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Communities Unite for “Western Connector” Trains

Communities Unite for “Western Connector” Trains

Over 120 people attended a lively public transport meeting in Kumeu last night calling for improved public transport to this rapidly growing area on Auckland’s fringe.

About 2,500 additional houses are being planned under the Special Housing Area deal implementing the Housing Accord of the Council and Government, in addition to about 2,500 new houses already being built in the area.

Those attending last night’s meeting, arranged by the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA), and the North-West Districts Business Association were concerned at the lack of viable public transport options despite the rapid growth happening in the area.

The meeting was unanimous in support for PTUA’s ‘Western Connector’ proposal, to utilise the current railway line going through the heart of the area, as well as existing stations and diesel rolling stock.

Christine Rose, chairwoman of the PTUA says “doing nothing is not an option, but that’s what Auckland Transport propose, with no investment in improved public transport services, park and rides or other facilities planned”. “We have the equivalent of a small Auckland town moving into our area but no improvement in public services to meet this growth. The people of this wider area clearly reject that ‘lack of planning’. It’s unsustainable, inefficient, and uneconomic to fast track all this growth without decent services – and yet all the infrastructure prerequisites are in place”.

PTUA co-ordinator, Jon Reeves says “Rail services to Kumeu were seen as a necessary investment by transport authorities, right up until 2013 when these plans were surreptitiously removed from plans”. “In an absolutely retrograde move, Auckland Transport has wiped planned services to Kumeu, and will scrub existing services to Waitakere from mid 2015”.

Waitakere residents are especially concerned, given many invested in the area because of the rail service, though they admit the way it has been run down, with services cancelled and passengers ejected elsewhere on the line have eroded confidence in AT’s commitment to the line.

The Public Transport Users Association proposes the ‘Western Connector’ as a public transport solution for the area. This would entail regular, reliable, hourly shuttle services between Swanson and Kumeu, stopping at Waitakere, using existing rail rolling stock, lines and platforms, thereby providing a sustainable service at marginal cost.

Reeves said, “We have reviewed the costs Auckland Transport used as a decision to cut Kumeu out of the rail development plans and have quickly found $14 million in over inflated and inappropriately allocated costs to kill off the sensible rail option. We are calling upon AT to immediately review the costs and benefits based on our findings and the fact the report undertaken in 2012 was made before the Special Housing Areas were planned and approved for Huapai.

Even if a couple of bus lanes are built, trains are still 15 to 25 minutes faster to key Western employment, shopping and leisure points such as Henderson, New Lynn, Kingsland, Grafton and Newmarket. You cannot beat the congestion free option rail can deliver to the people of North West Auckland.”

Mrs Rose, a public transport user, says ‘Bus service improvements are also an important part of meeting the area’s sustainable transport needs. But at the moment buses are caught in general congestion which sometimes stretches from Kumeu right into the city 35km away”. “AT and NZTA have no real concrete plans for bus ways to improve running times and to provide a congestion free route”. “Services to the western employment areas require long journeys by bus with multiple stops and swopping buses to get to your destination”

“We already have a direct congestion free route– the railway line, and we should be making better use of that. This also has the advantage of providing a good transport option for the many major events held in Kumeu throughout the year, such as the Kumeu Show, the Folk Festival, hot rod shows, and more”.

PTUA are presenting to Auckland Council’s Infrastructure meeting on the results of their meeting and the ‘Western Connector’ proposal on Wednesday morning.


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