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Rail services suggestions from proposal meet ambivalence

The assessment brakes may have been put on by authorities but a group is still ramming for rail services in nor-west Auckland. 

The Public Transport Users Association presented its Western Connector proposal to the Auckland Transport Board for the first time on April 28.

But the group's chairwoman Christine Rose and co-ordinator Jon Reeves were disappointed at the reaction.

READ MORE: Huapai train dream derailed

"Our campaign is gathering steam- and despite the ambivalence from the AT Board, we have more campaign initiatives in the wings. We won't give up our efforts to ensure the area has the public transport services it deserves- using existing lines, assets and infrastructure," Rose says.

The proposal seeks to retain existing rail services to Waitakere township and extend them to the growth areas of Huapai-Kumeu, using existing rail lines, stations, rolling stock and other infrastructure. 

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Auckland Transport acknowledges its report needs to be reviewed, with fresh analysis of the case for retained and extended services in light of the Special Housing Areas bringing an extra 2,500 houses to Kumeu-Huapai.

Rose, a long-time public transport user, says the Waitakere service has been run down, with over 1400 services cancelled last year. 

"But that's no excuse to stop the service altogether. The existing and future residents of the "far-west" need reliable, comfortable and direct rail services to key employment, education and commercial centres.

She also believes rail provides a superior service to the west than buses. "These services should be put in place while the planning for massive growth in the area proceeds- especially since much of the growth is adjacent to the currently moth-balled Huapai station."

Reeves says he understands a review of the report is scheduled for October, before the current services to Waitakere are cancelled in early July.

"But we believe this is a premature decision which undermines the need for transport services, reliability, regional rail equity and integrated transport and land use."

Support has been coming for the group from Rodney and Waitakere Ranges Local Board members, Waitakere councillors and Auckland Council's Infrastructure Committee.

Waitakere Ranges Local Board chairwoman Sandra Coney says there's potential for the proposal to complement the rollout of electric trains on the Western Line from 2015 and the implementation of the New Network for West Auckland in late 2016. 

Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse says the draft Long Term Plan already contains a large number of projects designed to unlock traffic congestion in the North West and Auckland Transport need to take a close look at the proposal.  

Waitakere ward councillor Linda Cooper says there's a clear response from people  in the North West who want to be provided with viable public transport options.

"What we need now is a comprehensive analysis of the proposal by Auckland Transport so we can see how the implementation and operating costs, along with likely patronage figures, stack up against our other transport priorities in the Long Term Plan," she says.

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