Joe Hendren

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

State Highway 20: A bit sneaky

Yesterday I took the opportunity to walk along the new section of State Highway 20 before it opens for traffic next Friday.

NZTA claim to have made provision for rail in the future as part of the SH20 project. Despite looking through a number of NZTA documents over the past few months I have found very little detail on what this means, besides leaving a little extra room under the bridges.

I couldn't see where the railway line would go, so I asked one of the representatives in the public NZTA information tent. He pointed to a narrow section of grass running alongside the eastern side of the new motorway, where "light rail" for passengers could run. He confirmed this ruled out heavy rail like the rest of the Auckland network, carrying both freight and passengers.

There is only room for a single track light rail - it seems NZTA planners are oblivious to the huge amount of recent double tracking work over the rest of the Auckland rail network. A passenger service that is single tracked over 4km is going to have limited service frequency.

The guy I spoke to was a good natured sort. He even ventured to say with a smile that building SH20 on a designated rail corridor was "a bit sneaky'. You could say that.

It sounds like top dogs in NZTA and the Government decided to do the minimum they thought would be required to build their road. Unfortunately it sounds like we have lost rail options for the future already.

So while NZTA claim they have left provision for rail, "including ARTA's promosed rail link to the airport", this does seem at odds with ARTA's draft 2009 Auckland Transport Plan which includes a Southdown to Avondale link for both freight and passengers, following the proposed route of SH20 to Waterview.

Its also worth noting that Onehunga residents lost their beach in 1984 when a motorway was rammed over the waterfront, despite a Government promise to fix up their mess when they next extended the motorway. Well that is now happening, and it looks like Onehunga will be given what NZTA believes is the bare minimum to make the problem go away. The Onehunga Enhancement Society is to launch a legal challenge.

These examples ought to be a warning to the residents of Mt Roskill as NZTA start the "consultations" about the extension of SH20 to Waterview.

As I was walking back I heard another couple asking those in uniform where the railway line was going to go. Good.

I predict a double tracked rail line will be needed at some point, but because of the decisions made over SH20, its likely to become a more expensive project. I fear that Auckland's transport problems will never be solved while there remains a focus on the ultimate sovereignty of the car and short term economic cost/benefit analysis. Particularly when such decisions limit options for the future.

PS: At least they let the kids draw on the Motorway for one day (see pic above). If Auckland City Council gave out free chalk - would there be such a graffiti problem?

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