With the suggestion that we might finally hear something more about light-rail soon, I thought I’d put down some of the things I’ve been thinking about the project recently in relation to whether it should be built as an underground line.

Speed vs Coverage

There’s been some indications the Superfund proposal includes fully grade separating the entire route from the city to the airport.

Fully grade separated lines are the gold standard when it comes to public transport infrastructure, allowing for services to run both highly frequently and very reliably. Of course, the big downside to this is the infrastructure is also incredibly expensive to build and you only need to look at the City Rail Link to see this. At the other end of the spectrum, buses or trams sharing lanes with general traffic are generally slow and unreliable, making them not very attractive to potential users.

But there is a lot of space in-between these two ends of the spectrum. We can separate PT in both space and time to improve reliability and with the original proposal, light-rail would use both of these in the form of dedicated lanes and signal priority. These would give the trains something close to what can be achieved with much more expensive infrastructure.

A high-level description of different types of right-of-way is shown below which comes from Jarrett Walker’s excellent book Human Transit – it’s worth noting that Auckland doesn’t have any PT that is fully Class A, our rail network has numerous level crossings as well as sharing tracks with freight services while the Northern Express services currently only have a full busway for 41% of their journey from Albany, and even less from Hibiscus Coast.

The downside to building fully Class A infrastructure, like some have suggested should happen with Dominion Rd, is that it’s incredibly expensive. You only need to look at the City Rail Link to see this. Underground stations are particularly expensive and because of this, one of the most likely outcomes for Dominion Rd would be a desire to reduce the number of stations that need to be built. As we can also see with the CRL, underground stations would also take longer and be more disruptive than building light-rail on the surface.

This brings us to the classic speed vs coverage debate. Fewer stations make vehicles faster but at the same time fewer people can access them. Getting the balance right can be tricky and is influenced by what our goals are. In the case of the City Centre to Mangere line, it’s not just about providing access from the city to the airport but also about serving the communities along the way.

To highlight the issue of coverage, I’ve put together this image showing a 400-800m walking catchment from the potential light-rail stations on Dominion Rd. The image on the left shows if we only had LR stations at the three town centres along the route, such as if we were building an underground line while the image on the right shows if the other two stations as previously proposed. These would be at at about Milton Rd and Lambeth Rd. I’ve also added in a 400m catchment from the current bus stops on Sandringham Rd and Mt Eden Rd as we’d expect people living closer to those roads will continue to use those services.  As you can see, the town centre only stations version leaves a lot of central isthmus unserved, especially south of Balmoral Rd. By comparison those two extra stations fill in much of those coverage gaps nicely and improve access even on parts that were within 800m.

What this means is that if we were to build a grade separated option with fewer stations, we’d likely still need to run buses of some form on Dominion Rd to provide accessibility. This defeats one of the key purposes of looking at light-rail in the first place, to reduce the number of buses. There’s also less likely to be the place-making opportunities in the town centres that light-rail offers.

As for the speed trade-off, my calculations suggest that from the middle of town to SH20, from where onwards light-rail would be grade separated anyway, a fully underground Dominion Rd option would probably save 3-4 minutes. The surface option does pull a little of that back though as if you’re travelling to one of the town centres you’re at your destination the moment you get off the train, as opposed to an underground station where you then have to make your way back to the surface – depending on how deep it is.

Is that time saving worth it for the extra cost and loss of coverage, my guess is it probably isn’t but it would be interesting for someone to calculate. It’s worth noting that the surface light-rail option is already likely to save about 10 minutes compared to the current buses so it’s not like we’re not getting good improvements already.

This also brings us nicely to the next issue

We don’t need to solve everything in one project

One thing I’ve observed over the years is a tendency to try and solve every issue for decades to come with a single project. We saw this with the CRL and we’re seeing it again with light-rail. But cities, and especially large transport networks are a by-product of evolution.

Light-rail involves a significant increase in capacity and quality for public transport on Dominion Rd and the plan, as per ATAP, is to eventually link it to the North shore, creating a second and independent rail network for Auckland – I’ve written before why that’s a good thing.

But let’s say hypothetically this isn’t enough and at some time in the decades ahead, Dominion Rd services are becoming too busy. Firstly it’s not a bad thing and it would be a sign of success and that Aucklanders are using PT much more than expected. But it would still be a problem that needs to be solved and a couple of options could include:

Lengthening services

Just like what will be possible on our existing rail network, we could make services longer. So instead of two 33m light-rail trains joined together, we could potentially combine three together to create 99m long trains. These would be quite long but not unheard of. For example Seattle’s Light Rail, which shares many similarities to what’s planned here, is designed for up to four 29m vehicles to be combined to form a train about 115m in length. Enabling longer trains would probably require a bit more work up-front to ensure platforms will fit but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue given it’s not underground.

Build another line

In short, more lines are better than one big line that try’s to do everything and takes decades to deliver.

I get why the government and officials wouldn’t want to talk about building additional lines to address future potential capacity constraints when they haven’t even started this one but there’s no reason why this couldn’t be an option. For example, we could build light rail on another of the north-south isthmus routes, such as Mt Eden Rd. That could not only help address capacity constraints on that corridor but enable people travelling to/from south of Onehunga to be spread across more services. Alternatively, by the time this may be needed, Auckland will be a much bigger city, maybe with a population of over 3 million people. At that point we could build that underground line to enable the Orewa to Airport line to be fully grade separated (and perhaps automated) while leaving the surface level route on Dominion Rd to still serve local communities. We could even take the tunnel on a different route to give more options to our RTN network. This is shown below but the route is just for demonstration purposes, not something a lot of thought has gone into (although I did include our Crosstown light-rail idea).

We could even combine these two ideas together to give some serious additional capacity to the route.

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  1. Surely the cost of a line fully underneath Dominion Road is prohibitive? Isn’t it like three times as long as the $4.5 billion CRL?

    1. It’d cost less per kilometre than CRL as it’d be shallower and have smaller stations. However it’d almost certainly still be prohibitively expensive.

      1. Funny how parties interested only in the financing side of a project (Superfund, et al) might be pursuing the most expensive option..

        1. It is also amazing how a group set up to protect the future welfare of New Zealanders now sees its job as impoverishing them.

      2. Actually I’d be in favour of a train line beneath Dominion Rd. It’s a strait Rd that runs for miles so they could use cut-and-cover methods to build it. Also it’s between the lines at Greenlane and Mt Albert and so not served by trains. Can’t see it happening tho… Nobody with enough vision to push it through.

    2. I think it depends what they are talking about. If they are talking about a trench a little more than train height deep with a cover capable of withstanding pedestrians and cyclists (no cars or trucks except at intersections) I can’t see it adding a huge amount to the cost. Stations in this case shouldn’t be that expensive either.
      Although I gather there would be a bit of volcanic rock to blast through.

      1. “I can’t see it adding a huge amount to the cost.” Good thing you’re not in charge of the costings then Jimbo. Because one thing is for certain, it would definitely add a huge amount to the cost…

        1. Depends what you mean by a huge amount. Let’s say it adds a billion (which is pretty expensive trench – I suspect you could do it cheaper with labourers and pick axes!). That is an extra 33%. That may be worth it considering the significantly improved amenity for Queen street and Dominion road and the decreased journey times for both trams and cars.
          We are all guessing at what they are proposing. At this stage it isn’t fair to compare costs to the CRL which is a very deep tunnel and dismiss it when this might just be cut and light cover.

    3. There are some interesting points here. A CRL type boring of a tunnel using a TBM would probably be the least disruptive – but would be massively expensive. Cut and cover, on the other hand, would be massively disruptive over a number of years, but would cost a lot less. New York’s north-south routes were done using this method, where they would close off one Avenue for a whole city block, dig a massive trench only 20 feet deep, and quickly cover over it with steel beams and a layer of cement. Of course, they had the advantage of another Avenue nearby, where they could easily switch the traffic to while the route was being dug. New York’s topography suits that method – and their population density – neither being applicable to Auckland.

      Th other option, not being explored here but evident in your Figure 8.1, is aerial running. Again, less disruptive than cut and cover, with only pylons needing to be built every 30m or so, and then the bridge beams could get installed as precast beams at night – but it is the most visually disruptive and i suspect the heritage lobby would have kittens. Probably the easiest thing is to do what they have said they will do: build tracks at ground level. End of story.

      1. Cut and cover requires the largest amount service relocations compared to overhead and deep bored, costly, time consuming and incredibly disruptive. This would largely equalise the costs between cut and cover and deep bored as was evidenced in the Waterview Tunnel project. Any underground system, regardless of burial depth, requires very expensive, to install and maintain, fire suppression, exhaust ventilation systems and emergency egress provision.
        A further disadvantage of either overhead, or underground systems over the proposed partially separated, on ground running, is that the extra time required to access the boarding platforms largely negates any time that could be saved by faster, running on a fully separated system for most peoples trips. The bulk of the trips would not be end to end, as so many continue to believe but north and south, from the intermediate suburbs.
        I cynically believe that that the alternative privately funded underground proposal was dependant on a financing model that ensured that the more it cost, the more money to be made.

      2. Maybe an elevated railway clad with weatherboard and detailed with fretwork, to make it blend in with ye olde surrounds

        1. ” Any underground system, regardless of burial depth, requires very expensive, to install and maintain, fire suppression” – what about if you don’t fully cover? The odd road crossing over the top, the odd little park or pedestrian area, maybe 50/50 covering.

        2. Jimbo, a double track partially covered trench below the surface will result in the loss of an equivalent area of ground level surface on the limited road corridor width plus the additional ground level intrusions for station accessways. I suspect what is left over would be severly compromised to accomodate foot, cycle, and local motorised delivery traffic. And for what? Reduced disruption to crossing motor vehicles and enhanced running speeds, for the trams but at the expense of degraded platform access for it’s passengers. The expense of relocating additional services, the construction of a reinforced trench and the required over bridges would be astronomical, and just delay further network projects such as NW rapid transport and an additional harbour public transport crossing. Gold standard is not required especially at the expense of advancing adequate Bronze and Silver standard projects.

  2. Auckland was served by a excellent network of electric trams from 1902–1956. This form of mode share was effective & Auckland had one of the best public transport systems in the World during this period.

    Introducing light-rail on existing roading infrastructure would save massive expense & time compared to underground transit systems. This would ensure that light rail would have the dedicated lanes, better coverage, reliability and signal priority over traffic.


  3. There’s a much easier solution to get light rail separated from general traffic without having to build underground or overhead railways: Remove the traffic.

    Removing traffic is cheaper, safer and better for the environment (both local and global). The engineering solutions are well understood and quite easy. Of course it’s a much more difficult political problem to solve…

    1. There would still be pedestrian traffic that would seriously decrease the potential top speed. Not sure how much difference it would make to journey times.

      1. Why would be the the justification for imposing a lower top speed on a tram along Dominion Road then the legal top speed, which off peak is almost always exceeded, of the existing four lanes of motor vehicles?
        Even if all traffic, including light rail is restricted to 40kph on the shared section of the route the time penalties are minor.
        It would be bizarre to allow road traffic to go faster then trams. Pedestrian severance from one side of the road to the other would be improved by replacing the constant string of buses by a less frequent but longer tram. Pedestrian amenity is also improved by replacing the kerbside running buses with trams adjacent to the road centre.

    2. It would only work out cheaper if you don’t include the cost of compensating all the property owners who might wish to get access to their house or shop or have trucks make deliveries to them or perhaps have their bin emptied. Yeah get rid of all the existing land uses and don’t pay them anything in return and that would be cheaper. Maybe they could all walk their wheelie bins along Dominion Rd to a single pickup point at Balmoral Rd.

        1. But that’s the tricky bit Heidi: “only remove the traffic at the pinch points.” Because of course Dominion Road being N-S orientation, it clashes with the E-W roads – they are the pinch points – and you can’t remove the traffic from them… unless the LR separates from grade at these points and goes above or below ground at the intersections, leaving the traffic to flow freely. Actually, there are several places where that could work quite well: like where Dominion Rd crosses Mt Albert Road or Balmoral Road for instance. Totally makes sense for massive grade separation there.

        2. Maybe we could have a rubbish tram built, and people could line there bins up along the tracks. Of course they would find an excuse to use separate trams for rubbish and recycling.
          Except the trip to the the airport might take 3 hours on bin day if you get stuck behind the rubbish tram.

        3. How many E-W roads do you think are still going to have vehicle paths that will cross with the LR, Guy? I would have thought your examples – Balmoral Rd and Mt Albert Rd – were the only places. There’s a stop shown just north of Mt Albert Rd, and (for the street level option) just south of Balmoral Rd so the LRT vehicle will be stopping anyway.

        4. Well, even if they are the only two points, they’re still going to have to achieve grade separation there – can you imagine that intersection at Balmoral if every ten minutes the cars have to stop to let a Light Rail vehicle tootle across the road, with 500 cars banking up in each of the east-west directions? There’s no way you could have barrier arms, and bells and lights just won’t cut the mustard. So, without anything to stop them, there’ll be some goon in a souped up Nissan every time who will reckon he’ll be able to do a drift passing manoeuvre in front of the train. Aucklanders are not the most patient of people when in their cars….

        5. Thanks Miffy – great idea about the rubbish tram – and actually, there is a similarity with the truth here – I’ve been told that in Wellington the trams used to have a post-box on the back of them, so you could run up to them and post a letter, as all the trams went to Post-Office Square. Each time the tram did a run and returned back to the centre, they would empty out the post-box and get to sorting out the letters. Cost nobody any time or money – and probably saved heaps in the process. Now we can’t even get them to deliver letters every day, and they have removed nearly all the post-boxes so that the public are denied even the option of posting a letter, let alone receiving one.

        6. Ah Miffy, perhaps all the trams could be built with a compactor rubbish compartment. Just wheel your bin out, or more likely just take a bag, to the tram stop, wait briefly for the next tram, in either direction, empty your rubbish into the compactor, voila enhanced rubbish service. The trams just need a discharge point at one end of the run. Much more convenient then waiting a week or a fortnight for the next rubbish collection. Might be so popular, people may want trams in every street.

        7. Guy, both Balmoral Rd and Mt Albert Rds need to go on a diet anyway. They are horrible traffic roads that could be providing far better people-flow in a far nicer streetscape providing for active and public transport modes. They should be in the connected communities programme.

        8. Guy.
          1. The main road crossings (eg Balmoral) can be efficiently dealt with signals priority for LR, at one gazillioth of the cost of any buried or elevated system…. elegant and efficient.
          2. Reducing the traffic on Dom Rd is a feature not a bug of the plan, the traffic bypass for end to end journeys has already been built: Waterview. Local access will increase with removal of buses and reduction in through traffic.

        9. Which bit, Guy? 1. or 2? And I hope you’re thinking of this in terms of the necessary lowering of vkt and modeshift to create a liveable city. Safety, amenity and climate all require this to happen.

        10. Heidi, part 1 really – the example of a seamless crossing that I am thinking of is where the railway crosses under Park Road just near Khyber Pass – so seamless that no one even knows it’s there. There’s even a certain slope in the road at one of those intersections e.g. Balmoral? where the slope might work in favour of grade separation. Patrick is right when he says that a level crossing would be a gazillionth cheaper, but I bet you that the Park Road crossing has never malfunctioned once in its long life, and never causes even a milli-second of delay. Do it once, do it right, put those two main intersections out of harms way. I used to work for London Underground, so I reckon I know what I’m talking about here…

        11. re Miffy’s idea about the rubbish tram. This could be good. The trams could empty the rubbish at either ends: 1. Wynyard Qtr & then dump it all in the harbour. 2. The airport, flying the contents to some overseas country like China for them to deal with.

        12. Great idea Don. But if these people get there way and all traffic is removed from Dominion Road then we will at least need an ambulance tram and a fire tram. Imagine the really long ladder they could put on top of the fire tram. It would probably be best to have a heart attack on the western side of Dominion Road so the ambulance tram doesn’t have to take you to the airport to switch tracks before dumping you off near K road.

        13. Another reason for grade separation, at least at Balmoral Rd, is the increased requirement for turning traffic and road space required for it, due to the LR preventing right turns onto Dom Rd (from driveways and minor side roads).
          The grade at Mt Albert Rd would favour underground. The grade at Balmoral Rd would favour overhead.

        14. Ha, Grant, miffy, Don. You’re talking rubbish. Sort of.

          Guy, if we had something like this: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jat/2019/4802967/ plus we used the whole exercise to ‘rationalise’ the traffic volumes (ie set ambitious vkt reduction and modeshift targets and then use projects like these and low traffic neighbourhoods schemes to achieve them – like progressive cities are actually doing!!) it seems we could avoid the expense and resource use of going over or under. Although I do always like the idea of doing things well at the start, just getting this project to start would be bloody good.

        15. Heidi in the absence of road pricing any target is nonsense. Are you going to count trips and then close a gate once your limit is reached? Policy is pointless where you have many individuals who face a different incentive to the one you are trying to achieve. Yes we are talking nonsense but at least we understand we are, most of the commenters in this thread lack that awareness.

        16. Miffy, medical access with rail only access was resolved years ago. In the early 1950’s my wife, as a toddler, was evacuated precisely 100 miles across the Nullarbor plain by rail from Reid to Cook hospital after mistaking kerosene for drinking water. The first part of the journey was by open petrol powered trolley, which was then met by the 1919 built studebaker section car for the onward journey. Just a standard car of the time but with bolt on rail wheels, and a screw Jack turntable underneath that allowed it to be turned. Reid was beyond the then range of the Flying Doctor

        17. We can use pricing, and I’m sure we will. But a quicker, more fundamental way to reduce vkt and increase access is actually using modal filters and controlling where the traffic can go. This repairs the biggest problem – too much traffic affecting the ability to walk and cycle safely, including to PT, and too much traffic holding up the buses. Pricing is then complementary.

          If instead, we continue on our merry stupid way to induce traffic, with:
          -greenfields development,
          -parking supply increases,
          -road capacity expansion, and
          -corridor optimisation programmes (if they’re all about traffic flow),

          then the pricing is working against these moves, and we’re basically wasting our money in multiple ways.

          We need to align the policies with an overarching strategy.

          Pricing was considered to be one of the most effective tools a few years ago, and it does have a good basis. What we’re finding now is that low traffic neighbourhoods are more effective, work at a more fundamental level, and pricing is in fact a good adjunct to that. More equitable, too.

        18. Great Heidi so you want to use congestion as your instrument. Just don’t expect emissions to drop, or VKT for that matter once people vote with their feet and go further away from the areas you are trying to control.

        19. Absolutely, categorically not. That is the opposite of what I’m saying. It’s not how low traffic neighbourhoods work. They work by giving all the people who want to use active modes the option to do so, by making it safe and pleasant. This allows the many people who are sick of driving and who want a healthier lifestyle, to have it. It cuts out the chauffeuring. This is incredibly effective. Cities that set strong modeshift targets for 2030, and then meet them in two years are actually places we need to sit up and notice.

          I abhor planners using congestion as a lever to keep a cap on vkt – it’s how to fill everyone’s lungs with fumes and it keeps people stuck in car dependency. And it’s exactly why we have to stop our Council and AT from using the four methods to increase vkt I listed above.

          In the positive direction, AT and AC should be improving the PT and active networks. They are improving PT. But they’re failing miserably at providing a safe cycling network and AT’s legal team are preventing even basic enforcement to make walking safe. So confident adults bike, but often wouldn’t let their kids do so. The ones who can make PT work in a reasonable time do, but wouldn’t expect it of everyone. This ho hum business as usual stuff means our vkt rises or stagnates but isn’t reducing as it should.

          In this situation, our planners are indeed relying on congestion to keep a cap on vkt. I want to point that out to them.

          Congestion pricing will be an equitable lever to use once they stop the stupidity of increasing congestion, but right now our planners are like a push me pull you: wasting ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ money on projects pushing vkt up and also on projects to mitigate that vkt rise by trying to improve PT, safety and modeshare. Imagine how our vkt and congestion would drop without those greenfields, road expansion, carparking and traffic flow projects!

          You’re obviously not even bothering to read the posts and the links. Barcelona’s Superblocks were created in order to reduce air pollution because they weren’t meeting EU standards. They were so successful they’re now rolling the programme out across the city, and other places are doing so too to reduce their air pollution and their vkt.

          So how can you suggest that low traffic neighbourhoods won’t reduce carbon emissions or vkt? It’s like you see a modal filter, you think it’ll take a bit longer for you to drive around, and extrapolate that to everyone. It’s not what people do; so many take up the previously neglected modes that vkt and emissions drop. It’s plain wrong and obstructive of you to keep this argument up.

        20. Guy – not sure if you are aware but cars already bank up at Balmoral and Mt Albert Roads when there is a green light on Dominion Road, very little needs to change.

          Where did you get your experience working with at grade crossings while working with London Underground, I thought their entire network was grade separated.

        21. Well that’s the point. They just wouldn’t do it, except in the most remote of locations – certainly would never contemplate it in the middle of the city at a busy intersection. Design the problem out right at the outset.

        22. Sure you could grade separate those intersections, they will also have stations, which will significantly add to the cost.

          I struggle to see how working for a system that is exclusively grade separated gives you any experience with at grade crossings. If you had worked on any number of LR systems in North America or Australia that have at grade crossings I might understand.

      1. Actually studies around the world have proven that property and amenity values increase substantially with LR projects.

  4. I love the way you do this sort of analysis, Matt. Thanks for taking the time. What it makes me wonder about is how to improve the bus priority along Mt Eden and Sandringham Rds sufficiently so that more people are attracted to them – maybe the 400m catchment there could be increased to 500m or 600m with a faster service. Especially on Mt Eden Rd, as there is more of a gap in catchment between the Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd routes. I suppose this will come as the public see the service offered by light rail and ask for better PT priority elsewhere too.

  5. Personally I like the idea of any second route running along Manukau and Pah Roads. This area likely has more development potential, would have an easier connection to the LR link, and provide more capacity to service Newmarket which I anticipate may have as many jobs and residents as the existing CBD within the timeframes we’re talking about here.

  6. From Alan Spinks.
    The connection from the airport to Puhinui should be heavy rail. The line can go east to Wiri and connect there. The route is clear at present, and the rail can serve a proposed speedway if it is built. That will be the cheapest connection to the airport. Based on overseas rail new builds, the cost is between $50 million and $100 million. the proposed $60 million bus interchange at Puhinui will not be needed. That money is better spent on the passenger station at the airport. I have been arguing this for over 20 years.

    1. $100m to build underground heavy rail and station(s) in the airport? Highly unlikely IMO. Check out the cost of the CRL…

    2. You are right it will be cheaper, but it’s value will also be lower as it doesn’t serve Mangere, Mangere Bridge, Hillsborough and Dominion Road.

      Also you are incorrect that the route is clear, the South-Western Motorway will need to bridged or tunneled under, not an insignificant task.

    3. Reasons against HR to airport line via Puhinui instead of LRT via Dominion Rd:
      1. Running pattern doesn’t work nicely = slow frequency, cost of junction etc upgrades and/or confusing timetable etc
      2. Lost chance of LRT on same basic route?
      3. Lost chance of getting LRT north line done?
      4. Don’t get all the other station catchments north
      5. Still have the tunneling/station issues in the low site of the airport itself see above (6-8M above sea level)
      6. Not as resilient as a whole new LRT line

      1. The heavy rail cost is based on costs of new rail builds in other countries. US$2.5million per mile in USA. Up to 3.8 million euros per km in Europe. This is approx NZ$8million per km on greenfield site in NZ. Approx 7km east to Wiri will cost $56million. Say $30million for connection at Wiri plus $60million for passenger station at the airport. Total $150 million plus cost of compensating existing landowners for right of way. This will be more effective at addressing the needs of 110,000 air passengers per day, providing a fast rail connection to the CBD. Trains carrying 1000 passengers can get to CBD in 30 minutes. Get the air passengers out of the equation, then light rail along Dominion Road becomes more practical as a local service to serve that area plus Mangere. Build the heavy rail to the airport first. Otherwise 500 trams per day to the airport will hardly address the problem, and where do they all go when they get to the CBD?

        1. The problem is that it will be many years before 110000 people per day will want to travel between the airport and the few railway stations between there and the CBD. Those in groups or with large luggage will still opt for taxis even if destined to locations close to those few stations. By far the most people headed to, or from the airport are not including the CBD in their journey.
          As an engineer you should know that load determination is the most critical stage of any subsequent design.
          The passenger loads and growth rate of the Dominion Road bus route are current knowns. So are the number of bus passages and the bus stop capacities of the CBD road system and their limitations to accomodate further growth. It is addressing the small available differential between actual present loads and the ultimate available load capacity using buses that requires a new solution to be commenced promptly for this specific route. Extending it to the airport just increases this route’s utility not it’s prime justification.

        2. Have a look at some of these posts, Alan: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/?s=airport

          “light rail along Dominion Road becomes more practical as a local service to serve that area plus Mangere” – Yes

          “Build the heavy rail to the airport first.” – Why? Have you looked to see where the majority of people who would use public transport to the airport precinct come from?

          I hope you can see the needs of our residents, airport workers, and of building an efficient, sustainable, cost-effective network are above the needs of the very few airport to CBD travellers who wouldn’t be happy with light rail, or who (at the other extreme) wouldn’t just take a cab anyway.

          It’s helpful to think about the network improvements that light rail along Dominion Rd create. Each new frequent and rapid route has an exponential benefit to the network, enabling and improving many trips in many different directions.

        3. Come work in the current Auckland construction market, with cost inflation running in the double digits, and tell us again how relevant those numbers from overseas are.

          You’re also ignoring:
          – Crossing SH20 by either tunneling or re-building the Puhinui Rd interchange. Neither option is going to be cheap.
          – Crossing Puhinui Inlet (not sure if that’s the right name) by bridge. Shouldn’t be too technically challenging but likely a consenting nightmare.
          – Integrating heavy rail into the airport precinct. Not a trivial exercise since heavy rail and vehicles don’t mix very well.

          And that’s before you confront the issue of whether a heavy rail connection to the airport is actually the best solution for Auckland. The HR vs LR debate has been done to death on GA, here’s one of the more recent pieces: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/06/17/airport-connections-are-over-rated/

    4. Okay did we miss something in all this?
      $100m wont even get you from Wiri to the South Western Motorway nor will the Environment Court make it easy owing to Puhinui Stream right there and there.

      And more to the point who are you trying to serve? If you say airport passengers then that is wrong entirely. If you said workers that would be a better answer, if you said workers primarily then passengers on the side that would be the best answer.

      And given the workers live either south of Wiri (Papakura) or in proximity to Te Irirangi Drive then the logical of the full Airport to Botany Line at 18km for a price tag of $380m for bus or $1.5b for LRT became the method to be used:

      Allow express to the Airport from the City Centre via transfer
      Allow workers from the south up the Southern Line and transfer over with both Lines running every 10mins (Airport HR will only be 30min frequencies at best – aka useless)
      Allow workers from Otara, Flatbush, Botany and Howick to access the airport quickly (Te Irirangi Drive was designed to take LRT)
      A secondary access to Manukau itself.

      Did I miss anything? No apart from the me thinking the PTUA might be somewhat full of it.

  7. A simple rule of thumb is to multiply costs by 10 when going up or down, so likely prohibitive.

    It does point to the option, though, of taking advantage of some of the ridge line intersections and having short under- or over-ground sections to grade separate at these points and create some longer stretches for clear running and even out the gradients.

    It rubs up against the politically unpopular step of removing street side parking from these roads, which might be necessary as a temporary measure to create room for through traffic during the works, and perhaps ideal as a permanent measure even once the route is fully operative.

  8. Surface light rail will be great. This will be especially good on Queen St so you don’t have to wander down to an underground station to travel 500m.

    Dominion Rd will be great as well. Having too few a stations will certainly defeat its purpose & underground would be way too expensive.

    1. Who would jump on a tram to travel 500m, by the time you’ve waited for it to arrive you could have walked the distance.

      1. Lots actually. Look to see if a tram is coming, if so, catch it, a quick 500m journey, otherwise walk. It is all about having the options, and this is the huge advantage of street level running

  9. Given the likely cost, and the huge difficulty in obtaining financing for these projects, putting the Dominion Road line underground would most likely come at the expense of other projects – such as the North-Western Line. We tend to forget that there isn’t a limitless supply of capital to build these projects, and that several fit-for-purpose initiatives will almost always trump one gold-plated initiative in terms of getting bums on PT seats (and out of cars), which is, after all, the objective.

        1. Of course they aren’t doing it for free. But they have money to invest, IMO it’s better for them to invest in NZ rather than offshore.

  10. Would it be feasible to create a new transport corridor for rapid transit 100 meters to the east of Dominion Road?

    A significant amount of houses would need to be demolished, but the end result would be a grade separated corridor. This corridor would not have the space constraints of Dominion Road, or the high cost of tunneling. The cost of building stations would be low, as they would be above ground.

    1. Sam, my apologies if I was a little curt in my response – if I may offer an anecdote by way of elucidation: years ago I worked on the Jubilee Line Extension in London, which was, for the most part, all underground. Much to my surprise, instead of going in a straight line under / across various properties, the Tube engineers preferred to put the entire route (as much as was possible) directly underneath the Overground British Rail lines. It reduced the amount of different property owners they had to deal with to just one: i.e. BR. It would have been sooooo much harder to deal with all the different property owners had they chosen a different route under neighbouring houses.

      But also, a route through neighbouring suburban backyards would be hugely expensive – buying the properties, demolishing the houses, causing a net reduction in number of properties rather than an increase – and then having stations popping up in people’s back yards is totally unwanted, rather than occurring on the main Dominion Road. Going off-road is, literally, just a road you do not want to go down….

  11. Where is the minister saying, right team enough bullshit, now start laying tracks. You know, saying enough is enough?

    Where is the leadership? Is there anyone out there?

    You would think this is an NZTA policy initiative but it’s not, its Labours promise.

    1. Waspy, yes, but then again: I’d rather they have well-developed plans for every metre of the track, rather than just some good ideas that may work out. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions… So, having Twford up there saying “right team enough bullshit, now start laying tracks” is probably not what is needed.

      1. I disagree, Twyford now has a reputation for non delivery, spectacular non delivery. This is far too important to sink into the morass of bureaucratic game playing. And let’s not even begin to consider the catatonic “Let’s Get Wellington Moving” mess!

        He needs to steer this, today, not leave to the nation’s motorway department to see if they can drag this out until election time. Because quite honestly, who is going to believe anything Labour promise after that?

        1. Waspy, yes he does have that reputation, but that’s mainly because of right-wing media saying it so often. The Kiwibuild is a morass indeed, but I wonder if the strategy was wrong from the outset. If Labour had concentrated just on HNZ extra builds, they would have been lauded as heroes by all (except by Hoskings, of course), but Kiwibuild is a tricky nut to crack.

          Re LGWM, i don’t think you can steer any blame on that onto Twyford – it was set up by National and did bugger all for the first 3 years of its existence, until prodded into life with an electric cattle-prod by Genter and Twyford and Robertson. They were the people who insisted (rightly so too) that better PT, walking and cycling had to be at the forefront of any scheme, rather than tacked on later as an afterthought as had been done before under the Nats/ACT combo.

          It’s clear that you’re a blue-headed Nat, and so nothing that Labour say will ever convince you otherwise, so quite honestly, you’re not their target market. Given that this was only announced a couple of months ago, I’d expect a lengthy period of design before any digging of roadworks takes place.

        2. Guy, Twyford had 6 long years to either plan Kiwibuild to work or see it was impossible and abandon it before the last election. He did neither and it’s damaged this government.

          I want light rail to succeed, if done comprehensivey it’s a game changer, Labour needs it to happen because they talked very big game on a number of very important issues this being one of them. Light rail from Wynyard to Mt Roskill in 4 years, said Jacinda, 2 years ago, but have nothing to show with 2 years to go and are deathly quiet on the subject. And thus far they’ve failed to deliver on a number of other big promises, climate change, “my generations nuclear free moment” policy being a more recent pointless timid failures, their solution is like taking a water pistol to counter a house fire.

          And simply because as a voter I find bullshit empty promises totally unacceptable doesn’t mean I vote National, FFS, but I will criticise this lot because they are not keeping their end of the bargain and strangely they can’t see the harm it’s doing to them either!

        3. Is Waspman a blue-headed Nat? I’ve missed something then. Or find more nuance than I should perhaps. He seems to be fairly aware of the needs of a wide range of society…

          However, criticism where criticism is due (and I’m quite fond of that), I wouldn’t have thought Twyford was responsible for the LGWM mess either…

          I’m a long way from Wellington local politics, but there seem to be some strange messages coming from local government that aren’t so helpful, too… do we want tunnels? Bendy buses? Maybe a kitchen sink…

        4. Heidi, yes probably LGWM is not of central government making but the original plan/s, as mindless as they were have ceased and plan B is stalled, if there even was a plan B. Again this needs leadership and direction, not bickering in parliament over what hat JAG was wearing when she sent a letter to Twyford. None of that is helping Wellington. It looks to me just like our issues in Auckland, leaderless and going nowhere when something needs to happen.

        5. …except LGWM is getting 60% Govt funding and Aucklanders (remain) the only region in the country paying a fuel tax, and are expected to chip in 50/50 to big-ticket items like the CRL.

        6. Buttwizard – LGWM includes State Highways, which generally get 100 % government funding so 60 % is probably reasonably fair.

          I agree with you completely about the CRL, it should be 100 % government funded as it is as important as a state highway. I believe this discrepancy is why the government has agreed to fund 100 % of Airport LR despite a significant proportion of it running on local roads.

        7. Yes, he should have just done what the National goivernment did.

          Deny there was a problem until elected out. Then turn on the new government and demand they fix the problems National were denying existed.

          Brilliant politics. Pretty crap for the actual people they are supposed to be helping.

          At least Twyford tried something.

    2. Waspman, generally it’s a good idea to design a multi-billion dollar project before you start laying tracks.

      1. You don’t need to design it end to end to start construction. Some less complex sections could kick off the construction phase whilst design continues in the more complex areas. It is vital to manage the work flow to even out the demand on limited construction resources so an early start reduces later demand.

      2. Of course it is Snoozle, in fact one could bugger around with many many years of planning could avoid so many issues and if we never do it all it will avoid any risk.

        But it’s been two years you see and if this so difficult to start laying the route down, the already announced Queen St part at least to start with then what hope is there?

        You see Snoozle, hopes and dreams and Phil’s best wishes will not survive a National Government, just like their never started RONS

      3. It is also a good idea to secure the funding before you just start building something. But maybe Waspman is right. Maybe what is needed is a Shane Jones to turn up and claim to have all the answers and just start doing things, anything. Then again you might get 200,000 trees planted in Dominion Road instead.

  12. Seeing as KiwiRail has just launched a campaign against near misses tonight, and has said that there is at least one near miss every day, then I think that the chances of anyone approving the chance of a train crossing 6 lanes of traffic on Balmoral Road every 10 minutes, are going to be about zero. You can say all you like about clever means of signal crossing, but I think it is a zero chance of getting approval. Just plan for them to be grade separated. Do it once, do it right…

    1. You are aware that buses and trucks currently cross six lanes of traffic there right? Surely going from almost 60 buses an hour to 12 LRT vehicles is an improvement.

      1. Yep, well aware of that. I’m also aware that when you google “car crashes Dominion Road Auckland” and click images, then the screen fills up with total carnage. Evidently Aucklanders quite like it as a place to drive their cars into each other: “four-car crash leaves nine injured”, etc. We all know that when any vehicle comes into contact with a rail vehicle, the car comes off way worse. I just think that the chances of interleaving a major east-west highway with a high frequency rail service in both directions north and south, at grade level, and involving some flashing lights and ringing bells – cos there is no way in hell you’re going to get barrier arms to span that intersection – are slim to the point of non-existent.

        What Resource Consent planner worth their salt is going to look at a scheme for that where the tram sails across the intersection is going to say: “looks fine to me, no worries there…”. Nope. Just ain’t gonna happen. I’m gonna leave that there. We can come back to this when they open the line and see then what they did.

        1. You haven’t really responded properly to Sailor Boy’s comment, though.

          Let’s fix the intersection danger now, before light rail goes in. Let’s use Vision Zero, and provide a safe system for the people cycling there and walking across the intersection.

          If no-one’s trying to do that, should this intersection danger really be preventing a safer mode being installed?

        2. You would have a hernia if you saw the amount of at grade crossings on the new LR routes in Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast. Australia is as safety conscious if not more so than NZ and had no trouble approving them.

          My understanding is LRV’s travelling at 50kmh with electro-magnetic emergency brakes have about the same stopping distance as a bus.

          There won’t be any bells and flashing lights at these intersections there will be traffic lights just as there are now.

        3. I’m perplexed at your views on this one Guy.
          Currently, the Dominion/Balmoral intersection is bounded by Potters Park to the NE corner, a new apartment building to the NW, and the Balmoral shops to the SE and SW.
          There is no natural topographical advantage to assist with grade separation, other than the gentle rise of Dominion Rd north of the intersection. Whatever grade separation solution is chosen would require either a bridge, or an underpass.
          The impact of such structures on the surrounding neighbourhood would be more than minor, create additional severance for pedestrians, and would almost certainly work against the potential to calm this intersection and improve the urban fabric and amenity of the Balmoral shops.
          Better would be to run LR through the intersection and shops at 30km to the proposed stop there, keep everything at grade, and redesign the streetscape to give visual and physical priority to users other than cars.

  13. Just to note; expect great growth in the light-rail and cycling combination.

    Has the subject on balancing the less need for stations to be closer for cycling, and the need for stations being closer for walking been studied?

    It’s like 50% of all first-mile trips to trains are made by cycling in NL.

  14. The assertion that Class A is expensive needs to be put into context. City Rail Link is extremely expensive because it is a subway. Out side of the CBD, as in your diagram, Class A can be achieved by elevating rail above the road. This is much less expensive per distance than building a tunnel.

    The second factor that is rarely discussed is capacity. Class A has much greater peak usage capacity than the other types, which actually makes it cheaper if that capacity is used. Of course, the capacity would not be used initially but it’s good to have it for the future. Unfortunately this dynamic makes it unpopular with politicians because their careers will likely end before a Class A system reaches anywhere near its capacity.

    Running buses along Dominion Road to connect to fewer, higher quality stations is not a bad thing. Firstly these buses will likely be electric by the time the rail gets built. Secondly, depending on how the grade separation is done, there will be more room for them. Thirdly, there will be other ways to connect to the stations e.g. cycleways (which there will be more room for). Fifthly, a faster rail link to the city will likely have higher usage from areas beyond Dominion Road which will see even less buses in the City.

    The whole concept of a “Congestion Free Network” is absurd. People dislike congestion be cause it increases travel times. Building a transport network that has no congestion but has travel times similar to (or worse) that congestion achieves nothing. It is no different to inventing a cure to the common cold that has side effects that reproduce the exact same symptoms as the common cold. It’s not rational to spend money on such things.

    Auckland’s public transport proponents are advocating for an LA style mish-mash of rail, trams, buses, and busways. We need to take a step back and look at cities that have high public transport usage and emulate what they do. Cities with high public transport usage have common features which are A) a Class A Mass Rapid Transport System and B) development focused around that system.

    The trams are disappointing because they are the next biggest ticket item for PT investment in Auckland and they fail the test of being rapid. They also partially the test of being mass. It won’t take long for the trams to reach crush capacities and then there’s nowhere to go.

    This isn’t to say trams are not nice. They are and it would be lovely to have them. They just won’t do as much for PT usage in Auckland as adding to our MRT system (if you accept the trains qualify as MRT) would.

    The “killer feature” of MRT systems is that the value of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is because adding to the network opens up the entire network to the areas that are added. This fundamental dynamic relies on the network being traversable. Tram networks are not traversable because they are simply to slow for people that have to travel long distances on them.

    Sorry, but the desire for major capital investment in PT in Auckland to be spent on true MRT is not going away. MRT or bust.

    1. Good luck in getting an elevated road, or rail route through an existing built up area. The environmental impact nearby would be horrendous, and as this is high value real estate that would be considerably degraded, it would simply not be politically viable.
      This route is only a part of the required upgraded transport network that has to be resourced so compromises are required to free up resources for other projects.
      The northern busway is generally no quicker then a car on the adjacent motorway but is still building patronage.

      1. I think you’re absolutely right about this. Bingo!

        There are a lot of NIMBYs who want pretty trams, that service them just fine when they want to get into the city, or to the Airport. Unfortunately these trams are of little use to a commuter from Murray’s Bay wanting to get to the airport. They will take their car just as they always have.

        The question the PT advocate has to ask themselves is how to deal with NIMBYs that won’t allow Class A public transport to be built near them but still want super expensive, super nice trams that are really only useful to themselves?

        I would say the answer is to tell simply tell them no. If that’s how they feel they can stick to there buses. There are other places to spend the money? Rail link from Puhinui anyone? It’s almost the same price as a bus stop. Bargain.

        1. Dave N – As a resident of close to Murray’s Bay the SkyBus to the airport works just fine for me – sufficiency frequency and delivered to the door and no parking nonsense at the airport end.

        2. The success of Airport LR will be the density of housing on Dominion Road and other parts of the route, not the small number of people wanting to get from Murray’s Bay to the Airport each day.

          It makes much more sense to make the route attractive to live along than try and cater for the relatively small number of people who are going to make an end-to-end journey.

        3. Jezza – the density of housing on Dominion Road would need to be MUCH higher than currently zoned for, ie. It needs to be 6 storeys

    2. Have you drawn up a proposal for an MRT network for Auckland, Dave, and could you link it? Have you costed it up? Always keen to see other proposals and what could be done with transport money if diverted away from roads.

      Which cities are you counting as successful and which are unsuccessful? (I’ve been happy in cities with a mix of PT modes.)

      1. I’m not particularly well traveled but my definition of a successful PT city is one that has a relatively high (compared to other cities) PT distance to traveled to private vehicle distance traveled ratio.

        Never been there but I think Singapore would be near the top of the list. I’ve been to London and from what I’ve seen that works.

        If I was a dictator what would I do?

        First I’d silence the excessive announcements on the trains.

        Then I spend 1MMM on 1M electric buses and lease them to at least 50 different (for competition, like how Uber does it) bus companies. I’d renegotiate contracts so that bus services must be provided by electric buses. I can do this because I’m a dictator.

        Then I’d rezone all of Auckland so that all areas near rail stations (or future stations) can be intensified and all areas not near stations cannot be.

        I’d service areas not near MRT stations with electric buses in buslanes. I certainly wouldn’t spend any money on separated busways because that’s like spending $1000 on a Big Mac.

        So far I haven’t spent anything (accepting the lease payments on the e-buses service the loan and the paint for the buslanes was free) so I’d take every penny and focus it expanding Auckland’s MRT system. It would all be Class A.

        1. So no rapid transit options at all for Northwest Auckland, where the rail system doesn’t go, because Light Rail bad and separated busways are something something hamburgers? Forgive my lack of immediate buy-in bordering on fellatio.

    3. So your argument is that light rail will be so slow that it wont be attractive but also busy it Carrie’s 6000 people in the peak hour (more than any current heavy rail line)?

      1. I think it will be busy because of where it goes, but it will be difficult to increase capacity safely if the need arises.

        As a general point I think Class A networks have greater patronage because they have better speeds and they have happier commuters because they are less time expensive.

        I think the current heavy rail routes are sub-optimal because the network was not designed as PT network, hence it is underused.

        I think the best opportunity to increase PT usage in AK is redevelopment of areas serviced by heavy rail. There are many such areas and I think this should be the focus of Kiwibuild.

        1. I think the flaw in your argument is, despite mentioning “adding to the network opens up the entire network to the areas that are added” you’re not really understanding what a network needs.

          We are retrofitting a city that, although the central areas were designed around trams, and therefore have a good supporting street layout for them, has now grown considerably. We can’t just intensify near the existing heavy rail lines – although we certainly need to do that. I agree we need buslanes throughout the city, but that’s not all. We need new rapid routes too – busways, heavy rail and light rail. Where we can put in heavy rail without destroying the urban fabric we should do so. But in most places it’ll need to be light rail or bus ways.

          “how to deal with NIMBYs that won’t allow Class A public transport to be built near them but still want super expensive, super nice trams that are really only useful to themselves? I would say the answer is to tell simply tell them no. If that’s how they feel they can stick to there buses.”

          That’s a loaded question, given that putting light rail at street level is cheaper than retrofitting corridors for heavy rail. You are acting as if retrofitting the city with heavy rail is the gold standard, even if that involves ugly raised infrastructure that ruins place. It is not. The gold standard is actually balancing place and movement – a far more nuanced approach to serving society, but something dictator-style planners and engineers haven’t understood.

          You also gave an irresponsible answer to your loaded question.

          How we deal with NIMBY’s is not to make decisions that punitively disadvantage future generations. Where education is provided, we need to provide it. Where consultation is required, it needs to be best-practice consultation that doesn’t, as ours does currently, favour the status quo.

          “Rail link from Puhinui anyone? It’s almost the same price as a bus stop. Bargain.” This misinformation doesn’t add anything to the conversation. Where have you been to think it’s so cheap?

    4. “We need to take a step back and look at cities that have high public transport usage and emulate what they do. Cities with high public transport usage have common features which are A) a Class A Mass Rapid Transport System and B) development focused around that system.”

      Prague has the most used metro system per capoita in the world and runs a mixtiure of heavy rail subway and many trams going all over th city. Some are separated light rail but most just run in the traffic.

      Vienna is the biggest public transport city in the world and runs both heavy rail subway and light rail/trams.

  15. Let us begin at the beginning again. Auckland has grown beyond imagination in the last 40 years, and once the trams were scrapped, little thought has gone into what should replace them. Ideally now we need an underground railway system like London. Silence the howls of protest, that is what we need. We have made a start with the CRL. That is good. The next thing to do is to add to it. Choose any suburb, say Sandringham and start designing an underground railway to connect that suburb to the CRL. The railway has to be compatible, therefore heavy rail. the tunnel is the most expensive item, so the railway might as well be heavy to be compatible with the CRL The stations in the underground system can all be connected on the surface with light rail systems bringing passengers from wider areas to connect with the underground. The UK has just built a new underground railway in London, the Crossrail project, shown here on TV as “The 15 billion pound railway.” It consists of 38 km of twin tunnels bringing “heavy” trains from west to east,to a main station, Farrington, under the main financial district, with connections to nearby main stations Kings Cross and St Pancras – the Channel Tunnel terminal. Let us start panning a tunnel say 15km long, say about one third of the Crossrail system, aiming for a cost of about one third of the Crossrail cost. In our dollars $10 billion. Our CRL is costing 50% more per km, probably because of the problems in the city centre. A straight pair of tunnels out to the suburbs should match the Crossrail tunnel in cost per km. Let us make the decision once and for all that this has to be done to make a start. We will have a new suburb connected to the CRL. which will take a lot of traffic off the roads The light rail networks needed to serve it can be planned and built while the work is being done. Let us get something built, and then start planning the next one. That can be a heavy rail tunnel under the harbour to Northcote, also connected to the CRL. The tunnel has to be rail. Long road tunnels are unsafe. A truck fire in the road tunnel through the Alps killed 100 people with the fumes. We cannot afford to have a traffic jam in a long tunnel. For that reason the Channel Tunnel between UK and France is a rail tunnel. The rail under the harbour can then be extended on the surface to Constellation, Albany, Silverdale, Orewa and Warkworth. That rail line will be cheaper than a motorway in terms of dollars per km. Rail to the airport will provide fast access to the airport from the North Shore. We will then have the beginnings of an outstanding transport system for Auckland for the 21st century, with a life of well over 100 years. Future generations will thank us for it. Let us begin.

    1. Crossrail is 21km long, so one third of that would be 7km. Given Auckland is about 1/6th the size of London then 3.5km would be more sensible, 1/6th of the cost of Crossrail would be $5 billion.

      What we need is a 3.5km line costing around $5 billion that boosts capacity on the central part of the network. You should suggest it to AT and the government, you could even suggest they call it the City Rail Link.

    2. Alan, London and Paris do not have by and large, a heavily interconnected Heavy Rail systems with lots of branches. They has multiple heavy rail systems, and in Paris’s case, some guided rubber wheeled systems, the majority of which are simple end to end systems with zero or only one or two branches.
      London Underground is comprised of many such , equipment wise independent lines, with commonality limited to management, ticketing and some shared stations. There is no transfer of rolling stock between lines so in reality little different from running both a separate light and heavy rail systems, perhaps sometimes sharing the same station but never sharing track space.

    3. CRL is only double tracked. It needs that capacity for future patronage growth on the existing lines. It doesn’t have spare capacity for a whole lot of new lines to be connected to it.

      And that’s leaving aside whether developing new rail lines to be backwards compatible with the old heavy rail network is even a good idea.

      What you seem to be suggesting is building one gold-plated project at a time rather than several cheaper projects simultaneously. Auckland doesn’t have time to wait for the many decades that approach would take to retrofit a decent rapid transit network.

      1. Yes, these points are important.

        Auckland doesn’t have time or money to build the HR network we should have been building for the last few decades. We have 11 years to get our carbon emissions down, the experts say. The responsibilities we have today necessitate a different design to what would have been nice 30 years ago when our leaders ignored climate change.

    4. The ultimate capacity of the Central Rail Link would be similar to London’s Circle Line alone so just like London’s Circle Line imadequate to support a city wide high frequency rail system. Also a single system is vulnerable to a failure in just one part shutting the entire system down.

  16. Crossrail has twin tunnels 21.6km long. Total 43.2km. My quote of 38 km was an early figure, and I thought it meant 38km of twin tunnels. So now if we agree to spend one third of the Crossrail cost on rail tunnels we can have 7km of twin tunnels for NZ$10 billion. We should make a decision, and aim for that. We need to serve the Dominion road area, because that is what all this discussion is about, so why not plan a route going underground from Onehunga Station to Mount Roskill, via Mount Eden Stadium, and coming to the surface to connect with Mount Eden station. That is feasible, and affordable for about $10 billion. Let us bite the bullet and get on with it. It can be built in stages. Once the first station is built, trains can start running to it. And build the airport line at the same rime. That is an important part of the whole rail network. Since Sidney Airport was connected by rail, the passenger numbers have increased by 25% per year. All the stations on the new underground can be connected with surface light rail. That does not have to be high speed. It can share the roads with existing traffic which hopefully will greatly reduce. Start planning a transport system. All my previous plans for the under harbour tunnel and the North Shore still apply. I have written to all politicians concerned, Auckland Airport Co. Kiwirail, Auckland Transport, City Council. Total brick wall everywhere. No-one wants to know. National Roads Board said in 1985 when I was saying all this, “Rail is old fashioned, roads are the transport of the future.” Yeah right, You have your roads. Now you need rail, because all the roads are totally blocked.

    1. The CRL will have two 3.5km tunnels, so 7km of twin tunnels all for $5 billion, where do you get the idea it is costing 50 % more than Crossrail?

      Given you seem to think it is a Greenfields line to the Airport despite the presence of the South-Western Motorway and that a spur to the Airport could be built for $50 million, it’s not surprising you haven’t been seriously and met with brick walls.

  17. CRL can have trains coming from many directions, going round the loop once, and going out in the direction they came in. Some can go clockwise, and some anticlockwise, but they all visit each station once and continue out. Liverpool in the UK has this. Trains from four different directions, go round the loop and out again. Some go round half the loop and continue out on another route. That way, John Lennon Airport is connected to Aintree Racecourse, for Grand National and other racing events, Royal Birkdale Golf Course, where Lydia Ko played in 2018, Liverpool Football ground, and many other places, all reached by trains traversing the loop. I mention sports events because trains bring and take away tens of thousands of passengers to every event, keeping tens of thousands of cars off the road. We need to think the same in this country. Gatwicjk Airport station has just had to increase its size from four platforms to seven, at a cost of £20 million per platform. Trains now take one third of all the air passengers, (total 40 million per year, the same as our estimate by 2030 for Auckland.)

    1. You are right the CRL can have trains coming from many directions but each additional direction reduces the frequency of the existing directions.

      I suggest you have a look at the proposed CRL running pattern and let us know which of those services is not needed.

    2. Melbourne’s largely double track loop has already reached ultimate capacity running just the way you describe. They are currently constructing a new cross town underground connection between to existing lines to provide both more capacity but also more resilience.
      I get the distinct feeling that out of towners overly prioritise the importance of a rapid airport to CBD connection because this is the Auckland transport requirement they are most familiar with. Auckland’s actual priority is improving transport connectivity across the whole region for just the everyday journeys we have to make. Because our peak road capacity is already close to saturation, getting more people around is increasingly dependant on extending the reach, but also the functionality, this being the connectivity, frequency, speed and carrying capacity, of the existing public transport assets.
      The construction of just two kilometres plus a station to class A separation
      would buy tens of kilometers of upgrading the existing roading to accomodate class B separation and hundreds of kilometres of new feeder bus routes to class C separation standard.
      These are the choices as to where limited funds should be best deployed.
      Providing Class A to one limited area at the expense of providing nothing, or very little, to other huge areas of the city, is totally inequitable and will result in justifiable outrage. Vast areas of Auckland are currently grossly underserved by public transport.
      Also concentrating resources onto fully inter dependant urban railway network is poor risk management. Such a network is extremely vulnerable to single point failures crippling the entire network, exemplified by the two very recent failures in the Wellington Rail yards. The entire Auckland system has at times suffered total shutdown through a single signal system fault.
      A system of connecting nodes using separate transport modes provides resilience.

  18. Thanks Alan for your visionary contribution. Thanks also to Dave N for reinforcing the immense value of Metro Rapid Transit services on exclusive rights-of-way for providing much-needed, rapid PT connectivity across our urban regions.

    Such projects will form the future spinal services in our cities. In scale, they are the PT-equivalent of the motorway-developments of past decades, and are what we should have been pursuing all along instead of misguidedly trying to accommodate mass private-motoring. We need to break out of the mindset that believes large-scale projects are for roads-only, and public transport should always be done on-the-cheap. The CRL is a welcome first-step in making this mind-shift, but we should beware of restricting our vision for further development of public transport by remaining mentally wedded to the unbalanced strictures of the last several decades, that have got us into the mess we are in. Auckland could have developed as any of the successful medium-sized European cities, if it has ensured its metro-rail public transport had kept pace with the city’s development. It is not too late to catch up.

    1. At $3 billion LR to the airport would be more expensive than any roading project ever undertaken in the country. I’m not sure where you get the idea only roading projects can be expensive and PT is done on the cheap?

      1. LR to the airport (with significant stretches of street-running) is fine. But we also need proper, longer-distance rapid transit connecting the region up. This should include the airport (although questions lurk as to the future of fossil-fuel based air travel and whether airports will remain the major nodes they currently are).

        1. By 2021 Akl will have two thirds of its Metro rail services connected to the airport via the Puhinui Interchange:


          This is a supremely cost effective and efficient use of resources. Nearly two out every three trains already pass through the interchange, at a peak frequency of 12 trains per hour in each direction. A two and a half minute wait for a train to somewhere… and a five minute wait for one to downtown.

          No direct line could match this convenience, because it would have to steal services from an existing one; no net gain. Furthermore, in time, the east-west line to the airport will continue on to Botany, Pakuranga, and Panmure. So there will be one-seat rides for everyone in that direction (and we know a relatively high proportion of the people working in the airport area live out east).

          Later there will be another line from the airport, with an additional station in the precinct, and another in the warehouse district, heading north through Mangere to Onehunga, Mt Roskill, Dom Rd, Eden Tce, K Rd, and the city. People in those areas will want to take this option. This line may well eventually connect across the harbour too.

          Airport access is not best served by any one line from anywhere, however it is a natural and strong anchor for many lines serving specific communities and routes. And of whatever mode.

          Our existing rail network will be the first one connected, with everyone along both the southern and eastern lines, north and south of Puhinui, getting efficiently joined to this destination, but not diverted nor having their current services diluted, through the addition of a new branch.

          This is clearly the best strategy, reaches the widest population, including areas currently underserved, while still maximising current services. It is also fundable from existing budgets, and efficiently stageable: bringing both near term improvements and continual extensions and service improvements over time.

          It still has to be executed well. All of NZTA, AT, and the Airport Company have to work together to deliver well designed and operated services. Details matter. But the big picture is settled.

          And it isn’t a favourite-mode beauty contest.

        2. Yes, we MAY get away with this bus connection if it is done properly (though I remember how inadequately-served Heathrow Airport was, when it relied on a bus-transfer from Hounslow West before the Piccadilly Line was extended).

          My comment above was meant to suggest a more general coverage of the region by Metro-type rail (defining characteristic : exclusive right-of-way), and including the airport if traffic continues to grow as predicted. For the time being I agree the bus-transfer is a pragmatic stop-gap, but I don’t expect it to be a long-term solution any more that the “A1 Express” was for Heathrow.

        3. Oh agree about interregional, and of course this transfer model fits perfectly with that; Waikato and BOP intercity trains stopping at Puhinui for a ten minute shuttle to terminals, a shorter journey, I might add, than I’ve had to do within some airports. So completely workable; if frequent, legible, safe, and comfortable….

      2. I read on on another facebook forum the airport to city LRT is going to cost something like $6 billion now and that the Superannuation Fund’s plan is $9 billion.

        Hell, at with those prices be better to build the train to the airport and we’ll pocket $$$$ for more PT projects, like the Avondale Southdown corridor ( though Shane Jones may come to the rescue as it helps his North Auckland Rail investment). Or 4th and 5th lines on the rail network. Hate to say it, it just seems there’s group think involved and now the airport – city LRT is spiraling massively out of control on cost (typical – so many fingers in the pie).

        1. $6b is for both the airport and northwest lines together.

          What makes you think that heavy rail would magically escape the construction cost escalation that has hit every project in the country.
          Don’t forget the CRL heavy rail tunnel has gone from $1.6b to over $4b. I’d hate to find out how much an airport heavy rail line would cost now…

  19. I have campaigned for “heavy” rail to the airport since before the last election, and many years before that as well, but not so intensely. The air passenger numbers are expected to grow to 40 million per year by 2030, 110,000 per day We should aim to get 30% of those on to public transport, as Gatwick in the UK has done with its rail connection. Sidney rail use to the airport is growing at 25% per year since the rail line was built. Air passengers will not use buses. some do, but we are not likely to get 7% to use the proposed bus service to Puhinui. The $60 million price tag is best spent on a rail passenger station at the air[port. We should get 30% of the passengers to use trains. Say 33,000 passengers per day. 33 trains per day each carrying 1000 passengers can handle them. Over 16 hours, a train every 30mins. With 50 passengers per bus, we need 600 buses per day, say 40 per hour to Puhinui. The terminals could not cope with them. We need to get away from the fixed minds of the politicians and get the railway built. New railway builds can be found on the internet, and the cost is about $8 million per km. It will not cost even half a billion to build a railway to the airport. The line can go to Wiri to make use of the existing motorway bridge over the railway. We need to act fast. The airport is being redesigned with a second runway, and no space for public transport at all. A bus stop for one or two buses is all there is. Certainly not 600 buses. Heavy rail is the cheapest and most effective option for the airport. It will complement the CRL.

    1. Even if what you propose is build you would still need an interchange station at Puhinui to allow passengers to change to trains to travel south and buses to travel east, you can’t really avoid that cost.

      A train every 30 mins means some passengers will have a 29 min wait for their next train, while the average wait would be 15 mins. Do you really think we would get 30 % of passengers using PT with those sorts of wait times?

      Also 1000 passengers per train is crush capacity with our current EMUs, I can’t see that being appealing to air passengers.

    2. ” The air passenger numbers are expected to grow to 40 million per year by 2030, 110,000 per day”

      Maybe as an engineer you could do some calculations on whether the planet can support this level of flying, Alan, and campaign to reduce these numbers?

  20. I was only comparing the number of trains vs number of buses. Obviously we need a train at least every 15 minutes, like at Brisbane where they claim a maximum waiting time of 7.5 minutes. The latest Bombardier Aventra trains can carry 1100 passengers in nine carriages. They are being sold all over the world, except NZ of course! Bombardier in Australia can make them for our gauge. $14 million each. We also need more rail lines, particularly to serve Mount Albert. That line needs to be underground because surface trams are not going to be fast enough. This whole discussion is about light rail underground. If you are going to dig a tunnel, it might as well take heavy rail. The tracks and trains are a small proportion of the total cost. So let us start planning some rail tunnels, and rail under the harbour to Northcote, then on the surface to Constellation and Albany and north to Warkworth. Use the $6 billion supposedly for light rail to start building tunnels. They will be the only real solution in the long term.

    1. Alan you are mistaken about the frequency of Brisbane Airport Trains.
      It is a train every half hour at it’s most frequent.
      You must wonder if that very expensive link was worth it for such a low frequency. But like your proposal the frequency there is constrained by the capacity into the CBD having to accomodate trains from multiple merging branches. Increasing the frequency of trains from the airport can only be accommodated by reducing the frequency on one or more of the other feeder lines.

  21. Alan, Comparing London transport with Auckland is simply not valid for a number of reasons, but top of the list is that car ownership in London is low by international standards for cities in developed countries. Auckland on the other hand, car ownership is very high by the same standards. Rail access to the airport is simply not a factor in influencing car ownership, but for the same money, many of the other proposed improvements to the Auckland public transport system make a reduction of car ownership rates viable here as they have in London.

  22. I have used the trains at Brisbane. The wait is not long. We need to get a station built at Auckland Airport. It is urgent. It takes at least 10 minutes to get all the passengers off a train, and 10 minutes to get the new passengers on. If a train leaves every ten minutes, we need two platforms minimum, to hold two trains. For two or more destinations, looking to the future, we need four platform minimum. All we have in the new airport plans is a bus stop. That is utterly irresponsible for the politicians to think that will address the needs of 110,000 passengers per day in 2030. I have written to CEO of Auckland Airport, and CEO of Kiwirail. No response. I have written to politicians and Councillors, and mayor. No response. I know this subject. I timed passengers getting on and off trains at Euston as part of my Urban Planning course. If we aim for 30% of air passengers to use the trains, we need a station to handle 33,000 passengers per day. as at Gatwick. Gatwick has seven platforms to handle that number. Nothing less will do. To think one bus stop will do is totally stupid. Can anyone respond to this and and start getting a team together to make our voice heard? It is urgent.

    1. You must be looking at out of date plans for AIAL if you think all they are planning is a bus stop. The latest plans include provision for light rail from the North and also the East.

      I doubt we would achieve 30 % PT share by putting all our eggs in the basket of an HR line to the CBD. People want to leave the airport to many different locations, by having rapid transit to the North and East there will be a much better chance of achieving this.

      Also the prediction for 40 million passengers is for 2040 not 2030, what you are talking about is a doubling in 11 years, which would be absurd.

  23. As a regular user of the Brisbane Airport train, is the half hour frequency is totally inadequate as the connection between the Domestic and International Terminals, and barely adequate as a connection to the CBD and to the other rail connections. As a result it is poorly patronised, acheiving dwell times at the International Terminal Station less then those on the minimally patronised Auckland stations.
    All that money spent on that elevated line to not even achieve the frequency from Waikanae to Wellington. Nothing there, that Auckland should emulate I am afraid. In fact a lesson as to why a further branch into an already loaded network is a waste of lots of money.
    I checked the Brisbane timetable this morning and this is still current peak frequency for the reasons I outlined.

      1. @ Don
        Mmmm. Maybe you’re on to something. The instantaneous online timetable does indeed show the frequency as ½-hourly throughout the day. https://www.airtrain.com.au/timetable/
        But if you click on “Download Timetable pdf” (the link I referenced above – https://www.airtrain.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/AirtrainTimetable.pdf ) then you see the half-hourly pattern shown in yellow, with additional peak services between each yellow, shown in blue. These are clearly identified: “Highlighted in Blue Denotes Additional Weekday Services Only”.

        Well that’s confusing. Which timetable is the truth? Could be why patronage is low, if half the trains aren’t shown in the online timetable!

        1. If you go to Frequently Asked Questions https://www.airtrain.com.au/contact-us/frequently-asked-questions/
          . . .and click on
          “How often do trains depart from the Brisbane Airport?”

          . . .the answer given is, “Trains depart every 15 minutes in peak periods and every 30 minutes in non-peak, Monday to Friday. All services on Saturday & Sunday operate every 30 minutes. Please refer to the online Airtrain timetable for a full list of up-to-date departure and arrival times. “

        2. Ah perhaps another reason Auckland should not follow the Brisbane example. Certainly the hours and days we have travelled on the train, one or two return trips every year for the last eight years it has been a 30 minute frequency.
          Alan in answer to your next question. We live 1.7k from Britomart Station and 1.5k from the closest Sky Bus stop. If I am travelling alone to the airport with minimal luggage I would use a Rail and Bus transfer on my Gold Card. But for two of us travelling a $39 there and $42 back, pre booked taxi door to door is our preferred mode.
          Travelling to Heathrow from 1.5 k from Reading Station a taxi to the station and the the Western Connection bus for two of us was only £2 cheaper then a taxi the whole way, and considerably cheaper then any option using rail.

        3. Either way we have confirmed there are periods of weekdays and all of the weekend where train services are 30 mins. This is a very poor service for air passengers unless you happen to get off a flight that lands at the right time.

        4. If you look at the PDF timetable a lot but not all of the extra 15 min services are actually short runners. This adds to the complexity for the user to understand further showing it’s bad example as a dedicated airport line. These short runners don’t often reach where the Gold Coast light rail service ends.

  24. Brisbane trains every 15 minutes. Yes, thats what I have found , I have used them. We need that service at Auckland. The passenger growth at Auckland is higher than 5% per year. 7.7% for domestic. Say an average of 5% from 21 million in 2018, we get 37.7 million by 2030. not far off 40 million. My argument is that we need more than buses or tramcars to aim to get 30% of the passengers to use public transport. We have to have heavy rail, and a line to Wiri is the cheapest option. I have seen buses come and go from the airport, mostly empty in both directions. If there were a train, I would use it. I would arrange to get picked up from the nearest station to my destination. The time and place is predictable, not so with buses. Wellington Airport has a bus stop. A plane lands with 180 passengers. Mostly 6 to 10 get on the bus to the station. Most passengers will not use the bus. Even less in Auckland. Most replies in this forum are negative. Any positive thinkers out there?

      1. “if they don’t conform to your thinking?”
        Perhaps better to say, “if they don’t conform to your observations”. :o)

        If Wellington’s airport bus (the so-called “Airport Flyer”) is anything to go by, you can normally guarantee to get two seats to yourself – one for you and one for your bags. I have never known it to be even vaguely full. And that was before Metlink removed it from all their public-information and prevented Snapper Cards being used on it.
        That said, I am sure a dedicated express bus link between Auckland Airport and Puhinui which is properly integrated into both the airport’s passenger-infrastructure and AT’s Metro service will do much better than this.

        1. The main thing that puts me off the Airport bus in Wellington is the staggering amount of time it takes to get from the eastern end of Courtenay Place to the Railway Station.

    1. Alan Spinks, you are right.

      GA is something of an echo chamber. I think most Aucklander’s would agree with you.

      It’s sad that Auckland’s foremost public transport advocates are pushing for lesser quality public transport than the public actually wants. I don’t understand it.

      1. What does what the public want have to do with anything?

        The public want no taxes, free money and everything handed to them that they can think of. They want to moan about the council while demanding the council provide them more services. The public want the government to mow their berm while cutting rates at the same time. The public want public transport exactly when and where they might use it, and nowhere else, and they don’t want to pay for it.

        Setting transport policy based on what the public say the want is about as clever as doing groceries based on what your five year old says they want.

    2. Auckland needs bucket loads of money spent on transport projects.
      With over a third of New Zealand tax payers resident here, plus the largest single component of the massive Auckland rating income being spent on transport provision, largely roading, us Aucklanders have a huge vested interest in ensuring that these very large sums of taxed from us are spent wisely to primarily benifit us Aucklanders.

  25. want to address some of my critics but am unable to reply due to the way the comment system on this blog works. Maybe the intent is to prevent dissenting views like mine. I will post my responses below.


    “You are acting as if retrofitting the city with heavy rail is the gold standard, even if that involves ugly raised infrastructure that ruins place. It is not.”

    I don’t particularly advocate for heavy rail but a Class A MRT system IS the gold standard. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I personally can’t find an example of an elevated rail system that looks ugly.

    I also have people telling me that the trams will be successful because the route is zoned for intensification. So if the area is going to be redeveloped then surely elevated rail can be worked into that?

    Your argument that we cannot “ruin place” is a NIMBY argument. It puts the self interest of preserving an aesthetic of particular importance to a small group above the collective interest of developing the best possible PT network.

    The motorist thinks the same way i.e. they put their self interest (cars are great for drivers) above the public interest (traffic sucks for everyone). Both these NIMBY and motorist arguments are morally equivalent.

    “But in most places it’ll need to be light rail or bus ways”

    That’s disappointing. Such a slow, low quality network will never convince people to give up their cars. We’ll never get road pricing. People will put their Tesla’s on autopilot and PT will be for those that can’t afford. Auckland Airport investors will rejoice in all the cash they make from parking. The planet will continue to get hotter.

    Warren S:

    “As a resident of close to Murray’s Bay the SkyBus to the airport works just fine for me – sufficiency frequency and delivered to the door and no parking nonsense at the airport end.”

    That’s cool but my objection is that we are investing our capital in building a city wide PT network that does not allow one to commute about the city swiftly enough to gain the critical mass required for acceptance of road pricing.

    Your argument amounts to “everybody should just catch a bus from every point to every other point”. That’s what Auckland’s had for years. It’s still how most of Auckland’s PT works. It’s slow. Most people choose not to use it and invest in a car instead.


    “The success of Airport LR will be the density of housing on Dominion Road and other parts of the route, not the small number of people wanting to get from Murrays Bay to the Airport each day.”

    There’s already a lot of opportunity to intensify along existing rail routes. A lot of those areas are would benefit more from redevelopment (light industrial areas) than the relatively nice parts of Dominion Rd.

    As for the Murrays Bay commuter, that was just an example. It’s actually about the huge number of people that need to get about the major parts of Auckland everyday. That’s most of the people in Auckland. We need to build a network for them.


    “something something hamburgers”

    People use the Northern Busway as an example of how successful busways can be. This is egregiously unscientific. The North Shore is an area that has historically be deprived of any public transport options. Now they get the worst kind of Class A PT (for a short distance) and it is well used. This is not evidence that busways are a good use PT capital when there are other options.

    People use the NEX as a traffic hack, because they get a free park at their origin (park and rides work), and because they don’t have a park at their destination. It’s not a transport mode of choice if you take those things away. This becomes especially apparent if you catch the NEX in the weekend. It’s the young, the old, the poor, and the odd transport nutter. People that don’t have a car.

    The argument that busways are cheaper is generally not true given that the majority of the cost is grade separation and this is similar for busways as it is for rail. Rail options also generally include the cost of rolling stock whereas with busways we pay for nasty diesel busses with serious health implications to go on our new PT asset. These externalities (including health impacts) should be included in busway cost estimates. They are not.

    Besides, it’s not about the money. The Super Fund expressing an interest in funding Class A PT in Auckland highlights this. There are other dynamics at play. I suspect an unhealthy dose of NIMBYism, the poison that is territoriality, and the disease of method based decision making (because all it does in highlight the preduce in the method applied).

    What building busways achieves is the “LA equilibrium”. People use public transport but only when the traffic gets really bad. They keep their cars. Politically, they advocate for more roads and more car parks. It’s impossible for any government to introduce road pricing under this dynamic. Just look at the push back against the regional fuel tax.

    The “$1000 Big Mac” comment means you are paying a high price for the worst type of food. Sure, a starving man is going to eat a Big Mac but that does not mean that Big Macs are quality food or that one should pay $1000 for.

    Likewise, just because the Northern Busway gets used on the most primo PT route in the country does not mean that busways are good value PT investment.

    I reckon if I stand at the future Puhinui station with a petition and sign that reads “I was told there would be rail to the Airport but all I got was this $60m bus stop” I’d get many people to sign it. This isn’t going away.

    1. You should stand at Puhinui with a sign that says “I want to spend two billion dollars on a job that AT was going to do for sixty million, and I want you to pay for it through your rates and taxes.”

      See how many you get.

      1. Actually, I want the Super Fund to pay for it, which a) they have the cash and b) they have expressed an interest in doing.

        As for the cost of a rail link between Puhinui and the Airport if heard estimates anywhere from $100m to several billion depending on whether the pundit was for or against.

        1. The SuperFund aren’t paying for anything, they’re planning to help finance the project and charge us (well the govt) a hefty interest rate in order to get a return. Basically it would be something not to dissimilar to a home loan.
          I don’t know what interest rate that would be but it will be much higher than the government could borrow the money for.

    2. ‘It’s actually about the huge number of people that need to get about the major parts of Auckland everyday. That’s most of the people in Auckland. We need to build a network for them.’

      The network proposed by GA and largely supported by AT is designed to meet exactly that goal. By having a line approaching the airport from both the north from Dominion Rd and the east from Botany many more journeys are accounted for than a single spur line.

      1. I agree that two lines are better than one provided the lines are of the same quality. I’m not in the Puhinui spur line camp – I’m in the if you take the Rapid out of MRT you will not achieve the transformation that I assume we all want camp.

        Unfortunately, with the CFN, neither the network being proposed by GA nor AT’s adoption of it provide confidence that it will achieve its goals.

        I actually think the biggest indicator of where PT is heading is what AT has achieved in the past. Increasing usage that can be majorly explained by increasing population and increasing congestion with massive public resistance to anything that makes commuting in a car more expensive.

        You can’t blame motorists for their resistance to abandoning their cars when you are asking to sacrifice so much time to use PT.

        1. Disagree. The biggest driver in increasing PT numbers in the last 15 years has been the work on the rapid transit network. This started with Britomart, which brought the rail network back into the CBD.
          Then came the Northern Busway, double tracking of the Western line and most recently electrification.

          The trip from Swanson and Papakura takes a similar amount of time that it did in 2003, but the services have become a lot more frequent and reliable and thus more popular.

  26. 33,000 air passengers a day is 16,500 departures a day and the same in arrivals. So 16,500 people who need to get to the airport, and another 16,500 who need to leave the airport.

    If we assume the demand is distributed similarly to other public transport, we’ll have about half of that during four hours of peak time, and the other half distributed across the remaining 17 or so hours of service.

    So you are looking at a directional demand of about 2,100 passengers an hour at peak, and about 500 an hour off peak. That’s what you need for a 30% mode share, 20 year from now.

    For reference, that’s about the same as the the buses running over Grafton Bridge do today.

  27. The roading people have had their way. They have filled Auckland with roads. The result is total gridlock. The city has spread with no thought of public transport. It has gone against best practice in most western countries. The rail network has to be integrated into the city from the start. I said this in 1985 but was rubbished by the then National Roads Board. “Railways are old fashioned, roads are the transport of the future.” I proposed a rail line from Northcote to Albany while the land was clear. That would link up to the then proposed under harbour tunnel. That rail would have been a start, and it would have grown to Silverdale, Orewa and Kumeu. We now have to start building what should have been started in 1985. Look at Manchester UK Transport Map on the internet. That shows what Auckland needed while it was being built. That negligence is now going to cost, but it has to be done, otherwise the present gridlock is going to get worse. Start by connecting the airport with heavy rail. That is the cheapest start. Next we need a tunnel to serve a most heavily built up area. Mount Albert and west of it is the most starved area of public transport. The new tunnel should be built there. The tunnel is the most expensive component, so it should be built for heavy rail, which can then connect to the existing rail at its ends. I have suggested a tunnel from Onehunga to Mt Eden, passing under about one third of Dominion Road. Light rail on the surface can provide feeds to all stations on the underground. Together that can be made to cover the whole residential are. This first tunnel and further tunnels together are going to cost the “Fifteen Billion Pounds” of Crossrail, NZ$30 billion. It has to be done. We have to bite the bullet. Let us start planning. I would welcome talks with all interested parties. We have council elections coming up, this is our chance. The projects have to be paid for by central government. It is unfair on the ratepayers. I have studies this subject in depth. I can start the design process. Any volunteers to help. I am happy for people who agree, and can help, to get my email from the owner of this site.

    1. Keep it up Alan! I have spent the last 34½ years trying to persuade Wellington to consider extending its rail network.
      Unfortunately New Zealand has advanced so far down the path of car-dependency that few people have any vision of how better public transport could improve society for all. And even those who experience quality-PT working overseas somehow come back and dismiss it as a possibility here.

      To me, former Transport-Minister Steven Joyce’s attitude typifies that of many NZ’ers:
      “Kiwis love their cars, therefore we need more roads”.
      And the corollary, “Railways are a bottomless pit for money so we should do nothing to encourage them”.
      Happily Mr Joyce has crawled away, but I fear his ideology lingers on amongst many New Zealanders.

    2. I completely agree with you regarding poor decisions made in the 80s (and other decades around roads). What I struggle to understand is your determination to build a particular mode and also to focus so much on serving one location.

      You mention Manchester, its metro system is light rail, often street running, which was build relatively recently and complemented an existing HR system. It is the perfect example of a city using multiple modes to suit different situations and budgets.

      1. I had a ride on the Manchester Metrolink recently (between Piccadilly and Victoria Stations). Through the CBD streets, it is S L O W.

        1. Looks like it takes nine minutes with three stops along the way. An HR train will take 6 mins between K Rd and Britomart with one stop, a similar distance.

          A three stop HR service would likely save 1 minute, hardly a saving to justify the huge expenditure on tunneling. The main reason for tunneling is generally capacity.

        2. @ Jezza.
          Yes, over such a short distance is a bad example to compare LR vs HR speeds, especially if factoring in Auckland’s lengthy HR dwell-times. Even so, K Rd – Britomart projected timing is 5¼ mins depart->depart, so this includes a superfluous extra dwell. Depart->arrive time would be more like 4½ mins.

          As an interesting contrast, try Paris Gare de Lyon – >Paris Gare du Nord, 4.5Km by RER Line D, 1 intermediate stop, 8 minutes.
          Of course there is no tram-equivalent to compare that with, but it give a better example of what HR capability.

          Or try Manchester City->Manchester Airport (13Km) :
          Heavy Rail from Piccadilly Station: 15-16min by non-stop train, 22min by all-stops.
          Tram from Victoria Station: 57 min.

          All stating the obvious really. I stand by my comment that LR in city streets is S L O W.

        3. Dave an important detail to understand is that the proposed line is to be fully grade separate from Mt Roskill to the Airport (except for a short section in Onehunga). So yes it will be v slow in Queen St, it will average about the same as our current rail system on Dom Rd, ie v slow at stations, and up to the speed limit (50kph) between, and up whatever the max revenue speed will be between stations thereafter (~80kph?).

          So what is proposed is a hybrid line, this is the superpower of LR, it can be all those things. And, as you point out, the speed across the first three stations doesn’t really matter, that is much much more about access for users. But if you are going the whole way, or some longer part of it then, then this speed does indeed matter. And there, it operates in the same way as the type of rail you like, separated and faster.

          It’s a trade-off. There will be slow sections, but these are right where people want to be, right at the front door. Also this system, being on the surface is so much cheaper, that it is possible to actually deliver it.

          Matt has done speed calculations here: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/01/13/perhaps-light-rail-is-fast-enough-afterall/

          Remember the Western Line averages ~30kph, the Eastern does much better, fewer stations, better separation at around ~41kph
          These lines work, people use them. People will use LR too, in fact they will love it as passionately as they do similar systems running in similar ways in other cities.

        4. Seattle
          Rainer to Mount Baker
          11 mins
          Faster than the western line
          All on street.

        5. @ Don V. Seattle. Hardly Dominion Road.

          @ Patrick. Yes, I get all that, but the needs of Dominion Road and the needs of City-to-Airport are quite different. A trade-off as you say. Rail-plus-Puhinui-Shuttle is a better fit for airport rapid transit, but I agree with Alan Spinks and Dave N, that this is a poor substitute for a proper rail-connection to the metro network. Those cities that have this (eg, Atlanta) have a significant edge over those that don’t (eg LA). But I am not not not advocating a dedicated City-Airport express. Just that this huge patronage generator be plugged directly into the metro system. Somehow.

        6. We’re doing exactly what you’re suggesting, plugging the airport into the metro system through a combination of lines.
          Just saying we should have a certain mode but not saying how it could realistically happen doesn’t help advance the discussion at all. That just presents as mode fetishism.

          My guess is that everyone probably started out with the view it should be heavy rail.

        7. Manchester is a much bigger city than Auckland, which has a small-medium population by world terms and low densities.

    3. “That is the cheapest start.” Cheapest is not going to necessarily give us the best bang for your buck. You need to demonstrate the benefits not just the costs. Most people promoting the Puhinui HR link seem to go on about the small cost but don’t seem to get the lack of benefit compared to some other options.

      1. I think many people, including myself, feel that expanding Auckland’s MRT system even a little bit is worth every penny because that’s what Auckland needs. Transformation is not possible with it. They don’t see busways (not future proof and low ride quality) and trams (slow) as MRT.

        It’s vision based thinking. The vision is of an Auckland with a true MRT system that people choose to use. They think that if planners had consistently had this vision then we’d already have it, and that spending on lesser modes means they won’t see it in their lifetime which is disappointing to them.

        They think that trams that are grade separated for most of their routes are still silly because they still have the limitations of trams while approaching the cost of true MRT.

        1. If planners had that vision then we would still be arguing over rapid transit to the North Shore now. Instead there is a busway that has been in place for 11 years. This is because decision makers realised there was a solution that allowed for decent rapid transit to be built for a fraction of the cost.

          Is it perfect of course not, but it has certainly been popular and it is future proofed for upgrade when it reaches capacity and funds are available for a harbour rail crossing.

          The problem with trying to build the ultimate system upfront is only a small amount will actually get built as funds are always limited.

        2. DaveN – you keep saying expanding Auckland’s MRT – new RT lines, be they bus or light rail will do exactly that.

          Expanding the existing heavy rail (with a branch line to the airport) will limit or remove services from the existing lines, and in my opinion be a waste of money,
          Unless huge amounts of other work, which also equals huge amounts of $$$, are also completed (ie, 3rd & 4th mains & potentially CRL2, removal of level crossings etc etc).

  28. As Guy has said upthread, why not an above ground aerial line? definitely cheaper than tunnelling and it leaves the remaining roadway available for wheeled traffic (cycles, walking, whatever).
    Yes of course neighbours will freak out but … aren’t we hoping for higher density living along Dom Rd? The 4 storey apartment blocks will hide the line from the villas who worry about LR passengers staring into their back yards.

    1. Because underneath will be in shadow & a big part of your view will be ugly concrete pillars etc. They often take more space up that you would expect anyway & the station access need to be up a level (hassle of stairs, elevators, lifts etc). One positive is often a great view for the riders I guess.

  29. IMHO There’s no question that a serious public transport option is needed down Dominion Rd. One only has to study Auckland’s current trail network layout to conclude that that area is seriously underserved.

    Although I’m generally in favour of trans, I think a better option for Dominion Rd would be a train line built using the cut & cover method.

    Once the hole is dug, a precast concrete section could be dropped in and then the hole rapidly filled in.

    Yes it would disruptive but it would rapidly provide another route AND there’s the possible linkup with the Southern & Eastern lines. There’s even the possibility of extending it out to the airport.

    I doubt that it’ll ever happen though… Our civic leaders just don’t have the vision to make it a reality. 20 years from now we’ll still be arguing about it.

    1. You could put dedicated, 24/7 bus lanes the length of Dom Rd today. A dedicated right of way and trams on rubber wheels. If its successful, convert to light rail.

      No disruption to cars right now andnthey can learn to navigate around that once they are unleashed back onto the road, after lockdown. It just becomes the new norm.

  30. Cut and cover is monstrously disruptive compared to deep boring. This will become apparent in the differing disruption between the lower cut and cover, and the higher deep bored sections of the CRL
    In cut and cover all underground services need to be rerouted. This is a particular problem for sewer and stormwater systems that rely because they rely heavily on gravity flow. But you are right, both the Dominiom Road route and the CBD are reaching ultimate bus carrying, and terminal facilities capacity so require greater use of more space efficient, (and importantly less polluting) transport modes.

  31. Should light rail be underground?
    Look at costs of building railways anywhere in the world. Start with Brisbane Airport railway. Built in 2001 as an overhead railway on concrete piers, it cost about $3.8 million per km. The figure was revised to $4.7 million in 2007 dollars. The estimate of the cost of a single track underground tunnel in 2007 was $40 million per km. I think we can double those figures today. $9.4 million per km for an overhead railway, and $80 million per km for a tunnel. The London Crossrail project cost £35.7 million per km NZ$71.4 million per km for the tunnels. In both cases, the cost of the track is small, so it might as well be heavy rail. In that way an overhead railway serving Dominion Road can connect to the nearest railway station at Mount Eden, and save the cost of a separate railway into the city centre. Equipment I was designing in 1965 has been upgraded since to allow high speed trains to travel at 2.5 minute intervals on any one line. Now in use between St Pancras and Blackfriars, UK. With that, we can have a train carrying 1000 passengers every 2.5 minutes around the city rail loop. 24,000 passengers per hour. With double track in the CRL, 48,000 passengers per hour can be accommodated. Light rail can never cope with these numbers. With Dominion Road, overhead heavy rail, one third of the trains in the CRL can come from that area, 16,000 passengers per hour. The other two thirds come from Swanson and Papakura. And no congestion in Auckland CBD due to light rail units clogging the roads. The light rail units in Queensland, Surfers Paradise can carry 80 seated passengers, and 200 standing. To get 16,000 passengers per hour, we need 57 units per hour, say one per minute. Each unit is 47 metres long. The CBD could not cope with this number in peak hours, nor could the streets between Dominion Road and the CBD. Answer: build heavy rail overhead, the trains can run at high speed, connect to existing Mount Eden Station, and extend the south end to Onehunga, and a rail bridge to Mangere and Airport. Heavy rail throughout, to carry the numbers at high speed. Eight trains per hour to the Airport can carry 8000 passengers per hour, 120,000 per day over 15 hours. These numbers will be needed by the 2030s when the air passenger count reaches 40 million per year, with the railway hopefully built by then. Who will join me in getting to the powers that be, and getting this built. It is only one of the solutions needed to begin to sort out Auckland transport. I have 10 others to add, starting correspondence in earnest in 2015, all just as important, but none of the powers that be want to know. Alan Spinks, Chartered Engineer. Started my career with Plessey, building equipment for British Rail.

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