Public Give Input Into Onehunga Rail Proposal


remuera 1386ARTA last night held a public meeting in Onehunga to canvas public feeling about the plans for the Onehunga line - and to update people on the plans.

As they say on TV, Reader William M was there taking notes for us and here’s his report. Thanks William.

ARTA officials presented another information evening for the Onehunga community last night, at which constituents could express their opinions and get a first glance at the plans ARTA have for their line, due to reopen in Q1, 2010.

There was much debate and banter in a well-packed conference room at the Onehunga Community Centre. The overall opinion of the development seemed to be positive. I did get some negative comments from an elderly man purporting to be a retiree from NZR. The poor fellow brought in vivid-marker drawn plans of what he wanted for the line (he even left telephone numbers, etc – I don’t know if he expected ARTA to call and take him on?), and he wanted to make his plans known to ARTA officials and to the rest of the community. Obviously, he didn’t want to hear what a 22 year-old like myself had to say, but that is fair enough.

I was also lucky enough to meet Jarbury of fame, whom had came down from Herne Bay to join me in note taking for his blog. It was fantastic to meet him and see the passion some Aucklanders have to push and promote a more efficient, modern public transport system. Whilst I am no longer an Onehunga local (I hail from Papakura, commuting using the limited express in the morning daily, and the express in the evening), I felt it necessary that the facts were sought and our ideas heard out by ARTA officials.

The Onehunga Line was opened in 1873 only to be mothballed to passenger trains in 1976 and later to freight in 2006. ONTRACK began working to restore the below track components of the line in 2007, in particular, restoring the level crossings and bringing the rail to just outside the old ITM site near Onehunga Mall. What is currently planned is to have the line terminate at a spur to the northwest at the ITM site, where the station will be placed. The line toward the port will be continued at a later stage, but ARTA wanted to make the point that they wanted completion for this project, and thus wanted to focus on only the track needed for the commuter rail at this stage.

Onehunga Station – construction commencing t.b.a
Onehunga Station will be a single platform station located at the old ITM worksite. It will be a straight platform – not curved as one retiree wanted – and will be positioned on the newly built spur to the NW. Our retiree friend unfortunately does not have the bigger Auckland Rail picture in mind, as ARTA did make mention of the Avondale-Southdown project that has had the corridor planned since the 70s. This is projected to use continue this spur as the Avondale-Southdown line, but obviously, this is not within the scope of the Onehunga Line project.

But what of Dressmart? ARTA are working with Dressmart on ideas to promote PT to their customers to make shopping at the venerable mall more attractive. Dressmart currently suffers from a severe lack of parking, and whilst they have a CBD shuttle that runs on weekdays, a direct PT solution like the one successfully used at Sylvia Park would secure the success of the Onehunga Line. Jarbury surely had discussed RTPIS (Real Time Passenger Information Services) with ARTA officials, and I’m looking forward to swapping notes on this!

A bus/rail interchange? The idea of the interchange was put forward by a few of us, the idea that Mangere buses should feed the rail network at the new station. ARTA appears to have plans for diverting some of the bus traffic to this new station. ARTA officials were careful point out, however, that the new transport hub would not initially be a park and ride, as they wanted to focus on opening the line first. Admittedly, in retrospect, I think I could have disputed this as we could/should do with a park and ride in this area. Park and Rides surely are our best way to try and take our drivers off motorway arterials and into the PT corridors?

So when? As in the title, construction is yet to commence, as ARTA and ONTRACK finalise the plans for the station. I would be led to believe it shouldn’t be too far away, as their target for the line’s opening is only 6-8 months away!

Te Papapa Station – construction commencing 25 August
Te Papapa Station will consist of a single platform station to the south of the line.

Mt Smart Station
This feature station is still in design phase, due to issues with positioning the station. It seems a private freight siding is (to be?) placed where ARTA’s preferred platform was to be put. ARTA wanted to have the station platform back onto the stadium, but this will now have to be re-thought. I originally imagined this station to run a little like Kingsland in a single-platform scale, but did not get to see any detailed plans as to the station’s appearance and location.

Penrose Station – construction commencing 25 August
Penrose Station will be upgraded in stages and will consist of its current island platform, serving the Southern Line, and a second dedicated platform serving the Onehunga Line. It looks like trains on the down line will be switched onto the line early in the junction – shifting first onto the up tracks of the North Auckland line (Southdown – Newmarket), then onto the down tracks of the Onehunga Line. Our retiree was contentious on this issue, wondering why the station was not positioned to allow access from the southern points and line in. I didn’t bother to ask any officials, but my assumption will be the clearance required to move trains through that corridor. As he pointed out, it had certainly been used before for commuter traffic, but this track didn’t fall into the scope of the project.

So what for electrification?
Ironically, the Onehunga Line will be the first line to be electrified, with ARTA slating the line to be a test pilot for the electrification project. With power at the nearby Westfield/Southdown power feeder, this almost seems like a perfect opportunity to show central government that electrification is what we need in Auckland. ARTA officials did not allude to the timeline for this however.

Rolling Stock
Onehunga’s services are to be run with two-car ADC/ADL DMUs in the initial period, but this is likely to increase with patronage and we can only hope it does!

So, ARTA has given the Onehunga Line back to us. The success hinges on a culmination of events:
-    ARTA needs to strongly cross-promote events at Mt Smart with use of the line. They have done this for years with services to Penrose, but now they have the added advantage of a station sitting right next door. Too much of an opportunity to pass up, I say.
-    Dressmart needs to come to the party if they want to get any sort of ‘cut’ in to a market of commuting shoppers. Contributing with electronic real-time signage and cross promoting with specials such as discounted or free rail use with a specific spend will help grow patronage on the Line and their own market for customers.
-    Central Government needs to get their head out of the cars and watch Onehunga succeed and how this success affects PT in the bigger Auckland picture.




  1. jarbury says:

    It was good to meet you William. One issue I have is that ARTA are only proposing hourly off-peak frequencies. I don’t think that’s sufficient on weekends and during inter-peak times during the week. Half-hourly frequencies would encourage far more users due to it being a superior service.

  2. Patrick says:

    I concur with Jarbury - the success on the Eastern line to Sylvia Park is the model ARTA should take a longer look at. Anecdotal evidence I have is Sylvia Park is the key off peak driving force for the eastern line.

  3. Otahuhu Commuter says:

    Interesting, very interesting. It’s awesome to get the information. Real bad that we dont ever get this sort of stuff in the Herald these days. Thanks William for telling us what happened. Thank goodness for these blogs that we can find out. I am worried though that something will be cut back at the last minute like no weekend services or they will terminate at Newmarket.

  4. Frogo says:

    I hope it happens. I would love to go to those factory shops in Onehunga by train on a Saturday. It is a ridiculous missing link in the rail chain especially as it has always been there.But you never know until it happens as these things always seem to never quite get there. Frequency of service will be important. Sylvia Park is a service I use a lot at the weekend.

  5. William M says:

    Imagine the accessibility when the Manukau link is installed. Practically every mall south of the ‘Shore will be accessible with RT. Electrify the network, implement good, affordable links with our neighbour cities (Whangarei, Tauranga, Hamilton) and improve capacity at Britomart, and we can finally compete with other cities in the world.


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