Some really interesting news today about the big Lion Breweries site in Newmarket – which looks like will be purchased by Auckland University:
The University of Auckland is shutting its Epsom and Tamaki campus hubs and buying a big Newmarket site where it will educate and house some of its growing student population base.
New Zealand’s biggest tertiary organisation had confirmed that it wanted to buy the ex-Lion Breweries site in Newmarket and consolidate many operations there, while retaining its Auckland CBD and Grafton campus sites.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon issued the statement at 3pm, saying the university had entered into a conditional agreement to purchase the 5.2ha former Lion Breweries site in Newmarket, in what is potentially its most significant property acquisition in a generation.
This is probably the biggest ‘brownfield’ site in Auckland, and a university campus is just perfect for it. Here’s the place we’re talking about:
From a public transport perspective, this site is absolutely ideal – especially as university students are absolutely massive users of PT. Grafton Station is almost in the site at its western end, Newmarket station isn’t too far from its eastern end and what is probably close to Auckland’s busiest bus corridor along Khyber Pass Road runs along the southern side of the site. The opportunities to integrate the redevelopment with Grafton Station are particularly exciting.
What this proposal clearly does is highlight the growing importance of Grafton Station to the network. It’s already being used by an increasing number of hospital staff/visitors and the current Auckland University medical school. They’re just on the top left of the aerial photograph above. A major redevelopment of this site, with thousands of students travelling there every day, could bump Grafton Station up to being one of the busiest on the whole PT network. Especially as there isn’t exactly a surfeit of free parking available around Newmarket (unlike the current Epsom and Tamaki campuses).
The next corollary of Grafton Station having a significantly greater role in the PT network is that an eastern link between Grafton Station and Newton Station simply must be built as part of the City Rail Link project. That’s the tracks shown in red below, which form part of the junction where the CRL meets the existing Western Line at Eden Terrace:
These tracks would allow a service to travel from south of Newmarket, swing west to Grafton then north to Newton, K Road, Aotea station and so forth. Grafton ends up on the “main line”. Without the eastern link Grafton effectively becomes an “orphaned station” from the whole rail network, with the only trains serving it being the odd direct west to Newmarket train, or perhaps even a pointless little shuttle train between the “Inner West Interchange” (IWI for short?) and Newmarket. Not exactly fitting a station with a new, rather massive, tertiary institute right on its doorstep.
The current preferred route for the CRL includes, somewhat strangely, provision of both the eastern link and the Inner West Interchange. Yet the interchange is only really needed if you don’t have the eastern link, as you’ve got a whole heap of trains you need to turn around and send back (empty?) through the CRL tunnel. With the eastern link they just whip around to Grafton, Newmarket and then head further south. I do think that today’s announcement, which cements Grafton Station as having a critical future role in Auckland’s rail system, should tip the scales in favour of the eastern link.
After all, how stupid would it be to dramatically reduce the number of trains serving a station that’s about to have a massive new tertiary institute built on its doorstep?