Parnell Heritage Station – a work (of art) in progress

After years of delays Parnell Station finally opened in March – but for Southern Line services only. Western Line and Onehunga trains don’t stop during weekday working hours, and Auckland Transport (AT) management remains uncommunicative about when they will. Given the length of time (since 2007) I have been lobbying to get the station built, my misgivings about what I felt to be its premature opening may seem ironic. But even now, five months on, the station is far from complete.

Parnell Station. Though the station is incomplete - with no work apparent for months - it is increasingly popular with commuters.

Parnell Station. Though the station is incomplete – with no work apparent for months – it is increasingly popular with commuters.

First of all a walkway proposed and funded by the Waitematā Local Board, to connect the station to Stanley Street via Nicholls Lane to serve Auckland University won’t be finished until at least December. AT has also failed to build an underpass to connect the two platforms.  More than a passenger-unfriendly inconvenience, the temptation to save a 100-metre plus walk by just dashing across the track is a safety hazard, especially in such a busy part of the network.   Nor is there yet wheelchair or disability access.  And signage to the Museum is non-existent. These defects and others have drawn the ire of bloggers but instead of criticising AT, the anoraks have turned their politically-motivated bile on me – for having the station built there in first place. No surprise that these are the same beady-eyed zealots who targeted me for opposing aspects of the Unitary Plan before last year’s local elections. I am more than happy to take all the credit for the station’s location, in the historic Waipapa valley (for so long a wasteland), handily placed to Parnell Village, Auckland Domain, Auckland War Memorial Museum (surprisingly close, 7 minutes walk, from the Museum’s doors), planned intensive residential developments and Auckland University, but that wouldn’t be fair to the Parnell Business Association, Parnell Community Committee, Parnell Heritage, Parnell Trust, Auckland Museum and the Waitematā Local Board.The station’s real success story thus far, is its centre-piece, the splendidly restored 110-year-old heritage station building, designed by renowned railway architect George ‘Gingerbread’ Troup, of iconic Dunedin railway station fame. Thanks to former AT project manager Nick Seymour; and to KiwiRail for fulfilling a commitment made in 2007 to the ARC whose elected members saved the old building from demolition when it was at Newmarket. KiwiRail under the direction of General Manager Brent Lancaster and heritage architect Dave Pearson of DPH Architects, engineers Structural Design Ltd, the KiwiRail Project Management Office (Aiman Grace and Markum Ellis), and builder Libbet have done a superb restoring this prime example of Auckland’s railway heritage.

KiwiRail has re-tiled the roof, reproducing the original Marseilles tiles, replaced the chimney, retained the original doors and windows restored to their original appearance and functionality, strengthened and replaced the corroded stanchions of the surrounding veranda, removed inappropriate modifications, and strengthened and repaired compromised aspects of the structure. Resplendent in its traditional railway station colour scheme of Canterbury Clay, Deep Chocolate, Marino, Ivy Green and Pioneer Red, the kauri building has both the sturdy workmanship and the elegance typical of the Edwardian era – Auckland’s ‘belle epoque’.

The historic station building, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the Parnell Village evoke a common heritage theme for visitors to Parnell.  The station is the new gateway and the central link for these attractions only a few minutes by EMU trains from Queen Street and Queens Wharf Cruise Ship terminal.

The restoration of the building’s interior is an essential next step in making the most of its full potential – and also to enhance its physical security.  However in order to persuade Auckland Transport to get on and complete the job, there needs to be a community consensus on its future use.  I welcome the leadership of Cheryl Adamson of the Parnell Business Association in organising a community-led approach to achieving this.

I personally support a mix of commercial and community use for the building, with promotion of the Auckland Museum also essential.    As a user of the station the ability to buy a ‘to go’ coffee would be great.     I am sure the early-bird commuters there on dark winter’s mornings, almost all of them heading south, would appreciate a coffee as well.

This article appeared in the September 2017 issue of The Hobson.

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