In order to run more frequent services across the rail network once the City Rail Link opens, Auckland Transport have been required (as I understand it by Waka Kotahi who are the rail safety regulator) to remove all level crossings from the rail network. They say “this is because of existing safety regulations associated with the frequency of trains past level crossings“.

We’ve seen a hugely expensive proposal to remove the four road crossings around Takanini and AT currently have a business case underway to look at what they call their more complex rail level crossings, which are crossings that include roads and are adjacent to train stations.

Separate to those processes are seven pedestrian level crossings and AT are looking to start removing them first “as they are less disruptive to remove“. These seven are shown below – with Homai having two.

For why they’re removing crossings, AT say:

The primary reason for removing pedestrian level crossings is to improve the safety of the rail network.

Keeping the crossings open would also restrict future rail operations once the CRL is open as AT would not be able to improve rail frequency or add additional train services on the Western Line. This is due to existing legislation and safety regulations associated with train frequencies past level crossings.

While more frequent trains can increase rail capacity and improve travel times, it also makes control of pedestrian rail level crossings complex and increases safety risks:

  • There will be fewer opportunities for pedestrians to cross and therefore a greater likelihood of unsafe crossing attempts, serious injuries, and deaths.
  • Population growth and densification around train stations will increase safety risks and the likelihood of an incident.
  • Many rail level crossings in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland were originally built when there were fewer people crossing them and fewer trains on the network, therefore were not designed for the current or future rail frequencies.
  • The removal of conflict points between people and trains is necessary to meet our Vision Zero objectives by continuously working towards eliminate all transport deaths and serious injuries.

These are significant safety risks which AT cannot compromise if safe alternative routes are available.

While an incident may not have occurred at your local pedestrian level crossing recently, incidents such as near misses and collisions with pedestrians have occurred, and continue to occur, across our rail network. AT takes these risks very seriously as we work hard to provide a safer network for all Aucklanders.

While AT say this is all about safety from increased frequencies, they’ve also included this line which indicates they’re actually planning to cut counter-peak services.

We’re also planning to introduce a rail network with new services and timetables for when the CRL opens to the public. The updated timetable will improve the peak-directional frequency and capacity of services without increasing overall train movements at some level crossings.

Currently AT run six trains per hour in each direction, so if you want to catch a train from say Kingsland to New Lynn in the morning peak there is one every 10 minutes. In my view this should be the absolute minimum acceptable frequency throughout the day.

Yet this statement, along with indications about AT’s “Day One” plans for the CRL suggest there will be 8 trains per hour in the peak direction but only 4 in the counter-peak direction – so dropping to only one every 15 minutes. Cutting services when you open a $5.5 billion piece of infrastructure specifically designed to allow for more services to run would be absurd.

For all of these pedestrian crossings they say they considered a range of options but have ruled all but closure out. They say they have no funding for the only other option acceptable from a safety perspective, a bridge or underpass, as it would cost $10-15 million each plus would likely have ongoing costs for lifts and other maintenance costs – did they bother asking for funding? Meanwhile gates are not considered a long-term solution and don’t allow for increased frequencies.

They’re currently consulting on the first two of these, O’Neill’s Rd and Corban Estate but the others will be consulted on later this year and their proposals for them are available.

O’Neills Rd, Swanson

The road crossing here was closed in the early 2000’s but a pedestrian crossing was retained. There’s been a lot of housing growth just south of the rail line in recent years. It’s not clear how many people are using this crossing but if closed pedestrians and cyclists would either have to use:

  • An pass on North Candia Road that passes under a rail bridge, 400m east of the crossing
  • An overbridge at Swanson Station, 700m west of the crossing

Depending on where people are going to/from this could add hundreds of metres to any journey, plus if using the Swanson station bridge with a wheeled device will require having to use the lift, assuming it’s working.

AT say “We will seek community feedback and potentially make improvements to the alternative routes based the feedback” but there’s no guarantee there’s any funding for any other improvements so this closure will make it far more likely people will just drive instead.

Corbans Estate, Henderson

There are no proposals for this crossing and it’s closure is unlikely to have any major impacts as most people trying to get into Corbans Estate or Henderson Park can easily do so from the existing nearby crossings at Mt Lebanon Lane or the Twin Streams path that passes under the rail bridge.

For the other crossings in the list

Lloyd Ave, Mt Albert

This would require pedestrians and cyclists to use the busy Carrington Rd instead. AT say their recommendations here are:

  • Signalisation of Prospero Terrace / Carrington Road intersection with improved pedestrian facilities
  • Widening of cycle lanes on Carrington Road with new cycle buffers

But again, recommendations don’t mean required and we’ve seen AT take years to add recommended improvements, if they do them at all.

Kingdon St, Newmarket

The road crossing here was closed in early 2008 when a temporary Western Line station was built while Newmarket was rebuilt. AT want to now close it fully with pedestrians using the nearby Davis Crescent, which they say they recommend improving by:

  • Widening of the footpath on Davis Crescent from 1.3m to 2.5m
  • Provision of a raised table crossing on Davis Crescent and Short Street to calm vehicle traffic.

Homai Station

The two level crossings that access the station would be closed with access only from Browns Rd, with that access improved by:

  • Provision for a new ramp to replace the stairs between Browns Road and Homai Station to enable safe universal access.
  • Improvements to footpaths surrounding the station, including on Browns Road, to the park and ride, and the bus stop.

Tironui Station Rd

AT seem to think the Walters Rd crossing 500m north of here is acceptable.

Why not easy road crossings too?

I get the need to close crossings and not all are cheap or easy. But I do wonder why they’re not also doing the cheap and easy road crossings too. Almost a decade ago a study of level crossings found that based on traffic volumes and road function, up to ten could feasibly be closed with a further five possibly being added to that list. Those feasible and possible crossings closures for the Western Line included Fruitvale Rd, Rossgrove Tce, Asquith Ave, and George St.

Why are some of them not also on this list?

Finally, just because you have to make a change for safety, doesn’t mean you can just ignore emissions reduction and access.

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  1. “less disruptive to remove” – not for the pedestrians and cyclists who currently use them.

    They are doing these first because they know they can get away with it.

  2. It is incompetent to plan to do this before creating the Low Traffic Neighbourhood plans for the whole area.

    Councillors and Council staff: with these proposals, AT is defying direction to:

    – Supercharge Walking and Cycling
    – Deliver a network of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – which is a key action for the 2022-23 year.

    This intransigence blows my mind.

  3. Some of these seem like ‘yes..and’ investments in convenience for PT ridership, let alone the convenience of general walking and cycling.

    They should be viewed as complementing the CRL.

    Leaving that low hanging fruit shrinks the walking catchment for the stations and the network as a whole.

  4. Regarding your last point, where AT say the TERP “must be considered in conjuction with other policies… Removing the pedestrian crossings with public engagement balances the objectives”

    The TERP has already addressed this:

    “For some time now, investment in emissions reduction action such as mode shift have been viewed by the industry as one of many competing objectives… However, as the government has signalled, investments in these and other outcomes must be undertaken in a way that aligns with a reduction in light vehicle VKT and transport emissions, and greater transport equity. This signals a significant change from ‘trade-off’ thinking (where objectives are seen as in zero-sum competition with one another) to ‘co-benefits’ thinking where programmes are designed to maximise multiple objectives.
    Rather than necessitating trade-offs between emission reductions and other outcomes, a large body of research and empirical evidence demonstrate that many actions in the TERP would enhance multiple outcome areas (safety, health, network efficiency etc.).”

    This defiance from AT is not OK. There are better solutions. The staff already probably know what they are. The problem here is that the ELT haven’t accepted the TERP

    – and so the community suffers.

    1. Has this government given AT’s ‘leaders’ cover by not making climate action the number one transport priority like the Minister originally proposed? Another centrist walkback.

      1. It might be different if the governance level wasn’t so comfortable in the status quo that they fall for AT’s excuses not to take transformational steps. However, the evidence is that direction to AT must be utterly unambiguous.

        So, yes: the overarching strategic priority in the GPS must be emissions reduction. AT (and WK, if they were tasked with actual science-based targets) will simply interpret resilience to mean whatever they want it to mean.

      1. If it comes about as a result of CRL then why wasn’t the closure of these vital pedestrian links assessed as part of the CRL Notice of Requirement and put before the Commissioners as an adverse effect of that project? Were the Commissioners misled at the hearing?

        1. I guess we will all be better prepared the next time they try to ram through a rail project. We will have data on the business disturbance effects and all of the severance of communities that the rail project leads to.

        2. I want someone to call AT’s bluff and ask for the modelling of pedestrian and cycling impacts of each proposed closure like they would do for cars and trucks as a matter of course.

        3. They’d probably use the MacroStrategic Model (MSM) to model them, though, Sacha. Even though it is a model whose known limitations mean it is incapable of doing so.

          Just as they’re using the MSM to model the impacts of the VKT Reduction programme, FFS. And still using it to “inform” projects that should be attempting to reduce VKT by an amount that the model is not designed to represent.

  5. One would expect that the “safety improvements ” outlined in the removal cases,would be fully implemented before the crossings are removed,that would surely be the common sense approach.
    I wonder where this leaves light rail,the options for Onehunga are currently elevated or cutting Onehunga in half.

  6. Am I reading the chart correctly? It’s the same price and timeline to install automatic gates as it is to remove the crossing entirely?
    Why wouldn’t you do that then? The gates would be open for 8 mins at a time (if 6tph), wouldn’t they?

    1. Not quite, it’s saying $50k for closure vs $400k for gates and as gates still allow access to tracks, doesn’t allow them to increase frequencies

  7. The Yamanote Line in Japan has a train in each direction every two minutes and carries 4 million passengers per week day, about the number of public transport passengers in total each fortnight. There is one road level crossing on the line and there may be a few pedestrian only level crossings; haven’t been able to confirm.

    The excuse of “safety regulations” is just that. All regulations are written by bureaucrats and changed by other bureaucrats or politicians.

    1. Hmmmm. Methinks that perhaps the Japanese are generally better at obeying rules requiring them to not block the intersection etc. The “independently-minded” kiwis who don’t like authority would probably try to drive walk across the intersection, too often, hence the need to close crossings in NZ. If we behave like unruly children, we get treated like unruly children.

      1. For instance, from Waka Kotahi’s Rail Safety Statistics
        it can be seen that NZ has an absolutely appalling record.
        – between 4 and 14 fatalities per year for the period 2014-2022, nationwide, and with this goes:
        – between 94 to 154 level crossing “incidents” per year for the same period (an incident being where a train has hit something or someone).
        That’s pretty amazingly high considering the relatively very few trains we have in NZ.

        By comparison, Japan is one of the safest countries in which to cross a rail line in the world, but even then there are still around 274 fatalities a year (1997-2013), including in 2013 around 91 level crossing incident deaths, and 153 deaths for “persons entering the track” which I’m presuming is a euphemism for suicide? (or possible drunken stupidity?).

        In the Japanese study of the position of Japan’s rail safety record compared to the EU member states, Japan comes out best, and Bulgaria is the worst. I suspect that NZ’s record may be worse than any of these listed, even Bulgaria – it is without doubt very much worse than Japan, so the video is perhaps an unfair comparison?

    2. It also looks like, somehow, they can run trains there without the high-vis yellow “safety ends” all our trains are required to have.

  8. If AT is going to continue to cherry pick, they have no right to continue to call themselves AT. They should be working for the city of Auckland; all studies show that the reason cities are uneconomical is vehicle traffic. Those that chose to use pedestrian only crossings, are doing so for their own safety, as cars are far more dangerous than trains.

    I completely agree with asking serious questions about whether AT is a CCO, or just an importer of educated people that then have to forget they went to school because Tamaki Makaurau is unlike other cities.

    AT needs to prioritise movement and trains, bikes and pedestrians are true, low emission, modes of movement.

    1. I would be happy to gather the data for $0.01m, but AT would probably run that cost all the way up the chain of command until they find someone willing to block it (an action that itself would probably cost $0.015m in employee hours).

  9. I guess the takeaway is that AT and Waka kotahi think that pedestrian crossings of rail lines are fine when there is also a vehicle crossing right next to it to obstruct pedestrians vision / mask the noise of trains?

    1. Hah – but KiwiRail strongly opposes any cycleway crossing even if there is also a road crossing. That’s why the New Lynn to Avondale bikeway was years late, and so over budget. Unlike cars, bikes weren’t permitted to have their path cross the rail line. AT had to stump up for an underpass.

  10. Closing the Lloyd Ave crossing will almost certainly be terrible for safety. The Gladstone Primary School walking bus and many other children use this to avoid the busy and dangerous New North Road and Carrington Road sections.

    Truly bizarre how taking kids away from a gated railway crossing and shifting them to having to walk next to a dangerous busy road is somehow better for safety. What a joke.

    1. Or, simply, the provision of a bridge over the railway lines will ensure that the school children will then have a far safer route, at all times of the day, and for all time. That’s what you should be advocating for. Stop the whingeing, and make a strong submission that a pedestrian bridge is necessary at Lloyd Ave. If you are so fired up that it will be “almost certainly terrible for safety” then direct that fire and brimstone towards AT in the form of a well-reasoned, well-referenced, well-presented submission. Don’t just sit back and blow froth off your cappuccino – DO something about it!

        1. Nothing out of order that I can see there Heidi, but my apologies to Trev if I have hurt his feelings. I’m simply saying that if we want to make change, then we all have to advocate for it, and advocate forcefully, and advocate for it in the right place, directed towards the right people. That’s what you do, Heidi, very effectively – and what I do too, although not as powerfully as you, and it is what Trev needs to do to make the point known and understood to AT.

          If AT simply propose a lame solution, and don’t get vociferous feedback about it, then they will take that as tacit approval. They NEED to hear impassioned speeches from people like Trev about just how bad and how unsafe the AT proposal would be – and they also need to hear a well-thought out suggestion of an alternative proposal. Simply complaining to a 3rd party website that AT employees are ordered not to respond to, achieves nothing.

        2. Fair enough. But what if your assumption is incorrect? Perhaps Trev is already doing stuff? We don’t know. I guess I just didn’t see anything that deserved the label “whingeing” nor that deserved the suggestion he is “sitting back and blowing froth off his cappuccino”.

      1. “hen direct that fire and brimstone towards AT in the form of a well-reasoned, well-referenced, well-presented submission”

        AT don’t listen to those. The very adjectives above mean that they slot you under “reasonable person”, and those they can safely ignore. Now if you took out a sledge hammer, and attacked one of their projects – or a forklift and opened their trial road closures – why, then you might stop or delay that project for many years.

        Polite protest often does jack squat. Why do you think climate change protesters are getting ever more desperate in their tactics? Nothing happens. Same with submissions to AT (I have written hundreds in my life, many of them “well reasoned” like you request. Unless I ALSO made myself an absolute nuisance following up, jack squat usuallly happened.

        1. I am not convinced that your suggested action meets with favourable response. Did all those protestors in Wellington achieve anything? And whatever message they were trying to get across wss lost in the voices and behaviour of assorted malcontents.

        2. @Grant

          Sure, they didn’t. But the protestors against the low traffic zones who wrecked the planters, or the nutter against the Grey Lynn cycleways managed to get the projects stopped.

  11. What part of the rail regulator requires the closure of the crossings do the AT haters not understand?

    The process has nothing to do with AT!

    The process is all about the regulator, NZTA, requiring the closure of the crossings.

    End of story!

      1. No it isn’t.

        The rail corridor is owned by Kiwirail and they say what crosses the tracks, not AT.

    1. Well I think we should close the rails until the track regulator can come up with a safe solution for running these unsafe vehicles through residential areas. The footpaths for local people are far more important than an overpriced Victorian era means of transporting goods and people.

      1. That’s fighting talk miffy ! Fortunately, I think no one is going to bite at that. “an overpriced Victorian era means of transporting goods and people” – I know that you don’t really mean that…

  12. If signalling requires that a crossing gate would be closed very frequently and for long periods, to accommodate train timetables, then there is a high risk of trespass from people expecting to be able to use a crossing. Grade separation or diversion are the alternative safe options.
    The cost of a bridge (or, in the very few cases it is feasible, an underpass) is substantial. for fit pedestrians, a footbridge with steps only may be acceptable, but accessible ramps are long and expensive and lifts are only economically feasible with significant user numbers.
    This are issues to talk about and maybe to provide feedback on.

    1. People shouldn’t have to provide feedback on a proposal that’s so out of line with good practice.

      AT will claim the costs are too high to provide the access needed for a liveable city, while simultaneously continuing to use predict and provide planning which swipes the available money for bad supersized projects.

      Like Eastern Busway being a road widening project, only because the MSM misinformed the decision-making.

      Like Carrington Rd being a road widening project, when a proper LTN plan for the area, complete with peak hour bus gates, would’ve enabled it to be a design that DIDN’T create a horrible four lane road for pedestrians to have to cross.

      Like the footpaths in the Glenvar Rd / East Coast Rd project being narrowed to 1.5m in places because AT can’t get their heads around what the corridor requires *when VKT is halved* nor how to halve VKT.

      The whole bloody paradigm needs to change but AT are digging their heels in.

  13. On a different but related note, does anyone know when the McNab St pedestrian underpass in Penrose closed? It used to provide access between Penrose Station and the area on the other side of the motorway. I think it was connected to Wilkinson Rd on the Ellerslie side. It still exists but there are locked gates at each end of it.

    1. Hi Tim, Ellerslie Local here. The tunnel was closed about 2013 for the substation upgrade works (fair enough) but then not reopened (not fair).

      Resident groups I’m involved in have asked the Orakei Local Board to look into reopening it. They have looked into it with AT (IIRC) but in summary they say it wouldn’t be safe. It is a narrow tunnel and requires walking alongside the motorway on the north side so there are CPTED issues there, but the fact remains there is no way across the motorway on foot/bike/scooter for 1.5km from Ellerslie Station to Penrose Road, which is unacceptable severance.

      Could you contact Sarah Powrie on the Orakei Local Board and add your voice to those wanting the Gavin-McNab link or an alternative access opened? She is the OLB transport lead and will be across the issues there 🙂

      1. Bait and switch (off).

        The way we follow/ignore safety regulations in this country when it suits the dominant paradigm is woeful.

        “Sorry, we can’t reopen the underpass, somebody could attack you in it”


        *Sends people walking onto a motorway interchange instead*

        After all, the Status Quo must be kinda okay, right? It’s been that way forever, nobody has died here (yet).

  14. Compare this response to the second coming of Jesus aka the $880m Puhoi road opening and everyone gushing over a bit of asphalt…

    1. Have you watched the article on Stuff with a young boy reporter and a flaming red McLaren? Talk about a gushing review….! Its embarrassing…

    2. I caught Mark Leishman on RNZ last night sploshing himself over it.
      He actually said it was great because you get to drive through a kauri forest. Like, push a road through a forest and that’s great?

    3. Lot of business types out there thinking its the second coming of jesus. It has a shoddy BCR that relies on the next stage being built to stack up, and for that stage to cost around 2 billion. If it doesn’t cost at least 5 billion I’ll eat my hat.

      And the opportunity costs are massive. We’re sitting in the wake of major resilience failures of minor highways in the regions and apparently that means the only solution is to build more highways in Auckland???

  15. I just realised that they are NOT proposing to remove the level crossings at train stations like Baldwin, despite this all being said to be largely about safety. So why not? Bit too on the nose to cut off pedestrian access *right* at the stations themselves?

    1. And yet they are removing the ones at Homai? Though to be fair those always seemed stupid anyway when there’s a bridge right there…

  16. What about the other pedestrian level crossings on the network?

    E.g. the one at Glen Innes station – is there a plan for a (long overdue) station upgrade which would remove it?

    1. They’ve singled out Homai for some reason but not Baldwin Ave, Struges Road, Ranui, Takaanini or Te Mahia which also have pedestrian level crossings.

    2. GI has one of the most unsafe-feeling crossings I’ve used, but the thing is, the station has an underpass so that crossing doesn’t have to exist at all.

  17. There is so much wrong with integrated multi-modal transport planning in NZ.

    1) “While an incident may not have occurred at your local pedestrian level crossing recently, incidents such as near misses and collisions with pedestrians have occurred, and continue to occur, across our rail network. AT takes these risks very seriously as we work hard to provide a safer network for all Aucklanders.”

    Yet we continue to murder people daily on the road simply because of a different regulatory regime.

    2) Has AT done business cases for the removal of the pedestrian crossings to determine the impacts on the cycle / ped network and the community severance effects?

    3) The money for pedestrian bridges is peanuts & much less than the design costs of some major road improvements.

  18. A couple of weeks ago I walked my usual route from Sel Peacock Drive in Henderson to the Corban Estate pedestrian rail crossing. I’m a regular visitor to the Art Gallery as they change up exhibitions. It’s a short walk during my lunch hour and apart from trying to cross Great North Rd and taking my life in my hands, it’s an enjoyable experience. The pedestrian rail crossing was closed. There was little information available about the closure, was it permanent or temporary? I had no idea. I subsequently read about it in the Herald and tonight I looked at info on the AT website. I’ve worked in this location for 25 years but because I’m not a resident of West Auckland was clearly not part of the consultation process. I don’t know how people who work in an area and use the facilities etc in an area are supposed to be consulted. My view likely wouldn’t have changed anything but at least AT could have indicated with a sign on the crossing when they were looking for feedback that they were open to it. I can still walk there but it’s a significently longer route and I’m almost tempted to drive.

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