Sunday, June 24, 2018

City & Canterbury - rail link to Christchurch International Airport suggested

A 2011 map dusted off. The green space to construct this line (designated for future housing) is easier to see on Google Maps  as is the way the line could be linked into and under Johns Road and an elbow in Orchard Road. 

Small spur to the right, at Redwood is now probably, truly spurious! 

NOTE This blog posting is a revamp of an original posting I made in 2011 and reworked in 2017. With a very real possibility that the current Labour-First-Greens Government will build and fund (most of) the re-introduction of commuter rail to greater Christchurch I have simplified and updated these ideas. 

New Christchurch rail link suggested  

I believe that construction of a railway loop, running from the Main South Line at Islington northwards towards Christchurch international airport, and running parallel to Russley Road (through current farmland) should be seriously investigated and evaluated by Government and KiwiRail. Such a line could continue past (under) the airport area and through the Styx Mill area and join the Northern Main Trunk Line at Redwood

This additional link would in effect create;

(a) a multifaceted orbital route

(b) A loop route taking in multiple industrial zones and workplaces.

(c) direct rail tofro the international airport, from Greymouth; from Picton and Kaikoura, from Dunedin and Timaru,  etc.

(d) a route for trains to operate directly between the north and Lyttelton, without changing locomotives at Middleton, including increased logging trains as New Zealand plants to counteract carbon emissions

(e) a much higher quality, faster and more secure freight corridor north 

(f) a rail freight corridor that directly serves the airport and surrounding industries

Suggested nature - grade separated double tracked.

The nature of this new Islington-Redwood link suggested here could be double-tracked, and grade separated. That is to say, there would be no intersecting roads at all, between Islington and Redwood.

ALL roads (including any cycleways and farm access tracks) would be built over or under the track. Other minor roads would be diverted to link to the roads with underpasses or bridges, 

The above ground sections of track might also be protected by embankments on either side with trees, shrubs etc. adding to the local landscape, reducing sound and hiding high netting fences that protect the line from trespassers. 

Freight trains or "Rangiora via Airport"  or "Dunedin-Christchurch (via Airport)" trains would be able to operate at higher speeds while on this protected corridor.

The route - from Islington northwards to airport

The double track line would probably pass under a new four lane overbridge on Yaldhurst Road. This also offers access via underpasses to Russley Station - which includes a large Park and Ride car-park for residents from West Melton and Russley area - voiding the need to bring their cars into the central city. 

As it approaches Christchurch International Airport the double track rail line Would need to descend gradually into a cut and cover tunnel, passing under George Bellow Rd, Sid Bradley Rd, Avonhead Rd and under the grassed area immediately adjacent to the end of the east-west orientated runway. 

A cut and cover tunnel would be constructed under the alignment of Orchard Road with an station near (and beneath) the current roundabout and Antarctic centre area, possibly constructed in a similar manner to that shown below.

Underground station in Sweden, with walled separation from through route - Wikipedia Commons

Passenger trains would always need to be electric or diesel-battery hybrid, but freight trains behind the wall could be conventional diesel, with exhausting fans and ducts in the tunnel if needed.

With this new Christchurch corridor double tracked, the passenger trains from either direction would stay on - or in some cases veer over to - the westside track, that is, the one nearest the airport with its passenger platform and facilities. This might also offer train passengers a travelator to the nearby airport terminal itself.

All inbound passenger trains, could take passengers to the city - whether via Hornby or via Papanui, presuming many long distance passengers would alight at the airport, creating vacant seats for this last leg.

Long distance trains from Picton, Greymouth and Invercargill, Dunedin or Timaru, would always enter and leave the city via Airport. 

I would imagine that would probably triple the potential patronage of these long distant train services. Off setting the cost or bother of driving to Christchurch and leaving the car with friends or paying airport area long term parking, would be the simplicity of getting a lift to the local station, by friend ot taxi, boarding the train in one's hometown, and getting off at airport. 

This would, in effect, create a direct /continuous public transport service, for example, between "Temuka and Sydney", or and "Amberly and Singapore!!"  

When there are major events, such as rugby tests, big star concerts, extra trains could run straight from the stadium to the airport after the match. 

Map of Upper Styx and Redwood area

Possible route for rail corridor, coming from airport under John's Road in red, joining existing line in blue. Probably less than 20 built upon properties would need to be purchased . Within a few years all remaining chance to (relatively) easily build this track through northwestern Christchurch is likely to be built out. 

Freight movements enhanced

In this scenario freight trains during the day would always pass through the airport area on the eastside track, behind the wall shown here. 

During the middle of the night, when passenger trains are not operating, freight trains can use either track, airport side included if pulled by a suitably non-polluting locomotive The double tracks could be worked as traditional "up" and "down" lines.

This suggests the designated South Island Main Trunk Line could be shifted to the far superior and more flexible newly built section of line via airport, rather than the current line between Redwood, Papanui and Addington. 

With KiwiRail's new [2018] 5 metre safety margin from the centre of a track for adjoining cycling and walking paths, adding a second line to this railway corridor between Addington and Redwood might make this popular cycleway and walkway impossible. Transferring the main trunk line to a Islington-Redwood loop would help future proof it, and possibly could remove ALL regular freight movements off this line.  Photo -  Axel-Schwede, Wikipedia

Preserving the current single line between Styx and Addington (and retaining the attractive cycle and walkway) and constructing the airport loop would in effect give Christchurch three lines of access tofro the North. This is good future-proofing.

In the peak hours one or two commuter "express" trains will no doubt travel tofro Rangiora and central Christchurch direct via Papanui, Or tofro Rolleston and city direct via Addington. Most timetabled services at other times, including evening and weekend services and all inbound and outbound long distance trains - I would image - would loop via airport.  

As a well used line, serving a multitude of functions, any service that runs via an International Airport, is likely to attract more passengers and more likely to have the most frequent services (similar to the Orbiter bus route in Christchurch). 

Speed of public transport is measured by total journey time across all travellers, including waiting time (i.e. the time span between each departure) Frequent all stop services meet more needs and are per se faster than infrequent express services, the latter best reserved for targeted use only.

Reverse flow peak hour commuter traffic

The commuter rail benefits include a reverse pattern flow - comfortable inner city apartment life-styles fostered in central areas because it is possible to get to work by rail to almost every major employment zone - as far afield as Rolleston or Rangiora.  Peak hour flow that goes in both directions is of huge financial benefit to any public transport system!!

Realistic spending

Commuter rail in a low density, car user heavy city as small as greater Christchurch is a very big call!  I believe this plan would make it viable.

For years we have heard people [myself included in early NZ in Tranzit blog postings!!] saying it can't be done, we are too small -  OR saying it can be done, cheaply by using tired old third hand carriages or units brought from Auckland, on the existing lines, or even, most absurdly, as a temporary trial. 

That is not what quality public transport is about, following belatedly along behind other modes of transport, belatedly squeezing minimum impact, minimum cost, minimum game changing infrastructure into crowded cities.

Good public transport corridors should be built as an anchor infrastructure, at the very centre of city planning, ideally before housing is built (opportunity missed in Rolleston but still possible around Upper Styx, and north of the Waimakariri.  

Good public transport is a city builder, a game changer and an absolutely necessary future proofing.

Auckland has well understood this and has spent (or is planning to spend) billions of dollars on public transport, with much of this Government funded, including from Canterbury taxes.  Pro-rata, on population size compared, Canterbury is well overdue for a public transport investment very least, at into the low billions.

I believe creating a primary rail corridor, linking urban sprawl north and south to the very centre of the city, to the city's major hospital, the province's main sports stadium, to multiple industrial areas, and to the airport doorstep -  all on one  line is one helluva world class act. 

Ooops, all most forgot! Add to this the fact that residents and tourists alike would be able to hop on a train at Greymouth, Dunedin, Timaru, Marlborough and Kaikoura rail right to doorstep of the International Airport. 

Well worth the billion dollars it might take to build!

NotedI see this concept as the twin investment to building a cut and cover tunnel under Hagley Park and Tuam Street and bringing rail right into the centre of Christchurch, including immediate access to the public hospital, bus interchange and main sports stadium and exhibition centre.

© copyright David Welch, updated July 23 2018

Added Information (You Tube) 
Christchurch Airport is planning for 12 million passengers per year by 2040 an equal number of people expected to travel to the airport to greet or farewell passengers. 
Currently Christchurch International Airport area sees 50,000 vehicle movements a day.


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  3. I think this suggested rail link would be good enough for passengers to reach airport and I hope it would not take much time to reach airport.
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