Cabinet meets on a Monday, so I was in Wellington on the 13th of March when the Parnell railway station was officially opened. I was sorry to miss the ceremony, because it’s been a long time coming. The arrangements are pretty basic at the moment but it's already providing a real boost to public transport in Auckland. Later in the year a new walkway will punch through the Carlaw Park area down to Stanley Street, taking the train to work will be a more realistic option for more Aucklanders. That’s a good thing. Anything we can do to reduce the congestions on the roads of this growing city is welcome.
Auckland city ratepayers are paying for the station. But it is worth noting that the massive investment in urban rail in Auckland in the past decade has been a combined effort from both central and local government.
The National Government has invested around $1.7 billion upgrade of the Auckland metro rail network and trains in past few years. Project Dart included the double tracking the Western Line, the Newmarket rail upgrade, re-opening the Onehunga branch line, constructing a new link to Manukau and investing in the reliability of the system. The Government, on behalf of taxpayers, has put in half a billion to electrify Auckland’s rail network from Swanson to Papakura, complemented with a state-of-the-art signalling and train control system. That investment has enabled the introduction of new electric trains on the Auckland rail services. Then the National Government worked out joint funding and ownership agreement with the Auckland Council to purchase 57 three-car electric trains for the Auckland network. The electric trains have transformed the network.
As we all know, the next big thing is the $3.4 billion City Rail Link, which National, on behalf of New Zealand taxpayers, has committed to half-fund. Once finished, the rail loop will make the network much more efficient and will substantially reduce travel times, especially from the west.
These are colossal sums, to be considered alongside the equally large investments on roads and buses, as well as more modest investments in cycling. The Government’s $1.4 billion Waterview Connection will provide another route for a great deal of traffic that currently passes through this part of the city. The East-West Link, between the Mangere Bridge and the Southern Motorway, will provide Remuera and the Eastern Suburbs a faster route to the airport.
Everyone in Auckland knows that we need to keep investing in transport infrastructure, to keep the city moving. We’ve tried to keep the balance right between the various modes of transport, public and private. And, as Simon Bridges has noted, we are open to looking at new tools, such as road pricing, if they can be shown to reduce congestion.
In the meantime, it’s a nice thought that someone living out at Papakura or New Lynn, who works at the University of Auckland’s Business School or at Auckland Hospital, might now be more inclined to leave the car at home because they can hop off the train at Parnell.