Ooooooohhhhh…. exciting. I love to see some progress on my favourite project of all time – the CBD rail tunnel. Last year ARTA and KiwiRail finally kicked the planning of what I consider to be Auckland’s most important transport project into action – by commissioning a fully study into the best alignment of the CBD Rail Tunnel, a full cost-benefit analysis of the project and finally all the documentation that would be required to lodge a notice of requirement to protect the route for the CBD rail tunnel. Pretty much once this work is complete, all we will need to do is find $1.5 billion or so and start digging (hey finding that kind of money can’t be that hard, just look at Puhoi-Wellsford!)

Phase one of the study – to determine the best alignment and station locations – has been completed and can be read here. Here’s the executive summary: Interestingly, there is some analysis of the potential benefits of the project (although I imagine these will be elaborated upon greatly in phase 2 of the study):

Hopefully that gives readers some idea of why this project is so utterly essential.

The graph below shows the improved accessibility to key parts of Auckland that the CBD Rail Tunnel will provide: Something to keep in mind is the key distinction between these accessibility improvements, which will only get better over time as Auckland intensifies and its population grows, and the supposed ‘time savings benefits’ of roading projects – which generally whittle away to nothing over the course of a few years due to induced demand. The CBD Rail Tunnel would double the number of people within a 30 minute rail trip of the central CBD – now that is impressive.

Turning to route options and station locations, the report highlights how this will undoubtedly be a challenging engineering project – due to the big climb from Britomart to Mt Eden stations. The diagram below gives us an indication of what is proposed – and shows that at some points, like around the Karangahape Road station, the rail tunnel will be 20-30m below ground level. That is pretty damn deep!

It looks like we might end up getting three new underground stations: Aotea (known as Midtown in previous reports, although I prefer Aotea as a name), Karangahape and Newton. I think a Newton station would be a great idea as the area around Exmouth Street and the top of Symonds Street has a LOT of apartments and in the future is likely to have even more.

In terms of station locations, there’s nothing drastically new to what has been proposed before, but it is interesting to see that (in combination with a future Parnell Station), once this tunnel is built the CBD will almost entirely be within a 500m walk of a train station.

In terms of route options, a number were looked at (generally similar options to what we saw in the 2004 study I think). Unfortunately the quality of the image below is fairly poor (if someone has a better quality version of this report, pretty pretty please send it to me), but it seems that perhaps the Newton station might be located more under Symonds Street than Exmouth Road (as it was in the 2004 study). This is an interesting change. Here’s the analysis of the best station locations: It seems as though the K Road and Aotea station locations are the same as what I have discussed previously.

The shortlist of station locations and route options is shown in the map below. It would seem as though there are some changes from previous studies (although I probably need to analyse the options a bit more to be sure). One of the main changes seems to be that this most recent study isn’t as concerned about getting the tracks to run underneath road alignments. I guess when you’re 20-30m below ground level it doesn’t matter so much. The pink alignment (1c) looks to be the shortest, which probably means that it is the steepest and therefore possibly not the best option. The purple alignment (6a) has its K Road station located much closer to the Queen St/K Road intersection rather than the Pitt Street/K Road intersection. This might have some advantages linking in with Queen Street more clearly. And finally, the more I look at the corner of Newton Road, Symonds Street and Khyber Pass Road as the location for an underground train station, the more I like it.

Here are the key differences between the alignments:

Sensitivity testing apparently showed option 6 (the yellow option) to be the highest scoring, although the other two followed quite closely.

The next step will be choosing a final route and then conducting further detailed design of that option, before undertaking a business case analysis of it and eventually generating all the documentation required to lodge a notice of requirement. The plan is for that notice of requirement to be lodged before the end of this year. I will certainly await phase 2 and phase 3 of the study with interest.

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  1. Option 6a is my favorite as it is more in the middle of K Rd than the other 2 options, it would also work in nicely with a Dominion Rd tram line which I think should be put under the ridge at K Rd anyway so could be built as a good interchange station. There also looks like an option for a station on the western line by Dominion Rd which could be good for those used to using Mt Eden.

    Symonds St also seems like a much better option than Exmouth St with more things in the area, apartments, resturants etc. A station here would really help to drive development in this part of town (after living here this you realise just how much potential this part of town has, it just needs some focus)

  2. I don’t quite see why K Road should get a station over the uni. It doesn’t seem to have purpose, not to say it will always be like that, but offices seem to be gravitating towards the waterfront, it’s retail shopping is quite weak, it’s restaurants and clubs are few and cant compete quality wise with Ponsonby Road so what’s the attraction? I think it’s catchment is also a tad exaggerated given it sits a top a hill and is sliced by the motorway. The uni obviously isn’t all year round but the amount of students commuting to the area would surely outnumber the amount of people commuting to K road.

    Because the uni station would change the orientation of Aotea station, the North Shore line could feed into here and then turn it into the Airport line. I suppose it could do this at Britomart but it would have to change direction to head the right way into the loop but we obviously don’t want another Newmarket.

    For a city loop to be fully realilsed, it should be developed with plans of some kind of tram system to follow it linking areas of the city not serviced by rail and trust me, 500m defined catchments is too far in poor weather. This is where K road should come into it, followed by Ponsonby, Herne Bay, Grey Lynn, Waterview and Pt Chev then at a later date dismantle and reclaim the section of the motorway leading to the ports and head out towards Grafton, Parnell and Newmarket and beyond.

    Edit: As Matt L has pointed out, a tram line from Dominon Road could meet up with K Road but without the need for an interchange.

  3. Sorry just to clarify, North Shore passengers change at Aotea for Britomart, im sure the Western line would be heading that way.

    Obviously know you dont need to dismantle the motorway for trams to head into Newmarket, Grafton or Ponsonby but having used this section alot in the past (specifically because it was underused) the effectiveness of a uni station would increase if this land was reclaimed, rezoned and leveled slightly.

  4. Kiwi in Melbourne – If a station was put in at Parnell it be pretty close to uni, especially if a covered walkway was built across the strand. It would put the Uni precinct on the edge of to stations.

    Jarbs was there any mention of the cost to build it? All I can see is the cost for each of the 3 short listed options were within 10% of each other which would indicate they have a rough idea on costs involved.

    1. As rtc says, no costings at this stage. The 2004 study said the project would cost around $500 million, but it’s generally accepted that likely costs would be around $1.5 billion – similar to Waterview Connection and Puhoi-Wellsford.

      1. I personally don’t think it will cost as much as Waterview. The tunnels are a similar length however the CBD one is now where near the volume as effectively only 2 lanes worth need to be excavated instead of 6. Obviously the stations will also require some excavation (especially K Rd) but even with this it should still be much less. I’m looking forward to finding out the preferred route, cost and BCR. Funny enough I left my glasses on my desk this afternoon so went back to get them. In the lift with me was Bill English, I should have asked him if they will fund it if the BCR comes back better than Transmission Gully and Pohui to Wellsford.

  5. Kiwi, in the older report that covered dozens of potential alignments they basically wrote off a station at the universities as impossible if the line is to also serve Britomart and midtown, due to the curves and grades involved.
    The new Parnell station will be only 300m from the edge of the campus, while an entrance to the midtown station in the vicinity of Queen and Wellesley would likewise be only around 400m from the Auckland uni Quad. The Uni will be well served, despite not having it’s own station it will be surrounded by them.

    You might not have been through K Rd recently, but it is growing rapidly with a lot of new offices and apartments going in, particularly around the back end by Cross street. There is also a lot of further potential for redevelopment, that is something the uni precinct doesn’t have. As the report also notes the K Rd area is a nexus of bus and pedestrian routes due to the natural ridgeline and motorway overbridges, so a good location for an interchange. I like K Rd 2 station location, that could put one entrance near the corner of K Rd and Queen, and the other end would be under Pitt St or Beresford Square.

  6. I wonder why they changed the colour of options 6 & 6a from figure 10 to 11. Also I like the fact they included the station catchment for a Parnell station and a Gaunt St one for when a new harbour crossing is built (figure 9)

  7. Actually, K Road is very much gentrifying (you haven’t been there for a while?), and the area has a lot of apartments and will grow a lot more (especially along the motorway corridor back streets which currently still remain pretty rundown). Sure, a station in the uni area would be great, but it’s not exactly the choice between K Road and Uni, after all (I understand a station in the uni area was discounted long ago, as it would either be even deeper underground than all the others, or face a very long loop back east and then south to get underneath the Symonds Street alignment anywhere close to the uni.

    Better to provide a good link from a new Parnell Station over Grafton Gullly.

  8. It sort of is a choice between K Rd and a uni station.

    Note that the report states that a maximum of three stations is possible between Britomart and the western line, due to the need to basically climb at maximum grade all the way. More than three stations would require too many flat sections of track and not enough steep climbing.

    Also you don’t want them too close for operational reasons, with three new stations you have about 750m between them, which is good for a compact city centre. Add in another station and it becomes more like 5-600m.

    So you really can only put in three new stations.

  9. I was talking about the fact that to get anywhere close to uni (unless you consider, say, the Airedale Street / Symonds street intersection as close enough) you would have to basically do a big u-loop west out of Britomart, and then climb up before turning back south (and probably would still end up with a station quite deeply underground). That stuff might actually help with the grades – but it will make the tunnel hugely longer = much more costly.

    So I feel that the location of Britomart pretty much fixes the alignment to run in the centre-west of the CBD. The uni is in the centre-east.

  10. Yeah I think the options that involve a tunnel going underneath Wellesley Street would be hugely expensive and aren’t particularly viable. It’s a pity that the university will end up being the poorest served part of the CBD – but with a Parnell station and a pedestrian bridge over Stanley St/SH16 we would have a “sort of” uni station.

  11. I think Aotea would work well for the two universities, particularly if there was a proper effort to create a good pedestrian connection. The short slope isn’t a killer, and driving into the city long ago ceased to be an option for students. The question is whether it will make more sense than using the bus for students….

  12. Between Parnell Rise and the midcity station the university will be well serviced by rail, I think people underestimate how readily students will use the central city station. The proposed entrance site at the intersection of Queen and Wellesley is only 320m from the science building for example, and the campus itself is quite compact.

    I’ve just realised I walk almost twice that far to get from the Monash University bus interchange to my office on the other side of the campus every day! I think the rule of thumb 400m catchment is a little short personally, I think it is more like 6-800 in some cases.

    Let’s not forget that the central connector also runs right through the city campus, law campus, AUT and the medical campus on its way from Newmarket station to Britomart station too!

  13. I walk about 450m from my work to the bus stop to catch it home and don’t really think twice about it (maybe because the walk is simply along Queen Street….)

    My walk from home to the bus stop is around 380m and seems pretty short too.

    It’s actually not THAT far from Britomart up to the university if you go via Emily Place and Princes Street.

  14. I agree on the distances. I walk about 800 meters from my house to the train station daily which is less than 10 minutes about 5 if I run (often as i’m running late) and about 400 meters from the train station to work. I don’t consider either of these very far.

  15. I live in Melbourne too Kiwi, and I agree on the trams. In Auckland they seem to seem the CBD tunnel and trams on Queen St (or whatever) as an either-or choice, but really the complement each other. I use the trains mostly to get close to where I am going, then transfer to a tram for the last kilometre or two. Even on the city loop it is sometimes easier to hop off at Flinders and tram up to Melbourne Central than to transfer to a train going that way.

  16. Heh, there are a lot of us commenting from Australia! I live in Canberra (terrible transport, designed as park rather than city).

    Inner city services that one can hop on and off after using the main form of transport into the city (be it bus or train) make a lot of sense. I hope integrated ticketing will make this a reality!

  17. Maybe a Dominion Road tram line should transfer onto New North Road before doing a quick link along K Road and then down Symonds Street – so you could have a good transfer to the Newton station?

  18. “the rail tunnel will be 20-30m below ground level. That is pretty damn deep!”

    Hampstead underground station in london, built in 1907, is 67m deep.

  19. “I think the rule of thumb 400m catchment is a little short personally, I think it is more like 6-800 in some cases.”

    Rail catchments ARE generally assumed to be larger (600-800m), even if this study may not have done so.

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