Probably the biggest choke point on the Hutt Valley train line is between at Upper Hutt and Trentham, where commuter trains leaving Upper Hutt have to negotiate a stretch of single-track between the two stations.
Aside from being a bad look, the single track imposes some major constraints on how many trains can come and go, especially when trains to and from Masterton are considered.
If the Masterton train is late, an all-stops train is sometimes allowed to depart in front of it, compounding it’s lateness. The late express will likely have to wait for the another commuter train coming from Trentham before departing, compounding it further.
Double-tracking the line between Upper Hutt and Trentham is easy. Land is already owned by KiwiRail, and Greater Wellington Council’s plans have the project completed at the end of 2017.
Double-tracking was clearly in the minds of people that designed the Upper Hutt station, since enough land was set aside for a second track, but never installed.
The good news is that it wasn’t sold for development either.
The bad news is that rail projects are never cheap. While rail projects represent good value for money, the nation and the region are spending billions of dollars on dubious-value roading projects, a second track into Upper Hutt will probably be deferred in favour of more roading projects.
So, what would an upgraded Upper Hutt Station look like?
At the most basic, a second track would be installed between Upper Hutt and Trentham. It improves flexibility of the station by removing the single-track constraint – trains can depart irrespective of whether trains are coming from Trentham. (Late trains could also catch up)
So, what has to be done?
A second track installed between Upper Hutt and Trentham – the land is owned by KiwiRail – arguably the biggest hurdle to constructing new tracks – already winning! A second platform at Upper Hutt and Wallaceville are needed too. Wallaceville will get new platforms as shown in black below, and new facilities such as bike and carparking could be installed on the shaded white area, and the platforms linked by level crossings at the platforms’ ends.
A new platform at Upper Hutt will be harder – there isn’t mush space at Upper Hutt to expand. Ideally the new Upper Hutt platform would be built across from the existing platform – right where the trans are kept at night – the ‘stabling’ area for trains.
The solution could be to move the stabling down the line to the old Eurocell wood processing yard, where there is enough space to stable the trains. Part of the land is owned by KiwiRail, and the remainder is owned by a developer who bought the old wood-processing site.
A sliver of useful land is owned by KiwiRail and already has railway track that used to serve the wood factory. While only a narrow strip of land is needed to store the trains, the entire site could be used for a Container Terminal or Train maintenance depot, should one be needed.
A side benefit of having the stabling past the station is a better flow from the station to the stabling; currently trains must do a double move from the station to the storage, obstructing the Wairarapa line at the same time.
Once the stabling is moved, work can begin on a second Upper Hutt platform. It will have a track on either side to give good operational flexibility, i.e. if a freight train is waiting at the station scheduled trains can operate into and out of the station and stabling without being affected.
With the new stabling built, the old stabling area can be removed and the new platform (below, in Blue) constructed. The remainder of the area could be used for an expanded KiwiRail Infrastructure depot or used for station facilities such as bike or car parking. An upgraded subway, or new bridge will link to two platforms.
The track layout allows for a total of four platforms, three of them are ‘through ‘ platforms, and one is long enough to hold a freight train without interfering with trains on other platforms. Trains can get to and from the new stabling in one movement, even if there are trains at other platforms.
The main benefits and goals of the redevelopment are
- Streamline arrivals and departures, by separating trains between Trantham and Upper Hutt.
- Fewer movements to stabling; no backtracking as is currently the case
- Reduce knock-on effects caused by late-running Wairarapa trains by providing more operational space for trains to pass each other
- Provide space for freight trains waiting to use the Rimutaka tunnel
- Future-proof the station for diesel shuttle trains to Maymorn and Wairarapa
Sadly, the project is a vague priority for NZTA and the Greater Wellington Regional Council, who hold the purse strings as the biggest user/customer on the line (as the customer of all passenger and log trains). According to GW’s Regional Rail Plan, the line is to be duplicated between 2017 and 2020 (WellingtonRegionalRailPlan2010-2035 V1.1.1).
Iain Palmer has asked about Upper Hutt’s station upgrade, and the OIA request and response can be found here.The response is almost political and tries to shoulder the project onto KiwiRail, who have no business or incentive to upgrade the station unless GW asks for it.
It would seem that there is no double tracking starting in 2017, but as a first step, GW and KiwiRail need to secure the land needed to build stabling, maybe even for a container site, or depot (maybe consider a land-swap with old staling area). It would be a start, and to progressively start parts the project should be quite easy – now wheres that money?!
A view of the station redevelopment linking to the stabling area is below.
- The train stabling is moved to the old Eurocell site, enabling direct access to and from the platforms
- New platform built in place of existing stabling
- Second track is laid between Trentham and Upper Hutt
- Second platform built at Wallaceville
- Potential for new depot if diesel shuttles are run in future.