Christchurch Commuter Train Proposals – Christchurch-Lyttelton Route

The Christchurch-Lyttelton Route is the original part of the Main South Line corridor in Christchurch. This line was built as part of New Zealand’s first public railway, from Ferrymead to Christchurch, which opened in 1863. The Ferrymead section was used for temporary shipping while the Lyttelton tunnel was driven through the Port Hills. When the extension to Lyttelton through the tunnel opened in 1867, the Ferrymead section became the first railway in New Zealand to be closed. The site became part of Ferrymead Heritage Park in the 1960s with a heritage railway currently operating there. The Heathcote to Christchurch section was doubled in 1878 and suburban trains were operated from the outset. In the 1920s the line was electrified and trains hauled by 1500V DC locomotives operated from 1929 to 1970. Suburban passenger services from 1964. the date when the Lyttelton road tunnel opened, were forced to compete with Christchurch Transport Board buses and ceased to operate altogether in 1972.
As with the Rangiora and Rolleston (Burnham) routes, the station spacings on the Christchurch-Lyttelton route were never as close as those on the Auckland and Wellington suburban networks, therefore the services were never really operated with full commuter needs in mind. Service frequency on the Lyttelton Line, whilst the greatest of all the routes, was often not more than hourly on weekdays so could not be said to be especially convenient for most passengers. The demise of this service, like all the others, came down to a lack of interest from the Railways, but also partly due to competition from other public transport services that would not be acceptable today.
For the establishment of such a service it is assumed a passenger terminal at Christchurch (Moorhouse Avenue), as shown in some of the other pages, would be a good location, along with a bus interchange.

Herewith, it can be seen that whilst the key intention with this station proposal is that most services would be running westward, provision has been made for one of the platforms to serve a train heading to the east. However, adding a second track or connecting the other platform tracks to run eastward with this layout would be difficult to achieve due to the proximity of the Colombo Street overbridge, which has limited clearances underneath – the reason why the main line tracks deviate from the straight alignment to pass more under the centre of it. This has been tempered by the assumption in the design concept that there would not be a passenger service established to Lyttelton in the foreseeable future.
Now looking at the route heading east. There is limited population nearby until getting through Linwood, near the old Linwood passenger station, and particularly at Ensors Road where housing is close to both sides of the line, although Brougham Street divides the community somewhat. However, there is a lot of Kiwirail owned land in the area, and one possibility is if some of this land was released for intensive housing development along the rail corridor. As with the Rolleston route, this would require CCC commitment in the form of sympathetic planning designation changes. A little known fact is that CCC planners put a designation on the old Linwood Loco site as possibly being significant as a servicing depot for future commuter train services. This is relevant as so far in the discussions on this page, no consideration has been given as to where rolling stock would be stabled, although a strong possibility could also be attached to the Waltham site adjacent to the existing Great Journeys intercity passenger train depot.
The old station site at Opawa could also be an option for reinstatement since there is still a lot of residential neighbourhood both sides of the track. Woolston, however, is less desirable for passengers as most neighbourhoods are some distance from the track which is surrounded by large industrial development, particularly Lyttelton Port Company container depots. Hillsborough and Heathcote are both viable for residential access to suitably placed railway stations (there would have to be more than just the old Heathcote station provided along this section). Lyttelton may be viable for some of the population, but the historical location of the station has been cleared and taken over by the port company, and the hilliness of the township makes pedestrian access to a rail station less desirable than in flat Christchurch.
Page last updated 21 November 2020.