Over the coming decades Auckland’s budding rapid transit network is expected to grow significantly, approximately tripling in size from what it is today. While a decent proportion of will be new and extended busways, new rail lines will also be built, in particular a new light rail network serving the North Shore, the Northwest, the Isthmus and Mangere. These are the blue lines in the map below.

Recently we’ve seen an increase in comments here and in other places suggesting that these future rail lines should be designed to the same standard as our existing rail network. With this post I wanted to look at some of the common reasons given for this and why it’s a good idea to keep them separate.

Note/warning: This post isn’t another light/heavy rail mode debate and the arguments are intended to be equally valid if we were to decide to build the blue lines as some form of heavy rail. If the comments descend to become another mode debate with people talking past each other, I am liable to ban some commenters without warning.

City Rail Link doesn’t have the capacity

The CRL represents a significant upgrade to our existing rail network and it’s not often a single project can more than double the capacity of an entire network. It was also a long and contentious path to get to the point we’re currently at with the project under construction that we don’t want to have to repeat again anytime soon. Some have questioned why we can’t make use of all that extra capacity.

But we can’t take all that new capacity for granted and if there’s anything we’ve learnt over the last decade or so is that Auckland’s rail network usually grows stronger than expected. As such, the most recent analysis suggested the CRL could be at capacity within a decade of opening and future proofing is now being included to allow for up to 9-car trains to operate. This same strong growth is also why the work to support greenfield growth is considering whether we need a second rapid transit route in the south. This means that services for any new lines, if they used the CRL, would have to come at the cost of services on other lines.

In short, even it was technically feasible to add another line into the CRL, we’re going to need all the capacity we can get from the CRL just to support the existing rail lines. Any new lines would be better to interchange with but not use the CRL.

It’s not feasible to build a connection to CRL anyway

Even if we wanted to sacrifice some capacity on those other lines, there’s also the question of just how we’d do it. The only plan we’ve seen was from way back in 2003 where a junction was suggested under the downtown site but to build that now would likely require the removal of the still under construction 39 storey Commercial Bay tower. Even if you could go to this expense, why would you? People wanting to travel to other parts of the city centre, say Karanagahape would still have to transfer anyway.

It doesn’t get any easier to connect anywhere else either. One of the challenges with the CRL is that between the stations the tracks needs to rise at or close to the limit for a rail system of this kind. Overall it rises about 70m over the 3.2km of the tunnel and that means even if we wanted to, there’s not the ability to add another junction in.

What has happened however, is the CRL is being future proofed for a perpendicular line under Wellesley St. You can see this in some of the technical information CRLL have posted about the Aotea Station. The image below is for the Southern end of the station at Wellesley St and you can see the grey lines separating to make space for a potential platform. This would obviously be very disruptive to build but could be used for any mode.

We’ll save any conversation for if we should use this route to another post.

A connected network is a better outcome

Overseas it’s not uncommon to see metro lines that have branches, often near the ends of the network, but one thing you don’t see is networks where all lines run services to all other lines. By having interchanges between lines it allows networks to run each route with higher frequencies making them faster and more convenient for more people. This is the same principle behind the new bus network that was rolled out over the last few years.

What this means is that providing good connections can be provided between this new second rail network and the existing one, whether it be under Wellesley or on the surface, it will mean that people can easily transfer between services to continue their journey.

A connected network delivers another important feature that can’t be achieved with trying to share the network, it provides more resilience.

Auckland’s network has improved significantly from the days when we used to see multiple signal or track faults on a daily basis. However, we still occasionally have issues, whether it be a train/network fault or an incident at a level crossing – the most disruptive being the derailment in Britomart last year. Given Auckland’s already tight network with lots of junctions, a single issue on one part of the network can quickly cascade and impact on services on all parts of it. If we were to build new lines, why would we not want it independent of the existing network? The last thing we want is a single failure taking out the backbone of our entire PT network.

We’ll need a new depot anyway

One suggestion I hear from time to time is that by keeping our trains the same, we can make use of the existing EMU depot. At the time of it’s construction, AT said the depot was future proofed to be able to handle up to 109 trains, just under double the 57 we currently have (with 15 more under construction). With the City Rail Link increasing frequencies and potentially 9-car trains in the future, that likely won’t be enough just for the trains needed on our existing network and so we’re likely to need a new or expanded depot anyway.

This also means we certainly won’t have capacity in the existing depot to also handle trains serving the ‘second’ rail network.

The technology not being the same is fine, maybe even ideal

There’s no reason why we have to have the same style trains designed to work on a network first built over a hundred years ago. In fact many cities have a lot of different types of rail technology and designs and that isn’t an issue because they don’t have to inter-operate due to the network design principles mentioned above. Often when new lines are built they are built using the technology of the day. A few examples are below but almost all cities tend to have a mix of technologies depending on when the various lines were built.

  • London – Crossrail is being built to very different specifications to the other parts of the underground network, which itself has different specifications depending on when the line was built.
  • Sydney – the existing double decker trains are too big to fit on the new metro line under construction, which see fully automated single-decker trains operating.

By building a new network we can ensure that we build it to the latest standards without the baggage the current network has, such as trains that have completely level floors for easier access.

It shouldn’t be designed to accommodate freight

It’s important that this new rail network be focused on providing high quality public transport at all times of the day. That includes the ability to run services at high frequencies. Having to accommodate freight only serves to dilute this ability and on our existing network remains a significant obstacle to running trains more frequently outside of the peak. Not to mention would also be a bit bizarre to be standing on an underground platform, say at Aotea, and suddenly see a freight train roll past. Is there any metro where that happens?

All up I don’t see any value in the suggestion that any new rail lines have to be the same or be interoperable with our existing network and if anything, is only likely to make building these lines more difficult and costly.

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  1. Now that would leave a lot of people going WTF if they saw a huge DL hauling wagons up the CRL or going through Britomart.

    Freight is accommodated via the still protected Avondale to Southdown corridor if it is ever needed to move more freight north.

    As for LRT? They are trying where rolling stock can be retofitted to move “just in time” freight outside the peak cutting down the need on post trucks running around everywhere.

    1. The next big disruption will be the uberisation of freight delivery and the rise of the micro logistics. We will have delivery people using dockless cargo van, electric bikes and scooters. So anyone can become a courier person because there will be no outlay on a van. In addition there will be army of pensioners with wheely suitcases using public transport to transport freight between popup hubs using their gold card. I am writing the app now.

      1. I can imagine such a scheme disrupting the courier industry, but its harder to see little old grandmas assisting the movement of 100t of canned soup from Palmerston North to Auckland. That is to say, how does the micro logistics model deal with large volumes of freight such as what is currently moved via freight train?

        1. It’s a fact that a wizened, old granny is like an ant; capable of carrying fifty times their own weight :-).

  2. A great post that is perfectly in keeping with the history of railways. “Let’s build the next one for different vehicles with a different gauge and a different power supply.” The railway builders of the past would approve. I mean if anything was the same then parts might be interchangeable and where would we be then?

    1. So, here it is; really effective and efficient urban rail systems are not like ‘railways’, at all, in the sense of nationwide networks. And nor are they like road networks for the same reason. People used to these systems, even (or especially?) people working in them, often seem to struggle to understand the key difference.

      A significant and powerful feature of the later is vehicle interoperability; the ability to send any vehicle to any point of the system, this is great, it’s flexible, in the case of road networks it obviously even allows the users to bring their own vehicle; sweet! It also makes expanding the system much simpler, just add a bit of any length to a sufficient standard and you’re away…

      Whereas high capacity, high frequency urban rail systems (let’s call them Metros), work best through inflexibility. Yes that’s right; by doing one thing per route over and over at high frequency, without distraction from choice or variety, and especially junctions. Not all urban rail systems are Metros in this sense, or completely so, but these focussed and, yes, hermetically separate lines, are the key component of the great systems that enable really efficient movement of people at volume. Which in turn is essentially for a city of scale to continue to work well for its citizens and prosper.

      The London Underground, even though some lines are a bit hybrid, is, at its core, a series of completely separate rail lines, connected only by users transferring, trains only rarely switch lines. And in fact much work in recent years has been about separating the remaining interlined routes.

      Like the Battersea branch under construction now, which will enable the Northern Line to operate as two separate lines, by adding a new terminus for one branch. This breaking the interlining of the two pairs of the Northern Line is driven by the need for higher frequency. Removing, or reducing the use of, junctions and simplifying the running pattern to its most basic is the way to achieve the highest throughput and sweats the asset to the max.

      A ‘cost’ of this is flexibility. A big gain is legibility; very easy for the user to understand what the service does, and a bigger gain is resilience; a problem on one line doesn’t cause a problem on another, they are completely separate. The biggest gain is frequency and therefore capacity.

      There’s much more to say about this. It is reasonable to ask does AKL need such high quality/capacity systems? I think the answer is yes, but also our current is already full, and the coming upgrades are needed just to keep up with growth… but this comment is already too long…

      1. Couple of points on the Northern Line:
        – Kennington already provides a separate terminus for the West End branch by way of a single track balloon loop beyond the platforms (this is what the Battersea extension connects to).
        – Separating the Northern Line requires a rebuild of Camden Town as the existing station will not handle the interchange between the two new lines.

        1. ill be fascinated to see what they call the two seperate northern lines once that work is done. Perhaps one will be called the charles line.

        2. “Southern Line…”
          The City branch was originally the City & South London Railway, so that could’ve been appropriate (sort of).

        3. Probably just be something like Bank Line and Charing Cross Line after what the branches are called today…(maybe a bit too boring perhaps? lol)

      2. Clearly you know more about this than Transport for London. They replaced the C’s and D’s as well as the A60s with interoperable S Stock from Bombardier. The reasons as I understand them was to reduce costs of parts and maintenance and training. But hey since we are at the end of the world it probably isn’t going to matter if we have to order a wheel of one dimension from Spain and another of a different size from Poland and maybe a third from China.

        1. There could be resilience in this, miffy. Am I the only one who could see the possibility of _all_ trains having to await a new part? Given the planning ahead that doesn’t happen / is restricted by budget, it might be better to have only part of the network affected by each stuff up.

        2. Yes, it’s something all airlines grapple with. Do you get a whole lot of the same fleet and streamline the maintenance process or do you get different types to reduce the impacts of having to take a particular type out of service?

          I don’t think airlines that exclusively fly 737 MAX 8s at the moment will be particularly happy.

        3. We seem to cope OK with a number of different varieties of bus on the road.

          There is of course always a benefit to standardisation but that reduces if it forces you to use the lower quality option as the standard.

          I don’t think two standardised fleets of trains in Auckland will be the end of the world. Melbourne has three types in its fleet.

        4. Miffy they still ain’t gonna run them between lines. Anyway, of course, as is the case the case with our second batch of EMUs to run on the same track we should and did order more CAF ones to the same design, with a few upgrades.

          Here we are talking about the advantages in getting away from the limiting conditions of our existing Victorian mixed freight and passenger railway and building another one to complement it. And the advantages of starting over clearly outweigh any efficiencies in having one unified stock.

          In exactly the same way as we didn’t just keep using diesel locos pulling passenger carriages when upgrading the network for expanded passenger use.

          Surely this is an understandable trade-off? On cost alone the opportunity to build a system able to negotiated steeper grades, tighter radii, have level floors, lighter chassis, etc trump any economies of only owning one type of stock.

        5. There is a good example here in that Auckland’s trains can’t run on Wellingtons power supply or through it’s tunnels. And that’s fine, because they don’t need to.

          We could have standardised with Wellingtons old and expensive 600v DC system, and it’s small loading gauge… but we don’t need to, so have gone for the best that works for Auckland. The benefits of a modern power supply system far outweight any benefits that might come from standardisation.

          This is the same for any new lines within Auckland, they don’t need to inter operate, and in practice probably couldn’t even if they were identical for the reasons outlined above. It’s always going to be a connective network made up of several discrete lines and systems.

          Therefore there is no advantage to designing to a set of constraints you don’t actually have. Just build whatever is best for the new line, and let in run in parallel to the existing ones.

          Like right now we have some routes that physically cannot accommodate the clearance of double deckers, and some that can. Is that reason to not have double deckers on the routes that can? Would we never use an articulated bus because the standard bus stop length isn’t long enough?

        6. Nick – re: “we could have standardised with Wellingtons old and expensive 600v DC system, and it’s small loading gauge” – I know we in Wellington have a different voltage / power supply from you in Auckland, but I’m not sure what you mean by “small loading gauge”. Are you saying the tracks are a different width apart? Surely not? Could you explain please? thanks

        7. Loading gauge: maximum height, width, & length of rolling stock. Constrained by structures such as tunnels, overbridges, platform edges, etc.

          Tunnel 1 on the J’ville line is the major constraint on the Wellington network loading gauge due being narrow & curved. Matangi units are built to the maximum dimensions that will run up to J’ville. The other lines could have longer & less tubular carriages.

        8. Hi Guy, as gk says the loading gauge is a different thing to the track gauge. It’s basically the maximum size the train carriages can be and still fit through the smallest tunnel/bridge/cutting on the system.

      3. “trains only rarely switch lines.” and if they do they have to be driven by driver supervisors and no pax allowed on board

    2. I agree with you about having standardised rolling stock and control systems, hence my comment about standardised rolling stock and controls for a national regional passenger rail network.

    3. Miffy, if we never improved on the technology the CRL would be being built out of bricks and quicklime for horse drawn wagons that roll along wooden planks with iron plates nailed to the top, and illuminated by coal gas lamps.

      But at least there would be a standardised inventory of horseshit shovels and cast iron lamp covers. Obviously those interchangeable spare parts are the key to an effective transport system.

        1. Well you did sarcastically write ““Let’s build the next one for different vehicles with a different gauge and a different power supply.”

          I would agree that “the width of two horses arses” and “a mix of oats and hay” count as a different gauge and a different power supply!

          Sticking with the old vehicle spec, old gauge etc just because they are the incumbent is a fools errand if those specs have been superseded.

  3. I don’t even think Auckland has a budding rapid transit system yet aside from the rail connection from Pukekohe and even then its not exactly quick. Instead we have very slow buses and the odd train service like Onehunga, if trains could actually get some pace up down the branch.

    And yet Auckland is screaming out for Rapid Transport, the one area PT could triumph over the private car but our leaders are very reluctant to commit to it, in reality, that is. And it would help Auckland and NZ’s economy hugely.

    So as it stands we only have the current rail service, the western line being anything but rapid, a speed limited busway on the North Shore and buses that are the prime example of 1950’s slow, actually, just like taking your 0 – 60 mph in 90 seconds – ’52 Austin A30 for a thrash down memory lane.

    It would a miracle to see our politicians take that map and implement it but I just cannot see it in any persons lifetime.

  4. Another example is KL, where there are several different rail technologies across the city.

    The redundancy argument is why we’ll never get rid of buses, which currently form the back bone of our system, while the Transit system develops further, which ever why it goes.

  5. Do not close the gate on heavy rail just now. We need to complete the heavy rail network so Auckland can survive. Ben has identified the Avondale Southdown heavy rail corridor. The third main in the South is a must do. Uberisation of delivery I agree will come but the bulk loads still need to come to central distribution points in the City whether from Northland or South Canterbury. For every kg of onions or potatoes a consumer takes home in Auckland many truck loads have to be delivered to the city. Every TV set arrives by the container load. We need efficient freight networks as well as Public Transport networks.

    1. I don’t think there is any suggestion the gate is closed on HR, the question is whether new metro lines are used for freight. You are right that TV’s arrive by container but they are then distributed to numerous Noel Leemings, Harvey Normans, JB HiFis etc, none of which are close enough to a railway line to allow direct delivery to the store.

      Even if the North Shore line was built to freight dimensions it is hard to imagine any TVs crossing the harbour by freight train.

      1. There’s a huge amount of upgrading to the HR network needed and in the pipeline now. 3rd 4th, 3rd on the Eastern, flying the Westfield junction… etc. then there’s the rest of the country: electrification, the NAL, Marsden Link, Whangamarino duplication, ECM… etc etc. there’s a heap of work necessary and coming (hopefully). But all that’s just to accomodate growth in freight, existing Metro services, and more intercity… Any idea that building new systems in AKL takes away from this important work is nonsense. We at GA are major boosters of this work, as we always have been. Just a case of horses for courses.

      2. The point I think Don is making is: As well as getting trucks off the roads on our national highways, we also want to get them off the roads in our urban environment (where people have to cross roads more often), which in Auckland includes the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast, etc.,* so some freight distribution hubs in Wairau Valley, Albany Basin, Dairy Flat, Silverdale, etc., served by freight rail-!capable! infrastructure would further enable the more localised micrologistics mentioned above. This need not interfere with high-frequency PT Metro running during the peaks and daytime and doesn’t have to be part of the initial PT Metro project delivery – just make provision for it to be physically possible to do at a later stage. Modern/future locos and wagons would be able to handle grades and curves similar to Metros, e.g., by using distributed power to self-steering bogies on articulated freight wagons to make up fully automated fast (Metro-speed or faster) urban freight shuttles between distribution hubs (with sufficient off-line sidings at the distribution hubs for loading/unloading and storage so as not to interfere with PT Metro running) all around the urban region.

        Just don’t repeat the Mangere Bridge and Kirkbride Road debacles, which supposedly made provision for rail, but for the sake of a few inches, just not enough provision to be useable.

        Please, no more of these short-sighted/small-minded debacles in Auckland, we’ve had enough of them.

        (* perhaps extending north eventually to Warkworth and then further north to rejoin the NAL at Wellsford and/or pass through Mangawhai and Waipu/Ruakaka areas and join the Marsden Point rail link to provide a more direct route that serves greater population areas for rapid regional rail and freight to the north, with the existing NAL used for slower bulk freight and the Avondale-Southdown serving as a bypass to further south)

        1. P.S. To clarify (and hopefully avoid being banned), I’m not suggesting HR, I’m suggesting “Metro freight” (for want of a better term): a Metro system/infrastructure that can also be used for delivering freight to distribution hubs of high freight concentration around the Greater Auckland region – NOT for running long-haul bulk freight trains on.

          A container in a well car would probably be lower, narrower and shorter than most if not all modern low-floor Metro cars (assuming we don’t try to go as small as the Glasgow Subway). If the Metro was another track gauge, variable gauge axles could be used on some “Metro freight” wagons for use on NZR gauge if required, and there could be dual gauge tracks at freight yards that interface between intra-regional freight and inter-regional freight, e.g., at Wiri and Kumeu (and perhaps eventually Wellsford).

        2. P.P.S. To clarify further, I’m not suggesting these “Metro freight” shuttles roll past any passengers on platforms at any PT Metro stations. They would run out of hours, or on parallel tracks that passengers on platforms at stations are completely shielded from, and to avoid any unsightliness anywhere else, the all-electric automated shuttle wagons could look exactly like the Metro cars, but without windows and with different doors.

        3. If it is a potential future add-on to a metro network then I can’t see any issue.

          My concern is if it adds to the cost of building the metro for something that in my opinion is unlikely to ever happen. The idea that businesses will tolerate freight moving across town in a five hour window at night is fanciful.

          Even in European cities local trucks do most of the deliveries within urban areas, the difference is they restrict truck movements in many places, reducing the impact on pedestrians. We basically allow any truck on any street.

        4. Yes, all I’m suggesting is enable provision for it for the future – i.e., “future-proof” it.

          There may be some marginal cost, e.g., in “greenfield” areas, instead of a 20m right-of-way reservation, it may require a 25m or 30m right-of-way reservation – but since most of the North Shore/Northern alignment is likely to be within the current motorway/busway reservation, there should be sufficient right-of way reservation already* (maybe just requiring some narrow strips to be acquired at distribution hub locations). In the meantime, that spare space can become buffering and/or a cycleway (and/or a route to bundle and safely place some trunk utilities, which could be designed in such a way as they to be able to stay in place and still be accessible even if the Metro freight option was realised).

          (* providing they don’t allow adjoining lots to project into the alignment of the reservation, e.g., the Turners Car Auction site at Rosedale – please let’s avoid that in future)

          Re. the 5-hour window, a lot of deliveries to supermarkets, etc., are done in the early hours now … but that’s not necessarily what I’m suggesting: I’m suggesting (most of) the freight gets to the local distribution hubs during that time window, and then gets distributed from those hubs to recipients on a rational and agreed basis. New technologies being developed and trialled in Europe include “virtual coupling” of bi-modal rail wagons that become trucks/vans for the “last mile” (or two) delivery on roads. These can be fully automated and electric.

          The point I’m really trying to make is: Please don’t think that what exists/happens now will be the same in the future; please make allowance for changes now, so we can incorporate and capitalise on them as part of our planning for the future.

          And some analysis suggests that the revenue from the freight (and utilities) operations could help enable the PT Metro to be fare-free, especially if motorists, insurance companies, health boards, environment agencies, etc., compensate PT users for the savings/benefits they create elsewhere in the economy. These revenue streams could also help the business case.

          All it requires is thinking outside of the box a bit, and thinking a little bit ahead.

        5. While you are right to think ahead to the future, I’d be willing to bet any metro freight system wont involve more transfers of goods and more restrictions on when freight can travel on some of those legs than we currently do.

        6. Well, what’s often regarded as the world’s most amazing example of the mass-Uberisation of freight/micrologistics in an urban area, the Mumbai dabbawala system, uses urban trains to rationalise its ~200,000 daily door-to-door deliveries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala * – it works.

          (* but I’m suggesting delivery from your local hub to your door by ~10:30 am at the latest, i.e., well before lunchtime)

          But anyway, the reason I commented on this post is because I think it’s a good idea to get freight vehicles off our roads in urban areas as much as possible, especially during the daytime and evening (so they don’t kill or injure school kids, little old ladies, etc., crossing the road, etc.: https://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/crashfacts/truckcrashfacts/ )
          – so I think they definitely should be restricted as much as possible and necessary to make our urban environment as safe and healthy as possible.

          If/when trucks and vans no longer have free access to our roads, logistics firms will want an alternative solution, and they’ll pay for it, because they’ll know it’ll save them money (and soon, freight will be “smart” like passengers, with IoT and all that, so we can think of packages as being public transport users also – if the planners can’t work it out, the AI will).

          All I’m asking for right now is to make this physically possible on the ground in the future (i.e., don’t make it impossible, like the sabotage that happened with Mangere Bridge, Kirkbride Road, etc.).

        7. Yes, fair call.

          I know lots of people have got their heads around an entirely different delivery system for the central city.

          I reckon Vision Zero (and caring) requires us to think it through for the whole city.

  6. While the evidence against heavy rail for the new parts of the network is incredibly strong and the heavy rail arguments are almost all invalid and ideological, I strongly disagree with the approach of banning commenters without warning. To me its important to continue to let the evidence speak for itself and allow anyone to share any opinion. Banning comments is a dangerous precedent to set imo

    1. 1. I think there’s enough to discuss in this topic without everything coming down to a simplistic mode debate
      2. We’ve had hundreds of posts where modes are discussed and have some more coming up. It will be fine to discuss that in there
      3. Endless comment streams were everyone is talking past each other is boring and I don’t think it helps encourage new readers.

  7. London’s Overground network (it’s fastest growing) is very much like Auckland’s, except busier and with heavier, longer freight trains heading to all parts of London. If it works well there, I can’t see why it shouldn’t work well in Auckland.

    1. That’s right, like Auckland’s little network, it is a preexisting largely Victorian, Railway. And it makes sense to adapt it for contemporary use. That is completely different from adding whole new routes.

    2. The Overground has massive capacity constraints (freight, short platforms, performance pollution from through working to lines shared with other services, etc).

      Sure wouldn’t build like that if starting from scratch…

    3. I catch the overground about 5 times a week. Believe me, it doesn’t work well. The frequency is low (30 minutes on some branches). A lot of platforms are too short, so not all doors open. Every so often a freight train will roll past and deafen everyone on the platform. It’s like the Auckland network: a victorian era system that has been retrofitted to provide a passenger service that is less than ideal.

      1. Exactly, there’s a world of difference between a Metro system and a mixed commuter and freight railway. Basically what we are saying here is that as we add to our very successful urban passenger network in AKL, it’s time to add dedicated lines.

        Which is not to say the current network is bad or needs to be replaced but rather there are better options for new routes, while we further upgrade and adapt the existing one, both for freight and passenger. And that it current one doesn’t need, or indeed cannot handle the extra pressure of whole new urban passenger lines. It’s full already and getting fuller with its current and upcoming tasks…

      2. “Every so often a freight train will roll past and deafen everyone on the platform.”

        So it’s like the vast majority of urban rail systems across the world then?.
        With the assumption you’re an Aucklander; Im surprised you’re not already accustomed to that. It’s pretty common on the Wellington network, sometimes it’s the Wairarapa commuter trains!

        “The frequency is low (30 minutes on some branches). A lot of platforms are too short, so not all doors open.”
        That sounds like the Gospel Oak branch or something, it’s not the case for the outer ring lines in London.
        30 minute frequencies is pretty standard off-peak on most Urban rail systems. Short platforms is not that uncommon either. I really cannot see how either is any indication of “things not working well”.

  8. Putting freight in tunnels is a problem. Especially for the likes of MBIE, NZTA, MoT (and KiwiRail) who have rules about such things.

    Dangerous and explosive goods don’t care what mode they travel on – they can go bang or catch fire or leak dangerously just as easily in any type of tunnel. Whether they be road or rail tunnels doesn’t matter.

    Switzerland has seen more than its share of such issues over the years, and buses and other vehicles have caught fire in the Homer Tunnel down south for a closer to home example.

    Apparently thats the main reason the Orakei Point development as planned fell over – the covering over of the rail tracks as planned for the development caused KR tracks to basically become tunnels. Which requires lots of expensive additions to the plans. KR didn’t agree to end up paying for the remediation needed – and the developer didn’t want to pay either.

    Heck technically even the EP highway over bridge that Te Horoto Road in Panmure runs under bans dangerous goods – and its not a “real” tunnel just a wider than usual bridge.

    So anyway, I suggest we leave the freight out of these tunnels for now.
    It simplifies the whole plan a great deal.

    Same would apply for any road or rail tunnels under the harbour too. Although NZTA is likely to require dangerous goods to go via Victoria Park Tunnel and the Harbour Bridge in that case. Or via Waterview tunnels and the SH16/18.

    1. The Swiss have spent mega-billions to build very long “base” tunnels (the Gotthard Base Tunnel is 57.1 km long) through the Alps primarily to put freight trains through them.

      As long as it’s 1-track per tunnel it’s relatively safe and resilient (cross-overs can enable bi-directional running and gates/doors can enable isolation of flood/fire-affected sections).

      1. Given the amount of freight that goes through the Kaimai tunnel I imagine it would include dangerous goods.

  9. (Oh that expandable comment button lost my comment or doesn’t keep in sync with the small comment box..lucky I saved it):
    Good post. Yes thinking along separate lines & future plans & recent posts & comments: There is no reason you couldn’t have the GA plan for Northshore LRT running street level through Queen St to Southern Mangere line etc as say a bridge, then later have a driverless dedicated heavier metro underground system from Takapuna to that Aotea station provision. So many combinations could be done. NW LRT should come after the southern Mangere line joining into the Queen St corridor, but when we get more demand form the inner West we could split the line to run street running version along Great North Road & down Albert St (so Queen is not overloaded & give more catchment options). May dead end it at the bottom or Albert or add more track if needed as it joins the other lines along Fanshawe to Wynyard.

    1. If you were going to have a GNR street running line then why not bring it down Ponsonby Road then College Hill before terminating somewhere along Wellesley or Victoria or continuing on to the universities. It would connect Ponsonby to town and provide a compelling cross town route through the busy Victoria Quarter. Not that I immediately see the value as good connections could be built to GNR from the NW line as is.

      1. It’s idea worth exploring though quite a dog leg west then east through the future Wellesley busway or Victoria Linear Path. Wonder how that new bus route 20 is doing?

  10. NZTA published a paper in which it dropped support for a road-plus-rail crossing of the harbour and has adopted a rail only crossing:

    That article says that the number of trucks presently crossing the harbour bridge is 11,000, expected to more than double to 26,000 in 20 years. The problem is going to be what to do with this more than doubling of freight if the new crossing is to be rail only. The suggestion made is that heavy rail, in order to move freight that would otherwise have to go by truck around the Western Ring Route, is the only option that makes sense.

    1. If the freight industry was expected to cover the additional costs of making a crossing freight compatible then I imagine they would be quite happy to send some of their freight via the Western Ring Route.

      Also I imagine most of these trucks travel during the day. If it were to go by rail it would have to go at night meaning those who receive the freight would have to open at night to receive it.

      The freight crossing the bridge is going to a large number of destinations so will need to be transferred to trucks on the other side of the bridge. I don’t think many people will be keen to pay for the extra packing and unpacking required only to have to either receive it overnight or wait till the next morning. Most would be happy for it just to come the longer way via the Western Ring Route.

    2. Neil when it says freight, it mostly means delivery, not a task that rail does anywhere. Rail is for long distance high volume, is entirely uncompetitive for anything less… There are no plans for trains dropping off panels to the Shore…

      1. Packing and unpacking? You do realise that bulk freight comes by rail to Southdown Freight Centre near Westfield, then is unpacked and shipped by truck to the North Shore? All the way across Auckland. I wouldn’t mind betting Mainfreight is already lining up a rail freight terminal on the North Shore and the distribution will happen from there. Honestly, the negativity on this forum is astounding, and with a real lack of vision. Stop thinking of what exists at the moment, and start thinking about how circumstances might change to make this work. Could there even be a four-track rail link to the Shore?

        1. Unpacked and shipped by truck to all of Auckland Region you mean. Are you expecting they would unload all he freight at Southdown, then stack it, reload a North Shore train, then haul it up to Albany to unload and put on trucks to ship back to warehouses in Rosedale or Wairau?

        2. No, the 11,000 trucks per day (predicted to rise to 26,000 by 2046) are going to have to go somewhere. Around the Western Ring Route? Not likely. The trucking companies would love that because they could charge for the longer distance and pass the cost on to you and me. But that’s terribly inefficient. What TANZ is telling you is that road is off the agenda for the second harbour crossing, and rail is going to be the only mode. Therefore, how is all that North Shore-bound freight going to get there? By light rail on spare seats next to passengers? So it looks like TANZ (not me) is seriously considering heavy rail to the Shore.

        3. Yeah I’m not sure if that’s quite the crisis you think it is. 11,000 trucks per day across the bridge amounts to 57 trucks an hour per lane, or about 3% of the capacity of the bridge. Indeed if that increases to 26k a day, it will amount to 7% of the capacity of the bridge. So it goes.

          Between the 8 lanes Auckland Harbour Bridge and the 5 lane upper harbour bridge, we already have 20 times more capacity than we need for the 2046 freight task to and from the north.

          It ain’t freight that’s the problem. 170,000 vehicles per day, only 11,000 of them freight. The other 95% are personal travel, and yes a large proportion of those can go by light rail.

        4. Not too mention the disruption converting the NEX to LRT will have. I still think by the time they build a tunnel under the harbour for rail they’ll just continue it up the Shore and leave the NEX for buses. Can still have LRT on the Shore between Taka and Glenfield for example and if desired the NEX could then be converted once the underground is doing the heavy lifting. Doesn’t have to be HR, could be a metro type system, but I think making it compatible with our existing HR system would make sense. Build the CRL2 and have the North Shore Line link up with the Eastern Line. Alternatively have it operate through to Onehunga or something like that. By the time it is built the whole HR network will likely be driverless so no problem with improved frequencies.

        5. Nick, I think you might be underestimating the impact of the Uberisation of freight and micrologistics: as well as 26,000 trucks, we could have 170,000+ ZOVs (zero occupant vehicles) doing freight deliveries – i.e., we will need a more rationalised alternative.
          Better to plan ahead for this now.
          Please consider that what exists now may be different in the future (including the relatively near future).
          Again, better plan ahead for this now.
          (And again, a plea: Please, no more short-sighted/small-minded debacles; please, please, please plan ahead.)

        6. Yes, I am aware of that. A container of electronics might arrive at Westfield and then get taken on a truck to Harvey Norman’s distribution centre. Some of this will then be loaded onto a truck to the North Shore but not all, some of it will be heading elsewhere in the Auckland region.

          Also on the truck to the North Shore will be some whiteware that came on another container and maybe some kitchens from another container. This will then drive around the Harvey Norman stores in the North Shore dropping them off.

          Containers are packed based on what the exporter is sending not the suburb it is going to. Even if it were railed to the North Shore the container would have to be unloaded and repacked first as a lot of the goods in it will be destined for south of the bridge.

        7. Neil, Mainfreight has bought land in the Northwest for this very task; delivery will take place via the upper harbour bridge, especially as the Shore spreads north. There will be no rail freight on any new harbour crossing.

    3. Neil the paper (which we covered first) says 11,000 heavy vehicles, not trucks. That’s an important distinction because we also know that buses are counted as heavy vehicles. My guess is a significant proportion of those heavy vehicle numbers, or at least of the growth is due to more buses running now than a few years ago

      1. Matt, the article says currently 11,000 heavy vehicles per day, which as you say includes 1,000 buses. Discounting the buses, that’s still 10,000 trucks a day. If heavy vehicles jump to 26,000 by 2046 with buses now 2,500 of those, it’s still 23,500 trucks or more than double the current figure.

        1. They could do what they have done in Singapore were heavy trucks can only operate at night between certain hours and not during normal business hours

  11. In my opinion Northland rail has been stuffed ever since rail was not included in the original harbour crossing back in the 1950’s. Its struggling to compete against roads more direct route for freight and passenger services have being long abandoned..
    My question is would there be room in the proposed North Shore corridor for two light rail tracks and one heavy rail track.
    So we could build a bog standard light rail with a bridge over the harbour. Alongside it there could be a heavy rail line which could connect with the North Auckland line at an appropriate point.
    Then build a single bore rail tunnel starting from the eastern line somewhere near the rail yards on Quay street across the harbour to Northcote.
    Now I am not suggesting we go out tomorrow and start it but there could be an initial survey to roughly map out where it would go and a rail designation could be registered similar to what Kiwirail has in place on the Avondale Southdown corridor.
    This new Railway route lets call it the Northshore deviation would have a lot of advantages compared to the current rail route. Passengers would board the light rail at Auckland and then transfer to the heavy rail somewhere on the North Shore. Lets say passenger trains for Northland start at Papakura with stops at Puhinui,
    Otahuhu, Northshore and points further north. Freight trains for Northland would originate at Westfield just as they currently do but proceed along the eastern line under the harbour onto the deviation. This would solve the problems of insufficient capacity on the North Western line and also the New Market junction. The new route would be flatter than the current route also a good feature for freight trains. So in a future when Auckland Port is closed heavy freight trains from Marsden point to South Auckland would be needed this deviation if feasible could help.

    1. The other point is this could be built in stages for example the NAL junction to the end of the light rail could be built first if commuter passengers were the priority. A freight depot somewhere on the Northshore connected to Marsden Point would be another use. The complete through line might never be built but a designation keeps the options open.

  12. There are some examples of freight sharing passenger light rail lines, like the CarGoTram in Dresden, DE. Car parts are sent from a freight depot to the Volkswagen factory. See https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/21/electric-trams-cities-groceries-europe-edinburgh-dresden for more.

    Designing AKL metro should be done without compromise. If its purpose is to move people, make it perfect for that, not having to accomodate long distance freight too.

    Thinking far into the future, do we expect commuters from the north, eg out to Warkworth, to continue driving and bussing to Auckland? Or will they be on a commuter heavy rail line, transfer to North Shore Metro, then possibly transfer at Britomart to get to an office at Aotea or K road.

  13. Isn’t Auckland ‘second’ rail network the proposed 3-4 route LR network which is suppose to supplement the current HR passenger network.

    I think the existing HR rail corridor between Pukekohe to Auckland city should be have 4 tracks- 2 for suburban services and 2 for freight and regional passenger rail services.

    I do agree the Auckland Southern Motorway should have dedicated bus ways.

    I do think Auckland should look at more dedicated rapid busways to feed into the current HR passenger network at Papakura and Pukekohe especially with the planned growth in the Papakura and Pukekohe areas.

    1. I think you would get strong support from this site for 4 tracking, but I’m not sure the Southern Motorway would ever need Busways with the rail tracks basically running along side it. What is really needed is Busways to & from the Motorway where the stations are

  14. Putting the freight issue aside, even with just passenger trains, it makes sense to have a single service from Britomart to Helensville, not a change-of-gauge and transfer at Kumeu onto an isolated HR service.

    Same with the North Shore line when it gets extended from Orewa to Wellsford when we are old and grey. You would want it compatible with the line to Whangarei.

    But another point (and this is aside from what mode the Northwest Line has) – when a new freight mainline needs to be built from Swanson to Westfield (no doubt via Mt Roskill), should it be retrofitted to the current Western Line, or be built from Kumeu to the northern end of the Southdown-Avondale Line? The need to construct the NW line between Kumeu and Rosebank Rd is an opportunity also build a third track alongside, plus a single track link from Rosebank Rd to the SAL.

    1. Geoff no one is proposing ripping up the western line. Rail will still be there between AKL and the NAL. Adding Light Rail does not mean subtracting the existing system, in fact it means enhancing it and enabling it to focus on its three current tasks; freight, Metros (AKL and WGTN), and intercity/tourist.

      1. Yes I know no one is proposing ripping anything up, you misunderstand. The current government has plans to upgrade the NAL for a significant increase in freight trains. I’m sure you’ll agree we won’t be able to add those freight trains to the existing Western Line, as it is going to be full of EMUs running every five minutes.

        So, if we are to build a new Northwest Line from Auckland to Kumeu, be it double track HR or double track LR, why not take the opportunity to build it as three tracks between Kumeu and Rosebank Rd (either 3 x HR or 1 x HR + 2 x LR, depending on mode choice), then running that third track from Rosebank Rd, behind the industrial properties, to the north end of the Southdown-Avondale Line, then along that line to Southdown?

        It will cost billions to retrofit a third freight track along the current NAL, especially through New Lynn, Mt Eden and Newmarket stations.

        1. We are unlikely to see train every five minutes on the western line, even at peak. The CRL can’t accomodate that many trains as designed, it will be limited to about eight trains an hour in the peak direction, assuming the western and southern have the same frequency.

          Off Peak, which runs for 20 hours a day, there will be at best six EMUs an hour, so plenty of capacity to operate a couple dozen freight trains across the day and night.

          The NW corridor grades don’t allow for heavy rail unless you build significant stretches of tunnel or viaduct. I can’t see that flying.

        2. Geoff the plan is to train down the NAL to a NW depot, distribute some freight there, the balance will be fed through the AKL network off peak and (especially) over night. Duplicating a line through AKL, on any route is prohibitively expensive and would kill the NAL/Marsden biz case.

    2. This fixation with a one vehicle service from suburb to centre seems to be a hangover from the disastrous Infratel, and National Government promoted competition between modes, ideologically imposed public transport system implemented over two decades ago that still requires further dismantling.
      Six decades ago a trip from many outer Wellington suburbs required catching a bus from a local stop, to a connecting electric train to Wellington Station and then a transfer to an incredibly frequent tram. Journey times have only got worse since.

    3. Geoff, what you describe was the c1914 plan of NZR General Manager Hiley, and some subsequent departmental and government plans for rail in Auckland (including the 1st Labour Government’s 1935-49 promises), and included in the 1949 and 1950 Halcrow-Thomas reports.

      In c1914 Greater Auckland had a population of ~150,000. During the 1st Labour Government, Greater Auckland had a population of ~300,000. Now we have 1.6+ million population, and this is growing fast and could double to 3.2+ million in a few decades. But since ~1950 it seems NZ has become very short-sighted and small-minded indeed. It’s disappointing.

      1. P.S. This plan was still a dashed line on maps/atlases of Greater Auckland through the 1960s and into the early-mid 1970s.

        1. Given this plan first appeared over 100 years ago and there still isn’t the freight demand to justify it, I’d hardly say it was shortsighted not to build this. If anything it would have been shortsighted to have built it.

        2. The idea in c1914 was to move freight trains away from running through built-up areas like New Lynn and Henderson in order to eliminate interference with suburban passenger rail services, and to provide a more direct route to Kumeu, Helensville, and North Auckland (as it was called then*).

          In addition to that, later the main port for Auckland was to be located at the end of the Rosebank peninsula, which was to be a major industrial area, so these would’ve added to the freight on the line. And in addition to that, the main airport for Auckland was at Whenuapai, which was to be served by a direct rapid rail service, with some air freight also (e.g., NAC’s Freightair services).

          I think it’s fair to say the freight demand would’ve been there had it been built; during that time most roads were mud tracks, and most freight had to go by rail, by law.

          To me, the main lesson from most of the posts on this blog is it’s the provision of infrastructure that creates (or induces) demand (e.g., Auckland Harbour Bridge), and just like a person can’t catch a train that’s not there, neither can a pallet or container.

          * Also in c1914 construction work started on a railway to Waipu, running close by Marsden Point (now Northport) – I’d say that was very far-sighted.

        3. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say land-use patterns and demand would’ve been changed substantially.

  15. The current urban rail system in Auckland piggy-backs on the mainline network that’s an evolution of the old steam train network and which is optimised for freight movements.yes there’s a few extensions that are purely for the urban rail such as the Manukau branch and the section between the strand and Britomart but they’re still within the regulations and standards of the mainline.

    Of course any future urban rail in Auckland that doesn’t need to use the mainline, such as the future North shore rail, is also under no compulsion to also conform to mainline regulations and standards. The entire system can be customised to whatever’s deemed the most ideal.

    Each new rail line that Auckland might have that’s not connecting to the mainline can have its own individual custom standards. It’s not unusual at all for urban rail systems to have plenty of different standards and often for only one line.

  16. Coming in rather late, but I’ve noticed a couple of misconceptions:

    “London – Crossrail is being built to very different specifications to the other parts of the underground network, which itself has different specifications depending on when the line was built” – that’s because Crossrail is part of the mainline (not Underground) network, linking Network Rail main lines across London. In essence it’s a project that’s similar to (but much larger and more complex than) the CRL.

    So it is an extension of the existing network, just not of the Underground (of which it is not part, and has no operational connection).

    “Wellingtons … 600v DC system” – there’s a digit missing here: it’s 1600V.

    1. Yes, except that Network Rail trains won’t be able to run into it, except for those specifically procured for crossrail. So in practice it is a whole new and separate network layer added to the many London already had.

      1. Indeed, but that is at least in part because of the need to make the new linking tunnel compatible with the differently specced legacy main lines that Crossrail will be sharing at both ends. Rather than “our next rail network should be different from our current one”, it’s “our new line needs to be as similar as possible to existing lines, while ensuring that it meets all modern standards.”

        The piece says “why it’s a good idea to keep [future lines] them separate”, but Crossrail is precisely the opposite. The proposed Crossrail 2 line works on exactly the same principle: the concept of a separate line (i.e. a new tube line) was explicitly rejected in favour of extending the existing rail network, linking existing lines.

        There are examples of new lines being separate, but Crossrail is certainly not one of them.

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