I was really excited to see Auckland Transport’s proposal to extend rail electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe. With a whole heap of growth proposed for the southern-most parts of Auckland it seemed pretty insane to cut electrification off at Papakura. Furthermore, if wake up to the reality that running diesel shuttle trains for less than 100 passengers a day between Waitakere and Swanson is absolutely insane, electrification to Pukekohe means that we can completely do away with diesel trains from the Auckland rail network. That’s likely to have some significant cost savings in terms of no longer needing a diesel train maintenance depot.
While the preferred “Option C”, which includes electrification plus two new stations at Drury and Paerata, has a fairly decent benefit-cost ratio of 2.1, I wonder whether the business case has actually significantly under-estimated the potential patronage of the line because possible other stations haven’t been considered. I guess to be fair, the area in question is at the moment predominantly rural – as shown in the map below (proposed line for electrification in red, existing stations in blue and proposed stations in purple):
Drury and Paerata are existing, if relatively small, towns and have the potential to be good park and ride locations (particularly Drury) – so the stations make sense and I can see why they would be built in the near future. However, in the longer run as this area develops it would seem obvious to include some further stations. Remember the options for growth that are being looked at for this part of Auckland (with the blue dots once again indicating existing stations and the purple dots indicating proposed stations):
Depending on the final options chosen for where urbanisation will and will not happen, you could have up to three additional stations servicing this area – while still keeping a fairly decent spacing between the different stations. Here are some seemingly logical locations where they could go:
Perhaps the only station that’s pushing a little close to the others is the Opaheke one between Papakura and Drury, but all the others generally have at least 2-3 kilometres between station – actually greater than the gaps between many stations on Auckland’s current rail network. This is shown below:
Obviously there’s always a balance to be found with the number of stations you have – because each station slows down the train for people not getting on and off. However the sheer scale of growth proposed for this area means that the balance might be tipped in favour of more stations rather than less. This from the Council’s report into this southern growth area:The report seems to indicate that most of this development is unlikely to happen until post 2020, so the additional stations may not be needed for quite some time. However, as electrification to Pukekohe’s justification is based on a 30 year timeframe it really should take into account the possibility of at least 1-2 of these extra stations happening. With a city the size of Tauranga likely to be constructed around this railway line during the next 30 or so years, plus Pukekohe to grow significantly as well, I’d say that perhaps the need for electrification is even more compelling than Auckland Transport’s analysis so far suggests.
Put it this way, we’d be absolutely insane to develop that area without electrification happening.