Rail verdict: Great station, shame about the timetable

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland's rail services are back up to speed after a signals hold-up which disrupted thousands of commuters on Monday.

But transport campaigners are disappointed by enduring "timetable mismatches".

A resumption of full services after a three-week shutdown of much of the rail network for a summer construction drive finally put Newmarket's new $35 million station at centre-stage yesterday.

KiwiRail contractors who ran out of time on Sunday night to install a complex electronic signalling system to Newmarket's railway junction, which has been reconfigured for $65 million, completed the task early yesterday with just under two hours to spare before the first trains of the day started running.

But although the new station is drawing many admirers for its clean architectural lines and ample shelter, the Campaign for Better Transport is disappointed it has not been matched by updated timetables to ease connections for passengers transferring between western and southern trains.

Some early morning western line trains still arrive at Newmarket a minute after southern services leave the station for Papakura and Pukekohe, forcing commuters to wait 29 minutes for the second leg of their journey to work or school.

Those returning from jobs in South Auckland on some evening trains have one minute to transfer to western services.

They have to race up an escalator to the new station's upper-level concourse and then down another.

The regional transport authority, which commissioned the station, has promised to review its connections before re-opening the Onehunga branch line.

Communications manager Sharon Hunter said that would give it, KiwiRail and train operator Veolia the opportunity "to remedy any issues which may be experienced during the first couple of months of operation of the new Newmarket station" and consider any customer reaction.

But she said new timetables would not be available until the Onehunga line re-opened in about July.

Campaign for Better Transport spokesman Graeme Easte welcomed the offer to consider customer views, but said Newmarket should have been treated as the focal point for the Auckland network and been given new timetables from day one of the new station.

"At least it won't be so cold and windy in the [new station's] shelters but nothing else has changed - the wait will be just as long," he said.

"Unacceptably long delays will hobble the new station by dissuading many users."

Newmarket Business Association chief Cameron Brewer said there was nothing in the timetables that could not be fixed.

Passengers should offer their suggestions for improvements to the rail authorities, he said..

Passengers at Newmarket were impressed by the new station.

"It's absolutely beautiful - very impressive indeed," said Alan Chaplin as he boarded a train to Britomart.

- NZ Herald

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