Start Of A New Era? Or Did He Mean That’s It, Folks?


bolg-jpgThis afternoon’s formal ceremony to mark the historic and exciting start of construction of the new Manukau rail link was a psychological reminder to the heavyweights present that they were elected or appointed to deliver commuter rail, as well as anything else transport-related in their KPIs.

And the heavyweights were present and had to mouth the words that this was an important milestone for Aucklanders.

The ARA chairman and Manukau mayor are enthusiastic supporters although more work is needed on the future of this link. CBT has pointed out the issue that no route designation has been yet provided for at the end for either heavy or light rail.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce officially marked the project’s commencement by turning a ceremonial sod, which will be returned to the ground once main construction activities begin.

But what exactly did the Kiwirail chairman (right) mean with his statement to mark the day ?

Former National prime minister, Jim Bolger, appointed by Labour to run Kiwirail said that rail was “clearly a vital part of the transport mix when moving large numbers of people across a city that continues to grow – both in size and in its contribution to the national economy.”

But he tempered this enthusiasm by saying the economic numbers had to stack up and there is no way Auckland will be getting rail everywhere, giving us a way of getting inside the heads of the present administration in what we may perceive to be begrudging endorsement of a little commuter rail only where it’s necessary or where it has already been committed by a previous administarion.

The Kiwirail chairman’s words were:

“ Rail must reach the highest possible number of people in the most efficient way. “Clearly it is impossible to build new tracks and train stations in every corner of a sprawling city like Auckland. We need to be strategic about the way in which we extend the reach of the network and bring rail to new communities. That means integrated transport hubs in key locations like the centre of Manukau, feeding out into the many corners of the city.

“Manukau is one of the largest and youngest cities in the country. This infrastructure will open up a world of new opportunities for the thousands of young people considering their education and careers and we are immensely proud to be part of that.”

And there is this odd comment:

“The Manukau project represents one of the final steps in the vision for faster, more frequent and reliable train services for Auckland commuters. This suite of projects will together increase the capacity, reliability and reach of the Auckland rail network. It is progress like this which will change the way Aucklanders see their rail network.”

Final steps? We hope he doesn’t mean that’s all we will get.  There’s plenty on the drawing board – a CBD rail loop, a rail link as part of a second harbour crossing, an airport link, Avondale to Southdown, maybe the North Shore…

Does he mean the Manukau rail line is the final line that is needed to make other parts of the jigsaw happen?

Or did he mean: We have gone ahead with this because it was already on the drawing boards and we can say we brought you a new rail link so you can all shut up now!

Let’s hope not.

The rail link, being built by KiwiRail and its principal contractor Leighton Works, sits alongside the SH20-1 motorway extension. It will include a rail trench housing ARTA’s station and sit adjacent to Manukau Institute of Technology’s planned new campus.

It’s the first extension to Auckland’s network for nearly 80 years. That is a fantastic thing.

The next one will be in …?




  1. George D says:

    2031, of course!

  2. Jon C says:

    That’s a bit optimistic, George!

  3. jarbury says:

    CBD Rail Tunnel clearly has to be next. Perhaps an opening date of 2018?

  4. William M says:

    @jarbury: Optimistic, as usual ;-)

  5. Andrew says:

    Over at the CBT forum the consensus seems to be that he meant that the Manukau link is the start of one of the final stages of Project DART (which it kind of is, if you take electrification work as having already started with access roads built etc).

  6. John Horner says:

    I am so disappointed that Auckland has been duped with its rail service. I have just been overseas and most cities are developing tram and light rail systems e.g. Alicante, Montpellier, Dubai. (just random places I visited). If we did not have our “lemon” north shore busway (no car parks?), and a rail system from Albany, through town to the airport (10 minutes from Albany to downtown), people would use it.


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