It was a relief last week to see the majority of councillors vote against delaying the City Rail Link project, as part of developing the draft Long Term Plan. Add that to Transport Minister Simon Bridges comments to Newstalk ZB yesterday saying the government accepts the need for and agrees it is sensible timing for the ‘enabling works’ to take place while the Downtown Shopping Centre works are going on. The enabling works is the cut and cover tunnel from Britomart to Wyndham St.

As such it now seems certain that the enabling works part of the project will commence either late next year or early 2016, with the timing of the rest of the project a matter for negotiation between the council and the government. With rail patronage booming, it seems like there’s certainly good reason for that negotiation to continue over the coming months before the final Long Term Plan is signed off in June next year.

For years now we have been annoyed by Auckland Transport’s inability to clearly explain some of the key benefits of the CRL project. Much of the talk has always been in terms of generalisations rather than specifics, often with far too much of a city centre focus and often just very confusing. Their best effort has been the CRL video they produced but requires people to actually watch it to get information which doesn’t support people being able to get a better understanding by glancing at an image. It would probably really help if they copied the messages in the videos across to other formats.

There are many hundreds of posts on this blog over the past five years about the CRL and its benefits for Auckland, so for this particular post I want to focus on one specific impact of the project – how it provides significantly faster travel times for people travelling to the city from locations along the Western Line. Here’s how Auckland Transport currently advertise the time savings.


The current trip into town from the Western Line is a fairly tortuous affair, due to the turnaround at Newmarket as part of the diversion around the city to enter from the eastern side and the relatively slow speeds along the line as a whole. For those travelling to the midtown area – where the largest chunk of employment is located, along with the two major universities, the trip is effectively even longer – with a 10 minute hike from Britomart. All added together, even trips from fairly close in on the Western Line to the midtown area by train take a long time and unsurprisingly the “inner west” stations do not rank particularly high in terms of use.

Taking the intersection of Queen St and Wellesley St as a somewhat arbitrary location in “midtown”, we can start working out what difference the CRL makes to travel times – with a few key assumptions:

  • Google maps says the walk to Britomart is about 10 minutes
  • With CRL in place, it will take approximately 6 minutes to travel between Mt Eden Station and Aotea Station (Britomart to Mt Eden is listed as 9 minutes above, about 3 minutes per station).
  • At the moment it takes 16 minutes for a train to travel between Mt Eden and Britomart.
  • Finally, let’s assume 2 minutes to exit (or enter) any underground station – Britomart or Aotea
  • This hasn’t taken into account the time spent waiting for a train which would boost the savings from the CRL even further due to the higher frequencies it allows.

Using the above assumptions we can map the western line in terms of how long it takes people to get to midtown from the particular section of the rail network – using rough 10 minute increments before and after the CRL. Thanks to Niko from Generation Zero for the fantastic graphic:


As you can see the differences are huge. The removal of the 11 minute walk up from Britomart plus it taking only 6 minutes (rather than 16) to travel between Mt Eden and town on the train means a whopping 21 minute reduction to trips times from western line stations to the very heart of Auckland. That means every location out to Glen Eden is now within a half hour train trip from midtown, whereas at the moment if you were travelling to midtown from Mt Eden via train it’d nearly take you half an hour.

A comparison between travel times to midtown at the moment, compared to a conservative estimate of post-CRL travel times is shown below. You’ll notice the New Lynn time doesn’t match up with what AT are suggesting which may be related to time savings from electric trains however we’re yet to see if any savings will actually eventuate. Even so, as you can see these are truly massive time savings, bringing many suburbs in the west far much ‘closer in’, in terms of their actual accessibility.


We’ll try to do a few more of these “travel examples” over the coming while, to really show in a concrete way what the benefits of CRL are. Southern Line to K Road station is next I think however we’ll also do some non CBD journey ones

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  1. Time to buy property near a station on the Western Line.

    Great graphic. Just shows how truly transformative the CRL is. I look forward to more.

    1. Which is what more developers would do if it wasn’t for the watered-down Unitary Plan intensification rules, especially in the so-called “city-fringe” suburbs. My local is a prime example.

  2. I’d like to see a table comparing CRL travel times with current PT travel times across all modes of transport. I’d suggest most people travelling from Mt Eden/ Kingsland etc are currently taking the bus which is far quicker (and regular) than taking the train. Having said that though, I’m in favour of the CRL and it will be of particular benefit to those further out.

    1. Matt I’m sure you’re right. But there are two considerable and growing capacity issues on these bus routes; buses turning up to these stops already full with travellers from further out unable to pick up more passengers. And a city centre and approaching arterials already clogged with cars and buses and without space to add ever more buses.

      Nothing beats the spacial efficiency of a couple of rail tracks with a high frequency and direct service. Oh, one thing does, and that’s one that’s underground.

      1. Great work from Niko, clear and simple is powerful, but it’s more complex than just travel times to the midtown. Kingsland is a prime example of the other issue: frequency, which also means capacity.

        I get the impression boardings at Kingsland are limited by the fact that everyone knows the train is full when it gets there; Mt Eden is the first major disembarking station. More trains with more seats on each is the real message for inner suburbs.

        Is it worth getting the capacity message on the same graphic? Seats per hour for western line?

        Totally agree on the bike factor. In fact I would say that’s Kingslands big transport draw.

        1. Kingsland is one of the stations that I have seen growing strongly this year. The platform used to be almost deserted, now it’s starting to bustle morning and afternoon. My morning train used to pick up half a dozen pax, now it’s two or three dozen. 🙂

          Living out Swanson way and working near Vic Park, saving 40 minutes per day will be great. :-)))

      2. Imagine a residential network connecting to protected bike paths along Sandringham Road? No, me neither. Not under AT’s rule.

        1. I actually think that lost in the Dominion Rd debate is that Sandringham Road is better bike route since it is a natural catchment to the train station and across Bond Street to GNR.

        2. Oh, I agree but the same reasons for not having real bike paths along Dominion Road, also apply to Sandringham Rd (and Mt Eden Rd for that matter). The need for parking, bus lanes, traffic lanes and a flush median.

          A bike network is only as good as the number of places you can safely ride to and from. This includes houses, shops and, yes, train stations.

        3. Sandringham Rd is significantly wider than Dominion however, and it lacks the two main pinch points that Dominon are has at the valley Rd and balmoral shopping centers.

          The arguments on Dominion are valid, but they don’t apply to Sandringham Rd.

        4. It’s frustrating. It would be so easy to fix Sandringham Rd for walking and cycling, but like you, I can’t see them doing it. It’d connect people to shops and the train station, and they could link it up to the NW Cycleway, and it might even be a viable alternative to Dominion Rd for commuters (more useful than that laughable parallel cycling route, anyway), but no, can’t do anything that would endanger flush medians or the sacred parking.

    2. Indeed, kingsland to the Aotea area is just on 20 mins by bus currently, and quite frequent most of the time. However the CRL still slashes that in half to about ten minutes.

    3. It takes about 30 minutes by bus from Kingsland, assuming no waiting at the stop and no congestion. I’ve often taken 40 to 50 minutes to get home during heavy traffic when the no bus lane sections are congested and the intersection at Newton/Khyber Pass/Symonds often clogs.

  3. Hey and sweet work Niko! Would just like to see more indication that the trains will continue on and not terminate in the city as that is the one of the biggest of all transformations the CRL brings.

    1. Good point – maybe a fainter dotted line back towards Newmarket or out Eastern line. Perhaps some little walking pedestrians up to Aotea in the ‘before’ graphic, so not confused with dotted line in ‘after’ graphic.

  4. Benefits of the CRL
    1. Building more motorways is only diverting the problem not a solution
    2. Building more bus lanes is a solution but you cannot have all the buses to converge in the city
    3. People who are opposed to the CBD I have a question. Why live in a big city? why not move to rural places why is it necessary for everybody to converge at one place?
    4. Bus Lanes to the train stations is the right approach & CRL is the best way forward

  5. Good job. Keep up the great work getting the message out there. Effective images like that are great and telling people how it will help everyone.

  6. This particular article only overs the area served by exiting Railway Tracks out West. The CRL and Rail spending does advantage those people who have been able to enjoy a Ra lit Track system put in place 80 years ago. However it is fair to say good improvements to rail are worth while.

    1. This is part of a series where we will cover the wider city in turn.

      But remember every part of a network is somewhere, and will help locals in particular, but each improvement to the parts lifts the performance of the whole. The Busway on the Shore is good for the whole city too, but of course most particularly for locals and those heading that way.

      The CRL will divert car users off the whole road network, and reduce bus numbers in the city, both of which will help travellers on other modes from other places.

    1. Movies at New Lynn again! That’d be full circle from the era of the defunct giant cinema barn, now furniture store, in an ocean of parking. (That was THE place to go to the flicks when I was in school. 90s kid!)

  7. First point – Great work so far but before signing this off for wider dissemination please check your walking times – I do not believe that it is a 10 minute walk from Wellesley Street to Britomart – I frequently walk from Aotea Square to the foot of town and that takes about 15 minutes (more like 18 at peak times when the footpaths are clogged) and I am a fairly fast walker prone to jay walking across intersections. So according to my calculations, time savings from each of the Western line stations to Aotea are more like 25 minutes than your 21. Second point – because of uncertainty over Government funding it is almost certain that funding of the main contract for CRL can not be included in the 2015-25 LTP. Current thinking is for Council to self-fund the first stage (the cut and cover “enabling works” to be built in calendar 2016) and to negotiate a cast iron funding package with Government in 2017-18 to be written into the next LTP (2018-2028) with the target of construction in the period 2018-21 (yes, three years not four), but allowing for Government playing hardball timing may slip back by up to two years so AT’s worst case scenario sees the link and new stations open no later than 2013.

    1. Your not a fast walker then.

      Even not jaywalking I can get from inside Britomart to Wellesley St in 8 minutes, even at 530pm against the majority of pedestrians.

        1. Exactly, google thinks that the average person takes 11 minutes, so if this guy takes 15 he is not fast by any stretch of the imagination.

  8. ‘The link for all of Auckland’ is a great tagline. Thank you.

    Why is a volunteer organisation doing the job of a well-resourced local government agency?

    1. Funnily enough, ‘The link for all of Auckland’ line was the only part I didn’t like! I’d prefer to leave it out unless travel timelines from other parts of Auckland can be shown with similar reductions in times.

  9. An interesting diagrammatical comparison would be drive times to each of those stations at peak.

    On another matter, another thing that gets bought up by the anti-rail brigade in the Herald’s comments sections is the credibility of the time savings. Specifically that the current stats are based on pre electrification times. The time savings, they say, would be greatly achieved before the CRL anyway as the new EMUs are rolled out.


    1. Well we’ll know that once the electric trains start running in real live operating conditions next year.

      Based on the outcomes of the existing Onehunga and Manukau EMUs service so far, EMUs won’t in practise make a lot of difference on their own to timetables/trip times (yet).
      As the real time savings with EMUs are the top speed difference and how quickly it can get to that speed from a station stop, and slow down to stop at a station.

      As the infographic shows, the real time savings are (1) not having to dog-leg at Newmarket or go around Vector, as this adds significant time to the trip and (2) not having to walk from the bottom end of town to points further up the Queen St Valley.

      Together those two make up the bulk of the 21 minute savings the CRL will allow.

  10. This is progress I suppose, normally it’s those bloody CBD residents getting the brickbats about the CRL.

    There’s only One Auckland. It all deserves rail but we have to start somewhere.

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