One of the key things that I think attracts some people to the idea of an Airport-Puhinui rail spur is that it seems, intuitively, to be a relatively easy and therefore cheap piece of infrastructure to build. After all, it’s not that far and most of the land between the rail network and the Airport is currently undeveloped farmland. Should be easy, right?

This conclusion is, however, overly simplistic. At each end of this spur, there are some in incredibly complex arrangements that will be required.

Looking at the connection between the rail spur and the rest of the rail network, the map above shows a whole heap of options that were looked at in earlier work. All these options need to work around the environment and  an area that’s heavy with other transport infrastructure, including:

  • The electric trains depot
  • The Wiri Inland Port
  • The Manukau branch line
  • The South-Western Motorway

How you connect with the rail network also has some important implications for service patterns. Most of the talk about this line has been that it should focus on providing a fast (express?) link between the city centre and the Airport. So this suggests a north-facing connection, much like the red “S1” alignment in the map above. This means there would not be a direct link to Manukau or between the Airport and areas further south. It also obviously means that the capacity of the Southern Line north of Puhinui now needs to be split three ways – to the Manukau Line, the Airport spur and the rest of the rail network to the south.

As Jarrett Walker explains, branch-lines aren’t great as they dilute frequency or create a huge detour. For example, San Francisco a version of this situation, which creates all sorts of service problems – even though the Airport is only slightly off the main line.


In the Congestion Free Network we provide access to the Airport from two big corridors – one heading to the city via Mangere, Onehunga and Dominion Road, and the other heading to Howick via Puhinui, Manukau and Botany. The official plans in ATAP are essentially the same.

With this plan you still have a one seat ride to the Airport from the city, via light-rail. But you also have a one seat ride from the Airport to a huge chunk of east Auckland – and a quick connection at Puhinui to anywhere on the rail network. Without any complex new track connections.

Looking now at the other end of the line – the Airport itself. Under the proposed spur it seems that two stations and a rather odd loop are planned:


Just as an aside, this is a very strange alignment within the Airport, for a couple of reasons:

  • The Airport is literally in the process of designing a combined international/domestic terminal, to be open around 2022. This means there wouldn’t need to be two stations – you would have thought the proponents of this rail link might have at least read the Airport’s master plan.
  • Given the section of the route within the Airport needs to be tunnelled, it seems very strange to build an expensive loop rather than just a stub-ended line like at Manukau. This approach basically doubles the length of tunnelling required and would only be needed at very very high frequencies.

Getting back to the main point though: threading heavy rail through the Airport is hard. Earlier plans for heavy rail (which largely focused on a link to Onehunga rather than to Puhinui) included a lot of tunnelling.

A whole bunch of different alignments were looked at in some detail, with their costs generally around three times as much as light-rail due to the tunnelling requirements.

Furthermore, even at this cost-differential you only got one heavy rail station (right at the terminal itself, as per the image above) whereas with light-rail you could quite easily get another station to better serve the growing business park. Looking at the map above, a Puhinui Link would follow the green alignment from the Airport terminal before emerging somewhere before the inlet and crossing over in a bridge. Because of the significant property impacts within the Airport (the green line runs through a whole pile of buildings and across a number of key routes) you’re looking at a 1.6 km long tunnel even without the weird loop in the Herald image earlier.

By way of contrast, light-rail can make its way through the Airport area much more easily.

It only needs one short section of tunnel, underneath the future northern runway, which would be shared with SH20A. It then runs at grade along John Goulter Drive and Manu Tapu Drive right into the heart of the terminal.

Overall, the complexity of delivering a heavy rail spur to the Airport from Puhinui is not the deciding factor in our preference for light-rail. As I explained last week, we much prefer light-rail because it does so much more than just serve Airport-City trips – it will help fix many of Auckland’s most severe housing and transport problems. But it does annoy me when people say this Puhinui spur would be easy – it wouldn’t be.

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  1. Yes then add in the fact that NZTA and AT don’t want to do it and you will find that it suddenly gets extremely difficult and expensive. Jobs they want to do have 20% cut from there planning budget while those they don’t want to do are infeasible. If they are feasible then they are expensive. If they are both feasible and inexpensive then there will be a whole matrix assessment of bullshit to show that it still shouldn’t be done. Check out the assessment of cheaper options for the East West link if you want an example.

  2. Why is an expensive underground station portrayed as the only option for airport heavy rail when Brisbane has managed to achieve this?

    It is very hard to believe that the basic concept of connecting heavy rail to the airport has not been deliberately over-priced and over-complicated by various critics to steer interest away from it. When one considers how motorways are elevated-over, tunnelled-under or bulldozed through developed areas one quickly realises that when the will is there it can be done. NZ’s civil engineering talent is surely up to threading a simple (compared to a motorway) rail-corridor cost-effectively through to the airport. But all too often, so-called evaluations of heavy rail are loaded with exaggerated claims about its costs and practical requirements.

    The reality is that the real costs and feasibilities of major projects are rarely known until a large amount of thought and trial design work has gone into them. Usually this level of effort is not put in until a project has largely been decided-upon. But if we want a thorough evaluation of options there is no shortcut to doing this properly.

    I totally agree that a dedicated express service to the airport is not what Auckland needs. Any airport rail-service should be fully part of the regional rail system. I am open to arguments that heavy rail might not be the best option, but not based on unevaluated or improperly-evaluated claims about its cost and feasibility.

    1. 1. Overhead alignments won’t work given the second runway. Unless you only want rail from the East and no connection from the North.

      “Because of the significant property impacts within the Airport (the green line runs through a whole pile of buildings and across a number of key routes) you’re looking at a 1.6 km long tunnel even without the weird loop in the Herald image earlier.”

      1. It doesn’t need to go near the second runway. It’s not a crosswind runway it’s parallel to the existing runway, with plenty of separation in between them.

      2. It’s true the the spur proposal wouldn’t need to go under ground if it was a terminating station from the East. This is what this group is suggested isn’t it?

    2. Only three weeks ago I used the rail service to get from Brisbane International Airport to Central Brisbane and back. It was great, comparable to Auckland’s rail service except at a cost of EIGHTEEN DOLLARS PER TRIP. That was probably why so few people were using it. I was able to do the same trip in an Uber for $33.

    1. Hi Kelvin. We have explained over and over how and why we moved to supporting LR + Puhinui shuttle for airport access. If you haven’t got it by now repeating it won’t help.

      1. Hi Patrick – are you saying the HR Puhinui to Airport is only a HR ‘shuttle’ between Puhinui and the Airport?.

        I would have thought a limited stop Airport to City via Puhinui service.

        1. I don’t think a limited stop service is realistic with Auckland’s population and airport size. It would need quad tracking from Puhinui to the CBD, which would add significantly to the cost of the project. Also if it is express then there are less people that get a one seat ride, as they would have to transfer to stop at stations along the way.

        2. Kris there is no live Heavy Rail plan to the airport of any kind.

          There is:
          a) a funded and soon to be built rapid bus service Manukau-Puhinui-Airport programme.
          b) and a medium term LR City-Dom Rd-Mangere-Airport plan.

          The Heavy Rail fanatics are missing the point by waving their fists at Light Rail. It’s the busway that they have prove is worse option. And that’s just no credible argument there, especially on time and cost. But also on network design.

          Even if an HR spur was the plan, absolutely no chance of it operating before CRL, even if, that is, there were a credible service plan to support it. So we’d be building the Busway now anyhow for the near term fix.

          The Airport is largely irrelevant to the Light Rail plan. By the time it reaches the Airport we will all be so used to the rail/bus option.

          And who knows, it may be so successful we decide to upgrade it to LR when bringing that line down from the north….?

        3. Patrick – I am aware there is no HR services between Puhinui-Airport being planned.

          To me, a rapid bus service Puhinui-Airport extending to Botany Downs is the better option future proofed for conversion at a later day.

    2. Because any suggestion concerning HR to airport is interpreted as a threat to the proponents of an LRT to the airport. There are and probably will continue to be posts to try and convince all that LRT is the best solution. These posts are always negative concerning HR
      Instead it’s likely in the future we will need both

      1. Its because any suggestion concerning HR to the airport ignores all of the analysis and provides none of its own.

        For the 1000th time. LR was not the first choice. HR was.

        1. KLK if you read into it LR was not in the picture when this poll was taken as per this paragraph
          “C&R supports building the CBD rail loop by 2021, but is talking a further 20 years for rail to the airport and rail to the Shore. “

      2. Bogle the only people saying it’s HR v LR are these various HR fanboy groups made up of the same three people. In reality it’s HR or Busway from Puhinui. LR is a separate project on different alignment and only marginally about the Airport.

        And even if one day HR or LR is built on the Puhinui alignment we still need a quick connection now that only a Busway can provide (which is also why it’s not LR there either).

        Heavy Rail is great. Light Rail is great. Busways are great. But only, in each case, when done and run properly. This course needs the quickest and cheapest horse.

        1. Any Airport HRT plan still has the following problems: 1.overall HRT network capacity, 2. work out track alignment issues in Puhinui, and 3. cost of grade separation at the various points – around SH20 and around the airport.

          Few years ago I thought HRT was more logically for the airport. I know better now for the Auckland situation.

          I don’t think any example – London, HK, whatever – really can be equivalent to Auckland’s needs.

  3. It’s not about the mode. It’s about getting the most of the money invested in a transport solution. In this case LR gives much bigger bang for the same buck.

  4. I continue to be staggered by the elitism of the HR via Puhinui proponents who are only interested in providing an express service from the airport to the city, most recently expounded by Paul Miller of Transport 2050 in this morning’s Herald. There’s no recognition in their arguments of the needs of residents in some of the poorer suburbs which are woefully served by public transport at the moment (though the New Network has helped some). There’s no recognition of the merits of transit-oriented developments or large-scale housing intensification (such as that which is planned for Mangere à la Tamaki model – perplexingly the opinion piece suggested that the intensification could be served by their proposed routing, but not in any known universe). There’s no acknowledgement of the appalling business case which would result from adding just one new stop at a cost of gazillions of dollars but only extending the network to include a relatively small additional catchment. There’s no acknowledgement even of the existence of the rest of the PT network, or the role that the LR line might play in facilitating a proper PT network worthy of a 21st Century city – for which the Puhinui HR proposal does absolutely nothing.

    Instead, they claim that “political vanity” is behind the light rail decision; I’d suggest that political vanity is what drives at least one of the main protagonists who support the HR “option”. There’s also a constant theme of “all light rail projects run overbudget” implying that you can’t trust the numbers that have been provided – but without any substantiation. Yet they provide no numbers of their own, no justification at all in fact for their HR proposal other than that a “proper” city should have heavy rail to the airport. They focus on the perceived time savings of HR over light rail – as if two or three minutes here or there was going to be the difference between success of failure of any transport mode. They claim light rail will not have provision for luggage (where has this ever been stated?). And they dismiss successful light rail to airport light rail systems out of hand. I recently used Edinburgh’s – it was fine, took me where I wanted to go at reasonable cost and at a reasonable speed and even (shock horror) had provision for luggage.

    I’m amazed that the media just laps up these facile arguments and reprints them week after week. I guess it’s all part of the mentality that loves a stoush more than actual progress.

    1. “I’m amazed that the media just laps up these facile arguments and reprints them week after week. I guess it’s all part of the mentality that loves a stoush more than actual progress.”

      If the stoush manages to delay, undermine, or make unpopular the LR projects, then it will make politicians wary of other large, progressive PT projects. This outcome will suit the car industry advertisers who provide revenue to the media. Is it any more than this?

      1. It’s simply about Mike Lee and his relationship with the herald. He is their source of inside confidential council info so they are beholden to support his nonsensical but bitter campaign against Council and govt transport policy.

        This is the only conspiracy here. An angry old man with good contacts.

        1. Here’s the thing about Mike.

          He is absolutely right that there has been a multi decade consistent anti-rail position in both the central govt bureaucracy and elected level, supported by a similar position by many official and elected Auckland local govt figures…. he fought hard against this. The evidence is there for anyone to see. I am grateful for this and supported him throughout.

          But things have changed. He insists they haven’t but again the evidence is clearly there for this too. The money has invested in transit, including rail. People have changed, and some have even changed their minds. The success of AKL passenger rail has achieved this.

          But Mike has just got angrier, it’s sad to see, he should be the happiest man in AKL, he was right about a lot of things, but of course not everything. He was right about the O-Line, that been a good and relatively cheep little revival he championed. He was wrong about Helensville, that flopped.

          The stubbornness that probably made him the right person to hold the candle for rail through the dark ages doesn’t seem to be serving him well now that it is more widely supported. There are very real trade-offs that have to made, very real either/ors to pick. The simplistic position that HR is always right, and anyone with another view is part of some conspiracy just isn’t credible.

          We now need evidence and analysis rather than posturing and shouting. What’s changed in AKL is not ideology but facts on the ground. It is a city now, subject to urban conditions. So HR isn’t the best option cos it is in self always best, but when and where it suits.

          It isn’t an ideological argument but an urban economics one. A politician with fixed ideas has become the wrong tool for the job. But his place as one of the people that helped save passenger rail in AKL is secure.

        2. Wow and this blog condones this sort of post???? Have you never heard of 1. Libel law and 2. Common decency?
          Patrick R should publish an apology and then the moderators of this bog should ban him for good measure. You cannot be saying these things, presenting personal opinions as facts and get away with it.

  5. I would be in favour of LR if it could overcome the problems of travelling slowly (with many stops needed to justify its construction)) through congested roads like Dominion Road, and the difficulty of designing it to fit in narrow roads where other road vehicles would be unable to pass at LR stops. What would really be needed is fast trams intermingled with slow ones, but since this cannot be done why not 2 LR routes perhaps 1 fast route and 1 slow one? Would this be any more costly than a HR link with all of its problems?

    1. An express light rail line to the airport is about as practical as an express heavy rail line to the airport. That is to say neither are practical.

      But if you could, you’d do the trip in about 22 minutes from Aotea to the airport terminal, non stop.

      1. I think this idea has legs in the long term should the stories of extreme demand from the airport come to fruition. In the first instance, a second isthmus route up any of the other three historic tram roads would double the capacity via frequency. Beyond that, any demand blowout of that scale opens the door to a light metro retrofit of the isthmus section, by whatever combination of ground level, underground or elevated best applied.

    2. Mike, the solution to the congestion is light rail. As long as they don’t try to keep it as an arterial for cars, it’ll be good.

  6. How would a special bus from the airport to Puhinui compare to heavy rail? The wait time at the airport would be less as they would be more frequent. You would have wait time at puhinui and the bus would be slower than the train but by how much?

    1. I reckon the bus option would be quicker on average – frequent buses connecting to frequent rail as opposed to a single infrequent trip. But you would have to transfer with baggage which is a pain.

      1. It’s not that bad. When we got back from London we caught the 380, Southern Line to the local station and then the local bus. It was fine. The 380 was the best option though since it has meaningful luggage provision… unlike our HR trains.

  7. Seems to be a lot of false information about the light rail options. I think today in the herald there was a story that had the average speed at 22km per hour.

    1. If it was sharing with other traffic with no Right Of Way? Yes. But Light Rail between the Airport and Mangere can go 80kph easy. And 40/50kph on Dominon Road which is still faster than any car in rush hour. The traffic lights can also be adjusted so that the Light Rail Cars can have a priority all the way to Wynyard.

      1. Average service speed for a modern tram, on-street, in its own ROW: 18-23 km/h in France.

        Off-road service speed: 30-40 km/h

        Through a pedestrianised area: 12-16 km/h

        Given that more than half the proposed route is next to motorway, their calculations must have assumed a lot of travel through pedestrianised areas!

  8. I absolutely agree that branch lines aren’t great, but it is a little disingenuous for GA to raise this given that the RTN proposed for the Shore has a branch line to Takapuna.

    Having said this, there is nothing about the rail proposal that makes sense. I regularly use the Skybus from the City to the Airport and what I don’t see, apart from myself, is business people travelling to the airport. For those travelling for leisure, a multi stop light rail will be more than adequate. Let’s hope that it is priced in terms of the normal zone arrangement because that will be the major determinant of whether it is successful.

    I have started to use the Skybus from the Shore that only has four stops and for much of the journey it is express. At $25 one way the maximum number of fellow passengers that I have encountered is six. If this is what a gold plated rail service will look like then let’s stop the talking now.

    It would also be remiss in support of my argument not to quote one of Aucklands’ experts in travel issues: “The facts show the anti-car idealogues don’t have a clue”

    1. It sounds more like two separate lines running along the same route (maybe track sharing, maybe not) and when you look at the CFN 2 plan it looks even more like two separate lines that join up for a bit and then diverge. I’m not sure that counts as a branch line or not. And it’s certainly not the case as what is intended at Puhinui… i.e. HR advocates want:

      * BRT station to go up to Botany
      * RRR station (platforms surely)
      * nearby junction to allow for Manukau
      * nearby junction to allow for Airport
      * nearby junctions to allow for Wiri Depot
      * nearby junctions to allow for Wiri Inland Port
      * increased freight train traffic
      * four track widths
      * more trains through the CRL
      * combination of all stops and express trains
      * overhead electrification infrastructure

      That sounds like a nightmare. It sounds like a plan concocted to make it really easy to get from Britomart to the Airport and consequences for everyone else who uses either the Southern or Eastern line trains today, for trips that actually exist and happen in great number, be damned.

      1. Actually nothing like a nightmare, more just a rail management process.
        Rail routing, planning and scheduling software for train management and track resource allocation is commonly used on complex track layouts and is easily sophicated enough to deal with the scenario you have listed above. In fact it’s easy peasy
        You are needlessly concerned that what looks complicated to you is in fact normal and routine. Stay calm.

        1. This is a rail network that literally makes announcements for when the train’s are running on time.

          And there is neither endless space nor endless time for all of this. Nor any real reason to want it.

          Long term, the LRT is better than BRT. You build the spur, it seems incredible that there might one day be LRT from the Airport to Botany. That’s the big picture West to East South Auckland, Not the Airport. That’s just a thing at the end of the line. Might as well spend all our time talking about how there just has to be HR from Britomart to Central Park. Of course, this does actually exist but it is obviously not remotely close to the point.

          We can look at the spur and say, “Hey, it’s a quick transfer”. Newsflash: it wouldn’t have to be a transfer for people who actually live and work in the area. Not hypothetical travellers. Not randoms in Remuera. Build the spur and they have to make a transfer for what could be one seat. Sure south of Puhinui has to transfer whatever happens but the airport pulls traffic from the east more and without the spur we can dream of LRT all the way from Botany to Dominion Rd and beyond. That would be a one transfer, congestion free, journey to any centre in South Auckland to any centre. And all it would really require is not spending billions on a spur and a little future proofing at the airport.

          Now let’s look at the nightmare again. Just because it happens elsewhere that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nightmare. The mere fact of existence doesn’t imply an optimal existence. We’ve got an opportunity here to sit down and think about best. It’s pretty clear the spur isn’t remotely close to being that. It costs a tonne (and would end up costing more than that since literally all infrastructure overruns), gets in the way of better options, doesn’t consider the performance of the network for all of Auckland (and the local areas it is designed to serve are far from the most relevant ones) and as you have been told several time introduces entirely avoidable complexities to timetabling as well as removing the opportunity for increased mainline frequencies.

          The spur is the enemy of South Auckland. This blog is written by people from… not South Auckland and its comments section is likewise mostly not from round here either. That’s just how it is. You can prevaricate about how the spur and Mangere don’t have to be enemies, but look at all that money and what it could be better spent on if just the best option (the Mangere line) was chosen. Bus lanes for the 33. Some kind of redundancy for when the Southern Line is down other than the 321.

  9. Are we absolutely sure that the busway between Puhinui Railway station and the Airport will be built.We have being promised things like a link for the rail to Marsden Point and reopening the Wairoa to Gisborne railway and regional rapid rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga and nothing has happened yet could this be another vapour infrastructure promise.

    1. The Puhinui-Airport Busway is funded and design underway. It will be operating in time for the Americas Cup and APEC. We will have ‘trains to the planes’ (every single eastern and southern line train) very soon, way before LR, and within current budgets.

    1. Ah, the Herald article – objective reporting at its finest. The article starts with light rail referred to as “slow trams” and in the selection options, light rail is again referred to as trams.

      Next there is this piece, “express, non-stop trains would take 30 minutes from the city centre to the airport.” So this train, leaving from Britomart presumably, is going to attract all its passengers from where?

      I thought one of the arguments against transfer from train to bus at Puhinui was that a transfer, with luggage, would be difficult. More difficult than a transfer from the method of getting to Britomart to the train?

      I am not convinced that this option looks anywhere near viable.

    1. From what I’ve heard it will be Papakura initially. They were due to submit the business case to NZTA a couple of weeks ago, but the NZTA hasn’t signed it off yet.

      1. Is the business case available publicly?
        Is the delay in NZTA sign-off a signal that they may not be interested in funding the project?

      2. Yes. But it would be so much better to make it to a new interchange station at Puhinui to connect with more Metro services and Airport.

        1. Why? The 380 is a dog, and will be made entirely redundant by the new direct service from Puhinui.

        2. The 380 will be replaced by the A2B. The Onehunga/Airport section of the 380 will be replaced by the Mangere LRT.

          I’d suggest that Mangere Town becomes a hub with bus feeders from around the Airport/Mangere complex. The 380 will disappear.

      3. Jezza – you are corrected. The Hamilton/Auckland rail services will initially terminated at Papakura with passengers transferring onto AT train services to Britomart.

        The service will be hauled be diesel locomotive operating 2 early morning and 2 early evening services week days and possibility one service on the weekend. The supporters of rail between Hamilton and Auckland are not happy about transferring at Papakura plus the proposed fare is for travel between Hamilton and Papakura only, as AT are not keen on a combined ticket. Hamilton travelers are happy initially for the service to terminate/depart the Strand.

        With no midday service between Hamilton and Auckland, I don’t see these services being support, due to –

        – Traveling on two train services
        – Paying two train fares
        – No midday service

        1. That’s a pretty poor start to regional rail, I’d rather this took a bit longer and was done properly. I wonder if this is why NZTA have held back from signing this off?

          I imagine the lack of a third main is restricting these services from running through to The Strand.

        2. Some supporters of rail between Hamilton and Auckland are not happy about transferring at Papakura but seem unable to realise that this is necessary until the third main is completed. As for the combined ticket, the obvious solution is to use the existing Hop card ticketing system on the trains from Hamilton, let’s hope NZTA is able to overcome regional parochialism over this issue.

        3. I imagine the great majority of commuters won’t even get to Papakura. They will get on/off somewhere between Hamilton and Pokeno.

          Nonetheless, the first stage was always about demonstrating it could be done in principle. Stages two and three build the infrastructure to make this a rapid service end to end.

        4. KLK – The Hamilton/Auckland/Hamilton train services is for passengers to Auckland city hence the 2 early morning and 2 early evening services and no mid day services during the week. That is why passengers are happy with the Strand but would like Britomart but not Papakura,

        5. Zippo – You are right about the terminating at Papakura, as AT has said there is not enough train service slots between city and Papakura. I personally think that the 3rd/4th main rails needs to be funded know, to allow for frequent regional passenger services between Auckland, Hamllton and Tauranga since the government is keen to establish these services.

          Waikato Regional Council has its own smart card ticket/payment system called Busit which is used on Hamilton city suburban and regional bus services. Whilst the Busit card is stored value card, the Council is looking at a ‘tap n travel’ system or NZTA proposed ‘Visa/Mastercard ‘tap n travel’ ticket/payment system, that NZTA is thinking to roll out in NZ except Auckland, for regional train services to/from Hamilton and Tauranga.

        6. Yes, my mistake Kris.

          Begs the question though (for the Waikato DC) – would it be worth running a couple of counter- flow services at the peak. For those heading from Pokeno etc into Hamilton and heading back home in the evening.

        7. KLK – for as long as Hamilton’s train station is at Frankton this service will always be about people commuting to Auckland. It’s basically like the Auckland network pre-Britomart with a main station that isn’t in the CBD.

          Also, I believe the initial service will only have in-between stops at Tuakau and Huntly.

        8. Yes, I should have included that station as well, I assume it will terminate at Frankton? Either way the station at The Base is even less central, so is not going to be much use for people commuting into Hamilton.

        9. Jezza and david L – Rotokauri (The Base) railway station is part of the Waikato Regional Council 10 year regional public transport plan, hence the Hamilton City Council purchasing the required land. Frankton will still be the main departure/arrival location for any Hamiton/Auckland train services.

          Currently there are 5 bus services that service the Base, so the Regional Council wants to use the Base as a train/bus interchange for the Hamilton’s suburban and regional services.

          Since Pokeno comes under the Waikato Regional Council jurisdiction, the Council wants to see Pokeno railway station rebuilt.

        10. Kris – thanks, I thought that was the case. Last I heard Pokeno station wouldn’t be ready for when the service is introduced, it would be added later.

          Neither The Base or Frankton will attract many people commuting to Hamilton for work. Parking is cheaper in Hamilton and congestion is much less than Auckland, any service that gets people commuting to the Hamilton workplaces is going to need a central station without needing transfer buses, driving is just too easy otherwise.

        11. Jezza – Rotokauri station (The Base) is planned to have park n ride facilities.

          With regards to your comment – ‘Neither The Base or Frankton will attract many people commuting to Hamilton for work. Parking is cheaper in Hamilton and congestion is much less than Auckland, any service that gets people commuting to the Hamilton workplaces is going to need a central station without needing transfer buses, driving is just too easy otherwise.’ I am not sure what you mean?.

          There is already the Hamilton Central underground station opposite the transport centre, that the Hamilton City Council and Regional Council is thinking of reopening some time in the future.

        12. Kris – sorry my 2nd para was a general comment, not aimed at you.

          There were a couple of suggestions from others that the interim service would cater for people commuting to Hamilton, I don’t see this being the case with stations at The Base and Frankton.

          That would of course change if they could re-open the underground station, although I think that is a longer term proposition and would probably require some sort of bypass for freight trains.

        13. “Jezza” , HCC & the WRC are looking at getting 3 SD’s and 7 SA’S for the service so they could possibly have 1 set running south and 2 sets running north and the southern one would help those working or visiting Hamilton for the day .

        14. Just clarifying – will the two morning services have a return trip to Hamilton in between, or will these trains remain in Auckland until they return to Hamilton in the evening? In other words, will it become possible to visit Hamilton for the day by train?

        15. Don’t think so. All reports so far have mentioned only two to Auckland in the morning and two back to Hamilton in the evening.

          It’s a little frustrating, because right today I’m going Auckland to Hamilton for an 11am meeting. If the first inbound train went back out again it could leave about 8:30 and have me there before 11 comfortably.

          And if the second only left AUckland about 11am it could leave Hamilton again at about 2pm and still be back in time for the evening peak run.

          You could even do a late evening service too if you wanted to fund and staff it, say a 5pm departure from Auckland, becomes the 7:30pm from Hamilton, which turns around at in Auckland at 10pm to get back just after midnight.

          Two trainsets is enough for two peak direction runs and a return run every 2.5 hours across the middle of the day.

        16. Yes, I can think of many people I know who would use such a service, eg in education, music, horticulture, sustainability circles, and to visit friends and family. But I suppose most of them would only be once every couple of weeks. It’ll be a while before we start making decisions other than for the great commuter, but I’d say the potential for growth in non-commuter ridership across the region by extending the PT network like this could be quite large. It could easily be the carrot for making that last step to giving up the car. I’m thinking of those 34% of Aucklanders who do not use a car regularly (but many of whom still have one, possibly keeping it for trips like Akl – Ham).

  10. ‘It also obviously means that the capacity of the Southern Line north of Puhinui now needs to be split three ways – to the Manukau Line, the Airport spur and the rest of the rail network to the south.‘
    Good point except there will be a third main from below Puhinui north to Westfield. And likely a fourth main too. So plenty of track to allow Puhinui to Airport spur and services, express or not AND these will NOT impact existing eastern and southern schedules.

        1. “Why would there not be any RTN through the SW? Who said that?”

          Anyone saying there should be no LRT to the airport as planned, and instead HR should be prioritised.

          So, you.

        2. I have not said there should be no LRT to SW and airport. You need to get your facts correct before posting nonsense.

        1. Yes, SW, North Shore, East Auckland are all missing RTN. In no way can the airport be considered a priority at this point.

        2. That’s right. The whole network is the more important issue. The Airport is simply one destination.

        3. Patrick missing the point again. The airport needs a dedicated HR link to Britomart, via manakau and Onehunga. It is a huge start and end point destination and is only getting bigger. having below ground stations and a proper dedicated off raod route rather than shoe horning into an already congested corridor is the only proper solution. being able to travel to and from the city easily, cheaply with luggage in a decent timeframe will drastically cut the number of vehicles on the road. If the only option is a slow, stopping, busy, crowded tram with no room for luggage etc then most people will just keep driving or take the bus. The HR option is the only viable future proofed option that can grow and take advantage of a dedicated transport corridor

        4. Similar comments to yours throughout multiple posts have been answered patiently by people who’ve done the analysis on the needs of the network. If you type in “airport” or “light rail” into the search field on this page, you will find your answers. In short, the needs of residents and workers throughout the city are higher – and involve far, far higher passenger numbers – than the single connection between CBD and airport.

          If you have analysis to add to the discussion that supports your idea that “HR is the only viable option” we’d be most happy to read it, but it would probably be best to start with your coming up to speed with what’s already been said.

    1. They’re really dragging the chain on that third main project between Puhinui and Middlemore. Thought it would have been started ages ago.

  11. Getting people getting daily to and fro to work, work including being educated, is the bread and butter of a public transport system. When routeway space is constrained, then getting space efficiency becomes increasingly important. Hence the logical progression from SOV to low density bus, to high density bus on protected right of way, to high density rail, light or heavy. Dominion Road is approaching peak commuter capacity with high density bus. Manukau Bridge and the airport are currently poorly connected for commuters. The Heavy Rail Corridors out of the CBD,even after CRL are like, the Dominion Road corridor, within site of ultimate capacity without serving any additional catchment area.
    Also the CBD is currently at surface vehicle saturation. Getting more people in and through the CBD requires getting more people into fewer vehicles. Creating new transport corridors through the isthmus is mind blowingly expensive. Adding another Heavy Rail branch to the southern line reduces potential rail capacity uplift south of that junction. Light Rail via Dominion Road massively increases the commuter capacity of this corridor and probably the parallel Mt Eden and Sandringham roads. Extending this south provides firstly connectivity at Onehunga, and across the harbour considerably upgrades the transport options for an area currently poorly served. Further south into the airport precinct it provides much enhanced commuter options into this employment area, and almost as a by product, convenient access for air travellers from the airport to the suburbs en route. It is a mistake to see it as the prime air traveller access to the airport from the CBD.
    The Heavy Rail airport connection proponents are guilty of proposing a solution before actually quantifying the problem, in contrast to the proponents for light rail, who are making a case, that is largely independant of providing transport for air travellers.

  12. Travellers to Heathrow airport this week must have been incredibly gratefull that an alternative, in the Piccadilly tube, exists when all the services from London Paddington, including to Heathrow , were closed for many hours due to overhead line failure. Alternatives give resilience.
    Interestingly many rail travellers from the West Country and South Wales to Heathrow airport change to a 20minute frequency direct bus shuttle to Heathrow from Reading 36k away even though main West Railway line passes only 5k north of the airport.

  13. Whilst HR between Puhinui and the airport has merit, it would cheaper and easier to build a dedicated busway between Botany to Puhinui and the airport with a view some time in the future to convert to LR.

    With regards to LR, its about general commuters living Mangere being low to medium income area having high density transit to the city and the airport for work, etc, not people traveling to/from the airport

    With regards to people wanting to travel between city and airport for flights, leave that to existing ride sharing, InterCity and Skybus services.

  14. I was stuck in traffic waiting for people to merge. Coming south from the airport to Manukau. The traffic around me wasnt travellers. It was all workers going about their day. Thats why it should be LR and not a heavy rail express. And it should go east and north.

  15. I love how the HR proponents are screaming their heads off claiming that the poll proves that their idea is better.

    85%% of the Herald’s readers would be very ignorant on the LR/HR issue. And has the Herald ever explained what LR actually is?

  16. Assuming track could be extended eastwards from Manukau station, I’d arrange airport track such that services run Airport-Manukau city and Pukekohe-Britomart, with an interchange at their junction (Puhinui). It would need cross platform transfers to make transferring with luggage easier, similar to Changi MRT spur. This requires all track to run parallel at their junction.
    Any one seat Airport-Britomart service can be directly to the north via Mangere Bridge.

  17. What hasn’t been mentioned here is that any track below ground at the airport will be below sea level. While it is doable – at a price – the fact that it will be running through basalt will mean that it won’t be the easiest to actually build and it will need special – read expensive – measures to keep it watertight.

  18. A step backwards to look forwards. Is there any hard data to ascertain the potential numbers of air travellers transferring from the Auckland CBD?
    Most Auckland air travellers will travel to and from the airport directly from home.
    Many tourist travellers will continue to want a door to door service, Taxi, or shuttle.
    The remainder, those actually heading to the CBD, currently use the airport bus service, not huge numbers, and a direct heavy rail trip from only three uplift points can offer only an incremental advantage over this bus service.
    One effect of increasing public transport speed and quality in the isthmus by adding light rail is that will reduce competing road traffic so actually improve the current airport bus option.
    There will be a significant number of business travellers to Auckland that require transport to an address in the CBD. However these travellers are generally very time sensitive, and will continue to use taxi door to door because of it’s speed. Again increasing public transport patronage on the isthmus will though reduce competing road traffic for those taxis.
    Providing an airport heavy rail link is simply far from the best use of scarce public transport capital expenditure. Concentrating on other public transport solutions to reduce competing road traffic on the isthmus will probably do a lot more to speed up and increase the reliability time of all journeys from points north to the airport then any dedicated rail link.
    I would be interested to know the “market share” of the now mature rail connections to Sydney, Brisbane, and Heathrow airports. I bet they are not huge, for much the same reasons that I outlined above.
    Public transport upgrade descisions should be made to prioritise providing viable alternatives to the SOV to Aucklanders going about their daily lives, not providing massively subsidised speedier add ons to their already expensive journeys fo air travellers.

  19. I think the LR fans are just after a Tram service. There is nothing wrong with that, but Phil Goff is trying to sell it as a service to the airport.
    The HR fans are right. If we want a train service to the airport, heavy rail is the way to go.
    Both are a question of affordability and priority.
    If you look at LR, we have to ask the question of will trams do a better job of cross Auckland PT than busses and if so, is the cost worth it.
    Looking at just the airport. Then Heavy rail provides a fast and efficient service that trams never will. Look at London. Passengers pay a hefty fee to use the Express train, when they could save money and take the underground. I have used both and the train was well worth the extra money.
    A heavy rail would take all the tourist traffic and a lot of Aucklanders would also use it.
    Trams will be unpopular as an airport service. They would be woefully slow and there is no where to put bags.
    Perhaps it is with one eye to property investments that some are in favour of the Trams?

    1. Is there a luggage space in the current trains that are in use right now? I don’t think that there is. So that means your Luggage space point is mute. The other alternative is that the vehicles that will be used no matter what is chosen will likely have Luggage space built in. They probably won’t have a special space for Luggage as they will be an add-on to the current trains or an Off the shelf Light rail vehicle designed for Metro use for capacity reasons.

      The Heavy Rail option reduces the capacity for other commuters while the Light Rail option increases capacity Not only in the Dominion road corridor but also enables more buses to be used in further corridors by them not having the current Dominion Road buses trying to find spaces in the City Centre. That I think is a better option. For travel times it is likely to be only 2 or 3 minutes difference unless you go for the express routing which stuffs up more capacity.

      The best option should always go for improvement in Capacity rather than reducing capacity which would be the result if Heavy rail from Puhinui is used.

      1. All carriages are able to take luggage . The 2 end carriages have space either side of the doors where the seats are against the carriage walls and the center carriage is so design to take larger items i.e wheelchairs , bikes and any larger item that won’t go into the other carriages , and if you only have a carry on bag then you can use the other seats

        1. So why are some people so sure that the Light Rail vehicles will not have something similar?

          If the current trains have the option of Wheelchair/Pushchair/Bike space that can be used for Large items as well then the Light Rail vehicles will have something of the same design. After all Most public transport vehicles these days are designed so people in Wheelchairs and people with Pushchairs can use them.

          The Vehicles designed for the Light rail won’t be like what MOTAT uses or the heritage trams at Wynard wharf. Think more like similar to Sydney trams or Melbourne E class trams. They have spaces for Wheelchair/Pushchair which could also be used for Luggage.

    2. The SW light rail is mostly not about the Airport.

      Express HR service does nothing for places along the proposed LR route.

      London example:
      Population wise Auckland in tiny in comparison
      Be interested in numbers for Pic vs HEx vs HConnect …
      Then there’s what happens when Crossrail/LizLine opens – have to wonder about the long term future of the express option
      Also London GatEx basically got incorporated into commuter service for capacity reasons, with Gatwick pax having to slum it on ordinary trains without huge luggage capacity when dedicated trains rebuilt to standard suburban config (capacity again)

      I repeat: The SW light rail is mostly not about the Airport.

    3. “Perhaps it is with one eye to property investments that some are in favour of the Trams?”

      Are you the Sue Walker of CSP Pacific on Neilson St, Onehunga, that has contracts with AT, to the tune of a quarter of million dollars in 2014, for example, selling such items as roadside guardrails?

      Perhaps it is with one eye to roading contracts and NIMBY resistance that some are in opposition to the light rail?

        1. No, actually it’s not shameful, it’s an excellent blog, it just attracts a very few who respond to opinions differing from theirs with personal attacks. That’s normal for most blogs that allow controversial issues to be openly discussed. Thank you GA even though I don’t support all your suggestions for future transport in Auckland.

        2. Perhaps if you don’t want people to question our ulterior interests, then you shouldn’t question theirs?

    4. Ì actually think that the strategic thinkers of backers of current influential automotive businesses have already (reluctantly) conceded that increasing heavy rail commuter transport in Auckland , like busway commuting in the Northshore, are going to increase in spite of their largely effective campaigns (with a then sympathetic government) to delay them. For them the next battle front is now to delay loosing roadway and commuters to a future light rail. Hence the vehiminance and irationality of the current undeclared but business based opposition.
      At a rough count every 80 people (one full double decker bus, light rail cariage, heavy rail carriage) daily commute defection equals one lost new car sale per year. And the associated roadway construction, maintenance and the provision of the real estate parking requirements. For so many established businesses adding light rail to heavy rail and existing busway are very worth fighting against.

  20. How about NR (no rail) to the airport instead of HR or LR? If we are serious about no net GHGs then air travel is going to have to get a lot more expensive in order to limit demand. LR to Mangere; fine. Just don’t extend it to the airport and spend the funds on LR or HR elsewhere.

    1. Would make it clear that the SW Line is not really about the Airport.

      I wish the HR fans would stop obsessing over the endpoints.

        1. He isn’t, the project is officially called Mangere to City Centre light rail. It’s the HR fanatics that are going on about trains to the airport. The government however is working away on building the fourth main rail line for auckland, one that serves about twenty new neighbourhoods, one of which happens to be the airport.

        2. Phil Goff campaigned on Light Rail to the Airport. This is from his own website: ‘Should evidence demonstrate that it is a more cost-effective alternative to heavy rail to the airport, light rail could provide the rapid transit link from the city centre to the airport, to meet the needs of currently over 3 million tourists a year (which is growing rapidly), and growing employment around the airport. It would also provide better access to people in Favona and Mangere Bridge to employment opportunities at the airport and city centre’.

        3. Goff no longer talks about LR to the airport, he has already met your requirement of stopping talking about it.

  21. There are frequent comments likening Auckland’s proposed light rail to the Piccadilly Line.

    Well I really wish that Auckland had a Piccadilly-Line-type service to its airport. That is, a metro service forming part of the city’s main rapid-transport network, and running on its own exclusive right-of-way free from all the impediments and vagaries of the public road environment.

    And though I am impressed with what can be achieved by on-street light rail in making much better use of the public road environment, I am glad that this mode is not presented as the single rail mode for accessing Heathrow Airport.

    Likewise I am also glad that the Piccadilly line was extended from Hounslow West to Heathrow in 1975. Prior to that one had to get off the train at Hounslow West and on to the A1-Express Heathrow shuttle-bus which was always a pain.

    So, the “Piccadilly Line equivalent” for Auckland is to extend the existing metro service. I simply cannot believe the inflated costs being bandied about for doing this. If they really are inescapably this high then I agree the project is hard to justify, and maybe the best we can hope for is our own version of the A1-Express shuttle-bus.

    As for the Heathrow Express train service – I have only ever once used this and that was when the fare was included as a special deal in my air ticket. It caters for a niche market that doesn’t include me.

    1. Ha ha. Except that the Heathrow Express is free to use between terminals at Heathrow. I have ridden back and forth on it a few times just to while-away the time between flights.

      1. Dave, The mark of a dedicated heavy rail enthusiast who would spend their time at Heathrow this way, But I would concede a far better way,and potentially much cheaper then checking out a seriously overpriced retail offering. And the seats are undoubtedly more comfortable then the airort terminal ones too ,but you have to remember to depart the train before it terminates!

  22. I saw this on youtube today about LR in the States and it shows a LR system in Cleveland that uses both HR and LR rail tracks why can’t they do it here . It comes up at 3.20 into the video or are they going to use a different gauge ?

      1. Heidi Here is another Youtube video with metro/subway system of Nth America with noise making wheels even the 2 system with rubber wheels are not that silent Mexico at 4.50 and Montreal at 6.21 .

  23. It’s clear that there are difficulties. We’re talking about rail into existing infrastructure.

    I don’t care what gets put in but for heaven’s sake just do SOMETHING!

    Twenty years from now we’ll still be arguing about it with nothing to show for our exertions.

    Say you wanted to learn how to play the piano. What would you do? You’d learn what the keys and pedals did. Then you’d practice making sounds with them…. The you might learn how to read music and then take lessons.

    Another words, you’d break it down into several easily achieved steps.

    Why can’t we do this.?

    Just pick the least objectionable option and start the steps.

    Talk is cheap. Unfortunately it seems that that is all we’ve got.

    1. I would have thought the new rail interchange at Puhinui and transit lanes on SH20B under construction at the moment would be the exact definition of breaking it down into easily achieved steps.

      The big benefit of this is if air travel tanks then we haven’t thrown huge amounts of money at connecting to the airport. The 40 million air passengers per year that the more grand schemes have been based on look a long long way away at the moment.

      1. If Puhinui station was the first step towards extending the rail line out towards the airport then I’d agree.

        I’ve travelled that route from the airport and quite frankly, to date its been little better than an embarrassment. Being dumped on the side of the road near the backs of a whole bunch of shops that you can’t even access… I was more worried about getting rolled than getting to my destination.

        NZ is geographically isolated from the rest of the world. Air travel will never “not be a thing”. Its in Aucklands best interests to make its facilities accessible to its population. Compared to a lot of the places that I’ve visited in the world, our Public Transport system is verging on third world. Out of 10, I’d rank it a 2, possibly a 3.

        I spent several years working in Melbourne so I have extensive experience with their train and especially their tram system. A tram line down Dominion Rd has at least 2 issues, both to do with Auckland car users.

        Firstly trams stop in the middle of the road to offload passengers. If drivers aren’t paying attention and simply drive around… instant road casualty. Secondly if driving parallel to a tram line, right turns are highly dangerous as the car could potentially turn across the path of the tram. Melbourne CBD mitigates this by using Hook Turns; a right hand turn from the left side of the road.

        Ultimately Auckland Airport needs mass transit. IMHO Losers whine about how hard it is. Winners shut up and get it done.

        1. “Firstly trams stop in the middle of the road to offload passengers. If drivers aren’t paying attention and simply drive around… instant road casualty.”

          Translation: I have absolutely no idea, whatsoever, what is proposed for Auckland’s LRT network.

        2. ‘NZ is geographically isolated from the rest of the world. Air travel will never “not be a thing”.’

          It has been in the past. While I would expect air travel to pick-up in the medium to long term, there is far too much uncertainty around the future of air travel to be throwing money into rail connections to the airport at the moment. AIA has just shelved plans for terminal expansion and a second runway.

          I struggle to see how a heavy rail connection makes AIA accessible to the NZ population but light rail and a bus doesn’t.

        3. You simply limit lots of the existing turns etc, specifically banning right turns in this case. There is even talk of not having general traffic allowed to fully go along Dominion Rd (but that’s another whole discussion probably – there is a post on this idea).
          Melbourne as I understand it is not a good example generally of how to do “faster more right of way like modern light rail” as they basically give too much priority to the existing general traffic.
          From what I’ve seen over a few years on this blog following the airport rail posts is that anyone who has experienced or think we are going to copy the Melbourne way of doing things is really against “light rail to the airport”.

        4. I guess we still want to keep the surrounding houses reachable by car. I don’t see how to do this without right turns, if you also don’t want through traffic on the side streets, and town centres closed for cars. Or we’ll have to arrange a U-turn before you enter those town centres.

          And yes, hook turns. Usually you actually do the turn just after your direction gets red light. IIRC if you get green light you are still required to give way to people finishing such hook turns.

        5. Also, at some point we will just have to bite the bullet, and ask drivers to look out for people.

          Note that bus lines have the same problem, in about 50% of all journeys you have to cross the road on your way to and from the bus stop.

        6. Roeland, vehicular access to existing houses can be achieved through left turns. To get to your property travel orth or south along the parallel main roads until you reach the appropriate cross street, turn down the cross street, turn onto Dominion Road, turn left into your property. I agree that we don’t want trhough traffic on side streets, but I’d argue that traffic going to a house on Dominion Road isn’t through traffic; it’s local traffic.

          I think we also need to change the zoning to allow way higher densities but only if you have no access from Dominion Road. It would allow servic accesses from side streets and encourage rear service lanes.

        7. Ahhh… a spirited discussion… excellent.

          To clarify my comments… I am in favour of any form of improved public transport be that train, tram, bus or ferry.

          My preference is train (heavy rail). Why? Trains have their own carriageway and aren’t subject to the issues of traffic jams, car accidents, traffic lights, pedestrians etc etc. Unfortunately they’re expensive to put in.

          Light rail (trams) are good but have the aforementioned issues as well as competing with vehicle traffic for space and right-of-way. Also many streets are not designed for mixed mode transportation so would struggle with having a tram line put down it. They are however relatively cheap to put in.

          I don’t object to buses as such. I think what AT have done with them is excellent. Unfortunately I also think they’ve leveraged as much as they can without putting in additional infrastructure which is where things like AMETI comes in.

          The Congestion Free Network advocates rapid transit to the airport from two different corridors which I see as being quite practical and achievable. Making part of the eastern corridor heavy rail would have the dual benefit of allowing rail freight to be landed by ship and then rapidly flown to any part of the country as well as allowing passengers speedy connections to any part of the rail network.

          That all said, its easy to armchair criticise the hard decisions that AT have to make. The reality is that NZ is a small country with an even smaller budget… which will be even smaller after Covid-19. What we’re discussing may not even come to pass in our lifetimes.

        8. If budget is an issue, Rodney, HR isnt the solution.

          As per the detailed analysis done, HR
          South of Onehunga costs about twice as much, does not allow as many people access and thats before network issues.

          Also, doesnt the light rail proposed have corridor priority? Cut and cover would allow faster speeds but overall savings would be wiped out in the cost of going underground and all the infrastructure to allow people to get up and down, surely.

        9. KLK… I don’t doubt what you’re saying. However there is one big issue that I see.

          There are large subdivisions currently being built at Karaka, Pukekohe & Drury. At least a portion of these people will want/need to journey to parts of greater Auckland. Are we going to condemn them to transport by car? Surely that’s what we’re trying to avoid.

          It therefore naturally follows that the public transport network needs to be developed south of Otahuhu. I’d suggest heavy rail would be a good solution but light rail would still be acceptable. If we’re going to do that then its only logical to include the airport.

          As for light rail down the Dominion Rd corridor… as I understand it, there’s to be some kind of raised curb to prevent cars from right turning. This seems to be putting the mickey in the mouse.

          Consider the London underground which is over 100 years old. Are you and I concerned that when constructed, it was expensive to do so? Not really. I’d suggest that the same would apply here. People will only use infrastructure if its there to be used in the first place.

  24. Dominion Road is actually designed to have a tram line on it. This is also why the blocks around it have this long shape, it makes it easy for people to walk to the tram line.

    About that, the tram tracks were ripped out but what about their foundation? Did we end up putting services under where the tram bed used to be?

    1. I would suspect that any legacy hardware would likely need to be replaced if it were still there. The original Auckland trams were tiny compared to modern light rail such as the Alstom Xtrapolis.

      Not only are modern trams wider, but they also carry many times the number of passengers of the old trams. They’re also longer and by extension (no pun intended) heavier.

  25. Parts of Dom rd , Sandringham rd and New North rd have a concrete slab under the asphlate where the old tram lined use to be .

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