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Closing Sarawia St Level Crossing

Auckland Transport is looking to close the Sarawia St level crossing in Newmarket. It is perhaps the most pesky crossing on the network, not due to how many cars use the street but how many trains pass through it and combined with its proximity to the Newmarket junction, makes things really tricky from a train operational perspective. I’ve lost count of how many times I have had to wait on a train before that crossing and my understanding is that it is largely due to the timings on the crossing itself rather than the junction. Things will only get worse in the future as more services are put on as a result of electrification and that means more people are potentially impacted.

Part of the problem is that there is no other way to access Laxon Tce and Youngs Lane (where the Sarawia St Level crossing leads to) meaning it isn’t just a matter of simply closing the crossing. Auckland Transport say that a number of options have been looked at for how to deal with the problem including the following ones which were dismissed for various reasons:

  • Vehicle underpass - an underpass from Sarawia Street was considered previously by KiwiRail but dismissed due to construction and cost challenges compared to a bridge.
  • Over rail bridges - options for bridges from either Sarawia Street or Cowie Street were previously explored by KiwiRail in 2011, with the Sarawia Street bridge option dismissed due to gradient issues and the Cowie Street bridge being expensive and visually imposing on the environment.
  • Newmarket Park Roads -options for a road through and a road around the park have been explored by Auckland Transport. Both roads carry with them extremely high construction risks due to ground stability and involve loss of public amenity in Newmarket Park.

The option that is considered the best option is to create a road link though to Furneaux Way between two buildings at the southern end of Laxon Tce. There is already a pedestrian access way so this would involve widening it.

AT have looked a couple of different options for the connection with their preferred one being a 5.5m wide shared space.

This solution however will obviously put a few more cars onto Furneaux Way and the only problem with that is that the road is currently a private one with it being owned and maintained by the developments body corporate. As a result Auckland Transport is looking to take over the future maintenance of the road. All up it seems to be a reasonable solution but will obviously have big impacts for those local residents. More information about it is here including info on an open day next week.

It will be good to get one more level crossing off the network and I really wish we could get a few more done while we are at it. Even if AT could perhaps target to remove a couple each year it would at least be a way to start progress (I believe the next crossings to be removed aren’t scheduled for another few years).

40 comments to Closing Sarawia St Level Crossing

  • Mr Anderson

    No brainer. Get on with it.

    • jonno1

      I agree in principle Mr A, with a couple of caveats:

      1) Furneaux Way, as mentioned in the post, is a private road owned and operated by the Residents’ Society, so the wishes of those residents should be paramount.
      2) The walkway is quite steep, so sightlines could be a safety issue. Further, the roundabout in Laxon Tce, as mentioned in the proposal, probably needs to go to allow for a better alignment.
      3) The property immediately to the east of the walkway has its garage facing the walkway; if its driveway is lost then provision will need to be made to safely access this garage. The driveway connects Laxon Tce with Furneaux Way, and before the owner installed a gate it was a popular rat-run to bypass Broadway!

      Overall, provided AT/Auckland Council approach this sensitively there is a strong possibility of success without invoking the heavy hand of the Public Works Act.

      I believe the public meeting is this Wednesday at Jubilee Hall.

      • We are one of the FOUR owners of the shared driveway between Laxon and Furneaux. We have never been directly approached and only saw on the AT website that our land may be “acquired”. So much for “sensitively” approached!

      • Typical NIMBY
        Who cares about your precious private road or your powerless residents committee
        You are up against the almighty AT mate
        This issue is about the good of the neighbourhood and road safety, PARTICULARLY THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN you self-centered twit
        Now that AT has reneged on the Cowie Street bridge you can expect them to invoke the Public Works Act
        Wake up and smell the coffee pal

      • Blatant Attack on Natural Justice by wealthy Cowie Street Residents
        Hands off our bridge say poorer Laxon Terrace Residents
        We’ll seek Judicial Review if Council backtracks say Laxon residents
        Protest signs up again
        No money politics, we want justice.

        Families living in a quiet little street in Remuera have discovered that they are under threat of having an underpass which does not meet safety standards constructed directly opposite their homes with a 50% increase in vehicle movements. And this is despite Auckland Council publically rejecting that option in December 2013.

        It has been decided that the Sarawia Street Level Crossing needed to be closed to improve Auckland’s rail network. Council undertook limited public consultation (some residents directly affected have never been contacted) and sought debate on alternative access for residents.
        Four options were considered. Out-of –Area Greens opposed a road through Newmarket Park. Wealthy Furneaux Way residents threatened to go to law over a Laxon Terrace – Furneaux Way link-up. An underpass involved the highest cost, most disruption and least safety. A Cowie Street bridge presented the best solution, will increase road safety and was thus chosen.

        However at a bitter emergency public meeting on 22 May 2014 in Parnell, it has become clear that a small number of wealthy Cowie street residents have involved heavyweight barristers in an unjust attempt to overturn that decision.

        Many people are angry about this. Firstly that council is even entertaining further submissions on a closed matter. Secondly that the Cowie Street minority are being given ‘closed-door private appeal’ rights. Counsel for Cowie Street residents has refused publication ‘fresh evidence.’ The public has no access to this private ‘fresh proposal’. Thirdly and most importantly because AN UNDERPASS IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN A BRIDGE. All in all, a classic Not-In-My-Back-Yard stoush that only goes to prove that wealthy think they can ride roughshod over natural justice and poorer people get the least safe option because they can’t afford to hire lawyers.

        LOOK OUT FURNEAUX WAY. YOU ARE NEXT

  • OrangeKiwi

    If it improves rail operations, by all means, get on with it. But what’s happening in regard to pedestrian access to Newmarket Park from, well, Newmarket?

  • Luke C

    There are 8 on the Onehunga line, so the CBDRL will deal to those. Will probably close half although there are a few that will be difficult to deal with due to close distance to intersections.

    • I doubt they would be removed as part of the CRL. It talks about duplicating the line but that can be done without grade separation although those that can be closed probably would be at that point. I understand that AT have Morningside Dr, St Jude St and Manuroa St as the next on the list of key level crossings to sort out.

      • Luke C

        Surely with 10 min frequencies having that many level crossings is very undesirable, so seems strange that none would be closed or bridged.

        • Glen

          (Forgive me if this has already been addressed elsewhere) but has trenching the Onehunga Line when double-tracking it been considered?
          I work near Te Papapa and use the OBL regularly, ridership is low now but once the train frequencies are up the area (particularly the light industrial bits) is ripe for mid-density residential redevelopment. The numerous level crossings (many on main roads so difficult to close) and a higher pedestrian count would be a bad mix. (unfortunately bridging would be tricky, especially around the Church St/Captain Springs Rd triangle, where the level crossings are close to the traffic lights)
          Trenching would solve that issue, provide for higher speeds, and future-proof the line for the airport extension… seems like a good idea to me.

        • SteveC

          there are some real issues with grade separating crossings and I think that the old Auckland City had more level crossings than any other TLA in the country, first cost, second maintaining property access to properties on the approaches as there is generally only a standard road cross section to use

          there was a study of crossings undertaken when I was at Auckland City and the issues are significant

  • obi

    We’ve talked in other posts about capping parts of the CMJ. It’s an attractive option because of the potential land value, because it increases ground-level connectivity in the city, and because buildings are better looking than road surface. So… Surely it also makes sense to cap (or more likely bury) the rail lines in high value parts of the city like Newmarket and the CBD. It must be cheaper than capping the CMJ because it is only a fraction of the width. It would ensure a rail right of way. It would integrate the east and west side of the tracks with better connectivity for pedestrians and possibly cyclists. And it would free up a brownfield corridor for housing or other uses… there must be space for 50 homes or 25 apartment blocks in just the bit of track in the aerial photo.

    • Patrick Reynolds

      Also known as tunnelling: There’s a thought…. maybe we should do that through the high value CBD….?

      • obi

        You’re thinking about a new rail line and I doubt if it would be possible to build a new line in the CBD without burying it. There were some third party proposals floating around to build the CBD link on some sort of raised structure and that seemed to be quite mad (although they do that in some overseas cities).

        I think it might be worth looking at for existing lines.

        • Yeah the overhead CRL idea was really just concern trolling as it had no real analysis behind it.
          http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/05/13/why-the-overhead-crl-wont-work-its-about-the-catchment/

          • obi

            It swung out to the west of the city, cleverly avoiding most places that people want to go to.

            I’m assuming that any new railway anywhere near the CBD would have to go above or below the ground, because a new ground level heavy railway would be intolerable. I’m not opposed to raised railways in principle in the suburbs… I thought Miami’s was quite cool looking, and the photos I’ve seen of Vancouver’s don’t look ugly. But there is no way you could force that right through a CBD. Think of the eye sore that is (or was?) the Sydney monorail. So tunneling is the only option. And as I said, I think there are benefits to retroactive tunneling on existing lines.

          • Sure sinking existing lines into tunnels would be fine as long as it was associated with corresponding development. I’m not sure of to many places around Auckland where it would be worthwhile though as you are really limiting yourselves to places like town centres of which most still have plenty of other development opportunities to consider first.

          • obi

            I don’t think it’d be worthwhile anywhere outside the CBD and CBD fringe.

            I’ve been following the posts describing plans to develop satellite towns south of Papakura. They all seem to be based on railway stations with rail lines running through the center of the postulated new towns. I wonder if that is acceptable these days. Sometimes you have no option but to push a motorway or a rail line through the center of a town. Auckland, for instance, extends from one side of the island to the other and there is no possibility of a bypass. However for new developments without terrain constraints I think it’d be preferable for motorways, express roads, and rail lines to bypass the town.

            For the case of the new southern towns, I don’t see that this would make the railways any less useful. I think they will be sources of passengers, rather than destinations for travel. Therefore the issue is that people need to get between their homes and the stations, rather than the stations and the town centers. If you need to get from your home to a station then a station on the edge of the town is viable… you’d still walk, take the bus and transfer, or park and ride.

            I grew up next to a railway in the Hutt Valley. It pretty much cut one side of the valley off from the other. It was possible to cross the main road through the city just about anywhere… there were traffic lights and pedestrian crossings at frequent intervals, and you could normally walk across the road just about anywhere. By contrast, rail crossings were few and far between, and sometimes involved climbing up a tall ugly metal footbridge. I don’t think that is acceptable any more… it just isn’t good for a modern urban environment. It was also noisy as hell, especially when the endless freight trains came through at night time.

            None of this applies to trams, which are acceptable in CBDs at ground level. It’s never hard to cross a tram line.

          • Max

            Obi, I disagree with you there for rail – why would you lose all the catchment by letting rail bypass your new town! just because there’s some severance and noise issues to be resolved via good design? Not trivial, but not impossible or extremely expensive either, especially with electric trains reducing the noise impacts. Sure, you would not want houses DIRECTLY next to the rail line, but at a distance of 30-50m the noise (especially if reduced by low noise walls or berms) is already a lot less problematic.

    • Mr Anderson

      There is a consented development over the large rail triangle at Newmarket.

    • Newmarket is an interesting case due to the geography. On the Northern side, the tracks up from Parnell are very steep, they are also steep from Newmarket up to Remuera and also Grafton (the easiest of the lot). What it means is there is pretty much no opportunity to lower them anywhere. What is kind of happening is the rail line is being built over which started with the Cinema/car park. The air rights above the junction were also sold off during privatisation so we may eventually see a building there.
      http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/04/17/a-northern-exit-for-newmarket-station/

  • Greg N

    I recall when that development was being built back in 1992 and even then it was a dangerous crossing, let alone now.

    Auckland City Council should never have allowed should that development to go ahead corrsing a railway line and with no access from another street on the Laxon Tce side of the railway. At least should put a requirement on the developer to put a paper road in, even if it was not built to ease the future development of a road.

    Furneaux way was developed some time later so the developer could have allowed for Laxon Tce to be a extended as a through road even then, its just that in all likelihood the developer wanted to maximise their profit and so didn’t allow for the road.

  • TheBigWheel

    Just thinking about the impact on other modes of transport for a minute.. Whatever solution is implemented, let’s not forget that Sarawia St – Newmarket Park is a valuable pedestrian link (and an unofficial cycle one). It needs to be maintained, or enhanced. Ideally with a cycle bridge with ramps.. which would be easy on the western (uphill) side, and could maybe extend northwards on the eastern side of the tracks.. and with a bit of re-engineering of the slope through Newmarket Park could form the basis of a proper off-road cycle route from Shore Road to Newmarket avoiding the killer Ayr St.

    • Yes and linked to one along the rail ROW down to Parnell Station and through the Domain. There is a currently bricked up third tunnel between Parnell and Newmarket which would be perfect for this.

      • Brian Gill

        The bricked up third tunnel is a historic gem with lovely stone-work (at least at the harbour end). It was the original tunnel when the line south was built. It’s a great idea to use it (and protect and enhance it) for a cycle/pedestrian route.

  • Owen Thompson

    I support the option of getting rid of the private road, in favour of one less level crossing.

  • Max

    It really needs to retain sme sort of ped & cycle crossing at Sarawia. Grade-separated ideally, but like Kingdon Street if not. Otherwise we would just be cementing the cul-de-sac nature of these areas.

  • Max

    Also – Matt L – how did you FIND this Sarawia Crossing website on the AT page? It doesn’t seem to be linked to from anywhere. Are they trying to be sneaky, or just didn’t do the full 9 yards of adding it to their updates list?

    • I went onto their website a few days ago and it was in the projects list on the home page so I started typing it up this post. When I went in the next day to finish it, it was gone but I found it by searching.

  • JeffT

    One thing i have been wondering is what the impact will be on level crossing traffic when the electric trains are in and possibly running at ten minute intervals. I wonder if that may lead to traffic build-up at the crossings?

    The motorists would not be happy!

    • At some crossings it is bound to cause problems. The reason New Lynn was approved in the first place was due to the traffic issues that would have been caused by trains every 10 minutes. The barriers there would have had to be down longer due to the existing of the station next to the Clark St roundabout and It was predicted that they would have been down 60% of the time. Not all crossings will be that bad but there will certainly be some impacts. Perhaps the most affected will be St Jude St which is used by something like close to 20,000 vehicles per day.

      • Bryce P

        The level crossing at Glen Eden suffers from this a bit and when the EMU’s get here with more frequent services, I feel the problem will be quite a bit worse.

  • Lisa

    Does anyone happen to know the developers who developed the apartments on furneaux way? :-) thanks Lisa

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