I like coming up with fantasy rail networks for Auckland, as is pretty obvious from posts in the past. At the moment it seems like wishful thinking, but someone out there has to be aspirational for the future of Auckland’s railway network and why shouldn’t that be me?
One missing chunk from the previous fantasy rail diagram for Auckland that I drew up was the Avondale-Southdown railway link. I left this off largely because it’s a “suburb to suburb” line and those generally haven’t been particularly successful internationally. Generally a line needs to – at some point – go into the CBD for it to be successful. This is because the CBD is generally the only part of the city where bountiful free parking is not available so therefore there is a much greater incentive for people to use public transport rather than drive. Furthermore, squeezing a lot of people into one common destination is far more easily possible through public transport rather than private transport.
However, over the past few weeks, discussion on the Campaign for Better Transport forum has uncovered a way that the Avondale-Southdown railway line could actually form a very important part of Auckland’s future railway network. Saljen, a very wise contributor to the forum, has suggested that it be part of a “Circle Line” going around the Auckland isthmus. This is, in some ways, quite similar to the Green Party’s “Auckland Transport Plan“, which is shown here.
Forming three main loops makes a lot of sense in some regards – as it allows people to have good access to areas right across the city, and not just in the CBD. If someone works in Penrose bus lives in Kingsland they don’t really have much of a public transport option at the moment, except for catching two different trains that don’t match up in their timing at all usually. Under this plan they could catch a train heading either eastbound or westbound and still end up in Penrose. The success of the Link Bus in Auckland has shown how people are very keen on the idea of loop routes.
I have a couple of critiques of the Greens’ plan though. The main one is with regards to the south-eastern busway loop. This busway would feed a lot of people into the Panmure train station and they would all need to jump on potentially already crowded trains to make their way into the city. I think that it would be better for this route to be built as a railway line, and to also take a slightly different path as my plan will show.
My other critique is – for now – the link between Albany and Henderson. While it would be nice to run a busway along this corridor I just don’t know whether there would be the demand any time soon to justify it. Some buses do currently run between West Auckland and the North Shore – via the Upper Harbour corridor, but they’re generally pretty poorly patronised. Perhaps that’s because they’re so slow (and a busway would improve that), but I do perhaps think that route should be saved for perhaps a railway line in the more distant future when there has been more significant population growth in that part of Auckland.
So as for my most recent dream diagram for Auckland’s rail system, here we go:
So we have four lines:
1) A clear North-South Line (the red line)
2) A fairly clear East-West Line (the green line)
3) The Circle Line (the orange line)
4) An Airport Line (the blue line).
All together they form a pretty comprehensive rail network for Auckland. In areas where the Green Line and the Orange Line (and also the Red Line and Blue Line) double up you could run the Red and Green trains as “express” services, only stopping at major stations and therefore providing faster journey times. This would require some quadruplication of the tracks though to ensure there weren’t conflicts with all stopping services, and would therefore be expensive.
The other issue relates to losing linkages between the current Western Line and Newmarket & Boston Road/Grafton Station. However, Auckland will have some diesel trains for a quite a few decades yet that won’t be able to run through the CBD rail tunnel. These trains could run along the current Western Line route from destinations further out than the Swanson limit of electrification (probably from Huapai), and therefore provide that missing link. At other times passengers could simply transfer at Mt Eden station onto the blue line.