ARC Chairman Mike Lee has sent me parts of a fascinating article on the 1974 proposal to upgrade Auckland’s rail system – know as “Robbie’s Rail” – after famous mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson. It makes for a fascinating read: Tragically, the incoming National government in 1975 cancelled the project. One does wonder how different Auckland would be today if we had gone ahead with the rail proposal back in the 1970s, in particularly whether we would be anywhere near as auto-dependent as we are now. I somehow doubt it. Hopefully we won’t make the same mistake twice, and this time around we will built this thing.

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  1. In a similar vein today i was reading in a book about Auckland’s History, and it mentioned that the Harbour bridge was originally designed to have a rail line on it. However the National Govt decided the bridge was going to cost too much, so had it was removed from the design giving only a minimal cost saving. Also removed was a pedestrian walkway.
    It seems we’ve got off comparatively lightly with this National Govt. Although I guess we can wait to see what dodgy cost saving/figure fudging measure Joyce comes up with for the EMU purchase.

  2. I do think the fact that the cancellation of this project is almost universally viewed as a giant mistake played an important role in National not cancelling electrification.

  3. Interesting that the basic concept of a high frequency service with well spaced stations (3km between stations) supported by feeder buses and park and ride, fast trains operating at up to 120km and integrated ticketing is basically the highly successful service design used for the two new lines in Perth to Joondalup and Mandurah. So I guess they give an idea of what Auckland’s train usage might be like today.

    Of course Auckland would have had the lead on Perth and Brisbane so by now would probably be ahead of both of those cities if the network had kept developing as it has in those cities since they electrified.

  4. It’s interesting that basically all of the lines proposed today are those proposed back then. It suggests to me that not much has gone on in the way of future planning or looking at other potential lines since this report was drawn up in 1974. When the CBD loop gets built and with the Manukau line, along with the other proposed lines i.e. Southdown, Airport and North Shore lines, we may end up in 2040 with something mirroring what was planned over 70 years prior.

  5. Rtc, I think that just goes to show how far behind the ball-game Auckland’s rail network is. I suppose that all potential lines are pretty obvious, although I’m still a big fan of a line via Flat Bush, Botany, Highland Park – linking Manukau with Glen Innes.

  6. Yes indeed, that’s my point, there are some other areas that clearly need rail esp. in the Flat Bush area that you mention, but such lines never even seem to show up on the radar of any future rail plans.

  7. One thing that I notice is that they were most concerned about getting the right outcome rather than trying to shoehorn the system into what space was available giving a substandard result. This is noticeable looking at the plans, if they need to get a line from A to B they take the best route and bowl anything in the way as it can always be rebuilt later where as today we try not to disturb things and will make an active effort to go around them **I’m looking at you Quay park junction** although this is also likely to be partly affected by the fact the CBD wasn’t as highly developed as it is now and that was the thinking back then (just look at how much the motorways wiped out)

    I just wish they would have at least got the route designated as it would have made it so much easier now to build the thing now. Unfortunately we don’t seem to learn our lesson and the authorities keep drawing lines on maps for plans like the RLTS but don’t do anything to try and implement them instead leaving it for someone else to do.

    Also RTC I think this link was first proposed back in 1928 as the Morningside Deviation so by the time it is built it will likely have been 100 years in the making. I also think it is funny that most of our major transport plans (motorways and railways) are 50+ years old already yet amazingly still relevant despite all the changes we have seen over that time.

  8. Thanks for this. Why are National governments so unrelentingly mediocre, and what does it say about us that we keep voting them in?

  9. This article is enough to make a grown man cry. Just imagine what sort of network and city we would have now if this had gone ahead.

    1. Not really. The Link bus basically serves Parnell, Newmarket & Ponsonby, linking them with the CBD. Newmarket already has a train station, while Parnell and Ponsonby aren’t getting them through the CBD Loop.

  10. Holy shit, thats fantastic! Well was, trains every 7.5 minutes, makes your heart drop. Goodness me I really do wonder how Auckland would be like if it was built like this. However it not too late, and the CBD rail loop offers the same result. Im sure the new Auckland transport agency will push VERY hard for the CBD loop line. Once the WRR is finished (Circa 2015…in 5 years), one would hope the focus will shift towards the loop, the airport line and North Shore line.

  11. @Marwan – If one thing Auckland should teach you it is not to hold your breath until you see the bulldozers moving in to start the job. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that Auckland Transport will view this as an important project

  12. Half a lifetime and not a single thing has changed, it is sad we haven’t had a visionary politican with balls and power to make this a reality…

    Also shows where Joel Crayford got some of his ideas…

  13. It’s a great article, BUT its copyright.

    Go buy the mag ‘NZ railway Observer’ published by ‘New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society Inc.’ is a not for profit org

    Fare go!

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