Next stop - Parnell

16:00, Feb 22 2011
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FULL STEAM AHEAD: Councillor Mike Lee and Parnell Inc manager Debbie Harkness are thrilled to see a train station for Parnell finally on the agenda.

Plans are finally being made for a train station in Parnell after years of talk.

Auckland Transport has announced its aim is to have all stations upgraded before electrification of the rail system is completed in 2013.

And commuters will be able to catch the train to and from the city's oldest suburb for the first time.

The old Newmarket station building will be relocated to the Mainline Steam site in Cheshire St, Parnell, to be used as a new station.

Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee pushed for this in his former role as Auckland Regional Council chairman and is thrilled to see it on the agenda.

"It's all good news – it's kind of official," he says. "It's really, really good that Auckland Transport has made that commitment but there are still technical issues to work through."

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Mr Lee is still in discussions with locomotive restoration trust Mainline Steam, which currently occupies the old carriageworks on the site, and landowner KiwiRail over how the area could be used.

Mainline Steam marketing and operations manager Michael Tolich says it is likely some land will be used for the station while KiwiRail will keep the bulk of the land for mixed use development.

The carriageworks building will be retained for use by Mainline Steam and as a tourist destination.

Parnell Inc manager Debbie Harkness has been pushing for a destination station on the site which would combine heritage with a performing arts space as well as residential and commercial development.

"This is a big leap forward in making this a reality," Ms Harkness says.

A station on the Cheshire St site would also link Parnell to the domain, the museum and the university.

"The area has so much potential. This is a site that is over two hectares and is so close to the CBD – it shouldn't be squandered," she says.

The former Labour government set aside $5 million for the dismantling, storage and relocation of the old Newmarket station, of which about $4.2 million is left.

The area has been the centre of conflict over the last nine months after KiwiRail considered leasing the site to Infratil to use as storage for its Link buses.

The idea was dropped thanks to overwhelmingly negative feedback from the Parnell community, the former regional council and the former Hobson Community Board.

KiwiRail northern public affairs manager Jenni Austin says the use of the site has to make economic sense.

"The land has a substantial value which we need to make a commercial return on if we are going to be able to retain it for future rail use."

RAIL WORK IN THE PIPELINE

Full station upgrades at Remuera and Penrose are due for completion by the end of the year.

Greenlane station will be fully upgraded by the first half of next year.

The upgrades include refurbished platforms, new shelters, CCTV, lighting and PA systems, help points, and new signs.

Eastern line stations at Orakei, Meadowbank and Glen Innes will get CCTV and upgraded lighting later this year.

East And Bays Courier