Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee is at war with his council's transport subsidiary over a decision to demolish Newmarket's temporary Kingdon St station.
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority has defied his wishes by confirming that the facility will be closed tonight to make way for the opening next month of Newmarket's $35 million replacement station. Because the two stations are on different tracks, separated by a 400m walk, Mr Lee and neighbouring business owners say the authority's decision will rob the public of a direct connection between Britomart and the western railway line.
He has written to KiwiRail asking it to instruct contractors to refrain from demolishing the Kingdon St station, which is on the western line, over a three-week Christmas shutdown of much of Auckland's rail network.
The transport authority is not disclosing when KiwiRail will demolish the station, but said it would cost up to $1 million - which had not been budgeted for - to keep it open as a temporary facility, or $13 million to upgrade it to a permanent fixture.
Communications manager Sharon Hunter said yesterday that considerations in deciding to close the station included ensuring a return on investment by KiwiRail and the authority of $154 million on upgrading Newmarket Junction and the rail corridor through to Boston Rd in Mt Eden.
She said having two stations so close to one another was "not conducive to effective rail operations".
But Mr Lee said he was told by a senior official involved in the Newmarket upgrade that the new central station would have its limitations, as it was built on on only three tracks, and a Kingdon St stop would give greater flexibility.
It would also remove a need for westbound trains to overshoot Newmarket Junction to reach the main station, on the southern line, before backing up to resume their journeys.
Newmarket business owner and rail enthusiast Guy Herbert said the authority's decision showed a "total lack of vision" in light of property development plans in the northern catchment served by Kingdon St.
Neighbouring hair salon owner Dave Bartlett, who has begun a petition signed by about 40 of his customers, said he enjoyed an almost door-to-door rail service from his Mt Albert home but would probably "get back in the car" if the station was demolished.
Ms Hunter said because Kingdon St was on a gradient, westbound trains would need greater acceleration than those leaving Newmarket Station, so only about 30 seconds would be added to journeys by removing it.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said the Kingdon St station was ill-equipped for long trains, and early demolition was the best option unless the transport authority was able to raise the money his organisation would need to make it permanent.