Rolleston rail resurrected

by Kent Caddick

A Selwyn public transport advocate doesn’t believe the Labour Party’s election platform to promote a Rolleston to Christchurch commuter rail link is on the right track.

Labour has announced it will invest $100 million in Christchurch’s public transport, including adding a commuter rail link between Rolleston and the city, should it become the government following September’s general election. 

But former district councillor Sarah Walters, who was council’s representative on the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee, said the plan doesn’t stack up.

“I am a huge supporter of public transport, including rail, as it makes sense economically, culturally, environmentally and socially and would very much like to see some smart investment made, but I don’t believe the plan as currently presented provides the best bang for our bucks,” Ms Walters said.

“Without major upgrades, including double tracking and a sensible end point in Christchurch this plan is not viable.

“There are no train stations suitable for public use, even the Rolleston station is ‘exterior use only’ and doesn’t even have toilets. There aren’t any other stations or platforms. They need to be safe and fit for purpose. 

“The lines would need to be fully upgraded and fully double tracked, as a minimum, and signalling also needs to be upgraded. This line is already busy with freight trains and Middleton is operating at or very close to capacity.”

She doesn’t believe connectivity to public transport within Christchurch has been thought through clearly.

“The location of the station in Addington is another major sticking point, it is at a transport dead end.

“It would need to be linked to very regular bus services travelling to various destinations, but this is not possible without hugely disrupting the current bus services for other users as buses can’t just call by in passing.”

Ms Walters also questions why a rail link to Rolleston has been targeted in the Labour proposal when a commuter rail heading north of Christchurch seems to be more urgently needed.

“Selwyn has multiple routes in and out of the city, whereas the northern arterial is far more limited and more congested and rail could therefore provide a more viable alternative.”

She said as a country we need to get much smarter about how we do transport.

“Congestion is costing this country hugely and many of these issues could be solved with better transport options in conjunction with travel demand management.

“Unfortunately, the current setup does not allow rail to be the solution especially as KiwiRail has been operating as an under-funded business expected to pay a dividend to the government for many years.

“There are some really good news stories around freight, but people are not going to accept a quick patch up to the status quo as a viable alternative to driving.”