Thursday, January 26, 2017

A case for heavy rapid rail to Auckland Airport - from Puhinui


Thakur Ranjit Singh

Some 3 and a half years ago, in July, 2013, we saw some hot air during Auckland mayoral election. Mayor Len Brown said a rail link to the airport would have been a focus over the next year if he won a second term. The same Brown had promised at the 2010 election to build rail to the airport by 2020. It is said that studies had confirmed that the best choice of rapid transit was rail. While arms and legs were promised, nothing eventuated. Blinkered leadership in Auckland resulted in literally ‘shitty’ waters with overflowing sewerage and an apparent dysfunctional Water Reticulation system. Lack of rail link to airport suffered same dereliction of duties by our previous city fathers and government. Hope we have some hope from the current ones. 


Rapid Heavy Rail Link to Auckland Airport was on the planning board of past mayor, Len Brown, but dereliction of duties by City fathers and respective governments have robbed travelling public the facility that most major airports have to their respective cities.
Reportedly, in 2013, planners had come up with two options for rail to the airport - a 6.5km link from Puhinui on the main trunk line costed at about $470 million, and $1.45 billion for a full circuit including Onehunga, which has had its branch line reopened for passenger trains and is 9km from the airport.

But Onehunga is out, and I am supporting a cheaper and better alternative that many other support: a shorter route of some 7km, mostly through green country via Puhinui station. The plethora of so-called experts in Auckland Council, Auckland Transport (AT) and Auckland International Airports Limited (AIA) need to urgently meet and make this happen, and pass a proposal to Government about the urgency and necessity of this issue over which the Auckland Mayor’s office has already been asleep for over 7 years. Hopefully Phil Goff can make this happen.


Approach from Puhinui Station to Airport, via 2km of built-up area can be widened to accomodate railway lines, if there is enough political will for a rapid rail link to Airport. I am no expert, but we need experts to tell WHY THIS CANNOT BE DONE
Our respective leaders, Andrew Little (Labour) and Metiria Turei (Greens) meet this weekend at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall to lay out our priorities for the election campaign and their vision for a stable, responsible alternative. I earnestly hope heavy rail to the Airport is seen as an election a priority. I have already reminded Andrew Little and Labour Party of this in my earlier article, but they have a habit of ignoring views they do not like.

Rapid link to Airport is no longer a choice, but a necessity. The fact that scheduled airlines are delayed in a First World Country because pilots and crews cannot reach the airport is a story for Somalia or other Third World Dysfunctional democracies or dictatorship-not New Zealand. As I had said to Andrew Little, Labour needs ‘political balls’ to bite the bullet NOW.


Auckland International Airports Limited (AIA) has a conflict of interest situation where it mines gold from car parks at Auckland Airport. Hence, they may not be very supportive to kill their cash cow through a railway link.
One problem may be from the Airport Company (AIA) which is making a killing with its car park revenue, as they mine gold in Mangere carparks at Airport, with one car space having a potential of returning more revenue than renting a million-dollar home. The other hindrance may be from other assorted road transport lobby groups. But we need to make a decision and start planning NOW. With its shares in Auckland Airport, Auckland Council need to DIRECT Airport Board to be effective, as well as being efficient.
Puhinui Station is the shortest railway link to the Airport, mostly through farms, and has easy approach to Domestic and International terminals. We need experts to do a serious project planning on this option.
A case for the link from Puhinui:

I have walked some 2km distance from Puhinui Station, past Motorway 20 to Manukau Gardens, through the built-up part of the proposed projects. As road widening is taking place in Te Atatu Road from Motorway 16 to Flanshaw Rd, similar work can be done without demolishing any houses to widen the road and accommodate two lines to the Airport.


Just past and under Motorway 20, Motorway 20b, via Puhinui Rd from near Manukau Memorial gardens is only 5 km through farm lands to  Auckland Airport. Why do I need to tell this to our so-called experts - they need to get out of their ivory towers to see chaos at Auckland Airport.
And from Manukau Gardens to the Airport for some 5 km, we have green country, and government can institute its right to possession for national development. It is basically open fields. It could cost-effectively link to the Domestic and International terminals respectively. We need input from the highly paid so -called experts, who need to wake up. I wonder why it needs a layman like me to advise them on how to do their job. What are over-rated and highly paid bureaucrats and politicians doing while almost all First World’s major airports have rapid, convenient and affordable rail links to their cities, linking to the national rail network?


Viewing site on Puhinui Road, as seen from runway of Auckland Airport. Rail Link from Puhinui Station via this green country will be less painful and less costly.
Those who have been to Sydney would have seen how, they can connect to the wider Sydney network, and go anywhere without worrying about gridlocks on approaches to our Airport. George Bolt Memorial Drive, Tom Pearce Drive and Puhinui Roads, and the obstacles of lights at Kirkbride and Montgomery junctions cannot continue serving Auckland’s growing population and hugely expanding air-traffic. To make this worse, light and heavy traffic taking a bypass to Airport through these roads create the gridlock we are talking about. And nobody seems to be doing anything about this.

As I am finishing, I just saw on Al Jazeera TV about 12,000 km Silk rail link from China to Great Britain. What a pity, the British migrants New Zealand got some two centuries ago did not have as much foresight about rail transport as their “convict” counterparts who went to Sydney had. In Sydney, they have emulated British rail system, while Auckland still resembles a Third World Country.

Auckland Council and Government can continue with this chaos, and Labour Party can ignore this at their peril, as people go through election booth later this year.

Coming up in AUCKLAND COUNCIL WATCH: 

  • How Auckland's poorly managed rubbish collection planning contributes to traffic congestion?
  • Why are Auckland Bus Stations, Train Station, Domestic Airport and some Parks so dry? Does Aucland Council have shares in fizzy-drink and water bottling companies?
  • Why bus link from Albany Station to Constellation Station, as part of Northern Busway gets bottle-necked , with poorly planned entry to bus lane at Graville On -ramp?


[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh does what most qualified ethnic migrants do when they are not accepted in their qualified job market – drive. Thakur has Masters in Communications with honours from AUT. He tried to join Auckland Council in its Media and Communications dept., but despite his plea, the Council refused to colour this department from an ethnic journalist. The irony is that Thakur studied on Pacific Island Media Association (PIMA) Scholarship to add colour to a very white NZ media scene. He is a part-time bus driver, and knows Auckland extensively. Seeing the barriers to media, he runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT and is active on social media, with Auckland Council Watch one of many sites he manages.  This is his first of other posts relating to Auckland Council]