Change ahead for commuter travel

By Mathew Dearnaley

Rail will move South Aucklanders to city with buses used mainly for connecting routes and stations.

South Auckland will be covered by just four high-frequency bus routes feeding passengers to railway stations. Photo / Brett Phibbs
South Auckland will be covered by just four high-frequency bus routes feeding passengers to railway stations. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Most commuters relying on public transport from South Auckland to the central city will have to catch trains rather than long-distance buses under a sweeping network redesign.

A new scheme, which Mayor Len Brown will help Auckland Transport put out for public consultation in Mangere Town Centre today, will focus largely on buses delivering passengers to railway stations or to other connecting bus routes.

It will be introduced to Auckland's southern sector by 2015 before being rolled out to the rest of the region over the following year, with the aim of moving more people on fewer but more frequent services.

Although South Auckland will be covered by just four high-frequency bus routes feeding passengers to railway stations, those will be supplemented by 32 connecting, local or peak-period services.

That compares with 49 existing South Auckland bus routes, a number of which now duplicate the work of trains by running to the central city via Great South Rd or the Southern Motorway.

But Auckland Transport promises a bus or train at least every 15 minutes, seven days a week, between 7am and 7pm and hopes to have an integrated fare system in place by then so passengers will only have to pay once for a combination of trips.

Only two bus routes will run all the way from South Auckland to the central city - an all-day service from Mangere via Onehunga and a peak-only run from Mangere along the motorway.

Public transport network manager Anthony Cross said yesterday that was because trains can run along the single-track Onehunga branch railway line at only 30-minute frequencies.

"We want to make sure people from the northern side of Mangere have still got good options," he said.

He acknowledged some residents would inevitably be put out by what were "quite major changes", but said Auckland Transport was confident they would suit most passengers and attract more people to public transport, while being reasonably cost-neutral.

He said that by removing duplication along the railway line, more buses could be freed up for trips closer to home. That should improve punctuality, as they would have shorter distances to travel.

Auckland Transport is also confident that time taken for passengers to transfer from buses to faster new electric trains - such as new interchanges to be developed at Otahuhu and Manukau - will be outweighed by shorter rail trips.

The new scheme will among other things allow 15-minute services between the airport, Onehunga and Manukau. But poorly patronised railway stations at Westfield and Te Mahia will be closed.

South Auckland residents have until August 2 to make their views known on the new scheme, and are invited to any of eight open days spread over two weeks from July 13, starting in Papakura.

For more information, visit www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/newnetwork

- NZ Herald

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