Saturday, August 12, 2017

Airport Trams - Labour’s Devil’s Advocate challenges Auckland Transport

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Since that infamous Chris Carter letter in 2011 which rolled current Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff as Labour leader, this Thakur, Kiwi Pundit/ Fiji Pundit, has been writing about Labour Party. Nobody took notice. Leader after leader changed: Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe, and finally Andrew Little in the cleanest takeover by a resurrection of Helen Clark-Jacinda Ardern.

As they had failed to listen, scoring own goals and falling on their swords, I was forced to became Labour’s self-appointed Devil’s Advocate. This term originated in Roman Catholic Church where somebody from within a Church raised issues and argued against anybody marked for sainthood. In our current discussion, I am pretending to be against an idea or plan that a lot of people support, in order to make people discuss and consider it in greater detail. My intention is to enhance discussion. I am not an opponent but on the same side, but wish to raise issues so we are well geared to face our supporters.

Heavy Rail - Train

As Labour’s Devil’s Advocate, I would raise some questions to Auckland Transport (AT) which I consider as an uncontrolled Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) of Auckland Council (my satire). In response to NZ Herald editorial  raising many questions about suitability and credibility of trams on Dominion Road, the new Labour Leader, Jacinda Ardern attributed Auckland Transport (AT) and independent transport economists who gave them the idea of trams to Airport. They are supposed to have studied the issue in depth and came with the recommendation that trams was the best option for Auckland's transport future.

Yours Truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh, and my blog, FIJI PUNDIT have been ardent supporters of HEAVY RAIL linking airport. I suggested a heavy link from Puhinui Station (Southern Link) to Airport, via Puhinui Rd, linking Domestic and International Airports, and thence linking to wider Auckland rail network. 

I see this has been rejected in favour of trams. I may have been insignificant, but there is support from somebody who knows his stuff. He is Mike Lee  who is a councillor on the Auckland Council and the former chairman of the Auckland Regional Council. He chairs the transport committee of Auckland Council, and sits on the board of Auckland Transport. Many writers and critics are sceptical about Labour’s choice which is based on recommendation from AT. 
Light Rail looks good on Whiteboard, writes John Roughan in NZ Herald.
"The simple and obvious solution is a line to the nearest point on the main trunk, at Puhinui, just a few kilometres from the airport.

Light Rail -Tram

It is obvious to any passenger on the right side of a plane landing from the east. The line would cross flat land still farmed or leased for industry, easily acquired. There is not much more to say about it."

However, Auckland Transport thinks otherwise. Hence in my position as a Devil’s Advocate, I raise some questions, which Phil Twyford has to obtain from Auckland Transport, and its independent transport economist to satisfy scepticism of people who are opposed to trams in favour of heavy rail.

Shorter route from Puhinui Station to Airport-less than 7km mostly through farmland and green country, to link to National Rail Network

Here are some questions for Auckland Transport:

1) How much would it cost for a heavy link from Puhinui to Airport for a 7km link through green country? How long will it take?

2) How much will it cost for the 24 km link from Queen Street to Airport and how long will it take, considering a kilometre of Te Atatu Road took over 2 years?

3) What do they mean Southern is a heavily-used and cannot take any more traffic. Trains currently run at half hour intervals. What happens in the remainder 29 minutes?

4) Would light rail accommodate airport freight? If no, should not this link be used to replace freight trucks from roads?

5) Has Auckland Transport seen the setup of heavy rail link to Sydney Airport, and learnt from it?

6) As mentioned, Te Atatu Rd of some 1km took over 2 years, and huge frustrations from residents and businesses. For 500 metres of Muriwai roundabout, it is taking 2 years. How long will it take 10km from Queen Street to Motorway 20 link at Mt Roskill, involving residential and business disruptions, on relatively narrow roads with dense population?

7) How long will it take the remainder 14 km via Motorway 20 and 20A to the airport?

8) Dominion Rd is narrow and densely populated, especially between New North Rd to Balmoral Rd. There would be long disruptions to businesses in that congested area. How will two lanes of light rail link and road transport be accommodated without demolishing buildings, some of which have heritage recognition? How will cyclists be accommodated?

9) Does light rail climb hills?

10) Could not light rail in the city and heavy rail link from Puhinui to airport run in conjunction, supplementing each other?

We need answers. To Auckland Transport and its independent transport economists: Let’s do this
[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Labour Party member and supporter. He runs his blog Fiji Pundit]

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