. While Auranga is currently under development, the council’s ‘Future Urban Zone’ is a lot larger and the proposed location is more in the middle of the future area.
One of the big problems with their preferred location, the dotted box below from the Drury-Opaheke Structure Plan (above), is it leaves a lot of the potential catchment undevelopable as it’s in the middle of a flood plain. As such the current proposed location, just south of the proposed extension of Jesmond Rd (the dotted line), has a higher catchment of developable land. The government’s housing changes will also make a difference here as wherever the station goes there’ll need to be significant zoning allowed.
Like with Paerata though, I wonder if there’s value in shifting the station slightly to align with the proposed extension of Jesmond Rd and allow access from it.
Given the need to get these stations built by 2025, I would assume we’ll be hearing more on Drury west soon.