The topic of rail to the airport has been getting an airing in the last few weeks after the Herald finally published some information we originally posted back in August – that AT are considering using light rail to connect the airport with the city rather than extending the heavy rail network. The need for a decision on what mode to eventually use is being hastened as the airport company need it by the middle of the year so they can finalise their future development plans. We’ve got an exclusive video showing what the heavy and light rail options.

Before diving into the details I want to make a couple of comments.

  • Unfortunately much of discussion I’ve seen in the wake of the articles has fallen into the trap of being too focused on the technology rather than the outcome and despite the focus there appears to be a general misunderstanding of the technology involved. By that I mean there seems to be an assumption that light rail is a low strength version of heavy rail, a bit like light beer vs normal beer. In reality it all depends on how each technology is implemented. There are light rail systems that are faster and have greater capacity than what our heavy rail system will have even with the CRL.
  • I’ll state upfront that my preference remains that the connection be by heavy rail. I think the time competitiveness it offers is probably being undervalued by AT compared to the other factors. I also see it as a nice balance to the operating patterns proposed post CRL. In effect I see it as completing the heavy rail network.
  • AT have already decided that the connection to the airport will be from Onehunga linking in Mangere Bridge and Mangere. Onehunga is also important is has been chosen by Panuku Development Auckland as one of the key areas they’ll be focusing on and so improving connections from their in either direction makes a lot of sense. The alternatives of connecting via Otahuhu have been ruled out due to the amount of property purchase that would be needed and the Puhinui option would require difficult (i.e. expensive) connections and would be a challenge operationally.

So why are AT even thinking about light rail. The simple answer is the cost. AT say that they now believe it would cost around $2 billion to build a heavy rail line to the Airport. Light rail is cheaper and easier to build with AT have estimating it at around $1 billion – but importantly that is from the end of the proposed line down Dominion Rd. AT seem pretty confident they’ll get that line signed off but whether that turns into a reality remains to be seen. However even if you take the $1 billion cost for a light rail line down Dominion Rd into account you’re still looking at a $2 billion heavy rail line serving just the southwest or a $2 billion light rail line that serves the southwest and the central isthmus. As such, on a cost/benefit comparison the latter is going to look stronger and why AT is interested.

To help show some of the differences between the two options AT have put together a fairly detailed video of them which is at the end of the post. I first saw this over a month ago and AT have now let me post show it. It was included as a part of the presentation that inspired this post. There is no narration to explain what is going on so I’ve explained it below. I understand AT are working on a narrated version for wider public use.

The video starts off showing the potential travel times between the city and the airport. Along with the time it takes is the potential variability and in that regard the rail options offer more reliable trip times than buses and much more reliability than driving. As I understand it the reason light rail is more reliable than buses is that it will have effectively an exclusive right of way down Dominion Rd combined with signal pre-emption meaning it will rarely need to stop at lights. That it might need to stop has been an issue raised against using light rail and is a case of perhaps AT not explaining clearly enough just how high the quality is that they’re proposing.

It’s also worth noting that the travel times suggested are more in line with what we’ve posted before and not as close as the herald has suggested, around 35 minutes for heavy rail and 47 minutes for light rail (herald suggested 39 and 44 respectively).

The video shows the heavy rail option. It involves double tracking the Onehunga Line and as I understand, grade separating many of the crossings. It then follow SH2o and 20A with stations at Mangere Bridge and Mangere and then crucially it would loop away from SH20 before getting to the airport itself. This is important later in the post.

Light rail would travel from Dominion Rd alongside SH20 to Onehunga and then on the same route to the airport with the exception of it staying with SH20 the entire way. In addition to what’s proposed above there would be stations at Hillsborough, Favona, Ascot and the Airport’s growing office park. From the end of Dominion Rd the 15km line to the airport would be almost completely grade separated and so would have similar performance to heavy rail. That makes the line roughly 1/3 on street and 2/3rds off street. I’m not quite sure why there couldn’t be heavy rail stations at Favona and Ascot but there definitely couldn’t be at the airport business park as the route avoids that area. The extra stations help increase the catchment in favour of light rail.

Heavy vs light rail options at Aiport

The video gets more interesting once it zooms in to show how the lines would look. Between Onehunga and the SH20/A motorway junction both heavy and light rail have virtually identical infrastructure. A bridge would span the proposed East-West Link that then passes under the motorway bridges to the western side of the motorway. From there it travels alongside the motorway rising over the Walmsley Rd/Corronation Dr interchange before rising again above SH2o. It’s from here that the differences really begin.

Mangere Inlet Rail Crossing

Heavy Rail

After crossing above the motorway the grades required for heavy rail mean there isn’t enough space to get back to ground level before reaching Bader Dr so the Heavy Rail option is elevated above it to the Mangere Station.

Mangere Heavy Rail Station

The same issue then occurs with Kirkbride Rd and the trench currently being built meaning the line then has to pass over Kirkbride Rd. I understand the trench is about two times too steep for heavy rail.

Kirkbride Elevated Rail option

South of Kirkbride Rd the line returns to ground level but has to divert away from the road before reaching the airport. As I understand it all transport options will need to drop below the second runway that is proposed and again the grades mean the rail line can’t follow the road.

Lastly for some reason it’s been decided that the heavy rail line and the station has to be underground at the Airport, this obviously pushes up the cost of building the line. I also understand it has been proposed to be located a little further away from the terminal than the light rail stop at street level and the extra walking time has even been factored into the travel time calculations. Given the airport is planning a fairly blank slate redo of the road network all around the airport and building an new terminal extension, it seems strange that a heavy rail route and station at ground level couldn’t be easily integrated into masterplan.

Light Rail

Light rail is able to handle steeper grades and sharper curves than heavy rail is and as such is able to get back to ground level and go under Bader Dr. This means a light rail station would be located within the median of the motorway – and hopefully with some good noise protection. You may notice the station planned is much less glamorous than its heavy rail counterpart – presumably making it much cheaper.

Mangere Light Rail Station

South of the line is able to stay within the motorway median and pass through the trench currently being built and for which AT have paid $29 million to make 3.5m wider so it can accommodate rail. I’m sure visually for locals and from a consenting perspective this will be an easier sell than the elevated heavy rail option. Light rail is then able to stay with road all the way to the terminal again helping to keep it cheaper. It seems the main benefit of LRT is it’s just that much easier to bend around existing infrastructure.

AT then give a comparison between the two modes showing what they think is best. This is similar but not exactly the same as one shown in the August post. For one thing it lists the benefit cost ratio of each option suggesting that some likely early economic evaluation has already taken place. As you can see the light rail option is quite a bit higher than the heavy rail option although it is only hovering around 1 – much like many of the RoNS.

Heavy vs light rail to airport comparison

Here is the video.

The two biggest arguments against light rail seem to be the speed and capacity. I think the speed one is warranted to a large degree as I suspect offering a rail option that was almost always faster than any road option would have a huge impact on what mode people choose to use.

As for capacity I suspect that one is a bit less valid – although not completely. AT are suggesting some very heavy duty light rail vehicles capable of carrying up to 450 people each and on a route like Dominion Rd they would be running fairly frequently, potentially every few minutes if places like Melbourne are anything to go by. That is a considerable step up the capacity of buses along there now, although looking at the comparison table above they seem to be underselling it as 1,630 passengers an hour works out to only four vehicles an hour each way. The question is whether the additional patronage generated by a southwest line would then result in issues along Dominion Rd which is busy enough as it is. It would be good for AT to cover that issue in more detail.

If the figures above are accurate it’s easy to see why AT are so interested in light rail. In the current political climate it would be impossible to every get a heavy rail option over the line, it’s just too expensive. Light rail appears to be far from completely terrible and actually has a chance. A case of don’t let perfect be the enemy of good? In saying that I do get the feeling that there’s a little bias going on. For example why aren’t there extra heavy rail stations at Favona and Ascot.

What do you think of the options?

Lastly regardless of the mode, if drivers are anything like the ones in the video I think rail will be a huge success – although perhaps that just represents reality.

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  1. The majority of the houses along the Otahuhu route are HNZ. There is plenty of potential for redevelopment as per Waterview.

    Double tracking of Onehunga requires property purchase as well. I bet that commercial land is pretty expensive along there. And the cost of another bridge.

    Looking at the corridor along SH20A. That cycleway/shared path will be a victim if LRT is shoehorned into that corridor. Unless more property is bought, which is unlikely. And the video shows no breakdown shoulder. Unlikely to happen like that. In my opinion, LRT will also have to be raised along that corridor.

    As for priority along Dominion Road, this is the same organisation that failed to remove a flush median from Franklin Road, and compromised the idea of high quality cycle lanes, because some residents wanted the medians. Yeah, I’m not convinced. What about right turning traffic?

      1. I think the real issue is they chose an alternative better option, not were defeated by community pressure. If they were determined to build option 4 I think they could have succeeded. And think we can succeed with the Otahuhu option if needed

      2. There is a very significant difference in corridor requirements and negative impacts between a 4+ lane motorway and a double tracked rail line (including local stations).

  2. Light rail is only 5 min faster than the present airport bus and heavy rail is 10 min slower than driving. Why are there no options looking at express trains or trams and higher top speeds? With global warming, how long can we keep flying to the current extent?

    1. I think light rail will be slower than the current Skybus, including at peak times. I use the bus a lot, and my experience is that the travel time is between 30-40 minutes, maybe 45 on rare occasions. I’m sure it would be possible to further reduce this through some more bus lanes or other priority measures.

      The benefit of light rail will presumably be that it will be cheaper, i.e. a normal PT fare rather than the extortionate $28 return charged by the bus.

      So we’ll have a cheap but slow option that makes multiple stops (light rail), and an expensive express option (the bus). That’s fine, but I suspect that’s not quite what AT are aiming for.

      1. In other airport I’ve visited, such as Narita or Haneda (Tokyo), Sydney, etc the airport fare is always higher on the train (to the point where people recommend walking from a nearby station to save money).

    2. Everytime I’ve caught the airport bus it takes about 30-35mins. This is of course off-peak. So, most of the time the light rail will be slower than the present bus.

    3. Does that light rail cost amount included the cost of light rail from City to Onehunga/Hillsborough? If not, then that’s not a fair cost comparison as that will still need to be paid for. The rail line is already there.
      Also, how is it that the light rail catchment is over twice as much as heavy rail? Are they including the Dominion road part of this also?

      I just don’t buy this light rail idea. It will be slower than the current bus, and MAYBE only competitive during peak. The bus takes about 30-40mins off peak. So it’s a slower option most of the time, where as heavy rail will always be competitive time wise. This is a major point of difference, as well as the higher capacity.

      Very short term thinking by AT

      1. +1

        35 mins sounds like half an hour, 47 mins sounds more like an hour; psychologically that’s a huge difference: everyone would prefer to use the (almost) guaranteed half-hour option, less people would choose to use a many-stops, hour-long option.

        From my extensive experience travelling and speaking with many other travellers, people feel confident getting on a train from or to an airport because it’s simple (relatively direct route with few stops and few potential hold-ups or delays), whereas light rail/tram/bus routes are more bewildering and people envisage a long, slow journey … that may not get there in time (–> … better get a taxi or shuttle).

  3. Am I getting this wrong – the same trams will be carrying everyday commuters as well as airport travellers? So will every single tram have to be converted to allow for luggage storage like the Airport Flyer buses in Wellington?

    1. I would believe that some units (not sure if this is the right term) will be designed for luggage, such as some units in Wellington are designed for bikes. A simple symbol at the door will tell you whether a certain unit has storage for luggage, but probably makes sense to have the end unit as the one designated for airport luggage.

    2. Its basically what happens on every major tube line in London which either stop at Heathrow or any number of major intercity rail stations. There is no issue with mixing commuters and travellers.

      1. I’m at LHR quite a bit, I won’t take the tube anymore, I did when I was younger and had no money but you can’t beat the Heathrow Express to Paddington. The other issue is luggage the tube trains don’t have dedicated luggage areas like the Express train does, and then there’s the time, the tube is incredibly slow. AKL needs a proper rail connection not some half pie, done on the cheap tram. Besides AKL is expecting significant grow why limit ourselves to light rail and the reduced capacity it offers, if AKL gets 24 million passengers by 2025 light rail is going to struggle then people will be back in cars.

        1. Interestingly, the Heathrow Express has 2 trains on the same route – identical livery. One is the actual Express, which does exactly what it says on the package, i.e. gets you to Heathrow in one express swoop. 15 minutes from Paddington to LHR, and as you would expect, full of travellers and luggage. The other one, same externally, stops at every goddam stop between, and takes commuters home, leisurely, but gets to LHR after about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, every time you stop at a suburban station, another Express train goes whooshing past at 100 mph… If you do get on the wrong train, with about 20 seconds to spare, do not ask the pleasant but dim occupants without luggage “does this train go to Heathrow?” as they will helpfully reply yes, but without adding the rider about the extra time… …just get off straight away and wait 10 minutes for the next true Express train.

          But seriously, with regards to Auckland, an express train service would be great, but it would require a dedicated Express line. Due to difficulty getting 2 tracks to the airport, the possibility of getting 4 tracks seems remote. i.e. whichever route it takes, it will have to share the route with commuters.

  4. Also if NEITHER of them has a BCR of 1.0 why are we building either? I think we should stop building any infrastructure (I’m looking at you, RONS) <1.0

  5. If they eventually built all four LRT routes, would switching and using the Manukau or Mt Eden rd lines for the airport route make it any faster overall than using the Dominion Rd option?

    1. A circa 1990s Auckland Regional Council planning document I have a hardcopy of indicates an RTN route from the airport going along (or parallel to) Manukau Road between Onehunga and Newmarket, and then on the existing RTN (heavy rail) route to Downtown Auckland. This would be a very direct route (if using a continuous mode with full grade separation and no need to transfer), perhaps less sub-30 mins. I must get a scan made of it.

  6. Okay a couple of points here:

    1) I concur with Bryce who with myself are looking at heavy rail via Otahuhu which despite the 60 houses (48 belonging to Housing New Zealand) have sent a letter to the Ministers asking for a look in to Heavy Rail via Otahuhu. Just because Auckland Transport ruled it out does not mean it is ruled out entirely especially if the project is kicked to Kiwi Rail, NZTA, Housing New Zealand and Panuku itself (as lead urban renewal agency). The letter sent can be read here:

    2) In terms of house purchases on the Otahuhu route there is technically none with the Housing NZ land. Given Housing NZ and Kiwi Rail are part of the Crown through their Ministries it would be straight asset swaps between the two. Given urban renewal being triggered from the heavy rail line for Housing NZ it becomes a win for them through benefits of intensifying on their land. In any case the housing purchases if you need a nominal figure was $48m.

    3) The biggest costs to heavy rail via Onehunga is yet another Mangere Bridge and as again Bryce pointed out the duplication costs and grade separation of the level crossings on the Onehunga Line spur itself. Given land prices are already forcing industry out for residential and commercial the property acquisitions will be more than $48m touted in housing purchases for the Otahuhu route.

    4) Running patterns: I have a picture of that: Two trains an hour in each direction giving a total of 4 trains an hour passing through Britomart and either arriving or leaving the airport. Given the route passes through Otahuhu Interchange you have connections to Southern and Eastern Line services to Manukau and Papakura. Given the route also passes through Panmure, Britomart, Aotea, Mt Eden (post CRL) and Newmarket there is quite a few chances of transferring to a bus or ferry mode or even another line like the Western Line.

    So while the brains trust at AT might have ruled Otahuhu out (the same brains trust onto their fifth set of designs for the Manukau Bus Interchange since 2013 and causing another set of delays) I think it was prudent to get a Ministerial response even if it was a No.

      1. If I am so inclined I could go to 3tph per direction giving a total of the 6 between the Airport and the CRL stations. And given the route passes Otahuhu or Britomart where the main 3 existing lines are you are not going to be waiting long at transfer point.

        As for the link Patrick – as I said yesterday I will link it if and when the Ministers reply. Otherwise Bryce was the one that brought it up (at least into the FB and Twitter realms) before it ended up your way.

        But ultimately the running pattern can be nutted down later.

        For me my concern is just getting the Ministers to reply first. if they say no then no point focusing more on a running pattern. if they say yes then your link might come into play for further refinement. But let’s get the Ministers reply first shall we?

        1. 3tph is still appalling, and that’s the service on each line. It seems you don’t grasp the power of frequency and legibility for Transit services, chasing one seat rides at the cost of frequency is poor service design. Transferring is the power of the Otahuhu pattern, not once in a while direct services from everywhere. Time to revisit Jarrett perhaps.

        2. Ummm Patrick unless something is missing 6 trains an hour going north towards Britomart (and vice versa) actually happens from the Airport.

          That is 6 trains an hour leave the Airport for Britomart via Otahuhu, it is that they split at Westfield like they do now for current Eastern and Southern Line services.

        3. Ben i understand your pattern [which ignores the post CRL network] but it is still 3tph for those stations in between, and lacks legibility. Don’t split services, just fixed that on the Manukau service and look at the recent performance. The one seat ride obsession is a mistake.

        4. One final thing Patrick

          For me the debate about service patterns right now is moot but I did post a suggestion and it is that a suggestion.

          If you DO believe Otahuhu is the better option for the Airport then co sign the Letter I have sent to the Ministers asking for an investigation into heavy rail via Otahuhu to the Airport

        5. I think Patrick’s idea for the Otahuhu-Mangere-Airport (heavy) rail line makes the most sense (even more so now; if the mess the East-West Motorway will make at Onehunga comes to pass).

          Ben, those “Ministers” are temporary, and take advice from long-term senior civil servants/bureaucrats (the “Sir Humphrey”-types), so you’re probably better to find the most “Sir Humphrey”-ish of them and try to get them onside.

          Modern metros are designed for headways of 75 seconds (48 tph), but tend to operate at headways of 90 seconds (40 tph), e.g.: … so 2 or 3 tph sounds underwhelming (keep in mind that this is part of a future South-West Main Line, so it should really be done properly, once; i.e., future-proofed for an Auckland of 2-3-4-5+ million).

        6. Agree with the Onehunga situation there and especially as you said the East West Link does come to fruition.

          Noted about finding Sir Humphrey and I could have kicked it to NZTA and Kiwi Rail. But for now given those Ministers are elected representatives no matter how “temporary” it was the first port of call I kicked it to at this point in time.

          As for 2-3 TPH? Was a suggestion and am open to ideas although was more looking at the route first.

  7. Can someone explain why the Three Kings LRT line does not link up with the Hillsborough Station. It seems to me a missing link especially if you live near the Three Kings line and want to go to the Airport or anywhere else on the LRT network.

    1. It’d be somewhat challenging to get LRT from Three Kings down to a possible Hillsborough station (for instance a route along Warren Ave/Hayr rd would require road widening or tracks sharing the car lanes, turning left onto Mt Albert Rd and right onto Hillsborough Rd would pass through two busy intersections in quick succession), so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been cast into the “too hard” basket for now.

      I think the Mt Eden Rd LRT will be the most challenging of the planned LRT routes, so perhaps it is best to concentrate on getting it to Three Kings. Once the line reaches the end of Mt Eden Rd, they can then better assess the options of extending it further.

      Of course, don’t forget that the Mt Eden Rd LRT will probably be the last built and probably not until sometime in the 2030s.

      1. Actually having thought about it some more, I would not be surprised if any extension to the proposed Mt Eden Rd LRT beyond Three Kings just heads along Mt Albert Rd to meet up with the proposed Manukau LRT in Royal Oak (which would give them more options as to where to locate a shared depot which is convenient to both lines, sort of like how the proposed Sandringham and Dominion lines will meet in Owairaka).

  8. The $2bn estimate for heavy rail needs a good fisking. Can’t believe there is a billion dollar difference for the section between Onehunga and the airport.

    Great post Matt as usual.

    1. A cost estimate & BCR for trains at grade along the North/West side of the motorway, and assuming a level crossing at Kirkbride Rd would make a good comparison.

    2. Heavy rail costs includes double tracking the Onehunga line. Also, the undergrounding of heavy rail at the airport would add plenty of $$$

        1. Not to mention they forget about these things called buses… buses running around in a loop from the train stations to service the surrounding areas – easily double the catchment particularly for HR.

        2. Cam I didn’t read it that way. Read as heavy rail underground, light rail on the surface which is exactly how I understand it is being considered

  9. Why did the council allow Kirkbride to be built the way it is? It kills trains. Rail should have run down the North/West side of the motorway at grade the whole way. All the elevated rail is expensive and wouldn’t have been necessary

    1. If the NZTA had built it as planned the trench would have been 3.5m narrower and in that situation rail is guaranteed never to happen as it would have required AT having to buy all of the land needed (NZTA were maximising motorway corridor regardless) and that would have added massive costs to the project, far more than the $29m they spent. Also council had no say in it, the route was already a designated state highway.

      1. Couldn’t the Council have paid an extra $10-20 million (a guess) to make the rail trench a little longer and thus the grades easier so it would be okay for heavy rail?
        (It seems as though the game was rigged in favour of the less-favourable light rail …)

        Also, does the light rail route from the bottom of Dominion Rd to Onehunga impinge on Kiwirail’s designated Southdown-Avondale heavy rail corridor?
        (If it does, will the Auckland Council/AT pay Kiwirail $2-3 billion (a guess) to get an alternative corridor suitable for heavy rail, including for heavy freight trains? – if so, to be fair, this $2-3 billion should really be added onto the cost of the light rail option, along with the cost of the stretch from the CBD to the bottom of Dominion Rd.)

        [I like AT’s (and the Green Party’s) plans for light rail for the isthmus, but to the airport is too far; in my opinion, that has to be heavy rail, integrated with the existing heavy rail system.]

        1. “Also, does the light rail route from the bottom of Dominion Rd to Onehunga impinge on Kiwirail’s designated Southdown-Avondale heavy rail corridor?”

          I’d like to know that too.

        2. Possibly from Dominion Rd to Hillsborough but from Hillsborough to Onehunga it doesn’t as the designation heads inland due to the grades needed to get down to Onehunga. Light rail can handle steeper grades so it appears they’re keeping it close to SH20

  10. Is there a reason the airport link can’t be built to light rail standards, but connect with the heavy rail network at Onehunga with a vehicle that can run across both parts of the network?

    1. Anecdotal, but I ride a metro/tram daily that changes tracks (ie its wheel physically get closer/further apart to line up) and it’s notoriously unreliable.

  11. Much as I appreciate AT’s cunning, value-engineered, argument, there’s one incontrovertible fact militating against the light rail option and that’s the number of stops involved, unless, of course AT is prepared to run express trams to the annoyance of local users. As anyone who suffered riding on the semi-express Piccadilly Line Heathrow service can attest, it’s a slow, cumbersome and frustrating option, particularly after a 24 hour+ flight. The introduction of the Heathrow Express service to Paddington was a life saver; Crossrail will be even more impressive. At Copenhagen airport you currently have two PT options to travel to the centre: heavy rail and the metro, a sophisticated sort of light rail. I’ve used both regularly but much prefer the heavy rail for its speed, reliability, ease of use and the fact that there aren’t all these unwanted suburban stops. Heavy rail, please. And as soon as possible too.

    1. The piccadilly line is about $25 cheaper each way than the heathrow express. Maybe you were prepared to pay that, I certainly wasn’t (unless my company did). If AT were to choose heavy rail I imagine they would need a similar level of pricing difference to pay back that billion dollar difference – unless someone (rate or tax payers) are prepared to subsidise it (unlikely).

      The heathrow express was a dedicated airport to city line with no other stops, it was 45 minutes quicker than the tube. Heavy rail in Auckland will still stop at every station along the way and will only be 10 minutes quicker than light rail.

        1. I imagine it will use the same zoning system as the tube and be the same price as the tube, just like the London Overground.

      1. In the very long run I imagine we will have a kind of CBD-AKL express metro rail. You could probably do the journey in 20 mins nonstop via the eastern line and Puhinui once the third (or fourth) main line goes in. Maybe in the 2050s.

      2. As a kiwi working at Heathrow I use both of these. Don’t confuse the fact that the tube and crossrail when finished are government/council owned/subsidised operations whereas the Heathrow Express is a completely private venture. It would be a lot cheaper if it was run by TFL or subsidised by the tax payer.

      3. You can also take the overland train from LHR to the city, it’s about 15 minutes slower than the Express, but significantly cheaper and still a lot fast than the tube. If you know when you are travelling you can buy Express tickets online weeks out for less cost.

    2. the flipside of that is that the majority of users will inevitably be workers local to the airport and the two extra stops shown (Ascot and Airport Business District) to my mind are the game breaker for LRT, it gives much better overall accessibility and end to end journey times are not a big deal, PT’s other attributes come to the fore, lack of driving stress, the ability to work, read, phone etc.

        1. And there is no reason that an Ascot atop can’t be added to Heavy Rail. The cynic in me says they were added to the LRT case to boost numbers.

  12. Whatever option it needs to be well above or well below ground. Wasting more space and reducing traffic lanes and taking up valuable real estate is simply pointless. All stations should be well above or below ground too. Need to think more of a tiered response to all forms of transport. My personal preference is for monorail type engineering on pylons. Great views for passengers, no competition for surface vehicles (accident on Dominion Road for example and ALL traffic stops (including the ‘light rail’). Too many eggs in one basket if all forms of transport use the same realestate. Pylons use bugger all realestate and are cheap (c.f. underground or surface disruption) to install. For 2016 I challenge contributors to this blog to get out of the ‘PT must compete for space with vehicular traffic’ mode and think way smarter. All forms of transport should be viable and engineeringly different alternatives, so that if one fails or is interrupted by an emergency, the others can take up the load. The Dominion Road light rail is an appalling example of ‘stuff the cars no matter what’ just to prove a PT point, yet all transport in that area will stop if a disaster occurs and the route becomes blocked. Plain stupid..

    1. Yes i was waiting for this; Bryce said it earlier up top too; LR in the subway below Kirkbride Rd does limit the road to 2 lanes each way forever. I suspect LR will also end up being elevated here. I’m sure those two costs will closer and closer together as reality hits. We really should be making the decision based on what’s best in the long run…

      1. I would hope that LRT up/down Dom road would impact car capacity. Afterall, LRT will transport more people than cars will and as such the latter should be impacted.

        Strangely, or maybe not, Ricardo would prioritise the more inefficient mode……

        1. > I would hope that LRT up/down Dom road would impact car capacity.

          Both options assume that LRT down Dominion Road is happening anyway, and stacks up on its own merits, even if nothing whatsoever happens out to the airport.

          That said, LRT will barely affect car capacity on Dominion Road. It’ll take a lane or two along Ian McKinnon Drive (which IME isn’t even slightly congested, even at rush hour), but almost all of Dominion Road is only one lane each way for cars at the moment: the outer lane is bus lane and/or parking.

          With LRT, it’ll presumably be one car lane each way on the outside, LRT in the middle, and no parking at any time (since it wouldn’t fit).

        2. It may not impact car capacity, especially as you say the existing road is so inefficiently used, but I certainly hope it [and all the other Transit upgrades and services] will continue to affect car use. As in; why sit in traffic like a muppet when there’s that lovely new tram whizzing by? [not to mention put heat on the bus owners to lift their offer].

  13. Would there be any potential for a heavy rail airport connection to be used for freight to/from the airport as well? Reducing trucks on the road.

      1. Why not Patrick? I understand not being able to use the underground portion at the airport itself, but thinking into the future could there not be a spur for freight into the commercial areas near the airport? After all there are a LOT of trucks on the motorway between the airport and Onehunga etc.

        Also with the airport underground option… if they build it before the 2nd runway then surely they could just underground it in a straight line (less distance to tunnel/cutncover = cheaper and faster. The gradients can be adjusted by varying the route slightly). I’d imagine that not only would that save money it would also save another minute on travel time.

        1. Just not economic to move freight by rail over such short distances, also airfreight don’t use shipping containers or bulk which is what rail freight is optimised for. Rail freight works in quantity over long distances carrying big volumes. Airfreight is focussed on smaller more time sensitive loads that fit better with road freight. Also the infra is not there.

          This will only ever be a passenger service and has the advantage of being optimised for it.

        2. There is no reason why special wagons couldn’t be built (or existing ones modified with a roller floor) to carry aviation cans. One of the European railways trialed these a while ago but I can’t locate the details.

    1. I understand more detailed economic analysis is coming and is looking quite a bit stronger. Agree though that AMETI is much more of a priority.

  14. Light Rail Airport to Puhinui station direct, 7km at 70kph – 6min shuttle.
    Transfer to Southern or Eastern trains to Britomart running 6tph service pattern, 5min freq – 34min

    Include a ~5min transfer penalty and you have 42-45min Airport to Britomart with minimal consenting.

    From Puhinui you can head north (and west) / south or to Manukau on trains and out east on buses with future LRT potential to Botany – Howick.


    Not saying it is perfect / optimal but surely cheaper than a $1b and easily fast tracked.
    Also if heavy rail / LRT is pushed through Mangere later the two options primarily serve different catchments.

    1. yes I have also wondered about this kind of option. I wouldn’t use the word shuttle, but simply design it as a connection in the wider high-frequency rapid network.

      You could either use LRT, or a T-way style busway connecting North to Onehunga and Otahuhu, and east to Manukau or even Botany. The main downside is that passengers have to connect to get to city centre, but the plus side is you save approximately one squillion dollars.

      Put it another way: Since when did a rapid transit connection to the airport necessitate a one-seat ride RTN connection? I appreciate that some people have luggage, and that transferring will be a negative for them, but these people could continue to use the Airbus, while others make use of the connective RTN network.

      Just a thought. Not necessarily the right one :).

      1. Maybe a LR line from Airport to Puhinui and then into Manukau and upwards could be a better shout, rather than a shuttle. It’ll settle the issue of Manukau station being so far out and being very difficult to ever extend.

        Possibly from the Airport it could run north to Mangere and even back around to Otahuhu – clearly the Onehunga works, bridge and raised sections are the pricey bits. Mangere would still need better city access, hence making a loop back to the new hub at Otahuhu – or even connecting to the LR network at Ellerslie?

      2. I used the word shuttle carelessly, mainly because it would be such a short direct run between two points.

        I see Airport LRT if run to Puhinui as stage one of four or five stages.
        1. Airport – Puhinui LRT 2. AMETI, Pamure – Botany BRT 3a. Puhinui – Botany LRT. 3b AMETI, Pakarunga – Howick BRT Extn. 4. Botany – Howick LRT. 5. AMETI BRT – LRT upgrade.

        I would leave Manukau as a seperate East – West Heavy Rail anchor.

    2. I like the thrust, though replace light rail with buses and you’ve got a likely decent BCR right there. Then again, we already have the Airporter service, so…

  15. Matt, its nice to see some more sensible debate on this topic rather than just assuming cost is no object. A few points:

    a) I do agree that heavy rail is the best option if you don’t consider cost. And in the longer term Auckland may regret not doing heavy rail. But sometimes trying to achieve the best possible outcome results in achieving no outcome.
    b) I think transport blog needs to be careful in having a different ethos for PT projects (e.g. ‘just do it right regardless of BCR’) vs road projects (e.g. ‘the holiday highway doesn’t save that much travel time, just upgrade the existing road’).
    c) I get the feeling we are talking about light rail vs no rail rather than light rail vs heavy rail (at least in my life time). I guess a change in government could change things, but even still I doubt NZ taxpayers will be prepared to pay about $300 each just to save Aucklanders 10 minutes on the train to the airport compared to the light rail option.
    d) I think the probable higher frequency of light rail seems to be forgotten. There isn’t that much extra average journey time between heavy rail every 15 minutes that takes 35 minutes and light rail every 5 minutes that takes 46 minutes (or have AT already factored that in to the journey time?).
    e) I get the feeling adding heavy rail stations at Favona and Ascot add a lot more to the cost and the journey time (heavy rail would have a lot longer dwell time). It probably lowers the BCR even more.

    1. Fair point but the cost differences make no sense. How can LRT be a billion cheaper when it needs much more track between Dominion and Onehunga. Something smells super fishy about how AT is approaching this issue. Maybe they need this LRT extention to make their Isthmus scheme stack up?

    2. “I doubt NZ taxpayers will be prepared to pay about $300 each just to save Aucklanders 10 minutes on the train to the airport compared to the light rail option.”

      Yet George Wood’s apparent sole aim in life is to get every NZer to pay about $1000 each for 2 kilometres of utterly unnecessary motorway across the Waitemata.

  16. I understood that double tracking to Onehunga was part of the CRL works, and offering 6tph on that route? Presumably with a fourth platform at Penrose, or some better points work.

    Has that changed?

    My view is that heavy rail is a much more desirable, high-end form of transport (although nothing bad about modern LR) – which would help to abstract traffic from the roads. Especially with the CRL, it would be a seamless part of the network and could run through to the Western line and more direct locations such as Newmarket and Parnell.

    Hopefully if they sort out the doors and the dwell times, and run at higher speeds, the EMUs could finally reduce journey times further. The new sections could be very fast, thinking Mandurah here… having a headline 30 minute journey to the first city stop (Britomart or K Road?) would be a great sell – Aotea even better. And then you could sell Newmarket for 25 etc – which light rail could never beat.

    1. I think double tracking Onehunga is only going to happen if the airport line goes through (not much point otherwise as it can handle 3TPH and possibly 4 – at least for now until demand rises). I guess that is another advantage of the Otahuhu option in that you could still keep the 3 TPH Onehunga but also gain additional frequencies through Otahuhu and on to the airport at 6TPH). I previously used to travel to the airport several times a week and there is no way I would have used LR to get there (just too slow, not enough space and it’s trip time would be too variable depending on traffic etc compared to HR which would be faster and fairly consistent in trip time). LR would really only work for those in those central istmus suburbs and for tourists going to the city from the airport. For everyone else (workers, kiwis going on holiday etc) it would still make more sense for most to drive. HR would be a different story (especially for those South and East of the city).

    2. Heavy rail to the airport is a much better option for Auckland and for this project we must build what will be best long term – nothing else will do.
      As “clc” says it will be a seamless part of the network and easily integrated with the remainder of the network – and with the best chance of competing with cars/taxis as the travel mode of choice.
      Auckland aspires to be a ‘real city’ and ‘real cities’ service their airports by direct heavy rail.

  17. Light Rail should be rejected. A 47 minute travel time is simply too long. Any new LRT lines in Auckland should have their length limited to a maximum of 35 minutes trip length (Marchetti Constant). Beyond that it is better to use trains + buses or perhaps express/rocket buses. In Melbourne, Australia, for example, too many stops have been added to lines, and lines have become too long, resulting in a torture-like experience. (e.g. Routes 75 Vermont South, 86 Bundoora)

    Light Rail would be in class B row. It would be cheaper but it would also share intersections with traffic. AT can say what they like about excellent separation, the fact is that people will drive cars into the alignment and there is scope for accidents at intersections. The Gold Coast Light Rail has experienced this – many people drive cars into the rail alignment and disrupt services. These disruptions can take the service offline for 30-60 minutes at a time.

    1. Interesting re the “Marchetti’s constant”, quick little article here for those interested:
      I’m in favour of HR through Otahuhu, or at least a fair look at it, but wonder if the speed cap of 80km/hr for LRT on dedicated sections could be faster? Surely there is units systems out there now or soon that could handle 100km/hr?
      Standing back looking at a map afresh, you can see the draw of a Dominion Rd route being so central and I wonder if it would be more desirable to take international tourists through a modernised, commercial Dominion Rd route than through Otahuhu and ugly back of industrial areas?

  18. (continued)
    A heavy rail would be in class A row. More expensive, but you are paying for quality. It’s much faster and 100% separated from car
    traffic, so more reliable. The rail alignment for the bridge looks unusual. Is AT really proposing a bridge under the existing one,
    or is that red line supposed to show something else? They should look at putting the trains in car lanes on the bridge, like Perth,
    Western Australia has done with rail lines.

    Publication of BCR only is misleading – it is also important to know what the NPV is. Two projects can have identical BCR but wildly
    different NPVs. The NPV describes the sum total of the benefits to society in dollars, the BCR is only a ratio.

    Finally, the Airport stations should be reviewed. They should NOT be terminal stations because there is a future scope to extend the
    train line through the Airport precinct to the Manukau line. Doing this would also simplify the rail operations on that line also.

    1. There is supposed to be provision for a single rail track, under the newer of the two motorway bridges across the Manukau Harbour, already in existence – apparently a half-baked idea to provide for the future and an historic example of poor liaison between the city and NZTA.

      1. Yes, that’s my understanding also (that debacle has been covered in this blog, and by CBT) – that fiasco was even more ridiculous and egregious than the Kirkbride Road trench fiasco is now.

    2. +1

      A future South-West Main Line (linking to a future South-East Main Line by crossing the Southern Main Line and passing through Manukau station) could be just as busy as – if not busier than – the Southern Main Line.

  19. Otahuhu to airport needs more thought. Along the foreshore on pylons (where the mangroves are now). Maybe build a station at Favona along that foreshore and work it in with the new housing developments about to be built there.

  20. AT should look at how to fund the more expensive heavy rail option. Land value tax or make the airport access station a premium fare to pay for the construction over the life of the infrastructure.

    It is also worth asking how the LRT case was calculated. Is AT using the whole length of the LRT line, or only the incremental extension of the proposed LRT line to the airport?

    The first approach might not be valid if the first part of the project has already been approved and will be built anyway, regardless of what the final outcome is.

    1. It would be interesting to know what that premium would need to be to pay it back over say 30 years. If it was $10 each way more for heavy rail compared with light rail, would you think it was worth it?

  21. When will a decision be made on what option will be chosen? And we need to press mayoral/council candidates on their views of the issue. I am hoping for heavy rail, and express trains running non stop from Mangere (with the exception of Penrose and Newmarket) to Britomart with the aim of a 30 minute Britomart – Airport travel time. And also the Otahuhu connection needs to be in the mix

  22. 1) Quite hilarious to watch the Herald line up with centre-left councillors behind the “gold-plated” Heavy Rail option. Probably they’re deliberately trying to ruin both options (LR won’t work, HR too expensive).

    2) The Otahuhu option was known as Option 4 when it came to the missing-link motorway connection. Good luck trying to get it through the same grassroots opposition. It’s disturbing to watch right wingers trot out the ‘it’s only HNZ properties, they don’t count’ argument.

    1. Considering most of the proponents of the Otahuhu option appear to be of the centre-left/left wing variety I’m not sure where you are coming from (except regarding the HNZ issue)?
      Quite simply those houses are probably due for replacement in the medium term anyway and being of the type that used a lot of land they could and should be redeveloped to be of better standard and more land-use efficient. This is also a win for those living there in that they would get high quality PT that is easily accessed to connect them with nearby job-centres.

      1. Severance issues will still exist, whether it’s the failed attempt at building a motorway through Mangere East, or the proposed at grade level HR through Mangere East. Either build it underground or above. Preferably underground.

        1. Slightly raised is a good way of doing it economically and allows underpasses, whether vehicular or just walking/cycling, to minimise severance issues. The EMU’s are so damned quiet, especially on a straignt, level track. Alternatively, a shallow trench allows low bridges.

        2. +1

          A trench can be covered with a lid to create linear parks, sports and community facilities and other civic amenities, etc., on top at ground level, as well as TOD housing and commercial developments to help pay for these amenities and facilities, over time, from a portion of the rents/leases, making the railway infrastructure essentially free, but a great benefit to the local area and wider region (this is how the Hutt Valley and Porirua Basin was developed, with double-track electric railways, by the central government – the former by a “right-wing” government, the latter by a “left-wing” government).

        3. Tasi you are right that both rail and motorways create new severance but there are huge differences, rail is so much narrower, therefore easier to add crossing points and to cross, and quieter and doesn’t generate the carcinogenic air pollution now it’s electrified. But even more importantly so long as well placed stations are included the new passenger rail service is actually a big part of the answer to the severance caused by the motorways. See the stations I propose here, either side of SH20 and reconnecting Mangere TC to its community:

          And I assume it would be elevated enabling walking cycling route too along its length.

          The bigger problem, I think, is finding somewhere good to re-house all the NZHC tenants in the neighbour with upgraded homes.

    2. You’re right that the Otahuhu option creates significant severance issues for Mangere’s communities, and in this respect is similar to Option 4. It’s expensive and unnecessary, and if it’s heavy rail then it’s doubly so.

      1. If Google Maps is accurate then there is only one road that would be severed, Bicknell Rd. It would presumably be replaced with a bridge over the rail, costing a few million$ within what will be a billion+$ project in any case.

        Alongside the rail earthworks and property acquistions it might be a convenient time (dependent on gradients) to link Bicknell Rd to Blake Rd, and thus solve a current road severence issue.

        Also, its worth pointing out that a railway station in the area would improve overall connectivity of Mangere East to the rest of Auckland.

  23. Scope is the biggest problem here – it is just simply to narrow; what about the time for the people who don’t live near the centre of the city? South, North, West & East as well. Public transport from these areas to the airport is forcing them to Dominion road and pushes the travel time up well over an hour. The Scope of the projects needs to get beyond just Auckland City and service the whole city.
    Heavy rail is a much better option; billions of dollars are spent on RON’s to get a 5 minute saving with much lower traffic volumes, so the extra billion to save 10 minutes of travel time for ten’s of thousands of users is a real bargain.

      1. Hmm.. Onehunga. Not exactly accessible itself. Getting there by PT needs at least one change from most places except the Southern line or the bus route to the CBD.

    1. It really does seem that Auckland Transport’s thinking is once again shaped by the needs of the former Auckland City Council isthmus, rather than that of West, South, East, and Northern Auckland, where the great majority of Aucklanders live, and where most new Auckland population increase will occur (even with intensification in the central suburbs).

      1. Really? There seems to be a of a lot of money going into rail which is predominantly for the south and west! Heard of the CRL?
        AT are just trying to get rail to the airport with a business case that almost stacks up. Heavy rail with a BCR of 0.3 obviously doesn’t…

        1. As Patrick and others have stated the benefits of the time-saving have likely been cooked by AT to make LR look better. Likewise the benefits to the number of users also looks like it has been fudged (and tourists probably don’t count towards the figures either and they will be more likely to want to use this if it is HR than LR due to the speed and simplicity in connecting to the rest of the network). So those would move HR closer to BCR of 1, meanwhile LR has likely underestimated its costs (will probably end up elevated etc) so they will be much closer if not even… which has more future capacity? HR of course.

    1. Pretty certain that at least Queen St+Dominion Road will go ahead (which is great and we should be encouraging that). What the issue is of course is extending that to the airport is a quick n easy short-sighted option that will come back to bite Auckland in the ass (just like how the AHB was built with 4 lanes originally and had to have 4 more lanes clipped on soon after it was built).

      1. I think the optimism is great, but pretty certain is a slight overstatement isn’t it? I would say its looking good. I wonder what sort of an impact the LR airport connection would have on getting the dominion road line built. In contrast, how likely is it that a $2Bn HR option is approved + $1Bn LR line for Dominion road. I’m skeptical that that would happen in any reasonable time frame. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic with these things.

    2. The likelihood of lightrail is decreasing. Once you offer grade separation and integrated fares, there’s absolutely no need to invest in light rail infrastructure for any of the four proposed routes nor the airport line – all can be serviced by buses at higher frequency (and capacity) than now, with more seats (yes, seats, enjoy standing in those high-capacity trams for 47 minutes) and offering connections to existing transport hubs that service a far greater part of Auckland (not just the central west).

      It’s perplexing that no one on here has considered that the airport has a nascent but reasonable bus service linknig to key stations and that those routes will become even more usable once integrated fares kick in, so the Airporter buses can simply increase in frequency. Actually, you’d think TBloggers would be advocating the bulking up of the existing Airporter. As with the new bus networks, it will all be about intermodal connections rather than elongated routes through every suburban nook and cranny.

      None of this stacks up: lightrail – expensive, predicated on other routes going ahead, slow, reducing exisitng road space (Dominion Rd will have to be grade separated for trams to be workable); heavy rail – very expensive, undergrounding (why?).

      With Auckland’s dire financial state, none of it should go ahead. And, I suspect, none of it will.

      1. I should add that this is just my opinion. I hear mumblings from friends in Council but they’re certainly not high up enough to make the call. I just find the logic and business case for light rail remarkably difficult.

      2. “there’s absolutely no need to invest in light rail infrastructure for any of the four proposed routes” Except that there are already too many buses causing operational issues.

        And no Dom Road doesn’t have to be grade separated it can run free of traffic in a central median.

  24. Just some questions about previous issues. Firstly regarding the Manukau Harbour crossing, I thought there were earlier issues about it having to be single tracked or go at extremely low speed. Has the new alignment fixed this issue? Its also good to see the East-West link taken care of. Second regarding the Kirkbridge Road interchange, the issue with heavy rail is not just the space taken up but the steepness of the trench? If so this makes me feel not so angry at Auckland Transport for stuffing it up. And lastly why the circuitous heavy rail route tot he airport terminal. if its underground can they simply not build it direct to the terminal? And also please have a station right inside the terminal building, no real walk involved. Is the reason for having it outside the terminal building to prop up taxi companies and get the airport money by charging fees for taxis to use the taxi stands?

    1. as per the post:
      “After crossing above the motorway the grades required for heavy rail mean there isn’t enough space to get back to ground level before reaching Bader Dr so the Heavy Rail option is elevated above it to the Mangere Station.”

      “The same issue then occurs with Kirkbride Rd and the trench currently being built meaning the line then has to pass over Kirkbride Rd. I understand the trench is about two times too steep for heavy rail.”

      …but isn’t the CRL tunnels pretty steep, anyone know the ratios?

    2. Kirkbridge Rd is just an all round stuff up by NZTA. What they should have done was build Kirkbridge over the top (higher) and left the motorway at surface level height. On a motorway you don’t want dips etc (and that’s for cars etc, let alone if rail is going to use it too). It would have also been a much simpler less disruptive construction process and it would have left the way open for either form of rail to use the corridor.

      1. The issue is there are different aspects of the NZTA. There are some people in some areas that are fantastic and then there is Highway Network Operations (HNO) – the team who design the state highway stuff. They can sometimes be a law into themselves and appear to have been in this situation. There appears to be some people in there whose only goal is to build big challenging stuff which is probably one reason they appear to have a hard on for projects like the East-West Link and Additional Harbour Crossing. The process seems to be what is something big we can build then how can we justify it.

        At Kirkbride they’re building a trench in some of the worst soils around (apparently it’s worse to dig a trench in than New Lynn which is basically just clay). It’s essentially a giant concrete boat floating on the surface with some very deep piles to stop it moving.

    3. 1. Don’t worry about that ridiculous Manukau crossing, it’ll be painted pink and make a gnarly curvy cycleway (another testament to short-sighted bad design, like the original Nelson St offramp, being in the wrong place).

      2. Last I heard the CRL grades are to be 1 in 28, perhaps the LRT can do 1 in 20 (1 in 15 is regarded as a maximum for adhesion), so there can’t be much in it (it seems it’s only because the Onehunga route has to go over the East-West motorway mess that the grades are mucked-up and can’t be at water level and ground level from the start, meaning the track has to be elevated at huge extra cost (about $1 billion extra? – which should be added to the East-West motorway budget and passed-on to the East-West truck lobby)).

      3. Regarding the circuitous approach to the airport, if it was planned to be a through station it could curve the other way and carry on to Puhinui directly (and/or direct along the harbour to Karaka and Pukekohe) and on to Manukau (and then on to a South-East loop via Botany-Pakuranga-Panmure).

  25. the Puhinui option would require difficult (i.e. expensive) connections and would be a challenge operationally

    This needs further explanation.

    The speed argument is a false one – modern light rail is capable of speeds up 100km/h (ie, as fast as we run heavy) and potent acceleration. What really matters is whether it is separated or run with road traffic. And that’s where I think this falls over.

    My vision is for fast and efficient vehicles travelling from Onehunga, through Mangere Bridge, Mangere Central, Ascot, Airport, and then running Airport Park, Puhinui. Run it as a separate system, with transfers to heavy rail at Onehunga and Puhinui and light rail at Onehunga.

    After all, Puhinui will be far better for rapid transit connections to Eastern Auckland, and gives access to the tens of thousands of Aucklanders who already live near to and south of Manukau, and the tens of thousands more who will live in the new SHAs.

    1. I’m talking about a heavy rail option. Basically in the area you have the Wiri depot, inland port, the Manukau branch junction. All are flat junctions as as it is it doesn’t take much for the whole thing to potentially jam up and cause delays all over the network. Adding another junction in would increase the risk even further. That means to keep reliability they’d probably have to grade separate both the new junction and at least the Manukau one, both at great cost. As for operational issues. Adding another branch off the southern makes things difficult due to limited capacity north of there. It would probably require additional tracks at least as far as Westfield (in addition to the needed third main).

      1. A couple of issues/queries.

        Is there the potential for a southern link with Ameti? I am thinking the airport being but one stop on a long u-shaped LRT line running from lower Queen St, down Dom road and on to the airport, then turning up through SE Auckland (Ameti) ending at Panmure station. That would be another tick for LRT.

        Also, I am not sure time comparisons from airport to Britomart are that relevant. The majority of riders, I would have thought, are workers going to/from airport or others (particularly starting/ending Onehunga and South) or having a destination somewhere well short of the CBD. Only a minority (say 20%) would be going from one end to the other.

        Re luggage issues, if most riders will be commuters and a lot of travellers having one carry on bag only, shouldnt be an issue.

    2. Also think Puhinhui option should be put back on table:

      – traverses countryside (no houses to be bought)
      – connects into southern line that has none of the problems of the onehunga line re: level crossings
      – any costs to get under/over motorway offset against cost to cross manukau harbour in other options
      – as others have stated provides connections to east and south that AT options don’t.

      1. ….but for which there is no effective running pattern, just another branch line off the southern with a single destination. Longer term a line from here makes sense but with south facing connections to complete the route through Mangere from the growing South Auckland and even the Waikato. So yes the route should be reserved, but it is not in the direction of sufficient demand in the medium term.

        1. Patrick, I’m curious about how you think there is no effective running pattern for a service running Onehunga – Mangere – Airport – Puhinui (linking with the Southern line) – possibly Manukau.

          Surely you could run this service back and forward on a regular basis, with quick and efficient transfers at either end.

        2. That is a great running pattern, no I was referring to a lone branch from Puhinui to the airport, without the northern connection first.

          Long term there could be just two services The Sourthern/Eastern as it is proposed post CRL but starting at Pukekohe and an extended Western as follows:

          West-CRL-Parnell-Onehunga[or Otahuhu]-Airport-Papakura

          If via Otahuhu then the ‘Purple’ direct west south line can be Hendo-Onehunga

          The shadow of this can be seen on the official running pattern maps:

  26. I’m with heavy rail. I have tried to explain this here before, but my reason for heavy over is not just the 5-10 min time saving or the possible disruption traveling on roads most of the way. But simply keeping our rapid transit on the same mode. And it’s not looking good with ATs obsession with light rail. It seems like a half arse copy of many other city’s especially in aussy.
    Not to mention a new depo will need to be built to maintain these light rail cars when we have just built a brand new depo for our existing trains.
    Also keeping Transfer’s to a minimum, especially if I’m in any place other then the CBD there will likely be an air port service on the western and southern line if heavy rail is used. And in my eyes if any part of the rail line gets an upgrade ie a new station or alignment the whole Auckland rail system benefits. But this light rail has no benefit to our heavy rail.
    It almost defeats the purpose of the CRL which is to add capacity so new lines can be added. Not to mention people will arrive from the airport at road level undermining our multimillion dollar CRL stations.
    And what is chosen for the airport will dictate any new lines that are built in the future ie north shore north west and south east.

    1. Good points, plus an extra billion dollars to provide a direct connection to the rest of the heavy rail network for 2 completely new suburbs – Mangere bridge & Mangere plus a connection to a key employment area (just ignoring the airport for the moment) is actually a really good bargain.
      This has to be fought for otherwise what appears to be a cost saving bargain now will become a long term noose which restricts a key area for Auckland’s growth while gold plated Motorways get all the money they need.

    2. Many cities run multiple different systems without issue, why can’t we?

      As for depots, one (or more) is being built anyway for the light rail line that will serve Dominion Rd and the other isthmus lines.

      It doesn’t undermine CRL as the capacity that provides will be needed just to improve the frequencies of the existing network. I don’t think heavy rail will ever be seriously considered again for the North Shore or Northwest RTNs

      1. Yes many city’s have many different modes. But not usually by choice. Discounting the obvious water rail road. But Often a staggered system is the result of private operators, and then the problem we have, cost.
        So unless we contracted off construction and operation of the airport line. Which won’t happen. I expect to have the choice. To get a staggered rail system soon or wait for a seamless system later.

        1. If the system is running efficiently/maxxed out then it won’t make any difference to use a new technology as regardless you’ll need new infrastructure like depots and new vehicles. Look at London, Crossrail is a completely independent line and the trains for it won’t be used elsewhere. In Sydney the new rail lines they’re building will be incompatible with the existing trains. Vancouver’s Canada Line Skytrain uses completely different and incomparable tech to the other skytrain lines. It happens all the time so not sure why we’d be any different.

        2. London is a good example on why it should be heavy rail.
          Crossrail is a separate system but is heavy rail as TFL know this is what is needed.
          Going on with the London example, the Dockland light rail was built first and was expected to be all that was required but it quickly proved inadequate in a very short period of time and the Jubilee line heavy rail had to be extended to Carney Wharf.
          Do it once, and do it right.
          I know lets not build the east / west link and build Heavy Rail to the airport instead!

        3. Just because sydney is building it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. A large proportion of sydneysiders feel sick at the idea of abandoning their unique double decker heavy rail system.

          The change of rolling stock was a complete political move, as it enables them to build tunnels too small for the almost 100% double decker trains run by state, it’s also the first ever line in sydney that’s privately operated. See what’s happening here?

          The change was in no way in the interest of commuters. It wasn’t even cost saving despite the smaller tunnels.

  27. Does that light rail cost amount included the cost of light rail from City to Onehunga/Hillsborough? If not, then that’s not a fair cost comparison as that will still need to be paid for. The rail line is already there.
    Also, how is it that the light rail catchment is over twice as much as heavy rail? Are they including the Dominion road part of this also?

    I just don’t buy this light rail idea. It will be slower than the current bus, and MAYBE only competitive during peak. The bus takes about 30-40mins off peak. So it’s a slower option most of the time, where as heavy rail will always be competitive time wise. This is a major point of difference, as well as the higher capacity.

    Light rail is very slow, so I’m doubting even the 47mins is realistic. Living in Melbourne I can attest to that.

    Very short term thinking by AT

    1. No it’s assumed that the section from the city to Dominion Rd would already have been built. That part is estimated at $1b too so as I pointed out in the post, even if you added that cost on you’re looking at $2b for a heavy rail line from Onehunga to the Airport or $2b for a light rail line from the city to the airport including the central isthmus.

        1. It is assumed the line down Dominion Rd is already in place so yes the BCR is only for the section from Dominion Rd to the airport – although trips from Dominion Rd that would use the new section would obviously be included. Of course if you included the cost of the section from the City to SH20 you would also need to include the benefits and that means including all the patronage to the city too.

  28. Just on the heavy rail option they have there in the video, they have it looping around avoiding the Airport shopping area (countdown; warehouse etc), but then it loops right back and looks like it goes directly under where the current domestic terminal currently is. Why not have a train station somewhere on that loop? Even though it avoids the airport shopping district, future development will tend towards that wider looped area anyway. It would be madness not to have a station servicing that area where thousands of workers already work. The traffic jams in the area going south in the peak periods are already ridiculous.

  29. Also, the “800m of a station” benchmark for both is stupid. What I mean is, people are willing to travel further for heavy rail vs light rail. I would not travel anymore than say 500m-1km to get to a light rail stop, where as with heavy rail I would be willing to go 2-5km (either by bus or car) as you would do that for the quicker and more comfortable journey. I’m sure if they used these kind of distances from stations for each mode, the catchment would be the same or even more for heavy rail.

  30. Having had time to digest this, I guess the missing question is
    “How much time does AT want to save?”
    Surely until you have a target you can’t decide what the best solution is! E.g. if I want to save 10 minutes I’ll pay the toll, if I don’t I won’t.

    So until we actually know what the right target is, we are all right, and we are all wrong (we may be gold-plating, or we may be producing a substandard result)

    1. The old assessments also assumed rail would only cost $700m not $2b+. Numbers can change a lot over time too, for example building LRT down Dominion Rd will include many of the upfront costs meaning they’re not needed in later extensions e.g. depot costs etc. Also costs change as you start to do more detailed analysis and have more sophisticated modelling – plus we have a greater understanding of patronage impacts now than we did back in ARTA days

      1. The report uses a cost of $1.44B for rail from Otahuhu to the airport (page 22).

        The Light Rail route it uses (costed at $2.1B) is however quite different, connecting to Avondale and Onehunga because the Dominion Rd option is determined to be too slow to work as an RTN (Rapid Transit Network) route.

  31. To me the key questions that AT need to answer on this one are to do with speed between the city and Onehunga for LRT – is it is dedicated ROW and signal pre-emption or stuck in traffic, speed between Onehunga and Airport, why are our AM class units not being pushed to 100 kph running for new sections that should be designed for this, and are the LRT times feasible and quicker enough than the bus/taxi to mean that CBD bound business travellers, especially those on a day trip will use it? I could see many companies pushing staff use of the link for Airport-destination travel, especially CBD, but not if travel times are uncertain/no better than a cab despite the cost saving.

  32. One of the things that light rail has going for it is the relative ease in which additions and alterations can be made. No one can predict with any certainty what will happen in the future, but if something happens in the future the brings with it a major shift in traffic patterns, then light rail can be on the scene in a year or so. I don’t think that a 10 minutes difference in travel times that heavy rail has over light will make that much difference to the traveller.

    1. As Steve says above: a fast, reliable-duration trip to get to the airport to catch a plane on time, or to get to a meeting on time from the airport, would be much more desirable than a longer, uncertain-duration trip. I think it does make a big difference. The LRT option doesn’t really improve on bus, taxi/shuttle, or SOV, so what’s the point?

  33. The Light Rail would be a vast improvement to the buses since it has its own ROW and can go straight past traffic.

        1. but down Dominion Rd etc, even if in separated tracks, it will have traffic crossing it at every intersection, no?

        2. Yes but will be able to have signal priority because, perhaps counter intuitively, of the ‘advantage’ of lower frequency. Comparing the mass of buses required to move the same amount of people: 400-500 per vehicle, instead of 40-50. So 1 LRV every 5mins instead of 1 bus every 30s.

  34. We shouldn’t panic about a LRT solution if they also provide for a HR station as well. We could have both: LRT over the bridge (replaces the bus) & HR from Otahuhu. OK maybe hard to fund for decades but would give great choice. Also give potential freight options (very far future I’m thinking).

  35. I wonder how well the light rail option would integrate with the Western line – versus taking the Western line, then presumably changing trains at Newmarket. For us Westies, I’m just not sure if trains, light or heavy, will save time from the current relatively easy drive to the airport. Then again, living in Titirangi, you have to be on the road before seven am. Or risk losing out. With the light rail option, there is no apparent connection between the Western line and Dominion Rd (Mt Eden Rd?).

    1. There are plans for an Onehunga – Mt Albert light rail line, which would make this system considerably more useful for the West and Northwest. That’s at least another decade away though.

    2. oh but of course once City Rail Link built, you have the new K Road & Aotea Stations to connect from. Does anyone know when they would likely start any LRT construction,will they have the 1st stage up Queen St after the CRL is open I guess….sigh…seems so long away.

      1. First stage of LRT likely to be up and running before 2020 so before CRL. AT want to get it to Kingsland to take pressure off western line which will be impacted by CRL works.

        1. > AT want to get it to Kingsland to take pressure off western line which will be impacted by CRL works.

          So the idea is for trains to terminate at Kingsland? Or just that a large fraction of passengers will transfer there?

          If the latter, how are the CRL works impacting the Western Line if the trains can still get through to Britomart? Will they reduce frequency?

        2. No he means just during construction of the Mt Eden station upgrade junction change. It’s likely to be closed for hours/days? on end at times meaning Western line can’t get through to Britomart…not that I know the details. Sounds like a good plan, we need the light rail anyway.

        3. I think during construction the line around the portal [current Mt Eden Station] will be completely closed for some time, then possibly single track for a longer period. I think it involves a whole new alignment even on the east-west section, and certainly a whole station. Just speculation but that LR spur to Kingsland Station looks extremely useful for ameliorating any restrictions on the western during construction.

        4. Is it possible for Light rail to transfer onto the heavy rail track, and then continue at higher speed or is there no point? I guess that for this to be possible, the trains would have to be able to switch voltages. (light rail seems to be lower voltage than heavy rail, presumably for reasons of safety).

      2. LRT-1 is likely to be operational before the CRL is complete, LRT-1: Queen/Dom + spur on New North Rd to start of Sandringham Rd terminating at Kingsland Station. This is partly because it is proposed as a work-round for the Western Line while it is closed or restricted during CRL construction at the Mt Eden portal. This plan can be seen on the latest Unitary Plan maps.

  36. The LRT design has potentially station connectivity with either or both Kingsland & Mt Eden metro rail stations in their stage 2 and 3 plan. This is even before the airport line.

  37. Left field idea – LRT from Otahuhu interchange to Airport. Narrow corridor, ability to positively enhance and rebuild Mangere East, opens airport line up to huge numbers of people including to the South and East. No branch off main line. Enables high frequency via Southern and Eastern Lines. Frequency is freedom. Adopt the transfer.

  38. As far as airport travellers are considered, I feel reliabity is the key factor that determines the choice:

    1. Imagine that a car accident blocks the Light Rail going to the airport for 30 min. Considering 1,630 hourly capacity in one direction, how many passengers will miss their flights?

    2. Knowing that car accidents happen regularly, and that, in contrast with buses, the LR cannot drive around smashed cars, how many people going to the airport consider LR as a viable alternative? (60 min feels ok to allow for accidents, so 49+60=109 min)

    My 2c.

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