As part of the Metro Rail Enhancement Programme, AT is closing the Church Street East level crossing to improve the safety and enable more frequent trains.
Project Location: Central Auckland
Project Status: Project design
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Auckland's rail network has seen sustained, significant growth over the past few years. This is a result of successful improvements to passenger services and supporting infrastructure, which has encouraged commuters to shift travel behaviour onto public transport. As Auckland's population continues to grow, we'll see further increases in people travelling by rail and a need for more train services.
We are working with our partners to upgrade the rail network and there several projects underway:
- The City Rail Link (CRL)
- Electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe (P2P)
- KiwiRail Rail Network Rebuild (RNR)
- The Third Main Line on parts of the Southern Line (Wiri to Quay Park)
These improvements will significantly increase rail capacity and provide greater network resilience.
We’re also developing an updated timetable for the opening of CRL that improves the peak-directional frequency and capacity of services without increasing overall train movements at some level crossings. This is achievable on the Western Line, but not on the Southern and Eastern lines due to the limitations of new service patterns. These service patterns mean train frequencies will increase by 100%, resulting in the barrier arms at Church Street East being lowered for at least 45 minutes of each peak hour.
There will be fewer opportunities for people to cross the railway and therefore a greater likelihood of unsafe crossing attempts and rail-related deaths.
Due to these safety risks, and to meet legal requirements set by the Waka Kotahi (the primary rail safety regulator), closure of Church Street East level crossing is required.
Closing the level crossing
As part of the Metro Rail Enhancement Programme, AT is investigating the removal of all rail level crossings across the rail network. Church Street East level crossing has been prioritised for removal for the following reasons:
- The unique circumstances at Church Street East level crossing, functioning as an access route for local businesses and delivery drivers, requires early engagement and more planning relative to other crossings.
- It is the only remaining vehicle level crossing on the Southern Line between Waitemata Station (Britomart) and Spartan Road in Takaanini.
Closing the level crossing also needs to be aligned with the City Rail Link (CRL). To do this, we need to adopt a staged approach to closing the crossing as soon as possible.
We need to close the crossing as soon as possible due to the testing and commissioning requirements for CRL Day One services. This involves AT running additional train services in the months before CRL opens to demonstrate to Waka Kotahi (the primary safety regulator) that we have reduced the risks associated with increased frequencies. Unfortunately, this testing and commissioning work cannot be delayed.
We have carefully considered all community feedback and the impact of closure on local businesses. Using this feedback, we have identified a preferred option for mitigating the closure and are now working closely with our stakeholders to refine this option. This includes working with local businesses to determine the best time to close the crossing and implement our preferred option.
We will share updates regarding the preferred option soon.
Interim safety measures
During Stage 2 of KiwiRail’s Rail Network Rebuild (RNR), AT will continue to run Eastern Line services via Newmarket to minimise disruption to our rail customers. This means there will be increased train frequencies past Church Street East from March 2023 to December 2023. As a result, we are implementing interim safety measures to the rail crossing to ensure safe operation during this period. These measures include:
- Improved signage on the approach to the level crossing.
- Trimming of the trees to improve visibility of the rail crossing.
- Increased parking enforcement to reduce risks of unsafe vehicle movement near the level crossing caused by illegal parking.
These changes are intended to be short-term only before full closure. These improvements will be made during March 2023 before Stage 2 of RNR begins.
Auckland Transport commissioned a Single Stage Business Case (SSBC) to understand how the level crossing would perform following the current upgrades to the rail network, determine the need for closure, and what improvements could be made to mitigate the closure and improve safety for everyone.
In the investigation phase of the SSBC, three options were considered. These included:
- Make no changes to the Level Crossing
- Close the crossing with no investment
- Close the crossing with investment
Investigations concluded that making no changes to the level crossing was not a viable as it would impede future rail operations once the CRL is open.
Closing the crossing without investment would negatively impact the ability of local businesses to continue operations. It would also impact on local walking and cycling routes linking Church Street East to Hugo Johnston Drive, which enables people to avoid the adjacent South Eastern Highway.
Therefore, the project team has opted to close the crossing with added investment that minimises negative impacts on local businesses, as well as walking and cycling routes.
- September 2021 – Single Stage Business Case begins
- December 2021 – Engagement with stakeholders begins
- December 2022 – Preferred option identified
- March 2023 – Interim safety improvements
- March 2023 to mid 2023 – engagement with key stakeholders
Strategic need for the project
The Church Street East level crossing investigation aligns strongly with a number of Auckland Transport and Government policies such as the Government Policy on Land Transport (GPS) 2021, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) and Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent.
These documents provide the strategic direction for the project, but also support the activity through:
- Supporting Auckland’s Vision Zero programme, ensuring the transport system is safer by eliminating harm.
- Enabling interventions that improve safety through improvements in passenger safety and security
- Ensuring transport system contributes to liveable cities and towns by providing people with good travel options. This requires all parts of the transport system, be it roads, rail, public transport, and walking and cycling routes, to work together.
- The transport system needs to support the movement of freight by the most appropriate mode, improving interregional corridors, and increasing resilience.
- By identifying investments in the rail system that will lead to delivering the right infrastructure and services, at the right time, to the right level, and at the best cost.
- Supporting the implementation of the City Rail Link opening.