Rail link puts fun back into getting to school

By Mathew Dearnaley

Leah Robinson with her young family Noah (7, left) Eva-Rae  (12) and 4-year-old twins Will (front) and Jude on the 8.15am train from Onehunga that left from the newly opened platform yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker
Leah Robinson with her young family Noah (7, left) Eva-Rae (12) and 4-year-old twins Will (front) and Jude on the 8.15am train from Onehunga that left from the newly opened platform yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker

Leah Robinson's young sons leaped out of bed yesterday morning when offered a choice between travelling by car on congested roads or by train along Onehunga's resurrected branch railway line.

"I told them if there's any mucking around, we'll go by car," said Ms Robinson.

But that was no more than a parental ruse as Ms Robinson said she was sick of spending an hour and a half in morning traffic driving her four children in a circuit from home in Te Papapa to schools and a kindergarten in Ellerslie and Remuera.

"It's just horrible," she said of congestion normally at its worst around Greenlane, which has become just a nine-minute train ride from Te Papapa after the introduction of the new rail service at the weekend.

The family's ordeal by car involved dropping off 12-year-old daughter Eva-Rae at Remuera Intermediate School for an 8.30am start, and then on three days a week driving 4-year-old twin sons Will and Jude to a kindergarten over the ridge in Victoria Ave, before looping back to 7-year-old Noah's primary school in Ellerslie.

Yesterday was a day off for the twins, who will start school in Ellerslie next term, so Ms Robinson got off the train with them and Noah after a six-minute trip to that suburb's railway station while Eva-Rae stayed on board until Greenlane.

The 3km branch line between Onehunga and Penrose has cost KiwiRail $10 million and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority $3.6 million to resurrect with three stations. Auckland Regional Council also spent about $8 million to buy the site for the Onehunga station near the bottom of Onehunga Mall.

Although Saturday saw the formal re-opening of the line, the new service settled into a workaday routine yesterday. The Herald counted 19 passengers boarding the 7.45am Britomart-bound train at Onehunga, including three high-school students looking forward to halving the 45 minutes or so it used to take them to catch a bus to Newmarket.

St Peter's College students Griegen Schwenke, Lenny Hayne and Leitham Motio'o - all aged 15 - were also pleased that their two-stage train fare of $1.70 would be less than the $1.90 on the bus.

A smaller group of 10 passengers caught the next train from Onehunga, at 8.15am, although they were joined by 10 others at Te Papapa station.

Events manager Marion Stables was disappointed more commuters had yet to change their travel habits to take advantage of the service, but was confident it would do wonders for Onehunga as its popularity grew.

Campaign for Better Transport spokesman Jon Reeves, whose organisation has worked since 2002 with Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee to reintroduce trains to Onehunga, said he believed numbers would pick up and build momentum to extend the line to the airport.

Mr Lee said the airport was just nine kilometres from Onehunga compared with a distance of 14km from there to Britomart.

"I can't see any good reason why we shouldn't push on and extend rail across the new rail-capable [duplicated] Manukau Harbour crossing."

Onehunga Business Association general manager Amanda Kinzett predicted an increase in patronage once a park and ride zone opens at Onehunga station on Monday with 60 vehicle spaces and CCTV security.

- NZ Herald

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