Time For Airport Rail Campaign
As I predicted, the media virtually ignored rail’s big day on Saturday with scant coverage of the opening of Onehunga attended by hundreds of excited people of all ages. (And as I predicted here, yesterday – They want to paint a picture of it being a waste of public money and a line only a few use.They did just that today! – see UPDATE at end of post)
TV, which struggles to find enough news for a credible hour at the weekend didn’t find it important enough.
The Herald sent a photographer but despite the colourful event which included people dressed in historic costumes and a steam train, the paper published no collection of photos today, choosing instead for their back page photo spread, the same tired old celebrities who attended a TV award event at the weekend. One has to say, who cares!
ARTA ran two ads in today’s newspaper advertising that Onehunga trains are now running and that there are new train timetables. Those ads cost ratepayers money and shouldn’t be necessary if the media were informing their local community about real news, instead of the depressing negative stuff that fills their product.
Several people at the official opening talked about Auckland experiencing a rail renaissance.
It is. In the past 12 months, Aucklanders took more than 8.4million journeys on trains, a 10.8% increase on last year.
It’s not just rail enthusiasts imaging it. There is a rail renaissance happening all over the world from China to Europe where fast track rail is expanding fast as politicians realise that with traffic congestion issues and oil running out, fast speed rail is as way to move people and goods around the country, just as fast broadband is good for the economy. It’s also a magnet for tourists and environmentalists.
The term rail renaissance has a romantic edge to it, as if of a bygone time and that was apt to mention at the ceremony with photographs of historic Onehunga lining the fences around the new station , people in old time costumes sitting in the audience and the thrill of a steam train with its magical sounds. I have written previously about the debate about why steam trains are so romantic.
But there are many sceptics who think even today’s trains belong to a past era. In skimming through a Herald at a cafe today looking for coverage of the opening (or in vein for a mention of the New Lynn transport hub opening yesterday) , I noticed an article saying fast broadband was needed to promote working from home and a choice between spending on rail and broadband was clear as rail belonged to the past and broadband to the future.
That argument is itself a nonsense. We need both. And despite such cynics questioning expenditure on rail, what’s happening in Auckland is a definite mind shift to public transport, thanks largely to the dramatic improvements in service and availability.
Four years ago when I caught an old unreliable and infrequent suburban train to Britomart and told people, almost everyone looked at me in amazement. Did they run in trains in Auckland? Where would you get one? Why would you bother?
When I was late for appointments because of a breakdown or delay, people just didn’t believe my bizarre excuse and tale of rail travel woe.
It was such tales and the unreliability of the system that prompted this blog in the first place. Friends and relatives got tired of the stories which sounded too ridiculous to believe and ordered me to shut myself in a corner and get it out of my system by writing about it. The first tagline of the blog was about an Aucklander’s battle to get to work by train each day.
How things have changed.
Sadly we should brace ourselves for coverage soon in the media about Onehunga.
Bad news coverage.
The only major story so far about Onehunga has played up the issue of the length of the platform and that’s now locked in many people’s minds as meaning Onehunga’s not properly ready and (as people who read that front page heading keep telling me) you may not be able to find room on board.
No doubt, a reporter will be dispatched to report on how many people are catching a train at Onehunga this week and weigh that up against the cost to the government and ratepayer of re-establishing the line.
He will note there were “only” 20-odd people catching the train, so it will deemed a failure and proof we don’t need any more new rail services. He will get some civic official to defend it.
ARTA will say its estimated start up patronage on the line for the two hours at morning peak, from 7am to 9am, is for about 100 people boarding at Onehunga. This compares with 3,600 people alighting at Britomart during the morning peak period.
The trains departing from Onehunga will be able to take 530 people seated with capacity of 1,000 including standing. This ensures capacity is future-proofed for growth.
ARTA says by 2016 patronage is estimated to increase to almost 300 people boarding and, following electrification in 2013/14 the number of trains departing Onehunga will provide 940 seats with a total capacity of 1,840.
As noted at the opening ARC chair Mike Lee, whom we have to thank more than anyone for the Onehunga service let alone many other public transport improvements, there is a growing public demand for airport rail.
Onehunga is 14km from the CBD and the airport is 23 km from CBD.
“I can’t see any good reason why we shouldn’t push on – and extend rail across the new rail-capable Manukau Harbour crossing,” says Mike Lee.
“The next stop for this line is the Auckland International Airport which is a mere 9km away. Watch this space,” he says.
Demand for the idea is indeed growing fast, as noted by surveys and an astonishing number of emails I have had to my inbox from people who do not usually use trains.
The idea of rail instead of driving to the airport is a hot button but politicians seem absolutely oblivious to the noise as shown by both the transport minister and present Auckland mayor’s insistence it can’t and won’t happen in many Aucklanders’ lifetime.
It’s hot because
- Many of us have been caught short while trying to drive to the airport to catch a domestic flight especially because of a traffic holdup or mis-judging the travelling time
- The outrageous taxi fares and disgusting hassling that goes on among dodgy taxi cab drivers trying to get your business when you exit the airport
- Some worry about their car being broken into or stolen as it’s obvious if you park at the airport, you won’t be back to the car in a hurry giving thieves enough time to steal
- Many of us have travelled overseas and catching a train to and from a city’s airport is what you can do in most modern cities -even in neighbouring Sydney and Brisbane.
- Tourists love airport rail rather than taxis especially young people watching their budget.
- The cost of parking at the airport especially for more than a day, despite recent competition in that space.
Auckland Airport authorities used to be deaf to such calls for airport rail because of their monopoly on car parking. At least competitive car parking spaces are now available but last December a wonderful thing happened.
Auckland Airport called for an airport rail link to be hurried up.
The company did so in the company’s submission to the ARC on its draft regional transport strategy, in which it calls for better public transport services to the airport.
And Auckland Airport called public transport connections to the Airport currently “weak by international comparisons and as a consequence patronage is low.” The company’s submission says it’s concerned that the ARC’s strategy offers “very little improvement to Airport users in terms of public transport until rail is delivered sometime after 2030”.
The ARC’s draft RLTS had proposed an airport rail connection in the 2031-40 time frame but Auckland Airport said plans for a Rapid Transit Network link to the Airport, whether rail or some intermediate step, should be accelerated and ideally put in place prior to 2020.
With the power of Auckland Airport in the eyes of the business and tourist –orientated government, you would think they might turn some lights on.
The transport minister insists roading improvements will solve the demand for better faster travel to the airport but the Auckland airport submission noted: “The proposed upgrades of SH20A & SH20B are very necessary and welcome. They will however increase non-airport related traffic travelling through the Airport, including heavy goods traffic, and there should be provision to deal with that traffic. It is already clear that there has been a significant increase in traffic through the Airport on a road network that has not been designed to accommodate it.”
In Auckland, 2020 or 2030 is far too long to wait for something that needs to start construction now.
An airport link needs not just to be tied in with Onehunga but with the Manukau line opening next July and with a CBD loop.
It also ties in with the dream of rail to North Shore – as without Bob Harvey’s Whenuapai domestic airport plan happening , North Shore residents often have a nail-biting time trying to make Auckland airport for a peak hour morning flight.
Several North Shore residents are among those who have emailled me saying airport rail would be heaven.
It’s time we got a big vision but one that can be realised fast.
ARTA and the ARC already have visionary transport plans.
We need the new Auckland Council /Transport CCO and national politicians with a signed off rail plan timeline – a vision for the future which incorporates all those parts of the missing rail puzzle and airport rail needs to be re-visited and added as a priority.
It’s a pipe dream right now unless we got Mike Lee as prime minister. At least he is pushing it today.
And some other politicians need to watch their backs.
People who don’t use rail and don’t comprehend the CBD rail loop because they haven’t experienced the capacity issues at Britomart – and those who don’t normally travel by rail do see huge personal value in an airport link. Hence, its popular appeal.
That noise is going to get louder – and those who like the idea are reacting negatively to politicians who are arrogantly telling them they’ll never see it and don’t need it.
Those of us urging better public transport should tap into that groundswell and get going a vigorous airport rail campaign.
The Greens’ fasttrack CBD loop campaign was admirable but this has widespread appeal because it doesn’t need a comprehensive understanding of Auckland rail’s engineering challenges and doesn’t involve people who want to travel around the CBD.
Such a campaign would shake up stubborn out of touch politicians -and the conservative out of touch media- that think anyone advocating for rail is just some romantic old fool living in the past.
Airport Rail Campaign…. hmm.. that’s ARC!
Meanwhile don your hardhats and fight back if those politicians or media start knocking what we have just achieved at Onehunga.
I rest my case. Exactly, as I had predicted above, The anti-rail morning newspaper sent a reporter yesterday with the obvious instructions to count passenger numbers against the cost!
The 3km branch line between Onehunga and Penrose has cost KiwiRail $10 million and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority $3.6 million to resurrect with three stations. Auckland Regional Council also spent about $8 million to buy the site for the Onehunga station near the bottom of Onehunga Mall.
Although Saturday saw the formal re-opening of the line, the new service settled into a workaday routine yesterday. The Herald counted 19 passengers boarding the 7.45am Britomart-bound train at Onehunga, including three high-school students looking forward to halving the 45 minutes or so it used to take them to catch a bus to Newmarket.
A smaller group of 10 passengers caught the next train from Onehunga, at 8.15am, although they were joined by 10 others at Te Papapa station.
Events manager Marion Stables was disappointed more commuters had yet to change their travel habits to take advantage of the service, but was confident it would do wonders for Onehunga as its popularity grew.
The article is not completely negative but the purpose of what story was wanted by the paper is clear and as predicted.
ONEHUNGA OPENING: FULL COVERAGE CONTINUES
ARTA chair says rail is booming-Video
Videos of steam train
First official train into Onehunga
Photos of the festive day
Onehunga celebrates in style
Mike Lee speech
Te Papapa, Penrose 3 pictures
Steven Joyce speech
Steven Joyce on police chases
Onehunga being constructed- Photos
35 take first trip into Britomart on Sunday- photos
More hordes try out the new trains – Photos
Historic photos along the fenceline a nice touch
New $36m New Lynn transport hub opens