Rolleston commuter rail queried

by Kent Caddick

A Selwyn public transport advocate remains sceptical over proposals to link Rolleston and Christchurch by commuter rail.

The government has recently released a 10-year transport plan, which will shift focus from state highway upgrades to light rail and road safety, as part of a Government Policy Statement (GPS,) which includes raising fuel taxes.

The announcement comes on the heels Labour’s pre-election platform position to promote a Rolleston to Christchurch commuter rail link, as part of a $100 million investment in the region’s public transport.
Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister, Megan Woods, has confirmed that the GPS means money is on the table for commuter rail in Christchurch.

However, former Selwyn district councillor, Sarah Walters, who was council’s representative on the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee, has her doubts over commuter rail.

“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,” Ms Walters said.

“But 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. 

“While these issues are not insurmountable, the investment required to overcome those issues is unlikely to be the best use of those funds. 

“I really love rail travel and would love to still have a southern passenger train reinstated, but there is not the set-up to provide the multimodal approach required for Rolleston and Templeton commuters, such as a lack of space for car parking for a trainload of passengers, lack of connectivity for walkers and cyclists and poor connectivity with the city, which is required to compete with private car travel on a shiny new motorway. “

She said the current trial of the non-stop bus service between Rolleston and the city, provides a good example of some of the challenges and potential support for rail.

“Some people are appreciating the benefits of the service, but if a bus is not at capacity, then a train is even further from it. 

“This bus is able to operate more flexibly at a fraction of the cost of rail now and the service could be dramatically improved with a much smaller investment.”