Christchurch Commuter Train Proposals – Christchurch-Rangiora Route

The Christchurch-Rangiora Route is the longest of four possible routes that originate within central Christchurch. It is also the one that serves the greatest catchment of existing and future population development within Greater Christchurch. The route makes use of the Main North Line, an existing rail corridor that was first opened by the Canterbury Provincial Government in 1872 in 1600 mm gauge, being converted to the standard New Zealand gauge of 1067 mm in 1877. From the time the line opened, suburban passenger trains were operated, until the cessation of these in 1976. The route is currently operated by five or six trains a day (two passenger services, the rest being freight). There is thus significant capacity even with the single track that prevails along practically all of the route except at Belfast and Kaiapoi, but additional crossing loops in various places would aid in development of commuter train services. The first 2 km of the Christchurch-Rangiora Route travels along the Main South Line, first opened in 1866 in 1600 mm gauge. This is all doubled tracked, so it would have reasonable capacity at present for commuter trains.
For the purposes of this site, the train service is assumed to originate at a new passenger railway station in Moorhouse Avenue, Christchurch, which is where the hub of passenger services in the city was located from 1866 until 1993. The site proposed is at the old Kiwirail B Shed freight terminal, with a bus interchange across the other side of the tracks. An artist’s concept of this layout appears below.

This layout also provides for the present intercity passenger train terminal in Addington to be relocated back to Moorhouse Ave. The travel terminal would be 1 km from Cathedral Square. A shuttle bus service could take passengers from the station around the main business district. Placing the bus interchange directly opposite the passenger station makes for convenient transfers between train and bus services, assuming an airbridge or subway connect the sites.
Outward passenger trains to Rangiora would travel from here to the west until they reach Addington. The corridor between Christchurch and Addington is predominantly industrial, but is an obvious candidate for urban intensification as proposed by the government’s NPS. The southern edge of this corridor is close to residential areas within a block of the railway line. Historically there were no stations between Christchurch and Addington, but if sufficient population demand exists in the area, one or two additional stations would be justifiable based on the optimum spacing for commuter train services found elsewhere in NZ.
Addington Junction was historically designed for trains going north from Christchurch, with the 90 degree curve onto the Main North Line facing Christchurch. This was changed in 1993 when the Christchurch rail yards were closed, with a new curve facing in the opposite direction, towards the upgraded Middleton freight yard, and a new passenger terminal for intercity trains was built along a straight section in the middle of this curve. The route taken by the original curve was sold and built over. Blenheim Road, the major local transport trunk heading from the city westward, was diverted with a new overbridge which cuts across and over some of the old curve formation, making it difficult to reinstate without expensive bridge extensions. An alternative option is to reinstate a shorter, tighter curve across part of the current Turners Car Auctions site as seen below. Although trains would be limited to a maximum of 50 km/h traversing this alignment, this is not such a major obstacle as some claim, as average train speeds within the suburban network would be relatively low due to the close spacing of stations, 1 to 1.5 km being optimal in NZ experience.

The above map shows the original Main North Line route to the right (MNL North Main), its proposed replacement (North east Curve) and the present route followed by the Main North Line through the current Christchurch passenger station. The old Addington station is lower right.
Between Addington and Rangiora, historical stations used by the former suburban passenger trains were located at Riccarton, Bryndwr, Papanui, Styx, Belfast, Chaneys, Stewarts Gully (replaced by Kainga in 1958 due to a railway deviation), Kaiapoi, Flaxton and Southbrook. The spacings of these stations followed typical practice for railway terminals that were open for general services (passengers and freight combined) and made little effort to address the provision of viable commuter train services such as presently exist in Auckland and Wellington. As such, a new Christchurch-Rangiora commuter service would need more stations to be provided for, and the fixation by a lot of commentators on the historical locations of stations along the route and their lack of availability in some cases, has limited relevance.
For the purposes of this page, an assumption is made that around 21 stations in total between Christchurch and Rangiora (inclusive) would be necessary. These are conceptualised as follows. No planning information of any type has been evaluated to ascertain the suitability of any of these locations and, as such, they must remain conceptual in nature. Distances shown in brackets are on the Main North Line, measured from the zero peg at Whiteleigh Avenue.

  • Christchurch (Moorhouse Ave) Station – as shown in the diagram above.
  • Addington (Lincoln Road) Station – the historical location of the Addington passenger station in the days of former commuter services. A platform and other infrastructure would need to be constructed. Suitable for an island platform.
  • “Station A” (1.3 km MNL)- a location immediately south of Riccarton Road near Brockworth Place is suggested as the first new station heading north.
  • Old Riccarton station in Matai Street – not proposed for a passenger terminal due to historic local opposition (the site was proposed for the new Christchurch passenger station in 1993 but not proceeded with).
  • “Station B” (2.6 km) – a location immediately north of Fendalton Road.
  • “Station C” (3.8 km) – the old Bryndwr station site just north of Strowan Road.
  • “Station D” (5.3 km) – the old Papanui station site. An existing platform might be suitable for re-use; the station building is currently in private ownership.
  • “Station E” (6.4 km) – immediately south of Northcote Road.
  • “Station F” (7.7 km) – between Barnes Road and Sturrocks Road.
  • “Station G” (9.1 km) – about 500 metres north of the old Styx station site.
  • “Station H” (10.3 km) – 1 km south of Belfast station (see below).
  • “Station I” (11.3 km) – the old Belfast station site.
  • “Station J” (13.4 km) – the old Chaneys station site between Marshlands Road and Spencerville Road.
  • “Station K” (15.2 km) – the old Kainga station site just south of Kainga Road.
  • “Station L” (16.3 km) – just south of Doubledays Road.
  • “Station M” (17.7 km) – south end of Kaiapoi.
  • “Station N” (19 km) – just south of Williams Street, Kaiapoi
  • “Station O” (20.4 km) – just west of the motorway overbridge alongside Adderley Terrace, Kaiapoi.
  • “Station P” (23.3 km) – the old Flaxton station site just south-east of Bramleys Road.
  • “Station Q” (26.8 km) – the old Southbrook station site.
  • “Station R” (28.8 km) – south end of Rangiora, just south of Northbrook Road.
  • “Station S” (30 km) – the Rangiora station site.

In compiling this list, no attempt has been made to ascertain the availability or condition of any existing infrastructure that may be present on the sites of previous stations where used.
The map below shows all these locations.

Page last updated 21 November 2020.