Using existing rail corridors for commuter transport is being suggested by Tauranga architect Mark Wassung, as a way of reducing traffic congestion on the city roads.
Existing rail connects the CBD, Baypark, Bayfair, Airport, and the harbour on both sides including the cruise ship part of the Port, says Mark.
The Mount and beach areas could be served by a Terminus Station created in Blake Park area.
Platforms could be built and gravel parking areas created to reduce civil engineering and building costs in the early stages of the development. Later these could be improved and upgraded with increasing usage, says Mark.
“Tauranga has existing railway corridors which connect the coastal area and the CBD. Not many cities have this advantage.
“The city is experiencing unprecedented growth, and if cognisance of the pressures that this will place on future development is not taken into account now, the opportunity of identifying corridors and land allocation for park and ride facilities to enhance suburban railway will be lost to future commercial interests and a lack of visionary planning.”
For starters the suburban commuter service could use redundant diesel trains from Auckland, but he expects increased to allow investment in electric trains.
“Electric locomotives which store battery supplied electricity, would allow operation beyond overhead electric supply in less populated areas,” says Mark.
“These are things that can be built into future planning.”
The suburban service could serve the coastal area from Omokoroa to Te Puke initially and further afield in the future. A spur line connecting the Proposed Te Tumu Development and serving the development in eastern Papamoa should be included in future planning.
Provision should also be made for future doubling of the line and any necessary land allocation planned for now, before economic pressure makes land prices prohibitive, as has occurred in Auckland.
The same applies to Park and Ride facilities to be provided in reasonable proximity to stations.
“To prevent the expense of two way line doubling in the early stages of the development, sidings could be provided for staging of the suburban trains to allow free flow of freight trains as a priority,” says Mark.
The Tauranga computerised traffic management system could be adapted to facilitate this.
“Some negativity has been expressed in the ability to co-ordinate freight and passenger services, but with co-operation, computers and scheduling, this is managed world-wide in much larger and congested situations,” says Mark.
“An interchange facility with buses could be created on vacant land at the Baypark rail intersection. Likewise, a similar interface with buses should be identified to serve the more difficult steep terrain in the southern suburbs which is not suitable for rail.
“Rail facilities are cheaper to establish and maintain than impervious surfaces created by road development.
“The stone ballast that supports the sleepers and rail is permeable and thus obviates the stormwater runoff created by roads and the ecosystem damage associated with this.”
By preparing early for a suburban passenger rail service, the local councils will be creating a vision for future generations, as it will not only provide ease of movement, reduction of road traffic and carbon emissions, but will save costs, says Mark.
He's suggesting the start will be a peak hour service from The Strand connecting Omokoroa and Te Puke with an 8am and 5pm suburban passenger rail service.