A lot of debate over the last week has focused on rail to the airport and Auckland Transport/NZTA’s decision to dump heavy rail as an option, primarily due to costs but also because they believe light rail could deliver similar benefits. As has happened pretty much every time in the past when discussing this topic, the focus of many commentators here and across the media spectrum has been squarely on connecting the airport and the CBD. That’s somewhat understandable given both are significant destinations but when focusing on a singular use outcome it naturally results in a misunderstanding of what is trying to be achieved and people trying to come up with alternative ways to achieve that.

The two prime examples of this is the suggestion that we need to have a non-stop express service between the two main destinations and that we could save money but just building a connection across open land from Puhinui to the airport. The latter was even the subject of the herald editorial on Friday.

When most of us look at a map of Auckland’s railways, a spur line to the airport appears obvious and easy. The main line south runs through Wiri and its Puhinui Station is about 5km from the air terminals. A track could be laid through largely open land to the airport perimeter. What could be simpler?

Alas, simple solutions seem not to be welcome in the organisations charged with planning Auckland’s transport.


They are looking at the wrong route

While a faster and/or a cheaper connection would be nice for those just going to the CBD, the numbers doing that exact trip are never likely to be higher enough to justify the scale of investment that rail requires. More importantly, the issue with both of those positions is they ignore one of the key strategic goals that are trying to be achieved, to improve public transport for those that live and work in the Southwest and this is a goal regardless of the mode used.


Currently the Southwest is estimated to be home to close to 50,000 people and growing to an estimated 66,000 by 2043. Some of that growth is already underway with developments like the Walmsley Rd SHA set to deliver around 1,600 new dwellings which is likely enough to house another 5,000 people. There are also around 31,000 jobs in this area of which about 12,000 are at the airport itself with the rest in the industrial areas to the north or in and around Mangere and Mangere Bridge. The airport company expect to employment numbers around the airport will increase significantly as more land is developed. That will help to make

Southwest Population 2

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of people and a lot of jobs and it would be short-sighted and unfair not to give them some form of quality PT option – this equally applies to other parts of the Auckland urban area too.

Looking at Stats NZ commuter view for two of the area units included in the figures above, we can see that the biggest single destination (outside of working within the same area unit) was working in the Mangere South area which includes the Airport and the Ascot/Montgomerie Industrial area. But while not to the same individual level, there are a number of people who also travel north to work in other parts of the city.

Southwest work location

Workers at the Airport itself come from all over the region, a lot from the east but also a significant numbers the north. The numbers from the east will be partially why AT have said they’ll start the early stages of investigation into an RTN route between Botany, Manukau and the airport.

Airport worker commute map

So rail to the airport is actually about serving three separate markets

  1. Travellers themselves
  2. People working around the Airport and nearby employment centres (this is likely to be the biggest share of potential users)
  3. People living in Mangere and its surrounding suburbs

Spending the kind of money needed to build a rail line to serve any one of these uses is almost certainly not going to be able to stack up but with all three uses combined it can. What’s more from a PT perspective a Southwest line likely has a couple of big advantages that could make it one of the busiest on the network. Compared to our existing RTN lines, having very strong anchors at each end of the line in the form of the city and the airport will help get good bi-directional usage. Added to that the inherent nature of airport arrivals and departures throughout the day would help drive off-peak usage. As such frequencies are likely to need to be kept fairly high which also benefits others on the route.

Like how some people have incorrectly assumed that because the CRL is in the city, it’s all about trains going around the city, rail to the airport is assumed just to be about people going to the airport but as I’ve discussed it’s really about serving the entire Southwest. Formally the project is called Southwest Multimodal Airport Rail Transit (SMART) but that’s a name that will never catch on. People understand the term Airport Rail and also like the CRL, some people probably won’t realise/understand just what it is trying to do till it actually opens.

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  1. Because those from the South and East will benefit from an Onehunga LRT to airport option…. Not.
    RTN from Manukau to Airport you say? Yeah is rail not RTN? If the rest of the network can’t handle an airport spur having more than 3TPH then have another 3TPH just doing a shuttle back and forth to Manukau station. Would then give you 10 minute frequencies.
    As for Mangere, have bus lanes through to Onehunga and Otahuhu.
    Just saved $600m boom.

    1. There is an urgent need for AT to lift the frequency and effectiveness of the 380 [bus lanes!] for all the reasons Matt outlines above, as well as making the existing bus/train option more viable.

      A slow, half hourly, stuck-in-traffic, link between the Airport and the frequent trains at Papatoetoe [every 5mins] is as pointless as it is for workers travelling east-west across the south.

      This is required at least for the time some RTN is delivered here, which clearly won’t be soon, and beyond then too.

      1. Patrick, I agree with this and mentioned it in a comment on the Rail to the Airport post last week. AT reneging on a frequent service for the 380 has done the south, east and those who wish to connect to rail a big disservice. It should go through Puhinui and not Papatoetoe station as it is an unbelievably slow loop around the Papatoetoe town centre at the moment. Bus lanes are a must. Increase the frequency and usage will skyrocket. Hopeless with 30 minute frequencies at the moment.

        1. Is there something in the Skybus contract that restricts AT’s ability to improve the 380 service? Given that Skybus has effectively priced itself out of reach for normal travellers (at $32 return) it would be great if the 380 was more effective.

          1. You would think they could do what happens with Christchurch bus services to the airport. you can get on / off just outside the boundary and pay normal stage fares or you can go into the airport and be dropped off / picked up at a higher fare. the increase covers the bus access into the airport shuttle bus area and is a brilliant way of incorporating the requirements of airport access tax.

          2. Actually Ben, with a Metrocard there is no price difference; it’s $2.55 between the airport and anywhere in Chch. I’ve always thought it should be a Zone 2 fare ($3.80), would still be much cheaper than cash or a taxi.

        2. I think Papatoetoe is the best destination for the 380 Airport to Rail bus not Puhinui. The loop around Papatoetoe is after the passengers have being dropped off at the rail station. My impression is the 380 route depends on passengers to and from Manukau Mall to make it viable. Actual running times from Papatoetoe or Puhinui to the airport or vice versa would be similar. Many passengers to and from Manukau have come off the intercity buses.

          1. If from Puhinui you could run a dedicated busway into the airport with a run time of 5minutes from the station.

          2. Not if you are going to the airport. You go round the loop after getting on the bus, including a series of frustrating right turns at intersections. I have had this take nearly 10 minutes by the time you pass within 50 metres of where you got on the bus when heading to the airport.

        3. Google maps has recently been updated to account for the Skybus shuttle system in the CBD, so the 380/train option now appears as a quicker option sometimes depending on the time you leave and destination…even without improving the 380 frequency.

      2. It’s forecast to happen with the new network – 15 minute freq. Surely AT can at least bump the rollout for this one route forward like they have in other places?

        1. Bryce, in the Southern consultation document it was a frequent service but when the final routes were released last September it had reverted to a 30 minute service renumbered as route 30. There was some comment about making it a frequent service when “demand warrants it”. As we know a 30 minute service linking from a 5 minute frequency train service is never going to generate the demand. This is the only airport service where standard fares using HOP are available right to the terminal. Should be frequent. It is better than Christchurch right now where there is a surcharge for the last 400m into the airport area. AT needs to give it a trial as a frequent service, promote it as linking to trains and also buses from East and South at the new Manukau bus interchange, introduce bus lanes and remove the stupid loop at Papatoetoe. It will also become popular if we ever get the promised (this month???) integrated fares.

          1. This is where AT’s reversion to old fashioned predict and provide thinking is so disappointing. You’re right; they’ve killed that potential growth by simply not offering it.

  2. That commute chart at the bottom to me demonstrates why both the Botany Line from the Airport to Botany via Manukau coupled with heavy rail from the Airport to Otahuhu connecting with the Southern and Eastern Lines need to start – well NOW!


    With the City Centre, West Auckland and South Auckland already served by heavy rail, heavy rail via Otahuhu fulfils 1 and 2 of those 3 markets while number 3 would be connected to the heavy rail system (meaning Mangere finally has a quality RTN link to a large part of Auckland.

    East Auckland in terms of markets 1 and 2 would be served by the Botany Line.

    As for that line that pops over the harbour given it is in the Hillsborough area not even LRT from Dominion Road to the Airport would serve them effectively so best bring them down by bus with bus lanes to the Mangere Station/Interchange at the Mangere Town Centre where they can finish the journey by rail.

    As for heavy rail via Otahuhu?

    It is limited stops but stops at major interchange points to allow transfers either South by rail or busses/ferries to other parts of the region. The Western Line would transfer either at K Road or Newmarket.

    So heavy rail to the airport via Otahuhu – the universal connection. Couple it with the Botany Line and you have a fully integrated solution.

    1. I would like to see someone from the Otahuhu Airport Rail Spruikers Society step up with some proper analysis of the proposition, because everything I’ve seen so far provides no information on exactly how they expect to get double track from the HR corridor through to the NIMT. The original concept assumed a wasteland where the Otahuhu workshops used to be, but since then and even since the latest Google Maps images were done, there has been many millions spent on warehousing and freight sidings. Anyone who thinks that Kiwirail or their customers are going to let AT drive a bulldozer through that lot are dreaming. Once you get to the NIMT you need to cross the freight arrival roads and interface seamlessly with a minimum 12tph at peak plus expresses and much of the space either side as empties and port shunts traverse the station limits. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I know how it can be done, but nobody so far has shown how or how much it would cost. I think it would be a big enough number to make any honest analyst think twice.

      1. AT and NZTA need to get off their backsides and do the analysis that the community and Southern Councillors + Local Boards are wanting with heavy rail via Otahuhu and the Botany Line to connect to the East. They work for us not us for them.

        None of those warehouses get touched as the heavy rail line would go through part of the under utilised steel plant that I believe is being decommissioned and moved to Glenbrook Steel Mill. The houses along the route will be affected yes but this is where Panuku and HNZ come in and do some much needed urban renewal.

        As for connecting back to the main line, well this is where flying junctions the Australians and USA do very well. Given the EMUs need to take the CRL gradients we should not have to worry too much about gradients to get the flying junctions nor a third main in the area.

        Cost? Still less than bulldozing a line of industry and commercial that would be needed for duplicating the Onehunga Line that is for certain.

        1. You’re just guessing. A quick count of improvement values on GIS says the bulldozer would have to take out nearly $9M of HNZ build value in Mangere, whilst the comparable tally at Onehunga is $1.6M. The steel plant land could yield part of the way (about 700m), but to get your flyover back down to ground level before Kaka St overbridge you’re going to have to go right through Mainstream, Toll and Coda’s shiny new warehouses to loop around over the straight leg, over the railweld yard. That isn’t even all the picture.

          1. I dont think you honestly have a solution and are just trolling because a viable alternative to LRT from Dominion Road to the Airport has come up using our existing infrastructure.
            Housing NZ would never lose $9m but in fact gain more from the urban renewal and value uplift triggered by the heavy rail line and Mangere Interchange

    2. I’m not sure why there is so much negativity about this route. I haven’t seen a good clear deconstruction of why it shouldn’t be the preferred route. It’s a cost effective, direct route to the airport. Even if you have to knock down a few new warehouses in the way, that’s still cheaper than any other proposal. I first proposed this to this site back in 2008 (see here http://krisprice.net/simauckland-rail-to-the-airport/), but it didn’t get much support then either. And to think in the 8 years since the route could have easily been protected and planned for.

      1. Thanks for the link there. I think the negativity comes from the fact that the route is cost effective and spurns urban renewal that would not otherwise see it.

        I am sensing patch protection rather than going maximum bang for buck heavy rail via Otahuhu to the Airport allows and to me as a citizen of Auckland that is very sad.

        1. +1. The urban renewal profits of the section between Otahuhu and Mangere alone would likely pay for a lot of that section.

          1. I theorise that 70% of the cost would be met through the urban renewal especially if Betterment taxes were used given a transit line lifts the value of the area (as well as making sure the Unitary Plan had the right zones there as well).

  3. According to the airport’s own projections by 2040 there will be 40 million passengers using the airport a year – more than 100,000 a day. I think it seems highly likely that by then we will have the LRT option proposed now and the need for a heavy rail option as well. I’ve seen this at other airports – a commuter line and an express line that goes into the city. But I agree with the point that the LRT should be seen as servicing the South West area of Auckland and currently it will stop at the airport but there is no reason why it cannot continue to Botany as has also been proposed or at least to Manukau.

    1. Well that is not inconceivable longer term, LRT via Dom/Onehunga + Manukau/Botany, and an elevated or tunnelled rail route via Otahuhu, but of course nothing will be done to protect both routes.

      And the Airport has successfully fought off doing any future proofing for Rail.

      1. But Manukau City Council, the ARC, ARTA, and now Auckland Transport and Auckland Council never sought to future proof in the first place, so there was nothing to “fight off” as such.

  4. Great to see this post defining the problems that need to be solved. I’m still not sure what the long term solution is though. AT have determined that light rail is the solution for the southwest, but it has to wait until isthmus LRT is finished, which is currently in funded.

    I’m not clear what the differences are in designating for heavy or light rail in the southwest. Is there a post on this? How much more expensive is it to designate for both, given a rail implementation is at least a decade away and there is a risk that isthmus light rail might never eventuate, or be too slow for passengers travelling the entire length of it?

    1. How feasible would it be to build LRT in the southwest first, given that has less rapid transit than Dominion Rd at present? Connect with heavy rail at Onehunga.

      1. Well the depot is planned for at the Dom end of the route, and the numbers are much lower down south. Te Irirangi is a wasteland with all its landuse facing away from it. A classic example of traffic engineering completely devoured form the area it is supposed to be serving!

        Dom/Queen needs to happen on its own terms, and be designed to serve that route and especially the communities and all it, ie as an intensification enabler. Then can it be part of an RTN to the Southwest? Probably, possibly?

        As an aside, I was talking to someone who has recently moved to Onehunga, and when he saw this debate he got quite excited about the possibility of jumping on a tram to go to the cheap eats on upper Dom. Not the City Centre, not the Airport, but using the new the intra city connection…. Whether he would use LR over the train to get to work, he couldn’t say without trying…

    2. Yes surely it is prudent to not rule Rail so early. But that ties in precisely with my point above about the Airport Co. They are the ones who have pushed for Rail to be axed, and axed now, so they can entirely discount the possibility in their plans, and they’ve done it very cleverly, all the while insisting in public that they’ll fit in with what ever is chosen…. This is their timeline, and their outcome.

      Like with the Port Co; it seems that ownership makes public bodies hostage to corporations paying dividends. They simply have to hint at risk too that dividend and they get their way.

      1. I think what we have found is that both majority listed and 100 % council owned companies are both a law unto themselves despite being at the opposite end of the spectrum!

  5. If it is built, with connections to manukau and botany, I still think that LRT via dominion road is the best option. Manukau itself is an important education, employment, entertainment, retail and soon to be transport hub. Auckland council has plans to develop that area and there are still opportunities for high rise development here.
    Onehunga is an area is expect to grow as well. So in my mind linking these two centres via airport plus the restaurant district in dominion road (there are not that many options in manukau for good Asian food).
    If there are good transfers for people from the onehunga train station and the currently being developed manukau bus station. I think it will be able to do the same job as building a rail link from otahuhu to airport but it also has two important advantages:

    1) manukau will be an important destination in itself.
    2) manukau bus station has been flagged for long distance buses. So u may pick up some people who use long distance buses to go to the international terminal.

    The only advantage of otahuhu (besides being cheaper) is that it may allow transfers from southern line trains serving passengers from homai, manurewa, etc. But by building a small bit of track at Wiri you could have a Manukau to papakura (or Puke) line. In my mind this will be a win win solution.
    I feel that choosing a cheaper otahuhu or puhinui option is short sighted and would be a disservice to people living in the south west, South and South East of Auckland. I may be bias (because I live in this area) but I feel this option is much more important than a second harbour crossing or north shore light rail (I support a north shore light rail -but think it is a lower priority).

    I think it will improve PT options for a wider range of people (more than those living mangere or along dominion road).

    LRT will also add a new RTN route which does not add to the congestition on the southern line. The southern line at otahuhu and puhinui already has services at 5 minute intervals. I feel that if any additional services are added to this line then it would be better to add either express services from papakura or additional trains from otahuhu to CBD (via panmure) to pick up communters transferring to CBD from either Otahuhu or Panmure bus interchanges. From a network growth point of view I feel that developing an airport service from otahuhu will limit the growth potential of AMETI.

    I do not think that heavy rail can deliver as many advantages for the same amount of money.

    1. From the concept design, the LRT will go through Manukau along Cavendish Drive, a few blocks away from the train station.and bus interchange. If it is built as per this design, then these travellers arriving from Intercity buses into Manukau have to haul themselves (and their luggage) across a few blocks to catch the LRT to the airport. Alternatively, they wait up to 30 minutes for a route 30 bus under the new network to take them to the airport via a lot of detours.

      We need much better integration than this including ensuring the design for LRT is that they go to/through the transport hubs, not miss them by a few blocks, and ensuring that important route where time is essential e.g. Airport connections are true frequent routes.

  6. In any case, surely a rapid transit route east of the airport will be required at some point in the future, so now is the time to designate it before it gets too hard. Have we learnt nothing from all this?

  7. The empty land the Puhinui route passes through is not a disadvantage, it is an advantage. You will never get a new heavy rail corridor through developed land now. That empty space would form an idea catchment for a rail route.

    But instead AT are diverting attention from the issue by claiming trams along Dominion Road will do the job instead. FFS that is exactly what the ARC claimed for 10 years as an excuse not to upgrade passenger services on the existing rail lines. We have heard this shit before.

    1. Except AT aren’t claiming trams will do it, nor are they claiming that they’ll replace the heavy rail that AT are investing billions in.

      Really all AT are claiming is that for better or worse, Mangere heavy rail costs a billion bucks more than doing it with light rail, for more or less the same outcome, so they’re focusing on light rail. I can’t see why everyone thinks that is bad or sneaky.

      For those proposing a heavy rail corridor at Puhinui, I have a few questions:

      -Does anyone think the airport can sustain a whole rail line just for itself? I note that the alignments via Onehunga add at least five new or upgraded stations, in addition the the airport terminus.

      -Where does the service pattern run? What frequency? Assuming we need six trains an hour minimum, do those overlap the congested section of network from Puhimui north and end up in the city? So do we take slots away from Manukau and Southern Line services to run that one station branch? Are we occupying slots in the CRL that can’t be used elsewhere. Do we really want a network that runs three main lines and two branch lines on two tracks?

      -What can rail to Puhinui do that the bus can’t? Going north there isn’t enough room through the isthmus and city for another busload of buses which is why they are looking at rapid transit, going to the east there is no such problem. 6km of buslanes on a highway would fix it just fine.

      1. “Going north there isn’t enough room through the isthmus and city for another busload of buses which is why they are looking at rapid transit,”

        On Symonds St maybe but there is no reason to run this service (the south western service) all the way to the CBD, just have it connect to whatever service you are running into town down Dom Road and via Onehunga.

        1. But Dom Road is full also. They need to do something to relieve Dom Rd itself, and likewise they would need to add even more to Dom Rd (or wherever it goes) to take the people from Mangere also.

          The point isn’t just drawing another route on the map, its actually to build another rapid transit line with plenty of new capacity.

          1. Ok even if we accept Dom Road is capacity constrained for the sake of argument, that doesnt mean the Airport to Mt Roskill route is. It can be a busway and thereby be decoupled from the potentially very long process of getting LRT onto Dom Road.

          2. Matthew, where do you envisage the city bound buses (or their passengers) going once they get to the Mt Roskill area, given the previously mentioned comments about bus constraints along these routes?

          3. They will transfer. In the short term Dom Rd is not currently at capacity. They can also/alternatively transfer at Onehunga / Manukau Road (and Puhinui if you run the busway out to Puhinui). The increased patronage will bring forward requirements for LRT if it is required (i.e. it will bring forward the date at which capacity constraint bite, say from 2040 back to 2030), but then is not dependent on it happening. And then obviously once LRT happens, they can transfer to LRT. So the benefits are – you can do it before LRT and once LRT happens you dont have to spend as much money as light rail would cost to get it to the Airport.

          4. I’m not sure a busway that provides a connection with a standard suburban bus route to get towards the city centre is the best use of our rapid transit spend, given I assume it would still be reasonably expensive. Anyway if a full bus arrives at Mt Roskill from the airport, then why would we bother with a transfer onto buses, shouldn’t the full bus continue into the city?

          5. If its full. But if it is the end of the line lots of people may have gotten off at Onehunga/Mt Eden Road/Manukau Road so it may not be the case.

            There is also no reason why we have to for LRT to make Dom Road RTN (depending on your definition of RTN, I am assuming median running PT is now defined as RTN). There is no reason why buses along Dom Road should be significantly slower than a future LRT line might be, and that can be achieved for “cents in the dollar”.

            As far as the best use of our RTN send is concerned, we should have a decent RTN corridor to the airport, as well as along all our major arterials, and we should do it now. This could be done with buses and ideally would be done by taking space from the existing road network, but with an offline solution if absolutely necessary. i.e It can and should be done as quickly and as cost effectively as possible. Higher capacity, more expensive vehicles can then be added where required. In terms of priority – hell we still have parts of our most highly used bus corridors that dont even have a flipping bus lane, so yes there are other places we should start, but if we focus on cost effectiveness we will be able to get a lot done and a south western RTN should not be far down the list.

          6. “and that can be achieved for “cents in the dollar”.”

            No, it can’t. It is not possible to implement signal pre-emption, nor fit a median bus corridor on Dominion Road to service the current, or any increased demand.

          7. “No, it can’t. It is not possible to implement signal pre-emption, nor fit a median bus corridor on Dominion Road to service the current, or any increased demand”

            What? Lets put signal preemption aside for a second. A median bus corridor cant service the current or any increase in demand? Discontinuous shoulder bus lanes service current demand with medium sized buses. Why on earth would a better corridor and bigger buses not be able to service current demand? The peak pax/hr along Dom Rd are less than 1500. Less than half of what a single lane each way median corridor can carry (less than a quarter depending on which study you believe).

            As for signal pre-emption. Two points:

            A) You could still have some signal preemption for buses even if it was limited to a priority signal change of x seconds per cycle or whatever. This would mean that the first bus to arrive in a few minutes would get preemption but not the third bus in a minute. This would help with bunching.

            B) Signal preemption for every LRT vehile is only (allegedly) possible because of the lower frequency. So think about it – what is the benefit to the traveller? They wait longer at a stop (lower frequency) and get on a vehicle with more signal priority, or they wait less at a stop and get on a vehicle with less priority. Is there any net benefit? I dont think there is.

            But regardless of signal priority (which I didnt bring up) the initial point about median PT still stands.

          8. That is a cool site. I havent played with it before. What came up was a cross section with 3.3m for LRT. Yes 3.3m is plenty wide enough for buses.

            3m is about the min for buses and LRT. The streetmix software seems to back this up with its warnings.

          9. 3.3m is not adequate for a bus lane in this context. 3m is alright if you have a kerb on the left and traffic lane on the right and are happy for your bus to travel slowly. If you want a bus to do 50km/h then you need to provide clearance to oncoming buses (wider lanes) clearance to vehicles (separation barrier as you can’t just have a drop off like you can with light rail = buffer width). Basically this all stems from the fact that LRT cannot move laterally. So you don’t need any of the features we usually use.

            See if you can find a median bus corridor anywhere in the world that achieves 50 km/h with a cross section less than 8m.

            https://www.onlinepublications.austroads.com.au/items/AGRD03-10 page 70

          10. Its a 50kph road. 3m road lanes are not uncommon. Certainly 3.3m is a reasonable size. Why do you think Austroads is the be all and end all? How many median busways are there in Australia?

            You might have to update your priors now.

          11. Some more references of interest:


            The above document is about guided buses but has this to say about a narrow busway in a normal 50km/h and 70km/h urban route (emphasis mine):

            “The electronic guidance system was chosen in order to provide precision docking at
            stations and enhance ride comfort between stations. It also enabled a modest reduction in
            lane widths on the busway, from the normal 7.2 m width for a pair of bus lanes to 6.6 m
            here (accommodating a bus that is 2.55 m wide). However, that busway is currently
            being used by conventional buses without lateral guidance providing normal public
            service, so clearly they can also be driven within that width of lane

            Having noted the above, optical guidance systems for buses are an interesting topic certainly appear to hold promise for particularly constrained corridors.

      2. They are not focusing on light rail. They are closing the door on rail to the airport. Rather than slamming it shut they are closing it quietly hoping people don’t notice. There isn’t any light rail on Dominion Road- that is just pie in the sky people have talked up for 25 years. It really is brilliant spin to argue that a system we will probably never have can replace a system they don’t want to build. Non-existent heavy rail can be replaced by non-existent light rail.

      3. 1) A whole line by itself? It is a spur off the Southern and would likely have usage far in excess of what Onehunga spur currently has. Going forward as airport numbers boom and the roads become even more congested then the demand for rail will grow rapidly.
        2) Service pattern… have 3TPH Airport-CBD 6-car EMU, also have a 3-car EMU (at least initially) doing a shuttle run back and forth between Airport and Manukau with a stop at Puhinui for people to transfer. This wouldn’t use up network capacity.
        For the CBD trains either up service numbers overall or take one from each of Southern and Manukau (since they will serving most of the same route anyway so not really taking slots).
        3) Rail provides a seamless journey from most of the rail network and maximum 1 change for the entire rail network (and 1 change for a lot of the bus network too eg NEX). Rail is much more pleasant than a bus and is more suited to passengers with luggage than buses. Rail would be faster than buses (which get stuck in traffic and have intersections etc). HR spur would also offer the potential for rail freight to the airport (even if not used initially). The number 1 complaint people have about Melbourne airport is lack of rail to the airport (they have skybus and that doesn’t satisfy a lot of people). Auckland is going to be a city of 2 million + very soon. Time to stop thinking short-term/piecemeal/small town thinking and put in the infrastructure that is going to cope and last long term.

        1. “Rail is much more pleasant than a bus and is more suited to passengers with luggage than buses. Rail would be faster than buses (which get stuck in traffic and have intersections etc)”

          Low floor buses, articulated if necessary with double doors and plenty of standing room. Decent corridor and it will be a 5 minute journey. Cross on your first point.

          As for traffic and intersections that depends on the corridor not the vehicle! Cross on your second point.

          Rail freight to the airport? Is that even a thing?

          1. Low floor buses are still not level like a train platform. Which means that elderly etc can’t get their bags on. Buses suffer from much more lateral movement as well as jerky operation than trains which are smoother so are less suited to luggage and are less pleasant overall. People want to sit not stand. Unless you want to build a whole new bus corridor which is expensive then yeah buses are going to be inferior in terms of trip duration consistency as well as adding to traffic. If you’re going to build a bus corridor then not much difference to building a rail corridor with all the added benefits of nicer service, better reliability, greater capacity and future-proofed.

            Rail freight is a thing as is done around the world to various airports. You just never know who might want to use that down the road so why not allow for it.

          2. Well I think there will be a large difference between a bus and rail corridor given the requirem not for grade separation and undergrounding at the station. You can get buses with a to ramps or you can get level boarding if you want so no issue there. It’s a 5 minute trip so sitting will be unneeded for most people.

          3. Ray Emery Drive to 216 Puhinui Rd is 7.3km and takes 10 minutes with no traffic not 5. Typical times are more like 13 minutes. Buses of course are even slower than cars so even with a busway 9 minutes is about as good as you will get.
            9 minutes plus the 10 minutes waiting for the bus + the hour walking through customs, baggage claim, MAF means that yeah for some people that is a long time standing. They aren’t guaranteed to get a seat once they get to Puhinui either (plus however long they have to wait there) so on a journey from aircraft door – Britomart they will be having to spend at least 84 minutes standing (and at least 120 minutes if the train to Britomart is full). Not ideal with luggage!

          4. Both buses and cars can go at the speed limit. 60kph average will get you there in 7min. So this extra 7min of standing is unacceptable compared with the other hour and therefore Heavy Rail!? Come on.

          5. Exactly Grant, vehicle speed characteristics are not a relevant factor.

            Bruce, I suggest you reflect on the term “salience”. One particular trip type is very salient to you, probably because you have done it yourself and it is a stressful arousing experience.

      4. @ Nick R: “What can rail to Puhinui do that the bus can’t?”

        Answer – avoid a transfer for CBD-bound passengers with piles of luggage.
        Having experienced numerous airports overseas, I have to say that those which force a bus/rail transfer between terminal and town are a pain.

        There is no beating an airport which is connected seamlessly into its city’s main urban rail system.
        In truly world-class situations the airport rail-connection offers inter-city services to other parts of the country also (e.g. Geneva).

        As usual New Zealand lags by a country mile. It is time we broke out of the mindset that NZ can somehow afford the best motorways, but must scrimp and save on public transport.

        1. So those going to/from destinations on the HR line that happens to run to the airport dont have to transfer. What about everyone else? A PT network is built on the concept of transfers. They should be made as easy as possible but moving heaven and earth so a minority of users can avoid any transfers is not sensible.

          You last comment sounds like a l’Oreal ad “Because you’re worth it”. The reality is we are budget constrained and delivering projects with the highest BCRs is best for everyone.

          1. Of course transfers are part-and-parcel of a good PT network, but you don’t impose transfers on arterial or majority flows if you can possibly avoid it. Other cities realise this and so connect their airports directly to their RTN. For airport-connections that are well-supported, the patronage flows are major, not ‘minority’.

            We are only budget-constrained in our PT because we have a govt administration that is happy to throw largesse at shaving a few minutes off motorists’ journey times but do nothing comparable for PT users. This needs to change and will change.

            Note: Brisbane built a 13Km, privately-owned rail link to its airport from a convenient point on the existing network, and crucially, it operates seamlessly as part of the Citytrain system. Although it got off to a poor financial start when it opened in 2001, passenger numbers have multiplied and now it returns a healthy dividend to its shareholders. As a recent one-time user I consider that it puts Melbourne and Auckland to shame!

          2. “Other cities realise this and so connect their airports directly to their RTN.”

            I am suggesting RTN, just not an RTN line that runs to the CBD.

            Transfers are a time and convenience cost to passengers and so, ceretis paribus, should be avoided, but not at any cost. A transfer is something that can be considered in any cost benefit analysis. And of course all transfers are not created equal, you can design the network and facilities to minimise the time and convenience penalty.

            I am not saying dont do rail, but if there is a large cost for rail, a bus based solution may be favourable under the objective light of a CBA, and that is all there is to it. Trade offs exist whether we like it or not! There is always an opportunity cost – money can buy many peanuts/PT services!

          3. Matthew Dave is surely right in that Auckland Airport AND SURROUNDS, are growing so fast that they do deserve a non-transfer RTN to the the Centre through other parts of the city. These will be connected by transfer but you don’t, as Dave says, make the major route a transfer only one.

          4. Well lets let the numbers speak. Hopefully they will be looking at this sub option in their proposed study.

          5. “delivering projects with the highest BCRs is best for everyone” – agreed

            But then why are we still building motorways like the Holiday Highway and the East-West Link with such low BCRs? One rule for PT and another for roads as per usual.

        2. Ok david, but then you’re planning to build and operate a rail line just to serve one station at the airport, and focusing only on those people who travel to the airport to catch a plane, and of those, the ones that have large amounts of bulky luggage. It’s not a big market to sustain a rail line.

          1. Sorry Dave but Nick is surely right here; there is no plausible running pattern via Puhinui, except, longer term, with south facing links only and all the way to Hamilton, and the whole new city in-between…

            Via Onehunga there is, and the service of the Mangere area, via Otahuhu there is too if it replaces the current O-Line services, services which could be LR Penrose- Mt Roskill, or better Still Mt Albert/Pt Chevalier [Unitec]

          2. @ Patrick

            Eh? Why is there no plausible running-pattern via Puhinui to the CBD? Not quite sure where you’re coming from here.
            If you mean there are currently no more available train-paths from Puhinui northwards, then yes, at the moment that is true. However once we have the 3rd main in place then that should free up room. Westfield Junction needs some sort of grade-separation, as will Quay Park Junction, but these items are chicken-feed compared to what gets spent on roading, and would give potentially much greater throughput.

            As for servicing the Mangere, this is really a separate issue. Agree that a HR extension of the Onehunga Line to the airport could usefully fulfill both functions but it seems this option has been ruled out. If it can be ruled back in then great. Let’s have the HR airport loop connecting Mangere, Airport, Manukau, Botany and Pakuranga also. We could call it the E-W Link!

          3. Dave B, that line runs right through Brisbane and all the way to the Gold Coast, it’s an inter urban line connecting a tourist resort city to the international airport.

            Our equivalent would be a train from Mt Maunganui to Auckland International (not a bad idea!), I’m quite keen on the idea of an improved shuttle from Papatoetoe or Puhinui in addition to a line to the north, just not convinced heavy rail is the way to achieve that.

          4. In most cities of Auckland’s size, and now also rail traffic volumes, there would be 4 tracks. Here, we are having trouble funding even a small length of triple track. This is I think the major stumbling block to any further development of the heavy rail network post CRL. To install 4 tracks from Pukekohe or Papakura through to the city via the Eastern Corridor is a billion dollar plus enterprise. A very hard thing to sell without there being obvious gains for the voting public.

            However, if one was to look at a little flexibility on where those extra two tracks go, then there might be enough value gain to justify the cost:
            Britomart – Eastern Line – Westfield – Otahuhu – Mangere – Airport Oaks – Airport – Puhinui – Pukekohe – Tron – Mt Maunganui naturally all electrified at 25kV and with 120+ kmph operating speeds. The base design of the CAF trains is more than capable of these higher speeds. A longer distance version might be ideal for this sort of role. Indeed, as the core network becomes increasingly “S-Bahn” in nature, with fewer seats and more, and faster opening doors being needed, it might be that at least some of the CAF fleet get re-purposed to do longer distance work. Making it all work however, requires a very rail focussed regional development and housing programme in the Waikato.

          5. Patrick: re replacing the Onehunga line with LRT is an interesting idea so then saving on double tracking and grade seperating upgrades etc and creating a valid airport to west via Otahuhu running pattern. Could add a stop or two for the LRT, one been closer to Mt Smart stadium. O line is always sacrificed when faults occur. Longer cross town LRT could make good sense, would be good from south to isthmus LRT connections. Even with LRT done to airport instead is perhaps still better.

  8. Comparing the Onehunga Line as a method of serving the Mangere/airport region vs LRT down Dom Rd means that Eastern Line patronage potential is left off the analysis. This is what makes the Otahuhu based line a better proposal to at least do some comparative data against.

  9. We are totally worth it! Buses have a great role to play in the larger network (i should know, i catch one twice a day)..,but as the sole integrated airport transit solution, they are a wank.

  10. Can we just designate the god damned corridor already!!!!! How long can it possibly take to realise that all of theses options are using basically the same route from Onehunga to the airport. Just designate it and start asking government for funding already!

    1. That would be too sensible and logical and not the kiwi way.

      So off they go and fiddle and muddle and befuddle for a few more decades.

  11. Surely it is not a case of either a northern connection (via Onehunga & Mangere) OR an eastern connection (via Puhinui.) I remember a meeting CBT had with Len Brown in about 2005 (during his period in the wilderness) when he described his vision of a grand-circle route serving much of South Auckland (the old Manukau City) – imagine trains travelling in both directions around a loop from Onehunga to the Airport and then from the Airport to Wiri then East Tamaki and Botany looping back to the isthmus at Panmure. But whatever technology we employ and whatever the time-line the longer we delay route protection the harder and more expensive it will get. Epic fail AT.

    1. Yes, that route in one form or another has been on the plans for many many decades (back to when nearly the whole area was pasture) – it would have been very easy to put in a corridor designation, and almost costless. Epic fail NZG-MOW, ARA, ARC, ARTA, AC, AT.

      Patrick’s idea for a route from Otahuhu to the Airport is (or was), as I understand it, entirely on government-owned pieces and strips of land (unless the government was stupid enough to sell individual lots of the S.E. Motorway reservation, but even then, the lots can be repurchased and the houses relocated). It’s ready-made, but even that seems to be too difficult.

      Will AC/AT ever designate PT routes in the greenfields growth areas while they’re still green fields, or will they wait until they have to buy houses and apartment blocks to tear down? That’s a lot more difficult, and a lot more costly. Might as well tunnel by that stage.

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