Over the last week or so some of my fellow bloggers have put up their suggestions for how to develop the rail network in the future, I have taken some of their ideas and thrown in a few of my own. One thing that is common across these suggestions is that largely we aren’t trying to add a whole heap of lines to places that haven’t been discussed before but are just trying to optimise the network once the projects are built, the projects largely consist of the CRL, rail to the Airport and rail to the Shore.

You will see that there are a lot of similarities between all of the designs presented with the main one being the ‘cross’ at Aotea station which links the North/South services and the East/West services. I think that there are a few advantages to this, the key ones being that from one central station you can get almost everywhere on the rail network with a ‘one seat journey’. Of course it would mean that the station would be extremely busy but part of the reason for discussing it now is so that we can hopefully influence the design to avoid issues. The station would have some great potential access options and I suspect that many of the neighbouring business would be keen to have direct access to the station, something which could help to spread out the people using the station rather than funnelling them through a couple of entrances. These neighbouring businesses would also likely see huge financial benefit to having a direct connection to the busiest station in the city so would quite likely be prepared to pay for access, this could help to pay for the station and/or its operating costs.

So here is my plan including operating patterns that would run.

Here are the key differences.

  • Unlike Patrick I don’t envisage a University station, I think that it is simply too close to the Aotea Station to work well operationally.
  • There is no rail connection from Manukau to the Airport. There are a couple of reasons for this:
    1. There is also no catchment between these two locations that would warrant having a station so any trains between these two locations would travelling an extra 9km each way for not a lot of gain.
    2. Without embarking on building a rail line through to Botany it doesn’t seem to make much sense to have the planned busway terminate at Manukau, extending the busway services to the Airport provides a direct connection for those that live in the east. The line at station at the airport could be designed in a way to allow extension later on.
  • There is no direct connection between the West and Newmarket. The reason for this is there are not any simple operating patterns that easily allow for this connection to work without impacting frequencies on the lines. To counter this slightly a station at Dominion Rd (to replace Mt Eden) with an extra platform or two would allow for a shuttle to run between the two stations providing a connection to Grafton and a faster journey to Newmarket vs going through Aotea. At Newmarket it would use the current platform 1 so wouldn’t impact on the services using the other two lines. It would also help to take some of the pressure off Aotea.

There are a few other issues worth pointing out:

  • Ideally the yellow line would continue on to Onehunga, getting there from Mt Roskill is difficult due to the terrain and the currently designated route which was designed with freight trains winds its way through the area but bypasses the town centre. I imagine it will be extremely expensive to build that section due to this so I feel the focus should be on other areas first.
  • At the moment there is still plenty of capacity left in the busway however that won’t always be the case. The blue line north of Akoranga would be the last piece of this design to be built and the rest is likely to take up a few decades worth of work anyway.
  • My preference isn’t for a spur at Takapuna however the town centre is a bit like St Lukes or Manukau in that it is not easy to reach directly with the existing infrastructure patterns and doing so would add a few Km’s to every journey of anyone travelling to/from north of there.
  • The network is still very CBD centric, a lot of effort will need to be made to make it easy to transfer at key locations to high frequency cross town bus services.
  • There are still a lot of services that use the section between Westfield and Wiri. As frequencies increase this would become a key bottleneck which would likely require additional tracks beyond the 3rd main already proposed.
  • The Green and Yellow services are quite long at close to 50km, this means that we would need a lot of trains to run the network at high frequencies. The red and blue lines are shorter at around 37km (by comparison it is 31km from Papakura to Britomart).
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  1. You can tell it is a quiet day on The Western Front at my end today 😛

    Right just took a look at this and found a few quirks of my own.

    You are right that Aotea Station is going to be a primary focus point, but looking and Manukau I count 4 different “service” routes which would easily flip Manukau over into Auckland’s Second Core and most likely a very busy transit hub.

    I would still keep the rail line from Wiri to Manukau and loop it back to Onehunga and Westfield Junction and not for freight reasons either (as I advocated else where). I am reading through Minutes from local boards in the Wards of Manukau (Papatoetoe/Otara) and Manurewa and Papakura that lobbying and funding for planning studies is underway to turn a tract of land along State Highway 20B on the err Mangere side? into light and maybe even medium industrial estates that would connect back to the light industry along Tidal Road in Papatoetoe West. That coupled with some development at the airport would in the end warrant a rail line to the airport from Wiri.

    I am trying to work something with Manukau, and the Westfield to Wiri Line – but first a trip home 😀

  2. I think the idea of having busways from Panmure to the airport via Manukau is better than trying to ram heavy rail through there.

    One thing all of these plans don’t seem to account for is the fact that the current northern busway is designed to allow for future conversion to light rail. That being the case, and given that there’s no need to run freight through there (unless you’re going to continue the line to Wellsford and join it to the NAL, but that probably won’t happen), why duplicate that route with heavy rail?

    1. The problem I have with that is that once you get to the south side of the harbour, all of the network is heavy rail which means you either have to terminate all trains in town somewhere and force everyone to transfer or you have to duplicate part of the existing network.

      1. I’m with Sean re the Shore. Light rail up the busway (even from the current bridge) is a great, cheap! way of serving the Shore.

        And yes- the rest of the network is heavy rail (although surely the gauge difference is the real problem?) once the “trams/light rail units” hit Fanshawe they can pick up the Wynyard folk on the current line and end in Quay St at Britomart (or even Aotea if the various Queen st, Victoria St light rail draft plans happen).

        Buy in from the Shore will help everyone I reckon.

        1. Why you want that though, trams have absolutely no speed advantage and very little capacity advantage over buses while still bringing large amounts of expensive that heavy rail brings. Either full heavy rail or Nick R’s light metro proposal is the answer- or just stick with buses.

        2. Louis- Trams/light rail can go pretty damn fast, 90k from memory and hold a lot more people than buses.

          Heavy rail can’t handle the existing bridge gradient and would need a harbour tunnel. That’s when things get really expensive…

        3. I’m with Louis. Unless we’re talking Vancouver style light-metro, then a busway has a relatively similar capacity to light rail. Each light-rail vehicle can carry more people than each bus, but with a grade separated piece of infrastructure like the Northern Busway you can run a huge number of buses per hour.

          Light-rail is significant cost for very little, if any, benefit over and above the status quo.

        4. ‘Heavy rail can’t handle the existing bridge gradient and would need a harbour tunnel. That’s when things get really expensive…’

          I wouldn’t be so sure that heavy rail can’t handle the gradients of the harbour bridge. Google up/wikipedia up “steepest gradients on adhesion railways” and see what turns up as case studies. The blurb even comments that ‘Metros and pure commuter railways often allow higher gradients, up to 4 %’ (or 1:25). The case studies note adhesion railways, both freight and passenger operating at extreme gradients of up to 1:18 for the standard gauge Flamsbanen in Norway, and Höllentalbahn (Black Forest). To be sure, these are extreme environments and certainly not optimal for heavy rail efficiency but they do show it can be done if necessary. It should be noted that both the above examples are actually operated by conventional electric locomotives and carriages, double-decker carriages in the case of the Black Forest rail line.

          The Auckland harbour bridge is at 1:20 gradient or 5%. To me the bigger issue may be the sudden change in gradient at the top of the bridge. However, some of the technical experts out there may have some ideas on this. Couplers may need to be modified to cater for the change in vertical curvature?

        5. Tuktuk- I am by no means an expert on rail gradients, but have been told on this site that heavy rail is unable to deal with the underground at Britomart to however high the harbour bridge elevation is gradient.

          If that is wrong of course, it is wonderful, and “cross” trains could happily barrel along on the same gauge as the rest of the rail system.

          Plus we can spend all that harbour tunnel money on extending the rail system, or putting all 3 stations on the CRL etc

  3. I think that these ideas are very good and would work very well, but I think that it’ll be a struggle getting funding for one CBD tunnel, let alone two. Here’s my idea if we couldn’t get the second tunnel: http://img851.imageshack.us/img851/8365/aucklandrailmap1.png
    This isn’t including all of the busways and light railways. It makes Aotea the real rail hub, as well as Newmarket, Penrose, Onehunga, and Manukau. All of the stations that we have now would pretty much have the same or better service than they do currently, avoiding any complaints or people not using rail anymore because things have changed. It also means that trains don’t have to back out of Newmarket. It isn’t super fancy, but tell me what you think. 🙂

    1. Yes funding is obviously the biggest issue but I kind of feel that part of the problem is we have a massive cost in the CRL that is preventing any lower cost projects from being started as they all depend on more capacity being available. Once that is built we can start on extending the line to the airport but that can be done in stages, one or two stations at a time.

      As for your plan, I think the main issue is that it would likely require the line from the north shore to skip Wynyard and have an an underground junction in town which would be really costly. That would reduce the throughput and having so many lines using the same piece of track would reduce the capacity out on the network. As an example the maximum capacity of the CRL with the right signalling is about 30 trains per hour per direction which means that out on the network, say at New Lynn or Papakura the most you could ever have is one train every 7.5 minutes, that’s only 2 trains per hour more than we can have now. A flat junction into with the tunnel, which would probably be required due to the grades, would reduce that capacity even further so it would not be much better than we have now. By comparison with the cross town tunnel we wouldn’t have so much conflicting movement and each of my four lines could run trains in each direction every 4 minutes or 15 trains per direction per hour.

      1. Matt, I agree, except that I think you are being generous on capacity. Aotea is going to be the main commuter station – so a minute’s dwell is a minimum, and I think that 2 minutes is probably more realistic. A 1 minute headway is probably pretty heroic too. I know that the Thameslink scheme in London is stuggling to design for a theoretical 30tph, practical 24tph, even assuming specially designed units. So I suspect that your 30tph (from 1 minute headway 1 minute dwell?) would turn out to be more like a theoretical 20tph, preactical 16tph, unless Aotea was built with 4 underground platforms with their associated expence.

        1. 30 tph is what was quoted in the original business case. I take your point about theoretical vs. practical capacity but would say that if Thameslink can do 24 tph then I can’t see why we couldn’t.

        2. We could have 24 tph, but probably only with a dedicated fleet of new high acceleration emus simlar to the ones that were specified for Thameslink once it was realised that he existing emus wouldn’t cut it – and with AT having just bought a fleet of emus, I can’t see that being popular.

        3. Actually our new EMUs will be extra powerful high accelerating ones.

          30tphpd could be achievable with grade separated junctions at each end of the tunnel and any other critical places on the network. Otherwise 20tphpd would be about it.

  4. Nice plan, but there is one major problem (or more of a coincidence) – the network in downtown Auckland looks like a swastika!

  5. I see where you’re coming from, but it wouldn’t necessarily need to bypass Wynyard, the two north lines could have the harbour tunnel go underneath Wynyard and continue north. Also, rather than have all four lines go on two tracks, you could build four tracks going along the same alignment which would cost, but would still be a lot cheaper than building a completely separate tunnel on a different alignment. At either end, you would probably need an underground grade separated junction to avoid a whole lot of difficult signalling, so that would cost quite a bit, but if we plan it right, probably not too much. If you built two tunnels along the same alignment, then you would be able to have 60 trains an hour going to both Aotea and K-road stations, and 30 to all other stations. That would give the same capacity as the above plan, with a less hefty price tag.

    1. I am not convinced you will see much saving. One large 4 track tunnel would be an 4 times the volume of rock of one small 2 track tunnel, so in reality you would build two 2 track tunnels, which is what you would do if you sent the other pair of tracks off on a different alignment. Most of the big costs – boring the hole, lining the hole, formation, track etc would be the same whether you sent the second tunnel the same way or a different route, and you might only lose some synergies with power, ventilation, emergency egress.

  6. nowhere in any of these discussions is any analysis/consideration of actual passenger demand patterns, without that they’re just nice lines on the map

    I can confirm that Newmarket is a significant destination for North Shore so to that extent the cross pattern makes sense

    cost: a quirk of New Zealand’s land ownership law is that your property right goes downwards, so tunnels need to follow publicly owned land, most conveniently the roads, otherwise the cost rises as you have to buy the rights to tunnel under Mr Smith’s villa

    1. Steve all tunnels are planned to be under roads, other council land (eg Albert Park) or public land, or institutions with an interrest in a functioning PT system (eg university), or land bought for the purpose. And stations involving landowners with retail interests and therefore also an interest in those passing volumes of rail users.

      Demand is a good point, but there is no use at looking numbers on the current limited rail system to understand routes that are yet to exist. The Trend in uptake of rail in Ak as it improves is clear and to a degree likely popular routes can be predicted. But it is certainly my view that the CRL will have a completely transformative effect not only on Aucklanders habits of movement but on their very idea of their city. Currently the idea of Auckland as a transit city hardly exists, rail in particular is nearly invisible. Partly this is because of historical reasons (the rundown of the service) but it also is because the current network is very limited. People, for example, who travel to other cities and happily use systems such as the Tube in London will, with the CRL, be able to completely reappraise their sense of Auckland. For two reasons; because it will be so much more useful and because it will be new and cool.

      The lines on a page are a result of 1. A sense of likely uptake (demand) 2. How the current limited network can be most cost effectively extended (and therefore the inherent value in the existing ROW unlocked). And 3. In a way that allows an efficient service pattern.

      It seems highly likely to me that the transformation in the effectiveness and prominence of fast electric train travel in Auckland that the CRL will effect will also transform the attitudes of many for whom rail now looks like an impossible irrelevance into something that they will want access to in their areas. Or at least will open their eyes to such a possibility.

      1. the best and apart from complex transport models, the only source of demand data is Census journey to work

        I’ve used it a lot in planning bus routes and in developing advocacy positions for improved services

        1. no it tells you total all modes travel demand

          more importantly, where there is a large car only o/d pair, it shows that is where there is a gap in the current services and unmet PT demand, like northbound services on the busway from places like Devonport and from Beach Haven to Glenfield without going down to Highbury

        2. Fair enough Steve, I see what you’re doing, so do you find given a high quality service that a similar PT uptake can be expected across the city? And if so what is that? [problem, of course being comparing levels of service]

    2. To add to what Patrick says about demand, of course we should only build what we need, and we should only build it when we need it. But we’re not looking at justifying the funding of anything at the moment, except for the CRL. The key is to ensure that we have a long-term plan in mind so that with our early projects we don’t cut off possibilities (or make it prohibitively expensive) to do further expansions to the network.

  7. What’s interesting is that we all pretty much agree on pushing forward with the Mt Roskill to Avondale section of the Avondale-Southdown Line. I wonder whether that project could happen pretty much immediately post CRL – potentially even generating rail patronage and boosting the case for the CRL.

    1. I think that it is largely due to how comparatively quick and cheap it would be. The corridor is already designated and owned by Kiwirail and with the exception of New North Rd, will be completely grade separated down to Dominion Rd thanks to the Waterview Connection. Also even though the route isn’t as direct as Dom Rd it would be faster due to to the exclusive ROW. It would be useful as a way to get people from the Southern parts of the isthmus to town faster while also freeing up bus capacity for people closer to town. As I said things get a bit more tricky after Dom Rd due to the gradients imvolved.

    2. Well it’s pretty much ready to go, should be done with the Waterview project, shouldn’t it. Owairaka and Mt Roskill stations.

      I think a way of addressing the the CBD centric nature of this network would be to maintain a decent service through Grafton, the shuttle idea is interesting but it demands at least two transfers if heading further than Grafton or Newmarket, and one for those. I think we could be surprised by the numbers who have destinations outside of the CBD (plenty already leave/join the western line at Newmarket) and will be keen to avoid that busy section of the network. Including Western Line users heading to the airport or points south.

      So how about:
      Swanson-Manukau via CRL & GI. with a higher frequency than
      Mt Roskill- Papakura via Grafton (usefully shortens the run)
      And assuming the busway is still running to Akoranga:
      Takapuna -Airport
      Takapuna- Papakura stopping at Man City as a run of the line stop which does require some sophisticated track infrastructure at the Man City / Southern line junction (would still like to see an airport link here, esp for people south of MC and transferers from the Eastern Line, including people fom Britomart, to take pressure off Aotea).

  8. I think we should aim for metro styled system with four grade separated lines with each platform having only one line in one direction. The four lines would be;
    1. Southern line: Ex Papakura via Newmarket and around the CRL in an anticlockwise direction and back to Papakura.
    2. Western line: Ex Waitakere and around the CRL in a clockwise direction.
    3. Airport line: Ex Britomart via Glen Innes, Westfield, Mangere (around eastern end of the Manukau ), Airport and Manukau City Centre. This line would be extended to the North Shore via Aotea Station (by passing Britomart).
    4. Onehunga- Avondale line: Ex Westfield to Avondale. In the future this would be extended in the west to Westgate via Rosebank Rd and Te Atatu and in the east to Botany via Highbrook.

    · Once grade separated this system would have huge operational benefits as each line in effect will be a independent loop with each length of track only having trains running in one direction on it plus the trains from other lines would not run on it. This would allow trains to run at least 3 minute intervals.
    · Operationally it is very simple to run and as each line is independent it won’t to compromised by failures on other lines.
    · The Airport link via the eastern end of the Mangere inlet would be cheaper and faster than going via Onehunga.
    · Having a Strand station that connected to long distance trains would be a future enhancement.
    · We avoid the need to add more lines at the eastern entrance to Britomart.
    · There will be high frequency trains going around the CRL in both directions enabling the rail to be used for intra inner city travel.
    · It could be implemented in a limited fashion once the CRL is completed.
    · We would only have to grade separate the existing track in three places namely Newmarket, Westfield and Wiri

    A metro styled rail system with one platform, one line, one direction is a superior goal to aim for. Are ther any valid reasons why we should not go for such a system?

    1. The problem with running lines around in a loop and sending them back the way they came is that you create quite a lot of conflicting movements. For example, does your Western Line train go Aotea-Britomart-Parnell-Newmarket-Grafton? If so, you have created a real mess of conflicts there and you’re forcing Western Line passengers outbound to go the long way once again.

  9. Aotea is a sensible location (as is Beurs in Rotterdam) for a rail centred mass transit network. But the britomart Location looks a better place to have a transport hub.
    1. It links with Ferries, Future trams and is with in walking distance of most bus routes.
    2. Transport connections are where people meet and wait, Aotea at street level will always struggle to be a nice place to wait for an hour or so (Casino, brothel makes me think of the people entering Amsterdam on a friday evening). Also having one main entrance with good sight lines (Bottom of Queen st. or wellington station)makes finding people easy. Having multiple similar sized entrances (Brisbane bus station or Utrecht) make it very easy to wait at wrong entrance.

    1. I’ll show ignorance now. Where is Aotea station meant to be? I had always assumed near enough under Aotea Square, and I can’t think of a better street level pedestrian access point to the main commuter station. But the comment “Aotea at street level will always struggle to be a nice place to wait for an hour or so” makes me think that I am thinking of the wrong place.

      1. Aotea will be about 10m below Albert St and between Victoria St and Wellesley St. In reality with what we are proposing the station woulda actually be more like a T.

        1. Ah, okay, thanks for that. So it could be possible to bring one entrance (the main one?) up into the Atrium on Elliot to give at least one pleasant pedestrian access?

  10. I have a lot of interest in the aesthetics of place, this is a real concern. But I am a little puzzled by the idea that an underground station at one part of town or another will somehow be, of nescessity, better or worse than another. Furthermore that Aotea will become important does not mean that Britomart will cease to still be important or to no longer have a link with the ferry terminal. Clearly Aotea or any other new station will be as good a place to be as we make it.

  11. For people who say a University station is too close to Aotea, remember the Uni is (i could be wrong) _the_ single biggest population center in the CBD bar none.
    Additionally remember Auckland CBD is very hilly. It would be a _huge_ advantage to be able to go from any two points in the CBD quickly and reliably. To be able go places within the CBD during your lunch break is a huge transformation.
    Auckland CBD is not a pedestrian friendly CBD and will never be unless you flatted the hills.

  12. “Auckland CBD is not a pedestrian friendly CBD and will never be unless you flatted the hills.”

    That’s blatantly false, the hills are a defining feature of Auckland and make the city a lot more interesting, it’s the lack of pedestrian facilities on most of the crowded city roads that makes the downtown feel pedestrian unfriendly–that is fortunately slowly changing. It’s interesting to reflect that today we want to encourage pedestrians, whilst when Banks first entered council he comissioned the Birch report, a key finding of whcih was that the council needed to actively discourage walking and cycling. Thank god we’ve matured a bit since those days.

  13. That network layout looks excellent. I will be interested in seeing your guys thoughts on the CBD QTN to connect up the locations that the RTN will miss – hospital / (university?) / Grafton / etc – the future version of Link? Could this QTN be constructed to take some pressure off the Aotea Station, for example by encouraging university arrivals from the west to transfer at Newton rather than Aotea.
    Rather than running the shuttle service (between west & Newmarket) as you suggested, perhaps the Grafton station should be abandoned (in the medium term – once the cross tunnel is built) and the operational funds diverted to the CBD QTN (i.e. improve the Newton -> Grafton -> Newmarket connection).
    Will the Dominion Rd station, be part of the CRL works? It would be a bit disappointing if post the CRL we have Dominion Rd buses crossing the RTN – with no transfer point until the Aotea station.

    1. Ever seen how many kids use Grafton? Anyway it is a useful non CBD route. I still maintain that west south is a potentially popular journey, especially once MIT opens above the MC station and rail reaches the airport. Too value able to abandon.

    2. Does the Central Connector not already do this with a zillion buses an hour? All that’s missing is a fare structure that allows people to transfer and/or just hop on the next bus that comes along.

        1. Thinking about some more another reason to keep Grafton, is that this it could be incorporated into the future redevelopment of the Lion site – making this site more valuable.

        2. I wasn’t advocating dropping Grafton (in fact I want to see it as a key station on the airport route), just pointing out that the QTN layer that distributes along the Newmarket – Grafton – Hospital – Symonds St – University corridor already exists.

      1. I was mainly thinking about western line passengers, under this future network layout, commuting to the hospital – as they will potentially have a few transfers to make (feeder bus -> rail -> Grafton rail shuttle -> bus to hospital (or walk 600m)). And will the Central Connector ‘connectivity’ be as efficient under this new RTN arrangement – > with Aotea becoming the busiest station?

  14. You’ve also got the large additional cost of building a station at the university and possibly the domain as has been suggested. The walk from Aotea station to the university would only be around 10 minutes, which isn’t a lot also considering that the majority of people at the universities won’t mind walking the extra 5 minutes, and if my over 40 year old dad can walk between Britomart and the University, I’m sure that students at the uni can do a shorter distance. Also the investigation into the soil type along the route would cost some more, and as someone else mentioned, you may also have to buy more land as land ownership goes downwards as well. I’m not saying that the second tunnel alignment isn’t a good idea, I just think that it’s more of a nice to have rather than a need. I’m just suggesting a cheaper and perhaps almost as effective option.

  15. “There is no direct connection between the West and Newmarket. The reason for this is there are not any simple operating patterns that easily allow for this connection to work without impacting frequencies on the lines. To counter this slightly a station at Dominion Rd (to replace Mt Eden) with an extra platform or two would allow for a shuttle to run between the two stations providing a connection to Grafton and a faster journey to Newmarket vs going through Aotea. At Newmarket it would use the current platform 1 so wouldn’t impact on the services using the other two lines. It would also help to take some of the pressure off Aotea.”

    What about having a Takapuna to Mt Roskill via Grafton line. You can get rid of one of those huge routes and you get a great route between the inner west and Takapuna with convenient transfers to South and Eastern line servers.

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