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.
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.