Auckland's Eastern Line reopens as campaigners call for urgent action after light rail canned

Auckland's Eastern Line finally reopened on Monday after being closed for maintenance for nearly 10 months. 

However, with more closures set for the rest of the network - and the Auckland Light Rail project cancelled - campaigners are calling for urgent action to improve the city's public transport. 

Meadowbank commuters aren't used to quick waiting times when it comes to using the train. 

"We are very happy, we've been waiting for 10 months," one Auckland resident, Sushma, told Newshub. 

She has had to take the bus, and she is thrilled that slow wait times are a thing of the past.  

"Very long journey, but now only 20 minutes," she laughed. 

It's a sight that people haven't seen on the Eastern Line in a long time and another way to get out of the rain. 

Auckland's Eastern Line has reopened after extensive repairs to prepare it for more trains once the City Rail Link opens in a few years.  

In the last nine months, nearly seven kilometres of rock foundation below the tracks has been excavated and replaced.  

Nearly 20,000 metres of the larger rocks the tracks sit on have been replaced, 24 kilometres of drainage have been improved and 1300 metres of new rail put in.  

"It's fabulous, we're really excited to see the Eastern Line back, that the network is fit for purpose and can accommodate what I would call increased movements through the rail corridors," AT public transport director Stacey van der Putten told Newshub. 

But while it's great news on the Eastern Line, the Western Line is facing months of reduced services to undergo similar repairs -  and the Southern Line will also get the same treatment. 

Greater Auckland editor Matt Lowrie believes it's simply taking too long.  

"People within the industry have told us they could be doing it a lot faster, and I think that's really concerning that KiwiRail aren't taking every opportunity they can to get this done extremely fast," Lowrie said.  

"If we look at the rest of our public transport network - we're at 80 or 100 percent on ferries, of what it was pre-COVID levels.

"The trains are more like 50 to 60 percent, so that's having a huge impact on the level of usage of our public transport network."

He said with the Government officially cancelling Auckland's Light Rail project, they need to come up with a replacement to beat congestion. 

"Those issues all still exist, and they are going to continue to be an issue going forward as the city grows," Lowrie stressed. 

"We need to see from the Government what they're going to do, and not just cancel everything."  

After all, some people truly rely on the network to get around.  

"I'm working here nearly six years, and I'm still catching the trains," Sushma exclaimed. 

While east Aucklanders have their trains back, the wait for a completed Auckland network promises to be a long one.