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Train trips will be free throughout Auckland's rail network during this weekend's motorway closure on Newmarket Viaduct.
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority - which already intended running extra trains during the closure of the viaduct's southbound lanes for up to 36 hours from 5pm on Saturday - announced late yesterday that it would also underwrite free rail travel.
"Aucklanders are concerned about getting around the city during this time - free train travel is a small way we can assist," said customer services general manager Mark Lambert.
But Mr Lambert urged people not to take open-slather advantage of the offer, saying they needed to consider whether their travel was essential as capacity on trains would be limited.
Authority communications manager Sharon Hunter said the move would cost her organisation about $10,000 - which it would absorb within existing budgets as a contribution to helping people move around the city, rather than billing the Government's Transport Agency, which is in charge of the viaduct closure.
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said he proposed the free travel idea to the transport authority because widespread road congestion during the closure would affect buses but not trains.
KiwiRail has also decided to put on extra freight trains between the port and its Southdown container storage yards to take up to 500 trucks off the roads during the closure.
As well as closing the Southern Motorway's southbound lanes between Gillies Ave and St Marks Rd, the Transport Agency intends blocking three motorway on-ramps - at Hobson St, Symonds St and Khyber Pass Rd - to reduce the volume of traffic having to follow a controversial detour route through Newmarket.
Long-distance travellers are urged to use the western ring route between Albany and South Auckland, which has had its capacity boosted by a duplicate Mangere bridge and the opening last weekend of a direct motorway-to-motorway link between State Highways 20 and 1 at Manukau.
But the Newmarket Business Association is upset that a two-lane clearway through Mortimer Pass and Broadway will be created during the motorway closure, with capacity to carry 2000 vehicles an hour, compared with normal peak southbound Sunday flow over the viaduct of about 4300.
The agency hopes the detour route will keep motorway traffic far enough south for shoppers and families celebrating Father's Day to use the main part of Broadway.
Although Newmarket retailers are critical of the timing of the closure, which is needed to switch motorway traffic to a new southbound carriageway as part of a $215 million viaduct replacement project, the agency says delaying it until the following weekend would have clashed with the Auckland Home Show at Greenlane.
If it had closed the viaduct last weekend, there would have been no trains to provide alternative transport because of a shutdown of railway lines for maintenance and upgrade work.
WHAT'S ON THIS WEEKEND
* NZ Secondary Schools Individual Cycling Championships, Friday until 5pm Sunday, Mt Wellington.
* Through the Lens Photographic Exhibition, Motat, all weekend until 5pm Sunday.
* Historic Couldrey House Open Day, Wenderholm Regional Park, Saturday and Sunday until 5pm.
* Kai to Pie: Auckland on a Plate exhibition, Auckland Museum, all weekend until 5pm Sunday.
* Provincial ITM Championship Rugby - North Harbour vs Waikato, North Harbour Stadium, Albany, 7.35pm.
* Ben Clayton Trio, Muldoon's Irish Bar, Orewa, from 7pm Saturday.
* Our House Dance Party, Alexandra Park, from 9pm Saturday.
* XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series, Shakespear Regional Park, 7am-3.30pm.
* Grey Lynn Farmers Market, Grey Lynn, 8am-12pm.
* Run Kids Series, Victor Eaves Park, Orewa, from 8am.
* Coatesville Market, Father's Day Special, Coatesville Settlers Hall, from 10am.
* Trolly Dolly Exhibition, Auckland Museum, all day Sunday.
* World Press Photograph Exhibition, Smith & Caughey's Queen St, until 5pm Sunday.
* Big Clean Up and Dad's Day Out - Tui Glen Reserve, Henderson.
* Provincial ITM Championship Rugby - Auckland vs Taranaki, Eden Park 2.35pm.
* Silver Ferns vs Australia, Vector Arena, 4pm Sunday.