Tag: Southern Line

Now We are Electrified, What Next?

A bit to do before we start the City Rail Link

 

 

Before I get into the post here is a Tweet worthy of Tweet of the Week:

That was yesterday when the Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee decided to dedicate his speech to the Government funding alternative transport options – the motorway (or motorways). Most likely you would have heard a pin drop and the tumble weed blow by before everyone decided to take one step back away from the stage after Brownlee’s rather archaic, insulting and patronising comments.

 

Anyhow today marked the start of the electric trains in revenue service with the 5:46am Onehunga to Britomart service being the first. As I have noted before the Manukau Line get the EMU’s in September while the Southern and Western Lines are next year. Pukekohe have to wait until Auckland Council sign the $110m cheque to get the wires from Papakura to Pukekohe (as well as two stations at Paerata and Drury).

Of course there were a few delays and niggles this morning as the EMU’s bed themselves into full revenue service. For the most part I would consider doing the Onehunga Line first and getting the glitches ironed out more “beneficial” than going all out on the Southern Line first. Then again the EMU’s will get a full work out when they do hit the Southern Line next year with passenger loadings (South has the third to fifth busiest stations on the network behind Britomart and Newmarket) as well as contending with those freight trains.

 

Now that we are electrified the question is what next with our rail network PRIOR to the City Rail Link being built. As Luke Christensen got a quick win with the Fanshawe Street bus lanes (which started operating today) we should and can get some quick and medium term wins to further boost the attractiveness of rail before the CRL comes online (whenever that may be).

A quick win is getting your feeder buses to and from the stations, some cycle lanes and lockers (at the stations), as well as some Park and Ride upgrades for the outlying stations all into position would be one booster. Auckland Transport are already getting the buses sorted in South Auckland with the new bus network in operation next year. The rest of Auckland get’s their bus network upgrades over the next couple of years. I am also aware Auckland Transport is upgrading and/or expanding some Park and Rides which will give further boosts towards rail patronage. And after the trial is complete more cycle lockers like those seen at Papakura and Papatoetoe will be rolled out.

So in answering Orakei Local Board Chair Desley Simpson’s question:

I suppose electric trains are good for Auckland But if I was a councillor think I would have pushed for more people to access rail first – no good having flash trains if getting to a station is too hard
A lot of my ward have great difficulty accessing rail ……

 

What I just said about the first quick win will answer the question about improving access to the rail network for the Orakei Ward. For more on the new bus network please go here: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/new-public-transport-network/

 

Your next win is a medium term one but it can be done if we have the resolve. That win being getting the wires (and the two new stations at Drury and Paerata) from Papakura (where they currently terminate) to Pukekohe in time for the Southern Line EMU (electric train) roll out mid next year. With the urban growth happening down that way as well as Pukekohe getting the short end of the stick at the moment, getting the wires down to Pukekohe would be a way to secure and grow your patronage for rail. Also for once we would be ahead with infrastructure investment with two new stations and the brand new EMU’s all ready to go as the first new residents move in what is known as the Wesley, and Pukekohe Special Housing Areas. Having the wires extended to Pukekohe means we can also fully retire the diesel fleet rather than running the mix fleet model.

 

Back to a quick win to get a patronage boost for the South (as well as the South being happy as we can be an assertive lot) is for Auckland Transport to stop procrastinating and get the Manukau South Rail Link built over the next Summer Christmas break, ready for full operations by the time MIT starts Semester One the following February. Okay sure that link would allow Pukekohe to Manukau direct shuttles (thus only serving that particular area for Auckland) but the link and subsequent service would increase your patronage while giving South Auckland better access to their City Centre. 16 minutes from Papakura to Manukau via the South Link by train compared to around 30 minutes by bus (using the Great South Road) I believe we are on a winner here. Of course when the link is built can the frequencies be set to 20 minutes each way from 6am to 10pm seven days a week please (half hour outside those times).

 

For the Southern Line (although this is a long-term one) having the third main from Westfield Junction to Pukekohe would be great to see completed by 2020. With the ever-increasing amount of freight trains using the track plus the increasing amount of passenger trains using the same piece of track as the freighters, it will be inevitable (actually it already happens) getting cascading delays as both modes compete for the tracks (bit like cars and trucks competing for motorway access). So to mitigate against delays for both passenger trains and the freighters we will need the third main sooner rather than later. Especially as the South grows in population and industrial capacity.

 

So we are all go with the electric trains on the Onehunga Line this morning despite some expected snags (put it this way at least Otahuhu Power Station didn’t fail 😉 – wait there was a power failure – just not on the rail line: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11245446 ). As the electric train roll out continues across the rest of the network it is time to get those quick and medium wins in there too. If AT can move fast with Fanshawe Street’s bus lanes then we should be able to move quickly with some rail quick wins too 🙂