By JASON COLLIE
A $90 million, 10km light-rail link between Penrose and Avondale is being proposed as a green alternative to completion of the Southwestern Motorway.
The scheme was unveiled yesterday by the Avondale-Penrose Rail Link Coalition - a group comprising public transport campaigners, environmentalists and local residents - as an alternative to the linking of State Highway 20 at Hillsborough Rd to the Northwestern Motorway.
The coalition claimed the plan, which includes a cycleway and a walkway, would have less effect on the surrounding area than the Transit New Zealand motorway.
Starting at Penrose station, it would extend the Onehunga branch line to Hugh Watt Drive (State Highway 20) and then continue past Hillsborough Rd, around the cone of Mt Roskill and to Avondale on the West Auckland line.
But the Auckland Business Forum said last night that by ditching the motorway the coalition did not offer enough flexibility to help to solve Auckland's traffic congestion.
The coalition forecasts the diesel-powered light-rail vehicles could carry about 5000 commuters during the two-hour morning peak by 2021.
Green MP Keith Locke, a member of the coalition, said: "This group was born out of the frustration of seeing another development of a motorway to put more people in cars rather than addressing real gridlock."
Steve Doole, a member of the Campaign for Public Transport, said the route could link with the other rail corridors earmarked for rapid transit and eventually connect to Auckland Airport.
The proposal will be forwarded to the Auckland City Council.
Transit's Auckland highways manager, Terry Brown, said the current plan included a four-lane motorway and a rail line. Two months ago, Transit released its proposal to extend the highway from Hillsborough to Richardson Rd. Planning of the final link to the Northwestern Motorway had not yet begun.
"Our proposals have been based on outcomes of strategies and studies, and they all indicated there was a strong need for the road along with passenger transport," he said. Auckland Business Forum member Michael Barnett said the Southwestern Motorway would be an alternative route to the west, avoiding congestion through Spaghetti Junction. "Whatever the solutions are for Auckland, it needs flexibility, so [the coalition] have disadvantaged themselves by going for a single option."
By JASON COLLIE