Takanini community mulls level crossings removal options

From Morning Report, 7:50 am on 17 November 2023
A train comes through a level crossing in Takanini

Photo: Katie Fitzgerald

A community bisected by one of Auckland's busiest railway lines is set to see several intersections closed for significant periods, after the city rail link opens.

The Takanini community agrees that something needs to be done about the four level crossings in the town, but there are some complaints about current plans for changes to the crossings.

The barrier arm is down at Walters Rd nearly 40 percent of the hour during peak times.

Once the city rail link opens, that is likely to rise to 54 percent of the hour. It is one of four crossings in Takanini likely to be heavily impacted by the city rail link opening.

Takanini is an area of focus for the joint venture between Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi, Te Tupu Ngātahi Supporting Growth Alliance, which is looking into what to do with the crossings.

Takanini business association spokesperson Gary Holmes said the crossings were a contentious topic.

"Takanini is divided in half through the rail crossing. It can get frustrating with barrier arms being down for a good portion of time. That is only going to get worse," Holmes said.

Trains and other traffic needed to be on different levels, he said.

"It's the form that grade separation takes that's an issue, not the fact that it's not required." 

Holmes is in favour of an underpass, which he said could be cheaper than the Supporting Growth Alliance's current proposal of an overbridge.

However, Auckland Transport executive general manager of public transport services Stacey van der Putten said an underpass would be more expensive and less safe.

"An underpass is obviously going to be a huge expense more than what going across would be, but also from a safety perspective it's definitely better to go over," she said.

Auckland Transport estimates an overbridge would cost $203 million, while an underpass would cost $261m.

Independent estimates provided to Takanini Business Association for an underpass are between $50m and $60m, excluding costs for traffic management, consents and permits.

Greater Auckland editor Matt Lowrie said cost was not the only issue when looking into the underpass.

"It also requires for the train line to be dug up and shut down for a period of time, so that means existing rail services would be shut while that would take place.

"It's both a cost issue and a disruption issue,"  Lowrie said.

Auckland councillor for the area, Angela Dalton, said the community felt it was not being listened to and residents were deeply worried about the impact an overbridge would have on the main shopping area.

"What we need is for the organisations that are responsible for our roading projects, rail projects, whatever projects, that they listen to the community.

"Because they're the people that have to live with the outcome and their voice matters and should be heard over the cost of a project, particularly when that's some time away," Dalton said.

Auckland Transport has lodged a notice of requirement for a new bridge in mid-October, but the work is unfunded because a business case has not yet been completed.

The same business case will cover the 49 level crossings across all of Auckland's rail system, most of them on the southern and western lines.

All come with barrier arms, bells and lines of held up traffic waiting to cross 

Auckland Transport estimates the cost of removing all of the level crossings would be about $3 billion.

In the meantime, there are going to be a lot of ringing bells for residents as more trains race through.