Greetings from France! Before getting into the detail, I thought I’d lull you into a sense of calm by sharing a photo from one of the little villages (Saint Beat) we recently visited. P.s. The Pyrenees are stunning.

I started writing this post while sitting on the TGV from Toulouse to Paris, which takes circa 4.5 hours via a new section of track between Bordeaux and Paris that opened approximately 2 months ago.

My partner and I were actually swooshing our way to Paris so as to see Bon Iver in concert, so I was feeling relatively in love with life. Over the last few years — especially when travelling by train — I’ve often pondered long-term heavy rail networks in Auckland, with a particular interest in how the Southern line may need to evolve into the future. My interest in this area partly reflects the fact that I grew up in Waiuku, and also that the south is the most complicated part of our rail network with the most potential for growth (NB: This is an issue to which I return below).

The complexity of the Southern line reflects at least four factors: First, the Southern line is already relatively long, and it has the potential to become longer. Second, and unlike the Western line, demand at stations on the Southern Line are relatively imbalanced: There are a large number of low-demand stations, and only a few high-demand stations. Third, in the last decade, two branch lines have been added to the Southern Line, namely the Onehunga and Manukau branches, creating both challlenges and opportunities for heavy rail operations. Finally, the Southern line experiences the most passenger-freight conflicts, undermining reliability.

Greater Auckland has considered some of these issues in the past. In the CFN2, for example, we proposed pairing the Southern line with the Eastern line and running services express between Puhinui and Newmarket. The CFN2 also pairs the Western line with the Onehunga line, and upgrades the latter to frequent status — providing frequent service to those stations that are now skipped by the Southern line itself. The CFN2 operating pattern is shown below.

There is much to like about this network in general and the heavy rail operating pattern in particular. The latter is exceedingly simple, consisting of only two lines that can — by implication — run at higher frequencies. Moreover, by skipping 5 stations (Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Penrose, Greenlane, and Remuera) on ye olde Southern line, approximately 5 minutes is saved on trips between the City Centre and stations south of Puhinui, such as Pukekohe and Papakura (NB: Note that the first two stations are still served by the Eastern tail of the red line, whereas the other three are served by the Onehunga line).

One potential downside of this operating pattern, however, is that pairing the Southern and Eastern lines creates a relatively long line that is more sensitive to issues with reliability. Such a pairing is also relatively indirect, and as such less useful than, say, pairing the Southern with a Northern line. Indeed, the CFN2 operating pattern is not particularly well-suited to expansions in the heavy rail network, especially to the north but also the south. Given the uncertainty about Auckland’s future growth, I think we should keep thinking about potentially extending heavy rail in both directions.

North of the city, heavy rail extensions could complement the two LRT lines shown in the CFN2, especially for longer journeys to places like Albany, Silverdale/Orewa, Warkworth, and (in the long, long run) Whangarei. Expanding heavy rail to the north may also free-up capacity in the CRL. If we were to build a North Shore line then the heavy rail operating pattern shown in the CFN2 would need to be re-visited. Instead, I’d expect to see a north-south pattern catering for cross-city journeys, for example from the North Shore to Newmarket. Such movements are not catered for by the LRT lines.

Potential heavy rail extensions to the south are also gaining increased attention. All political parties now accept the merits of extending electrification to Pukekohe, primarily to service the residential and employment growth that is expected down that way. In doing so, this will open up the potential for new stations between Papakura and Pukekohe, such as Drury and Paerata, and possibly beyond. Thinking further ahead, Greater Auckland’s recent work developing concepts for Regional Rapid Rail (RRR) garnered considerable attention and support. The third stage of the proposed RRR network is illustrated below.

While I like the RRR concept in general, I am sceptical of one aspect in particular: The proposal to stop RRR servicess at smaller stations on the fringe of major urban centres, such as Tuakau, Pokeno, Te Rapa, and Morrinsville. Stopping at the five stations between Hamilton and Auckland, for example, adds ~10 minutes to journeys between those points (NB: Remembering that RRR services will have longer dwell-times than Metro services). I’d argue 10 minutes is a relatively large delay in the context of a 1-2 hour journey, given that the vast majority of people will be travelling between HAM and AKL, not intermediate stations. The time savings from not serving smaller stations will be even greater if the Bombay tunnel is not forthcoming.

That’s not to say that I disagree with the RRR’s goal of supporting regional growth more broadly, including places like Pokeno and Te Rapa. I think regional growth is an important goal, albeit one that is perhaps not best achieved via RRR. Are there other options for serving these locations that would leave RRR services free to do what they do best: That is, to provide a high-speed connection between major urban centres? I think so. In general, my thinking is that small to medium-sized locations on the fringe of major urban centres would better served by a more frequent — albeit slightly slower — public transport connection to surrounding urban centres, from where people can connect to Metro and RRR services for travel further afield.

In this post, I present a high-level option that seeks to integrate the operating patterns in CFN2 and RRR and — in the process — provides an operating pattern that is readily adapted to potential heavy rail extensions to Auckland’s north and south. The general characteristics of this option could work as follows:

  • Regional Rapid Rail — runs express between major urban centres, such as Auckland, Hamilton, and eventually Tauranga, with very few stops in between. Morrinsville and Huntly stand out as prime candidates. In doing so, the RRR service can run as fast and as frequently as possible, and provide a viable alternative to driving and flying for the large number of journeys between these major urban centres.
  • Metro Services — are extended south from Auckland, eventually to Hamilton. Upon reaching Hamilton the services may split to serve surrounding destinations like Te Kuiti, Rotorua, and Cambridge, but at a higher frequency — and potentially with additional stops — than originally proposed in RRR. This connects regional locations to each other and the RRR, while allowing the latter to focus on its bread and butter. I talk as if these regional Metro services are operated using rail, but they could well be provided by buses, at least initially until rail infrastructure upgrades were forthcoming.

In terms of how we might configure Metro rail services south of Auckland, one idea would be to slightly modify the CFN2 operating pattern as shown below.

In this alternative option I have:

  • Eastern line — running basically the same as today.
  • Onehunga line — running all-stop between Onehunga and Britomart and through to Western line, as per CFN2 proposal.
  • Southern line — running express all-day from Pukekohe, stopping as per CFN2. In the event HR is extended north of Auckland, however, Southern line services are extended so as to provide a rapid cross-town heavy rail service rather than paired with the Eastern line.
  • Southern connector — runs between major metro stops south of Auckland, such as Puhinui, Papakura, and Pukekohe and all-stop to new rural stations further south, such as Drury, Paerata, Tuakau, Pokeno, and Te Kauwhata. If there is demand to extend the service all the way to Hamilton, then the line could at that point split to service Te Kuiti, Cambridge, and Rotorua. In doing so, the line would connnect them to their closest urban centres as well as the rapid Regional services available therefrom. I’ve shown the service stopping at Puhinui, from which people can connect to the airport. It is also likely to be relatively efficient, given its proximity to the depot.

Important note: The above operating pattern would also need to be supported by complementary changes to bus networks, which are not shown here.

What I have called the “Southern connector” represents the main point of difference between this option and what is proposed in CFN2 and RRR. Thanks to track upgrades associated with RRR, I expect such a Southern connector could operate at relatively high speeds. The Southern Connector is really an intermediary service that seeks to isolate the Regional and Metro networks. I think this delivers three main benefits:

  1. First, RRR services between AKL / HAM / TGN are able to run as fast and as frequently as possible, stopping only at major stations.
  2. Second, Southern line services are able to run express (Paris “RER” style) all-day between Pukekohe / Papakura and destinations to the north. Such an arrangement might complement the LRT services proposed in the CFN2, which — despite their advantages — still do not provide a direct nor fast connection between the northern and eastern parts of the North Shore and destinations to the south, such as Newmarket.
  3. Third, smaller suburban and regional destinations south of Auckland are able to be added into the rail network without compromising the speed and reliability of core RRR or Metro services. By connecting to Puhinui, people using the service from these locations would then be only one transfer removed from Auckland Airport, as noted in Patrick’s post from a couple of months ago.

The last point is not something to be sniffed at. As Auckland and Hamilton develop, there is likely to be increased demand for sub-regional travel from suburban and rural locations, especially to and from destinations south of Auckland, such as Auckland Airport. And with that demand will come increased political pressure to add new stations to the network, as we’ve already seen in Auckland. By developing a service like the Southern connector, we don’t have to be quite so brutal with regards to the criteria we use to establish new stations.

What are the downsides of this operating pattern? Well, it does rely on some infrastructure upgrades, particularly the third/fourth main and electrification to allow for express services to skip stops and overtake other services, although I note this will be necessary anyway especially if the CFN2 and RRR proposals get off the ground. Some additional rolling stock may be required, because we are effectively running an additional line, although this may be offset by efficiencies elsewhere, such as those gained from pairing the Southern line with the (new) Northern line, which would (in the case of the CFN2) require an additional stand alone line.

Finally, does the Southern connector not duplicate the Southern line? To some degree yes, as can be seen by the overlap in the Puhinui to Pukekohe segment. I’d counter this by noting that this part of the Auckland and Waikato regions lies naturally in the commuting zone for both cities. As such, it seems reasonable to provide service in both directions. One possible variant on this network, albeit one that would involve more duplication, would extend the Southern line further south to Pokeno and provide P&R so as to intercept car trips on SH1 and SH2. I’m open to this proposal, and others.

In conclusion, the purpose of this post is to highlight options for heavy rail operating patterns identified in Greater Auckland’s CFN2 and RRR proposals. Whether this is an improvement on those previous proposals is a moot point, and depends largely on how much growth we expect to occur in Auckland and Hamilton and, on a related point, the degree to which we want to extend the heavy rail network. If we expect considerable growth, and expansions in the heavy rail network, then I think we will need to think about developing a service, such as the Southern Connector, which sits between the Metro and Regional services planned in the CFN2 and RRR proposals. Interested to hear what y’all think; take care out there care bears.

Share this

101 comments

    1. Stu, you’ve left a little off the CFN comparison. Relative to today the CFN southern line also skips Penrose, Te Mahia and Westfield. So it only stops five times between Papakura and Newmarket, versus twelve intermediate stops currently.

      The saving would be more like ten minutes, perhaps a touch more.

      Also on the RRR, the stage 3 travel time from Hamilton to Auckland is 70 minutes with all stops. I don’t think that cutting out all the stops to take that down to 60 minutes would have any major effect on demand between Hamilton and Auckland, as 70 minutes is already far superior to any other transport option.

      It would however savage the demand from the five towns you skipped, instead of having trips of 45 minutes or so to Auckland you’d put them on to the a new super long suruban southern line running all stops up to a transfer at puhinui?

      Also I totally disagree with your suggestion that “the vast majority of people will be travelling between HAM and AKL, not intermediate stations”. I’d expect the intermediate stations would be the major patronage drivers as they are the ones that would develop as dormitory suburbs for the main centres. Across those five towns you could have tens of thousands of people commuting twice a day, five days a week at least.

      1. Disagree Nic. 10 mins on a 70 min journey is huge. And savage demand? Bit OTT there. Depends on how frequently the replacement service runs; could well end up generating more patronage than RRR, especially that most travel demands from small to medium sized stations is relatively local.

        1. If you think ten minutes on 70 minutes is a huge saving, then you can’t argue that going from 45 minutes to 100 minutes isn’t a savaging!

    2. Who knows. It will depend if National keeps its promise if they become the government. The Greens and Labour will see it happen if they are the government.

      1. If you look at Pokeno today and the plans for Te Kauwhata, we’ll get those commuters regardless. The question is whether they commute by fast train or whether they commute by driving onto the southern motorway rolling carpark…

      2. The Greens won’t get a look in will they? It will either be National/NZ First or Labour/NZ First with the Greens in exile on the left the way Aunty Helen did it.

        1. It is quite lucky that Labour adopted both CFN2 and RRR as policies this election. And if we end up with a National government, we should still get the 3rd main plus maybe something for the NAL.

          1. The Greens would have to get something as you say to support confidence and supply, but it wouldn’t have to be much as they have no real negotiating power. If they don’t support Labour/NZ First then they basically put National in government.

          2. Yes I think last time Labour promised them subsidies for solar hot water heaters. The Greens wrote so many rules around them that the result was fewer installations than before. The problem the Greens have is they have painted themselves into a corner. They will support supply and confidence just to keep their own jobs as MPs.

  1. Thanks Stu. I can see some of the rationale for the proposals to the south. However, you mention that heavy rail extension to the north would somehow complement the two LRT lines proposed to cross to the Shore in CFN2, but don’t explain how this would work. If LRT is being built on the busway, where would a new heavy rail line north be built? This would be new motorway level eyewatering expense to create.

    1. I think the most likely options are that it either (1) runs in place of LRT on the busway or (2) runs underground for much of the journey.

      If we opted for (1), then the LRT line to the Airport via Dom would have to be paired with the Takapuna LRT line, and the Northwestern LRT would run as a solo line, or potentially taken through to destinations to the east. Basically, some not insignificant changes, and costs.

      But to place these costs in perspective, the RRR proposed a tunnel under the Bombays :). But you highlight a good point that I perhaps could have emphasised more in this post: This is a scenario that I would expect to emerge only if Auckland’s and New Zealand’s growth was much faster than envisaged.

      1. I think that, if you’re going to go heavy rail option, put it underground and weave it through the areas that will get density rather than just alongside the motorway. Obviously this can come later as the price will be quite high and thus needs a higher population count and density to justify it.

  2. Writing this on a southern train to Middlemore having come on a bus from Waiuku. I think transferring at Puhunui would not be to much trouble as long as good frequency on Southern and Eastern (as there is now at peak). If early coming home I often use Eastern between Middlemore and puhinui and then transfer so there are seats on the Southern when I get on

  3. Stu, useful to continue this conversation. Couple of thoughts: 1) It is becoming increasingly clear that Puhinui will become the key interchange on the Southern, so will need to be planned to handle that. Four+ tracks, more platforms, and efficient and attractive Interchange. 2) If decoupling the Southern and the Eastern, to send the Southern north, then shouldn’t the Eastern through-route with the Western? Then we get an ideal cross shaped pattern through the city centre. Must better balance between those lines than with the Onehunga.

    1. hey Patrick — I completely agree.

      Puhinui is an ideal location to be the centre of the rapid transit network serving southern and eastern parts of Auckland. Is there any potential for intensification or is it in the flight path for Auckland Airport? If not the I’d suggest expanding the Manukau metro centre zoning all the way to Puhinui, creating a southern axis.

      And yes, pairing the Western and Eastern lines would provide a much better pairing than Western and Onehunga, although it would then miss Newmarket.

      1. I don’t think the Newmarket issue would be a major problem. Western and Eastern Line passengers could just change to the Southern Line at Aotea. Interestingly this pairing eliminates any of the major lines going around the Spark Arena curve, which is a big plus. It also means that no lines (with the possible exception of the Onehunga Line) would stop at Parnell Station.

        This ‘cross’ arrangement would raise some interesting questions as to the best location to terminate the RRR services, once Britomart reaches capacity. A Quay Park station would have just as many commuter trains running through it as Britomart, so it would be a viable option. However the best location for the RRR to terminate would be at Aotea. I know this is very ambitious, but it would be possible to quad-track the Northern Line between Aotea and Parnell, and then a dedicated RRR station could be constructed at Aotea, adjacent to the commuter station.

      2. Most of the area around Puhinui is overlayed with the high and moderate aircraft noise = not much intensification possibilities currently.

          1. Probably just making it clear that you can’t complain, because you knew? You wouldn’t want to work mainly outside in those areas, would you?

  4. If you were going to run like this, surely you would have the southern line run to Pokeno, then have a northern Waikato line Pokeno to Hamilton (and beyond), and stop the Inter city line at Britomart, Puhinui, Pokeno, Huntly, and Hamilton Central?

    Then Pokeno and Puhinui become the major interchanges. Pokeno makes sense as the only town truly in the Waikato and Auckland and with good links east to the Hauraki plains and the Coromandel. Puhinui makes sense as the link to all of South Auckland, including the airport.

      1. Forgot to also say that I really enjoyed your article 🙂

        A very different way of geographically thinking about the Upper North Island compared to the RRR proposal.

        1. Thanks, and glad you enjoyed it. I think the main questions to ask about RRR are: do all those smaller stations need a less frequent high speed connection to Auckland, or would they be better off with a more frequent connection to more local destinations? I think the latter is preferred, especially when you consider the benefits to the main RRR service.

  5. Regarding Te Rapa, it’s worth noting that Wairarapa trains have three stops within Masterton – Solway, Renall Street and Masterton. I think it is quite reasonable to have two stops in urban Hamilton.

    I think it will be a while before there are the numbers for express and all stops services between Hamilton and Auckland. If we get to that stage then I think it would make most sense to still have all services running to Britomart, just having two per hour that run express and two per hour that are all stops.

    1. No I disagree.

      I’d argue RRR is a completely different kettle of fish to what you find on the Wairapa line. We’re talking about major track upgrades and brand new expensive rolling stock that operates at 160 km/hr.

      To understand the RRR concept I think you really need to look at the intercity services offered in places like the Netherlands. Den Hague to Amsterdam Zuid stops only at Leiden and Schiphol for example.

      And yes we may be talking some time before this comes to fruition, but that is the nature of the transport planning game. And that’s before we get into the question of whether the Southern connector type line operates before the RRR, which it may well do given the capital required for the latter.

      1. I think an all stops line from the Waikato that terminates at Otahuhu is doomed to failure, it might be fine as a fill in before slots at Britomart become available but not long term. The success of this system will be offering people in all these Waikato towns a quick trip into the heart of Auckland and good connections elsewhere. RRR is proposing competitive times even with these stops.

        I suspect Te Rapa will be quite popular with Auckland commuters as it will save a lot of back tracking to Hamilton Central for those in the north of the city.

          1. That doesn’t surprise me as it’s been unviable to commute from Hamilton to Auckland CBD for a long time now. However, I think the success of RRR or any rail to the Waikato is growing commuting and this really needs to include a connection to the biggest concentration of employment in NZ, the Auckland CBD and surrounds.

            I can’t imagine V-line trains being anything like the success they are if they terminated in the Melbourne suburbs.

      2. The Hague to Amsterdam is only 45km however, the same as Auckland to Pokeno. So that means it stops every 15km or so.

        Hamilton to Auckland is 140km, so the six intermediate stations means a stop every 20km.

        A closer comparison would be Amsterdam to Dusseldorf at 150km with five intermediate stations on the high speed ICE.

      3. Stu, while you have been travelling in France I had the pleasure last week of two trips on the AVE regional trains in Spain. They are truly high speed compared to what we are discussing regarding Auckland – Hamilton etc. We took a little under 2.5 hours to travel the 472km from Seville to Madrid at an average speed of 188 km per hour. Our maximum was 299km per hour and we only had one stop at Cordoba. That is like getting from Auckland to Bulls in 2.5 hours. The second trip was from Madrid to Barcelona which took a little longer because of 6 stops but did hit the magic 300 km per hour at least once. The technology is out there to do far better than car or air travel (when you include getting to the airport etc) but I doubt we can afford it!

  6. Thanks for a very interesting article, Stu. One point which a reader may be able to answer for me is what the advantage is of the current proposed operating model where the Southern and Eastern lines loop back on each other. My instinctive reaction, having used metro services in more cities around the world than I can count, is that this looping and branching is (a) highly unusual, and (b) potentially confusing for passengers. It could easily be resolved by connecting the Western Line to the Southern, and the Eastern Line with Onehunga; no other significant changes in the operation would be required. But maybe there is a technical reason which precludes this? I’d be interested to know.

    Another point I’ve wondered about: with the intensification of housing in the Franklin area, would it potentially be viable for Waiuku also to have train service, with the Southern line terminating alternately (or whatever) at Pukekohe and Waiuku? If not now, then at least in 10-15 years’ time? That would not add any operating complexity to the network at all, as long as the sum of Pukekohe and Waiuku services did not exceed the number of Papakura services, which is in any event unlikely.

    Current AT plans are for two principal HR lines, plus a support Henderson-Grafton-Otahuhu line, plus the Northern Express as a core RTN line, and with bus RTNs under construction from Panmure-Botany and likely in the medium term on the City-Westgate/Kumeu and Botany?-Puhinui-Airport legs, plus some yet-to-be-determined “mass transit solution” on Dominion Road and the Airport. In these circumstances, is it perhaps time that AT unified the marketing of these services and gave them a “colour” (the Southern, perhaps, might become the “Red Line”, Botany-Airport the “Yellow Line” etc) or a number (note that the single-digit numbers 1-9 are not proposed to be used for the bus network) or a designation like R4 (say) for the Northern Express (being the fourth RTN line)? Given that the RTN network may have as many as three different modes within it (heavy rail, bus and possibly light rail) then some kind of promotion of the system as a unified network will be important. As a regular visitor to many overseas cities, I really appreciate the clarity and coherence that such a line numbering or colour-coded naming system brings; why not in Auckland too?

    1. Regarding your first question, one of the issues with linking the Western and Southern lines is that they are the two longest lines, magnifying the potential for delays cascading.

      The other is that it would be forcing Southern line trains, which will be busier than Onehunga line trains to take the less desirable route to Aotea, having to go through Parnell and the Spark Arena curve.

      1. Acknowledge the first point, but we’re talking about an end-to-end run of (say) 1h 55m for Pukekohe-Manukau, and perhaps 2h 10m for Pukekohe-Swanson, so it’s not that much different really – about 10%.

        Re your second point, the number of trains through Parnell and the Spark Arena curve will be identical no matter which option is used (given Western line trains that don’t continue to Onehunga will terminate at Newmarket). I don’t think that’s a sufficient justification for creating a very confusing network pattern for passengers.

        1. Agree, regarding the first point, it isn’t much of a difference and certainly isn’t a good justification.

          You are right that the same number of trains going either way but I doubt they will anywhere near the same number of people on them. A Southern Line train approaching the CRL will likely be close to full, whereas a service commencing in Onehunga and especially Newmarket will likely approach the CRL with much lower loadings.

          It is likely to be a significant number of people impacted by that change of running pattern.

        2. Don’t think that’s quite right David, there won’t be the same number of trains through the curve in either case. Maybe on the base all-day network, but not at peak.

          For example, inbound in the morning peak I’d expect the southern line would at least twice as many trains as the Onehunga branch, probably more.

      2. agree with you here jezza.

        I’m not a fan of linking the Western and Southern lines. I think West should be paired with East, and south should instead be extended south to, say, Pokeno (as noted by Sailor Boy above) with some new stations where warranted.

        1. OK, but what’s the rationale? And do the Southern Line and Onehunga line then get paired? If so, it’s better than the current proposal, but retains the confusion for pax boarding between Penrose and Remuera that there are two possible routes that the next “Southern Line” or “Red Line” train might take. You can’t just jump on a city-bound train and know instinctively where it will go.

          Pokeno isn’t on the radar for 2023 and would require complex negotiations with Environment Waikato. Recently EW was reluctant to subsidise even a single daily added bus frequency to Raglan, despite full loads, so I don’t assume that they’ll jump for joy at being asked to subsidise Auckland rail services! Much though I’d love to see Pokeno added . . . perhaps a boundary change between Auckland and the Waikato would be an easier solution!

          1. Central Government can sort this reasonably easily if they want without any boundary changes. Considering National was making noises about extending battery trains to Pokeno when they electrify to Pukekohe and Labour are talking about funding RRR phase 1 I think it is realistic they will get involved.

            Logical PT shouldn’t be held hostage by council boundaries.

          2. Therein lies the problem. I don’t expect central government to do anything at all to facilitate public transport – it’s almost a victory when they decide not to obstruct it. If there was a change of government, then things would be different though . . .

          3. I’d be very surprised if the current government was still in power in 2023, they would be coming up for their sixth term.

        2. And pairing the Western and Eastern lines mean that all passengers on either line heading for Grafton, Newmarket or Parnell would have to change trains. I don’t think that’s very passenger-friendly. In the current proposal (and in my alternative) one of the lines misses Grafton and the other misses Parnell, but both serve Newmarket, which we know is the second-busiest on the network. So on that basis, I don’t like the idea of pairing the Western and Eastern line at all.

          1. could you just make the north waikato stations users pay a surcharge like sydney airport station since their regional council wont kick in with some cash.

          2. “which we know is *currently* the second-busiest on the network” I would expect it to drop to at least third and more likely, fourth after the CRL.

          3. I agree with you there David, I don’t see the value in pairing west and east because I expect there is relatively little demand for travel from suburban west to suburban east. Or at least that demand is most probably less than the demand to travel from the west and the east to Grafton, Newmarket and Parnell.

            Or to put it another way, ask people on the eastern line where they would prefer their train goes after Karangahape: to Grafton and Newmarket then points south; or to Kingsland and Morningside and points west.

            Likewise for people on the western line. After Britomart would they rather the train carries on to Parnell and Newmarket, or to Orakei and Morningside?

            I imagine it’s generally the former in both cases.

          4. I see Newmarket as second busiest primarily because of how the network is currently configured, once CRL is finished I wouldn’t be surprised if dropped well below 4th, especially if there was a decent frequency on the airport shuttle from Puhinui.

    2. The main reason for that is that the route via Grafton to the CRL is the fastest and most direct, and hits the greater demand centres earlier. So really it comes down to sending the main southern line on the fast high demand path via Grafton, and the secondary Onehunga line via the slow and lower demand path via Parnell.

      Once the southern line train has run through the CRL there is the option of continuing it to Onehunga or to Manukau. Manukau makes sense as the demands are closer and the line is not constrained loke onehunga.

      1. OK I understand that argument, BUT it creates a confusing operating pattern for train users in the mid-South. Not sure in my own mind that the confusion is outweighed by the slightly faster journey for some users.

        1. Yeah it is confusing, for those four overlapping stations at least. There may be a case of branding the lines separately, like a red line and an orange line, and having them run through at Aotea. However that gives you the confusion of appearing as different lines and thinking that your route doesn’t run to a given station when it does.

          1. Nick R – as a matter of interest, re your suggestion that the Southern Line is paired with the Eastern line because more pax would want to go from the South to the western part of the “loop” than the eastern part: Is this from personal knowledge of the actual reason why AT chose this operating pattern, or is it informed speculation on your part? Just curious!

  7. The greatest issue with this suggestion is likely to be political. What Greater Auckland considers as “rapid rail” and thus a ten minute delay being a problem, political parties and general non-transport interested people are likely to just consider as “regional rail” and it can have as many stops as you like.

    1. Would you propose leaving the Ameti BRT from Panmure to Botany as BRT, or should that be light rail as well?

      An alternative route from Onehunga to Pakuranga would replace the Onehunga branch line with light rail/ EP Highway to Panmure/ Ameti Road to Pakuranga.

      1. Ideally that would all be LRT, but you know – $$$
        Eastern suburb residents are some of the most poorly serviced for PT.

        Nah if money wasn’t an object then I would put in one giant LRT loop. The route would start as follows in a counter clockwise direction.

        Starting from Onehunga train station going up along Neilson St towards Mt Smart Stadium, a stop outside Mt Smart, continue along Church St along the SE highway with a hub integrated into Sylvia Park connecting to the train station (transforming Sylvia Park into another mini Britomart) then along Waipuna bridge, stop at Pakuranga Plaza, back towards Panmure along the AMETI route, along Ellerslie/Panmure highway, Up through Ellerslie Main highway, cut across Gt South Rd onto Campbell Rd, back down Onehunga Mall and connect back at Onehunga station.

        If you search – LGOIMA on this blog, back in Feb 2017 I posted up some ugly as looking images of what a fully integrated station at Sylvia Park could look like. Here they are again below.

        https://ibb.co/hqK6ka
        https://ibb.co/gZ7sQa
        https://ibb.co/iGyz5a
        https://ibb.co/iHjHrF
        https://ibb.co/dPJz5a

        But only if $$$ wasn’t an issue though… 🙂

        1. The plan view shows what we’re up against – they are tiny slivers of land you’re proposing to use. Then look at the land given over to roads and left-over wasteland to accommodate the turning radii and all the carparks.

      2. Ideally that would all be LRT, but you know – $$$
        Eastern suburb residents are some of the most poorly serviced for PT.

        Nah if money wasn’t an object then I would put in one giant LRT loop. The route would start as follows in a counter clockwise direction.

        Starting from Onehunga train station going up along Neilson St towards Mt Smart Stadium, a stop outside Mt Smart, continue along Church St along the SE highway with a hub integrated into Sylvia Park connecting to the train station (transforming Sylvia Park into another mini Britomart) then along Waipuna bridge, stop at Pakuranga Plaza, back towards Panmure along the AMETI route, along Ellerslie/Panmure highway, Up through Ellerslie Main highway, cut across Gt South Rd onto Campbell Rd, back down Onehunga Mall and connect back at Onehunga station.

        If you search – LGOIMA on this blog back in Feb 2017 and search my name in one of the posts relating to Sylvia Park, I posted up some ugly as looking images of what a fully integrated station at Sylvia Park could look like.

        My posts keep getting moderated if I keep spamming the external web links to the pics I uploaded.

  8. An interesting set of suggestions concerning southwards HR and do i detect a softening in GA attitude to a North Shore HR?
    I would like to see heavy trucks banned from the harbour bridge, go the just completed western motorway instead, then get LR over the bridge (as was suggested many years ago) and start planning for a HR AWHC tunnel(s) as first stage in getting HR to north shore and further north. Rail freight too but electric loco hauled…

      1. Heavy rail will cost a similar amount to LRT if the latter is built to light-metro standards and the former is not built to heavy-freight standards. Scare-off figures of “$4-6b compared to LRT”, and “costs twice as much” are rubbish and are just plucked out of the air. Can you substantiate them?

        1. My estimate of ‘approximately double’ is based on the professional estimators’ findings for rail to the airport. Qualified and experienced professionals believe that the cost is approximately double, so until there is some good evidence the other way, I’ll believe them.

          PS, a light rail conversion of the busway would immediately be a light metro standard. Fully grade separated, capable of automatic operation (except signals). ‘ll also note that not building the CRL to freight standards doesn’t seem to have saved much.

          1. Unfortunately comparative costings for HR to the airport have loaded in unnecessary tunnelling and an underground station. All nice-to-have, but unhelpful if presented as the only HR option. Brisbane airport has managed to introduce elevated rail right next to the terminal buildings. I don’t see why the same shouldn’t be possible for Auckland Airport along a route from Puhinui. It would largely parallel the existing road and only need rise onto a viaduct once within the airport precinct and clear of the flightpath. Costing in an underground station as the only option has all the hallmarks of scare-off tactics because a rail connection is not favoured for other reasons. And Sailor Boy you seem to have bought right into this. Have a look at the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study if you want blatant evidence of how this technique operates by deliberately not comparing like with like.

            When you see a genuine, agenda-free evaluation of all options for a particular scheme it is a rare breath of fresh air. And as for the CRL, it is my understanding that the tunnelling part is relatively cheap and what has pushed up the cost is underground stations (necessary in this case), and also further new trains and other network improvements needed to capitalise on the benefits the CRL will bring.

            Sailor Boy what you are doing is taking a gold-plated airport HR costing and claiming it as a standard costing for other HR such as North Shore. Disingenuous I think.

    1. I hope so!
      There is certainly a lot to like about North Shore heavy rail. The way I see it the biggest advantages over light rail are:
      -A second CRL, this would take the pressure of the first CRL, once it gets near capacity.
      -More suited to the large distances between stations on the North Shore.
      -Can be eventually linked to the NAL, providing a double tracked, direct route instead of the current route.

    2. Just wondering… local opposition to AWHC connections will be huge if it includes a road. Some communities, however, might not be so opposed to a rail AWHC connection. Has anyone tested the water on this?

      1. They have far fewer rights to complain too (legally speaking). As at surface, there would only be very limited reclamation to widen the existing southbound bus lane.

  9. Interesting food for thought, thanks Stu. Not sure politically, from a Waikato point of view, the southern connector anchor only going to Te Kauwhata and not all the way to Hamilton. Would they just view as their towns been used to feed Auckland’s job growth, rather than a truly Waikato & Auckland partnership. Not that I think this would be bad & it would all depend on the new government setting up a plan for handling this RRR anyway. What are the town plans for Te Kauwhata anyway? #lazyweb

    I think the early RRR setup, ie slow trains, should include as many stops as possible initially to gauge usage etc, low performing towns can be axed for the sake for the greater good of other’s time savings. I suspect any bus services connecting some towns may not sit well with commuters trying to avoid the road altogether. A two minutes loss due to a stop is not really that burdensome? I drove from Tirau via Hamilton (first time in years) to check out all the new expressways etc on the weekend, and just getting petrol, taking breaks easily takes 10 mins at a time. I suspect even a stop at Mercer would be great if they were to develop this town even somewhat.

  10. Sorry Stu I think I am misreading your suggestion. Can you tell me how the Kings boys and girls will get from Remueara to Middlemore?

    1. Or the admittedly small but not insignificant number of Middlemore Hospital staff that use the train from Rem/Greenlane/Ellerslie – currently a 12 minute trip to/from Ellerslie (disclosure – this includes me)
      There has to be a way of maintaining a good, convenient metro service along the existing southern corridor as well as providing quicker extended Southern line/regional rail.
      (Incidentally what happens to a Penrose to Middlemore trip on CFN2? Looks like what was a quick 2 stop journey becomes one that requires heading north to start with and 2 train changes)

      1. The CFN2 has southern line services stopping at Ellerslie, not sure why Stu has left it out. There is enough of a business park there to justify a stop and it is also a connection to the Onehunga line.

        So it would be one train change to get to Middlemore, which is probably quite reasonable with high frequencies.

  11. Stu – It is very appropriate that you were travelling from Bordeaux to Paris as you wrote this. IIRC, the time savings between the non-stop TGV from Bordeaux to Paris* versus around stopping in only around 4 or 5 additional cities was about 30 minutes!!

    *Obviously before the new section opened.

  12. I really like the proposed network. Shifting Hamilton is a great chance for them to start over. But moving Matamata, Tirau and Putaruru into the Kamais is going to be very inconvenient for them.

  13. As another with ties to Waiuku I’d like to see a service restored to the area, Stu. The rail line is there, lovingly maintained and used by the Glenbrook Railway.
    I hate that the only main option to travel to Waiuku (and to most of New Zealand) is by vehicle.

    1. Waiuku has a population (2016) of 9,340, about a third of that of Pukekohe. It’s likely this will continue to grow, and I don’t see it as at all unrealistic to think that it might have train services in the medium term. Perhaps those battery powered trains that were (will be?) allocated to the Pukekohe run once that line is electrified. Along with Kumeu, of course. Plenty of room for further outward extension of the network.

      1. I agree that it would be good to have some sort of rail service to Waiuku since the infra is there, maybe just minimum capex to get Waiuku station modernised. That just has to take some SOVs off the Southern motorway.
        As for Kumeu I hope whoever Winston deals with that the NAL will see some significant investment starting with the Waitakere tunnel sorted for passenger traffic. Ideally with BEMU metro to Huapia or Helensville and at least a daily Northerner type daily run to Whangerai
        Maybe we will get the Avondale Southdown rail link if freight becomes important to move via NAL.

      2. It’s unfortunate that the Mission Bush line branches off before Pukekohe, rather than afterwards. I think that Waiuku could benefit from just a few of the Southern Line trains, maybe 2 per hour.
        Would the Glenbrook Railway be open to some commuter passenger services operating on their line?

        1. Most of the GVR committee are open to the idea, in fact a couple are very keen, though a few of the longer-serving members (non-committee that is) are against the idea, on the basis that they believe it should only be a heritage railway. But overall, I think it would happen if AT approached them. It would certainly help with the financial side of things, and also bring a lot more people to the GVR for rides on the heritage trains.

      1. Where has the HR option from Puhinui-Airport been costed? If the entire E-W motorway project is costed at “only” $1.8b, and the 27Km Transmission Gully motorway at $1bn, how can a much smaller-scale rail extension over largely green-field land to the airport cost $1b? This has to be invented nonsense.

        1. The original airport access business case. A railway over a swamp, requiring a lot of land acquisition and three new stations as well as a heap of long bridges is bloody expensive.

          1. But definitely not that expensive. Contract the job out to the Spanish or the Dutch and they’ll do it in half the time and half the cost. Puhinui to Airport is about the simplest rail job in the world.

            Just.
            Do.
            It.

          2. What swamp? What 3 new stations? What long bridges?

            The land from Puhinui is predominantly farmland. There is one small estuary to cross (the road bridge is 300m long), some bridging at the new junction and over the motorway will be necessary, and only one new station.

            Or are you getting confused with the more-expensive Otahuhu option?

          3. Airport to Puhinui doesn’t need heavy rail. In fact, it will be better to be on LRT as it can then far more easily be extended to Botany and beyond.

          4. The airport does need heavy rail, even if many (including AT) think otherwise and fail to provide it. Sure, we can survive without it, but airport-access will be compromised as it is in many other cities that fail to provide a rapid 1-seat train ride from the CBD.

            The desirability of linking the airport to Botany and points east (by LRT) is another matter altogether and not something that should be viewed as a trade-off for proper airport-rail.

          5. The proposed LRT line does give a 1 seat journey to the city. Adding yet another branch line to our HR network creates some very big network running problems and constrains potential to add higher frequency services.

          6. An HR Puhinui-Airport branch would not create network running problems nor would it constrain higher frequency services on the network. The planned 3rd and 4th mains would probably provide bandwidth to allow insertion of airport metro services.

          7. Says who Bryce? Why do you think kiwirail has held off for so long… Because they didn’t want to pay for something out their operational budget solely when AT already has rights to using them.

          8. For the record I think the figures are confused with another option (I personally don’t like the HR option from Puhinui mainly due to running pattern & other issues) the “South-Western Airport Multi-Modal Corridor Project Scoping Report June 2011”: Package 4 (A heavy rail branch line connected to the existing rail network in the vicinity of Puhinui running to the airport operating standard EMU’s as used elsewhere on the Auckland rail network) was $690M (95th percentile estimate costed/indexed to July 2010 prices). Is this the figure you mean, I guess inflation & construction costs risen since then? By comparison it was $1,200M for Package 2: “A light rail line running from the airport to Onehunga and connecting either to a light rail network running into the CBD or a heavy rail station at Onehunga”. No figure for LRT from Puhinui in this report unfortunately.

          9. Sorry, I’m not sure where I got three stations from. The long bridge will be over SH20 as the rail will have to go over adjacent roads and won’t make it back under the motorway. Where SH20 is also elevated this will make the bridge massively long (about 1.2 km at 3% grade. The whole section from Puhinui to the airport is swamp or marshland depending on salinity.

            With regards to your comments.

            “The airport does need heavy rail, even if many (including AT) think otherwise and fail to provide it. Sure, we can survive without it, but airport-access will be compromised as it is in many other cities that fail to provide a rapid 1-seat train ride from the CBD.”

            You correctly state that we need a rapid one seat ride from the CBD to the airport, but this doesn’t support your assertion that this necessitates HR. LRT is as fast as the Otahuhu or Onehunga HR options and only about 2 minutes slower than the Puhinui option.

            Also, Grant $700m in 2010 is near enough to a billion dollars in today’s money. Construction cost inflation in that time is over 30%

  14. I think it needs heavy rail. That would allow fast connections between the Waikato and the airport, as well as the rest of Auckland served by rail. Puhinui is the best alternative by a long shot. And there is no way it should cost $1bn. It should also only need one stop from the NIMT, that is the airport itself.

    1. If it was to be HR, in my mind it should be the very most proper one via Onehunga as first envisaged. ie about 3 Billion dollars (SMART 2016 study, compared $1.2B LRT from Onehunga). Involves double tracking & grade separating Onehunga line. This would give proper end point to the Western Line post CRL & works with the GA’s CFN2 I think. Perhaps could be tweaked to include Favona & Ascot stations. With a change of government & spending priority change hopefully from road to rail and other modes perhaps this would be worth the spend? At the very least I think another better study needs to be done of the best options again with the knowledge & change of circumstances changed since.

Leave a Reply