KiwiRail investigates splitting freight and commuter services as congestion grows
KiwiRail are investigating how to split Auckland's freight and commuter services as they deal with huge growth on the network.
Currently all trains share the same tracks in to and out of New Zealand's biggest city.
Congestion is especially bad in south Auckland, with trains fighting for space on the tracks.
In its 2016 annual report, KiwiRail cites Auckland resilience as one of the main challenges the company is facing.
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Ultimately, separation of the two networks will be required and would require an "integrated and comprehensive response" from all stakeholders including Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Association, the report says.
The reliability and regularity of Auckland's commuter trains are a common gripe of users, despite the introduction of new electric trains last year.
A new loop line, called the City Rail Link, is under construction and expected to be completed by 2022.
The Labour Party has also announced it would prioritise light rail to Mt Roskill if elected.
KiwiRail declined an interview request but in a written statement Asset Management and Investment general manager David Gordon said separating the networks would mean building additional tracks and potentially fly-overs.
It would also involve growing freight handling sites that were closer to marshalling yards and away from crossing tracks with dense passenger traffic.
Regarding south Auckland, KiwiRail was working with transport agencies to investigate the benefits of a third track between Westfield and Wiri.
This had an estimated cost of between $55 million to $65m.
"The rail corridor has an ability to grow to meet future demands and constructing the right infrastructure for allowing passenger and freight to move simultaneously will be key to supporting that demand."
Auckland Transport also refused to be interviewed, with media relations manager Mark Hannan referring detailed comment to KiwiRail.
In a statement, Hannan said work with KiwiRail had been ongoing for two years on how to manage additional capacity, with the focus on the southern line.
Transportblog.co.nz editor Matt Lowrie said the work was vital to Auckland's growth and the improvement of the rail network.
The introduction of new trains had improved problems with the commuter service but congestion would only get worse once the rail loop was complete.
It was not hugely costly for the benefit it would bring and just needed a funding sign off.
"Everyone agrees it's needed and it needs to happen as soon as possible, it's just a matter of who pays for it."