How to get Better Resilience out of the Rail Network
A Rail Efficiency Program Series
THE ALL-ENCOMPASSING RAIL EFFICIENCY PROGRAM – PART TWO
Westfield Junction Fly-Over
Those who travel by train on the Southern and Eastern Lines to their destination and pass through the Westfield Junction can know the delays that happen in that section of track due to another train “crossing over.”
This picture would explain better what I mean:
Click for full resolution (1920×955)
As you can fathom, there is a lot of conflicting routes at Westfield junction from both passenger and freight trains – all which can cause delays to our passenger services (and they do) at just about any given time.
Now with passenger train frequencies to increase to initially 6 trains per hour (one every 10 minutes)(and that could easily mean one train every 5 minutes on the lines between Westfield Junction and Papakura Station as well) once the electrics are fully on-stream (2016), plus the inevitable increase of Metro-Port freight train frequencies to and from their Southdown Metro-Port base; delays and conflicting movement risks are just going to increase no matter how good the signalling is.
So as an idea (this is not an original one but builds upon those ideas from others) is to build a Westfield Junction Fly-Over to allow trains heading to Britomart via Glen Innes (Eastern Line) from the south to “fly-over” Westfield Junction and reconnect with the Eastern Line on the other side of the junction. The Fly-Over would stop the city-bound Eastern-Line trains conflicting with south-bound trains from Newmarket thus improving the efficiency of travel for those respective services (as they often get held up the most). However the Fly-Over does not assist in dealing with conflicts if a Metro-Port train decides to enter or leave Metro-Port Facility to/from the main-line.
Knowing that Metro-Port trains are long and are either accelerating (so departing the base) or decelerating (entering the base) they take time to complete their movements and have the high potential to foul passenger train movements (which they do on a more regular basis than they should) in the area. Now I am not one for telling the Metro-Port services to bugger off as they are a revenue spinner for Kiwi Rail as well as doing a great service in their part in keeping trucks off our highways between Auckland and Tauranga. So the next extension as part of the Westfield Fly-Over phase is to build approaches and/or passing loops in the Westfield Junction to Otahuhu area to allow more efficient Metro Port freight train and Auckland passenger train movements that will not conflict each other.
Now the idea for these approaches for the Metro Port services comes from the current Third Main being built between Middlemore and Otahuhu which allows freight trains to enter or leave the Westfield yard more quickly than they do now (they have a dedicated road to power up to speed or slow down from speed without conflicting other passenger trains in the area – as trains take a long time to speed up or slow down). By virtue of extension and in anticipation of a full Third Main being fully built from Otahuhu to Papakura within the next 10-years (fingers crossed) – and currently there is plans for the Third Main to go all the way to Port of Auckland; basically what is happening is that the Third Main is being extended to Westfield Junction from Otahuhu with a “Fourth-Main” also being built from near Sylvia Park on the “south bound” side, around Westfield Junction and through to Otahuhu Station connecting back up to the current Main-Lines.
The following graphics and pictures hopefully might explain better:
This picture gives a basic outline of the work proposed at the Junction:
Click for Full Resolution
This next picture show the extent of the works for the Westfield Junction, the “Fourth Main” and the approaches from Middlemore Station (with the Third Main in place between Otahuhu and Middlemore):
Again click for full resolution
And this last one is a crude draft graphic on a simplified version of the Junction and approaches (note I have not added all the cross overs in):
Click for full resolution
Now this idea takes into account the following:
- Westfield Station is closed (it is actually slated for close by Auckland Transport anyhow)
- Accepting that if a Metro Port train comes out from its base at the same time a south bound Southern Line service heading to Papakura from Britomart is also in the area moving, any city bound Southern Line trains will be waiting at the north end of Otahuhu Station for the conflicting movement to clear
- The Metro Port train uses the Third Main all the way until Middlemore before entering the existing main line (or vice versa if heading to the Metro Port base)
- The new EMU’s can take the gradient of the Fly-Over as it would be slightly less than the CRL gradient to which the EMU’s are designed too
So while not perfect and still likely to get delays from some conflicting movements in the Otahuhu-Westfield Junction area, those are likely to be caused by a freight train rather than another passenger service wanting to go the other way. And so this is where the junction pays it dividends: allowing Eastern Line trains to cross over the Southern Line trains without conflict of movement at the Junction. The third platform at Otahuhu Station allows the Fourth Main to come from the Eastern Line near Sylvia Park, all the way to the main interchange station (Otahuhu) and then enter the existing Main Lines heading south minimising congestion between Otahuhu and the Junction if the existing Otahuhu Platform One (City Bound) is occupied by a passing Metro Port train and Otahuhu Platform Two (existing South Bound) is occupied by a city bound train.
Cost of such a project taking into account retrofitting of the electrification system including signals, a bridge, retrofitting existing tracks with new crossovers, building the Fourth Main, building new electrification systems for the Fly-Over and Fourth Main, new Platform at Otahuhu (which could tie in with a Park and Ride plus Bus Park Facility), and future proofing the Eastern Line to allow a direct link between Sylvia Park and Penrose would come at at I would say $110 million (so same as extending electrification to Pukekohe and building two new stations).
Disruption potential and Time of Completion?
Maximum potential for maximum disruption due to the electrification system now in position and the subsequent refit that would be required.
Completion would be 18 months that includes two Christmas Close Downs and as well as Block of Lines on all non special event weekends which means…
Likelihood of this Happening?
With our current civic leadership: NONE – not with what has happened with Electrification now…
Could of it happened? Yes when the Electrification Project started.
So why did I write this then if all it will do is gather metaphorical virtual dust? To illustrate what could have been with proper planning and foresight by our leaders and engineers. However we are relegated to constant bottlenecks and delays at Westfield Junction when our passenger service frequencies increase – along with the increases of freight train frequencies from the Metro Port base.
However I am still open to surprises – and if this part of the All Encompassing-Rail Efficiency Program gets dusted off, shoulder-tapped and built; then heck someone did have vision for Auckland!