Disuse of rail line a ‘Bloody Shambles’ say locals in Auckland growth area
Sunday 23 July 2017 - The disuse of existing rail infrastructure in growing North West Auckland was labelled ‘a bloody shambles’ by members of
the audience at the Helensville electorate ‘Trains to Huapai’ candidates’ debate today, Sunday 23 July.
Frustrations expressed by the audience about the absence of train services to the Kumeu, Waitakere and wider areas
included increased costs and reduced access to key destinations, not just to get to work, but for education and
Election candidates across the board, responded by acknowledging the economic and social benefits of better public
transport. Though unified in agreement on the value of public transport to the area, candidates differed in how they saw
Chris Penk, the National Party candidate replacing John Key, said he would give rail his full attention, supporting a
‘first solution is the best’ approach. He argued that the rail network is already here, we should use it, with diesel
shuttles in the first instance, and working towards electrification.
Helen Peterson representing New Zealand First, said her party’s policy is to support rail and that train services to
Huapai should be part of an integrated network of buses and trains. “People prefer trains”, she reflected, and they also
have clear access benefits for those on bikes or with disabilities.
The Labour Party is Kurt Taogaga, who said from his time growing up in Helensville he knows it’s a ‘public transport
sinkhole’. He said he supports diesel rail services in the short term and that Labour wants to bring forward the
development of a North Western Busway.
The Green Party’s Hayley Holt said her party support more buses, more frequently along a North Western busway which
could eventually be a light rail system.
The Trains to Huapai campaign sought support from candidates for the proposal to run diesel shuttle services on the
existing line, between Huapai and Swanson or Henderson.
Christine Rose, Chair of the Public Transport Users Association, and local resident, says despite shouldering massive
growth, the area’s opportunities for the use of rail, are neglected. “Passenger rail here makes sense in so many ways –
it provides capacity that’s not available within the crippled roading network, it efficiently uses existing
infrastructure, and minimises ratepayer spend. It’s comfortable and quicker than bus to key destinations”.
Jon Reeves, co-ordinator of the Public Transport Users Association said the public were asking where were the Mayor, the
Chair of Auckland Transport, and the Minister of Transport, “as they needed to be held accountable”. “We all want the
council, the government and AT to be accountable for their failure to plan for and serve the area’s growth”.
Mrs Rose says locals are angry that Special Housing Areas of thousands of new homes have been forced upon the area.
“We’ve got a railway line right there, and spare diesel trains”. “But in every transport funding announcement, whether
its new battery trains for Pukekohe or a station in Drury, Huapai-Kumeu is ignored”.
Speaking in favour of the Trains to Huapai initiative, Chair of the North West District Business Association, Gary
Holmes, said trains will facilitate the local tourism industry in a sustainable way, as well as providing access to the
area for workers.
Local Board quote about we shouldn’t have to wait so long?
The Trains to Huapai campaigners say they elicited pledges of firm support for Trains to Huapai from the National,
Labour and NZ First candidates, and a large turnout from the community on a cold winter’s day, giving them confidence in
the proposal for the future.
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