A few months ago, Auckland Light Rail (ALR) consulted on how the project might pass through Onehunga and Mangere Town Centre – the former included an absurd proposal to use the Avondale Southdown heavy rail corridor. They released the results of the consultation back in June and they’ve now released their recommended options.
The consultation suggested combining light rail and heavy rail in a single, four-track corridor, either elevated alongside SH20 or in a trench along the old Avondale-Southdown corridor designation. While the designation exists, I’ve long been sceptical of any plans to actually build a rail line here as the area is vastly different to what it was when the designation was created and it as local residents will loudly oppose it due to the noise and vibration of suddenly having freight trains for neighbours – not to mention it would require a four-track trench about 3km long with at least 14 road crossings over it.
ALR previously released some of the results of their consultation with most supporting the option that went along SH20.
They’ve now confirmed this is their preferred route and that they won’t share a corridor with heavy rail.
The people of this community were very clear about their preference for the light rail route to run alongside the motorway, to reduce the impact on residential areas.
A shared light rail and heavy rail route is no longer being considered between Onehunga and Southdown, on the KiwiRail corridor set aside for rail in the area. Heavy rail will also not be progressed as part of this project. KiwiRail is considering heavy rail separately.
However, there is one aspect that is different. In the consultation they suggested light rail would get from SH20 to the existing Onehunga train station by using either Neilson St or Princes St. The image above shows light rail travelling right between the two and based on some of the comments in the image above, likely taking out a bunch of commercial buildings with an elevated structure.
Mangere Town Centre
At Mangere, ALR discussed either keeping light rail beside SH20 or having it closer to the town centre.
The feedback was overwhelmingly in support of the Town Centre option.
“There is a strong desire – almost 80 percent – for light rail to connect into the Māngere town centre. The motorway route option was the least preferred and is seen as too difficult for people to access.”
However, ALR have gone with the motorway option, quoting that it will deliver “a more reliable service and faster travel times” as well as having less disruption for the town centre and less impact on local parks. This appears also in part to be about pushing the project to a more metro design as they also talk about ensuring it is separated from local streets. In many ways this puts the design on this section largely back to what it was in 2016.
They also talk about how in response to this they’ll improve Bader Dr for accessing the station and the town centre.
A station for the whole community
We heard from the community that a station in Māngere needs to be welcoming, safe and provide an accessible entry point to Māngere and great connections between the station and town centre.
- We can improve the bridge over the motorway so new homes along Bader Drive will have great access to the town centre and the rest of the city via light rail.
- Working with council, we will connect local paths and bus services to make it easy to get to the new station.
- The surrounding infrastructure will be built to be more resilient to flooding and climate change.
Up to four light rail stations are proposed for the wider Māngere area – two between Onehunga and Māngere Town Centre, and one near the airport. This will give more locals easy access to light rail and a connection to the major employment centre by the airport.
While we did support the motorway alignment, I do feel for the community here, especially given the level of support they have given this project. It will probably feel a lot like a bait and switch situation as the community have been presented with multiple images of light rail being right in the town centre from the start of this latest process. Also rubbing a bit of salt into the wound will be that just up the road in Onehunga, light rail does divert away from the motorway to better serve the town centre.
Finally, a few things noticeable from the map above is that it appears light rail will sit on the eastern side of SH20 through Mangere. My understanding this is in part about avoiding the need to build a bridge over the Mangere Inlet that weaves through the existing motorway bridges. However, I recall that when the bridge was duplicated just over a decade ago, SH20 was shifted to the eastern edge of the designation specifically so that a future rail line could potentially go down the western side. Auckland also had to pay around $20 million to further widen the motorway trench under Kirkbride Rd to future proof for a future rail line yet it appears this is also not be being used.
Of course, a lot of this appears increasingly moot with a good chance the project will be stopped or drastically changed after the election.