Committee nixes 'grassroots' commuter rail plan for Christchurch, but option not ruled out completely

One of Auckland Transport's now retired diesel trains, which Tane Apanui wants to use for a Christchurch commuter ...
DAVID ROWLAND/NZPA

One of Auckland Transport's now retired diesel trains, which Tane Apanui wants to use for a Christchurch commuter service, pictured in action back in 2009.

A plan for commuter rail in greater Christchurch has been scrapped by a committee formed to address public transport services.

Christchurch man Tane Apanui took a proposal for commuter rail services from the Waimakariri and Selwyn districts to the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee in March.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) commissioner and committee member David Bedford requested Apanui work with staff from the agencies that form the committee. It includes representatives from Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri councils, the NZ Transport Agency and ECan.

A map of the proposed Christchurch commuter train network, scrapped by the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint ...
JOHN COWIE/FAIRFAX NZ

A map of the proposed Christchurch commuter train network, scrapped by the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee on Wednesday.

The goal was to establish whether "anything's changed enough" since a 2014 report exploring the viability of commuter rail in the city resulted in the idea being shelved.

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Apanui's plan estimated a service could be set up for about $1.8 million, compared with $10m set out in the 2014 report.

Moorhouse station's proposed site, about 700m from the Christchurch Container Mall.
TANE APANUI

Moorhouse station's proposed site, about 700m from the Christchurch Container Mall.

Following the March meeting, Apanui met with the author of the 2014 report and three Christchurch City Council and ECan staff.

At a committee meeting on Wednesday, members voted not to proceed with Apanui's plan at the recommendation of staff.

"We wish to take a holistic view across public transport for the future of Christchurch and look at it as a system as a whole," a staff member said.

Apanui proposed an exchange in Addington, where commuters from North Canterbury could catch a connecting train into the ...
TANE APANUI

Apanui proposed an exchange in Addington, where commuters from North Canterbury could catch a connecting train into the city centre.

The committee would continue with a Future Public Transport Business Case, encompassing all public transport in Christchurch.

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The next step involved five stages between August and March, costing about $215,000 – including $35,000 for "report writing".

Apanui said he was disappointed but not surprised with the outcome of his rail proposal.

"I felt in the meeting … that this was not a project the attendees were keen to look at further."

The latest report said "using the rolling stock suggested in [Apanui's] concept is feasible on the Christchurch rail corridor", but several issues remained.

These included limited line infrastructure, limited accessibility to the lines, the suggestion of using old equipment with limited spares, and needing feeder bus services for people to reach their destination.

Apanui said some of the issues in the report were "not insurmountable and some are just plain incorrect".

Line infrastructure issues could be addressed and there were "very cost effective, even mobile options that could be used" to solve platform rebuild issues, he said.

Selwyn District councillor Mark Alexander said he thought Apanui's plan was "a great idea, but perhaps not [suitable] at this time".

"One could also note when Mr Apanui presented to us, he said he was very hopeful that his public funding campaign would fund this service.

"But that was, I think we should note, a spectacular failure … While people expressed their support and enthusiasm for a rail solution, it didn't get as far as them getting their fingers into their wallets and putting their money where their mouth was."

Christchurch City councillor Pauline Cotter said she thought it was unfair to be critical of Apanui's inability to secure funding.

"We've got a commitment to include rail in the [Future Public Transport Business Case]."

Cotter requested staff look into the disparities between the information provided by staff and Apanui as future solutions were sought.

Bedford said the Future Public Transport Business Case process would look at "whether rail, or some form of rail, has a part in the future for Greater Christchurch".

"I don't think anyone around the table has a bias against rail or a bias for anything."

 - The Press

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