Heavy rail ‘won’t happen’3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
An Auckland transport commentator says there is no value for KiwiRail to build a heavy rail route through Onehunga.
KiwiRail dropped the bombshell recently when it announced its plans to go ahead and build the 12km Avondale to Southdown heavy rail line on the designated land that snakes through the middle of Onehunga.
This comes after Auckland Light Rail turned down the proposed light rail route through the KiwiRail land, instead opting to build alongside SH20.
In an interview on Onehunga FM’s IMBY podcast, Matt Lowry from Greater Auckland says, “I am sceptical to think that the route would ever be built for a heavy rail corridor, because there is just no value in doing so.”
Matt says he thinks KiwiRail is trying to protect the route because they “desperately” don’t want to lose the land.
The land was designated to KiwiRail after World War II, when it was mainly farmland, and the motorways were a pipedream. Today, it is a bustling populated community surrounded by busy motorways – and local residents are furious that they have not yet been consulted.
If the heavy rail goes ahead, it could destroy part of the town. Onehunga High School could potentially lose half a dozen classrooms, while at least 36 homes, across eight streets, could be demolished. The corridor also runs between Golden Grove and Onehunga Primary Schools. The old Technical School buildings opposite the Onehunga Community House might also be in danger, and three heritage buildings would have to be relocated; the original St Peters Church, (which now sits tucked away on Grey Street), Scotland House on Onehunga Mall, and, ironically, the old Onehunga Railway Station, which is now a railway museum on Alfred Street.
Paul and Echo Janman run the Onehunga People’s Garden on a pocket of KiwiRail land on Arthur Street. When they started the garden in 2013, they were passionate about the green spaces that the rail corridor provided, and want to protect it.
“The area was a dump when we first started and we worked hard to introduce native fish and birdlife back to the area.”
They also claim that the land has great historical significance; after their own investigations and talking to an archaeologist, its thought it could possibly have been the site of the whare (house) belonging to the first Māori King, Pōtatau Te Wherewhero.
(To find out more, go to onehungapeoplesgarden.org)
KiwiRail says building the heavy rail Avondale to Southdown route, which has been identified as one of the Government’s 14 key strategic transport projects, is now made more urgent by the construction of the City Rail Link. This means, in the future, all the lines through Newmarket and central Auckland will be required for passenger rail.
The $6-billion rail line could be partially trenched or tunnelled, and will take years to build. It is still in the designing phase with no funds or approval given.
To discover more about the heavy rail proposal, listen to Episode 4 – ‘The Shadow Over Our Land’ on Onehunga FM (on Spotify or Apple)