A couple of weeks back I blogged about an NZ Herald article which cited a survey to note that transport was Auckland’s biggest issue in the lead-up to the Super City election, and perhaps more importantly – that most Aucklanders felt that the transport situation could most be improved through better public transport, rather than building more roads. This paragraph from the original article was the most intriguing:

Transport is the single most important issue for 27 per cent of survey respondents. And 44 per cent of voters say improving the train services should be the top priority for the new council.

Today we see another article in the NZ Herald confirming that Aucklanders really do want rail improvements more than anything else – at least in terms of big ticket transport projects. Here’s an excerpt:

Rail to the airport has emerged as the most important transport priority in Auckland in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey on the Super City.

In something of a surprise, 23.5 per cent of respondents voted for a rail link, ahead of improving the roading system (18.4 per cent) and a new harbour crossing (17.7 per cent).

Next was rail to the North Shore (15 per cent), a CBD rail loop (8.6 per cent), extending the Northern Motorway to Wellsford (8.4 per cent) and expanded ferry services (1.4 per cent).

When it comes to a new harbour crossing, 59.7 per cent said it should be a road and rail tunnel, 17.3 per cent a road tunnel and 16.5 per cent a bridge.

If we ignore the specific projects for a second and focus on a “rail versus roads” divide, we see that 47.1 per cent of respondents wanted one of the three big rail projects (rail to airport, CBD tunnel or North Shore Rail) as their number one transport priority. By contrast, 26.8 per cent specified either improving the roading system or building the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway. I’ve left out “new harbour crossing” from either group as most people want it to contain both road and rail.

I agree with the article that it is something of a surprise to see “rail to the airport” as the number of preferred project. While I think it’s something Auckland certainly does need, in my opinion the CBD rail tunnel is more essential. The primary reason for that, something that most people probably don’t know, is that until we have the CBD rail tunnel we will not have the capacity in the rail system to allow the other major rail projects to be constructed.

All in all, I think it’s incredibly promising to see the level of support for improving Auckland’s rail system. Remember the proportion of Aucklanders who actually use the rail system on a daily basis is fairly low, so obviously there appears to be an understanding that even those who continue to drive will benefit from there being a better rail system. It also suggests, I think, a general desire in the population to use the rail system, if only it went where they want to go. Clearly, Aucklanders want a better rail system – who’s going to give it to them?

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49 comments

  1. Good news however the CBD loop coming in so low is problematic… After the BCR next month we need to start a big campaign for it in the lead up to next year’s election, then the following council elections…

  2. The funny thing is that just yesterday C&R released their transport priorties and rail to the airport was not one of them. When will political parties start to realise that they should build what the public want as at the end of the day they are their to serve the public and not their own interests.

    While I agree that after the CBD tunnel there are probably more urgent rail projects (like out east) I do think the best approach for us is to build the lines that the general public understand and support now and that will drive calls for further expansion in time.

    I also thought it was quite funny how just the other day Jon C at AKT posted some transport policies of the canditates, Colin Craig said he supported the ANZAC bridge and that 60% of people support a bridge over tunnels with 17% however in this survey by the herald those results were completely reversed

  3. Over all I think it is a good poll for transport advocates. Sure the CBD tunnel didnt score higher but I’m guessing the people polled did not realise that the CBD rail tunnel is needed before any other rail links to the CBD can be implemented due to maximum capacity. The poll probably should have stated that and not had the CBD rail link as an option, and assumed that if one was to vote for a new rail link (to the airport, east or to the shore) would automatically vote for the CBD rail loop.
    I’m sure the CBD loops business case is due out very soon. Exciting time’s ahead. Hopefully Darren and Gareth Hughes can put some decent questions to Joyce in the coming months

    Polling also found 67.1 per cent support for cars with two or more passengers being able to drive in bus lanes.

    As Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”

  4. But again we are shown the complete failure of the dominant news organisations in AK to inform their readership about the issues and options. It is difficult to conclude that the powers at the Herald, the dominant voice in AK, want to do other than suppress any discussion of the various rail plans. In general I think habit, laziness and ignorance drive the decisions on these issues but it’s starting to get too consistent…. I’m not expecting the editor to be sympathetic but rather self interested- wouldn’t a series of articles with maps and plans stimulate all sorts of opinions and get a good old stoush going- got to be good for readership and relevance of the paper to issues that people say matter to them? We all know how heated people about transport on all sides of the debate…. The Herald always expresses ‘surprise’ at public desire for public transport… it is clear where they stand but can’t they see a opportunity?

  5. C & R have really missed the boat (or the train). We know they are following their political masters in Wellington (as has been seen by John Banks flip flops and now pro-roads again).

    Airport Rail, in my opinion, should start being built now. If Britomart can handle trains to Onehunga then there is no reason why those exactly same trains cannot go onto the Airport.

    The CBD tunnel is important and will take longer to build,so construction should ALSO start on that now.

    If the Airport line is built the CBD rail tunnel WILL most definitely follow. Airport Rail is the lower cost lynch pin that will drive huge growth onto the existing rail network.

    C & R = Still yawning at you!

    1. curious to know but do the new terminals at Auckland Airport have rail transport in mind? Have they futureproof designed it? Or are we going to have to figure a way to fit a train station in there once people realise that an airport link will be crazy amazing for the city, and the country

      1. I did a radio interview with an AIAL manager and they are very keen on getting an airport link built into a new wing if possible, they are waiting on the Central and Local politicians to get their thumb out of their arse on designation…

  6. Good point JBR, the greater the reach of the network, the greater the pressure for the CBD loop becomes irresistible. I agree with others that the need for other work, esp. the South Eastern is more pressing, but politically much more difficult. Part of that is because the airport line will be clearly a lot cheaper, but also because it is more understandable and understood. It would integrate well with the Manukau Station, and, in fact, make selling the South-Eastern a easier as it would look much more like an obvious network completion job. The same way the current motorway projects are sold to us…. But hey, anything, anywhere, just builds capacity and vitality and strengthens the claim for investment.

    The line through to Onehunga isn’t great though, needs a whole lot of trenching to cut out those level crossings, and of course double tracking and a real station….

    1. Or some of those level crossings along Onehunga could just be closed. Slightly off topic but I think that we should put about $10mil a year aside to remove level crossings. That would probably enable about one a year to be done.

      Also while carrying on Onehunga to the airport would enable us to have a connection, Britomart constraints would mean that still only 1 train per half hour could go to the airport.

      1. Especially the Richardson Rd crossing which should [!] be trenched a part of an integrated multi purpose new station and revitalised shopping centre at Mt Albert.

        I think someone else has mentioned the problem of the crossing towards Parnell out of Newmarket which will become untenable with the frequencies that the loop will provide, but is the only access point for the properties further down… can it be made into an underpass? I haven’t looked…

        1. I think you are referring to Woodward Ave, yes that should probably be at the top of the priority list and should be done now. It probably wouldn’t even need a trench, just dropping the line 1m-2m with retaining walls then having a bridge over the top would be pretty easy as the road drops down from the intersection with New North Rd anyway.

          The road you are referring to in Newmarket is Sarawia St, The big problem is the road on either side is quite steep so a traditional over/underpass wouldn’t work but there are a few options I have thought of for that one however none are cheap 1. Furneaux Way pretty much backs on to Laxon Tce with just some buildings between them. They could potentially be brought out and knocked down (although I think they are apartments) 2. an overpass would have to go over into the park then turn back to join the existing road (that would mean giving up part of the park which wouldn’t be easy politically). I think we should leave that one for now and focus on other more important ones.

          The second crossing on my list would be Morningside Dr, I have seen cars go around the barriers thinking that the train approaching is stopping at the station when in fact it is an express. After that probably Glenview Rd in Glen Eden as the town centre can get quite held up with traffic when trains come through as depending on timing the barriers could be down for quite some time due to the location of the station.

          1. Just had a look at Sarawia St online and it seems it does hook up with the admittedly residential streets on the other side, so perhaps not such an issue. Residential sites stolen and flogged off, of course, by those geniuses at Fay Richwhite…. What a noble history rail in Ak has.

          2. The big problem with Woodward is that it was already double tracked, also at Sarawia, it looks like it joins up but I think that is just on the map, I don’t think it does in real life. The big problem with that one is not the sale of the land but the way it was developed, by having a cul-de-sac the developer could get two more sites in which means more $ for him

          3. James B – Yes it definitely is, the discussion was more how could it be changed so it was no longer a level crossing as frequencies are increasing with Onehunga starting this weekend and next year when the Western line gets 10 min frequencies. More trains means that the barriers will be down even more so it will be much harder for residents to get out of their street.

          4. Sorry I misread. How many cars would go through there during the busy time. Assume that 28 trains pass an hour (12 each for the southern and western lines and 4 each for Onehunga) if they each require the barriers to be down for a minute as a conservative estimate then you still have 30 minutes+ for cars to travel through. Assume say 4 cars a minute and you have up 120 cars able to pass through. So the equation comes down to greater than 120 cars per minute then you have to do something, otherwise you’re right. Note all figures are purely hypothetical.

          5. It might be well more than a minute per train, if the barriers start to come down when a train is approaching and don’t start to go back up again until it has cleared the block.

            At twenty eight trains an hour that means the arms would (on average) go from fully up to fully down to back up again once every two minutes.

          6. I live right next to a level crossing and it’s not that long. It does seem a long time whern you’re waiting though. I will test it tonight and let you know though.

          7. Cool, would be interesting to know the time it takes for one full cycle. Also maybe have a look at the potential for an extension of Railway St to underpass the line. On Google maps there appears to only be one garage in the way, but I’m not sure about the grade.

            I guess the biggest problem would be if you had ‘clumps’ of trains moving through that might keep the arms down for ten minutes at a stretch.

          8. A complete 5 car train plus engine took 55 seconds to pass by Charles Street this morning. I timed this from the barriers first going down to the first car crossing.

            I have also calculated that a 200 metre long train would take 18 seconds to pass a point at 40km/hr.

  7. I guess that means most people don’t realise the benefits of the city tunnel for the overall system. Like just about everyone has experienced horrible traffic on SH20 and could use a link to the airport at some point, but it is basically only those who work in the CBD and would consider taking the train (and don’t work close to Britomart already) that would see the direct benefits of the tunnel.

    There is some potential to get in the airport line without at CBD rail tunnel however. A peak service of four trains an hour each on the Southern, Eastern and Airport lines plus six trains an hour on the Western would be just possible (the sections of the Southern line that overlapped would actually see eight trains an hour). This would require any ‘special’ trains like the Overlander or Waikato Connection terminating at The Strand (or maybe Newmarket), something that should be looked into regardless.

    Getting six trains an hour on four lines might be possible: 24tph into Britomart would require signalling for 2.5 minute headways which should be possible with a flyover at Quay Park (Britomart outbound toward Parnell) and an all EMU fleet. The platforms should easily allow for 24 trains an hour, even using just four that still allows ten minutes to get in and out.

    1. I’m not convinced about the number of people who would use a rail link to the airport. There are airport workers, of course. But Auckland doesn’t feel like a busy enough airport to load up a rail link. Remember that families like to drop off and pick up tourist travelers at airports and they’ll continue to drive; people flying often have a lot of heavy luggage that suits home-to-departures-curb transport without the need for transfers; and the feeder network isn’t extensive yet. The rail link would be attractive for business travelers wanting to get to the CBD. Although only if they’re not in too much of a hurry where a taxi will avoid the need to wait even 15 minutes for a train, won’t stop every few minutes on their way in to the CBD, and doesn’t require their business appointment to be a short walk from Britomart. Is that enough to sustain a new line? I don’t think so… not yet.

      Sydney has only recently had rail to their airport. Melbourne doesn’t have rail to the airport. I think Auckland’s airport line can wait while other higher priorities are addressed (like the CBD tunnel), regardless of what people tell pollsters.

      1. It’s not just a line to the airport however. I prefer to think of it as Auckland’s fourth suburban line, one that happens to service the airport as one of its main trip generators (…still trying to think of a better name, the south-west line perhaps?, the Onehunga to Manukau extension?). For this reason I think the whole line, including the airport, should fall within the stardard fare stage/zone system.

        Based on ARTAs preferred option the airport terminal station would be only one of four brand new stations, and the whole line from Britomart to Manukau via Onehunga would include at least twelve stations.

        There are four main sources of patronage as far as I can see:
        -Commuters from the wider Mangere area heading to the CBD and Manukau central.
        -People near the existing Onehunga Branch and Southern line taking advantage of increase frequencies.
        -Workers commuting to the airport itself or the major employment zone in it’s periphery.
        -People travelling to or from the airport to catch flights, plus perhaps some of their family and well wishers.

        One major reason for Sydney’s airport station failure is that they did it as a PPP so it costs $15 one way for the trip to town, despite the fact the stations either side only cost a few bucks. The problem was they just targeted that small proportion of buisiness travellers heading downtown but forgot about the half million other Sydneysiders who regularly use the rail system.

        Apparently Brisbane’s private airport line makes a profit, and Brissy’s not much bigger than Auckland.

        On the topic of rail to Melbourne, the city has been promised one for about 15 years now was about to proceed in 2008 before being mothballed for more freeway construction (grrr!). When I took the skybus last it was standing room only at 11pm on a Sunday despite having an articulated bus every ten minutes.
        One thing to note is that Auckland airport is the hub for all of New Zealand, and it handles 1.5 times as many international travellers as Melbourne. Those travellers aren’t going to have a car sitting in the carpark.

  8. All this talk and surveys are great news and the blogs are helping. But only a small percentage of the population (the people who are interested and support PT) read these posts.
    My question is how do we get the promotion of the CBD loop, airport line and SOUTH EASTERN LINE in the mainstream media so that people can talk about it and get behind it? @ Nick R, we need to ensure that the public under the benefits you are talking about. These plans / visions of getting things done in 20-30 years just does not work. I’ll be retired 🙂 by then and how many people would have left the country because growth in the Auckland CBD has been smothered due to lack of infrastructure. If there is no money then at least protect the route so that development can start around the future stations.

    We need the infrastructure and it is NOT just a nice to have that our kids will thank us for.

    1. hopefully once the business case comes out there will be some questions in parliment to joyce. Gareth Hughes asked some decent questions a few months back regarding how the CBD rail loop would be much more beneficial than the holiday highway. Joyce shrugged him off and told him to come back when the business case is released as he had no numbers to compare.

      The business case is bound to be good and it can’t come soon enough

  9. @GJA, have a look at the Waikato Trains Now campaign the CBT has run; petetions, newspaper ads, billboards, public meetings, political support surveys – the media invited/included to/in every one of them…

    It works but takes time and sustained pressure… The BCR is needed before anyone can start a CBD loop campaign properly (someone tell the Greens)…

  10. Some of the smaller local papers are happy to accpet news articles if you write it for them especially if there are interesting pictures. They may wait until there is a gap or an unexpected withdrawal, but at least it is an oportunity to get the issue out there.

    Some of the articles on this Blog would make a great starting piece for a discussion about where Rail should go in the future. for example an article describing how a SE rail line could get Howick residents to the CBD in 25 minutes would get the attention of the local paper.

  11. Good idea QH, further to that it would be quite useful to point out that there is no less than $1.3 billion dollars of spending earmarked for the AMETI roading projects in the east, yet they admit on the AMETI website that traffic levels will only increase as a result. The question should be why are they proposing to spend so much on new roads when it will only make the traffic worse? Over a billion dollars and no improvement in journey times?!

    They should really be spending a few hundred million on the most necessary intersection and town centre upgrades and earmark the remaining billion dollars for a rapid rail line and a package of bus, cycling and walking improvements.

    The point is they do have the money for this project, they are just spending it in the most wasteful way possible. What would the good people of south east Auckland like, and even larger traffic nightmare as their only option for transport, or a rail line that affords a 25 minute trip downtown or a 15 minute trip to Manukau?

    The website is full of talk about how it is a ‘public transport project’ about ‘building roads for buses and cycling’ and not about ‘more car trips’, but looking at the design and the budget anyone can see that is a complete crock of shit. It is a roadfest pure and simple, it includes two brand new arterial roads, new motorway interchanges, widened motorway ramps and a new viaduct at Parkuranga of the kind they are trying to remove at Victoria Park!

    If they were actually concerned about ‘building roads for buses and cycling’ they could construct a full busway and cycleway for a quarter the cost, and if they were concerned about building the best rapid transit option they would focus the whole project around a rail line with bus interchanges and park-n-ride.

  12. I think the big issue is that people don’t understand we need the CBD rail loop BEFORE we can build rail to the airport. Am just about to write a letter to the Herald to that effect.

    Also, the other big issue is that most Aucklanders have simply never heard of the project (is hard to want something if you don’t know it exists).

    1. Also while waiting for the city loop to come on line there is always the option of direct Airport [or Manukau]- Western line services, so city bound travellers would change at Newmarket…. in other words no CBD loop is not an argument against getting on with the airport loop, if that is the lowest hanging fruit…. Of course ideally we need them both but we must never fall into the trap of sacrificing the good for the ideal….

    1. Damn I was just about to post that but you beat me to it 🙁

      That’s good news. Now all we have to do is increase that number and remind people that it is impossible without the inner city loop. I would say that once the tunnel BCR comes out and the benefits of the tunnel are formalised then that number will go up for both projects. I guess that rail to the airport is a lot easier for people to understand as they can understand the benefit of catching a train to the airport.

  13. But check out the questions… ‘improve roading to reduce congestion’ or ‘pay more rates for rail’ so even with this blatant bias the people still know what they want. Well done Aucklanders, the people clearly have a more sophisticated view of the issues that our masters.

    I guess we can now clearly claim that Joyce is guilty of Careless Roading as well as careless driving

  14. Yep those questions have leading bias, especially as one assumes building more roads will reduce congestion while the other makes no mention of any potential decongesting effects of rail (in both cases the were asked if they would pay more rates to have it).

    The real question should be: With the several billion dollars of spending already allocated to the Auckland region in the next ten years; -would you prefer it is spent on building a new motorway from Puhoi to Wellsford, or a CBD rail tunnel to improve the efficiency of the whole rail network?
    -Would you prefer $1.3 billion dollars of rates be spent on building new roads in Mt Wellington and constructing an expressway flyover of Pakauranga, or an outer eastern railway line?

    -What should be the next transport policy for south-west Auckland? A new motorway long the foreshore between Onehunga and Panmure? Or a rail line via the airport?
    -What would you prefer to be the basis for transport policy? Building new highway links and widening roads through existing communities? Or building new rail and bus links instead?

  15. Its amazing the level of support for rail by local body candidates. It seems some of them are just campaigning for it because its popular and demonstrate a real lack of understanding why.

    1. this is shown none more so than in the case of John Banks. Flip flop do the populist thing, until of course Joyce tells you off. Then explain how an airport link will cost us too much, all the time campaigning for more incredibly expensive white elephant motorways.

      1. When i wrote that i was reading a letter from Tenby Powell. “The intercity rail loop needs completing and it needs to be electrified”. Campaigning for something that is pretty much a certainty implies either you don’t know what is going on, or you think you potential voters don’t.

        I think campaigning for things that have already been set in motion is a dirty tactic too. Many of the candidates are promising rail integrated ticketing etc although it is already well underway.

        1. well yeah whenever transport is mentioned banks always says he’ll get modern rolling stock, intergrated ticketing and eletrification. That shits already coming, what’s new!

    1. Andrew Williams stated in the NZ herald debate that between 1990 and 2005 aucklanders spent $7B on fuel taxes, and got back only $3B on roading infrastructure. The figure is a little deceptive because fuel taxes also pay things like ACC etc. Personally I don’t think all petrol tax should be spent on roads anyway.

    1. That would be a bit of a waste of our flash new EMU’s 😉

      Its quite fun thinking of ways this would be possible…

      Pneumatic? – Blast the trains through with compressed air

      On a more serious note a number of subways through history have been pulled by cables through tunnels. This has the advantage of allowing steeper grades to be claimed than would be possible with steel on steel traction. I don’t think this is a good idea for our tunnel though, and it’s very unlikely this was the alternative Powell was considering.

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