One of the goals for Auckland’s rail network is the removal of all level crossings on the electrified network. Primarily this is about improving safety as with more and more trains expected to be running in the future it will mean barrier arms will be down more often, increasing the chance that people will take risks at level crossings to avoid delays.

Most recently we’ve seen the removal of the level crossing on Sarawia St in Newmarket, and a few have been removed around Mt Eden as part of the City Rail Link, but that will still leave 28 road crossings and around 14 pedestrian-only ones (including at stations).

Those are broken down as:

RoadPedestrian OnlyTOTAL
Western Line15722
Onehunga Line808
Eastern Line022
Southern Line5510

The four highest priority for removal are the four around Takanini – Spartan Rd, Manuroa Rd, Taka St and Walters Rd.

These four crossings see the highest number of train movements through them compared to the other ones on the list, with AT’s passenger services passing through as well as regular freight and the odd intercity train. By 2030, it is expected a train will pass through the level crossings every 2.5 minutes.

Walters Rd is also the busiest level crossing for vehicles, with recent traffic counts showing over 18,000 vehicles a day. That’s more than most state highways outside Auckland ,and a significant increase in usage over the last decade or so thanks to all the greenfield development nearby. In fact, growth has been so strong that now nearly 50% more vehicles cross Walters Rd than do at the second busiest crossing, Manuroa Rd – there are a couple of other crossings with similar counts to Manuroa.

The Supporting Growth team is currently consulting on plans to change the crossings. The proposal is for all four crossings to be replaced, but two of those will only be with walking and cycling bridges. However, they also propose a new crossing.

We want to reduce the number of level crossings in Takaanini. Removing level-crossings will make it safer and faster for you to move around Takaanini because you won’t need to stop for trains when safety barrier arms come down.

We are looking at options, like bridges, to get you safely across the railway tracks.

These changes are still a number of years away, but we are planning them now to make sure people can move around Takaanini more safely and efficiently.

Looking at the changes more specifically:

Spartan Road 

We’re suggesting completely closing the railway level crossing on Spartan Road and replacing it with a new walking and cycling bridge. While you won’t be able to drive across the railway on Spartan Road anymore, we are proposing an alternative crossing for vehicles close by.

Manuia Road

We’re suggesting a brand-new railway crossing at Manuia Road. It would be a fully separated crossing, like a bridge, for people walking, cycling and driving.

Looking at the bigger picture, it does appear that this bridge is intended to for serving the industrial area just north of the tracks that is currently served by Spartan Rd, otherwise trucks and other vehicles would almost certainly be pouring through residential areas.

The question though is: where does the bridge go to? Are the they taking out a bunch of houses and/or a kindergarten. Alternatively, would the bridge sweep north a bit, so as to only travel through what’s currently industrial land?

Manuroa Road

We’re suggesting completely closing the railway level crossing on Manuroa Road and replacing it with a new walking and cycling bridge. While you won’t be able to drive across the railway on Manuroa Road anymore, we are proposing an alternative crossing for vehicles close by.

This will almost certainly be the most opposed aspect of the proposal. In the FAQ, a bit more information is given as to why closure is planned here:

When considering what was needed to provide for travel south of the industrial area, we had to decide between providing vehicle access at either Manuroa Road or Taka Street. Our assessment showed that providing bridges for motorists on both roads did not result in notably more benefit (relative to the cost and more significant impact and disruption to the community of two bridges).

Manuroa Road was not preferred for vehicle access because:

  • Manuroa Road is closer to the Manuia Road intersection and the State Highway 1/Takaanini interchange. This means that accidents happen on Manuroa Road there may be a flow-on disruption to the operation of the Manuia Road intersection and the State Highway 1/Takaanini interchange.
  • The option of Manuroa Road would have resulted in a less evenly spaced transport network and provided less resilience for the network.
  • A vehicle connection at Manuroa Road would have likely resulted in more properties being impacted.
  • Using Manuroa Road as the main connection to and from the industrial area would result in increased industrial traffic on a largely residential street.
  • A further benefit of Taka Street compared to Manuroa road is that Taka Street services more diverse and intensive areas when considering land use and development.

Taka Street

We’re suggesting closing the railway level crossing on Taka Street and replacing it with a fully separated crossing over the railway, like a bridge, for people walking, cycling and driving.

Walters Road

We’re suggesting closing the level-crossing at Walters Road and replacing it with a fully separated crossing over the railway, like a bridge, for people walking, cycling and driving

Consultation is open till the 26 September

While we’re on the topic of level crossing removal, one other one that Auckland Transport are currently progressing is Church St East, in Penrose.

Unlike the roads above, It is possibly the quietest crossing in the network, with only around 300 vehicles, 75 pedestrians and 55 cyclists using it on a typical day (as it’s only used for accessing a few properties).

Auckland Transport has a page about it, saying that consultation on a preferred option for dealing with the crossing was meant to go out the public earlier this year. However, that hasn’t happened – so AT, if you’re reading this, what’s happening?

Meanwhile, AT currently has two tenders out to market related to level crossings.

  • Pedestrian crossings – AT is planning on closing some of the stand-alone pedestrian crossings prior to the CRL opening, and is moving to the detailed design phase for it. It would be very concerning if most of these are outright closures rather than being replaced by bridges:
    The project’s objective is to close five standalone pedestrian level crossings at 5 locations, including O’Neills Road, Corban Estate, Lloyd Avenue, Kingdon Street, and Tironui Station Road East. The project will also remove two pedestrian level crossings located at Homai Station.
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  1. Thanks for bringing this for discussion! I’ve provided feedback on the Takaanini plans. Closure of the road crossings doesn’t bother me, but the new park and ride is now quite inaccessible for anyone west of the rail line. There is no safe cycle route and only poor pedestrian routes from Conifer Grove to the station, so there needs to be some joined-up thinking around access.

    There is a glaring omission from the Takaanini consultation. The train station itself – it’s not even shown on their drawings! It is an island platform, as is Te Mahia, and there is no mention of how safety and access will be maintained with greater frequency of trains. It needs urgent consideration, as I’ve seen people access both these stations by going around or over the automatic gates.

  2. Awesome to see this happening now, not after the CRL. There are far to many opportunities car drivers to mess up the entire rail network. The loss of pedestrian crossings is bummer but the transport network being faster and more resilient is a big win.

    1. Unfortunately they’re very cautious to NOT say when it will be completed, alluding only to “these changes are still a number of years’ away”. CRL should be open in about 2 years and given that these crossing removals haven’t been designed yet, I really doubt they will be built by then.

      1. It’s far preferable to the bike infrastructure approach. Build the “motorway” equivalent shared path for more than 10 million per km. Once open then consider a network.

        The speed difference between the Western and the Eastern and Southern is just silly.

        1. Yea, it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. West light desperately needs that light tho.

          Close it build a accessible crossing at west end. Build another apartment at the park and ride.

  3. Telling that vehicle crossings are replaced with multi-million dollar bridges or underpasses but they appear to consider simply closing walking access perfectly acceptable. They do realise that people can’t take their cars on the train I hope?

  4. The Church St East crossing is really useful for cyclists and pedestrians. It provides a safe route from O’Rorke Rd through to Vestey Drive/Gt South Rd via Industry Rd and Southdown Lane. The alternative (via the Church St overbridge) is hostile to say the least. I used it every day for many years while commuting between Greenlane and Manukau. It would be great to retain pedestrian and cyclist facilities there. I’m not sure what it’s like now but when I was using it there were multiple attempts made to block vehicular access to the carpark on the western side of the crossing with large concrete blocks (effectively closing the crossing). They were always pushed aside by someone with forklift so they never lasted long.

    1. I agree. This crossing forms part of a very useful route for cycling in and around New Zealand’s largest industrial employment area; the alternatives are diabolical.

  5. Our level crossings are quite budget compared to what they have in the UK (the few they do have). Their barrier arms are much more solid, they cover the full width of the road, and the lights are massive and very prominent. While it would be nice to remove all the level crossings, in the mean time couldn’t they upgrade the barrier arms and lights, surely the cost of that is insignificant.
    For example:

  6. Sorting these level crossings out is a good step. The traffic near Takaanini School is too fast and dangerous at the moment. Changing the Manuroa Rd crossing to walking and cycling only could improve the safety of the crossing on Manuroa Rd near the school substantially, as well as the Takaanini School Road intersection.

    It would be helpful if they could also provide a traffic circulation plan for the area, though. I can see ratruns people might use in response. It’s a perfect time to comprehensively resolve multiple problems at once by dividing the area into low traffic neighbourhoods; the cost would be negligible but it would stop these changes from having unintended results.

    Making piecemeal improvements such as removing the level crossings, without accompanying LTN circulation plan changes, makes life harder for AT. They’ll get anti-cycling and walking feedback about the level crossing changes; instead they could be really demonstrating benefits of transformational change, with very little extra cost.

    1. Completely agree. Level crossings absolutely need to be modified or removed, but if done in isolation it will have unintended side effects.

  7. Excellent, good permanent fixes are urgently needed here, make the case.

    But so many questions. Many would be answered by showing us the actual proposed designs. Come on, do we have to guess? Like that whole new crossing at Manuia? How and where please?

    Space for quad tracking?

    Station access?

    Add a station south of Walters Rd? There’s ~3.6km between stations there and so much new housing, looks like a useful addition. fix sloppy dwells and padded timetable and journey time can be maintain and improved.

  8. I had a look at the tender for the professional design aspects of the pedestrian crossing removals. I stopped looking at the tender as soon as saw there was no mention of providing alternative means (bridge etc) as replacement access routes. So just closing them. Nice…..

    1. We need a functioning network, and we need an affordable way to achieve it. That will mean some traffic circulation changes. This is what cities do; it’s both common and best practice. Forking out huge money for infrastructure just to keep the driving circulation the same as right now has no merit.

  9. The highest priority crossings used to include St Jude St and Woodward Rd. Too hard perhaps.
    Good to see at least some hints of progress.
    The house sections on the south side of Portrush lane line up perfectly with Manuia Road, although maybe this won’t be enough space for a 2 lane bridge plus slip lanes on the Manuia side?

    1. The Davis Cres bridge isn’t far to walk, and the trains only crawl through there because of the current direction change at Newmarket – once the CRL is in, that won’t be happening, so the trains won’t be sitting around waiting anywhere near as much as now.

  10. Yep, that sprawl all east of Porchester Road is certainly making Walters Rd and Manuroa Rd crossings very busy. Big chance here for a bit of vehicle movement disruption, but that traffic (as mentioned above) will find other ways to get around on some quiet residential streets.

    The sceptic in me thinks the closure of the crossings they’re wanting to close makes the case for Mill Road stronger …

  11. Suspect that the sequence will be: Manuia, close Spartan, then Walters and
    if there is anything left in the budget, Taka.
    Will the pedestrian crosssings at the island stations, Homai, Te Mahina and Takaanini still be usable? Had the experience at Takaanini station of a southbound train holding back so that I could cross the tracks to the platform before the gate closed. The nouthbound train often arrives just after the southbound so if you are on the carpark side you miss the Britomart train.
    If the road pedestrian crossings are closed will Tironui Station Rd crossing also be closed.
    Seems like an opportunity to apply the principles of TERP. Can trips be reduced? For example, what if more retail was available onthe East side of the rail line

  12. Crossing designs are feasibility-only at this point, to ensure land can be protected. So they could end up looking different, hence nothing shown. Feedback is a way of saying what you would want to see. Takaanini Station and four-tracking are allowed for and will be part of the design solutions. Wouldn’t it be good to see developers putting more retail and other services east of the railway, so people don’t have to travel so far. And good walking and cycling network is vital, even though not part of this consultation away from the crossings.

    1. Not sure I agree that Auckland should do it the Melbourne way. I am tapping this out some 50 m from the twin viaducts of the “Skyline” at Murrumbeena on the line between Melbourne’s CBD and Pakenham. They are about 10 m high here. A massive pair of concrete structures many km in length with significant grades and huge cost. OK for EMUS and light passenger trains (which is what this line carries) but not for the heavy freight the Auckland system carries.
      That being said I am enjoying criss-crossing Melbourne by train and tram although one member of the family has succumbed to Covid which I suspect was caught on the PT.

      1. I like the idea of elevated passenger rail with a view. Something to do instead of staring at a phone screen.
        For example, when/if I ever get the chance of travel to Tokyo one of the things I want to do is use the elevated monorails around the edge of the harbour.

      2. There are definitely some freight trains that use the Gippsland line, which is what the Pakenham suburban line is part of.

  13. Seems like a perfect spot for a takanini station would be at Walters road behind the Warehouse, and people could move to each of the shopping centres and public could also use the bridge as a link. Cars on a vehicle bridge!
    Do we really have confidence in Ak Council, getting it right?
    As long as they get a newly graduated Uni student helping instead of consulting the people that use it, we will be right, eh?

    1. The land for that station is on the other side on Walters Rd (Tironui). Don’t know if we should thank Julius Vogel or Gordon Coates for that.

    2. The area was all planned on the basis of there being a station there. High density centre, rail station dropping to less dense zones further out. Papakura District approved it all, the ARC was in support but after it was approved a couple of rail wankers managed to stop the station dead. Apparently it was too close to other stations for the train to reach full speed and getting up to speed is somehow important. So instead of a planned centre they got what is there now.

      1. More than likely. But now is the time to add it back in, looks like station would run south from new Walters road over bridge, which would provide access down to an island platform. With an over bridge at southern end too, where the old Tironui station was.

        Heaps of new housing in the area now.

        1.6km to Takanini, 2km to Papakura is a more than enough spacing. KR are only concerned about their freighters so add a third at the same time (and space to quad).

        Yes this will cost more, but isn’t modeshift the serious biz in transport now, not fretting about illusory ‘driver delay’?

        1. Yes, let’s slow the trains down even more with yet another stop. New stations should only be considered after the line is 4 tracked all the way from Papakura to Otahuhu.

  14. Looks like slow but good progress on these. Interesting all these ones in one spot but I think they would of been delayed due to the indecision about rationalisation or moving of the Takanini & Te Mahia stations.
    They have done a bunch of upgrades on pedestrian crossing with better gate systems haven’t they recently, especially on the Western line. Not sure any vehicle crossings have been improved as in interim measure to grade separation?

    1. Seems like the delay of messing with those southern stations has been a success? With the NPS-UD and MDRS the more coverage and more stations we can get the better, the ridership will follow as housing will be built. Really need to be looking at (re)adding a Tironui station.

      Combined with the 3rd and 4th mains in that area, there really should be no concern with the speed long term. We should eventually be running express services from the new southern stations.

  15. I recently spent several weeks staying with family who live in suburban Tokyo where the local commuter line runs above ground and has level crossings at every residential street, often not more than 500m apart.Trains run both ways at around 5 minute intervals (or less) and everyone seems to cope perfectly well! Often there are stations right next to a crossing and the trains accelerate way faster than ours! Maybe the Japanese are just more accustomed to trains?

  16. I’m not sure if AT remember where Ranui is, but that crossing and the intersections around the station are a dog’s breakfast. Silver lining is that all the backed up cars waiting for the train make it possible to cross the roads given there is zero provision for people on foot or bike at every other moment. I like it when the train shows up to save the day just when you need it.

  17. The proposed bridge at Church Street is simply nuts. As I told the level crossing team several years back it would serve only a handful of businesses. The better alternative would be to work with affected businesses by developing drive ways connecting to Hugo Johnson Drive – as such they could be designed for low speed travel and thus at a much lower engineering standard to those required for roads. As such it could be achieved for a few million versus tens of millions for a full blown grade separated bridge just 75 metres or so south of the Church Street overpass. Better to spend the money saved on one of the numerous Western Line level crossings.

  18. Comparisons with the massive Melbourne Level Crossing Removal project are not well placed. The State of Victoria sold the port company for billions to fund railway improvements, including $2 billion for the first lot of level crossing removal with a promise to top that up later. They started with about 150 level crossings and have already dealt with about half of them – in some cases by elevating a kilometre or more of track.

    1. I think their skyrail solution is great, looks awesome, great views, makes a cycle / walking route underneath. Might not apply too well on the southern line where we need 4-6 tracks and intensive diesel freight operations though.

  19. If Walters Road level crossing gets grade separated, a new station ought to be built here to service all the massive amount of development which has gone in along Walters Road. There is quite a distance between Papakura and Takanini stations at present. Platforms could be built beside The Warehouse next to the Takanini Village shopping centre. There would be a big walk up catchment area, as well as Takanini Village and the Southgate shopping centre being destinations themselves from other surrounding areas in either direction along the Southern line.

  20. “Our assessment showed that providing bridges for motorists on both roads did not result in notably more benefit (relative to the cost and more significant impact and disruption to the community of two bridges).”

    I’d like to see the detail behind this, it’s AT people in an office throwing darts at wall of options. I bet there will be disruption to the community with only one road crossing rather than two. There’s so much development going on to the east its shortsighted to be removing the ability for cars to cross. Not everyone can cycle everywhere.

    Shortsighted to be removing driving options. There’s so much development going on to the east

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