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King: Sod turning, Newmarket Railway Station

Annette King

20 August, 2008
Sod turning, Newmarket Railway Station

The future of rail in Auckland is destined to be so dynamic that I am sure that today’s ceremonial event at Newmarket will be only one of a number of significant occasions occurring over the next few years.

The last time I stood here at this station I witnessed --- and heard --- first hand the unpleasant reality of a noisy diesel train rattling past and making life a misery for people living and working alongside the station.

Well, today’s ceremony --- turning the first sod for what will be a wonderful new station at Newmarket --- marks the first step in turning that around, and I certainly hope to be back here when the new station is completed and then again when the final improvement --- electrification of Auckland’s rail network --- becomes the new reality.

Thank you for inviting me here today. I want to acknowledge Auckland Regional Council chair Mike Lee; Auckland Regional Council transport and urban linkages committee chair Christine Rose; New Zealand Transport Agency Board board member Christine Caughey; Auckland Regional Transport Authority chair Mark Ford; and Cameron Brewer, Newmarket Business Association chief executive.

I also acknowledge representatives from Hawkins Construction, which last week won the contract to build the new station.

I am proud of this Government’s unprecedented investment in infrastructure over the past nine years --- in health, education, police and transport to mention just a few of the big-spending areas --- and I am particularly proud of the level of investment in Auckland.

In terms of economic progress, nowhere is this investment in infrastructure more critical than it is in transport, and I am sure that there are not many people in Newmarket who would disagree with that statement.

An efficient and effective rail system is of critical importance to New Zealand’s economic development. This is especially apparent in Auckland, the country’s economic powerhouse, and that puts in context why this event --- the start of a major upgrade to one of the city’s busiest stations --- is so important.

As you know, the Government has ambitious plans to improve public transport in Auckland as part of developing a world class transport network.

That is why, in 2006, the Government established Project DART and set aside $600 million to fund a series of improvements to Auckland’s rail network. This project represents the most significant redevelopment of the New Zealand rail network in decades.

ONTRACK has responsibility for the planning, design and construction of additional rail infrastructure, while ARTA carries out a programme of upgrades to station facilities and rolling stock.

It is all part of a regional plan to have a rapid transit network with high frequency, high-quality public transport services.

The benefits of improving public transport in Auckland are only too clear, with train patronage in the region growing 130 percent over the past four years. In real terms, we are looking at an increase from 2.5 million passengers in 2003 to close to seven million projected by the end of this year.

In June – compared to the same time last year – rail patronage in Auckland leapt an incredible 30 percent, although some of this can, of course, be attributed to the high global price of oil.

ARTA, with its operator Veolia, has done a lot of work, however, over the last few years to improve timetables, frequency of services and reliability.

Keeping up with this increased demand is an ongoing challenge. The more you do, the more people want. That’s a good thing, not a bad one.

While the increasing patronage we’re seeing may create some challenges in the short term, it’s still a great sign that we’re delivering what people want – better public transport.

The next major step in the development of Auckland’s passenger rail network is the electrification of the network. As you all know, the recently enacted Land Transport Management Act enables a Regional Fuel Tax, a new funding tool to help regions meet their transport needs, and my officials are currently evaluating Auckland’s regional fuel tax application. This proposal is designed to go a long way to making electrification a reality.

The redevelopment of Newmarket station and junction will cost $48 million, including $25 million for the station building and $23 million for the track realignment work.

The construction work will reconnect the station with the heart of Newmarket’s CBD and is probably the most challenging of all the DART projects. It involves major construction in a very confined and busy part of the network, running through the middle of a commercial, retail and residential suburb.

There is no doubt the work is needed. The current track layout creates a bottleneck and pinch point in the system with two lines coming together, and a major track redesign is required.

ONTRACK has done a great job of constructing two temporary stations at Newmarket West (Kingdon Road) and Newmarket South to minimise disruption during redevelopment.

I understand the new station design will include twin island platforms, three tracks and two elevated concourses. Pedestrian facilities will link the station with Remuera Road, and nearby retail, business and local bus services.

I am told the new station is not only going to be a significant building, but also a stunning addition to the area.

I know the Auckland City Council is also doing a lot of work to complement the Newmarket station development and improve public transport and walking and cycling facilities. It has already committed funds to give Broadway a facelift, which includes improvements to footpaths, street furniture, lighting and parking.

Such an integrated planning approach is essential for Auckland’s future development.

The Government is delighted to be back so decisively in the business of rail, but not everyone was so delighted. You could say the National Party ‘railed’ against it in Parliament.

And we are also delighted to be working so closely with Auckland across a range of public transport initiatives.

Thank you again for inviting me to be part of this event today. The people of Newmarket can now look forward to a station and facilities to be proud of, and, just as importantly, Auckland is now one step closer to a future rail network that wouldn’t have seemed possible a decade ago.

Congratulations to all the agencies who are working together in Auckland to make rail such an important part of our lives again.


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