New Manukau rail link sought

Why is there no link between the Manukau Train Station and the main southern rail line?

That's a question local politicians want answered.

Papakura Local Board chairwoman Hine Joyce-Tahere says the Papakura station is one of the busiest on the network and a link to Manukau should be prioritised under the Southern Initiative.

"In the Southern Initiative, employment is a big part of it. We need to make public transport more accessible."

The only way to access Manukau from Papakura by train is to get off at Papatoetoe or Puhunui and then get another train headed south, she says.

That's a particular disadvantage for the students from Papakura who'll next year be travelling to Manukau Institute of Technology's new campus which sits above the train station.

Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board chairman John McCracken can't understand why a link wasn't put in at the same time as Manukau station tracks.

"I think it was very short-sighted to put a one-direction spur in. It limits the frequency of the service, particularly around the frequency to Manukau.

"It makes sense to get these things done now - the longer you leave them the more expensive it gets."

Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee says the idea, raised earlier this month by North Shore councillor George Wood, will have to be compared against other projects.

"It's possibly a good idea but early days. We want to know what the demand is for it."

The committee is waiting to see a report on the benefits of building a link.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan says a project to link the two lines isn't funded at this point.

But it could come up for consideration once the rail upgrade programme and electrification are finished late next year, when more funding could become available.

Mr Hannan says Auckland Transport supports the project in principle as it would offer operational flexibility and additional customer choices.

Network provider KiwiRail has future proofed a route for the work and Auckland Transport would need to work with it to establish how much it would cost.

He says Auckland Transport's immediate priority is double tracking the north-facing connection from the Manukau branch to support the operation of a 10-minute service timetable.

Patronage levels vary considerably due to seasonal factors but the use of Manukau station averages about 500 to 600 passengers a day, Mr Hannan says.

That's expected to grow once the new MIT campus is finished and the bus network is reconfigured in 2014.

Papakura Courier