This Friday represents the first time we celebrate Matariki with a public holiday but it’s also represents the last time that trains on the Onehunga Line will go all the way to Britomart. Services are being cut back to Newmarket due to City Rail Link works but as I’ll explain later in the post, I suspect services are unlikely to be extended back again.
From Friday 24 June 2022, all Onehunga Line trains will start and finish at Newmarket Station. This is due to City Rail Link construction reducing the number of platforms at Britomart Station.
- Onehunga Line services will continue to operate on a 30-minute frequency to and from Newmarket Station, and will continue to be a limited stop service during peak travel hours.
- Customers traveling from Onehunga towards Britomart will be able to make easy and frequent transfers to Southern Line or Western Line services at Newmarket Station.
- Both lines have enough capacity for transiting passengers and operate at a 10-minute frequency during peak hours.
- Southern and Western Line services will provide connections between Newmarket and Britomart Stations. Scheduled bus services will also be available.
As noted above, the change is all to do with City Rail Link works.
The reduction in platforms in the first stage is to enable the two outside platforms (currently called 1 and 5) to be connected up to the CRL tunnels. But the reduction will be permanent, as in order to help the station cope with the expected increase in passengers as a result of the CRL, those two platforms are being made wider. That will be welcome as even now at busy times space on the platforms can be a bit tight.
Unfortunately there are no images of what the layout of platforms will be after the works are completed – I have asked CRL for it. I find it surprising that neither they nor Auckland Transport seem to have anything as I’d have thought it would be a useful tool to help explain to the public what is happening and why.
The Britomart works also include changes to the eastern end concourse and station access, making the platforms longer, moving some of the underground equipment rooms as well as improving the track layout approaching the station. These pieces of work involve having to move existing concrete walls and support structures.
While we don’t have a clear picture as to what the station will look like once the works are done, I see an answer on twitter to the question of why not just turn the Onehunga Line into higher-frequency shuttle between Onehunga and Penrose, line Nick suggested in this post.
We wanted to make the transfers as easy as possible and the connection to Southern Line services at Penrose station is slightly more complicated with a large walk up along ramps to Platforms 1 & 2, compared to a cross platform transfer at Newmarket.
Additionally, about 25% of existing customers from Onehunga and Te Papapa are going to Ellerslie and Newmarket. We wanted to reduce the need for a transfer for these customers where possible, which means only 60% of existing passengers are disrupted, instead of 85%
Given the current state and reliability of the rail network that makes some sense but that might change post-CRL.
And it’s the CRL as to why I think we’re unlikely to see Onehunga Line trains return to Britomart.
As we know, the CRL will see the network capacity significantly improve, but not straight away. At opening it will allow for about 15 trains per hour in each direction. That’s equivalent to about a 50% increase on what we have now and we’re going to need all of that new capacity to run additional six-car trains just to handle growth on the Eastern, Southern and Western lines. It’s hard to see a good rationale for reducing capacity on those other lines just to be able to to run a 3-car Onehunga Line train twice an hour.
So what happens to it, does it stay terminating at Newmarket?
The most likely outcome is it will form part of the ‘Purple‘ line – the idea of a west to south line that has shown up in previous post-CRL train plans. This is a slightly modified version of an old map to show this.
Longer term, and with (significant) additional investment, capacity of the CRL will rise to 24 trains per hour per direction and possibly even 9-car trains. That work also potentially includes an upgrade of the Onehunga Line however, by then we may have light rail built and for most trips that will likely be faster and more frequent and so more popular.
It will be interesting to see how the change goes and what impact it will have on usage, though the impact be lost in the noise in the post-Covid usage impact.
If you’re an existing Onehunga Line user, will you still catch the train?