In recent months it has been immensely frustrating how little progress seems to have been made on the City Centre to Mangere project. Large and complicated projects always take time of course, but Auckland Transport had been working on it for years so it’s hardly like NZTA, who are now leading the project, needed to start from scratch. Contributing to this apparent lack of progress is the bizarre blackout in communications from NZTA, with their only public statements seeming to happen highly reluctantly.

A Newsroom article last week highlighted that the Council is concerned about what seems to be a lack of progress, lack of information and lack of communication from NZTA on the project:

Auckland Council has asked the Transport Minister to feed it more information about the city centre to Māngere light rail project, complaining it’s being kept in the dark over a project that will have a massive effect on those along its route.

Light rail is currently being assessed for a business case by NZTA, which is in charge of the project. But it appears that not only is the public being starved of information on any progress – so are the agency’s partners.

The council’s planning committee chair Chris Darby has written to Phil Twyford telling him that council staff have been limited in the information they could provide to councillors because of the absence of any business case. It was originally due towards the end of last year – it has now been moved to early this year, but no firm date is in place. Once it has been drawn up it will need to be approved by the NZTA board, and potentially Cabinet.

Darby has asked for regular updates during the project development, either through reports, workshops or memos.

Then on Saturday a NZ Herald article raised some more questions about the project, especially in relation to a proposal from the NZ SuperFund.

A radical plan to tunnel below Queen St for modern trams is being considered by the New Zealand Super Fund, which wants to roll out Auckland’s $6 billion light rail project with an international partner.

A political source has told the Weekend Herald the country’s pension fund was looking at tunnelling below Queen St to provide a faster and safer route through the city centre…

…Last April, the NZ Super Fund teamed up with a Canadian pension fund, CDPQ, with funds of about $350b worldwide, to submit an unsolicited proposal to the Government to design, build, own and operate light rail in Auckland. Government ministers welcomed the proposal, but said the project would be open to all comers.

At the time, Super Fund chief executive Matt Whineray said the fund was attracted to the development risk, size and scale light rail offered to make a difference to the performance of the fund, which stands at about $40b. It would only go ahead on a prudent, commercial basis, he said…

…While NZTA officials beaver away on the business case, including preferred routes and the indicative location of stops for the CBD to airport line, the Super Fund has been working with CDPQ on its own proposal for light rail.

The proposal has been drawing on CDPQ’s experience building light rail between Vancouver’s CBD and airport, and construction under way on a 67km light rail network in Montreal costing $7.3b.

“It’s important to note that our plans aren’t finalised and will ultimately depend on extensive public consultation.

“We continue to be committed to partnering with Government on the project and remain an active participant in the Government procurement process,” the spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it was not appropriate to comment on speculation while decisions around procurement were still being made by NZTA.

The involvement of the Super Fund has been around for some time. But what seems a bit new here – and is potentially quite odd and concerning – is the Super Fund (with their partners) seem to planning and designing a completely different project, rather than just looking at options to finance what has already been planned.

It would be interesting to learn more about the Super Fund proposal, but the mention of both the Canada Line in Vancouver and Montreal’s REM project suggests they’re looking at a fully automated light metro system. To do this they’d not only be tunnelling under Queen St but it would need a fully grade separated route down Dominion Rd too – most of the rest of the route is already planned to be grade separated. To build the city and Dominion Rd sections it means either extensive and expensive tunnelling or building an elevated line down Dominion Rd – I can just imagine those public meetings already.

An elevated section of Vancouver’s Canada Line – a future for Dominion Rd?

This isn’t to say that a fully automated metro type system would necessarily be bad but it would be quite different and more expensive than what’s been proposed. Cost is an important component as Auckland has a lot of things to build and doesn’t have an unlimited ability to pay for it all. The huge benefit of surface level light-rail is that you can build the entire 23 kilometre line between the city centre and the Airport for around the same price as the 3.5 kilometre City Rail Link. More and more sections of underground, while nice in theory, mean that the project either becomes a lot more expensive, or that it will need to be phased and delivered over a much longer period of time.

There also seems to be a view from some that surface level transit is not ideal. In city and town centres it can help in creating vibrant and active public realm. More so, the fact that it creates disruption, particularly to those driving, can be a feature, not a bug. It can help to force us prioritise what we value as we’re less able to fall back on the status quo of accommodating driving everywhere. For example, imagine not just Queen St but all of the town centres along Dominion Rd looking like Bourke St in Melbourne.

Even if were to look at an underground light metro system like Super Fund seem to be suggesting, the idea of tunnelling under Queen Street is pretty strange. For starters it’s already in valley and so would require a even deeper tunnel, and stations approaching the city centre. Instead, going under the other north/south ridge in the city, along Symonds St, would surely make the grades easier and provide other options, such as a dedicated Uni station. Going under Queen St also has potential cultural implications given the location of Te Wai Horotiu.

But if nothing else, going underground here doesn’t achieve all that much. The tunnels would allow the trains to travel a little faster, using the calculator I built suggests perhaps it could save about 1-1½ minutes, but that has to be offset against it taking longer from the time you get off the train and make your way back to the surface. Even if you still saved a minute all up, that doesn’t justify spending another $3 billion to achieve.

Finally, let’s remember what we’re building light rail for. It’s about

  1. connecting communities along the route to each other and some of the biggest employment/activity generators in the region
  2. reducing the number of buses in the city centre by upgrading/replacing the busiest bus route on the isthmus
  3. enabling a lot more housing along the route

A light metro system with likely wide station spacing may help in achieving some of these goals but is not as likely to achieve them in the same way or as completely. Let’s also remember that we’re trying to solve the problems of the next 10-30 years, not the next 30-100 – although it’s always good to have an eye to the future. There’s no reason why in the future we couldn’t create an automated light metro system, perhaps even using some parts of the light rail corridor given most of it is already going to be grade separated anyway, but it isn’t going to take away from the need for a high capacity, surface level Dominion Rd corridor.

Hopefully we learn more about what’s happening with this project in the near future, so that NZTA can get on with making light rail happen.

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  1. The cynic in me thinks it’s because the powers that be at nzta are delaying it as long as possible so that it could be feasibly scrapped if National wins in 2020

    1. My thoughts entirely.

      And I wonder just how capable NZTA is at managing this given their sorry state with the WOF system, a basic in road safety.

      1. NZTA is a very siloed, dysfunctional organisation in much the same way as AT is. They have some people who are good at what they do but their effectiveness is limited to their area of responsibility.

    2. I hope someone does an article soon on how many projects NZTA’s delaying. There seems to be news almost every week of something they’ve done to slow work.

    3. The National Party did say they would cancel light rail (to the Northwest as well) if they came to power. That was if it was under construction, I think. I wonder what would happen if it had been built, and was going well. What would they even do with the land? Would it be like the Onehunga Branch to the Wharf, just ready to be built, or would it be sold off? Probably the latter, knowing them.

      1. They haven’t promised to cancel it if it were under construction. That would be crazy, as the contracts would already be locked in and they would still have to pay for it even if it didn’t get finished.

    4. Every time Auckland Council illustrates new volcanic activity in Auckland it is right on the route of that rail track . Oh , I would prefer hard rail ,heavy tracked from Britomart . On Dominion Road their is very little consideration for pedestrians and they are the light rail comuters . Dominion Road is well served by buses and the steady decline of the and departing population of Aucklanders to the regions might actually turn Auckland into a stay at home city of rich home owning pensioners .

      1. For pedestrians crossing Dominion Road it is the number of vehicles passing that determines the difficulty. More people per vehicle eases the lot of persons crossing because it enlarges the gap between vehicles for the same number of people carried. Therefore carrying people in cars is the most obstructive and in Light Rail vehicles the least obstructive. Buses fall some where between.
        I am not sure how though the straw men get on though between dodging trams and volcanic eruptions.

  2. You should be backing this proposal to the hilt, going underground and building a real metro line rather than a surface tram is much better idea. If the super fund are willing to pay we should let them.

    This also makes the case for underground CBD to Takapuna much stronger.

    1. Super Fund are not “paying for this”. They are proposing to finance it, which basically means they are proposing to borrow the money and then charge a high enough interest rate back to NZTA that covers both their own borrowing costs and a profit margin.

      1. Fred exactly. And we know what tunnelling costs, with stations, in AKL: the CRL is 3.4 km and the rough estimate is $3.4b, though we won’t have a real price for a few months yet. So at least $1b per km, or $1m every metre! City to Mangere is 23km.

        And there is huge value in the CRL because it massively upgrades and leverages off an existing network.

        The whole point of the LR model is to get new routes to areas currently without them, to extend the network, rather than upgrade and connect an existing part of it. this can not be done with just a short section. Surface Light Rail with a good right of way is a great compromise between quality of service (capacity, frequency, speed, comfort, reliability, legibility, permanence, urban realm, environment) and cost, compared to new entirely grade seperate options.

        Queen St and Dom Rd make an ideal surface transit route, even if we build a CRL 2 in the future (likely eventually) we would still need to use these two streets; this option does it in the best possible way.

        1. I think the cut an cover section of the CRL was much cheaper though. If they have to move services anyway, would cut and cover actually be much more expensive than ground level?
          The cover would not need to be significantly strong if no traffic going over it. Even on the Dominion Road section the covered bit could be used for pedestrians / cycles / etc.

        2. No, by metre the cut and cover is far more expensive. It’s only cheaper on the CRL because it’s much shorter, and doesn’t include the stations. That;s why they are using a TBM anywhere they can.

          Yes cut and cover tunneling is far, far more expensive than service relocations.

          Just consider the stations! The CRL stations are half a billion each. LRT stations might be a bit smaller, but they’ll still be in the hundreds of millions each mark.

        3. Nick, maybe we are talking about different depths. I’m talking about a trench just a train height deep with a concrete top for pedestrians and cycles. Stations would just be a platform and short escalator to ground level.

        4. Surface stations are a trivial cost by comparison, and users arrive/depart right there at their surface destinations. Civilised. And getting up or down to separate stations has a time cost too, so increase in running speed can be lost in station access.

          The main beneficiary of tunneled or elevated systems is the status quo of street vehicle priority, as evidenced by AT fighting for a 4/5 lane traffic sewer to return to Albert St.

          To achieve transformation we have to, errr, actually change. Sadly this is proving harder to do than to say…

        5. Patrick, undergrounding might not be about vehicle priority. It may be for increased speed, frequency, capacity or automation of the LRT. Its hard to imagine that one LRT vehicle every 5 mins per direction will be enough in the future, and much more frequent than that it would be difficult to provide priority at intersections (without fully closing them to cars) and it may even be more difficult to cross queen street than it is now.
          I guess we will find out if/when NZTA finish their business case…

        6. Capacity could just as easily be managed by having two surface level routes through the CBD. I agree automation would eventually need a tunnel, although for this to be worthwhile it would need Dominion Rd to be tunneled as well.

        7. You’re comparing a nominal NZD figure to an inflation adjusted USD figure which was derived from a lower nominal NZD figure.

          $3.4 billion / 3.4km = $1 billion a km

          $2.5 billion / 3.4km = $735 million a km or approx 2010 USD $410 million a km.

          Not comparable at all, in other words.

        8. That’s the thing, they really have no idea how much it would cost. The good men at greater Auckland are guessing.

          Just putting this out the Lærdal subsea tunnel in Norway cost just over 200m NZD whennit opened in 2000, it’s a 2 lane road tunnel 24.5km long, it’s deepest point is 265m below sea level.

        9. Well based on the reported costs of the CRL and it’s length, it will be about a billion a kilometre all up. Maybe the construction tenders will find a way to do it cheaper.

          For better or worse this is what things cost now. The Victoria park tunnel cost $400m for 450 metres, about a billion a kilometre also.

          Waterview was about half that admittedly, some efficiencies of a longer stretch without any intermediate interchanges.

          The tunnels themselves are relatively cheap, it’s the stations/interchanges, junctions/intersecitons, land and all the stuff around that is required to turn a pipe into useful transport infrastructure that costs a lot of money.

        10. @ MasterChief – Just a minor point: Norway’s 24.5Km Laerdal Tunnel is not sub-sea. It passes under Aurlandsfjellet and by-passes a summer-only mountain pass over the top. There are various sub-sea tunnels in Norway but this is not one of them.

          As an aside, it is quite incredible how Norway has managed to build so many road tunnels in recent decades, and many of them on rural routes serving small communities only. True, many are narrow and very basic, often without lighting or ventilation (not the Laerdal Tunnel – that has an elaborate system of lighting and ventilation), but such a contrast to our difficulties in countenancing affordable underground solutions in NZ

          The sad thing about Norway is that most of the tunnel-building splurge has been on the road system, not rail. Its existing rail system is excellent and socially valued. However various long-proposed rail extensions have yet to come about.

        11. Sydney/NSW’s government is notoriously corrupt, any infrastructure project in the last 15 years has become a junket for favoured construction contractors.
          What’s funny is that they budgeted the North West rail link for a whopping 8.3 billion and are now trying to take credit for it being ~500 million under budget as though 7.8 billion isn’t still an obscene overspend.

          I wouldn’t assume NZ is any better, notice the influence the the highway construction lobby swayed wth the last government?

      2. The conventional wisdom is that elevated lines cost three times as much as ground level, and tunneled costs ten times as much.

        That would put the price tag of this scheme at ten to twelve billion dollars just for the city to airport line.

        Given the LRT has been reported in the media at $6b for both the City to airport and Northwestern, you could probably build both those lines and a third to the north shore for cheaper than this metro scheme…

        1. But what you have suggested above is undergounding this line for 24km would cost more than the Gotthard Base tunnel, that’s 57km of double track high speed rail with the highest levels of safety of any rail tunnel in the world.

        2. Yes. Well perhaps not quite, the Gotthard Base Tunnel cost the equivalent of $14b NZD, but close enough.

          You are talking about different things, a rail tunnel under a mountain, and a metro line with regular stations every kilometre or so. The cost of long bypass tunnels in mountainous regions are fairly irrelevant to the task of building underground metros through urban areas.

          Compare this to the cost of the Second Avenue subway in New York. In terms of complexity, mitigation’s and impacts, building a metro line through the Queen Street valley is much more like building a metro line through manhattan than tunneling through the Swiss alps. Note that second stage, coming in at almost four billion kiwi bucks per kilometre!

          “The first phase of the line, consisting of the 96th Street, 86th Street, and 72nd Street stations and two miles (3.2 km) of tunnel, cost $4.45 billion. A 1.5-mile (2.4 km), $6 billion second phase from 96th to 125th Streets is in planning and is expected to open by 2027–2029.”

        3. Oh please, you are not serious.
          Tunnelling under Auckland is nothing like New York which has had 100+ years of subway development and other subterranean services hence there are complex interactions of many services. Auckland city is a village by comparison, and once you are out of the CBD it is glorified farmland.
          Then you seriously understate the complexity of GBT, but are worried about a small stream under Queen St.

  3. Far out. Council suffer a lack of information but “A political source has told the Weekend Herald the country’s pension fund was looking at tunnelling below Queen St”… I hadn’t seen the Herald article, so I went to see who wrote it: Bernard Orsman.

    Does the NZTA want the only information to reach the public be that leaked to Orsman so he can put his touches to it? That would smack of wanting to jeopardise the project altogether. If they want the project to have a good chance of a fair appraisal by the Council and the public, they’d better start communicating now.

    1. Yes, I’d take anything via Orsman with a truckload of salt. Story could be fed by the Canadian fund, Infrastructure NZ, anyone with an agenda that’s not public yet.

      1. ‘Would smack of wanting to jeopardise the project altogether’
        Careful with that negative thinking before PR unleashes the conspiracy theory accusation. NZTA need to start communicating now? Give them time as they are probably still in the junket phase of investigating LR

        1. Fair enough. But why did it get transferred to NZTA if AT’s junket phase just had to be repeated? Was the decision to take it out of AT’s hands made with full appreciation of the delay it would cause, and the harm such delay would cause?

      2. Agree, much more likely it has come from those outfits. They would love it to be public knowledge that they are proposing something more impressive, especially if it can be written in a way that makes it sound like we are not paying for it, which of course we would be.

        1. Do you think they have any idea of how unpopular an elevated route down Dominion Rd would be, though? I mean, any scheme that tries to add in public transport without actually reallocating space from driving is going to wreck place to some extent. But, I don’t think I could imagine something that wrecks place quite so efficiently, or at least not that someone would be silly enough to suggest seriously.

        2. Probably not, it’s worth noting that they don’t mention anything specific outside of tunneling on Queen St and using Motreal as a template, probably just trying to drum up a bit of public support for a really expensive project at the moment.

          As you say there is not a hope in hell of getting elevated LR down Dominion Rd.

        3. Yes, we really do need to know more. I guess if they’re talking elevated down Dominion Rd, we can kiss goodbye to their proposal because it wouldn’t get through, but if they’re talking tunnelling there, that’s another kettle of fish. It won’t bother the NIMBY’s so much: it leaves the aesthetics in place, many of them wouldn’t be around to suffer from having to pay for it in the future, and they would keep their precious space for cars. I just wish the conversation could include consideration of:
          – the need to reduce traffic and carbon emissions, and therefore the advantages of road reallocation to light rail instead of elevation or tunnelling.
          – the costs that are going to fall on future generations, since we’re ‘divesting’ so many assets that previous generations built up, they will have the consequences of climate change to mitigate, and won’t have access to cheap fossil fuels. We must pay now for whatever we build, not accept pretty money we have to pay back later.

      3. Something’s f*#ky!

        Is this primarily about ensuring tax revenue pays for retirees here and overseas?

        The rent must be paid, no matter what, or else the IMF et al. will be visiting you!

        Also, rail foamer par-excellence, Robert Schwandl, thinks the Canada Line’s engineering is rubbish compared to Vancouver’s earlier Skytrain lines. So look out for design quality issues with this lot.

        1. Yes. the logic works like this: 1/There is insufficient money to pay for future pensions so we need to increase national savings. 2/ The Cullen fund is going to increase national savings by increasing public debt to fund some really big holes. 3/ The enormous borrowings will pay some interest in cash to the Cullen fund. 4/ The Canadians will own everything.
          So the moral of the story is if you are ever tasked with increasing savings the best way to do it is borrow all the money at a higher interest rate while selling off some assets cheaply and only report the benefits.

  4. Thanks Matt, I had no idea there were two proposals being looked at. I guess there could be a point to that. However, if one is grounded in plans developed over decades based on the needs of Auckland’s network, and agreed budget, whereas the other integrates less well into our overall plan and has the short-termist sweetener of having future generations pay for it instead of us, they’re hardly going to be two plans that can be laid side by side for a healthy comparison. If alternatives are necessary, surely it’s two technically different proposals funded in the same way that we should be looking at, followed, perhaps, by two funding alternatives considered for the same technical proposal.

    Not that I’m averse to thinking outside the square in terms of how we fund things and how far we take the technical brief. This just doesn’t seem to be the most democratic or transparent way to do it.

  5. I’m also highly concerned that this obsession with the airport is going to hugely blowout the North Western side of things. It desperately needs a rapid transit connection, but we’re being held up by ideological arguments over the network in an entirely different part of the city.

    1. And not just an obsession with the airport. The conversations with communities required for the Dominion Rd section mean that it will be convoluted, whereas the motorway alignment of the NW route should be politically much more straight forward. I think it would be even more politically straightforward to reallocate motorway lanes than to do the Dominion Rd section, and that’s saying something.

        1. Do you reckon the Superfund will be looking at something wild and whacky for that too? Elevated all the way?

        2. Funds like this want to lend as much money as possible, to secure large, long term repayments from a government.

          They’ll look to the biggest scheme they can possibly think of.

        3. I guess that’s right, Nick. But that means that NZTA should be a little more conservative: putting together what we need, then asking for tenders. (With some input from experts in the field, of course, but not those with vested interests.)

        4. I would be “thanks but no thanks… now how about a proposal to deliver what we are actually looking for?”

        5. Thanks. Is the case separate or is the project separate? Is there any timeline around that?

    2. I’m more concerned that it doesn’t provide a useful link with the airport at all and isn’t at all fit for that purpose of providing access to the airport for people who use it to fly.

      Because of the community focus and the time delays with stops all over the place, I can’t see how it can be a timely link to the airport. At present from home, it takes me about 25 minutes by taxi including the wait for it to arrive. It takes about 80-100 minutes by bus, including the drop off to the stop and the wait for the bus.

      I’m not anticipating that a tram ride to the airport is going to take less than 80 minutes. In fact it sounds like it’d be way longer than the bus. Not to mention that I usually carry some large bags – on what sounds like a commuter transport.

      And the airport is a pretty important freight hub that currently uses trucks for everything.

      As a commuter line out to Mt Roskill down the old tram line, I can see it being useful. After all that was the old tram line route. I’ve yet to see a valid reason for extending it further.

      1. 80mins from where? This has been so exhaustively covered here, please try to understand how this project is about AKL building a rapid transit network for so many uses other than just travellers getting to flights. Here is just one of many many posts on this site:

        PS it will work well for many people going to the airport, including drivers and taxi users, by reducing traffic, and many not going to the airport, but it may not be perfect for you personally, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.

        1. Got to look at actual trip times.

          I live at the corner of Newton, Ponsonby, K Rd, and Great North Road. I have also done some quite extensive trips overseas delivering very large work projects. I don’t travel for projects that aren’t measured in 100s of millions of dollars. I very occasionally will fly for family or politics.

          Work trips mean that I’m packing for months away with computers, test equipment, clothes etc. Typically a large rolling pack, a carry on of electronics, and a weight of about 30kgs. I also have a non-functional toe on my right foot, which severely limits how much walking I can do especially with luggage.

          Taking a bus to the Airport involves getting to the sky bus running on the other side of Newton Gully, which has no public transport cross-over.

          So the public transport route is to bus downtown then wait for and get the airport bus. That is why it is ~80 minutes. I just looked it up now at 0612, and that route is listed at optimistically at 68-76 minutes. In reality when I have actually used it, that route is more like 100 minutes

          Taxi is 20 minutes. Add 5 for it to arrive here. And then it goes on the north-western direct to the airport via the tunnel. It used to take about 30 minutes, but was less reliable. On one memorable occasion about a decade ago it took 65 minutes because of a combo of heavy traffic, lights, and road works.

          Good article. It really is a commuter line.

          Personally I’d say that there is a pretty good case for a Dominion Road light rail to reduce congestion to and from the city, and bugger all case for the rest of the route. In terms of people working around the airport, they come in from all sides, especially around the Ellerslie to Manakau ring.

          There is also a pretty good case for a heavy rail from the airport to the city to cope with freight (to reduce some of the truck traffic) and the tourists.

        2. So get a taxi then? If you have a work trip with lots of gear and you need door to door service to the airport terminal, we already have transport options for that niche.

          Not quite just a commuter line, but a transit line. Commuters yes, locals yes, shift workers yes, shoppers yes, airport travellers yes…people going to a noodle restaurant in Balmoral or a bookstore in Onehunga..all manner of things. But indeed, not just an express train from the city to the airport terminal for people flying. So much more useful than that.

          By the way have you considered a link bus, four minute journey time from your area to Karangahape Road. Runs every ten minutes. Skybus runs from corner of Karangahape and Queen.

        3. There’s absolutely no case for HR for freight from the airport to the city as hardly any air freight actually goes to the city, it mostly ends up in distribution centres around Airport Oaks and Manukau.

        4. You would catch the inner link two stops to the top of Queen Street, walk to an elevator and ride it down to the platform under K Road, and get on an LRT. It would take about 45-50 minutes door to door. Of course, we aren’t building the line for the ~2,000 people a day going to the airport with lots of luggage and most of them don’t come from the city centre. We aren’t building a line to serve air travelers. We’re building a line anchored by the airport.

        5. How is the HR line a better case when it has less catchment, less frequency, twice the cost…and for about 5mins of time saving for the few going end-to-end? And that time saving is probably negated by less frequency?

          There is something to be said for actually reading the business case.

      2. There’s been a huge amount of debate on this already, which isn’t worth rehashing but I can’t help but ask one question.

        How on earth do you think this trip is going to take 80 minutes? It currently takes a bus 20 mins to get from the Mt Roskill shops to Queen St and this is using a longer route than LR would take. Are you seriously suggesting that LR is going to take 60 mins to get from Mt Roskill to the Airport using it’s own dedicated corridor next to the motorway?

        1. See my comment above. It isn’t exactly rocket science to consider the whole trip time when you’re carting around 20-30kgs of luggage and can’t park up a car anywhere because you’re a tourist or away for weeks at a time.

        2. If you’re working on large projects worth more than $100m surely your employers can fork out for a taxi.

          How many times a year do you fly? Airport workers from Mangere, Onehunga, Hillsborough etc will use this line around 250 times a year in each direction, there’s a far stronger case for providing for them than business and leisure travellers. Even the most frequent flyers wont travel to the airport more than 50 times a year, and there’s not many of them and most don’t live in the CBD anyway.

        3. @Jezza, you do however forget that passengers on any given day outnumber airport staff by about 50:1. As for your frequent flyer, I know plenty that fly double your 50 figure.
          Then you have crew… they travel nearly as often as other airport staff but do have bags. At the moment most either drive themselves, get picked up by taxi, or for foreign airlines by bus (that would be unlikely to change but for local crew they might take a train like they do overseas when it is a fast service).

        4. Where on earth do you get your 50:1 figure from. There are currently 12,000 people who work on in and around the airport and 27,000 arrivals the same number of departures each day, the ratio is about 2:1.

          Just to clarify by 50 I meant 50 trips out of Auckland so 100 flights including arrival and departure, but you are right there are some passengers who do more, I know some as well but none of them live in the CBD so wouldn’t get any benefit from a fast train.

        5. Incidentally there are about 1600 crew movements in each direction from AKL each day, about 1200 of them would be NZ based, but again very few would live in the CBD.

          About another 200 would be from Australian airlines so never leave the terminal and another 200 from long haul airlines.

        6. I’m not counting workers around the airport just those that actually work at the airport itself. But yes those other workers in the logistics warehouses etc should of course count.

        7. I thought the number of workers around the airport was higher 20k+.

          Airport pax is now close to 20 million. Which is 55k per day. Many of this will be transit passengers. I’ve never been able to find the exact number.

          However, getting passengers onto transit actually removes two trips. One for the taxi/car/whatever arrive at the airport and one for the passenger+taxi to leave the airport.

        8. Nicholas – I got the 12,000 from here.


          It is of course 24,000 trips per day once they travel in and out and you’re right it’s just under 55,000 passenger movements per day on average (27.5k in and 27.5k out).

          AKLDUDE – I don’t know how many actually work in the terminals but AIAL have 300 staff alone and there are a lot of other retail workers, border staff etc.

        9. The section that says 11,700, also says 22,000 employed around the airport.

          [1] talks about 54% of these workers living within 30min drive of The District. Ideal PT catchment.


          Note: I’ve been using

          The 38 million visits per year figure is interesting. That is at least 100k people in the airport area per day.

      3. Journey time is only one aspect that is important. Also important are reliability, frequency, price, comfort and connectivity.
        Yes a taxi might take 25 mins. It also might take 60 mins. Same with the bus. Light rail has a mostly dedicated corridor so should consistently take 45 minutes from city to airport.
        Heavy rail would probably be slightly quicker than light rail. But it would be much less frequent. So for turn up and go passengers (which is almost everyone going from a flight), heavy rail will probably take longer on average.
        Unfortunately spending billions on getting rail to the airport will not stack up in a business case for the relatively low number of users. The reason that light rail will probably stack up is because of the other 20 odd stations it will add to the network.

        1. Right, I’d much rather take something that takes 40mins every time than something that sometimes takes 20mins, sometimes 50mins. With the latter, you always have to budget 50mins.

        2. Why would heavy rail be less frequent? It doesn’t have to be if the volume of passengers are high enough.

        3. Because heavy rail would use the existing rail network, so the only way to make space for services to the airport would be to reduce the frequency of all other lines on the network, unlike light rail with add capacity without taking it away from anywhere else

        4. It would be if it is an express service to Britomart. There is no way the airport creates enough demand to run a train every 10 minutes on that route, more likely every 20 or 30 mins. Even Heathrow Express at a much much busier airport only runs every 15 mins.

          10 mins could probably be justified if it were an all stops service, but this would mean a journey time of around 40 mins anyway.

          This would compare with LR frequencies between 4 and 8 mins and BRT to Puhinui probably every 10 mins.

        5. Had the heavy-rail proposal via Onehunga gone ahead, then Airport frequency could easily have been every10 min even under existing timetable arrangements because there are 6 potential Onehunga paths per hour through to Britomart but only 2 are used (because the branch cannot sustain any more). A 10min frequency is quite acceptable for an airport rail service. It would not have been an express however. Had it gone via Onehunga it would have intermediate stops serving the Mangere area also.

          Comparison of a hypothetical Auckland Airport heavy-rail with the Heathrow Express is not particularly helpful. A much better comparison would be with the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow. This is operationally much closer to Auckland’s existing metro service than the Heathrow Express is – although the Piccadilly Line does not interface with freight as AK’s metro currently does. The long-planned 3rd and 4th Mains should go a long way towards providing all the capacity needed.

        6. There are not six potential Onehunga paths, only two. The other eighteen paths into Britomart are already used by the other three lines.

        7. No Nick. Within every 10-minute cycle during the peak period, an Eastern, a Western and a Southern service comes and goes from Britomart. And in one out of every three 10-min cycles an Onehunga also comes and goes. In the remaining two out of three 10-min cycles the Onehunga path is currently vacant. As things stand, these vacant paths could be filled without disrupting the repeating-pattern. Except that the Onehunga Branch itself currently cannot support this.

        8. Except. . . that under the present timetable each Onehunga lays over at Britomart for 9 min leaving inadequate time to vacate the platform for another arriving 1 min later. In order to introduce an Onehunga into every 10-min cycle would require using the spare platform and alternating this between cycles. Not ideal as this platform is used as a contingency for other services when things get off-pattern. Earlier timetable versions did not have Onehungas tying up a platform like this so would have better-accommodated all paths being filled. However the longer layover has probably contributed to current improved reliability. So fair to say that filling the vacant Onehunga slots would impact on reliability, but could be done. Academic however, because Post CRL, the whole picture changes anyway.

        9. Dave – Britomart’s design capacity is 20 trains per hour. While there might theoretically be ’empty’ slots in reality if services were increased it would be impossible to make up time if some trains didn’t arrive and depart exactly when they are scheduled.

          Exactly the same principle applies at Newmarket.

        10. “As things stand, these vacant paths could be filled without disrupting the repeating-pattern”

          If you try and put another eight train movements an hour through the Britomart throat it will most certainly disrupt the repeating pattern.

        11. “If you try and put another eight train movements an hour through the Britomart throat it will most certainly disrupt the repeating pattern.”

          Oh no it won’t! Jezza is right that it would reduce the margin for late trains to catch up, and it would certainly increase the scope for conflict, but by virtue of the pattern that repeats identically every 10 minutes the extra slots could be filled without destroying that pattern (subject to the caveat above about the current 9-minute Onehunga layovers).

          Just consider that having recovery time in the CBD is a costly luxury that will disappear once the CRL opens and all trains become through-services. Catch-up layovers will be scheduled at the suburban ends, not in the CBD.

          And I don’t think it is right to claim that “Britomart’s design capacity is 20 trains per hour”. True, in practice this has turned out to be a fairly optimal throughput in the trade-off against reliability, but it is not the only way Britomart could be operated. By employing radical operating concepts such as “flighting” trains all-in and all-out, 30TPH can be accommodated (Yes I seriously mean that! 5 trains in+out every 10 minutes using all platforms). However trying to keep such a pattern in-sync with the timetable would be a big challenge.

          Don’t underestimate what the art of creative timetabling can achieve!

        12. Yes thats fine, except for reality.

          Any schedule that uses the entirety of the theoretical capacity and doesn’t include allocation for slippage and delay is a waste of time. It would fall over almost immediately and you’ll cascade delays back across the junctions and approaches. Net result is even fewer trains actually passing through the station, with huge delays and the necessity for routine cancellations to attempt to catch up.

          The capacity of the station is the actual real world capacity to operate a service day in day out, not some armchair experts ideal. 30tph is thoroughly unrealistic to operate in practice.

        13. Nick R, The ‘reality’ is that Britomart could accommodate more movements than it currently does without ‘falling over’, though reliability would be eroded. What do you base your ‘falling over’ assertion on? Have you done the modelling? Have you done the delay analysis? Do you know the exact relationship between throughput of services and reliability, and where the tipping points might be? Do you know in detail how the network would perform under a range of adjusted timetable patterns and what further optimisations and trade-offs might be possible over what we have at the moment? I doubt you do, and your very binary assertions that nothing more than today’s pattern could work, sound to me like those of an armchair critic talking from the gut.

          Anyway, this ‘argument’ started over my suggestion that a hypothetical Airport HR via Onehunga every 10 mins would be possible with today’s network. I won’t dwell on this any more because it is academic. The post-CRL arrangement will almost certainly be in place before any airport rail is completed, whatever form that takes..

        14. I’m with Dave B here.
          Both the Munich S-Bahn and Stuttgart S-Bahn manage 7 lines running through their 2 track S-Bahn tunnels with all lines having 15m-20m peak frequencies. As a heavy rail link to the airport would be… …an extension of the existing Onehunga line/branch; I struggle to see how the post CRL Auckland network couldn’t accomodate it. It would be the same existing 4 lines with the Britomart bottleneck now gone.

        15. Dave B – the 20tph is based on modelling, it was the original design capacity for Britomart when it was built it’s not something that has just been figured out in the last few years.

          If you look at the timetable Onehunga trains don’t arrive and leave in the same 10 minute window, at most there are 7 movements in and out of Britomart every 10 mins, what you propose would need 8 every ten mins.

          You are right though, an airport line through Onehunga could have 6tph once the CRL opens.

      1. And that’s the massive mistake that people have made, the airport will drive traffic, it will only increase as time passes but we will be stuck with a tram.

        1. Can you name anywhere else that has happened? The Piccadilly line isn’t swamped by Heathrow. Frankfurt’s metro isn’t swamped by the Airport. Edinburgh, Portland, and Seattle all have light rail to the airport; none of them are swamped by the airport. Airports are good anchors, but the demand there is not enough to overwhelm networks. Especially at small-medium sized international airports like Auckland.

          Also, I’d rather be ‘stuck’ with 12 LRTs an hour than robbing the Southern Line to get 6 heavy rail trains.

        2. If you think the airport will drive the traffic, you don’t understand the line at all.

          And relatively speaking, very few people will make the end-to-end trip anyway. Even airline travelers.

  6. Are there other underground lines that follow natural watercourses? Are their pumping needs manageable? Are they coastal, and subject to rising sea level? Love to know similar examples from overseas, if anyone has any.

  7. Why does it take the Auckland Council to have ask Phil Twyford the bleeding obvious that Phil Twyford should have been asking, like what the hell is going on?

    Is he so thick that he cannot see that this key policy and project is going precisely nowhere?

    One would think after his failure to deliver on the early milestones of Kiwibuild, he would be a little more careful and hands on and not so out to lunch on this one!

      1. ..and choosing not to share that info with the public?
        Sorta reminds me of previous Labour PM deciding that west Aucklanders had no right to know what poisons they were exposed to when she authorised spraying noxious chemicals in vain effort to control a mythical painted Apple moth infestation.

        1. There’s a difference between avoiding giving people information and simply not announcing every piece of information he is aware of. There is no evidence here that Twyford is trying to hide anything.

        2. I could argue that the reason Twyford is not trying to hide anything is from what we are learning of the man himself. And that will be because he knows nothing because he thought it was job done for the photo ops when announcing this so called project and never thought to ask after that!

          That and his growing reputation of lame oversight and limp direction and worst of all, lack of risk perception that is harming his government through his hands off – come to work to eat your lunch – management style with Kiwibuild.

          He is not filling me with confidence that he is the type of minister to be all over his portfolios and may well turn out to be Nationals best MP.

        3. Waspman, looks like you got the measure of Twyford as he certainly enjoys big announcements but appears to drop the ball soon afterwards. Will JAG step up?

    1. I think Twyford made a tactical error. He should have focused on light rail to Mt Roskill with the goal of getting some of it built before the next election. If they win the next election then they could have started the airport extension in their next term.

      1. That would have been the way to go, we need some early works underway. Sadly that doesn’t look very likely now but I remain optimistic that Twyford or maybe Genter will pull a rabbit out of the hat before this year ends

      2. With detailed design and consents to be done there was never any chance of a locked in contract being signed before the 2020 election. This project has always been a sitting duck if this government only lasts one term.

        In it’s favour we rarely have one term governments and all polls last year suggested National will still be in opposition after 2020.

        1. I thought AT had already done most of the design work to Mt Roskill. In fact at one stage AT said they were going to have it built by 2019!

        2. If Taxinda is serious about implementing CGT then this will only be a one term govt. CGT hits anyone who owns a home, and there’s a whole lot of homeowners across the political spectrum, it’s not just people on the right.

        3. It excludes the family home, it’s a much smaller part of the population that own additional houses.

          If it is countered with an income tax reduction it could be very appealing to many people, I wouldn’t assume the government will fall over it.

        4. But it’s not going to exclude inheriting the family home from your parents, that will be taxed. The largest transfer of wealth in history is just starting and theses vultures want to get their hands on a share of it.

        5. “But it’s not going to exclude inheriting the family home from your parents, that will be taxed.”

          Fantastic! Do you have a source for this?

        6. As far as I’m aware inheritance taxes are not part of the proposal, where have you seen that they are?

  8. I reckon the tunnelling is just one option being put through a fairly exhaustive options analysis and will stand no chance of coming out as the best (at this point). Orsman has either been fed just this option or has picked just this from the options analysis to focus on for the article.

    But yeah of NZTA could just do some comms on the subject we’d likely all be better for it.

      1. On this very limited information looks like they’ve just drag-n-dropped their Montreal scheme onto Auckland; inner city tunnel etc, however it’s important to note this uses existing rail lines to provide the length out into the suburbs. Auckland does not have this resource, one that obviously lowers cost considerably (even with new track and systems) and gifts ready-made entirely grade separate routes that communities have already developed around.

        Our previous generation of transport and land use planners completely failed us in not reserving right of ways for anything but roads in a mistaken belief that the future was to driving only (note this is still going on with from the same people but with driverless cars).éseau_express_métropolitain

  9. An anonymous “political source”? Why is anyone taking this seriously at all? I can see the Chinese Whispers starting here in the comments already. Conspiracies being formulated to suit the common preconceptions of institutional incompetence in the agencies involved. This political source must be in Titanic laughter at the runaway success of his or her mischief.

  10. A valuable contribution to the debate, Matt, the implications of a fully automated system had escaped me when I first read that article. I just assumed that the tunnel was referring to the problem of the K Road hill with perhaps a tunnel from the Town Hall to Newton somewhere. Is it possible that this is what is being discussed but that the journalist has either misunderstood or can’t resist a good headline – “tunnel under Queen Street”?

  11. Does an elevated line look better if it’s flanked by the high rise buildings, as shown in the Vancouver picture? Is that what Dominion Rd needs? Chuckle. If you’re putting in that much building effort, I would have thought keeping the street level place nice was at least as important as it is in today’s built form… and you’d underground it there if pedestrian movements reach the levels they should with such density. Not ruin the place with elevated LR…

    1. The new system on Honolulu is elevated, it looks find and is running through a far more picturesque location than Dominion Rd. A lot of the Copenhagen Metro is also elevated, there’s nothing wrong with how that looks either.

  12. I would have thought that an elevated metro line along Dom Rd,EL,would be an excellent solution to increasing the bandwidth of the Dom Rd corridor.
    Then the existing roadway doensnt need digging up, services don’t need moving, cuttings and tunnels don’t need constructing at busy crossroads, no ugly overhead cabling and support masts are needed, the road could still be used by general traffic, there could be opportunity to include decent bikeways, wider footpaths and scooterways,
    Left and right turning traffic would be ok, little surface area needed for stations, just the stairways and lifts up to the EL platforms
    The price would be loss of amenity and views for homes near under the EL and the needed support concrete structures for the EL.
    Can’t see how EL means ruin

    1. “increasing the bandwidth” “the road could still be used by general traffic”

      You’re not thinking about what it would do to the place. The very challenge we have is that Auckland’s road corridor widths are not any bigger than they are. Past solutions have always been to add more road capacity through taking more land in both the public and private realms. But adding another dimension is just continuing the same mistaken mindset.

      Think big picture: Huge subsidy to driving. Not enough people walking and cycling. High public health bill through traffic trauma and unhealthy streets. Places ruined by car infrastructure and dominance that need regeneration. Congestion that has spread from arterials to rat runs through local streets.

      Elevated LR is not part of the solution. We need to modify the space we have by converting it to more space-efficient and place-improving modes of transport, not try to add more space.

      1. If metro was elevated along or beside Dom Rd then surely the actual road width would become available for the very active modes you champion. Sure, reduce general traffic lanes, restrict sov commuter traffic but still allow local residents traffic, delivery vehicles, service vehicles, local busses etc. make bi directional bike lanes, wider footies, scooter ruts and perhaps sections completely pedestrianised, seating and in shade resting places, waterworks etc..
        Meanwhile, off ground up above metro trains go their way.
        Access to overhead stations via ramps, stairs, escies and lifts would take up way less ground level real estate than in road/footpath LR stations.
        Way safer too no mixing active modes with train tracks

        1. Even my most provocative rock-the-boat suggestions have more likelihood of success than the idea of getting Auckland to pay for elevated light rail along Dominion Rd in order to leave the space below for a shaded, ugly, but active mode corridor.

          It won’t have the support of conservatives, because of the ugliness, and the loss of car amenity.

          It won’t have the support of progressives, because the ugliness will prevent good urban regeneration.

        2. And yet, we see that very flyover solution proposed for Pakuranga in the guise of the Reeves Road flyover.

          I guess the only reason it gets any support is that it improves car amenity at the sake of just about everything else for everyone else.

          Oh, and NZTA loves building flyovers…

        3. Shaded…. nice in summer for active modes…. and in winter? Nice and DRY!!! (Seeing as how you know Auckland is one of the wettest cities in the world over the winter months). Do you even read what you write Heidi??

          +1 Bogle.

        4. AKLDUDE says:
          February 11, 2019 at 10:34 pm
          Shaded…. nice in summer for active modes…. and in winter? Nice and DRY!!! (Seeing as how you know Auckland is one of the wettest cities in the world over the winter months). Do you even read what you write Heidi??

          +1 Bogle.

          …………..and probably killing any chance of hospitality business along the whole route! ‘hey do you want to go for a coffee, I know a lovely spot under a massive concrete overpass!

          Active modes of transport go hand in hand with street activation when it comes to communities and neighborhoods.

        5. And yet overseas often the busiest place for local shops and cafes etc is wait for it…. beside / underneath elevated rail. Different story for road flyovers.
          Another benefit is that it is quieter than having surface level rail.

        6. Perhaps locals should be given a big say in whether they’d prefer option 1 or 2:

          1: light rail on the street, with trees, pedestrian and cycle priority, and no through-traffic, just access for cars.

          2: light rail above the buildings on one side of the street, with trees, generous pedestrian and cycle amenity alongside reduced general traffic lanes.

          And the difference in cost being put as a targeted rate, perhaps targeted to the side of Dominion Rd that doesn’t have the light rail above it?

        7. Why a targetted rate? Construction Capex from institutional investor such as the Pension Fund. So ratepayers dont have to stump up anything toward construction.

        8. Pension funds don’t give away free money. That simply means the ratepayer has to pay them back, plus interest, for thirty years or so.

        9. Mike, keeping rates low has had an impact on many things Council does for us, and as a result, we now have polluted harbours, waterways and soil, extinctions, loss of biodiversity, poor air quality. Unless we ramp up our efforts to fix these things quickly, future generations will have big costs. We’re also irresponsibly building more and more roads, leaving them with a big maintenance bill. And then there are the costs coming due to climate change.

          Light rail should be paid for now, not financed in a way that future generations end up paying for, in addition to all the other stuff they will be saddled with.

          Option 1 adds a sustainable mode, regenerates a place, improves public health, assists the city’s networks.

          I’m suggesting a targeted rate for the difference in costs between option 1 and option 2 because the only advantages would be that drivers don’t have to change their habits so much; something that really isn’t a priority in the face of a city trying to reduce its contribution to climate change and its car dependency and associated DSI and access problems.

        10. But the point is that ratepayers dont pay anthing up front via targetted or increased rates.
          How the investor achieves a return on their investment is a separate issue but its unlikely to be only from ratepayers

        11. The investor will get their return from being paid to operate the system, this will be from a mixture of fares fuel taxes and rates. The more expensive option will naturally require more of these. Assuming it is on the same fare structure as the rest of Auckland there will be no ability to gain from fares, so it will be up to fuel taxes and rates to cover this.

          The question is who should pay for the more expensive option, every fuel tax payer and every rate payer or just those near by but not immediately underneath that benefit the most.

        12. Heidi, I generally agree with what you are saying. We are now those future ratepayers paying for the failures of previous councils and govt. However there is a limit to what we can front up to pay for transport infrastructure. This last two ACs have squeezed the rates to pay for the first stages of the CRL. There just is not the capital or credit available to AC to fix all the issues you mention and increasing rates, general or targetted, for further PT capex is unlikely. Its time the govt kept its promises and stepped in with proper investment instead of passing off its responsibility to a poorly performing, non communicative roading agency, NZTA who seem more concerned with the bureaucrary of ensuring the correct forms are used in applications for funding.
          I would be very happy to have investors such as the Pension Fund step up and invest in Auckland PT although the govt too need to step up and ‘Lets do this’

        13. I think you misunderstand how these plans work. The investor fronts the money in exchange for a guaranteed availability payment from the government. How they receive a return on investment is exactly from ratepayers. These days they don’t even bother with fare revenue, any of that goes to the council.

          In effect they just loan the money to the council/government, sometimes also taking on the operations and receiving a fee for that too.

          So yes, it means immediately starting regular payments to the from either ratepayer or taxpayer money, or both.

          So in simple terms, for a, say, six billion dollar scheme they would look to get an 8% gross return in the long run. So you’d have something like a 30 year concession with guaranteed payments of about $500m a year every year. Ratepayers would need start making those payments immediately, one way or another.

          This is no free lunch, it’s really just a different way for council/NZTA to borrow, and pay back money with interest.

        14. And the stupid thing is that governments have access to much lower rates of interest than businesses do. So why wouldn’t our government just borrow if borrowing is what’s required?

        15. @Heidi, where do you get no through traffic? Dominion Rd LR has no plan at all to ban cars.
          Literally the only difference between option 1 and 2 so far as use goes is that option 2 gives more space that can be used however the council see’s fit – be it bus lanes, larger footpaths, cycle lanes, retaining some car parking.

        16. The only options I was discussing, AKLDUDE, were the ones I described above. If we want to know what’s actually planned, we can wait for the authorities to tell us. And we can point out that the preliminary plans from a while ago didn’t have any cyclelanes in them. So that’ll have to change. I guess once they know what they want to consult with us about, we can discuss their plans. Until then we’re just advocating. I’m advocating for wise use of money, reallocation of road space to sustainable modes and place regeneration.

          What are you advocating for?

        17. NickR, i understood from news articles on the subject that the Pension Fund would require govt guarantees for returns on their investment in PT. I didnt see that AC would be guaranteeing anything or that AT would be greatly involved even in the running of the LR. If I have misunderstood this then I stand corrected.
          When the Pension fund indicated they would construct and operate the LR then I thought that was what they intended, perhaps via construction and operational companies they would create or majorily own. Didnt read anywhere it was just an offer to lend $ to the govt or AC/AT. In any case why would the govt borrow from Pension Fund at an unfavourable rate? Is their cashflow that desperate?
          In any case our PM promised that Labour would pay for LR or was that really meaning some pay percentage via NZTA thereby forcing AC and ratepayers to prop uptheir promise?

        18. There are plenty of cities with elevated light rail, London Docklands Light Rail, Copenhagen Metro, Honolulu, the list goes one and on, there’s not a lot wrong with how any of it looks either. You just don’t want anything to interfere with your anti car agenda.

        19. You’ve clearly never been under or next to many of the structures on the Docklands Light Rail. It’s fantastic transport infrastructure but it is as ugly as sin.

      1. And stations on concrete platforms suspended over the street and shop fronts.

        People forget about the stations. Especially the vertical transport, consider the footprint of lifts, stairs/escalators up to an elevated concourse… that along would be bigger than the existing footpath, so you’ll need to take road lanes anyway.

        1. Exactly my point further down – whether its tunnels below or flyovers above you need space to get the people to the LRT. Makes the LRT harder to use.

          And hardly space saving. All it does in my opinion is further entrench car dominance at the surface which is the very place, on a PT corridor, that we don’t want them entrenched!

        2. Have used elevated trains around the world. It works great! PT users get a nice view, the journey is quicker being on a dedicated ROW with no cars etc blocking intersections. As for space, it uses minimal space especially if the space beneath is used for other purposes (paths, cycle lanes etc or parking replacing roadside parking). Elevators etc don’t take up much space (especially if displacing car parks). Provides shade in summer and shelter in winter – especially with Aucklands high winter rainfall levels). As a bonus you can still run buses if desired beneath and/or to connect with the rail service. Build it fully automated so it isn’t affected by industrial action and can operate at higher frequencies and 24/7 effectively. Tunneling does sound too expensive but overhead maybe not considering it can be built in about half the time as surface, with less disruption to existing services, and afterwards still maintain a significant corridor (can still paint green lanes if you wish to reduce cars). Everyone wins except perhaps those on the 2nd floor immediately adjacent to the corridor having their view of the street blocked).

        3. Personally I prefer open air cycling and walking but I other people might have a different point of view but it’s all irrelevant anyway.

          There is not a hope in hell of an elevated train getting consent along Dominion Rd’s residential area and understandably too.

  13. I do wonder if they mean tunneling under the upper part of Queen St (from around Town Hall) where the gradient steepens?
    Of course if they are planning a fully automated system like skytrain then that would be different. I do remember at one point this blog advocating for a full skytrain type system throughout Auckland… more expensive yes… big capacity though and being automated means no driver strikes and ability to run 24/7 except for maintenance.

  14. Whineray needs to be hauled in to the Minister for twice working outside a Cabinet mandated rail procurement process.

    AT blindsided their own Mayor on it in 2015.
    NZSuper did it to NZTA in 2018, and have done it to NZTA and to Council + AT again here. No lessons learned.

    Looks like Whineray doesnt have the balls to face Stiassny – so he softballs it up.

    The regional – national interfaces are stumbling in Ak and Welly on the key transformational jobs.

    Twyford needs to show he is consistently muscling the institutions. At the moment he is consistently outmuscled, outmanoeuvred.

    And where is Treasury’s infra team? Gateway team? Hello? Hello?

    Another stumble on this scale and DPMC will step in, after which Twyford should hand in his man card.

    1. It’s a shame you’ve felt the need to gender your response so thoroughly. Genter would be a very effective Minister of Transport, including banging heads where needed.

      1. Genter hasn’t done any of that so far. Shane Jones asks for forgiveness not permission.

        The Green absence of political heft in all policy areas including transport is visible from space.

  15. Tunneling the Dominion Road section would probably be far more useful than the Queen Street section given the greater conflicts with traffic and given it’s relative flatness it would probably be easy to do a cut and cover. However it’s probably not worth it at this point. I’d probably suggest any extra investment should be focused on getting rail across the Harbour. Even a short section from town through Wynyard to Akoranga and finally Takapuna. The busway could then terminate at Akoranga until it’s decided how to connect to Albany.

    1. Would cut and cover cost much more – especially if the cover does not have vehicles running over it? The pay off would be the ability to run fully automated trains as Vancouver does. Quoting AKLDUDE: “big capacity though and being automated means no driver strikes and ability to run 24/7 except for maintenance”

      1. This is definitely worth planning for in the future but as Matt says in the post it is probably better on a separate corridor, say Symonds St as it would mean the underground stations would not be below the bottom of the Queen St valley.

  16. The problem with tunnelled or elevated systems is that the stops (aka stations) are designed and fixed in place now, and can’t be moved easily (or at all). And people have to physically move/be moved up or down to the level of the transport system, not the other way around where the transport comes to the people – where already are – or where they will be.

    A LR system at street level, can have stops way more easily changed or moved to better suit the actual usage patterns or future network changes if required. Not ideal perhaps to do so, but we don’t know exactly how the future pattern of usage on Queen St, or Dominion road may actually pan out until people start using it, developers start building dense housing nearby and other changes to the network [like CRL, future underground to the North Shore via Aotea etc) also kick in.

    So on that fact alone a surface level system like LRT is in actuality a likely better future proofed system than some expensive tunnel or over the top elevated system.

    The arguments about dedicated rights of way allowing higher speeds are true, but opportunity cost of moving your access from street level has to be counted as a dis-benefit against that. the main benefit for the tunnel or elevated option are automation. Which has some benefits for sure, but should not be the only criteria used.

    All in all NZTA is just playing for time hoping like heck they get a new referee at half time.

    The way things are going, NZTA will find itself out of the game – wound up as the transport agency, and replaced with a new one. Its clearer now (if it ever wasn’t obvious) that the idea of NZTA as a super ministry for everything transport has never worked.

    We truly do need a modern equivalent of the old Ministry of works as the Governments “infrastructure planner” and when needed “builder”. And a seperate organisation for getting the best use of the countries entire transport system as a network whole not as a bunch of spaghetti routes to be played off against each other.

    I think the coming budget rounds are going to be quite a shock for many of these NZTA lifers.
    A long overdue some would say…

    And AT should not be too far from the same shake up either. As clearly neither are working for the country or the region.

  17. Thanks for your efforts in trying to get info from NZTA. Refusing to answer some basic questions and hiding behind confidentiality and not in public interest excuses is in itself inexcusable.
    So much for open and transparent government

        1. Hah! That’s cheating when you quote promissory statements made to just catch votes. Didn’t you realise such things are said on the basis that you can fool some of the people some of the time?

        2. The important point is that a party can make promises that should be upheld if they govern alone. If they form a coalition they obviously have to make compromises. So it’s important to watch what NZF is currently doing.

        3. Timeline promises won’t generally bite a government too much, delays from initial promises are so routine people barely even notice them.

        4. What! If timeline promises are ok to extend without risk to the promisers then is the Twyford/Goff 10 year plan for complete LRT
          Just disingenuous spin? Can we ever trust politicians’ promises?

        5. This was promised for a Labour government, which we haven’t got: a Labour+NZF +Greens government is a very different political animal.

        6. NZF is stonewalling this, doing everything they can to stop the airport rail plan. They’ve branded LRT as a green agenda and are fighting it at every step, like somehow discrediting their own coalition will sink the greens and keep NZF in power at the next election. Meanwhile another three year cycle passes and no new rail line for Auckland. So you can blame Winstons lackeys.

        7. He’s playing a high risk game if that is true. History has not been kind on minor parties that are difficult in government, he’s setting things up to be out of parliament in a couple of years with Labour either governing with the Greens or alone.

  18. “Mono rail…mono rail…mono rail!” comes to mind.

    Wow, didn’t see this coming. This is nuts if it were to be elevated or tunneled. The “tunneled under Queen St” could just be the tunnel crossing under K’rd as they have proposed for a long time.

    Certainly elevated would be ugly unless on the motorway sections, but really we want the mode shift & great street environment that will come with the surface level version up Queen St, Ian McKinnon & along Dominion Rd.

    1. Nothing is as ugly (and noisy) as shitty city buses draped in advertising. Funny how that always gets a pass, but heaven forbid we have a grade seperated railway.

  19. From memory (of the 1950’s) at least part of Dominion Road is on top of hard volcanic flow. Tunnelling there
    would be a nightmare.

    Also missing in action, what has happened with the third main, and electrification to Pukekohe ?

    They seem to have fallen off the menu too.

    1. ‘Also missing in action, what has happened with the third main, and electrification to Pukekohe ?’
      Not a mention for either of these so it looks like no progress in 2019.
      Perhaps this tranche of new emus due for delivery this year can be retro fitted with batteries to replace the dmu shuttles to Pukekohe.

      1. I’m forgetting, Pukekohe is in the Hunua electorate, one of the three strongest National
        seats, with a majority of over 19, 000 votes.

        This Government is not going to do us any favours.

        1. Maybe I spoke too soon. I just found on AT’s Future Works site that one of the reasons for the Easter Weekend rail closedown is “Otahuhu 3rd Main”

          Curious, or maybe it’s a misprint ?

        2. I noticed on previous shutdownn the Otahuhu 3rd platform was getting passenger gates installed. So perhaps this 3rd main reference is the track at the 3rd platform. This may also be associated with all the new track points around Westfield being replaced. Although new track looks like more than 4 day job as the overhead electric supports all need relocated/replaced.
          Perhaps later 2019 shutdowns will see major trackwork done

        3. I think I have sussed what’s going to happen at Otahuhu Station – this is the start
          of the modifications required to bring the unused platform up to standard for use
          when the CRL project is finished.

          As mentioned, someone got it wrong with the location of the overhead supports.

        4. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that this Otahuhu platform 3 and loop is to be completed in 2020 just as the new Hamilton to Auckland regional rail service is starting.
          RR to Otahuhu interchange.

  20. Build a metro through the city out to the airport.
    It can go under Queen street/or near enough and then run in tunnel under the harbour to the North Shore. Not all built at once of course.

    Problem solved. No need for trams that will crawl anyway owing to traffic congestion at the sheer number of intersections to negotiate.

    1. Of course, how could we have a discussion about the best connection from the CBD to Mangere without thinking of the poor neglected North Shore.

  21. Perhaps we should put the ROAD underground through town centres, to free up space for people. Can someone other than the Super Fund get publicity about building light rail?

      1. Sorry, didn’t realise you’d already drafted up a business case for this…that was quick.

        Rather than throwing Sim City ideas around in Sandpit mode lets wait till the business plan is finished.

  22. Fully grade seperated route allows fully autonomous operation.

    This is a big deal because it will allows many shorter trains at very high turn up and go frequency without additional drivers costs.

    In Vancouver skytrain, they are doing exactly that. The system allows a train every 3 minutes with a population similar to auckland yet have minimal operation cost.

    1. Nobody is arguing that grade separated wouldn’t be better, faster etc etc…the fact is we have one political party with no appetite for public transport and one that doesn’t seem to be able to get the things it says it wants to do out the door. So living in dream land with tunnels under Queen Street and overhead rail along a road where there won’t even give consent to a 5 storey apartment is just utter nonsense.

      As mentioned, for the possible cost of a few km we could have build 26km of track, we need it right now not 30 years down the line.

      So yes, dragging train tuinnels with your mouse is all well and good, but the cost of 5 minute intervals vs 3 minute intervals probably wont stack up in a business case, won’t stack up politically against the NIMBYs and will end up getting canned and delaying what could be built now.

      1. Joe, we are having the discussion because the super fund wants to put light rail trams in a tunnel. It is natural for some of the reasdership to suggest if you are going to bother doing that we may as well build a metro.
        I think it is pretty clear that a metro gives far superior optionality, capacity for the future, speed etc., thats why so many are built all over the world.
        We seem to have some sort of NZ exceptionalism that we must re-invent the wheel (at enormous cost).

        1. There’s no re-inventing the wheel going on here. There are plenty of cities around the world that have implemented surface LR networks similar to what Auckland is proposing, just as there are many cities that have put in metros.

        2. It is reinventing the wheel, not in conventional fashion, rather deciding it will work better if we have trianglular wheels on our system, which is what LR trams in a tunnel is. And it is unsuited as an airport link.
          Just do a count of the number of intersections this thing will have to negotiate on the non-grade seperated section.

        3. Five. Five intersections. Well seven if you include the Wellesley busway and Victoria Street linear park.

        4. We don’t have to look far for cities that have just built, or are still building light rail.

          “The CBD and South East Light Rail is a new light rail network for Sydney, currently under construction. The 12km route will feature 19 stops, extending from Circular Quay along George Street to Central Station, through Surry Hills to Moore Park, then to Kensington and Kingsford via Anzac Parade and Randwick via Alison Road and High Street. Civil construction will be progressively completed across the majority of construction zones in 2018, with testing along the Randwick section of the network already underway.

          Sydney Light Rail also incorporates the Inner West Light Rail, which is now operating as the L1 Dulwich Hill Line. The 12.7km route connects Central Station and Dulwich Hill via 23 light rail stops and transports more than 9.7 million customers each year.”

          Some of the cities acknowledged as having the best transport systems in the world have a mixture of everything.

          “Vienna Public Transport. Vienna has a well-developed public transport network. Buses, trains, trams and underground lines will take you almost anywhere in the city in no time at all. Vienna public transport Wiener Linien operates five underground lines, 29 tram and 127 bus lines, of which 24 are night lines.”

          I have not heard that Canada is acknowledged as having all the answers with respect to best public transport.

        5. You haven’t been paying attention!
          Sydney CBD light rail is waaaaay over budget, waaaay behind schedule. Now at $3 Billion+ for 12km of line.

          For the money they are spending should have built a metro instead. In fact John Bradfield back in the 1920’s already had provision for an Eastern Suburbs line running underground up Oxford street. The platforms and stub tunnels were already built back in the 1920’s!

          Of course Part1 of a driverless metro will be opening this year (in the north), with the extension under the harbour and new line to the city and connecting onto bankstown line opening in ~5 years.

        6. What makes you think a metro would have been immune to cost blowouts at the same rate or higher? If your starting price is billions higher, then you have far less margin for error.

        7. You are correct, Metro costs could certainly blowout, however at least you have the capacity required for the future, which a light rail interacting with street traffic will never provide, especially at low headways. For all the carryon about Melbourne, have any of you actually lived there and seen the tram bunching that goes on, especially when there are events on. At times you may as well get out and walk.
          It will be no different in Auckland. Ideas about simply removing all the cars from the city so you can run a trolley service are more of a fantasy than simply building a metro that will have lower operating costs (due to driverless technology), better safety (no people wandering around the tracks), faster and easier to expand into something to comprehensively cover the city.
          There might be a role for light rail in certain inner suburban locales, but out to the airport is a joke.

        8. The carry on about Melbourne comes from people against LRT who forget that Melbourne doesn’t have LRT.

        9. MrV – the reality is a metro to the Airport and Mangere will not be built in the foreseeable future, the economics simply don’t stack up.

          The choice is nothing or an LR route that will give us all the capacity we need in the foreseeable future, that of course can be upgraded in the future if needed.

  23. Given that we only have 10 years to save the planet a better approach would be just to scrap the whole dam light rail scheme and spend the 3 billion on electric buses. Also there are other rail based solutions to provide public transport to the people of Kumeu and Mangere and a rail plus bus option for the airport. And if you wanted to you could pull up the Wynard tramway and start laying it up Queen Street as some kind of a replacement to the mostly empty red buses. At least some heritage trams would be more interesting. Anyway we don’t even know how long it will take to finish the CRL yet so we have got to chew that one first. Talk about too bigger bites.

    1. Auckland Transport have a strategy to transfer to fully electric bus procurement over the next seven years. By the the time the CRL is open Auckland will never buy another non-electric bus.

      These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

  24. So what does that mean. I think it means after seven years they will start buying electric buses but we only have ten years. And I am sure they will have some token electric buses before that date but it will be virtue signalling and it will be too late just like the light rail will be too late and most likely the CRL as well.

    1. It means that contracts will not allow non-electric buses after seven years. Operators can start buying them now, and they are.

      Auckland Transport doesn’t buy buses. What it does is sign contracts with operators to run services, which includes bus standards. For better or worse those contracts run for seven years or more, an operators buy buses to fill a contract. So yes it will take time to transition all 1,100 buses in Auckland to fully electric.

      1. And that is not fast enough. Transitioning out of existing stock makes sense. Procurement of diesel buses at this point in time is simply dragging the chain and continuing the problems well beyond what is reasonable.

        1. Heidi
          Yes it is probably not fast enough to transition out of diesel buses; but I would have thought that changing car mode share from around 80% is the most urgent priority. That will require every dollar that AT can scratch together it seems; given that what they have spent so far hasn’t made a jot of difference..

        2. But where is the charging infrastructure to support 1100 electric buses, and who will be paying for it.

        3. Good question, Master Chief, and one that isn’t answered well in any documentation I’ve read. Even for a much lower number of buses.

      2. Well lets see what next years northern hemisphere summer is like. I suspect the world might develop a bit more urgency real quick. Although its probably too late now what ever happens.

        1. I expect a few will be scratching their heads. But I expect they are too busy hating each other to take much notice.

  25. Not sure whether this has been pointed out, but NZTA sees a direct link between Auckland light rail and Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

    Item 6 at the 5 October NZTA Board meeting (minutes at says re the LGWM Recommended Programme for Investment:

    “Further, greater certainty is required in terms of the cost and funding arrangements for the Auckland Light Rail projects”;

    and Resolution 8 says:

    “The NZTA Board

    d) notes the need for significant further work on the feasibility and funding arrangements for LGWM, in conjunction with similar and coincident requirements for the Auckland Light Rail project”.

    The minutes of subsequent Board meetings have not been published.

    1. Yes, its comments like that which have driven the conclusion that NZTA are seriously considering include LRT in the LGWM project.

      Although the other reading of it (which is earlier in that board minute) is that they are simply comparing size of the two projects (LGWM is around $4 Billion) and that there is currently no money for LGWM

      But it seems likely that LRT is going to be part of LGWM…

      1. I hope that NZTA drops the LR for Wellington, as the business case for a $2 billion plus 13km 1 route LR for Wellington wont stake up. As least a propose 2 route LR network would have a better business case.

  26. 100% agree BW. Auckland will need an integrated rapid transit solution that spans the entire city – East, West, North South -and it makes no sense to be dithering like this over just one new line when we ought to be expanding as fast as we can in all four directions. Climate change is upon us, and we wealthy countries have a responsibility to steeply drop our CO2 emissions over the next ten years.

    I’m also with you on public transport neglect on the North Shore – it’s a problem much of Auckland faces, and it is indeed worst outside of the isthmus.

  27. Surely the more important part of this light rail line is Mangere to Mount Eden (ish). The Dominion Road leg would get close to the Mount Eden Station and could be prioritised to hook into the CRL. Allowing the Super Fund and NZTA to hum hah bah humbug over the Queen Street leg. Mangere to the airport is not served by rail so that needs to be remedied hastily.

    1. The Queen St section is the most important, any route that does not connect to the CBD will struggle with patronage. A transfer at Mt Eden would be a good 500m walk taking people to already crowded Western line trains entering the CRL, it’s likely there wouldn’t be enough room to also fit the LR passengers.

    2. Terminating at Mt Eden would be comparable with the railway system terminating at the Strand for onward transport into the city by tram. That descision killed effective suburban rail in Auckland for over 50 years.

    3. I would argue that the NW light rail should be given priority. However, I also think which is more important than the other is rather academic as there is still no actual LR progress let alone any plan or scedule for construction.
      Maye Royce has the proper solution and the $3bn should be spent on sorting out electric busses before the planet becomes more crispy.
      Also use existing PT resource and get trains running to Huapai/Kumeu

    4. Things have moved on from 2017 when Phil and Jacinda promised to implement the whole of Greater Auckland’s agenda as policy for the election. I don’t think they had put much thought into it at the time. We have all heard how Labour didn’t expect to win the election so they just promised anything they thought might translate into a few votes. But as I say things have moved on we now have an IPCC report and we have had some pretty scary weather world wide. So I think the Govt could make a pretty good case as to why they have decided to move away from the two light railway lines in favor of electrifying the bus fleet with the objective of reducing carbon emissions now sooner than later. In addition to electrifying buses they could proceed with the battery EMU’s for the Pukekohe service until electrification can be implemented. These battery EMU’s will also be useful to extend services to Mercer or Waiuku once the Pukekohe electrification is completed. A single track line from Onehunga to Mangere town center would be another easy project which could be implemented quickly as well as a shuttle from Swanson to Kumeu. As part of the package to replace the light rail scheme they could announce an early implementation of the Waikato regional train service. The work that has being done on the Mt Roskill and Westgate light railways will be useful for developing bus priority measures. Its not to late to change direction it would be seen as an act of a good government reacting to changing circumstances. I
      It could be sold as part of a wider package where the Government takes a more hands on approach to climate change particularly in the renewable electricity generation area and conversion of the heavy transport fleet to electric operation. Governments and companies are in a better position to make the whole of life economic analysis to justify the switch to electric transport than individuals. In the immediate aftermath of WW2 we developed our mainly renewable electricity network its now time to develop a green transport network to go with it.

      1. I agree that we should be accelerating the electrification of the bus fleet. However, without the light rail projects we are still left with two of the major problems they were designed to solve, severe bus congestion in the CBD and severe road congestion in the North-west.

        1. Light rail to NW is not going to do anything to resolve the abysmal traffic congestion in NW Auckland. Something needs doing now NOT in 10 to 20 years in an uncertain future.
          Immediately get the rail track between Swanson and Huapai used
          More urgently get the bus fleet all electric within a year or two.
          Also urgent get diesel engined cars and trucks off our roads in 2 or 3 years.
          Right now place a $10k save-the-planet tax on new diesel engined vehicles so that $ is generated to promote private electric vehicles and crush diesel sales.
          Increase incrementally diesel fuel price until its petrol price by 2021.
          All current diesels that are not euro6 complaint in 2021 are not permitted on road.
          Forget light rail until the current emissions issues are resolved not only for PT but also all transport, private and business.
          Kiwirail start now to scrap and dispose of the largely diesel fleet of locomotives and in interim get some significant exhaust scrubbers installed.
          Just IMHO since I prefer not to get crisped by planet warming or drowned by rising sea levels
          Lets do this.

        2. Not building LR certainly isn’t going to do anything for NW traffic. The existing railway line only goes through Kumeu, it doesn’t go anywhere near Westgate and the developments planned around it, or the Te Atatu peninsula. The NW motorway will still be jammed.

      2. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive. And given the way contracts are structured and the lead times on replacing a fleet of over a thousand buses, it would take you just as long anyway.

        So do them both, which is exactly what they are planning to do. Electric buses on all the bus routes and electric rapid transit on two new major corridors.

        1. Imagine this in 5 years time things have got a lot worse. There has being a category 6 hurricane which has wiped out North and South Carolina the monsoons are failing in India and dust storms in Beijing have shut the city down for months at a time. And killer cyclones in the Pacific have led to Insurance companies refusing to insure any ship sailing to New Zealand. The world is calling for drastic emissions reductions. What would you rather have. On one hand a half finished CRL and two two light railways which we have only just started building or a fully implemented electric bus system and a expanded rail passenger rail service which stretches from Kumeu to Hamilton, Mangere, Waiuku and Hamilton.

        2. So you’re proposing to spend about $1b to replace our current, almost brand new fleet of buses with electric buses to *reduce* carbon emissions?

          Half of the lifetime carbon cost of a vehicle is in construction. If you have an ICE vehicle, replacing it with a new electric vehicle and scrapping it produces more carbon. Further, the lifetime cost of ICE or electric is similar. We can replace our entire fleet of buses gradually over the next 20 years for $0 by simply demanding that all buses that enter service after this year are electric powered.

          Then we can get on with finishing the CRL by 2024 as planned and underway; building LRT to the airport and Westgate as planned and funded, and running trains to Hamilton as planned and funded. Much better than having a rail shuttle from Kumeu to Swanson and having barely started a poor value heavy railway through Mangere.

          Sometimes I think PT advocates have been in opposition to government so long that they can’t recognize sensible policy once the government adopts it.

        3. PT advocates should choose fights they can win. The light railways still needs to get past the local body and national elections. So they might never happen and then we have achieved nothing from this so called public transport friendly government.

        4. “Half of the lifetime carbon cost of a vehicle is in construction.” Are you sure? I thought that was the case for cars until someone showed me a whole lot of research about a year ago. I would’ve thought with buses, which stop and start a lot and are in use for many hours of the day, that the carbon used in construction would be a small proportion of its carbon footprint.

        5. Royce – the CBD will reach bus capacity at some point, LR is a necessity just like the CRL was. It might get delayed if National get in but just like the CRL they will eventually support it.

          I don’t think there is much chance of a National government before 2023, so I have no doubt these projects will get up and running.

          Anyway if there isn’t political support for these projects there sure as hell isn’t going to be political support for scrapping an entire fleet of buses and replacing them with electrics.

        6. I think you are correct Heidi. The engine run time and constant start/stopping of a bus will generate co2 that is many times the bus manufacturing carbon cost. Calculating manufacturing carbon cost is quite complex but the metals used apparently account for much of that cost so moving to composite bodies and greater use of non metal renewables can reduce that carbon cost.
          The stainless steel bodied AM emus would have relatively large carbon costs, SS is used for vehicle life longevity (non corrosive) and crash safety

        7. Conversion (vs replacement) may be more practical path for buses. If we want a rapid path to EV buses.

          Whatever the case, we do need probably “mass” transit. The center of the isthmus needs this in order to promote the write type of land change.

        8. Jezza, yes the CBD will or nearly has now reached bus capacity.
          I agree with you that LR is necessary. It’s just the time it will take to become available that is the problem.
          In meantime we are to do nothing but just accept worsening traffic congestion, increasing pollution and warming planet?
          The one practical thing we could do starting now is replace the diesel carbon polluting busses with electric busses. Also break open some tins of paint and get continuous electric T3/bus lanes on motorways so busses whizz past the congested sov lanes.
          And yes get the Swanson-Huapai commuter rail line opened and remove some load off the congested SH16.
          What do you suggest we do? Perhaps do nothing but just wait the 10 to 20 years for the LR?

        9. This is getting ridiculous.We’re not doing nothing but waiting for LRT. This feels like you’re just moaning again that they don’t like your rural train shuttle plan.

        10. NickR, ridiculous? I agree as it just beggars belief that AT are ignoring the Swanson-Huapai rail line while NZTA don’t show any urgency in making LR to Kumeu.
          I want LR. I’m not opposing it. I won’t wait 10 to 20 years.
          Apart from more roadworks there is NOTHING significant being done to ameliorate the SH16 congestion. If you have different info that something is being done please elucidate. 20 year future LR is not a now solution.
          At least painting bus/t3 7am to 9am lanes on SH16 could help

        11. Given how long it took to get the speed limit adjusted by NZTA on the NW motorway I can’t imagine any t3 lane options would happen without a long delay. At least the cycleway will be extended once the Lincoln-Westgate upgrade is finished which will allow more people to get out of their cars.

        12. Bogle – my preference for the NW in the interim would be similar to the interim Northern Express that was in operation before the Northern Busway opened.

          Build the stations at Westgate, Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu and have the bus use shoulder lanes on the NW motorway. Some of these services could run through to Kumeu in the same way some NEX buses run to Silverdale.

        13. Jezza, what you outline is exactly what the NE business case proposes. Stage one is building the three main interchange stations and using them to operate a BRT line on the motorway corridor.

        14. “At least painting bus/t3 7am to 9am lanes on SH16 could help”

          NZTA are about 3 years ahead of you. There are AM and PM bus lanes on all of the recently completed sections and they are included in the remaining section too. The interchanges are what we need and that is part of the current business case.

        15. So these main interchange stations are in the business proposal but not yet approved or funded? So still likely 3 to 5 years or further away from any operational NW BRT
          The Swanson-Huapai rail shuttle sure looks the most feasible short term solution for Kumeu/huapai.

        16. The bus stations are funded, ie it’s a line in a government budget somewhere.

          Strictly, the budget is for NW rapid transit, so a shuttle could be funded if the business case recommended it. Implemeting a rail shuttle would still take just as long though as you still need to do the business case, build the stations, and find a train. I could buy a brand new bus and have it turn up before June, if I order a new train it’s three years away, so we are talking about a refurb of existing carriages and asking KiwiRail for a locomotive. Plus a business case would be pretty rubbish if it said that a heavy rail shuttle going once an hour was better than a bus every ten minutes when they would achieve a similar travel time to the city centre and cost about he same.

          Implementing a rail shuttle to Huapai would take at least as long as building bus stations, and probably longer, and be worse value for money.

          I think we should be extend heavy rail services to Kumeu. However, we should do it with electric or battery electric trains that run right through the CRL to Manukau or Otahuhu, not as an infrequent shuttle. It would be a proper extension of the Western line and should include extending all Swanson services to Kumeu, double tracking, and a rail freight depot.

        17. Jezza, yes great idea, building those stations would still take 2-3 years but if some ingenuity in design was used then they could be upgraded to LR stations at later date. Inner NW to Westgate only but I’d still be wanting this an electric bus busway, no diesel. On out SH16 to Kumeu.
          All I have read about NW LR seems to initially terminate at Westgate with a favoured extension towards Whenuapai and Hobsonville. LR to Kumeu, Riverhead and Huapai look to be another project.
          It’s likely an interim busway would be the same routing so still leaving a Swanson-Huapai rail service a good solution.
          I would definitely support an electric bus busway to NW, interim or permanent. Diesel not.

        18. Yes, that’s my understanding too, LR to Kumeu is a sometime in the future project, not part of the initial plan. I hadn’t heard of LR going to Hobsonville or Whenuapai.

          With the interim BRT it would be possible to split the services and have half the services go to Whenuapai and half to Kumeu. I think an NWX from Kumeu with three stops and using shoulder lanes on the motorway to Pt Chev would offer a very competitive option.

  28. I know numbers wise that is correct. But getting around the CBD is relatively, or will be when cars are finally removed from the area, whereas Mangere to the Airport is a bit isolated. I am very keen on the Avondale Southdown link becoming reality too. Yes transferring with luggage is not great, but it does happen in many places. For me the important thing is pushing the project forward, so at least we can stop hearing about “trolley buses” and the other anti light rail rhetoric expleted by crusher bridges hosking etc.

    1. Getting around the CBD easily isn’t much use if you can’t get to it.

      The most challenging part of the LR project will be Dominion Rd as this is where the most vocal opposition will be, Queen St will be relatively easy.

      Proposing to build the outermost part of the project first will be the most certain way to kill the project dead as the much lower patronage would mean the business case simply wouldn’t stack up.

      1. Yep, I think as mentioned here by Matt, start something tangible now like the underpass to K Road so that some key infra is down and visible.

      2. Why would a project be ‘killed’ if it’s rolled out in stages and the first stage happens to start from the airport or is Kumeu to Westgate? This myopic focus on Queen st which is actually rather grotty ignores the importance of getting something happening asap.

        1. Simple. Patronage would be a fraction of that if the line connected with the CBD, you only have to look at patronage on Sydney’s only crosstown rail line or cross town bus services compared with CBD bus services in Auckland to see the impact of not connecting with the CBD.

          If patronage is much smaller then the benefits are much smaller, meaning the business case doesn’t stack up. There is good reason why PT projects generally focus on the CBD’s of cities first, they are by far the biggest generator of patronage and usually have the greatest space constraints.

        2. Why would building light rail in stages and opening the first stage between Kumeu and Westgate affect the business case for the whole project? In fact, it would provide tangible evidence of the superiority of light rail as public transport in Auckland much sooner which could be used to say, yes we know the disruption is bad, but this is what you be getting, so have patience. There’s a very strong political imperative to do it this way.

        3. It would push the main benefits of the project further into the future, which definitely impacts on a business case.

          This approach is used in projects around the world, build the bit that gives the best value for money first.

  29. Why is a dedicated corridor with Light Rail the only option being considered?

    Buses can also run in a dedicated corridor – e.g. the hugely successful Northern Busway.

    Buses have a massive advantage in flexibility over any type of rail as they are directly compatible with the roads we already have.

    Locking in transit corridors is the key first step. Run buses on them, and then when those saturate upgrade to rail as needed, and where it makes sense. This obsession with rail everywhere is going to cost billions up front for no good reason.

    1. The Northern Busway is exactly the reason LR is being proposed on these routes. The success of the busway means it will now reach capacity in 10-20 years, which will mean a very disruptive upgrade to light rail, better to build LR straight up.

      1. I think that is a fairly weak argument.

        Buses will be required to cover for the LR build whenever it happens.

        The LR build will be a heck of a lot less disruptive when there is already a corridor in place.

        1. Building LR in the bus corridor would likely require the closure of the busway for a couple of years, that is seriously disruptive for a corridor that is already moving 7 million per year, I’m not sure that makes it a weak argument.

          Can you imagine closing down the Southern line for a couple of years and replacing it with buses?

        2. Yes I can imagine that – the Southern line closes regularly now without any warning. All of those commuters manage to get home despite the solution being scrambled together.

          So if it was properly planned it would not be a major issue. Remember buses travel on roads too, so you have this flexibility. Might as well use it.

          It would not be a total closure either, any conversion would obviously be done in stages. Might as well keep using the bus corridor up to the point the tracks begin. Then switch out onto the motorway shoulder.

        3. If you believe closing down the Southern line for a couple of years would not be a major disruption then I doubt there is much I’ll be able to convince you of.

        4. Interesting response, you asked if I could imagine it. I said I could and justified it.

          I also said I thought it could be managed with planning.
          Planning requires imagination…

        5. Who’s to say that the busway would take 2 years to convert to rail and that it would be all that disruptive?
          Why such lengthy timeframe? Aren’t there other routes the buses could take during conversion? And not just the motorway. And couldn’t the conversion be done in stages?

        6. Daniel – I’m not certain it would take 2 years, someone else has suggested six months with night works, not sure palatable that would be with neighbours.

          I agree that a temporary bus arrangement is doable, but I don’t think it is something we should repeat on other corridors now we have a much greater acceptance of funding rapid transit and also how quickly passenger volumes grow.

        7. Fair enough.
          In today’s WHS environment I’d expect it to take 9-12 months with up to two years (accounting for any delays).

          Making a busway and then eventually upgrading that busway to alight rail system still makes sense. Initially the population density and patronage isn’t enough to warrant the investment in light rail, but the busway is justifiable and that in turn acts to build the patronage and population density up to a point where a light rail is justified.

          The North shore is a case where the upgrade to rail is made more inconvenient by geography, the buses would probably have to then restrict motorway traffic while the busway’s being converted. I don’t think that would be the case if this was repeated into (for example) East Tamaki.

        8. @Daniel Eyre Form memory, I don’t think the cost of a city to Mangere busway came out that much cheaper than a light rail version, especially when you consider the OPEX, so why bother?

    2. The problem with buses is that there would be too many, i.e to match light rail every 3 mintues you’d need a bus every 30 seconds, which is btoh massively inefficient (you’re paying 6/7 bus drivers instead of one train diver) and there is just no space for the buses to go in the CBD

      1. The point you missed is that on most routes there is no need to match LR capacity.

        Rail/LR should be implemented only where is is required to support the capacity. You work that out by first building the corridor and using buses, and then the data is available to determine when to convert to LR.

        There is no space for buses in the CBD because no space has been made. If they can make space for rail then they can make space for buses. Its all about the corridor.

        Drivers are only one component of the cost, and I suspect that commuter train drivers are paid much more. There is also another employee on the train, whereas there is just the driver on a bus.

        1. Dominion Rd already moves 3 million people per year in buses, turning it into light rail and extending the route south to the airport can only grow this, the case is already there.

          At high volumes buses take up more space than LR as they bunch meaning an extra lane is needed in each direction at stops to allow buses to pass. Also they require turning space at the end of the route, whereas LR just has a cab at each end.

          There was good reason for building the Northern busway, the harbour meant a huge amount could be saved by using the existing bridge, this is not so much the case with the current LR proposals.

        2. Yes I agree regarding Dominion Road. The volume stacks up for that route and it has already exceeded the capacity of buses so it needs to move up to some form of rail.

          Like I said in my first post, there is no issue with rail where it is required.

        3. Once Dominion Rd is built I think it is worth extending south to Mangere and the airport using the same mode rather than forcing an interchange at Mt Roskill.

          There is a stronger argument for BRT on the NW corridor as it means it can be done in stages, using the existing bus lanes on the causeway, where there would be no stations anyway. However, I think the government have made the right call to get on and build what will be needed at some point anyway.

        4. There is no space for buses in the CBD because we have spent the last thirty years adding buses to the CBD and using up on the kerb space. They looked at various options for bus tunnels, off street and underground stations, etc. They all require huge underground works, or a hugely expensive piece of land where the opportunity cost is a skyscraper.

          Yes light rail takes up space too, but in a constrained corridor it can move about three times as many people as bus rapid transit with the same footprint.

          We are talking about LRT on Queen Street that will accomodate about as many people as the northern busway. But look at the busway stations and terminal requirements, those willl not fit into Queen Street.

          This is not an either-or situation, Auckland will continue to have four major bus corridors accomodating a total of around 350 buses an hour. But it’s adding the next corridor using a high capacity, space efficient mode.

        5. We have spent thirty years adding buses to the CBD without building any infrastructure for them. We have built infrastructure for rail, but like you say that isn’t going to be the complete solution. Since they will still be required, there must be a need to build this?

          The impression I have been getting is that rail is the only option being considered now, so thanks for the information about how other options were considered.

        6. That’s not quite right. We have built a lot of bus infrastructure. Bus lanes have been added to Symonds Street, Anzac Ave, Fanshawe Street, Albert Street, Vincent Street, Queen Street, Grafton Bridge, Karangahape Road, Victoria Street… I’m probably missing something. We’ve also built, expanded and extended bus stops all over these corridors, and established new passenger bus stops and staging bays all over the place. Lower Albert Street for example is now almost entirely given over to the terminal for the NX1 busway bus.

          There is a plan to also convert Wellesley Street into a dedicated busway, and build a new bus terminal at britomart east.

          All of these things have been taken into account when planning for the next corridors. This bus infrastructure won’t be removed, except for Queen Street itself to be upgraded, and with the Wellesley busway and downtown station there will still be more buses running through central Auckland than there has every been.

          The simple fact is the Auckland city centre has grown massively in the last thirty years, we’ve added about 80,000 daily workers and 50,000 residents, and tens of thousands of students… and is projected to continue doing so.

          So yes, the CBD has had a huge amount of bus growth and a big investment in bus infrastructure, it’s getting even more investment in bus infrastructure, plus the city rail link for heavy rail. However, for the next couple of decades growth even more capacity is required, hence the light rail.

        7. Excellent to hear, thanks.
          I have to say my original point way back wasn’t about the CBD. I was actually talking about light rail out in suburbia, and the seeming lack of consideration of dedicated bus corridors in the same manner as dedicated rail corridors.
          But I do appreciate you educating me on the facts of the situation.

        8. Well we do run bus lanes on several suburban corridors, in fact basically all radial arterials on the isthmus and a few on the North Shore and South Auckland, and dedicated bus facilities are being evaluated for some pretty major routes like Botany to Airport. The issue comes with the major radial routes like the North Shore, Northwestern and Mangere to City where they still end up in the city centre and join in with the various issues within the CBD itself.

  30. Maybe Twyford et al are dragging the chain because after consultation from the actual experts; he’s realised what a bad idea it is?

    1. And replaces them with more load bearing reinforced concrete, and a proprietry guidance system of unknown maintence cost, and future serviceability. Rails make an incredibly simple and robust guidance system. Departing from this risks going down a blind alley as a chosen system may well become obselete with no further manufacturers support.

    2. The article linked by kiwi_overseas was by Prof. Peter Newman. He has an extensive and distinguished background in promoting LRT and sustainable transport systems. Much as I too baulk at the idea of rubber-tyred road vehicles replacing steel-on-rail, I think his assessment should be given credence.

      Unless the trackless-tram concept hits some significant barrier to wider acceptance then I can see that it could be disruptive. If Prof. Newman’s statement is true, that “In three years of trials no impact on road surfaces has been found”, then so far things would appear to be looking good for it.

      The concept of rubber-tyred trams is not new. In France there are a number of systems guided by a single steel rail but these have not been without their problems – principally derailments and road-surface damage. These have led to one city (Caen) replacing its system with conventional trams:

      However if optically-guided systems which follow a simple painted dotted-line can get around these problems as well as reaping the cost-benefits of battery operation, they could be in with a chance.

      1. “In three years of trials no impact on road surfaces has been found”

        Go take a look at Dominion Road now. If the existing buses cause that damage already, what do you think precisely-guided multi-axle bus-trams which always impact exactly the same spot will do? You’re looking at substantial road base and utility rebuilding costs either way – and if you are intervening that much, adding steel rails makes sense for longevity, ride quality and passenger capacity. It’s the steel rail element which opponents of LRT don’t like, but which is inevitably unavoidable.

  31. Had a thought if they are thinking of tunneling at all under Queen St (apart from just the original K’Rd underpass tunnel). You could run surface level up Queen then start the tunnel “sort of” where it gets steeper just before Mayoral Dr (think it does more south of there actually?) so as to under pass the general traffic ring road of Mayoral avoiding conflicts there. Maybe too ugly, but just up hill of the Town Hall/Aotea kind of area. Then come out wherever in Upper Queen St.

    If they only end up fully pedestrianising from Mayoral down (apart from the main cross routes) this maybe a good option albeit more expensive the surface all the way.

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