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Rail on track to Takapuna in new plan

Flagstaff Team

Image Source: Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency

Takapuna looks set to get a shot in the arm from a train stop – a spin-off from the favoured plan for a second harbour crossing to be a rail-only tunnel.

The tunnel would cross from the city under the Waitemata Harbour, most likely from Wynyard Quarter, with a stop at Takapuna and another stop at Smales Farm.

Although building the $5 billion tunnel is likely 10-20 years away, signalling intent on whether a second crossing is to be rail, road, or a mix of both is a significant step from transport planners.

The recommended plan to deal with growth and congestion on the North Shore and take pressure off the country’s most travelled daily route, across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, emerged from a briefing to Auckland Council’s Planning Committee by Waka Kotahi–New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

NZTA then released a business case late last week to back a three-step choice.

Stage one, already underway, is improvements by Auckland Transport(AT) to the Northern Busway, with stage two a rail tunnel, primarily funded by the government, and stage three a study of what extra roading network needs across the harbour should look like and how they should connect up.

North Shore’s new National Party MP, Simon Watts, says: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing in one go.” His party’s policy favoured a dual road and rail tunnel, catering for both public and private transport.

The country’s transport and economic resilience required it and “sooner rather than later” he said.

North Shore councillor Chris Darby, who chairs the Planning Committee, has advocated for rail to Takapuna and the wider North Shore for decades and pushed successfully for the business study to proceed two years ago.

The city could not fit more and more buses and cars, he said.

Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Jan O’Connor said the sell-off of part of Takapuna’s central car park space by council development arm Panuku should be halted, so including a train stop within the town centre area and near connections to buses could be better allowed for.

Board chairman Aidan Bennett said rail would be “fantastic” for the metropolitan centre of the future. “How good will it be to catch efficient rail transport to the city and beyond?”

Darby said Takapuna would be a big beneficiary of extending rail to the North Shore.

In time it was envisaged the rail spur through Takapuna and Smales Farm could extend to Albany.

The busway through Akoranga was a success, but needed supplementing.

“Keeping in mind the additional harbour crossing is likely to be Auckland’s mostly costly infrastructure project, the planning required is extensive.”

Watts wants early decisions made, saying: “We want infrastructure in place before we need to use it.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said last week that NZTA was clearly leaning towards a public transport tunnel for a time when Auckland would have more than two million people. In a choice between light and heavy rail, he expected light rail to be chosen.

The Planning Committee has noted the findings of the business case and called for agreement between NZTA, the council and AT before any further work is done.

This article originally appeared in the 27 November 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.

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