Parnell Heritage Stop Is a Go


I’m thrilled that the new Parnell heritage train station is going ahead as part of the proposed $39m upgrade of stations. It will open about August next year.

Trains will stop alongside Mainline Steam

Let’s just remind ourselves what it is  -and what it isn’t.

It is a niche train station, a tourist stop. It is one purposely designed to service the major tourist destination of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and highlight and promote the historic Parnell village and the area around it. It will help boost visitors to Parnell businesses.
While it’s not designed to be the primary station for commuting tertiary students as the ARC considered them served by Britomart East and the free inner-city bus service, the hope it still to provide reasonable access connections to Stanley Street and the University . Those students presently have a bit of an uphill hike to the Princes St area.
As the ARC’s transport committee had put it: a balance needs to be found between serving different catchments such as museum visitors, Parnell and Carlaw Park business node residents and visitors, and university students. And I think we will find that happens.
But the ARC planners did argue that Carlaw Park were to become a serious option, it would, for one thing, necessitate the cost of a bridge across the lanes of the busy arterial road that cuts through the Stanley St area.

Parnell stop options | ARC

In the design drawn up for the Parnell station, lifts and an overbridge are required for access and egress to the east and west platforms. The lifts and overbridge will also serve to connect the Parnell centre to the east of the station with the domain, the proposed new Carlaw Park development and the University further to the west.

This is how a study presented to the ARC had weighed up the options of a stop at Carlaw and a stop at Parnell’s Cheshire St.

At one stage, discussions were held between ARTA and the developer of the Carlaw Park site. The developer was said to be receptive to aligning access arrangements within the Carlaw Park site with the station accesses. This will not only give good access to the station for rail patronage but will also facilitate good quality connectivity between the east and west of the station which is currently poor and inconvenient.

So the design and cost of the new station.

The old Newmarket station relocation will cost  $1.10m , the full station & Track $14m.

Key elements of that design include side platforms with the usual train furniture on the western platform but to add to the heritage aspect will be the use of the old original Newmarket heritage station, which was removed a few years back to make way for the new Newmarket station.

The old Newmarket

It would be refurbished and relocated on the eastern platform. The old Newmarket Station building and signal house which has been locked away for years need to be brought back to remind us of Auckland’s rail history. Mainline Steam offered to use the old station building as offices or use it as some other feature.

Newmarket’s old signal box

I love the way the Remuera historians have spruced up that station’s old box:

Some track work is involved. In order to meet rail and platform gradient requirements the rail track will need to be re-graded over approximately a kilometre of track and crossover points critical for access to The Strand will need to be relocated. Modification of the access tracks to the Mainline Steam Depot is also required.

So to the history.
The ARC has pushed for a heritage station there for years.
Parnell Inc, the Parnell business group came up with its idea so found a champion in ARC Chair Mike Lee.

The inspiration for the original Parnell Inc concept is Australian architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer’s award-winning CarriageWorks performing arts centre in Sydney’s Redfern.

I have been to a function there and it’s really stunning.

Redfern building |

We may not get such an elaborate interior for the Parnell station but it does set a benchmark for the possibilities down the way including as a function or arts centre.

On the negative side, one can argue do we really need a stop between Newmarket and Britomart, which presently seems to take forever either because of delays getting a platform at Newmarket or at Britomart?
And yes there’s also an argument about Vector Arena (having gone to concerts there, I so wish there was a stop at the Strand for it; it’s frustrating having to walk back to Britomart and then drive right past it again in the train!) and an argument that Grafton serves the Museum and is nearby.

But a station here may still help and , once again , it designed as a destination in its own right, centred around re-development of the magnificent carriage works building and highlighting the rich heritage of the Waipapa Stream valley.

Parnell is New Zealand’s oldest suburb and the Domain, the country’s oldest park. The Mainline Steam building is on original Domain land (as was Carlaw Park). So the station would act as a gateway to the Domain.

Other suggested spin-offs of the Parnell Inc proposal were:

  • Turning Parnell inwards towards the Domain and re-establishing a gateway to the Domain (the original Domain steps are from Parnell adjacent to the Cheshire Street site). The idea is to establish a grand connection through a wide underpass and steps between the train station and the Museum.
  • Revitalising the back of Parnell through substantial new built development (apartments, offices, student accommodation) integrated within a comprehensive 2.5ha Cheshire St project and restoration of character railway buildings for new arts activities
  • Creating and supporting existing tourist destinations and providing effective transport links
  • ‘Daylighting” the Waipapa Stream and re-establishing green links or the potential for recreational trails (cycleways) through the historic Waipapa Valley

It has not been an easy battle to get to this point.
Remember the dark days when KiwiRail almost won the argument to turn the Mainline Steam area into a parking lot for NZ Bus and there was lots of talk of more apartments going on this highly priced land to help KiwiRail’s coffers.

Mainline Steam is a player in all this. Mainline Steam was going to be shunted off to somewhere out West.

Last year, KiwiRail was talking of trebling Mainline Steam’s $25,000 (plus GST) annual lease, an increase the trust could not afford. It also pays $19,000 in annual rates.

There’s plenty of room inside the Mainline building

Auckland Transport, with its new mighty sword, has given the Parnell station tick and a high priority to get done before electrification is finished because once that happens, the chances of revisiting the work to create a new station won’t be acceptable.
I think it’s a great example of a community coming up with an innovative idea for a train stop that will help them and help showcase their area and Mike Lee gnawing away at it until he got it across the line. Let’s hope it inspires other communities like those wanting a stop at St John’s.

Debbie and Parnell Inc did a great job in pushing it against all the odds.
As Benjamin Franklin said: “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”




  1. Nick R says:

    Hmm, so Option 1 has five bests, three goods and no poors. Option 2 has three bests, two goods and three poors, including poor access to the station (!) and poor access to two major patronage generators (the university and area)… and they go and pick option 2?!

    What a complete waste and a retarded set of priorities is all I can say. They take the one opportunity for a rapid transit station and make it just “a niche train station, a tourist stop”, instead of a major station for a university, stadium and a high density corner of the CBD that can just as easily service the tourists to Parnell and the Domain.

    I can’t agree with this comment: “But the ARC planners did argue that Carlaw Park were to become a serious option, it would, for one thing, necessitate the cost of a bridge across the lanes of the busy arterial road that cuts through the Stanley St area.”

    Why the hell would it necessitate a bridge across Stanley St?! The walk from the station to the universities and the eastern CBD would require only one road to be crossed, and this has a signalised pedestrian crossing already… and what, somehow moving the station further away from this crossing magically removes the need for this bridge? I guess this is true if they expect no one to cross Stanley St if the station is built too far away.

    What a complete politicised balls up, all because some bloody Parnell toff wants to have his performing arts centre in the old steam sheds.

  2. Jon C says:

    @Nick R Wow, you sound so angry about it!

  3. Nick R says:

    Yeah sorry, I blew my top a little there.

    This is something I’ve blogged and submitted heavily on and it really does annoy me that the politicians continue to ignore their consultants and their own people’s advice on the best site.

    The sad thing is all the things about opening the back of Parnell, restoring the sheds, creating a domain gateway etc are still perfectly valid if the station is located in a place where it can best serve the transport needs of the wider city. That should be their main priority rather than having the station right on the doorstep of the little tourist nexus. To be brutally honest what is more important: a station for a few hundred people a day who might walk up to the museum through the Domain or visit Parnell village, or a station that is well placed to serve the 45,000 students and staff who commute to the university daily and a 12,000 seater stadium?

    Why not have a station that serves beach rd, the arena, the universities and Parnell well, instead of one that only services Parnell well?

  4. Luke says:

    when I was around in Parnell a month or so ago I walked from the Museum, through the Domain, past Mainline steam and onto the Parnell main st.

    I can say it is not a pleasant walk at all. Up from Mainline steam through Parnell is very, very steep. Will require some nasty looking overbridges that will make a joke out of the heritage precinct plan.

    Then when you get to the flat there is no obvious route to the main street, those back streets are just little offices, garages and apartments. Not a nice streetscape at all.

    The station will not be noticeble from the main street all. With regards to the museum, Newmarket is just as close and has a nicer walk.

  5. Scott says:

    Im not surprised Nick R sounds angry. Good money was spent on that engineering report only to have its findings ignored.

    Building a station with “poor” access really does sound surprising.

  6. Anthony says:

    I think some people should lighten up a little, though it isn’t the best option in our opinion, im very happy that Parnell is getting new station and well as many others on the Auckland network, very happy indeed, this is one of many leaps to come since Newmarket.

  7. Matt L says:

    We only get one chance to do this so need to do it right. I think the focus for all stations on the network needs to be about putting them in locations that will generate the most patronage not in locations just because one person thinks it is good like what seems to be happening here.

    Making poor decisions, even on what seem like small things like this is the kind of thing that opponents of rail will eventually point to as a reason not to spend more money on the system.

  8. Matt L says:

    Another point is, why does everything associated with Mike Lee, particularly transport matters, have to have fake heritage attached to it?

  9. Finn says:

    I think this great news! Although I feel for Mainline Steam Trust having to stuff around with building a new depot (cant wait though to see them moving all the engines)!

  10. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Simon Lieschke, AKT. AKT said: Parnell heritage train station at foot of Domain gets approval, opens 14 months #parnell #auckland [...]

  11. richard says:

    There is a problem with more stations and that is they slow the services down. Whilst all trains should stop at Newmarket to keep the speed up for passengers further out perhaps every third train should be an express?

    This raises another question, how many stations have a fast line for expresses to overtake a slow which left ten minutes earlier? With Onehunga trains now operating and Manukau soon many Papakura trains could run as far as the Manukau branch line as a non stop except Newmarket.

    Doing this I suspect Papakura/Pukekohe expresses could get from Papakura to Britomart in half an hour.
    Intermediate stops would be covered by Onehunga and Manukau trains.

  12. DanC says:

    I think it is great news that Parnell is having a dedicated stop. I do understand the argument re gradient to the museum and it could closer to the university. Maybe a few pedestrian bridges could solve this?

    I would like to see an over bridge with lift access to the bridge from the station platforms. The bridge should touch Cheshire Street & as close to the intersection outside the Museum as possible (Lower Domain Drive & Domain Drive) to avoid as much of the gradient for visitors to the museum. A cycle link should also be included on this bridge. part of it would be a bit of a canopy walk which would be a tourist attraction in itself

    Another bridge should be built linking to the university from the north end of the station incorporating a cycle path as well. Both bridges should be modern and artistically designed with walls like that of Grafton bridge and be well lit. Cycle lockers / bike racks.

  13. Luke says:

    @richard the only overtaking lane at the moment is at Newmarket for trains going west. A third track is planned soon for Westfield - near Middlemore, and eventually as far as the Manukau junction.

    Expresses dont offer as many benefits as people often think. Only a 5 minute time saving, at the expense of an irregular stopping pattern at intermediates stations.

    would be good to squeeze a couple of expresses in, but have to wait for more trains for that.

  14. Simon says:

    Just like Nick, I`ve commented on this a number of times and I hold the opposite view. This station is not about the university students - it is about the Parnell Community and I am heartily sick and tired of hearing the students should have this, the students should have that, poor students this, poor students that. I was a university student once myself but Auckland is made up of other people than just uni students and this is a project for the community that lives and works in that area and to my mind they have first rights on that station. There`s quite a few people who live in that area - what about them? Don`t they count? Same with the cafes and other businesses?

    I think the best station for uni students would be the midtown CBD loop stop. Ok so that`s not going to be built by the same time as Parnell is due to open but I am confident that`ll get there. Maybe not fast enough for current students but for students in the future. BTW I walk from my apt near KRd to work at Fanshawe St - 20mins every day. If I can do it, I am sure uni students can :)

  15. Simon says:

    @Matt L I don`t agree with everything Mike Lee@s done either but he`s done more than any other local or central govt politician to revitalise particularly rail PT in AKL in the last decade so cut him a little slack mate! Unless you want someone like SJ or JB instead.

  16. Ian M says:

    Yes, I couldnt agree with Nick more. Whilst I fully support the new station, the decision should be based soley on patronage-and the station should be located much closer to the university. It is sad that they argue that students and staff can simply take the free bus. However the bus is far too slow and adds at least 20min to the trip. Now we are going to have to walk halfway up the domain, in an unsafe enviornment, often late at night….just for the sake of a few daytime museum visitors and a few parnell residents/shoppers..

  17. Rene says:

    Although I’d eprsonally prefer the more northern station location (as I work on Stanley St) looking at the map there cant be more than maybe 100-150 metres that seperate the two station options.

    Hardly a marathon walk. Mind you when we have bus stops 50 meters apart I guess people get used to grumbling about a 2 minute walk.

    From the plans above is shows some sort of red road/path that will connect to the exisiting business park to the station. This is not currently in place but I’m guessing connections to the Stanley St office precinct will be created? Can anyone shed some light on this?

  18. Patrick R says:

    Nick I can see where you’re coming from and personally I think Parnell is horribly twee enough without more faux Victoriana… but I still think it’s going to be alright. I also think that you are right to question the reasoning that suddenly imagines that another 100m means there is no need for a better, safer, more direct crossing of Stanley St. There still is and it will arrive, but not until the station is built. At least that moves it to another budget. Students will use this station as it stops earlier and is closer, images of even 20 or so bunched on the side of the canonball alley that is Stanley St should even move NZTA officials to see the need.

    Also this station will finally open up the relationship between Parnell and the Domain. It will need work though to make these routes pleasant and safe. And this is the model for the St John’s valley too. Minus the ye olde bits for my taste.

  19. Matt says:

    If they think the City Circuit is an acceptable alternative, they need to do some significant work on the frequency, capacity and speed of the service. One bus every (hopefully) 10 minutes is completely inadequate for the demand generated through the university corridor (particularly the Alfred St stop), and the absence of bus priority up Queen St can make for a particularly unreliable journey.

    Simon, what’s the catchment area in Parnell for even this stop location? Couple of thousand residents, maybe? Just counting UoA and AUT there are 10′s-of-000′s of potential passengers who would be better-served by the Carlaw Park option, never mind Vector Arena patrons. You build stations to serve the largest possible number of people, not to cater to whingers who think that students get everything.

  20. Simon says:

    Uh, Matt I`m not the one whinging. I`m the one who`s happy with the decision made. And like I said I`ve been a uni student myself so I know where students come from in their views. However in this case I`m going with the local biz assoc and comunity who want the station near the mainline steam area.

    BTW, tho the area and the connection between Parnell and the Domain is not good and there is valley, I trust that AT and the local community will do a good job to see that a very nice station and connection to the Domain is created. I am sure they will also look at improving the access to the unis and make any walkway well-lit and secure. For once I actually have confidence that things will be done properly.

  21. Luke says:

    most people going to Parnell town are just as well served by the northern site, and the walk will be much nicer, and the station far more obvious to the public.

    Alot of station upgrade have moved stations to more visible, obvious sites. But we seem to be doing the opposite at Parnell.

  22. Nick R says:

    @Simon, I’m in no way disputing Parnell should have a station, it’s a fantastic idea. The thing is Parnell gets a station at either site, that isn’t in contention. However with the southern site it serves only Parnell, while the northern site serves Parnell, Mechanics Bay, the University, the Law Precinct, etc.
    If you are really concerned about the people of Parnell you shouldn’t support the southern site. Analysis of census meshblock data shows that twice as many Parnellites live within 500m walk of the northern site, not to mention over 2.5 times the number of jobs.
    I admire your passion for your community, like most people on these sites you appear to really want some positive change. However we can’t just act myopically without considering the wider context, especially where we are talking about scares funds and very permanent outcomes. What we are dealing with here is a stop on the regional rapid transit system that will still be in use for many decades into the future. We really need to consider the development opportunities. While I think the Mainline steam concept is great, it doesn’t need a train station right on it’s doorstep to work. I would still be a great TOD with the station by carlaw park. Likewise with the stream and the domain gateway, great ideas! But after that, where next for development? Nowhere, because that site is sorrounded by parkland on one side and historic cottages on the other. The northern site however has huge potential for development along Stanley St, the Strand, Beach Rd and the warehouses around Heather St.

    @Rene, the difference is 350 metres. That means the northern site is 350m closer to where most people in Parnell live and work, 350m closer to The Strand, 350m closer to the Unis, 350m closer to the Arena. For example that turns an acceptable walk over to the high court over 1km in length. On the other hand the selected site is 350m further away from all these things and 350m closer to just a bush covered gully that can never be anything but a reserve.
    The fact is either site gives good access to the Mainline Sheds and the Parnell mainstreet, and both give pretty poor access to the museum, and either site would greatly support development of the specific area in question… But only the northern site give good access to a highly populated part of the city, a place that has a lot of workplaces and no rapid transit links.

    Some of the comments of Parnell Inc smack of arrogant selfishness. They basically say they want a train station for thier small community and their small community only, and options that serve both their small community and the much larger communities that border it also are unacceptable. The comments about the unis are particularly unbelievable. They are happy to ignore the tens of thousands of Aucklanders who study and work a the uni and could do with improved rapid transit access, just so they can have a station all to themselves. That’s not good planning, that’s not good governance, that’s just foolish.

  23. Andy says:

    I agree with Nick R and would like to follow on by saying, don’t we always hear concerns from politicians that rail may not be bringing in enough revenue? Well there you are, I perfect opportunity for more revenue from all those students who will probably now end up catching the bus.

    Also, don’t the people of Parnell realize that having more patronage at their station will in turn cause their station to have better facilities if it is regarded as a major stop by AT? Not only that but it will take away the risk that their station might be bypassed by ‘expresses’ later on if patronage is low.

  24. KLK says:

    Totally agree with Nick R - its an unbelievebly short sighted decision.

    If you take the names “Parnell” and “students” out of the argument and just look at the key terms - potential user catchment, future development potential, station visibility/access, etc - then the northern site would and should always win in any sensible approach.

    Mike Lee might be pro-PT, but when push conmes to shove he always ends up delivering a half-@ssed result

  25. KLK says:

    Looking at the analysis again, both sites are judged over 13 criteria. Really, I think you can ignore the last 5 because eitther both sites are similar, or it relates to fairly irrelevant things like which side of the line the station would be situated on and site size

    In the 8 main criteria - primarily around access to key locations - the northern site is “best” in over half (5 out of 8), and “good” in the remaining three.

    Out of the same 8 criteria, the Mainline site is “poor” in almost half (3) and yet it got the tick.

    This is laughable. Why even bother comissioning a review?

  26. Patrick R says:

    Take the needless dog leg out of the walking route and most of the difference is gone…. I think the two *poor marks for the chosen site are quite strange and don’t stack up… can’t share your anger about this decision… it’s a compromise… but the route to the Uni needs improving.

    This stop is way better than a longer train ride and a twenty min. bus ride for even the most unfit undergrad.

  27. Matt L says:

    Simon – One of the issues is it sets a dangerous precedent, when choosing station locations do we pick ones with the best overall potential or the ones that those who can shout the loudest prefer. We need to be picking stations that will generate the best overall patronage as by doing so we are giving the rail network the best chance to succeed and after all that is what is best for everyone. I think part of the problem is that some of those pushing for the southern location have looked at a map and not actually looked at the site.

    As for my heritage site, it wasn’t a dig at PT improvements but that with Mike much of it he seems to want to put a heritage aspect to it, to me you can manufacture heritage by just placing an old station building or tram on a line.

  28. kalelovil says:

    The city circuit is planned to soon become just a Queens St shuttle which will no longer serve the University whatsoever. Judging by the loading I usually see, it must have become too successful.

  29. Nick R says:

    Patrick, the dog leg isn’t exactly needless, it’s there because the path has to pass around private property in Carlaw Park.

    I don’t see how this could be called a compromise, a compromise with what exactly? A station in the tunnel? They picked the southernmost location, a compromise would have been alongside Carlaw Park.

    Let’s perhaps forget about the university for the moment and think about Parnell and Mechanics Bay. The access to this station really is poor. It’s ok, but not great for getting up to the main street, but apart from that is really is quite poor. Few people actually live to the south of Garfield St, yet there is masses of high density housing up around York St, August Tce and the Strand. And workplaces too, there is sweet FA jobs around Parnell village, only the hospitality sector. Head down the hill however and you get lots of offices, showroom etc.

  30. James B says:

    Here’s an idea to service the museum. Set up a forest canopy walk from the station to Domain Drive. You get another tourist trap attraction, you can help activate an inactive park of the domain and it could ease the grades (particularly if you include a lift at the station)

  31. jarbury says:

    Isn’t Grafton station closer and a more level walk to the Museum anyway?

  32. Scott says:

    jarbury, as the crow flys Grafton is 850m away while the proposed station is 500m away. However it is an impressively long staircase up from mainland steam. I used to go jogging up it. I would not describe as suitable for small children or elderly.

  33. Anon says:

    I think Parnell Station is quite pointless.

    1. It would slow down services (as mentioned above)
    2. Look how close it will be to Britomart or Newmarket
    and 3. The access is poor

  34. Nick R says:

    Scott, yeah I used to jog on that route too specifically because it was steep and hard!


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>