With the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study (UNISCS) starting to show results, I thought it would be a good time to examine some of the possible implications; constraints and opportunities, for the Auckland rail network, of an increased freight task to and from Northland.

This is not a post discussing the merits of any such move but rather a look at a possible resultant scenario for the city’s rail network. I am writing this in advance of the completion of the Study’s work so it’s pretty broad brush.

Any move of port operations at scale to NorthPort will require a substantial upgrade to rail infrastructure there and in Auckland. Only rail can serve a port at such distance efficiently to its main markets.

The general plan is to complete the rail line to port connection: The Marsden Link. And the North Auckland Line (NAL) itself needs a major upgrade as it’s in a very poor state, with many undersized tunnels, rickety bridges, and sections of wobbly track. Then an inland port somewhere on the outskirts of North Western Auckland is planned, where freight to and from the port can be marshalled, some distributed directly from there by road to West Auckland and North Shore destinations. The remaining freight is then to be trained through the Auckland network at night, when Metro services are not using it, to distribution centres in South Auckland and the rest of the North Island. The addition of a rail fed inland port in the North West enables logistics companies to serve their West and North Shore markets without having to drive through the congested isthmus. A critical pinch point for all transport services.

The key here will be to time the transfer of port tasks north with not only the necessary port infrastructure but also the required rail network improvements:

  1. Marsden Link
  2. NAL upgrade
  3. NW Depot

There is both the ability to stage these investments, as well as some quite serious limits to that. Certainly building the Marsden Link would have the immediate effect of enabling Northland bulk goods like logs and milk powder to be trained northwards to NorthPort instead of south through Auckland to the port there or Tauranga for export, as they do currently. So it is likely that this connection alone may enable more efficient and more frequent ship visits to NorthPort, but without improvements to NAL even this may be of only marginal value. And there are no doubt effective ways to stage the NAL upgrade overtime, but, any move of major tasks currently undertaken at Ports of Auckland, especially the container trade, would require all three investments along with considerable investment at NorthPort itself.

There may be opportunities to shift individual sectors north, say like the car trade, but any whole sector will require the depot and fairly serious work on the NAL. Presumably we will see more detailed discussion of this when the indicative business case drops soon.

In order for a substantial increase in night trains through the existing Auckland Network to be socially acceptable, and to further increase environmental benefits, it seems likely that electrification will need to be extended north to the depot (though this is probably dependent on further electrification projects, especially closing the gap between Auckland and Hamilton). Happily this also means that extension of Metro services to Waitakere, Kumeu/Huapai, even Waimauku, depending on development, would be able to follow this work too. Perhaps this would require double tracking as well? So possibly we can add:

  1. Double tracking and electrifying from Swanson to Kumeu and/or new depot, plus resultant station works.

Under this scenario, a fair bit of work will also be required on the rest of the Auckland Network to accommodate these growing freight volumes from Northland and Bay of Plenty/Waikato. Particularly in the context of the coming boom in Auckland Metro services; ridership is expected to double fairly quickly on the back of major investments in the network, particularly the CRL (and bus network improvements; as these systems are integrated). Train paths will also need to be found for reviving Intercity services. Already there is a growing need for additional track especially on the main trunk between Wiri and Westfield, as this is also the busiest Metro path and the necessary Intercity one; separating freight and Metro paths is an ideal way to increase network capacity and reliability for both. At least four tracks will be needed here, with six at important stations like Ōtāhuhu and Puhinui. Largely there is space for this along the NIMT spine. Some of these are in planning now, including electrification to at least Pukekohe.

At some point (and depending on how big NorthPort gets) the volume of freight traffic north will outgrow overnighting through Auckland. Then there is the much more difficult problem of expanding the line through west Auckland. There has long been a designation between the Westfield Junction and the Western Line (NAL) next to the Mt Albert Pak n Save, called the Avondale-Southdown Line (ASL), which was designed to create a bypass around the Newmarket junction for west-south trains. However any detailed look at this ancient relic shows that it is all but unworkable as a surface line, would be very expensive, and critically, doesn’t solve the problem.


A key difficulty with this route is that wiggly central section that winds through dense suburbia crossing many streets (18 by my count on this section alone) and houses, before joining a much more straightforward section alongside SH20. But worse than that is the fact that it rejoins the existing line still east of both the troublesome level-crossing plagued Avondale incline, and worse still, the two track only New Lynn trench. So while it does bypass Newmarket and the very inner section of the Western Line, it doesn’t bypass enough.

ASL designation snaking through Onehunga

Never fear. There is a much more elegant solution that avoids all these issues and probably costs no more that this suboptimal historic work-round: A dedicated freight tunnel direct from the Onehunga marshalling yards to some point west of the New Lynn trench (I favour a point west of the West Coast Rd overbridge). It avoids the steep grades, built up suburbia, and the worst of the western line; so ditch the poor ASL and go for the Mega Freight Tunnel:

NAL Freight Tunnel

12km of curiously flat, hill and human avoiding, rail tunnel. Yes at ~12km it would be 50% as long again as our longest current tunnel, Kaimai, interestingly the very thing that makes Ports of Tauranga competitive in the Auckland market. If electric and freight only it can be bored and run relatively cost effectively. Tunnelling, while never cheap, is not the most expensive part of underground rail networks; stations and passenger systems are much more complex than actual tunnel boring. So by dedicating this to freight only it can be a considerably more straightforward build. And as the western line right of way is much less constricted west of New Lynn (or more accurately west of Fruitvale Station) even a single track tunnel combined with a new third west from its portal to Henderson or Swanson would provide an entirely grade separate dedicated freight railway through West Auckland, connecting directly to the Onehunga yards, and so on south. Completing a 24 hour available dedicated and direct freight railway linking the North Island Main Trunk and the North Auckland Line free from competition with Auckland Metro services. If all major freight is moved from the current downtown port, leaving cruise ships and local vessels only, then Kiwi Rail’s freight business would have little need to use the current central city sections of the rail network (though that would still be available when necessary). This would enable current lines to be used entirely by Metro and other passenger services, like Kiwi Rail’s returning Intercity programme:

Passenger lines in blue, with extended western line services in light blue. Dedicated freight lines in black and grey.

Such an outcome would enable all sorts of improvements; especially the space to meet the rapid Metro service growth post CRL, increased ‘Metroisation’ of urban rail services; higher frequency, longer span, and even automation. It would also free up train slots for increasing Intercity services, and of course enable a more efficient and higher capacity freight route (currently KR run 22 trains day through the single track Kaimai tunnel).

All of this would be very expensive, but then so are the alternatives. At some point separating urban passenger and freight services will be needed in Auckland if both are to continue to grow. And whether that is done by duplicating existing paths or building whole new routes is going to need to be evaluated and considered. Already we are doing both; adding additional track to existing paths, and whole new task specific routes (eg CRL). Dedicated freight lines are nothing new either.

Below is a description of the Landside Freight Task for Ports of Auckland from the Port Future Study:

If major port operations stay at downtown Auckland then the Eastern Line will need at least tripling, which while relatively straightforward between Ōtāhuhu and Glen Innes would be punishing from there down to the port, if possible at all across Hobson Bay (consenting risk).

Having our biggest and fastest growing city astride the narrowest pinch point in the nation’s physical geography is going to increasingly require innovative transport solutions. Shifting the port from downtown Auckland will free up current city transport systems- road and rail- for other tasks, whereas leaving it there will require very expensive and disruptive expansions of motorways and railways through the dense centre of our biggest city, in order to accommodate increased freight arriving downtown.

If some considerable part of Auckland’s port operations is to head north via the rail network, the necessary rail infrastructure investments look like an opportunity to sort out some of the historical complications in the interlined Auckland rail network; to devolve parts of it into a super efficient two track Metro, and others into a dedicated freight railway. To the advantage of both systems.

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  1. Have you looked at the geology of the route. Not sure you could tunnel all the way to onehunga due to some large basalt flows from 3 kings and one tree hill. Some of the route would need to be above ground.
    Then there are costs to deal with potentially acid sulphate soils. It might be more expensive than you think.
    There will be advantages but will there be a government with the will to spend the sums you are considering? Such a project sits within the realms of think big/ministry of works days.

    Like you point out… there are lots of benefits to do something like this. Not the least the ability to move diesel to WOSL terminal via rail (as the pipeline is nearing capacity).

    Just not sure how much politically appetite there would be for a mega tunnel ( maybe NZ first) . The proposal is perhaps to ambitious.

    1. My understanding of the geology:
      – From New Lynn(ish) to west end of Church St Onehunga is Waitemata Sandstone (& should be relatively easy to tunnel through – similar to CRL bored section).
      – Surface geology from there is lava flows, but depends on how thick they are. My understanding is that Auckland lava flows are typically relatively thin (<20m) away from volcanic vents unless they are filling previous topography (i.e. old valleys), so it may be possible to tunnel underneath through sandstone in some cases.

      1. About 15 years ago Watercare undertook a study of the basalt layer around Auckland, it forms part of the stormwater disposal system. I never saw the study, but talking to guys that were doing the borehole drilling there are layers of basalt up to about 120m thick.
        Going through the basalt is quite viable from a tunnelling point of view. It may be that drill and blast may be used in preference to TBM to pass through the basalt sections.

        1. You’re probably right about thick basalt in parts of Onehunga.

          Did a little reading on geology/hydrology:

          Unconfined aquifers are in basalt infilling previous valleys. In the Onehunga area the main old valley runs from Mt Wellington down into the Manukau & was filled by flows from Mt Wellington & Mt Smart volcanoes. Also Infilled tributaries from Royal Oak & Ellerslie (Three Kings & One Tree Hill volcanoes).

          Could cut the length of tunnel by surface route on existing designation through the industrial area & then go underground shortly before Church St.

  2. I hope this kind of thinking is also being done as part of the business case work. Ignoring rail upgrade needs within Auckland when talking about shifting the Port north is definitely a case of ignoring the elephant in the room.

  3. I can see the advantages of this. But… given the massive investment required to either build the tunnel, or to do all those works required if you don’t build the tunnel… who’s doing a business case on the third option: reducing our freight needs by having more of a circular economy? Isn’t the problem here that the country still uses GDP as a measure of health?

  4. Interesting concept. What of a hybrid? Say a freight tunnel from just west of Fruitvale to just east of Avondale? Then run on the surface along the ASL corridor where it is convenient along the motorway, then a second tunnel from about Pah Rd to Southdown?

    Could be a convenient way to bring long distance passenger trains from the north express to downtown via the eastern line too.

    1. I had a closer look at this today and it doesn’t look impossible to have a 3rd line running through Avondale station from ASL junction right out to the Whau river rail bridges just before New Lynn trench. The platform lines at Avondale are well spaced apart so that, say, setting back the east platform about two metres would allow a 3rd line down centre. The grass bank behind east platform makes space for rebuilt platform.
      Still leaves big problem with New Lynn trench. Perhaps a tunnel section parallel to the trench?

  5. In the short to medium term an Inland port near Kumeu would be a good start whether the trains are coming from North Port , Auckland port or even Tauranga. Kiwirail could run relatively high powered short freight trains from Westfield via the eastern line and the Strand thus bypassing Newmarket station. Crossing loops at Tamaki, Auckland Port, Avondale and Henderson would help keep passenger trains moving. Full size trains could be made up and broken down at the inland port at Kumeu. The article mentions running trains at night as well. I was thinking maybe 15 or 20 wagon trains with one or two DL’s.
    One more thought. Could the cars be switched to a new wharf at Te Atatu apparently Auckland port still owns land there. The problem with putting cars on a train is that modern cars and SUV ute’s are too high to be double stacked on a wagon. This makes it extremely unlikely that rail would be used to bring them to Auckland if the
    Port study decided to shift the cars to Marsden Point.
    The old car GT wagons used be able to double stack but we seem to need taller cars these days. The GT wagons were very long as well which would be a problem through the tunnels and tight curves on the NAL. A wagon tall enough to double stack cars would probably not be able to run on the existing electrified Auckland network.

    1. Or we could accept that SUV’s present a much larger risk to vulnerable road users, and limit how many we import. Then the double stacking will work.

      1. tax the SUVs for the impositions they cause everybody else, hopefully the increased price would reduce demand.

        1. That’s not going to happen, NZ is a small market if we ban or limit the numbers of SUV’s we import it would be back to the bad old days of an aging vehicle fleet, the world has moved on to SUV’s it’s what consumers want and they aren’t going to change anytime soon.

          Just for giggles, excluding commercial vehicles the Tesla Model X causes more damage to roads than any other vehicle in production. it’s instant torque, wide tyres and high vehicle weight cause immense stress to the road surface.

      2. Never the less I just don’t see it would be possible to design wagons to accommodate all the various sizes and shapes. My guess is that if it was decided to bring the light vehicles into Northport instead of Auckland that they would be transported by road to Auckland.
        Maybe if the Marsden Point to Kumeu section was built to allow for double stack container trains but what would that cost or would it be even possible.

        1. I dont think a few potential SUV owners should be able to make the whole project unviable.

        2. Sadly..very sadly, SUV and 4×4 pickup sales in NZ are about 60% of all car sales and rising.

        3. Yes. Highlighting our lack of ability to capture the externalities and price vehicles appropriately. High risk, high fuel use, high emissions, all should be priced.

          Instead, at the launch of Road Safety Week the children at a Decile 1 South Auckland primary school were encouraged to “Speak Up” about road safety… meaning encouraging their families buckle up, slow down and buy safer vehicles. I suggested to the speaker he add “for people walking and cycling”, and pointed out they might misinterpret what he said to mean SUV’s, which are definitely not safer for people outside the vehicle.

          I don’t really think Decile 1 families really have the means to be choosing vehicles based on safety anyway…

        4. Reckon there could be a whole article on SUV/4WD’s being taxed (add in to that any vehicle over a certain engine size).

          I bought a hilux last year, for me it was the most practical vehicle for us as a family on several fronts but the main one was needing 4wd a handful of times a year going up to the skifields.

          We own a 2nd car and I didn’t buy electric as I’d rather use the small car than the tanker (hilux) for the trips we as a family can do that an EV can’t practically do.

          So now the tanker sits in the garage a large chunk of the time not being used as I ride to work 3 days/week and wfh 1 or 2 days/week. (it’s been driven to work 3 times in 10 months) 90% of the miles that vehicle does would be between July and October for skiing.

          Would I still have a 4wd if there was a big tax to do so?

          I’m not sure but quite possibly even though I feel partially guilty for even owning one and used to be of the view that they should only be allowed for commercial use. They’re so practical, (until you drive around town which I’m glad to say I mainly don’t do).

        5. Heidi, it’s not just NZ where SUV’s dominate the market, it’s world wide. Small cars are not profitable for the car companies to produce, part of the blame for this is the increased safety requirements which need to met, including pedestrian safety.

          In the US Ford has dropped small cars from it’s line up, GM is going to follow. It’s going the same way in Europe as well, if you want to buy a smaller car next decade it will probably come from a premium brand because the mainstream brands can’t make money from them anymore.

        6. I’m completely perplexed by the car moving companies. Seeing as cars are imported in bulk into Wellington harbour, and can therefore only go north to be distributed, I’m amazed to find that if you stop by the side of the road about 35km north of Wellington, there are car-transporters full of cars going in BOTH directions. I can understand the ones going north – but where are the cars going south coming from ? Does this makes sense to anyone?

        7. There are, from memory, a number of car storage areas up the line I think north of Paraparaumu.
          Probably wold make more sense for them to be railed there.

        8. Muz, you don’t need a Hilux to go skiing, or even a 4WD, chains work just as well and if I was living in the lower South Island I would fit winter tyres, they are better than using a 4WD on summer tyres.

        9. +1, lots of station wagons are 4WD and there are many smaller SUVs if you want the ground clearance.

        10. aye, well aware of that MC, I got my way around all the skifields I wanted to with a 2wd for the last 15 years just fine. But there were several other practicalities that came with having a ute that tipped the scales. All of which could have been done in said 2wd station wagon like we had prior but the ute is just so easy at the end of the day and I think that’s why they’re such a high percentage of car sales now.

      3. Heidi, cars are on the way out, globally. All around the world they are being replaced with SUVs, and in this part of the world (Australia and NZ), utes as well. The most popular “car” in NZ for the past five or six years running is the Ford Ranger. That’s a diesel-powered twin cab ute. The second and third most popular cars in NZ are also both twin cab utes. In fact for every electric car kiwis buy, they buy 64 twin cab utes. SUVs and utes now make up 65% of new car sales. And that’s despite them being fuel-guzzlers. People are willing to pay more to drive them.


        The government has no plan for changing this situation as it doesn’t control the global car market. It can’t regulate. A ban on SUVs and utes (aside from leaving rural folk who actually need them with no viable alternative) would only result in NZ importing more and more older cars.

        1. Geoff – you are right about the global market. However, we are a drop in the bucket, we could ban utes and SUVs and there would still be more than enough cars available to meet our needs.

          I wouldn’t advocate a ban for a number of reasons but it is not impossible.

        2. Properly pricing driving will reduce how much people drive, which in turn will reduce transport costs for the whole country. Having higher costs imposed on SUV’s will lower the demand for SUV’s further, in line with the costs they impose on society.

          People who need SUV’s or utes for what they do will be better off with such regulation. They are, like everyone in the country, currently paying taxes, rates and charges for an extremely expensive transport system. Soon we will be paying enormous carbon abatement costs due to transport’s carbon emissions as well.

          In addition to pricing driving, investment in sustainable transport modes that give a return on investment, such as walking, cycling and public transport, will further benefit the country financially. Rural folk should be campaigning for such investment, not just to keep their costs down, but to keep our population safer.

          You’ve presented the trend around SUV’s but haven’t responded to the fact that they are more dangerous for people outside the vehicle. We need to respond to this, not with fatalism but with practical steps to reduce SUV’s.

        3. SUV drivers already pay more though Heidi. The more fuel you consume, the more tax you pay.

          “You’ve presented the trend around SUV’s but haven’t responded to the fact that they are more dangerous for people outside the vehicle.”

          Compared to trucks? Buses? Vans? Campervans? Cars towing a caravan or trailer? The roading network is intended for all these vehicles.

        4. The underlying assumption is that most owners of SUVs don’t actually need a car that large (and that dangerous). People used to get around with 3 kids in cars which are smaller than a present day Corolla.

          “People movers” are called that for a reason. If you need a lot of space get a van. Even 2WD cars do just fine in snow if you use your brain (the important thing in snow are the brakes, and you still have 4). If you need an ute every blue moon, ride bicycle to car rental, put bicycle in ute, drive home. But actually you can fit a lot of stuff even in a small hatchback.

          And if you need an ute because it “safer”, ummm… what’s the plan, hoping that only the other guy dies in case of an accident?

        5. Indeed Roeland, and before cars people got around on horses. People tend to go for the next thing that upps the level of comfort, and are generally willing to pay more for it. I’m not one of them, but each to their own. The sales figures demonstrate very clearly want kiwis want.

        6. Your opinion that SUVs are not needed in the city ignores the fact that this is what people are choosing to buy. You may not like it, but others do.

          As for safety, a study in the US in 2016 concluded that increased pedestrian deaths was the result of more people walking, not more people driving. Which is why we must call out those individuals who defend things like pedestrians walking into traffic without looking and cyclists running red lights. There is no place in 2019 for people who defend these actions if we are to tackle road safety.

        7. It is not about comfort. If you want comfort get a car with a higher trim level. Or space? I thought the reason SUVs are so high is not because they have lots of space inside, but because they have a high suspension.

          (In case you missed it: note the height of that bonnet compared to the height of that child in the linked image. In a normal car you’d be able to see that toddler. In that SUV you are not.)

          Maybe it comes down to clever marketing. Convince people they ‘need’ that big truck. A fool and his money are soon parted.

          Maybe it is prestige. OMG look at the Joneses’ fancy ute. Must get one to keep up.

          You’ll indeed get more pedestrian deaths with more people walking. This is also why cycling deaths in the Netherlands are rising.

          You have to be very careful with those statistics. You’re entitled to cross a street on foot mid-block, just like you’re entitled to turn right into your driveway at the same spot. How do they decide a pedestrian is at fault?

          Pedestrians walking into traffic without looking — that sounds like a really stupid myth. People tend to avoid doing things which will get them killed.

  6. Very good ideas, especially the Onehunga to New Lynn/Glen Eden bypass. The NAL the way it stands through suburban Auckland is not freight friendly and the horsepower required to make it work would be costly, not to mention the meandering speeds the line allows anyway.

    Any government serious about Northlands development whilst simultaneously ridding the Waitemata of the increasingly hideous industrial wharves would embrace this.

    And there surely must he savings for shipping companies by not having to travel as far south as Auckland and having to negotiate the twists and turns of the Waitemata just to access our port anyway, all of which saves fuel, carbon emmisions, etc.

    Any government serious about climate change would also embrace this. The trouble is on the last subject the government s climate change announcement last week was SO pointless because it was SO weak, so will this aspect at least be grasped?

    1. Major shipping operators like Maersk, MSC, etc would prefer Northport is it is cheaper for them to operate to/from it.

  7. If tunnelling for freight is relatively cost-effective as stated, then what about the idea of also tunnelling under the Brynderwyns (after running west of Waipu)? A direct link which joins the northern line near Kaiwaka would seem a substantial improvement in efficiency. The proposed link to Oakleigh could also be built for a connection to the north.

    1. The highway should also go under rather than over the Brynderwyns, we don’t tunnel anywhere near enough in NZ. Many roads could be made safer, shorter and straighter if we tunnelled.

      1. Master Chief , thanks for that , I have been thinking the same since the early 60’s when my age was still in the single didgit’s and when the road over the top was single landed and windy as hell but was told it will never happen and I was talking nonsense and in those days it was a trip of 108miles from CPO to CPO and it took 3 hrs .

        1. I’ve been living in Norway for the last 12 years, the amount of tunneling and bridge building being done in Norway today is staggering. They don’t piss around going up and over they go under.

          the biggest project being worked on is the E39, it’s 1100km long, the plan is to replace all the ferry’s and improve the road between Stavanger and Trondheim, construction is under way on many parts of it, the budget for this project is 340 billion NOK, which is approx 65 billion NZD. It will be completed by 2029.


          This is just one project, the Norwegians have several national highway projects running at the moment, tens of billions is being spent making roads safer. In NZ we do nothing, the green lobby complain bitterly about any highway projects, many were cancelled by the current govt and people continue to die. Pipe dreams like regional rail are just that pipe dreams, they will never solve the highway problem, people will continue to drive.

        2. Christ, that’s an expensive road! I assume it is being paid for by the wealth fund generated by oil exports?

          If we were to build like that it would require a significant increase in the fuel tax, which wouldn’t be popular. There are of course cheaper ways of making roads safer.

        3. jezza it will be tolled, like all the highway, bridge and tunnel projects in Norway. Once it’s paid down the toll is lifted and the route become free. It’s usually takes about 10 years so to pay it off. The roading authority usually closes down the alternative routes so people have to take the new one and pay. The price of fuel in Auckland is no pretty close to the price of fuel in Norway, I find that astonishing and hard for the NZ people who earn a lot less than Norwegians, pay higher tax (Norwegians get a lot of rebates which drop there tax rates significantly), and don’t have anywhere near the same social safety net.

          The oil fund has pretty strict limits on how much the govt can take from it every year. It’s a damn shame we killed our oil industry, the benefits and improvements to the Norwegian economy and people due to oil are immense, if only NZ had leaders with the vision the Norwegians had in the 70’s.

        4. Master Chief , It good to see that about Norway as least they are putting the interest from their oil monies to good use , not like that mob across the North Sea who always seem to be broke . And if our government had invested our oil royalties over the years I think that we may have had a tidy sum in the bank by now also .

        5. MC – do people live along these routes that are being closed off? If so how is that managed?

          The toll to fully pay off a Brynderwyn tunnel in ten years would likely be pretty steep based on current traffic volumes, it may of course induce a bit of an increase. This would likely push most drivers to go via Mangawhai, I can’t see it being possible to close off the Mangawhai route without significant impact on people that live and holiday along that coast.

          While I agree our governments should have showed more vision in the 1970s and 80s, the reality is our oil exports have been much lower than Norway’s so we would never have had the same level of wealth.

        6. From the website I understand they’re working on the first tunnel (26.7 km!) with a cost of about NOK 16.8 billion, or 3 billion NZ$. I find it interesting that it is less than twice the projected cost of our east-west link proposal. Or what am I missing?

          But also, a toll of about NZ$60. They’re not going to give it away for free.

        7. This looks more like tunneling under the Cook Straight than the Brynderwyns. You can start to justify some pretty large tolls when it is replacing a ferry ride.

          It staggers me that this can be done for $3 billion though. I assume it will have some pretty decent running costs as well with all the ventilation systems required.

        8. jezza most of the closed routes are going to be ferries, and with a lot of the tunnels people live on both sides of the mountain not on top. One of the road which was closed off near where I live the people have an access remote to open the barrier to get to their homes, it’s all done pretty fairly.

          It’s 480km from where I live to Oslo, I’ll pass 7 toll stations on the way, this will cost 217 nok, approx $40, I don’t mind paying this because the old route was a horrible 2 lane 80kph limited highway, which hadn’t changed since people used horse and cart, the new road is 110kph divided 4 lane highway for most of the route. It’s faster, safer and shorter. Paying $40 to use it is ok, in 10 years or so most of the tolls will be gone, with only the toll ring around Oslo which you have to pay to enter the city.

      2. Considering how waterview collects significantly less in fuel taxes than it expends purely on maintenance and operations, let alone servicing debt, can’t say tunnels are a winner here. Maybe if you tolled them hard, but considering how much the NZTA love building highways, if it came out making monetary sense then they’d have done it already.

    2. Don’t need to tunnel under the Brynderwyns, google Finlayson Brook Road and select terrain view and you’ll see it’s a relatively easy alignment from bearing east from the NAL between the Golden Stairs tunnel and Mareretu Station along the upper reach of Kaikowhiti stream cutting through the saddle to the upper reaches of Finlaysons brook to Braigh and parallel SH1 on the flats west of Waipu through Ruakaka to Marsden Point.

      Although I agree that a ~1km tunnel from the quarry access road south of the Brynderwyns to the Waihoihoi stream to the east of the current SH1 alignment and back to being adjacent to SH1 north of the Brynderwyns on the flats in the vicinity of Schultz Road would be a shorter and more direct route to/from Auckland.

      (I think the Marsden Point to Oakleigh line should still be built also, to serve Whangarei and the north, and Dargaville and the west.)

  8. Tunnel boring machine has improved a lot, it is now very cost competitive and easier than acquiring surface land and manually build surface tracks.

    If we didn’t return the Alice, we could keep using it to build more tunnels at fraction of the cost.

    1. Alice was the 4th biggest TBM in the world. You would need a far far smaller TBM for a rail only freight tunnel.

      1. They could possibly use the one that they are going to use on the CRL as it could be the right size for a freight tunnel . All the freight going through the network is governed by the height of the cantinery wires . And it will be also boring through similar ground

        1. It would have to go back to the manufacturers to get the cutting heads redone as they will be worn out by the time they have finished CRL. Given they make up a large portion of the TBM cost it would probably work out just as cheap to get a new one when we are ready to drill this tunnel.

        2. Jezza all they have to do is bring out new cutter heads and replace them here as similar to what they do when a number get damage whilst it still boring under ground . So nothing has to be sent back just bring them here which will be cheaper in the long run .

        3. On that basis you would have to question why the one that was used to bore the Kaimai tunnel isn’t being used to bore the CRL tunnels. Would have saved a lot of transport costs.

        4. So you think we would have just had a TBM hanging around in NZ since the 70’s to built the CRL? It was probably cut up for scrap decades ago.

        5. Master Chief – I believe it is still there in the bush at the edge of the Kaimai’s, was last time I looked a few years ago anyway. It would need a hell of a lot of CRC to get it going again though!

        6. jezza , The cutter head may still be there but is the rest of the unit there also or was that sold for scrap . I remember when I worked on the Vector tunnel they broke through under the Southern motorway opposite St Paul’s the body unit came out complete but Downers cut the utter head in 2 so they could bring back along the tunnel and then lift it up the 60 metre shaft at Newmarket , that may what the MoW could have/not wanted to do at Kaimai ? so they left it behind to save money .

        7. It speaks to the NZ mentality that after all the trouble of building that tunnel, it was built single track!

        8. Probably because we are & especially were not New York or London or even Sydney. We are also not as small an economy as Fiji so actually had a tunnel done.

        9. David the tbm for crl is supposed to cost 13.5 million.

          It’s one of the cheapest parts of the whole operation.

          The big shiney machine is just that, but actually cheap as chips. Same with any other small bore rail sized tbm. Perhaps once you start making them Alice / car sized they get a bit more expensive.

    2. I understand where people get the idea that tbms are expensive. I guess it’s the big shiney expensive looking machine. And the media hype them up.

      But they’re not. CRLs tbm is 13.5 million. Out of a 4.4 billion dollar project that’s the change you find in the cup holder.

      The cost is everything else, consumables for the tbm like fancy concrete ring segments, the stations, piling, fitouts, staff etc.

  9. Sadly I have to say that I think that this is a pipe dream. While the ‘North Port’ has good anchorage, that really is the only thing going for it. Let’s get a few facts straight:

    • Auckland is the big powerhouse of NZ, right? The majority of people and goods enter and leave through Auckland. You’ve said that many times before Patrick. They need to be able to connect to the rest of NZ.

    • The next biggest part of NZ is the triangle below Auckland, not above it. Tauranga, Hamilton, South Auckland – that’s the growth area needing to be supplied with more goods for the extra people. Any port should service these people as simply as possible, rather than the north, where there are inexplicably few people.

    • We have to face the fact that Auckland-Marsden Point does not currently have a decent freight rail system in place – there are gaps in the service and the existing rails are in need of maintenance. Moving the port would be expensive enough – having to build a new railway to service it would be horribly expensive, and having to build a new tunnel under half of Auckland would be even more horribly expensive again.

    • I’m not a marine engineer, but the logical place for a port to service Auckland and the triangle to the south, would probably be around Thames. It shows on your map above how much closer to Auckland it is, rather than Marsden Point. I dunno – just seems kinda obvious, doesn’t it?

    1. The Coromandellites will openly rebel if you wander down to your local stream with so much as a 19th century a gold pan, I’m not sure sticking the busiest port in the country on their doorstep will go down that well. As much as I would love a tourist train service to Whitianga – and although you could probably build it for about the same as a tunnel under Auckland – sticking the national port in an area known as the Seabird Coast has some fairly predictable obstacles.

      1. The proposed new port location is near Orere Point, it’s nowhere near Coromandel, it’s also the best location, it would have siginificant environmental benefits, ie no more dredging the Rangitoto channel, it has better access to the Pacific Ocean, meaning shorter trip times and less emissions, plus it would still be within the Auckland region and all the benefits of having it in Auckland for Aucklanders would be kept.

        1. It’s directly opposite the Coromandel, directly opposite the mussel farms. It’s in the ‘Auckland region’ yes and still half an hour away from a motorway, on back country roads. Never mind the absolute devestation you’d wreck on a good 25km of regional park putting in the required transport links; given the local road is a Corsican style hairpin fest or, when it’s not, it’s falling into the sea. The Thames option is the ‘get three quotes but put in two bullshit ones so you get the outcome they want’. They might as well have stuck my back yard in there as a viable option.

        2. I can’t see any reason why their would be any need for even touching the regional park BW. Surely if the port was moved out to the firth of Thames roads would be put around the park?

          No matter where it moves to their will be a furore, the firth seems the most logical place to me although others that know a lot more about it think the Manukau is the most logical place, even with the bar it’s not a show stopper by any means.

        3. You are also fairly well hemmed in by the Hunuas as well; I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I am saying you are basically starting from scratch in every way; you need to price the cost of a new combined road/rail corridor on top of the actual greenfield development of a fully working international Port. To do this in a way that doesn’t create massive environmental issues or opposition will pretty quickly get more expensive than sorting out the NAL.

        4. Most of the traffic to and from the port would come via rail, you wouldn’t need to build a 6 lane highway, 4 lanes would be more than enough, maybe even a properly divided 2 lane highway, sinc the only traffic heading to the port would be port related. Why would they run the road over the existing route, I’d build the road and rail line along the same corridor via the shortest possible route, that would be coastal.

          The Firth of Thames option is the most viable and logical outcome for any project to move the Port.

          A new port in any location is going to cost the country billions of dollars. Going north or staying in Auckland isn’t going to make a hell of a lot of difference.

    2. Generally agree, although as Buttwizard points out building a port along that coast won’t be easy in terms of environmental resistance.

      I think there is definitely scope for developing Northport as a container port so it can help with the upper North Island freight task, but I can’t see Ports of Auckland being completely relocated there.

    3. The logical place for Auckland’s port is in Auckland.

      Personally, I think the best place is on the Manukau in South Auckland, near the airport, i.e. near the main trunk line, both motorways, most of our industry and most of our logistics hubs.

      Don’t see the point in taking the sea port out of Auckland, anymore than we should take the airport out of Auckland. But I do agree it should be to the south rather than then north, for simple fact that most of everything is south of Auckland, not north.

      1. The Manukau wouldn’t work. The harbour entrance has an ever-moving sand bar that you would need to dredge almost continuously. The rest of the harbour is shallow mudflats, and any channel dug through them would silt up quickly, requiring frequent dredging as well. The Manukau also has much bigger tides of around 4 to 4.5 metres, compared to around 3 metres on the eastern coast.

        Lastly, the big ships sailing from the Americas to Asia, which currently stop off at Tauranga or Auckland on their way, would have to sail a long way off course, and of course the western coast line of NZ is rough sailing. That’s why all the ports are on the eastern side.

        1. Yes Geoff, it would require a dredged channel that is regularly maintained, just like the Waitemata, just like any Firth of Thames or wherever else we might consider. It’s not shallow mudflats other than on the mudflats, there is a broad river across the Manukau that is as deep as the Waitemata.

          The Manukau is closer to Asia and Australia, which is a benefit. There are about ten times more ship movements between NZ and Asia and Australia than there are with the Americas. Not having to divert ships around the North Island would be a time and fuel saving for the shipping lines.

        2. Dredging every few years and dredging constantly is a big difference Nick. The Manukau entrance would need it constantly. And as I say, it’s a rough piece of water. One big ocean swell could fill the entrance quickly, and ships would run aground.

          The deeper portion of the harbour is far out, nowhere near land. You could build a long bridge or causeway out to the deep part, but that will do nothing to solve the problem of the dangerous entrance or rough waters of the west coast.

          Why do you think all of New Zealand’s container ports are on the eastern side of the country?

          There’s a reason only very tiny ships ever visited Onehunga port.

        3. Indeed, and only tiny ships visited Auckland until they reclaimed a huge deep water port from the mudflats of Auckland Harbour, and built a shipping channel. I hope nobody is expecting a new port can be built anywhere without major engineering of supporting infrastructure.

          Oh and FYI container ships cross oceans and transit along the west coast already, we’re not talking about your uncles fishing dingy on the bar here.

        4. The reason most of our ports are on the East Coast is because that is where the majority of our sheltered harbours with a useful hinterland are.

          If you look at where most of our sheltered harbours are it is actually on the West Coast, mostly around Fiordland. These would make fantastic harbours even with the raging Tasman Sea at their entrance, if it wasn’t for the lack of a viable population.

          The West Coast itself poses no threat to shipping.

        5. Nick, the Waitemata is a totally different sea floor. It’s not the soft mud of the Manukau. It doesn’t collapse and silt up like channels dug in the Manukau do, nor does it have strong 4m rip tides moving the mud about every time it drains out.

          And again, the Manukau harbour entrance can’t be made stable.

          If were possible it would have been done years ago. As you say, it’s much closer for Australia shipping. But it was found to be unsuitable, and so they developed it to the maximum of what was possible.

          From Wikipedia:

          “Because of the large harbour area and narrow mouth between the Manukau Heads, tidal flow is rapid and a bar at the mouth makes navigating in or out of the harbour dangerous. New Zealand’s most tragic shipwreck occurred on the bar in 1863 when HMS Orpheus ran aground in clear weather with a loss of 189 lives. For this reason, along with the harbour’s shallowness, it is not Auckland’s favoured port”.

        6. Again Geoff, I’m not talking about running containerships over the bar and into onehunga, I’m talking about a multibillion dollar new port built on a reclaimed island served by a new shipping channel. Look at the Port of Brisbane for a close example, or practically any port in east asia.

          Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it would have been done years ago, what absurd logic. Are you assuming we always immediately build everything that is possible?!

        7. If you’re not running container ships over the bar an into a protected harbour where are you going to built a new port on the Manukau harbour side of the city?

        8. Nick, you’re embarrassing yourself with these repeated comments about the Manukau Bar. You need to actually have a read on dredging, look at the geomechanics of the seafloor and have a poke around on google maps for a couple of hours before you comment any further.

          To give you some idea of the scale of dredging, so much sand moves in that bar the low tide shoreline at Awhitu can move over 100m overnight. Almost a billion tonnes flows through the channel on a single spring ebb: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00288330.1998.9516807

          It’s possible, but it is a massive undertaking. You’d probably have to dredge the channel every time a ship came through.

        9. 230 pages we need the executive executive summary. If we waited for the business case we would never have built the harbour bridge.

      2. “I think the best place is on the Manukau in South Auckland”

        (Shakes head again)
        If that was ever the case; it would’ve been the port at Onehunga that got developed as the major port for Auckland instead where it remained in downtown Auckland city.

        Things happen for a reason. And this reason is because Manukau harbour has renown issues with silt and sand and a low depth.
        And this is a problem with most ports along New Zealand’s west coast, with Port Taranaki being the only exception I’m aware of. It’s what ended Wanganui’s once highly active port activity.

        If the port in Downtown Auckland is to ever be replaced in Auckland; it will be along the east coast, where most of New Zealand’s major ports are. I think it would be most likely in the Clevedon area.

    4. Moving Auckland port to the. Manukau harbour would be an interesting project. Major difficulty is the entry into the harbour from Tasman and the overall shallow depth, likely requiring ongoing dredging for a port complex. One solution to the problematic entry would be to construct the 1908 planned canal connecting the Waitemata and Manakau harbours. Apparently the 40m wide just under 1km long canal reserve still exists just waiting to be dug out.

      1. Nick and Bogle there was this item on Newshub Nation a few weeks back :-


        And it mention 3 different sites to move the PoA , 2 on the West coast and 1 on the Firth of Thames , the 2 on the west coast may not go ahead down to the increase cost of Insurance , and the east coast could be dead in the water if Shane Jones has his way as he said the Government won’t pay and money towards it

        1. Any move of the port from downtown Auckland is years away, what Shane Jones thinks now won’t make any difference.

      2. If you build a canal from the Manukau to the Waitemata, then you have split the North Island in two – chopped the tail off the Fish.

        Congratulations Auckland, you can now become a seperate country and declare your independence from the rest of New Zealand!

        And we can sell you electricity at a huge price!

        1. I seem to remember that that Canal Zone has a lot of industry built on it.
          There is also a small bell ringing at the back of my head that says that the zone was actually dropped from zoning some years back.
          As for taking ocean going ships through any canal built there the actual lock portion would need to be very large to accommodate then, plus you would run in to all sorts of problems crossing Atkinson Rd, Great South Rd and Salesyard Rd, plus going through the marshalling yards at Westfield.
          In short, not even a starter.
          BTW, there was also a proposal to build a second canal from the Manukau to the Waikato River so they could barge goods from Auckland through to Hamilton.

      3. Yes the channel would need dredging across the harbour and the bar, although it’s not nearly as shallow as you might think as there is a river that runs through the Manukau. The Waitemata has a shipping channel that requires regular dredging so it’s not like it’s a new concept for us.

        Would be far easier to dredge that Manukau channel than build a canal across Otahuhu, dredge up the Tamaki and out into the Hauraki Gulf, and raise every bridge and road crossing to 50m high across it!

        1. The Firth of Thames option eliminates the requirement to dredge the Rangitoto Channel. Orere has direct access to the Hauraki Gulf.

        2. But you would need to dredge a new Firth of Thames channel instead, it’s no deeper there than the Waitemata.

        3. Off Orere Point its 15m deep 3km out and 20m deep 4km out.
          From Port of Auckland via Rangitoto channel its about 15m deep 14km out and 20m deep 19km out.
          Deep water is much closer to Orere Point with less dredging required.
          Manukau heads is only about 6m deep through the bar and the shifting sands would require continual dredging. There is a pretty decent channel within the harbour to close to the proposed port location.
          Marsden has close access to deep water but its reasonably constrained for additional wharf space and laydown, between the canal development residential housing and the refinery. There’s probably only room for two decent sized berths.

        4. “Yes the channel would need dredging across the harbour and the bar”

          It would take six months to dredge the bar, and 24 hours for it to return in the next storm. There’s just no point.

          There’s billions of tonnes of sand being pushed up the coast across the entrance. It’s a constantly moving mass that you can never keep clear.

          That’s why they rail coal from the West Coast to Lyttelton. They couldn’t develop a port at Greymouth or Westport for big ships, due to the ever-moving sand up the coast.

  10. The Manukau has major problems with a shifting sand bar across its mouth, so not that serious a proposition.
    The Firth of Thames has all sorts of environmental consequences, so not a serious option either.
    Next point south is Tauranga, and that will run in to compaction problems as well. So not not a suitable option either.
    Auckland City itself hasn’t got any more room to expand in so can’t enlarge there.

    I know, how about NorthPort. It has massive amounts of land and a deep harbour, so makes a lot of sense.

    Just about anywhere the port is moved to is going to require a new, or upgraded, rail service, and the NAL is well past due for an upgrade, so othe two go hand in had.

    1. Is there really enough room at Northport to move all of Auckland’s operations? Just comparing the two sites on Google maps it doesn’t look like there is enough room between the log terminal and the oil terminal, to accommodate to current number of berths at Auckland, let alone future requirements.

      I agree about the limitations of the other proposed sites but people’s concerns about these may diminish once they see the added cost of transport with Marsden Point.

  11. Blah blah blah, Northport, NAL and freight, tunnel or not from Fruitvale to Onehunga….. just get on with doing what is needed to get metro train services to Huapai in the next year or two, at least in time for CRL opening.

    1. If you don’t plan for the future, you get no future (or, with less pathos), you get delayed and or/insufficient responses. Same as with Auckland’s housing crisis, which was ignored for decades by local and central govt.

  12. Good post Patrick, different speculative suggestion for Lower isthmus tunnel that matches that suggestion for straightening out of the NIMT loop around Pukekohe with the Bombay’s tunnel.
    Same reality, won’t ever happen. You did, however, succeed in making us all think with some hypothetical abstract rail routing.
    Excellent entertainment, tho I detected (imaginary) the wash aimed my way with that sentence that started Happily.

  13. Interesting post Patrick!

    I’m moderately skeptical (but willing to be convinced) that Northport will be able to play a big role in upper north island freight in the near future. It doesn’t have much of a hinterland, and unlike Hamilton or Tauranga it isn’t on the way to a lot of other destinations.

    That being said, I could see some of those factors changing in the future. Better connectivity, both to and within Northland, would probably assist, as would faster population growth north of the Brynderwyns.

    A multi-modal investment strategy is probably the thing. There is a need for better roads to get around within Northland, but rail could also stimulate inter-regional freight movements. This may be more important for freight movements to areas south of Auckland than it is for freight movements to Auckland – skipping the congested trip on the Southern Motorway plus the one on the Northern Motorway.

    Lastly, your post indirectly highlights an important point, which is that if Auckland’s going to add another million people, the current round of transport investments may not suffice. We’re going to need another few rounds of rapid transit network development, freight network improvement, etc.

  14. Interesting post Patrick, and of course we are in complete agreement with Huapai/Waimauku passenger trains.

    But, I don’t favour that 12km tunnel.

    I’ve studied the SAL route in detail over many years, including walking parts of the route. It’s a surface route, but rail level is about 7m below surrounding ground level, with the exception of a couple of short bits between Onehunga and Hillsborough Rd where the line crosses a couple of small gullies. What this means is that people won’t generally notice the trains. Down low, out of sight, and with very little noise overspill. You could probably cut-and-cover sensitive portions if so desired.

    To avoid the Avondale grade, and very difficult task of triple tracking the Western Line, including the near impossibility of getting it through New Lynn, I would extend the SAL from Pak ‘n Save, along the back of the Rosebank industrial area, to SH16, then run it alongside SH16 from Patiki Rd to Kumeu. If major works need to be built along there for light rail anyway, take it a step further and build it as a triple track line from Patiki Rd to Kumeu. Two light rail tracks and one heavy.

    1. The last section cuts behind Onehunga Primary, across Onehunga Mall, and right thru the new THABZ.

      Potentially kills development.

      Disclaimer: I live 150m from the line.

      1. Beneath Onehunga Mall, not across it. The line would pass beneath all the various streets between Te Papapa and Hillsborough, because that’s the section of line that would be built 7 metres below surrounding ground level.

        In the case of Onehunga Mall, you could cover the line either side of the mall, and build shops/apartments over it. You would never know it was there otherwise. If a passenger station was to be built, it would just have a street frontage with escalators down to the platform below.

        1. I guess I misunderstand your comment.

          Is the existing ASL Kiwirail plan to underground sections? Or is this your suggestion?

          Does Kiwarail actually have a plan some where?

        2. There is no Kiwirail ASL ‘plan’. There is only a designation following the contour of the hills that was put in place when the route was farmland.

          Geoffs plan to build 6km of rail trench through Onehunga with 18 grade separations is his own idea, as is his idea to tunnel it under Avondale, up the Rosebank peninsula and along the Northwestern.

          It amazes me how he declares light rail lines that have actually been designed and costed by engineers as impossible, but is so willing to accept a thumbsuck for a 30km freight line across urban Auckland as cheap and easy.

          It amazes me

  15. Very ideas in the post etc. Some people are discussing this as if Northport is a total replacement for Auckland. It doesn’t have to be, just another factor in getting Auckland & NZ coping with increased freight needs so the point is a rail upgrade to Northport.

    I can’t see Manukau Harbour having a big or any role as it’s the wrong side of where large shipping companies will want to visit efficiently. ie they can skip down the East of NZ for most ports, hence IIRC partly why the port at New Plymouth had a big drop or stopped getting used for containerised shipping.

    Anyway tunnel sounds great in some form or another…too late to think or write too much more.

    1. That would change if you built a new megaport at Manukau. I’d imagine many container ships would use it as the only call in the upper North Island, possibly the whole country.

      Also Manukau is closer to Wellington and all of the South Island, so it’s really just Tauranga and Napier that would be on the wrong side of the north island.

      1. Manukau harbour is shallow and has a truly scary bar. It is not suitable for large-scale commercial use.

        1. With Manukau the operator would be constantly dredging the bar, the bar is constantly changing, with the existing port and Firth of thames option the amount of dredging required is fairly minimal in comparison.

        2. Completely agree with MasterCheif. If you did dredge it, you’d have a lovely channel for about three days. The Manukau Bar is sand, the Waitemata channel is sandstone and basalt.

        3. Yes there would need to be massive groynes either side of the Manukau heads as part of the channel.
          This is what they have at the port of Whanganui, admittedly at a far far smaller scale than would be required at Manukau.

        4. It would be a 24/7 operation keeping the channel open, it’s going to so expensive that nobody would be foolish enough to try. A super port in the Manukau is a non starter.

  16. Intermingling freight with regional rail services is a recipe for unreliability from the get go. Given the sort of money you would have to spend on this it makes no sense.

    A port takes 10+ years to move, and I can’t see Auckland gettings its act together any time soon.

  17. It would sense for Northport to be the main entry point for global container freight to/from NZ to be future proof for next generation of super container ships, with major secondary ports of Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Lyttleton and Port Chalmers that are linked with coastal container shipping and a revamp inter-regional rail freight/passenger network.

    In essence this is the government 3 mode plan to get medium to long haul bulk freight trucks off the road to reduce carbon emissions and reduce road maintenance and the need to build 4 lane truck highways.

    I do agree that the North Auckland rail line needs to be upgrade to double track between Auckland, Northport and Whangarei for both freight and regional passenger rail traffic, adding 4th line through the Auckland urban rail corridor and electrify from Whangarei and/or Northport through to Tauranga and between Palmerston North and Waikanae.

    1. There’s no port in NZ that can offload the current generation of 19,000 plus TEU vessels, let alone the 25,000 TEU vessels being planned, even in Australia they can’t support them. We don’t need boxships that big visiting here, the current 10,000 TEU vessels are more than big enough for a long time into the future.

      1. Maersk. MSC etc have said differently. That is why they would prefer Northport as the main container entry point in/out of NZ because it would be more economical for them.

        1. That’s not surprising, in the same way that Singapore Airlines want Wellington Airport to extend it’s runway. It’s easy to want things when someone else will be paying.

          We are not going to be transporting all the export cargo from the Central North Island that currently leaves Tauranga all the way to Northport. Container ships will continue to call at Tauranga, even if they go to Northport as well.

        2. Jezza – Are you aware of the government’s 3 mode (rail, road and coastal container shipping) plan for freight distribution through out NZ?

          Why do you think the government is keen on the Northport development besides being part of China’s BRI initiative.

        3. Kris – No I’m not aware of this particular government strategy, do you have any links I could read?

          I’m guessing it involves moving the Central North Island’s exports by coastal shipping to Northport? There are two main issues with this: firstly it adds an extra but of handling for the majority on NZs export freight, which is unlikely to help with costs.

          Secondly, Northport does not have the space to become New Zealand’s shipping hub, there would not be enough berths for all the international and domestic ships to come and go. If there is a one stop national port Orere Point would be my bet as it would be central to the countries largest city and it’s biggest export area.

          It’s worth noting the Chinese government does not own Maersk or MSC, these companies go wherever there is cargo of a sufficient volume that someone is willing to pay them to carry.

        4. There are only 20 ports in the world which can accommodate a 19,000 teu or greater boxship. Dalian; Xingang; Qingdao; Busan; Ningbo; Shanghai; Yantian; Tanjung Pelepas; Bremerhaven; Hamburg; Gothenburg; Aarhus; Wilhelmshaven; Antwerp; Rotterdam; Singapore; Kwangyang; Xiamen; Gdansk; and Felixstowe.

          These ships only travel between Asia and Europe, they don’t go to the US, they don’t go to South America, nor Australia. There’s no chance they will be visiting NZ anytime soon. The largest vessel to visit NZ is Maersk Aotea and her sisters, these vessels are half the size of the mega box ships.

        5. Master Chief – How do you know? China has already expressed interest in financing Northport redevelopment and the associated Auckland to Northport and possibility Whangarei rail upgrade, as part of China’s BRI.

          NZ’ers need to stop thinking about the here and now and do some long term planning. Auckland is classic case of years of short term quick fix bad urban and transport planning and look how its costing the country to fix Auckland’s issues.

          Whether we like it or hate it, China is going to be the main global economic and manufacturing power and NZ needs to protect its current $22billion trade with China and future trade with those countries associate with the BRI, as well as existing trade with other countries.

        6. As I just said there are only 20 ports in Asia and Europe which can support the largest 19,000 TEU plus box ships, do you realise how big these ship are, 390 to over 400m long, with a 16m draft. Do you honestly believe that NZ has the trade to support vessels of this size when even the US doesn’t have the facilities to support them?

          I take an interest in shipping because it’s related to what I do for a job.

          I have no issues with China, then can finance whatever they like, I don’t see them as the enemy.

  18. I suggets it would be a more inteersting proposal if the Navy was also relocated at the same time. Would mean Navy personnel have more access to cheap housing, as almost none of them can afford to live on Devonport peninsula. And will only get worse as Navy land is handed over to Ngati Whatua.

    Would be a big boost for the Whangerei economy with all the Navy personnel shopping and having fun there. Would also help with traffic on Lake Road in Devonport.

    And imagine how much that Navy land could be worth if developed into dense housing.

  19. Interesting idea Peter.

    The central Interceptor is being dug thru the suggested route. May need to check conflicts.

  20. I think the avondale wouthdown route is an underestimated route for passenger transport . It can tie our heavy rail together quite nicly. It allows a running pattern of an ithmus loop line.
    Crl to inner west to avondale -onehunga-southdown – then sylvia park eastern line back to the city.
    The western line would go through the crl to the southern and back. Put a transfer station at southdown and you would have a neat and tidy metro style of running pattern with one easy transfer to most of the network.

    1. Loop lines suck, terrible for reliability. If anything you would do a teardrop with the end at otahuhu.

    2. I think the whole (unstated) point of this article is to head the Southdown-Avondale Line off at the pass. Patrick doesn’t want it to proceed because he wants the corridor for light rail, and probably doesn’t want another heavy rail line in Auckland that could have passenger stations along it.

      Fortunately it’s been made very clear at the highest level (well, Winston) that the SAL (its SAL, not ASL btw) is to be kept clear for heavy rail. The light rail project needs to be modified, either by widening the corridor where necessary to make it wide enough for two heavy rail lines and two light rail lines, or by re-routing light rail through Three Kings (which this blog has previously supported anyway).

      1. This is a very peculiar line of conspiracy. What possible motivation would Patrick have for ‘wanting’ light rail and ‘wanting’ to block heavy rail?

        If you actually read the post, he has outlined exactly why he is musing about this freight bypass: he wants to get a dedicated freight route out to the NAL without stuffing up the existing heavy rail on the western line. He specifically mentions the difficulties around Avondale and through New Lynn.

        Patrick: “Lets look at a new heavy rail freight bypass to avoid contesting the existing heavy rail out west”.
        Geoff: “It’s a conspiracy to destroy the heavy rails!!!”

        FYI the SAL is over 30m wide between Dominion Road and Hillsborough Road, so could comfortably take a double track heavy rail line next to a double track light rail line.

        1. I’d agree it is a bit of a stretch for a conspiracy theory.
          Just listened to Twyford on news announcing the scheme for Wellington PT light rail included in a total $6bn package.
          But nothing will actually happen for 10 years. He must have found a money tree.
          Shouldn’t we have heard something by now about Auckland LR business cases?

        2. Bogle , you must remember the way it works what Auckland wants/needs Wellington will get/take it . e.g. tunnel and electrification we asked for it in the 30’s and they took it off us . It goes to show that the younger child always get what they want

        3. There’s a $28 billion spending package for Auckland and $6 billion for Wellington, seems reasonable to me.

        4. Even more to the point is that this is just for Wellington City, just the central city area. Whereas ATAP is capex and opex, and the entire region. Transmission Gully, for example would be counted if including an equivalent Wellington area to AKL. I forget they still have little tinpot boroughs down there…

      2. Lol. I don’t really get this obsession with some sort of contest between these types of rail. There simply isn’t one.

        There is a very real problem of conflict for limited track (and space for more) between growing freight and passenger services in AKL and elsewhere (which is what this post is about, the need to work towards separation).

        And there is a contest between Light Rail and Bus for serving a couple of the missing Rapid Transit routes in our city.

        The small group of paranoid obsessives attempting, bizarrely, to curtail Auckland’s Light Rail plans will only achieve more buses, where more cannot fit, not extensions to our existing rail system on these routes.

        They weirdly have become bus advocates because of this bafflingly whack thinking.

        What’s really needed, and what we work to provide, is Network thinking: A citywide Rapid Transit Network (trains, buses, light rail, ferries), a nation wide rail freight network (rail, ports, depots), and nation wide rail passenger network.

        Fetishising particular systems or machines is unhelpful in addressing these issues properly, though I get the urge; I love a train as much as the next tragic. But the point is for there to be more and better (and different) trains, they need to be serving real needs, in the real world. And this is achievable by using rail-shaped thinking; understanding the power of networks….

    1. What struck me is the relatively low extra cost for those final spurs west and north.

      Wouldn’t it be great if each proposed RONS project had similarly detailed scrutiny by media.

      1. Sacha , and it’s a shame there was nothing there about relaying the track through to Kaikohe and extending the line to Kaitaia like they proposed to in the middle of last century . And if that happened the likes of the Antipodean Explorer train set could also bring some extra revenue to the far north and it could take alot more logging trucks off the roads up there .
        And half that $1.3 billion will be spent in the initial 4 yrs and the rest in later period as most of the infrastructure is already there . And I think KR/NZR already still own land for the rail corridor ? Unless a government in the past made a quick buck selling it off

    2. Previous to the last post 3 News have had another item on the rail to the North with Nationals spokesman saying the following ;-

      “National Party transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says discussions need to happen.”

      “We need to have a clear rationale on why you want to spend a billion on rail going north, as opposed to other pressures on the transport network.”

      and here is the news item ;-


      1. And this from Shane Jones about Rail ;-

        Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones has hinted to Newshub that there will be great attention on rail in the upcoming Budget.

        “The reality is that if you’re in the business of nation building, you cannot capture every perceived benefit over 50 to 100 years through one consultant’s report,” he told Newshub Nation.”

        Which could be good to hear ? if if goes ahead .

  21. With all these big announcements this weekend I noticed a teensy change. On Thursday morning an ADl DMU makes its way out the western line to Henderson yard. There it backed onto those two parked up dmus. On Friday it was gone and so was one of the two parked up dmus. Looks like it was towed away for some reason.
    Fixing up for a possible DMU service to Huapai 🙂

    1. Bogle , it may be because of this that’s hapening at Henderson this is from the CRL web page :-

      :Geotechnical (ground) investigations – from 10 April 2019″

      “Geotechnical investigations are being undertaken in and around the rail corridor at Henderson Station until early May 2019, between the hours of 7am and 7pm.”

      And this is the link :-


      And he is an item I saw today from the PTUA web page :-

      “The Rail and Maritime Transport Union has also joined in the campaign to highlight the slow tram plan is not the best investment for Auckland. Wayne Butson, General Secretary of the RMTU, said “No one but a small bunch of individuals residing in Central Auckland seem to want this light rail tram. We want the Government to be honest, admit that it has never studied a railway from Wiri to the airport, so therefore, should not make any hasty decisions on a slow light rail tram to the airport. Our members do not support this $6 billion tram idea because it’s going to fail while Auckland’s traffic gets increasingly worse. For Nor-West Auckland there is a partial solution available now, extend commuter trains to Huapai”.

      1. What on earth does Huapai have to do with serving the Isthmus and Mangere, like its some kind of alternative?

        I get that all 3 of ptua’s members probably have good contacts in the union, but i am very sorry to see that they’ve managed to persuade them out of any sort of solidarity with the workers who will be building, maintaining, and yes, driving the Light Rail….

  22. This news of any commitment to an upgrade of the NAL line is the best transport-related news I’ve heard since the announcement of the CRL funding.

    There is so much potential for the line with the amount of freight movements between Auckland & Northland, the potential for Port Whangarei and commuter rail into Auckland from Helensville, etc.

  23. Thank you Patrick for thinking of this. It definitely solves the problem of conflicts between freight and commuter trains on the constricted/difficult sections of the Western Line.

    It also avoids a very windy, hilly and circuitous route between the proposed SAL/NAL junction (with very tight curves) in the vicinity of the current Pak’n’Save and the former Croydon Road station site east of the West Coast Road overbridge, including avoiding the difficulties with the Avondale incline/station and the New Lynn trench/station.

    The vertical elevation cross-section is the clincher for me: a flat straight route will save on freight train operating expenses significantly.

    Most of the corridor looks fine for 3 or 4 tracks between the vicinity of the West Coast Road overbridge (former Croydon Road station) and Swanson, except for:

    – a very restricted section through the current Glen Eden station (where some land and buildings may need to be (re)purchased), and

    – constricted sections east and west of the current Ranui station (where some of the new compact houses look way too close to the tracks – why was that allowed?).

    As Patrick suggests, it make sense to commence the tunnel west of the West Coast Road overbridge (i.e., west of “Scroggy Hill” – the highest point between New Lynn and Glen Eden).

    Considering all the disruption and heavy earthworks and grades and curves it avoids, I think it makes good sense (modern TBMs can be designed to be adaptable, to enable them to go through differing ground conditions).

    1. Thanks Jamie!

      I’m still liking this. Good to see the NAL getting out of triage, and Marsden Link progressing. This may be needed earlier than thought.

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