A statement you won’t often hear on this blog is “I agree with Cameron Brewer” but you will hear it today. It’s in response to an his statements in this article in the Manukau Courier:

Public transport could get another boost if mayor Len Brown’s light rail loop for Manukau gets the green light.

“We want to run light rail from Manukau up through Clover Park, all along Te Irirangi Drive, up to Highland Park, up Panmure Highway and back to Manukau,” he says.

“The idea of getting mass transit into suburban areas is to give commuters flexibility.

“The key thing about running rail down Te Irirangi Drive is that people already complain about the traffic lights holding them up.

“The trains would run down the median strip in the road and they would take priority over cars.”

Light rail costs about an eighth as much as heavy rail to install, he says.

The trains would have a tighter turning circle and carry fewer people than the city’s new electric trains.

“Right now they are in the investigation stage. We really want to do a loop like that in Sydney.”

Brown is keen to get the project done quickly but says there are still many unknowns so no cost has been given.

He’s also keen to get smaller 20-person electric buses running between Manukau and Middlemore Hospital.

“It would also be great to build them here in Auckland and get the investment having a positive economic impact throughout the whole project.”

If I am reading things correctly it would be something like this.

Len Eastern Light Rail proposal

The section from Panmure to Manukau would not be able to use the existing rail lines due to the gauge of the tracks and the fact that the tracks are/will be full with existing passenger and freight trains. It would also be pointless to duplicate that when it has a considerable amount of capacity in it for quite some time. As for the rest of the proposal, breaking it down the section from Panmure to Highland Park is quite useful due to the huge amount of people living in the area however it does stop short of going a bit further to Howick. Similarly I think the North/South route, particularly the part from Botany to Manukau is useful and is actually listed as eventually being part of the rapid transit network. The median strip along Te Irirangi Dr is huge and supposedly was intended to be used exactly the purpose of running light rail down it.

Te Irirangi Median

and from above where you can see it’s wider than the two lanes either side of it.

Te Irirangi Median above

However while those two routes are useful I’m not sure how well they go together. For someone going from Botany to Panmure that’s quite a detour unless Len is intending this to be on top of the existing investment that is meant to be going in to the AMETI busway. It seems hard enough getting funding for that let alone this which at about 20km in length would surely be at least $300 million, probably more. Not only that it distracts focus from what are in my opinion much higher priorities like getting the CRL funded and getting the new network bus implemented properly – by which I mean with fully supported infrastructure like bus lanes and upgraded stops and interchanges. And it’s for this reason I agree with Cameron Brewer.

Councillor Cameron Brewer says the city’s bus infrastructure needs improvement before any light rail projects can get the go-ahead.

“I think the mayor needs to focus on getting the money for the $2.8 billion City Rail Link. This additional project is just not feasible in the foreseeable future.”

I view the mayor’s proposal as kind of like trying to run before you can walk. The other useful thing about getting the bus network sorted first is that it can start building up patronage which would make any future light rail network more successful. It’s also worth considering what the new network proposes for the area which is effectively the red and purple routes (the green route from Otara to Botany was upgraded to a frequent following the southern network consultation).

New Netowrk East

It’s also worth pointing out what we’ve proposed for the area as part of the Congestion Free Network.

CFN East

We’ve proposed these be busways like what is going to be done as part of AMETI as to us the most important thing is getting the quality of the service in as fast as possible. One of the great things about doing this with bus infrastructure first is that it doesn’t preclude light rail in the future but allows us to start getting benefits from congestion free PT corridors quicker and cheaper. So yes perhaps light rail in the area would be great in the future however the priority now is getting some basics done properly. In my opinion this suggestion from Len is an unneeded distraction at this time.

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  1. Cameron Brewer seems to have been better and more constructive lately. He actually seems genuinely keen to make sure the new bus network is a success.

    This is the opposite of George Wood, who seems to have gone feral in recent months – especially about SkyPath.

    1. I don’t think Brewer being opposed to this is in any way him being constructive, he’s opposed to everything, only thing I’ve heard him support was Banks running for mayor.

  2. I do think light rail is a good idea, but like you said, I think it would be better to install busways along the route before laying down the rails….

    1. Turn that median into a busway now. It’s just waiting for it. Then fill in the bits at the end. Do the really easy bits first.

      1. Ah pods: the worst of all worlds; like a car, but on a fixed route. And so much expensive and ugly infrastructure to build for so little capacity. Doh!

  3. Surely in the long run light rail would be preferable to a busway. Rail is far more energy efficient than a bus even if it’s electric.

    1. Yes, but it’s not hard turn to transform a busway into a light rail route, it’s just better to start off with a cheaper busway with a high frequency so we can attract passengers onto it, once we have the numbers, then there shouldn’t be any problems converting.

      1. Aside from the inconveniences thrust upon passengers by the process of converting BRT into Light Rail. Why not do it once and do it, rather than paying twice and running through two courses of construction?

        1. Because we can’t be spending 4x as much on a rail line where the capacity won’t be justified for 50 years.

    2. light rail’s not necessarily more energy efficient; it really depends on relative utilisation of services and infrastructure.

      In many low to medium demand scenarios buses are more energy efficient than light rail. In situations of high demand light rail may have a marginal advantage. I say may, because 1) bus technology is improving so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. The latest diesel-hybrid technology, for example, reduces bus fuel consumption by up to 40% and 2) most analyses of energy consumption don’t consider potential applications of high-capacity buses, such as double-deckers.

      In this particular part of the city, I would expect moderate demand for PT for the foreseeable future, hence a focus on improving BRT (as argued in the post) seems to make sense.

      1. Although Light Rail is electric and buses, in this town anyway, are not. Moving people and goods without having to rely on imported liquid fuels is of considerable value. So we can say that electric systems are more energy resilient, if not necessarily more energy efficient. And as most of our electricity is renewably generated it is also considerably less Carbon intensive too.

  4. At least someone is thinking of rapid mass public transport.for Auckland rather than buses. However it contributes to the notion that the CRL will take the financial wind out of any other rail project for the next generation (which is probably when it might be completed anyway) and that brings me to Cameron Brewer. He knows the CRL is going nowhere at least while National are in government and when Brown goes in the next mayor election the CRL is highly unlikely to ever happen if the likes of a right winger like Paul Henry is voted in. Therefore he can use the pretence of the CRL’s best interests as an excuse to argue against any other PT initiatives apart from the odd bus timetable amendment. And by the looks of it people here are already thinking he’s got more constructive so his strategy is working!.

      1. I see broader political motives in this as well. It’s probably just a case of Len wanting to shoe his South Auckland base that he’s still thinking of them while he pushes for the CRL. This would explain the seeming nuttiness of the ideas – in a city with massive underinvestment in PT infrastructure, why would you duplicate a rail route with light rail and also with buses (Manukau to Middlemore)?

        BTW FWIW an electric bus trial is probably a good idea in principle but the route needs to be carefully chosen… again, the Manukau to Middlemore route is probably just a sop to Len’s heartland.

        Nothing much to see here then…

  5. Or use the same route across the river to run light rail from Manukau to Sylvia Park station via Botany. It could provide a quicker trip compared with a tram running along Te Rakau drive to Panmure.

  6. I do agree a light rail network from Howick to Manukau then across to the airport would make a lot of sense rather than a loop.
    Then light rail to the Onehunga station, would mean than the airport would have a rail link which
    will benefit many air passengers and airport workers.

    1. Makes more sense to continue the heavy rail out to the airport as has been discussed for years, only issue is funding. Roads to the airport meanwhile which already exist and from my experience are more than adequate just got lavished with several hundred million dollars more to be upgraded to motorway grade. Would have made a lot more sense to have made a start on the rail link instead, however, we all know transport planning isn’t being driven by what makes sense and what makes better use of currently under-utilised transport modes.

      1. @Donmac/Sailor Boy:

        I can comment at far too much length about Edinburgh. Even on the initial planning it was going to be the equivalent of $NZ60m per km ($NZ100m per mile). What did get built cost double that; a sharp lesson indeed about how the project was both planned and managed. Can comment further but only if anyone is interested.

    1. Who said they were low cost. That’s the reason I’m saying it needs to wait till after we have done things like the new network etc.

  7. Why do I get the feeling that Len Brown has absolutely no intention of improving public transport for the people of the North Shore where the only link to the South is the Harbour Bridge that is already running at capacity and has been for some time. And as for the inner city rail link, this too should be getting the toss. The money should be going into a second harbour crossing be it a tunnel WITH rail under the water or what ever. We need this and we need it now. The unitary plan will not work on the North Shore unless a second crossing is sorted and it needs sorting now. And if you looking at putting more people on buses, that’s all very well but the buses are already maxed out and the timetables that they run to are to tight for more trips per bus unless traffic volumes are improved and increased policing of bus lanes. Even if you were to remove 5% of the cars on the bridge the buses still won’t cope. Need better access, more buses, bigger buses and more drivers. You do the math.

    1. Agreed, the buses in some parts near the bridge are full, a third of the way into their trip at peak a lot of the time and are quite honestly far too small, using predominately 39 seater’s. And trying to get to the motorway is a drama as well apart from the T3 lane at Onewa Rd. In short not enough buses and too small for the job. The North Shore seems to have become the cash cow for the old Auckland City Council with little in return.

      1. hmmm … I do believe that the $300m Northern Busway runs primarily to the North Shore. And that Transit and more recently NZTA have spent close to $1b on improvements to SH1N. By what metric is north shore getting short-changed? Especially when you consider that most of growth is happening south and west.

        Now here’s an idea: If certain people on the North Shore weren’t such a pack of NIMBYs when the Unitary Plan was being discussed then the area would 1) have faster population growth and 2) be getting more funding for transport improvements.

        The phrase “ye reap what ye shall sow” springs to mind …

    2. The Shore already has the only high quality bus system in the city and it is far from capacity. Yes the busway needs extending and the city end of the routes need more dedicated lanes, and this is happening, but it is very difficult to agree with the idea that this area is somehow neglected. Like the rest of the city the Shore is also getting new more frequent routes and in order for all these buses to have somewhere to go the CRL is absolutely critical to free up space in the city. Other parts of the city are way behind the kind of service that people on Shore are able to just take for granted so while there is certainly room for improvement [especially with feeder services] until the rest of the city gets even close to 3min frequencies on dedicated right of ways and modern stations this kind of compliant is plainly unjustified.

  8. Many posts on here about why the AWHC is a bad project and a massive waste of transport funding.


    Spending 5+ billion to increase roading on a route that has had no growth (in cars) for many years, to simply destroy the city centre seems like a pretty silly idea. The number of people crossing the bridge has grown a lot, but all that growth has been because of the high successful busway. A busway that is far from at capacity and is yet to be fully exploited by using higher capacity vehicles and extending bus priority through to Britomart.

    1. Dear Editor Herald June 3?
      The left leaning mayor and majority left council are completely out of touch with trying to push ahead with rail and road tunnels. Here in Singapore during the
      Clean Enviro Summit there is proof that with autonomous vehicles we would only need 20 % of today’s vehicle numbers on our roads and have a stress free commute.While Auckland Council excited themselves over a single orange electric vehicle last month, Singapore is working with Google and MIT. Sweden and Germany are moving quickly too with Audi planning a 2016 launch of a semi- autonomous A8.
      France now has 6 major cities using visionary green technology on a large scale.Which Auckland Council buildings have any solar power ?
      Auckland is deprived of honest vision at a huge cost to us all now and future generations .

      Richard Macdonald

  9. The bottle-neck for the Panmure-Highland Park route is the Tamaki River. The Panmure Bridge with its third tidal lane is basically at capacity and putting light rail over it would cause delays both to the existing road traffic and to the light rail trams. If a light rail route from Panmure to Pakuranga is to be built the logical route is down Queen’s Road with a new dedicated light-rail only bridge across the Tamaki River – Not down Church Crescent as is shown in Len’s plan. Two Pakuranga side possibilities then occur:

    1, an elevated line running above Pakuranga Highway, swinging into the road route around the Ship’s Chandler shop built on the . The line could remain above street level until the slope of Pakuranga Hill outside St Kentigen’s College. An elevated station would then be required at Pakuranga mall. This elevated section would avoid a large part of traffic delays along Pakuranga Road during peak flows.

    2. at ground level lines running down Kerswill Place, with traffic light control of entry at ground onto Pakuranga Road.

    A light rail system avoiding the Panmure Bridge bottleneck will have a significant time advantage over the existing bus service which has only a couple of seconds bus-only signal advantage at two sets of traffic lights between Pakuranga and Panmure. This time advantage has the potential to make the light rail route successful by attracting the car-addicted Pakuranga commuter onto public transport if it gets them to the Panmure Rail Station several minutes faster than they could get there by car or bus during peak traffic.

    Light rail at grade on the road across the existing bridge will have little or no time advantage over bus or car and and is unlikely to be attractive to the car addicted Pakuranga commuter.

  10. Light rail in stages might be useful.

    Stage 1 – Manukau to Ti Rakau Dr up H30
    This connects South Auckland and Manukau Sta to the Bus Rapid Transit of East Auckland running to Panmure Sta.

    Stage 2 – Howick (end of Ridge Rd) to Panmure along H5
    This connects East Auckland as far out as Howick to Panmure Sta and rail to the city.

    I think this would also mean that the present plans to run BRT from Panmure to Botany via Ti Rakau Dr would not be duplicated but complimented.
    Botany Downs BRT could then be extended north and north-west at a later stage to connect with light rail running along Ridge and Pakuranga Roads via H30 and Cascades Rd.

    Stage 3 – Ti Rakau Dr to Howick (start of Ridge Rd) up H5 (Chapel, Whitford Rds & Cook St).
    This connects Manukau Sta to Panmure Sta via H30 & H5.

    Stage 4 – Panmure to Dominion Rd along Lunn Ave, Abbots Way & H9
    This would link Panmure Sta and Greenlane Sta and extend through Epsom for a future Dominion Rd Light Rail interchange.
    Could be done in 2 stages, the first to Greenlane Sta, the second to Dominion Rd (at Balmoral Rd).

    Stage 5 – Dominion Rd to Morningside Sta along H9 & Morningside Dr
    This would link Panmure Sta (East Rail), Greenlane Sta (South Rail), (future) Dominion Rd Light Rail and Morningside Sta (West Rail) to Howick and Manukau.
    It would also put Eden Park within a 400m walk for Light Rail users, taking pressure off Kingsland Sta (Alexandra Park would also be on the route).

    Stage 6 – Manukau to Auckland Airport along M20 & M20B
    This connects East Auckland (Pakuranga, Howick) and South Auckland (East Tamaki, Manukau) to the airport

    All of these stages (esp 4 – 6) could be done at first as BRT until demand / cost is appropriate.

  11. Len isn’t loopy, he has just hit himself on the head too many times. I love it when he does that!

  12. Whatever form of energy you use, a steel wheel on a steel rail uses a lot less of it than a rubber tyre on a tarseal road.

  13. Len Brown is still completely missing the point. Until the cost of travelling by bus or rail is reduced to less than half of what it is now, it is not an attractive alternative to going by car.

    1. Depends on what and where you’re going, for pretty well all my daily activities a car would be much more of a hindrance than simply catching the train or bus to where I’m going. No ones telling you to stop driving, it’s about providing alternative to those that do. You should support it, means fewer people on the road for those that choose for whatever reason to drive.

  14. he’s loss the plot, if this was to go ahead we would be borrowing billions, and if it becomes a white elephant our rates will be going up even more to cover this, this is targeted for South Auckland, I live on the Shore, why should my rates go up to pay for this.

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