The absence of rail as well as walking and cycling options to the North Shore has been considered an oversight by many probably ever since the Harbour Bridge was first approved for construction over 60 years ago. While Skypath will finally rectify the walking and cycling situation, many have looked to the prospect of an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) to rectify the rail one.

Some papers I received from the NZTA at the end of last week as part of an official information act request suggest that those hoping for rail to be part of AWHC are likely to be out of luck again. They confirm the NZTA only plan to designate a road based crossing. This is in sharp contrast to how the NZTA have presented the project to the public to date which includes saying that the tunnels include provision for Rapid Transit and have pictures showing tunnels with both cars and trains in them – such as the one below and this one which is described as their current concept. Their plan is to have the tunnels become SH1 with the existing bridge acting as a sort of giant off ramp to the CBD.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

In addition to the likely absence of rail from the project, the documents also suggest that:

  • the NZTA could look to cut the connection to Onewa Rd
  • they are waiting till after the route is protected before doing a detailed business case
  • along with some other public information suggest that the NZTA deliberately ignoring any additional works needed on either side of the harbour

There are five documents in total and are dated between November 2014 and May 2015. They were the result of asking for ‘All advice to senior management, the board or the Minister on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing’

In November 2014 a paper to the NZTAs Senior Leadership Team makes this comment

The additional crossing has been identified as providing for both road and rail. Whilst the road network is mature in this area, there is currently no rail network on the North Shore. As a result Auckland Transport’s support for protecting the route for rail now is unclear. A high level discussion with AT is required to understand their aspirations.

On 10 February 2015 there is a short briefing to the Minister about the route protection process.

On 20 February 2015 there is a much more extensive briefing to the Minister after the minister obviously asked for more info. As part of a series of questions and answers the NZTA say:

The business case, which will be completed in 2017, will consider rapid transit options. Work on rapid transit options will be led by Auckland Transport. The preferred option will be secured through the route protection process.

It’s also from this brief that a small point about Shoal Bay is raised and that there are options to mitigate it.

Impacts on Shoal Bay: The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing would generate significant impacts on Shoal Bay on the North Shore including those resulting from land reclamation. There are opportunities to mitigate these effects.

Just under a month later the Minister announced the NZTA would be moving ahead with the designation process and a few days later this memo was produced discussing the next steps. This is what they say about rail.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Rail

They say a key decision is to ‘Agree with Auckland Transport the extent of rail involvement in the designation process.’

It is also from this document where they raise some of the other issues I mentioned including:

That they are considering holding off on the business case. Along with the rail comment above, deciding this is the other key decision that the memo says needs to be made.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Route Protection and Business Case timing

That they are considering dropping the connection at Onewa.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Esmonde Connection

Recently I’ve been hearing that extending the tunnel all the way to Esmonde to avoid reclamation in Shoal Bay is being progressed and that means anyone who accesses the motorway from Onewa Rd and wanting to go somewhere other than the CBD would have to drive north to Esmonde first then turn around and head down the tunnels. Alternatively they would have to go into the city and travel through city streets before re-joining the motorway.

The final document is a paper to the NZTA board in May 2015 discussing the route protection and other issues. In it they effectively confirm that the NZTA will not be including rail designations as part of its work and that instead it is up to Auckland Transport. They also note that the ‘lack of clarity’ around rail is the main risk to the route protection process.

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail 3

Now obviously this doesn’t mean that rail isn’t going to happen as Auckland Transport could also look to protect a rail route at the same time but it seems fairly clear that the NZTA are fully prepared to designate for a road only crossing if AT don’t get on with a rapid transit option. That seems like a recipe for something going wrong due to miscommunication. We know AT have recently been conducting a study on the future of Rapid Transit to the North Shore but we haven’t even heard the outcome of that yet, let alone have the work needed for a notice of requirement completed to coincide with NZTA’s previously stated desire to start the NOR in the middle of this year.

All of the information also suggests that the NZTA intend on building road tunnels regardless with rail either at best happening concurrently or more likely never. There doesn’t appear to be any consideration a different staging of the project which could see a cheaper rail option built first and a road crossing considered if still needed in the future.

In addition this board paper notes the decision had been made to only do route protection at this time and leave the business case to later.

Next steps are tightly focused on route protection. The wider business case will be progressed as a subsequent piece of work, and subject to a separate funding application.

What is also worth noting from these documents is that appears the NZTA are treating business cases as only being used to inform when a project should start construction and what funding source it would have rather than whether it’s worth doing at all. That means the AWHC with a benefit cost ratio of 0.3 can (from an earlier study) is progressed because it passed the “do we like it” test.

There is also an interesting comment in the board minutes as a result of this paper. Included in the minutes it says ‘Board members discussed how to ensure the NoR process is contained tightly to matters relating to route protection only for the future crossing’. I’ve long understood that for the AWHC to function it will also need some significant widening of the motorway north of Esmonde Rd. It seems the NZTA want to keep discussion away from that.

One additional piece of information that was quite interesting from the 20-Feb paper was a little note on why the NZTA have picked the western alignment rather than going to the East of the city like the NZCID have suggested.

The eastern alignment was not progressed as it would have cost significantly more, including a $1 billion upgrade to Grafton Gully to accommodate additional traffic and improve connections into the central motorway junction. The eastern alignment would also have resulted in congestion on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and underuse of the new crossing.

AWHC - east or west alignment

An extra $1 billion just for Grafton Gully alone which presumably doesn’t include the extra cost of an even longer tunnel.

As I’ve said before, lets get the missing modes completed first before seeing if we need another road crossing. It might just be that a cheaper rail crossing has sufficient impact to delay a more expensive road crossing.

Share this


  1. “1What is also worth noting from these documents is that appears the NZTA are treating business cases as only being used to inform when a project should start construction and what funding source it would have rather than whether it’s worth doing at all. ”

    I think they need to learn to what a business case is. If they choose to call what you have described a business case, they are blatantly engaging in a redefinitist fallacy.

    On the main text of the documents, I think the point is they aren’t designating a crossing at all (you can’t). And to be fair it’s not their area to decide what a southern approach might look like, that would have to go to the heart of ATs plans for the rail network.

  2. This (and the idea of 4 laning all the way to Whangarei) show why NZTA needs to have rail network responsibilities as well to ensure the total picture is looked at.

    1. +1. They’d even get extra funding since most of the funding that KR needs is for network maintenance.

    2. I would suggest, alternatively, that this shows NZTA should have roading responsibility taken away from them!

  3. FFS! NZTA promoting a false sense of urgency. There’s no rush since the WWR opens next year. There’s time to do this right and build rail first to the Shore.

    Come on AT stand up to this bullshit. So much for the happy-clappy ATAP “we’re all working together” accord. That’s bullshit as well.

    1. Cameron is completely right here. The whole air of ’emergency’ in these documents its insane. We are still dropping multiple billions on an alternative road route north that still has years before it is completed.

      Not only does there need to be a proper analysis of the wider issues at stake here, but there needs to be a real public discussion, with all information. This is, frankly, an outrage.

  4. Matt, thanks for doing the legwork on this and showing that NZTA speak with forked tongue and can’t be trusted.

  5. Here we have it again. The cart before the horse. In that seems pretty much to be the entire modus operandi of NZTA now. All fiscal and societal responsibility has been abandoned. They don’t seem to be there to solve transport problems, or to support a more efficient and productive society, but simply to build stuff [state highways] chosen on the scantest of whims, through a minimal and opaque process, completely void of checks and balances.

    There is no high level analysis of the problems and opportunities presented by transport between the North Shore and the rest of the city, nor the risks involved in such a huge and duplicative project; just where, how cheaply, and how quickly and we get some road tunnels down…

  6. Matt,

    Great work on getting this information. I think the point you make about the use of business cases is very telling. Was there anything in the documents that actually adressed the elephant in the room of a BCR of 0.3? Like did they say – this project is being progressed despite us predicting negative net benefits because “X”? If so what was their justification?

    1. The links to the documents are there so feel free to go through them but from memory they basically said “we’ve already decided this is a good project on strategic grounds so it’s happening regardless, business case is only to determine exact timing and funding”

    2. They’ll say ‘resilience’ and ‘trucks’…. entirely ignoring the thing they are currently thigh-high in building right now; the Western Ring Route, and that very little freight goes north, or that has to go through the middle of AKL city on a truck.

      1. From memory one of the documents briefly mentioned Waterview still being under construction then just dismissed it saying they’ll still use the bridge

        1. Well I suppose if this is a legitimate “business case” type process, then they will end up with the following:

          “Does building the project in “year n+1” result in higher net benefits than building the project in “year n”?”

          The answer to the above is always yes as long as the BCR is less than 1 for building in “year n” (and not necessarily no even if the BCR is greater than 1). So the result will be the optimum time to build it is a long long time in the future…

        2. Then there is the counterfactual position:

          “Does building the project in “year n+1” result in NZTA staff retention, better looking CVs for the engineers involved with designing/building it, and/or make the the government involved with funding it look proactive?”

          The answer to those questions is always No.

          Hence it always goes ahead in Year n [over Years n+1,2,3… because it suits those doing it for it to be done sooner than later.

      2. It does make me wonder what they are planning for trucks as surely they can’t have trucks exiting the motorway and going through the city to get back onto the motorway. I have a feeling they will probably have some sort of link between the harbour bridge motorway and the new SH1 for trucks and buses only since a lot of trucks won’t be allowed into a tunnel. Still a stupid plan overall

        1. Waterview tunnels will have restrictions on vehicles carrying hazardous goods. A surprising number of trucks do carry haz goods.

  7. We have no Transport Agency: NZTA is just the National Roads Board redux. This is the effect of that linguistic absurdity: Roads of National Significance. An entirely circular conception; national significance = roads = national significance. This pompous little sentence has defined away the need for any purpose to road building, because, all and any piece of tarmac is a priori nationally significant, no matter its cost, no matter its effects.

    1. Yes thats another fallacy of definition. A road of national significance should of course be built! Why? Because its a road of national significance of course! How did we determine it to be a road of national significance? Well, because its on the list of roads of national significance. How did it get on the list? Umm…

        1. With my conspiracy hat on, I do wonder how much the likes of Fulton Hogan donate via trusts to the national party.

  8. “The eastern alignment would also have resulted in congestion on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and underuse of the new crossing.”

    Don’t quite understand why this would be the case. If the majority of the traffic [as we are told] is “through traffic” going south or west of the harbour.

    Agree it was to be a longer tunnel design if it had to swing by Onewa, but if they’re dropping Onewa from the AWHC route [as it seems], in favour of Esmonde Road direct.

    Then surely a more direct route can be put in place than the original Eastern connection option – making the Eastern and Western options similar in length [and likely, cost] with each other.

    [Google Earth indicates a 5.8km distance as the crow flies from Esmonde to Beach Road/Parnell rise vicinity, and 5.1km from Esmonde to Fanshawe St by Victoria Park Tunnel exit].

    And if the Eastern option is chosen then the rail links on the Southern side of the crossing can surely more easily connect into the rail tunnel with little extra land required?

    Of course, better if the tunnel is Rail only and connects directly near to Britomart.

    5 km long road tunnels as is proposed will be at least double the cost of the WRR tunnels just for the tunnels alone, and then the on and off ramps and associated motorway to motorway links need to be included.
    Whereas a rail only tunnel from Esmonde NEX station to Britomart would only need two skinny tubes at a fraction of that road tunnel cost, and would be able to plug into the rail network in the CBD with minimal fuss or land take above ground.

    From Esmonde the options are pretty board for rail.
    But of course NZTA is not a “all modes” agency, its a roads only agency, so this will never happen – unless AT stand up to NZTA and demand rail, and the eastern option be included.

    1. I didn’t understand that statement either. I did some modelling of the eastern alignment years ago. Back then it really only made sense if you built the Eastern motorway along side the railway as well. I dont expect to see any cross harbour alignment built in my lifetime. They will designate to make it look as though they are doing something, but that is all. Motorways and like Halleys Comet. You only get to see it happen once.

      1. All things going well I should see Halley’s Comet a second time. Assuming I’m still alive and not totally blind at the age of 81. A third harbour motorway on the other hand…

  9. I hate to imagine the size of the interchange that will be needed at Esmonde road and the environmental impact this will have as well as the impact on local northshore roads and the northern motorway. Is it really the case that NZTA are not giving any consideration to this?
    It seems the height of irresponsibility to assume a project is needed and then to push ahead with it regardless of the cost and consequences.
    I though this was supposed to be one of the lessons learned from the basin bridge project? It seems that the lesson they have learned is how to be craftier at doing what they want to do regardless of any opposition? I don’t like being this cynical but in this situation it is hard not to be.

  10. Let’s be clear; there will never be rail on the existing bridge. There will be no rail in the sumps of road tunnels, there will only be rail if a Transport Agency builds a dedicated crossing for it: If only we had one of those….

    Light rail in theory could use the centre span of the bridge, not the clip-ons, this is extremely unlikely as the old bridge will still be full of traffic, especially if the new crossing doesn’t serve Onewa, and because we know future demand is to the city, not through it. So new crossing will not divert much traffic from the bridge. Especially if tolled, which it surely will have to be.

    So this is $6B to flood the city and Shore roads with cars and buses, when we could instead build a great and efficient alternative, taking huge pressure off existing systems, including parking and bus volumes.

    1. What stops AC/AT from just stripping capacity from inner city roads (i.e. single-laning everything and 30kph limits, pedestrian/bike priority at all intersection)? Let people drive, but they’ll be in traffic jams from frontdoor to (non-existant) parking building.

      Train will be the only way to sensibly get in.

      1. Yes – AT need to fight this with the tools they have at their disposal (of which there are many).

      2. +1 — 30kph limits in the city make sense anyway. And some road diets perhaps, as someone on twitter pointed out, Auckland City has an unusual amount of very wide roadways, especially in the western part.

        There actually are humans living in that area these days.

      3. Where in all the above documentation/information do get the slightest inkling that NZTA are concerned with congestion on city streets?
        If they were concerned at all then surely they would seriously consider a rail connection?
        I get the impression that the reason they want to build this project is because they believe that state highway 1 will be better off realigned in a tunnel under the harbour. The fact that the project they are wanting to build happens to be in the middle of NZ’s biggest city seems to be an inconvenience they would rather not be dealing with.
        Basically it is about moving traffic between Hamilton and Whangarei, If Auckland city traffic gets inconvenienced as a result, well tough bikkies. This would explain why they have dropped the Onewa road interchange.

        1. Yes. And this is why a fundamental reorganisation of transport analysis and provision, in particular the curious limits to NZTA’s scope, is urgently needed. Hamilton to Whangarei is a minor issue, of small economic value and anyway not currently blocked! In no rational system would duplicating that have priority over the biggest concentration of value in the country. This is complete madness.

        2. Can’t you see it, less cars on the bridge, worry that voters will be pissed there’s scant/no regard to alternatives and bingo, lane 1 each way on the bridge dedicated bus lane and maybe a bit of lane over to the Akoranga station. The ultimate sop that is not rapid or mass and at basement costs.

  11. Oh surprise.

    Add it to the pile with Penlink, that flyover in the east, and that new motorway link in Onehunga. It looks like we will be building just roads for a while yet.

  12. I was just thinking about this morning when there was a crash on the bridge, that all these passengers going to city in the buses have no priority whatsoever, and that we really need rail to the shore. These documents from NZTA really make me angry. It should be rail first then road perhaps, maybe.

  13. They really know how to waste money, no wonder Auckland traffic has gotten so bad in the last couple years. And there no money to fix it.

  14. NZTA seem unable to learn that is not possible to build your way out of vehicle congestion. We have been trying since the 1950’s and have not been successful and I don’t know of any other city in the world that has managed it.

    NZTA needs to be completely and utterly disbanded and a new transport authority created with a completely new direction for the most efficient societal outcome – not just ‘moar roads’. This would need a completely new management – the old guard are just too tainted.

    The reality is that the wrong people are controlling all the cash available, they are in fact over flush with cash and seem to spend it in an unfettered way on just their mode of choice, which for Auckland especially, ignores all the statistical evidence and quite frankly is totally unacceptable.

    Auckland Transport – You have a real fight on your hands. Let’s see what you are made of!

  15. They have learnt nothing…..

    Still, I think this is just too much of a beast to get everything over the line to allow a start. Think the Basin flyover. And even if it gets close, I think that by then the positive impacts of the CRL, Busway improvements/enhancements and the WRR will see a future government – of either persuasion – can it. Or at least remodel it with a PT focus.

    Of more immediate concern, to me, is the smaller (relatively speaking) projects which are place-ruining. I am looking at you, Reeves Rd flyover.

  16. What happens when the air in the tunnel is rather noxious and you are sitting on the upper level of the double decker bus?
    There is an accident ahead of your bus, are you sitting in the foul air and breathing it?

  17. Does NZTA have any forecasts of what will happen after we implement effective Carbon reduction regime?

    1. To which the correct response is; ‘build it when we’re all driving EVs then’. Till then we desperately need current technology to reduce carbon and other pollutants.

  18. I don’t know how fair it is to blame NZTA for this misguided policy. This is simply part of the single-minded push emanating from the Hon. Steven Joyce via his current mouthpiece Simon Bridges, to commit New Zealand to a roads-only future, and to get as much underway as urgently as possible before National gets tossed out of office. Opprobrium needs to be directed first-and-foremost at these gentlemen, their supporters within government, and the Prime Minister for failing to rein them in.

    I am watching with interest to see if the current government does what the previous Labour government did: Suddenly wake up in the final year of its 9-year term of office (let’s hope!), to the strategic value of rail and doubtful value of major road-building. Remember Labour’s almost epiphanical transformation from Dr Cullen’s “Buses need roads” stance ( ) – to this: “New Zealand’s rail network is now back in New Zealand’s hands. We will now be able to make the investments necessary to develop a world-class 21st century rail system for New Zealanders.” ( ).

    Will Steven Joyce undergo a similar epiphany to Dr Cullen’s? The indications at National’s 7½-year mark are not good, as Joyce again pours cold water on the proposal to connect Northport to rail. So failing such a transformation happening, there remains another chance to vote National out next year and do what we can to rescue the country from 9 dark years of their destructive tenure.

  19. Now someone needs to do an information request to if AT has done any work on planning NS rail

    There is lots to do

    1. Decide whether line should be light rail, light metro or heavy rail. Heavy rail should be discounted due to freight not being able to operate through the tunnel realistically and the likelyhood the money would be there to create a newer direct route to Northland being low. Light Metro can be driverless and can handle the grades and turns of the busway, it would have higher capacity than LRT similar to heavy rail however it would need to be fully grade seperated so it would be a spine network only. LRT can be driverless on any class a row and can form a network to other locations Glenfield/Westgate etc. as can be class b row. LRT can also be surface run through the city if we can’t afford a tunnel at first. I think LRT has a small edge over Light Metro.

    2. We pick LRT for example so do we have a new rail tunnel connecting to SH16 (Northwest LRT) or do we surface run it. Do we run it over the centre span of the bridge or in the new tunnel.

    3. If we elect new rail tunnel do we future proof the cut and cover works plus Aotea station NOW to save costs by doing it at same time.

    The real question is where is AT at regarding these questions?

      1. And meanwhile AT are bending over backwards to *give* NZTA all and any land that NZTA they say they need for whatever road projects NZTA deems worthy for Auckland to have, whether Aucklanders actually want it or not,

        So any current rail corridor/right of way that exists or that AT might be thinking of designating has a good chance of being given away to NZTA for use for motorways well before AT decide if they really need it for rail or not.

        And you just know full well that if AT decided at some point that they need some NZTA land for rail purposes that NZTA will charge them full commercial price for getting it.

        Certainly not a quid pro quo here.

        More like NZTA robbing AT, to give AT its pocket money, so NZTA and its controlling Ministers can go down to the local pokie parlour and play the pokies with the rest for yet another “quick” fix and damn the consequences.

        Where’s “Roadaholics Anonymous” when you need them?

    1. Hmmm… I never thought of it… but you made me realise that if there’s any possibility on the existing PT network in Auckland to convert a line into a driverless light rail aka. Vancouver’s Skytrain it is actually the Northern Busway, with either a tunnel or over-the-bridge connection to Wynyard and then underground or overground to Aotea. Driverless systems require a complete separation with absolutely zero road crossings, which the Northern Busway is all the way to Onewa. Thinking more aloud, it would be a complete stupidity to not create a station at Onewa to connect the west North Shore to the rail. I really hope the right people are tasked on working designating rail @ AT.

      1. The driverless Vancouver SkyTrain has been running at an operating surplus since 2001; over time opex eats capex. Headways get in below 2 mins at times, 21.5 hours of operation per day, 117m annual pax…..

        Of course we should be looking at that across the harbour and up the busway.

  20. So it would appear the government is open to rail, and it will be up to AT to say “yes we want it”, or “no, forget it”.

    It’ll make a good test of AT’s true stance on heavy rail expansion. They’ve all but dumped airport rail after all.

    1. Agreed. AT’s missing contribution on providing rail to North Shore is referred to in nearly every NZTA document. Why is it missing, and why is it so hard to find plans to extend the rail network to the North on AT’s website, even if it’s ten years in the future?

      Yes, they are supposedly doing a study now, but all we get from AT on the Shore is more roads and disconnected networks. We need a lot more from them north of the harbour.

  21. The extra costs of tunnelling further north surely mean a bridge option needs revisiting. A bridge adjacent to the existing won’t require messy interchanges, as new bridge can be for southbound traffic.
    Reclaiming some of the harbour was no problem for the expanded Onewa interchange and busway.
    Still no answers as to where all these lanes will go once the reach CBD/CMJ?
    If 25% of the traffic is Onewa Rd, a 2 lane tunnel connecting it to St Marys Bay should be an option.

  22. Is Simon Bridges really our transport minister? With comments in todays NZ Herald – – like, “Rather than defaulting to rail technologies used since the 1860s, you’d hope that Gen Zero would be advocating for other options to be considered.” Well Mr Bridges, we are defaulting to automobile technologies used since the 1760’s – Yep SIMON 1860 subtract 1760 EQUALS 100 years older!

    Actually its not just Math these Wigs have issues with. Its actually history or more precisely using the internet that they seem to have trouble with. Here is an easy to read website for the Nats showing the first steam locomotive was 1804 – – where as the first steam automobile was built by Nicholas Joseph Cugnot in 1769 who then went on to have the first automobile accident in 1771 – All this over 30 years before the advent of these defaulting technologies!

    1. You are quite right.
      But I think more importantly a car has changed very little since the invention of the internal combustion engine. Apart from gains in fuel efficiency it fundamentally hasn’t changed much in its ability to transport people (driverless cars will quite possibly change this, but it will probably be some time before we will see any transformative benefits from them). In contrast a modern and efficiently run rail system whether it be heavy or light rail has arguably made tremendous progress since the 19th century.
      Simon also mentioned we should be open to new transport technologies that might prove to be effective such as autonomous buses. What about the already tried, proven and effective autonomous light metro system such as Vancouver has that is available to us now?

  23. How does this proposal fit in with:
    DOes Auckland have any right to say no to this project?
    Could we say, “we need the rail but not the road tunnel thank you?”
    Must we accept the plans of the NZTA without protest or option to change it?
    What is the time frame that they are looking at?
    It seems to me at least 10 years off and in that time it is to be hoped that the Emissions reduction schemes will be kicking in and changing the needs considerably!

  24. Keep the enemy clear guys so we make him change his mind: ‘ Simon Bridges’ is the man to be making the decision lets not make this complicated. We need a media attach on him Simon Road Bridges memes etc… Simon Bridges Burns Bridges build bridges etc…. He is the guy.. Keep you attach on him, make it public he is paid to oversea this a the democratically elected leader of transport… okay Get the Media facebook onto it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *