Tomorrow we celebrate Matariki so we’re doing the roundup a day early this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday, Matt celebrated how the Western line is back to full dual-track operation around Maungawhau Station but how it also highlights we still have a lot to do to speed up our trains.
- On Tuesday, Matt covered the latest bus strike.
- On Wednesday, Matt revealed just how much of a shambles ATs Connected Communities programme was before it was cancelled recently.
Lighting up Queen St
Given we’ve got a short week due so we can celebrate Matariki, lets start with that.
Tūrama, the popular series of large-scale lighting pieces first lit up Queen Street for Matariki ki te Manawa in June last year, is returning to a renewed Queen Street on 11 July and will stay in place until 20 August.
So, make this Matariki Festival (11 to 22 July) the time you visit Queen Street, renewed with widened footpaths, planters that tell a story and our new Waihorotiu path.
Experience Tūrama – it will help you rediscover the Waihorotiu valley. You’ll be able to imagine how it looked and felt in centuries past. Tūrama will give you a symbolic look back at time and place.
Te Huia heading for extinction?
On Tuesday Kiwirail announced that Te Huia, the train between Hamilton and Auckland will terminated at Papakura from now on due to Waka Kotahi banning it from operating within the Auckland metro network following a series of cases where it ran red lights.
From this afternoon, the Hamilton-Auckland train service Te Huia will no longer be travelling to The Strand in Parnell, and will instead be stopping at Papakura.
This follows a requirement from the rail regulator Waka Kotahi.
“KiwiRail takes all safety incidents seriously, and we are treating this situation with the highest priority,” says KiwiRail’s Executive General Manager Operations Paul Ashton.
“We realise the disruption this may cause for our passengers and we apologise to them and to Waikato Regional Council.
“For the rest of this week, there will be bus replacements between The Strand, Puhinui and Papakura, and customers will not be charged for this bus replacement service.
“Next week, we will be running the service to Papakura. Customers will then need to connect into an Auckland Transport service using a HOP Card to continue, as they did when Te Huia first launched in April 2021.”
Waka Kotahi today (Tuesday) said it is requiring KiwiRail to install European Train Control System (ETCS) technology on Te Huia if it is to operate within the Auckland metropolitan network.
ETCS is a predictive safety system used by Auckland metropolitan trains to slow trains approaching a red signal. Currently, it operates only on Auckland Transport trains, and only in the Auckland Metro area.
Waka Kotahi has imposed the restriction following an incident in the Auckland Metro Network three weeks ago that saw Te Huia pass a stop signal near Penrose. There was also a minor incident yesterday where Te Huia, which was not carrying passengers at the time, overran a signal just north of Hamilton. There were no other train movements in this area, and it was outside the Auckland metro region.
“Waka Kotahi has said today it wants ETCS installed in Te Huia, for operations in the Auckland metro network, which we plan to do in due course. However, it will take more than 12 months to design, install and test ETCS on Te Huia’s locomotives.”
This is incredibly disappointing as usage of the service has been growing and prior to the school holidays was averaging almost 300 passengers per weekday. A year ago it was just over 200.
A couple of other things stood out to me about this.
- Kiwirail identified at least as far back as 2015 that they urgently needed to put ETCS equipment on their freight trains. Why have they done nothing about it till now.
- Freight trains and the Northern Explorer also don’t have the ETCS equipment and could just as easily create the same kind of issue. Why is it that Waka Kotahi have only targeted Te Huia
- Imagine if we treated roads or trucking companies the same way.
Connecting the Puhinui Stream
The Waiohua Iwi and community’s vision of a seamless and thriving green open public space alongside Te Puhinui Stream from the Auckland Botanic Gardens to Hayman Park in the heart of Manukau is one step closer to reality today. It follows the acquisition of a large parcel of land from Te Whatu Ora by Eke Panuku Development Auckland.
Auckland Council’s urban regeneration agency has purchased a 7.6-hectare section of the national health provider’s Manukau Super Clinic site as part of its Transform Manukau urban regeneration programme. With a clear focus on encouraging public and private development in this key southern hub, the work Eke Panuku is doing to improve public spaces for current and future communities is a crucial part of this strategy.
The site is the last remaining section of the Puhinui Stream corridor which currently isn’t publicly accessible. Its purchase will enable future wetland development as part of a project, named Te Aka Raataa, to progress and complete a three-kilometre connection along the path of the Puhinui Stream. Te Aka Raataa is part of Te Whakaoranga o te Puhinui, a wider collaborative regeneration programme which is restoring the health of this natural environment.
A bit of HOP
A couple of interesting HOP stories this week.
With the government giving under-12s free PT, there’s a lot of money locked up on HOP cards. AT can now refund that.
Thousands of children will now be able to get their share of $700,000 of trapped credit on their Auckland Transport HOP cards after the introduction of free fares for under 12s.
From July 1, Auckland Transport introduced free public transport for children on buses, ferries and trains when using their AT HOP cards.
The changes also include a 50% discount for young people people aged between 13-24.
On July 7, a week after the introduction of free public transport, an AT spokesperson confirmed to Stuff that they didn’t have a method for refunding the money.
At the time, Auckland Council’s public transport arm said it was focussed on implementing the free fares.
After further questioning on July 10, AT said they had now figured out how to refund people. It canbe done either be calling their contact centre, visiting a customer service centre or by filling out an online form.
AT says around 58,000 AT HOP cards, registered to children under 13, still had money left on them as of the end of June. The majority of balances range from $5-20.
And the Spinoff ran a story about the HOP keyring tags.
The lucky Auckland Transport users who’ve gotten their hands on limited edition keyring Hop tags love tagging on and off with something other than a card. So why isn’t there more innovation like this?
Niko Elsen keeps something very useful on his keychain: his Auckland Transport Hop card, in key tag form. “Before the key tags arrived I had so many Hop cards,” says the dad from the Auckland suburb of Waterview. “They all had varying degrees of top-up, scattered across different coat pockets.” His life changed for the better when he got a glossy key tag, permanently attached to the rest of his things, set to an automatic top-up, so he never had to be anxious about being caught without one.
“While juggling a baby, when wheeling an electric bike through the gates at Britomart, the ability to dangle that little tag onto the beeper is a crucial urbanist tool to help bikes, trains and busy parents seamlessly interconnect.”
The rumours are true, confirms Auckland Transport spokesperson Blake Crayton-Brown. Over 200,000 key tags with Hop chips in them have been produced since they were launched as a promotion in 2018, in seven different designs. The cards were available online from Auckland Transport and at selected retailers; on Auckland’s subreddit, there are reports of stock remaining at several random shops from earlier this year. The only design left is 4,000 of the gold Hop card, for people with Super Gold cards and discounted travel.
There aren’t any plans to produce more for the moment. “The manufacturing process for the AT Hop key tags is manual and quite intensive. We have experienced some supply chain and manufacturing issues with this product in recent years which has contributed to our decision to not produce any more for the time being,” Crayton-Brown explains.
Always the way
The ODT reports on how retailers who opposed a streetscape upgrade now love it.
The George St makeover has won praise from one of its harshest critics ahead of the official unveiling of the first stage today.
The Farmers block of the development is due to be completed this afternoon and a small ceremony will be held from 4pm to celebrate the milestone.
After previously slamming the development, Dunedin City councillor and George St retailer Brent Weatherall yesterday said he was pleased with how it looked.
“It’s a vast improvement on what was there before. It looks good, doesn’t it?,” he said
There’s plenty of other praise in the article too. This seems to happen every time. It would be nice if we could start skipping over angry opposition part and just get on with it.
A shifted pedestrian crossing
An interesting consultation from Auckland Transport. They’re looking to shift the midblock crossing on Fanshawe St.
The connection between Graham Street and Fanshawe Street has improved since the completion of the stairway beside the Fidelity Life building at 136 Fanshawe Street. This has increased the number of people travelling between Victoria Street and the Waterfront Precincts which have experienced significant business and residential growth in recent years.
Many people are taking advantage of the new stairway but are crossing Fanshawe Street where there are no safety controls. In response, Auckland Transport is proposing to move the mid-block crossing to where people are now choosing to cross the road, at the bottom of the stairway at 136 Fanshawe Street.
Moving the crossing to where people are, what a novel idea, well done AT. Consultation closes 30 July.