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Train schedules slashed: West Auckland faces big disruption to Western Line service due to KiwiRail network rebuild

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West Aucklanders are facing more than two months of disruption to their commutes as train schedules will be slashed while KiwiRail does its network rebuild.

KiwiRail said the railway improvements, which involved fixing drainage and replacing the stones the tracks sit on, justified the disruption.

But West Auckland councillor Shane Henderson questioned the timing of the work and why big projects like this could be done overseas without majorly disrupting commuters in the meantime.

“We’re still frustrated with the level of disruption we get out of the rail network generally. It seems like every other week we’ve got cancellations or closures,” Henderson said.

“People don’t feel like they can rely on it to the same level they used to in the past. I’m really well aware we have to do the rebuild, but I just encourage you to keep in mind the needs of locals. March is the busiest time for public transport,” he said.

Between March 11 and April 24, train schedules will be reduced with services every 20 minutes throughout the day. Evening trains will run every 30 minutes.

KiwiRail chief asset development officer David Gordon said the improvements would justify the disruption.

“The Rail Network Rebuild is crucial work to get Auckland’s rail network up to standard ahead of the opening of the City Rail Link [CRL],” Gordon said.

“Not only is it removing the need for heat and temporary speed restrictions, which slow down commuter trains now, it is also necessary to allow the more frequent trains across the city that will come with [the] CRL.”

KiwiRail will do work on the railway between Newmarket and New Lynn.

Between March 11 and April 24, train schedules will be reduced. Services will run every 20 minutes throughout the day, while evening trains will run every 30 minutes. Photo / Alex Burton
Between March 11 and April 24, train schedules will be reduced. Services will run every 20 minutes throughout the day, while evening trains will run every 30 minutes. Photo / Alex Burton

Gordon said KiwiRail had already done work on the Western Line over Labour Weekend and Christmas. This saw a focus on digging out and replacing ageing track foundations around Mt Albert Station and Morningside, Kingsland and Grafton.

“We now need to finish the job. From 10 March, we will return to the Western Line to complete drainage improvement work, replace ballast [the stones the tracks sit in] and replace any sleepers and rail as required,” Gordon said.

“This will include some work during the day and a lot of work at night and on many weekends.”

Auckland Transport (AT) said the disruption would likely see the less frequent trains become very busy.

“We do expect there will be times when services are very busy, especially during the morning peak when both workers and students are travelling at the same time,” AT’s director of public transport Stavey van der Putten said.

Waitākere councillor Shane Henderson. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Waitākere councillor Shane Henderson. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

“To help manage this demand, all our Western Line trains will have six carriages at peak times, and we’ll also run extra busses to help make it easier for customers to complete their journeys,” van der Putten said.

Public Transport Users Association chairman Nial Robertson told the Herald said the beleaguered train service would “drive people back into their cars” and would see “the commuters Auckland… suffer because of this”.

Robertson also questioned the works about to get under way on the Western Line, saying it was only “a very small amount of work that is really required” to fix the city’s railway.

He said: “I’d like to know why the real rebuild is not going on, because the entire network was supposed to be closed down in sections, such as when the Eastern Line was closed and it was rebuilt.

“At the end of that [Eastern Line], I think they had used their entire budget for the whole of Auckland. So that’s what’s happened.”

Auckland Transport said the network rebuild disruption would likely see the less frequent trains become very busy. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland Transport said the network rebuild disruption would likely see the less frequent trains become very busy. Photo / Dean Purcell

Minister of Transport Simeon Brown said the Government Policy Statement on land transport prioritised rail funding in Auckland.

Henderson, a councillor for the Waitākere ward, said West Aucklanders have to be taken into consideration when disruptive work has to be done.

“Working with local commuters on their needs is always the answer,” Henderson said.

“The other thing is, looking overseas, we don’t see the level of disruption [for improvement projects] that we do in Auckland.

“So what can we learn from other cities and other countries about how they manage?

“The timing [for the work] is also so frustrating. It’s something I’ve continually passed on to the various bodies involved. Ideally, you want to schedule things not at the busiest time of the year when most people are relying on the network.”

Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.



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