Parnell GreenwayA few days ago, Waitemata Local Board member Christopher Dempsey confirmed that using the old Parnell Rail Tunnel for cycling is indeed feasible.

This makes a Greenway from Newmarket to lower Parnell (and onwards to the Grafton Gully and Beach Road cycleways!) much more realistic in the short term. As Christopher notes:

An engineers report commissed by the Board has recently confirmed the suitability of the tunnel for a pedestrian path and cycleway, subject to several constraints that need to be managed.The engineers report the old tunnel is in really good condition.

Awesome. Hands up for who wants this Greenway yesterday? One of the upcoming topics for the election will be greater Greenways funding!

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38 responses to “Parnell Rail Tunnel to go Green(Way)

  1. Looking forward to this, I remember checking out the glow worms in that tunnel in the late eighties before it was completely closed up!

  2. do we know if the tunnel will be wide enough to have a cycle way AND a walking path? or is it more likely to be another shared path?

    I think we need to speak up for more segregated cycle infrastructure where possible, and the width of a railway tunnel seems perfect. How attractive is walking through an old railway tunnel anyway?

    1. Not sure about that (maybe Christopher can help?). However, the rail tunnel should be wide enough to get at least a generous 4m wide path. Add enough lights so no one is surprised by other walkers / cyclists and you should be sweet.

      As for attractiveness of walking – well, it won’t be such a long distance actually in the tunnel, so I’d expect regular, but not normally heavy ped traffic (the overall walking distance is more likely to discourage the masses). So should all still be at a level where sharing is well achievable.

    2. Walking through an old railway tunnel is VERY attractive . Have you ever been to Karangahake in the school holidays, especially since the HRT opened?

    3. From memory the width is around 4m, so should be wide enough for pedestrians and cyclists. In my limited experience cyclists tend to slow down in a tunnel – there is a sense of constriction, so you go slower.

      The distance of the tunnel (300m from memory) may be a barrier to pedestrians but the route means that it will be a very attractive short cut geting down to Beach Rd.

      1. Christopher, not cycling related but, I was working in Parnell on Sunday and couldn’t help but feel that the volume and speed of traffic up / down Parnell Rise disturbs an otherwise very nice place. Most likely not much can be done about the volume, but has any thought been given to slowing traffic along this stretch of road? Perhaps a tree lined, grassed, raised median as well?

        1. Hi Bryce

          Your perception is correct; I share the same one, which was confirmed by an Auckland Transport survey that showed speeds on Parnell Rise were significantly higher than average.

          Which isn’t a surprise – the road was transformed after the trams came out to motorway standards. I suspect a motorway was planned, in the 60s up along here and through the village – the building line was moved back to create a 4 lane highway – which explains why some buildings are set back from the road.

          I requested Auckland Transport to examine reducing speeds – I did not care how it was done, merely that it was done. It is not for me to suggest how things are done, but I did suggest that a road diet would be the cheapest option.

          AT responded by proposing a roundabout at the top of Parnell Rise. This proposal was vehemently and aggressively attacked by the buisiness association (I endured personal attacks from them), and the community committee.

          Since then AT predictably have gone quiet on the issue, although they are putting in place a minor safety works to address pedestrian safety at the top of Parnell Rise.

          One day AT will probably see the light and embark on doing road diets, not only here, but also on College Hill (this was the other motorway out of the city).


          1. There was discussion of putting cycle lanes down Parnell Rise at one point I recall. In regards to College Hill I was interested to see how much nicer it was when they temporarily closed half the road to allow resurfacing. Being a 2 lane road made a huge difference c.f. the 4 lanes it usually is. It was slightly disappointing to see it resealed and then repainted to the status quo, would have been an ideal time to have removed parking, installed cycle lanes and generally an attempt made at making it more of a complete street. However, based on AT’s refusal to even consider cycle lanes on Gt North Rd that the local board proposed at the intersection with K’Rd – due to the supposed 30s delay cars would experience, just shows how conservative and out of touch they are. I fail to fathom how they can continue to prioritise cars on that road despite the massive and recently enlarged motorway right next door.

          2. Thanks BBB. Funny enough, Parnell Rd (at the Parnell Rise end) was still pretty fast flowing. The lanes, even though there are only 2 of them, look to be overly wide.

          3. Time and again, wide roads in inner urban / suburban Auckland that generally carry fast (well over 50 k) traffic re-sealed and the same old over-width lanes are re-painted, with no thought whatsoever for anything other than car volume flow rates. It is really disappointing.

            Separately, the Parnell BA (and the Remiera BA and the others) really need their collective, thick heads knocked together.. “cars don’t buy stuff, people do”. Could anyone please introduce them to some of the business owners in, say Fort St, Elliot St, Darby St.. you know, the ones who have reported 400% increases in takings since they were transformed into places people actually want to go to rather than through?

        2. Slowing traffic??!! Bryce are you mad? You may add a minute or more to someone’s journey by car. Western civilisation will fall or so David Wilmott informs me.

          I think we would agree with NZTA and the MoT that vehicle capacity and speed is a far greater good than pedestrian or cyclist safety. Especially those pesky young people with their smiling faces and their hope.

          1. Mad? Apparently. I suggested a cycle crossing for a road, with full priority (give way markings and signs for vehicles) just the other day. The blank stare on the other persons face was priceless.

  3. Michael makes a good point. Though I wonder which is better for security: cycling only or shared?

    How are the plans looking for the pedestrian / cycle over bridge at Sarawia St? Hopefully very cool and joining up with both the Parnell cycle way and an improved link down the hill into Newmarket Park..

    1. Hi Tim – well, from a STRICT safety point, of course “cycling only” would be safer. Arguably, so would be banning cyclists, and opening it for peds only!

      However, Greenways are – and should be – about cycling AND walking. I don’t think the tunnel will be an issue for that at all. If the Hauraki Rail Trail with 7,000 cyclists monthly (most during weekends) can share a longer single-lane tunnel with pedestrians (there’s a lot of walking in their tunnel too), I bet we won’t have any serious problems here either.

      Re rail crossing, we haven’t seen plans beyond what is on Council’s website / were consulted on. Some sort of walking/cycling crossing will however be retained over the rail line in all scenarios, Council has confirmed.

  4. What is really needed is a safer way through Broadway Newmarket from Sarawira St to the start of the Gt South Rd/Manukau Rd/Broadway intersection. But I can’t for the life of me see how that could happen.

    1. That’s one of the challenges for this Greenway route. The tunnel itself is relatively easy to do, what will be more challenging are the routes to and from the tunnel. Good collaboration between stakeholders will help here.

      1. Here is my suggestion to link it to Remuera Rd.

        Create a right of way from James Cook to Mamie St (ie. Give Way reqd for Middleton Rd. Close Ada St (at Middleton Rd end). Belmont then becomes the link to Remuera Rd. All 30kmh. A safe small network of cycle and pedestrian friendly streets. Very cheap. Would have the added benefit of slowing vehicles (without unduly impeding them) a bit more on Middleton.

        1. Forgive me if I’m wrong but I think some of those streets are very steep.

          What would be really great would be to elevate the path once it leaves the tunnel to the height of the Newmarket station concourse, skirt around the Remuera side of the station and then exit through the station entrance on Remuera Rd. You could even continue from there on an elevated path to St Marks Rd overbridge where it could join the Southern Motorway cyclepath (which NZTA have yet to construct, but who knows, this might give them an incentive to get on with it!)

          1. There are all kinds of options I guess, to go with all kinds of costings 🙂

            A Southern Motorway cyclepath would be pretty well used I would expect.

          2. Broadway could be great. You wouldn’t catch me riding along there most times of the day though. We either need to remove the parking on one side or a traffic lane to get 2 x cycle lanes along there. I think a visit to is on the cards 🙂

          3. Ooo like Tim’s option of a path close to the station and elevated. Yes the roads to the north behind the station are steep and narrow. The only really flat bit is Broadway and the railway.

          4. The last time I asked NZTA why they hadn’t included a cycle path on the rebuilt Newmarket viaduct they said that their planned path for the Southern Motorway corridor commenced at the St Marks Rd onramp. Does anyone know what the current status of this plan is?

        2. Hi Tim

          Re the path from Newmarket along the southern motorway.

          That plan has not yet been developed beyond a very rough concept, and there’s no timeframe envisaged at this stage. Without more money for cycling / rof the Regional Cycle Network, it won’t happen anytime soon.

          Re a cycleway on the Newmarket Viaduct. Yeah, I attended a PR meeting of the Newmarket Viaduct folks some years ago, and the guy was telling us all how many initiatives for urban design and sustainability they had, but no, they hadn’t but a cycleway on the viaduct yet. You could hear the unspoken “because that would really be a bit of nonsense” bit he seemed to want to add to the sentence. They have gotten better since – but they haven’t gotten more money to do it with, for cycling.

        3. Excellent Bryce, this is the route I take every afternoon to avoid Newmarket at rush hour. Yes it has a steep little hill leading up to Remuera Rd but it sure beats the 90 degree slope of car doors I have climbed over the years in Newmarket.

  5. That will be really great….I never new there was an old tunnel there….I know there are great tunnels blocked off in central Auckland which would make good walking too and for from the central city…it’s around the University area….

        1. Probably would see more use as a University dance club – or maybe that’s my Techno-era youth speaking 😉

        2. I think they’re made with brick so would likely require a lot of work to be brought up to code, especially the recent earthquake standards. Not sure what use they would really have transport wise, I’d prefer to see AT remove parking down one side of Princes Street and install cycle lanes and the same with Bowen Ave and Waterloo Quadrant. Leave the tunnels for a tourist venture, heightwise I doubt a bike would fit.

  6. Yesterday seems like a ideal timeframe to me. It will be a fantastic ride.

    A connection down the valley to the Hobson Bay walkway would make a great loop.

  7. Hello all,

    This project is coming along slowly. It hasn’t disappeared. At this stage AT are investigating a Greenway Route along here, leading from Newmarket, down to Stanley St / Beach Rd intersection area.

    The more I see / think about this route, the more excited I am – it will make a brilliant shortcut for cyclists and pedestrians to reach down-town without having to negotiate heavy traffic on Parnell Rd and Parnell Rise.

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