With everything that’s going on right now, there is perhaps no better time for the government to reconsider its approach to light rail.

As regular readers will know, over the last year or so we’ve become increasingly concerned about what is and isn’t happening with light rail. In 2017 the new government took over the project from Auckland Transport and tasked the NZTA with delivering it. At that time the project had been sufficiently advanced that you could call it “shovel ready” and in and just over six monthly later they started the procurement process.

Things were looking positive but also announced at the same was something that has turned out to be the project’s undoing, an unsolicited bid from NZ Infra, a joint venture between the NZ Super Fund and their Canadian partners Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), a Quebec-based pension fund.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, the NZ Infra proposal wasn’t to build and operate the light rail scheme that had been developed over many years prior to that point but to build something entirely different, a driverless metro-style system, similar to Vancouver’s SkyTrain and Copenhagen’s Metro – as well as a line CDPQ is currently building in Montreal. A system such as this could have many benefits but also would come at considerable extra cost, such as needing a second City Rail Link on top of the rest of route which would be via a combination of elevated, trenched and underground sections.

Part of the problem here is the minister appears to have been seduced by the sales pitch and the dream of building a metro, not to mention the funding model which I’ll come back to shortly. He’s been convinced that the only thing that matters is the speed from the city to the airport instead of serving well the communities along the way and that the original proposal was slow ‘streetcars’ – implying they would be mixed with traffic, which is not what the proposal was.

The minister himself has also admitted that these metro plans will require many more years of work to design and consent before we can start building it.

More concerning that the ‘technology’ aspect is the financing one if NZ Infra is chosen. The minister has characterised it as a “Public-Public Partnership”, saying “every time you ride a train to work, you’re effectively paying for your retirement”. But as we’ve discovered we’d be also be helping pay for the retirements of many Canadians.

We don’t know the full details but it appears that their proposal would involve taxpayers paying so that NZ Infra can obtain a 7% return for 50 years with about half of that going offshore. This is at a time when the government can borrow at around 1%. If needlessly sending a huge stack of money offshore seemed like a bad idea a few months ago, it seems a much much worse idea now when that money could be going towards other local projects.

Focusing on how fast you can get to the airport now seems a bit redundant. Sure, once restrictions start to lift flights will increase again but they will still remain low for the foreseeable future. More importantly, changes to society such as a continued greater use of technology to connect instead of travelling combined with our need to better respond to climate change, the world feels like it could end up a vastly different to the direction things were going even just a month or two ago.

For one thing this likely means the work being done to connect the airport with Puhinui will be more than sufficient for the time being and the more import focus for light rail should shift back to being about better connecting communities on the central isthmus and in Mangere to the city centre.

With all of this in mind, here’s what the government should do.

  1. Cancel the bizarre bidding process they’ve been running – buy out the IP from NZ Infra if they have to
  2. Dig the original light rail plans out of the drawers
  3. Refine the designs if needed to reflect some of the learnings from the bidding process so far or things we know we should be doing, such as ensuring things like cycle lanes are included and making the town centres transit malls.
  4. Immediately start procurement for the City Centre to Mt Roskill section to kick things off.

Unlike many other large projects, this one has the potential to provide for a huge number of jobs across a wide sector right at a time when the government is looking for just it.

Doing this doesn’t mean we can’t ever have light metro and as I’ve pointed out before, perhaps there are other, better long term options for that anyway.

So, how about it Phil?

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  1. I don’t get why “city to airport” transit is even considered for future transport projects, or even mentioned as a byproduct of it. The Puhinui interchange will allow that trip in 45 minutes, which will surely be much faster than any light rail or other metro system, and just as comfortable and convenient. Or am I totally missing something?

    1. Because politicians and a few other Very Important Men in Suits spend half their lives at airports. The rest of us spend half our lives at work.

      Unfortunately the suits seem to think that getting the 1% to the airport is more important than getting the 99% to work.

      1. Ironically, for at least the next few years, the Very important Men in Suits will find their jetsetting lifestyle severely crimped. Unless they want to spend 14 days in quarantine everytime they try to fly.

      2. Nevermind that the countries biggest export earner over the past decade (tourism) would be one if the largest users of airport rail, or indeed the thousands of workers both at the airport and surrounding precinct (most of which are anything but the “1%”). In fact the 1%ers are probably going to be the least likely to use it but hey don’t let the facts get in the way of your delusional narrative.

        1. C’mon, AKLDUDE. You’ve replied to a comment about the dubious value assigned to direct city-to-airport trips on future rail, which the Puhinui interchange will already provide. Tourists will already have the option of using that, which is about as quick and convenient as light rail from the airport to the city.

          It was in no way suggested that light rail wouldn’t be valuable to those that work or live near the airport or along the route. Save the straw men for Guy Fawkes, please;)

        2. You make a very good point AKLDUDE. I didn’t say the 1% would actually use airport rail. Just that they think airport transport is a huge priority because they fly so disproportionately often.

          They aren’t considering the workers and people that live nearby when they talk about airport rail, just themselves. I bet you ten to one when they release the details of this airport metro plan there aren’t even any stations serving the surrounding employment areas, and I bet they’ve cut out half the stops in the middle suburbs too. Express to the terminal from town.

    2. “I don’t get why “city to airport” transit is even considered for future transport projects’

      Because “city to airport” is easy to understand. Plus it was promoted by numerous political hacks who were constantly banging on about ” high speed heavy trains to the airport”. The research shows that a very small percentage of trips to the airport start or finish in the CBD. Plus there is already a 24/7 bus service from the CBD to the Airport, called SkyBus. Once Puhinui Station has opened there will be shuttle buses going to the airport every few minutes.

  2. Good call. Great opportunity for the govt to change their plans to something more sensible. Twyford might even survive as everyone is focusing elsewhere.

  3. Once thing that’s not mentioned enough: better streets scenes. That is a missed (but def not a lost) opportunity if this project goes metro.

  4. Given the expense of any transit build from city center to the airport (and to be clear, I prefer the original AT light rail design), what about extending it to the Puhinui station so the rapid movement of people from CC to the airport is still catered for? Starts the Airport to Botany line too

    1. Way things are going could get Airport to Botany going as Light Rail, send it up to Onehunga then bit by bit extend it to the City Centre.
      Shane Jones has put the call out for projects over $10m, lets make it happen!

      1. Yep, light rail to replace that bus leg of the journey. Light rail is more environmentally friendly than buses, less pollutant generation through avoiding tyre wear. My point is that supporters of the metro proposal think the metro is required to facilitate the rapid movement of people between the airport and central city which light rail won’t deliver. Light rail can if it is extended to tie in to Puhinui

  5. This is a chance for everyone to walk away from the metro bullshit and still come out looking like they’ve made a pragmatic, smart and timely decision.

    It’s the last chance to do it, as well.

    Three-branch AT LRT and a North Western Busway with upgrade path (if this is something that isn’t smarter done going directly to LRT) and we’re away.

    1. I really hope so. But it seems the whole subject has become so contaminated by political beliefs, status quo bias and a general mistrust of transport agencies that hide their expertise behind their political faces, that it would now require really tough, almost obstinate leadership to straighten the wagons.

      As immensely capable as Ardern is as a figurehead, its going to be a massive test for somebody to get this really sorted.

  6. With the Airport becoming an almost irrelevant destination, the Airport precinct still remains an import destination.
    With that in mind I believe that a full light rail system should be build, as a commuter system, that passes through the Airport precinct, including the airport terminals, and continues on to Puhinui station, Manukau and Botany, and even consider extending it along the eastern busway to Panmure, which in term suggests continuing the line on back via Ellerslie to the CBD effectively giving two lines to the South.

    1. My understanding (Ben might be able to help me out here) is that a late sudden change to the AMETI bridge design in Panmure mean that it can no longer be upgraded to Light Rail.

    2. ” I believe that a full light rail system should be build, as a commuter system, that passes through the Airport precinct, including the airport terminals, and continues on to Puhinui station, Manukau and Botany, ”

      That was the original AT/NZTA/Auckland Airport plan

  7. Light rail would work as a proper distributor system in the CBD so it has advantages there. Spending gazillions running it along Dominion Road to carry people already uses buses has never made any sense. Building a North Western LRT where currently there is no public transport or fragmented public transport is a better way to spend money.
    The problem is that the people who make the decisions don’t live in West Auckland.

    1. Well said Miffy, and I would add that NW Auckland is not the only part of the city with poor public transport. Dominion Road is the last of our priorities given the service they are already provided with.

      1. David B – True, there is a high level of service on Dominion Road, but the only reason there is less pressure is due to UP and various other intensification stuff-ups. Dom Road is still a major candidate for intensification.

        I would suggest the kind of melodrama we’ve seen around UP in the central corridor areas is a luxury we no longer have. We’re going to need lots of building and fast. In the event that does happen, Dom Road will need a far better solution that buses that are so frequent that they are unable to stop to let passengers on or off, or that logjam in at their final destination in the CBD.

        1. Yeah, but there’s more development potential on Sandringham Road and Manukau Road – look at the UP maps. You would run it down one of those vs Dominion Road any day.

      2. Which other parts of Auckland with poorer PT would be your top priority for LR?

        I would have thought the best solution for poor bus services would be to increase bus services. The best place for LR upgrade is areas with proven demand for PT and/or buses getting close to capacity.

        1. Jezza I don’t really know. My instinct is to say all of them, so one way might be to draw a map of the entire area of Auckland that does not have frequent public transport, identify the largest urban centres within that area, and there to build transit stations (busway or LR) from which the surrounding areas can be served with frequent local buses.

          When we have 100% frequent public transport coverage of the Auckland urban area, then maybe Dominion Road can be revisited. However significant intensification around Dom Road is realistically at least a decade away (and first needs the UP to be revised which could be another decade).

        2. Looking at the frequent network map if we were to fill the gaps with the option you are suggesting we would end up with a lot of rapid transit stub lines, which is not great for operations.

          The better option would be to upgrade the bus routes to frequent in these areas to ensure there are good connections to existing and future rapid transit lines.

      3. Jezza if you used your criteria then nobody would ever build light rail in Queen Street and it most certainly wouldn’t go to the airport. Instead you would have to build light rail along Fanshawe, across the bridge to Akoranga Station.

        Light rail is an opportunity to move people out of cars in areas where the car is currently the only realistic option. It is also an opportunity to link the many different bits of the CBD in a way CRL never will. While many light rail routes makes sense in the long run it would be short sighted to simply use it to cannibalise existing bus patronage in the short run.

        1. I missed one criteria – cost. The need for an additional harbour crossing makes converting the Northern Busway to LR very expensive, however I’d say it’s a reasonably high priortity for LR as it will reach capacity.

    2. “Spending gazillions running it along Dominion Road to carry people already uses buses has never made any sense.”
      Actually it does.
      When buses are at capacity: Light rail often is the next.capacity upgrade.

      I don’t believe that buses down Dominion Rd. are anywhere near capacity.

      And I agree with the everything else you’ve said.

      1. The Bus capacity alone Dominion Rd if not a problem now it most certainly will become a problem in the future and we need to be planning and building the next level of Public Transport now and not waiting until it become a major problem.
        Further, the number of buses currently running down Dominion Rd to the CBD is part of the problem with street capacity within the CBD when buses from all the near suburbs all come together.
        The Dominion Rd route will have been chosen as the first route for Light Rail simply because it seems to be the main cause of the bus capacity problems within the CBD.
        If you remove a good portion of those buses you solve other problems further towards and within the CBD

    3. Agree 100%. Light confined to CBD and possibly west, but dedicated bus lane probably more cost effective to NW. Light rail down Dominion Road a waste of money not to mention out to the airport which is just flushing money down the toilet.

        1. I am sure with the billions saved on light rail down Dominion Road they will be able to work out how to turn the buses around again. You could probably build a whole underground depot transfer station at the top end of upper Queen street for $300 – $400 million where commercial real estate is not overly expensive (which would then also connect nicely to a light rail down Queen St) and still have $3.5 billion or so left. It’s not that hard….

        2. Matthew, why is there Light Rail on Queen Street but nowhere else? What is the point of that? What are you achieving and for what cost?

    4. The issue is bus congestion in the inner city. It’s going to get worse once the depot is removed. Read the various GA articles on it.

      1. Yes the mythical Bussnake. It is up there with bigfoot and manbearpig except those last two were not invented to fleece ratepayers of their cash.

        1. Miffy: I don’t think bus snake every took into account a NW busway. Throw in the equivalent of a whole nother NEX and it will most definitely be real.

        2. The ‘bus-snake’ does into account the future NW, and the growth on northern busway, and all the dozen other main bus corridors in the central area. It’s a projection for the future growth in PT and in the city centre. Auckland has been growing public transport at 5 to 10% a year for the last 20 years, and other than Britomart it’s all been accommodated by just putting on more buses. Well now it’s pretty much used up all space, and there’s certainly no way we can just add more buses for the next ten years (well, depends on how long this virus kills the economy for. Maybe we’ll be fine now)

  8. Must be that time of the month to bang on about surface LR again….
    Driverless LR is far superior and can run 24/7, no strikes, low operating costs, less construction disruption and ongoing takes up less street space. Oh and it can be built faster too.

    1. You’re right it does look fantastic when you exclude the capital costs and the visual impacts along Dominion Road.

      I’m intrigued though how you think something that will require tunnelling in the CBD at least could be constructed faster. We quite literally have an exhibit of how long building a rail tunnel in the CBD takes now.

        1. The tunneling itself using a machine and assuming no unforseen problems, while not exactly cheap is reasonably straightforward. The real costly bits are the underground stations. As I understand it, the light metro route would be combination of tunnels, surface running and viaducts like the REM Montreal.

      1. Why does it “have” to be underground along Queen St? Many big cities around the world have elevated lines running through them. Much cheaper, faster, easier to build, less ongoing running costs too and they provide shelter underneath from the elements as well.

        1. Other Cities have elevated rail through their main street? Their one ‘showcase’ Street (feel dirty writing that about Queen St), and I’m talking Cities similar size of Auckland AND the elevated rail being built recently, no El Rail through Chicago etc.

          Any examples of this?

        2. The only city I can think of that has elevated rail in the CBD is Chicago, pretty much every other city uses underground in the CBD,

          What were the other cities you were thinking of?

        3. Bangkok installed elevated rail in the 1990s based on Vancouver’s Skytrain. The extensive system has greatly helped unlock the congested CBD, and is continually being expanded.

          However another a plan for a combined elevated metro + highway running over existing state rail lines stalled part-way through construction, allegedly due to corruption and legal challenges. This has since been abandoned/demolished.

        4. Bangkok is an excellent warning for any city considering this.
          They started the project in the 1980s, aborted it in the early 1990s, and a second time in the late 1990s, before finally opening the first stage in 1999. Every proposal and stage has cost far more than expected, and displaced whole communities. Overall it has taken then forty years to build a two-line network half the length of Auckland’s existing rail.

          And the impact on the city is horrendous, the stations and viaducts kill everything below them. Nobody who has every walked around Bangkok would ever consider that a good idea for Queen Street.

          Note also that the average speed is 35km/h, and the top speed is 80km/h. The same as AT’s light rail plan.

        5. I like he idea of going elevated and driverless, but throw in mono rail as well.
          In theory an elevated mono rail system would be less of a visual pollution than an elevated light or heavy rail option.
          It would be possible for a monorail system to drop to ground level in open areas and in theory it could be clipped on the the harbour bridge.

    2. The point here though is that surface LR, Queen St to Mt R and beyond, is the ideal way to stage getting to an eventual system that includes a Light Metro across the harbour and to the NW and surface Light Rail through the Isthmus. See the last pic.

      Perhaps Aucklanders are so used to our current rail network that shares so much track between lines don’t understand that this is not ideal. Completely separate lines are way better (eg London), much more resilient, much more legible, enable much higher reliability, frequency and capacity to core network.

      Using different trains is no problem in such a system cos they don’t intermingle.

      Get the NW started immediately with Buses, get building the Isthmus LR in order to replace more than an equivalent number of buses from the city, and allow Queen St to be used as a high capacity corridor while improving its quality (key outcome is also removing need for turning routes for a gazillion buses).

      1. Then convert NW to LR too. As Queen St approaches capacity from these two lines start of east-west CRL2 that will take NW under Aotea to meet cross harbour LM. This route will then be entirely grade separate and can be driverless (all new routes to be standard gauge). NW and North Shore likely a good ridership balance.

        LR extends to Mangere at some point here too. Eastern Busway; Pakuranga, Botany, Manukau City, Puhinui and Airport, has long been completed. May justify capacity upgrade too. May be other LR extensions on Isthmus as well.

        Bus network primarily focussed on the various rail networks’ interchanges; strong frequent crosstown routes with rapid-like priority, touching many rail, LM, LR, interchanges (eg Balmoral Rd, Mt Albert Rd, SH18).

    3. 2-3 times the cost to construct, twice as long to build. The cost of a driver’s wage pales into insignificance.

      1. Not true. Driver’s salaries are always a major contributor to operational expenditures. That’s why… ….driverless metro’s exist. If they’re going to spend the money on a completely grade-separated metro system, the extra cost of making it driverless out of the box is insignificant.

      2. The operating cost of a dozen underground stations will be more than the drivers wages. You’ll spend more on station staff than you would drivers.

  9. Thank you Mat for a clear steer to get back to first principles. Note that the original driver for light rail was that the central city (CBD) was nearing “peak bus” and could not handle further increases in numbers without becoming grid-locked with buses. The concept was to substantially reduce the number of buses (about a third?) on inner city streets by replacing services linking the CBD and the southern isthmus with light rail. The plan was to build up to 4 lines radiating into the triangle between New North Road and Great South Road – initially with one line down Queen Street and Dominion Road and there was no mention at all of the airport. Since then it has gone awry to the point where the focus has gone on getting as quickly as possible to the airport rather than providing a quality service to residents of the suburbs along the way.

    1. Well Graeme if these are the first principles then surely they are quite flawed. The area you describe is very well served by public transport and the lavish expenditure you propose is mere bus substitution. If there is a bus congestion issue it can first be tackled with larger buses, bus lanes and through routes. Further, it is quite inappropriate when so much of Auckland still suffers under the environmental and financial burden of car dependency.

      Now is a good time to move away from engineer-led planning and into outcome-based planning, where the desired outcome should be to make effective public transport available for all and to reduce the damaging impact of vehicle traffic. The world has changed – Auckland now knows what safe roads and fresh air feel like.

      1. You see other priorities in the city, David, but I think it’s unfair to call the principles Graeme has listed flawed. There was substantial analysis that went into deciding to use light rail on Dominion Rd, and Graeme probably read it all at the time. Yes we need better public transport elsewhere, and a lot of it isn’t too expensive to provide, we just need the will to reallocate road space and prioritise the buses through intersections and town centres, etc.

        1. This is an the same old issue, Heidi. We’re trying to get people to imagine what the streetscape and town centres could look like but it’s hard to envisage anything beyond the mess they are now. Adding Light Rail over the top of that simply doesn’t make sense.

          This is a real failure on the part of NZTA/AT – we should have been showing people renders of Light Rail running down Maki St in North West mall or along Tamaki Drive with a redevleoped Tamaki Drive space. Show them what Light Rail makes possible, instead of expecting them to just see it as anything other than more competition for space in an already poorly-allocated corridor.

          Frankly the aim should be to have people lobbying their local board like crazy for a branch through their local town centres and NZTA/AT need to show people what it could look like. Mt Eden, Howick, St Heliers, Devonport – it might cost a few photoshop hours, but we’ve never really shown Aucklanders what Auckland could look like outside the CBD and that one Dominion Road render.

      2. David – if you’re desired outcome is reducing the damaging impact of vehicle traffic then the solution is building a core set of rapid transit corridors and significantly increasing the density around them.

        There is no better opportunity to achieve this than LR down Dominion Road, with the caveat that the intensification actually happens.

        Your solution of frequent PT to even far flung low density suburbs is not going to get people out of their cars. They are travelling to too many different destinations, often far from their houses for PT to ever really be effective.

    2. Graeme, the plan you describe was a straw man created by the planners to show the politicians just how foolish and expensive it was to try and get rid of all the buses from town, which is what the wanted at the time.

      Unfortunately they thought it was a fantastic idea and pushed it briefly … until they finally acknowledged the huge costs, the complex operations with poor frequency, and the fact it would actually make access worse by losing all the capacity out of the very well used bus network.

      After that brief brain fart they let the planners go back to designing a rapid transit network.

  10. I still think it is better to use LR on the isthmus via the four main corridors. By all means run from Airport to Botany, then Pakuranga to Panmure, perhaps even along St Johns/Remuera Rd. and Kyber Pass or Parnell to the CBD. But the airport shouild be HR from Puhinui and elevated at the airport. I have seen costings at $100 million per km for such elevation. That would serve the whole of Auckland well with direct links from the south where many airport workers come from, as well as the east, north and west. From the west connections would improve with the Avondale to Southdown Freight route. This would also provide a great service in times to come from Hamilton and beyond. As for the “double up of LR/HR from Puhinui, there is no reason why the LR system could not share the HR route for this short section. For the present, this sort of connection could be done quickly and cheaply and have a significant impact. The reason why HR is so out of favour by AT is simply, KiwiRail have too much control and are maximising profits from the costs of infrastructure maintenance. AT do not like the RMTU either and would prefer to keep wages and salaries for tram drivers at the levels of bus drivers, or have the trams automated if possible. In short AT want complete control over Auckland Transport. Hopefully, putting the below wheel rail structure under the control of the NZTA may reduce the amount of profit taking. As for people being paid decent wages, that has been an old chestnut forever, but I for one feel that people need to be paid a decent wage and not rely on government top ups or work excessive hours to make ends meet.

    1. The east would be served by the eventual busway, which would be a one seat ride all the way to the airport, passing through Puhinui

      For the airport obsessed, there would be LRT and BRT direct, as well as HR-BRT interchange via the southern line.

        1. The problem with heavy rail to the airport is you’re going to take away capacity from elsewhere unless you quadruple the track from Britomart to Puhinui.

        2. “So would the LR be a one seat to the airport.”

          On the same LRT line that links the CBD and the Airport, yes. As would BRT from the east. HR would be a simple change at Puhinui to the BRT, no different from any other interchange on the HR line.

    2. This does little for Mangere or the business parks where people actually work around the airport. The choice is connecting entire communities or something like four extra heavy rail stops. I also believe the airport is insisting on an underground rail connection at their end.

      If your sole obsession is getting to the airport as quickly as possible, then maybe this works. But it doesn’t offer the same connectivity as the light rail proposal does and will probably cost just as much once you do the undergrounding bits and alignments.

      1. The airport are not insisting on an underground terminus, it’s just that no one considered going up. I think connectivity is great when people can access the airport from all parts of Auckland by HR, but not by LR. We have effectively traded the Sandringham, Mt Eden, and Manukau Rd options for a single LR line to Mangere. As for capacity on the southern line, this is not true. The only trade of is 10 minute intervals between Manukau and Puhinui, and perhaps Otahuh to Penrose. Otherwise the rest of the system still maintains the 5 minute gaps frequency replied at peak times if the airport trains went via Panmure. The hasten the journey the tran could, during off peak times, have limited stops at the transport hubs of Puhinui, Otahuhu, Panmure and Britomart.

        1. “I think connectivity is great when people can access the airport from all parts of Auckland by HR, but not by LR”

          What’s the difference?

        2. The difference is these HR foamers assume you’ll run trains from every heavy rail station direct to the airport. Which requires six new train lines, each running once an hour if you’re lucky. But that’s ok because HR is proper fast trains and people want to wait an hour to save ten minutes.

  11. Does anyone except Phil Twyford think a light metro is a good idea?
    And that’s IF he even thinks that. I suspect this is his sleazy way of getting out fo committing to the light rail itself.

    Maybe it’s long past time to give up the light rail fantasy and bring back extending the Onehunga line and linking with a branch from Puhinui…

      1. So they aren’t comparable.

        By all means push for HR to the airport (though its been ruled out on so many factors) but unless you are duplicating the LRT line 9which no one is seriously proposing), its a completely separate proposition.

        HR to the airport should stand on its own argument, on its own route. It shouldn’t sabotage the commuter line through the Isthmus. It should fight its own fight,

      2. Riccardo. LR foamers don’t seem to understand how transport works. There are things called transport hubs. On the HR system, these are found at Brotomart, Newmarket, Otahuhu and perhaps in future at Puhinui. Nth Shore by ferry to Brotomart. Eastern suburbs by LR from Botany to the airport on the HR sustem from Puhinui to the airport, or by bus from Howick or Mt Wellington to Panmure. Western suburbs would go, initially via Newmarket or Britomart, but when the Avondale to Southdown line gets built, then the may have a direct service or simply change at Otahuhu. Let the LR system do what it does best as a “mass”transit mode on the Auckland isthmus. There is no need for it to go to the airport. It has confused the minister. He initially wanted densification from it for his KiwiBuild, but now talks about rapid transi to the airport. If it is built at ground level, it must stop at all 24 stops on Dom Rd to be viable there and will generally be limited to about 30-40kph only. A slow trip to the airport. To be rapid it would have to be the fantasyland system with tunnels and bridges and $12 billion. It should be horses for courses. Rapid to the airport, mass on the isthmus.

    1. “…extending the Onehunga line and linking with a branch from Puhinui”

      Twice the cost, less stations, less catchment, network constraints, airport-obsessed for a minority of users. Thank you, next.

      1. To KLK. The diversion to the airport does’t “sabotage”anything. It gives more service to the folks south of the airport with a single ride to the airport (where they work) with every second train taking the direct rote ‘over the hill’ to Auckland and every other train going via the airport and via Panmure. The Papakura and Onehunga trains will maintain a 5 min services on the isthmus. Not sure how one would fit yet another train on that route. Does better connectivity for South Aucklanders to the rest of Auckland not count? Wouldn’t LR be a better way to serve the folks of East Auckland with a direct train to the airport, plus connection with HR at Puhinui and also direct connection again with HR at Panmure, with the prospect of continuing all the way to the CBD in future years?

      2. Nope.
        Comparable cost, same catchment, no network constraints, far more useful for Mangere residents (as it takes them where they want to go).

        You are only right about fewer stations. Which is a good thing….

    2. Agree. And build the Southdown-Avondale line and extend double tracking and electrification to Helensville in conjunction with the upgrade to the NAL.

      Triple track between Parnell and Westfield via Newmarket and Penrose and quadruple track the NIMT between Westfield and Pukekohe and this would create a decent citywide rapid transit network which once the CRL is opened, with easy one seat journeys by linking the Onehunga Line and Eastern Line together in a big teardrop loop covering much of the city via the CRL and Manukau station. The Southern Line and Western Line could be linked together via the CRL running from Pukekohe to Helensville.

      Building these heavy lines and making improvements to the heavy rail network in this manner will bring much more bang for the buck than the sort of money being talked about for one single driverless metro light rail line between the CBD and the airport via Dominion Road. Heavy rail has its own dedicated corridors and by adding new additional tracks along the Auckland-Newmarket and NIMT corridor, this will enable new fast express services to the airport and even the proposed high speed tilt train between Auckland and Hamilton.

      Heavy rail also has the advantage of being able to be used by (new) long distance inter-regional services and for carrying freight. It can serve and be of use to far more people – and not just in Auckland, but neighbouring regions as well.

      Why not investigate extending the heavy rail line from Manukau to Te Irirangi Drive in a cut and cover tunnel and then surface heavy rail along the middle of Ti Irirangi Drive to Botany and then linking back with the NIMT at Panmure / Sylvia Park?

      These heavy rail projects are much more realistic and do-able and could be started much sooner and completed much quicker than the driverless metro light rail line, meaning they could be built as nation building infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy after the lockdown.

      1. I would thought that it was at a minimum impractical to extend the Manukau spur given that the station was designed and built as a terminal station and with the bus station right in the way of any track extension and that the current track is relatively shallow a cut and cover through there would cause massive disruption.

        I personally think we should look at the light rail concept initially from Botany to Puhinui station and then extend it out to the airport and the airport precinct and then on the Onehunga.
        By then the route to the CBD could be fully defined and all the pre construction work have been done so that the line can be relatively quickly built.
        By connecting Botany to Manukau, Puhinui and the airport precinct you will have a workable workers system plus be able to iron out any of the “kinks” that could have cause major problems in the more confined areas along the Dominion Rd route.

  12. Ditch the section beyond Mt Roskill. There’s already faster PT infrastructure in place as far as Onehunga. All they need to do is either extend the Onehunga Branch into Mangere, or introduce bus priority between Mangere and Onehunga/Otahuhu/Puhinui interchanges. Vastly cheaper for an outcome just as fast, or faster, than light rail via the Mt Roskill dogleg route.

    But the original light rail plan can’t go ahead as shown in the artist drawings. The rail safety case won’t be able to be signed off until it is demonstrated how pedestrians can safely walk across, along, or stand on the tracks, which they will because the tracks replace the flush median/centreline, where pedestrians stop whilst crossing the road. In every other case of street running in NZ, including trains in Kawakawa, trams in Wynyard, and trams in Christchurch, it was found there were no practical ways of acheiving this, and so the rail vehicle speed was reduced to 30kph so as to enable easy stopping when encountering pedestrians.

    Light Rail along Dominion Rd will need to be fully fenced off, with pedestrians required to only cross at controlled crossing points. The current planners will have known this for a long time by now, thus with a fully fence corridor you might as well take the opportunity to increase speed even further and just go with light metro.

    1. The pedestrian issues you have set out are exactly the reasons the current road widening designation on Dominion Road was created in the first place. That planning looked at these issues and concluded you couldn’t fit a double track light rail system into the existing 20.1m road reserve. That work seems to have been ignored by the geniuses at AT who have been promoting the most recent cheap-arse version of light rail while claiming it would be a fast and effective means of getting people to the airport.

      1. Only if you insist on keeping traffic lanes at current levels as well. Which is not the plan.

        Town centres become transit malls, ie no traffic at the stations, in between one traffic lane each way no parking. This all fits perfectly, and is a huge place upgrade.

        1. And as for Geoffs bs about fences; nonsense. Will be just like Gold Coast Centre running.

        2. I haven’t lived in Auckland for 40 years so have lost the ‘local feel’ but this seems like a key question. Would drivers in Mt Roskill accept Dominion Road being closed for through traffic?

        3. Mathew uses the euphemism ‘transit mall’ but what that really means is that Dominion Road at shopping centers replacing motor vehicle lanes with a light rail corridor.
          How does that work? Are there good alternative routes for drivers to use?

        4. It is ludicrous to sacrifice Dom Rd for a throughout for Southern Isthmus drivers to access the city centre, especially when we are reducing car access there. The driving bypass is already open, at enormous expense: Waterview tunnel.

          As a place to live and do business Dom Rd will come back with the removal of people driving through to get elsewhere plus the hugely upgraded connectivity provided by LR. Think Melbourne’s Brunswick St, only with a way better LR service (less held up by traffic).

          But this is a change, so i’m sure there will be opposition, there always is.

        5. Urbanista. I can accept that replacing motor vehicle through traffic on Dominion road with light rail and cycling will be an improvement. But that wasn’t the issue -I don’t live in Auckland -so it is just an abstract issue to me. The question I am interested in finding an answer to is -what do people who currently live and travel in the Dominion road local area think of the proposition of replacing motor vehicle through traffic with light rail and cycle lanes?

        6. “Would drivers in Mt Roskill accept Dominion Road being closed for through traffic?”

          It’d be good to get on the same page here, Brendon. Modeshift from driving has been in our official city plans for a long time. So has liveability. What has prevented this modeshift and liveability improvement has been a misplaced concern for the “rights” of drivers to retain all their current priority while other modes – eg walking and cycling – continue to get the scraps. In the case of Dominion Rd, for example, children can’t cycle. The mode doesn’t exist. It’s entirely unsafe.

          No-one with their heads screwed on right would prioritise retaining through-routes over establishing a real public transport network that actually works for people plus real streetscapes that are liveable plus making cycling safe where it is not.

          Despite some silly talk of needing to halve our emissions in ten years, we’ve actually committed to C40 trajectories (and limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees) – that means we need to get to about 50% of 1990 emissions levels by 2030. In Auckland, that means decarbonisation of transport.

          Driving through-routes are going to have to be cut to achieve this in many, many more places than just Dominion Rd. This is a benefit of the LR plan, Brendon, as well as it making the towncentre liveable.

          Drivers’ “rights” just don’t figure here. Mt Roskill people’s options will improve substantially, and they’ll still be able to drive. They’ll still have access, they Just might have to change their routes sometimes. Continuing to talk of the political difficulty actually exacerbates the political difficulty. Decision-making needs to be focused on the future, for our children, so consultation practice needs to catch up with that.

        7. Heidi I can accept that. To me it makes sense to have a really good, direct corridor for PT and cycling, whilst having alternative routes (perhaps not as direct) that drivers can use. Is that the sort of tradeoff argument that makes sense to locals? How can this be explained? Upthread there is a discussion about better renderings etc. That seems like a good idea.
          I think these are legitimate questions. I don’t think that ignoring political difficulties makes the difficulties go away…

        8. Literally every single other street and road road on the auckand isthmus is available as an alternative driving route, not least the new ring motorway that has a diamond of ramps mt roskill.

        9. You’re right, Brendon, that ignoring the political difficulties doesn’t make them go away.

          We need bold action. We need to clarify that (local and central) government’s responsibilities to future generations mean we must change our far-from-best-practice consultation and engagement processes. They are an enormous contributor to preventing government from fulfilling their responsibilities. For Dominion Rd, the void of information has created social friction and resistance.

        10. That is all very interesting but not at all what AT were proposing in their fanciful plan. They show a single traffic lane in each direction and areas at stations where light rail and cars share the same space. That means cars wait behind loading trams and worse trams wait behind cars if there is a queue up ahead.
          The reason the whole project has been sidetracked is because people looked at the AT version and saw it was unworkable so moved on to something far more expensive. Now that alternative will die as the country has higher priorities for the money so nothing at all will happen in the corridor. When you think about it that is probably a better outcome than spending a shit-ton of cash on something that wouldn’t work.
          As for the fences- of course it would require fences to stop pedestrians crossing because the whole thing is just too narrow to fit a safe system that could run at a reasonable speed to work as rapid transit. Without fences it will have to be a local service with slower speeds. Comparing it to the Gold Coast where they have wider roads is daft. Show me any rapid transit system squeezed in like this and I will show you a health and safety issue. Every light rail system I know of slows where it goes through this type of area with unrestricted access.
          The road widening designation was put in place on Dominion Road to accommodate passenger transport. Claiming you can have a single lane each way and light rail and a footpath on either side and do it all safely is bullshit. Claiming you can remove a single lane of traffic over the entire length of Dominion Road is bullshit. Claiming width is only a problem at stations is bullshit. Ergo the fanciful AT light rail ‘rapid transit’ plan on Dominion Road is bullshit.
          You want a lovely slow tram along Dominion Road to replace some buses and think that is worth the cash? Then go ahead and lobby for that. But stop telling us it will be in any way rapid transit, because that is bullshit.

      2. The city of Mestre, Italy has a road width of about 9m (- I didn’t measure it, I stepped it out) for their double track tram. People adjust to a new norm. I was surprised to see people turning up to the kebab shop by tram and the huge number of businesses under apartments along the tram line. A different style of living emerges.

        1. Thanks John your example proves the point. The Mestre tram shares road space with cars and buses except in the low speed Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZLT) where you will see plenty of examples of pedestrian fences. It doesn’t operate as rapid transit in those areas, it is a local distributor system. Light rail can operate as a local system or as rapid transit, but it can’t do both simultaneously as AT have claimed on Dominion Road.

        2. Miffy
          there are parts of the Mestre tram journey where it does indeed share the road with cars, but there are significant parts where it travels at open road speed, much as airport light rail will do. Would a metro trip to the airport be faster, undoubtedly so.

          Do we have any any system currently in Auckland that should be called part of a RTN? No, the NEX1 is often clogged approaching Fanshawe and there is worse congestion for the NEX2 near Victoria Park. The trains are impeded by ridiculously slow dwell times and slow train speeds.

          I would hope that we could have a conversation about how it can work work rather than simply that it can’t. Hasn’t the latter conversation dogged any sort of progress for Auckland PT- that it can’t and won’t?

        3. Heidi. I agree with most of what you say. But you seem to want to ram it down peoples throats. If you want to win the hearts and minds of people you need a better plan than one silly tram to the airport. Very few people can see the point of this. If there was a clear plan to offer LR on all routes in the isthmus, combined with a clear densification plan that people could relate to, there would be less opposition and projects could progress. Airport rail is some thing that is naturally a HR role and most people can relate to that as HR stretches across Akld quite comprehensively already, and it only takes a slight deviation from the current line to the airport to achieve this. With the Avondale to Southdown line even the western suburbs and the central isthmus will be better served, and that appears to be coming as part of the North Auckland Line developments. These sorts of plans are more readily accepted by the general population because they are comprehensive and convenient. Convenience is the best way of getting people out of their cars. We can’t just scream climate change stats at people and guilt trip them into accepting a new norm. We have to persuade people with common sense workable plans that they can accept to get the best outcomes. I think we (talking on this site) are all wanting the same goals, but our visions of our to achieve that are at variance. I think that it is also important that the main reason for AT to go for LR is simply to avoid KiwiRail track charges and RMTU protection for HR staff who are paid well. AT want to have total control over any new rail initiative in Auckland. This has created a great distortion in transport planning and has led to the fiasco we call “rapid rail via Dominion Rd to the airport”.

        4. NIALL M ROBERTSON – you raise some valid points buuuut…

          I’m in favour of anything that improves PT in Auckland be that HR, LR, metro or (if absolutely necessary) bus.

          I don’t necessarily see that its a case of one or the other. Auckland is most commonly compared to Sydney which has HR, LR & bus and is actively building and developing Metro. I see no reason why Auckland can’t do the same.

          The trap that we have to avoid is using one as a bandaid for the other. For example, saying “we could use HR here but we can get away with LR so lets do that.” Its small mindedness at its worst.

          I’d be in favour of a LR network. Preferably one that doesn’t duplicate any existing HR routes. If it starts with a single line then that’s OK. I’m also in favour of expanding the HR network and extending it to the airport. Its difficult to see how Metro might fit in but if it finds a niche, fine.

          Whatever the outcome, we need to get it done now! The more time we stand around sucking our thumbs, the worse the situation gets. The CRL is a good start but we need more… much more.

          Unfortunately successive Auckland councils have not only under invested in PT but actively ignored the issue. We’re like a drowning man suddenly realising that a flotation device might have been a good idea.

        5. — ‘If you want to win the hearts and minds of people you need a better plan than one silly tram to the airport. Very few people can see the point of this. If there was a clear plan to offer LR on all routes in the isthmus, combined with a clear densification plan that people could relate to, there would be less opposition and projects could progress.’

          LR on all routes in the isthmus? Lol. Ever heard about staging of plans? Why on earth would the public go for a radical plan like that over being able to try out LR on a few routes first? Surveys have shown people want LR. But let’s get it in on these two routes, then see what the public stomach is for more.

          Your arguments seem all over the place. Nothing you’ve said has won my heart or mind. Do you need a link to the congestion free network or something? GAs plan is moderate, more thought through and more affordable than what you’re spurting out.

  13. At times like this shelter is much more important than a train set.
    The govt should build lots of housing. That will keep the construction sector going and get on top of the crisis.

    1. I agree re the better stimulus policy is building affordable housing not transport infrastructure by itseld. The best option would be to build tens of thousands of affordable houses alongside the CFN (both in Auckland and in similar mass transit networks in Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch)
      In the 1930s and 40s NZ built more than 30,000 state houses…

    2. Yes, build lots of sustainable environmentally friendly affordable housing around public transport, walking and cycling facilities.

      1. There is no such thing as ‘ lots of sustainable environmentally friendly affordable housing’.

        You’re asking for the impossible.

    3. Rodney, you may see that I propose LR where it can be utiised best. The real problem is two fold. Currently, after nearly three years no one can say if the airport tram is to be a mass transport system to aide the densification of the Akld isthmus or it is to be a rapid rail project to the airport. Secondly, LR was favoured by AT more to get away from being beholden to KiwiRail track charges and RMTU pay rates and working conditions. AT want full control of PT in Akld. The new government proposal to separate the below wheel rail infrastructure from the KiwiRail business and give it over to the NZTA or like body should solve the former problem, but the latter problem is only a problem if you don’t believe people should be paid a decent wage.

      1. Oh conspiracy-boy: what twaddle.

        If AT had some anti union agenda then they would have proposed driverless from the start, which they didn’t. Furthermore it isn’t even an AT project at all anymore.

        Additionally anyone with a grown up grasp of urban transit organisation would absolutely want one authority in charge of all rapid transit in a city. There’s no anti KiwiRail or anti train worker conspiracy, simply good transit systems management theory at work.

        1. It’s not twaddle.

          A light rail system would not be reliant on KiwiRail’s heavy rail network and would not have a workforce largely controlled by the RMTU.

          AT got fleeced by KiwiRail with how much they charged for maintenance and charged out for hiring out their drivers to operate AT’s SA trains, due to AT’s operator Veolia Transport not having drivers qualified to drive the locomotives. The RMTU and KiwiRail both had a vested interest in maintaining this situation for as long as possible, while Veolia struggled to get an acceptable (to the KiwiRail controlled RMTU) training program in place. Meanwhile KiwiRail continued to hire drivers off the street to drive AT’s SA trains which they charged out at double the driver’s hourly rate.

          This is not entirely the fault of KiwiRail, because as a State owned enterprise, they are required by law to operate along full commercial business lines to try and make a profit. When they have few income streams and at that time had a National Government which was starving them of funding, they are naturally going to try and obtain the maximum amount of revenue they can from sources where they have a monopoly or full control.

          As a result of the massive amount of arguing and heated debate over the SA driver training issue, which got very ugly and dragged on for years, as soon as AT were put in charge of the new electric train project which was originally assigned to KiwiRail by National, AT changed the original plans for the post-electrification train fleet from having both new EMUs and new electric locomotives hauling six car SA trains, to just EMUs, so as to get rid of the SAs and KiwiRail’s involvement.

          Not long after, AT suddenly decide to pursue light rail after years of dismissing it. Under their original plans, AT would have been fully in control of it, would have their own network to build their public transport network around, and light rail trams don’t require Train Managers and have cheaper drivers than trains.

          KiwiRail still continue to charge horrendous amounts for the maintenance of the ADL DMUs which run the Pukekohe services, hence the poor state of them now, as AT are doing the bare minimum of maintenance on them and want to be rid of them along with being reliant on KiwiRail for maintenance, as quickly as possible. Hence the desperate idea of battery EMUs (funny how running services to Huapai was suddenly an option with these, but not with ADLs), a little while back, before full electrification to Pukekohe was finally committed to by the current Government.

          KiwiRail still control the rail network though, which is a key part of Auckland’s public transport network, and charge horrendous track access fees. Hence AT supporting developing a light rail network to reduce dependency on this. Although the way the Government / NZTA has handled the light rail project since taking charge of it has really made a mess of this now.

          As others have pointed out, the whole structure of rail (both heavy and light rail) and the way it is planned, managed, run and who leads it, needs changing.

        2. Green is right. I remember reading a big feature article about all the issues going on within Auckland’s rail operation back then in the Herald on Sunday newspaper at the time.

          I recall one of the reasons AT wanted EMUs was they could be operated with driver only operation, which they wanted, which would not have been possible with the locomotive hauled SA carriage train fleet. A huge waste that those carriages have all been left to rot in Taumarunui after millions of dollars of ratepayer money was spent refurbishing them for the relatively short life they had. I found them more comfortable than the new electric trains too.

          The rail union and a number of people who use the trains have been opposed to having just drivers only on the trains, which resulted in the first rail strike I can ever recall a couple of years ago, as the Auckland rail network is largely open and un-gated and the AT Transport Officers are so few in number. Those that you do see are now just in big groups in one place because they are apparently too scared to work in smaller numbers I have been told. This seems to have proven the concerns the rail union have been saying about the Transport Officers not being as effective as AT claimed they would be.

          I must admit I don’t like being alone without any staff presence in the carriage on some train services with some of the particularly intimidating and unpleasant people that ride on the trains now, clearly without having paid, now that tickets don’t get checked all the time any more.

      2. NIALL M ROBERTSON – The points that you raise are primarily political. There’s no question that there are hard decisions to be made but doing nothing at all is worse. Every day that doesn’t result in an outcome is a day that we lose.

        Its the old story, soldiers die while the politicians argue.

        Moving the Port of Auckland would probably go a long way to discouraging Kiwirails interest in track traffic above Otahuhu. There’s a whole other debate going on about that but as the only heavy industry left at the bottom of town, there are compelling reasons for that to happen.

        Doing something, ANYTHING, has got to be better than talking about it until our ears bleed.

    4. To Mum of two: What plan?? No one knows if this LR to the airport is going to be rapid (which seems to mean reducing 24 current bus stops on Dom Rd for just 8 stops), or mass transport, which will be a relatively slow trip from the airport. It is jusy one relatively limited, but very costly project. Sure start a mass tpt LR project down Dominion Rd, just not to the airport. I’m not saying build all the isthmus LR projects at once. Currently, no one can see the point of LR to the airport. As I say a cheap deviation from the NIMT to the airport serves the airport customers and workers well. Contrary to some comments, it doesn’t take anything away from the Papakura route, but adds the option of a direct train to the airport and a train via Panmure. Remember, AT only really favour this as a way of avoiding KiwiRail track charges and RMTU pay rates and conditions, and the former problem may be dealt with with new legislation. AT just want full control over PT in Akld. Can’t blame them. Also, just look at these pages which are frequented by PT supporters to how this LR scheme has split PT campaigners in Akld and created devisive project that still makes no real sense, when so many alternatives do.

      1. IMHO the only way to offer a spur to the airport is not to branch it off the main line at Puhinui, because that will cause frequency and service problems on the rest of the network, but to build a flyover from the Manukau spur on out to the Airport.
        With this kind of link the present Manukau service comes in to Manukau and then backs out to the Airport, and then reversing the process back through Manukau and then rejoining the main line as at present.
        But for even this type of approach to make any sense you need to assume that there is the traffic to warrant the expense of a dedicated Airport service which I very much doubt that there was, and certainly for the short to medium future there isn’t.
        The demand is and will be for some time within the Airport Precinct and not the Airport itself and that demand is for connecting to South and West Auckland, which of course is where the Light Rail concept comes in.

      2. “Contrary to some comments, it doesn’t take anything away from the Papakura route,”

        if a set number of trains can get through the CRL, from which line will you remove trains to run the trains on your airport spur?

        1. Sailor Boy. Run trains out of Papakura at 5 min intervals. Every second one goes via the airport, then via Panmure to the CBD. Have trains out of Manukau at 10 minute intervals so they will alternate with the ex-airport trains via Panmure. The Papakura trains will alternate with the Onehunga trains ‘over the hill’. That way the folks from the south get a direct link to the airport, where many of them work, and a continuous ride to eastern suburbs as well. It will also enable the airport to CBD section to be stop limited to just the hubs at Puhinui, Otahuhu and Btiromart in off peak times. It also enables direct connections to the airport from Hamilton and other southern destinations in future. Even the Northern Explorer could go via the airport. (The plan I have seen [by a well qualified and experienced rail engineer] is elevated at the airport which is a lot less expensive that the in/out underground previous plan and enables a loop so that the direction of travel is maintained. It also makes the airport reachable by rail from most areas of Greater Auckland and would be enhanced by the Avondale to Southdown railway when that gets built. The only limitation here is trains at 10, not 5 minute intervals from Manukau and the airport to Puhinui only, and that every second train from the south is a bit longer going via the airport. But the trade off there is that southern suburbs get direct transit to the airport and a service via Panmure. It would also be a bit crowded via Newmarket after Penrose if all trains ex Papakura went over the hill.

        2. I can see where Niall is coming from and how this could work.

          However, instead of an elevated loop at the airport, why not continue the heavy rail line from Puhinui to the airport, onwards north to connect with the Onehunga line? This would create a more direct through line from the south rather than a dogleg to the airport from Puhinui, which would enable the alternating services from Papakura to run via the airport and Onehunga (and the other alternating services on the Southern Line could run to/from Pukekohe once the line is electrified). The Northern Explorer and any other new long distance services could run via the airport onwards north direct to Newmarket / the CBD via Onehunga.

        3. Niall – this will just result in the direct trains from Papakura being overcrowded. No one is going to hop on the train going via the airport if it gets to the city later than the one leaving in five minutes.

          Better to cater for the South to Airport demand with an easy transfer to a bus at Puhinui than spending $1b on HR from Puhinui to the Airport.

        4. What does all this do that the BRT link from Puhinui does not, remembering that the link will ultimately be a part of a brand new RTN line between Pakuranga and airport?

        5. Niall: “Currently, no one can see the point of LR to the airport.”.

          Except all those organisations that did the analysis in the Airport Access study, as well have those that are aware of it. And its got a lot to do with the absence of any RTN through the SW Auckland region which lies isolated between the two largest employment hubs in the region, as well as distanced from RTN transfer points for a host of other journeys.

          I’d suggest the only people who cant see the point don’t understand the issue or the solution that’s been arrived at. Because, you know, what everybody really needs a HR ride to the airport.

  14. To get any sort of real progress on light rail, there needs to be a change to the leadership, management and structure of rail.

    The heavy rail infrastructure, rail workshops and commuter passenger rail need to be separated from KiwiRail and vested in the existing rail land holding company NZ Railways Corporation, which should become a new Government rail agency also taking on the role of rail regulator from NZTA.

    The light rail project in Auckland, and anywhere else such as Wellington, should also be assigned to the NZRC.

    The office of Minister of Railways should be recreated to oversee the NZRC.

    The Government needs to abandon the rediculous plans for a driverless metro light rail to Auckland Airport and instead go back to the original AT proposal for conventional light rail running down the main arterials out of the CBD into the central isthmus and to Westgate.

    Auckland Airport should be served with rapid transit in the form of heavy rail running in a loop from Onehunga to Puhinui. This would enable the Onehunga Line and Eastern Line to be linked together via the CRL and Manukau station.

    Heavy rail would also enable long distance passenger rail services to run via the airport, as well as freight.

    A rail link between Marsden Point and Auckland Airport via Puhinui would link the Marsden Point Oil Refinery and Wiri Oil Services terminal by rail too, providing security of supply for fuel to Auckland.

    1. To KLK: There is no clear plan for this. There is no business case for this. The Government promised it before this coming election. There is no word on the number of stops along Dominion Rd. Is it to to be 24 or 8? I agree with Green that best way would be to build HR through to Onehunga, but this is blocked by officials who say that HR can’t fit along the m’way corridor, but the previous studies all said that this was the best and cheapest form of transport for this task. AT somehow poisoned that idea and came up with the LR scheme and it has been all downhill from there. The best thing campaigners can do at this time, is to support the governments idea to take the below wheel infrastructure off KiwiRail and give it to the NZTA or like body. That will solve AT’s problems with being fleeced by KiwiRail. Then HR won’t seem to much of a problem to AT. Unfortunately, Minister Twyford sacked the previous NZTA board, because they could see all of this but could not convince the Minister. So he has now stacked the board with a lot of toadies who “know what they have to do”. Havinf daid that, the HR from Wiri is still better that LR down Dom Rd to the airport or changing to a bus at Puhinui, which is only slighty better that changing at Papatoetoe which is in place now…and no one raves about that fast trip to the airport, and fewer people use it. And yet AT have put $60 million into another dot on the map AT Puhinui, a very expensive bus stop.

      1. Better for WHAT? You keep saying its better but you don’t say what you are achieving whilst completely ignoring Roskill and Mangere which are soon to be the biggest HNZ projects in NZ.

        For all his failings, the NZTA board was removed because of the huge road bias and the fact they were still in 1972…at least they didn’t have Coronavirus back then I guess.

  15. So many things to ponder.
    If not for the Mangere PT void I would say firstly do Roskill to city considering bus terminating issue in the city with continuing to use buses only for this route.
    Concurrently or immediately after do the NW line. North Shore can wait for now with increasing busway improvements & upgrades etc.
    Mangere PT needs and potential political/lack of agreement with local issues through Dominion Rd (through traffic? Cycle lanes? Etc) & also central city construction overdose all would tip in favour of doing either NW line or Onehunga/Mangere to Airport-Manukau-Botany first. This southern end start is perhaps a weaker argument immediately post COVID-19. It’s probably 6 and one 1/2 dozen of the other.

    Solution to the dilemma is do all damn three lines/sections pretty much concurrently. That will put the $ into infrastructure we probably need:
    Botany to Onehunga via airport
    City ctr to Onehunga
    Northwest to city ctr including onto Wynyard Quarter.

  16. The fact of the matter is I am a “Watered down rate payer” I pay some rates via my rental cost.
    The worst problem in Auckland is the waiting list you have to go on to cross Auckland harbor bridge during peak hours.
    The underground rail system in Auckland CBD has already wasted lots of money, and people are talking of selling off a good city income earner “Ports of Auckland” to make Auckland debt worse.

  17. I think too much emphasis is placed on the airport-to-CBD aspect of the proposed project.

    Would the line run from the airport to the CBD? – yes. Would tourists use it? – yes. Is that the only reason for its purpose? – no.

    A large part of the proposal is to bring rapid transit to parts of Auckland that don’t have it. Am I in favour of this idea? – a resounding YES!

    Auckland’s problem has traditionally been that small groups have a disproportionate voice. End result: nothing gets done.

    I really don’t want to be still arguing about this in 20 years. For cats sake, just build the fraggin thing and then 20 years from now we can all pat ourselves on the back and say what a great job we all did.

    Here’s a story that I take as a lesson in what might be: I was speaking to someone whose grandfather was on the board responsible for constructing the Harbour Bridge. Apparently at one of the early planning meetings, her grandfather proposed that for little extra cost, an additional couple of lanes in each direction could be added. This would bring the number of lanes up to 4 in each direction.

    He was told in no uncertain terms that the north shore would never be that busy and was literally laughed out of the room.

    Today we have 4 lanes in each direction (and are contemplating a 2nd harbour crossing – hopefully with LR /HR). Who’s laughing now?

    1. Rodney. The key word is “rapid”. LR is best utilised as a “mass”transport mode and would be good for the densification of the central isthmus. But the airport needs a rapid connection. Using the current HR system the airprt could be easily accessed by Aucklanders from the east, south, north and even the west. The best use of the money available would be to use LR to help with the densification of the central isthmus and HR from Puhinui or Wiri to the airport.

      1. In total journey time for air travellers saving 10 minutes on the trip to the airport is small bikkies.
        Reliable journey time is more important.
        The prudent air traveller already puts a much longer time float then that to account for traffic delays, and queue delays.

        1. “I think too much emphasis is placed on the airport-to-CBD aspect of the proposed project.”

          Always has been and these people refuse to step back and look at the facts.

          HR or LR, only a small percentage of overall users will be going to/from the airport. Most of those wont even be doing the full end to end; the overwhelming majority of airport workers do not live in the CBD. They will be transferring off the line well before that. And the majority of airport passengers are domestic, again, not living in the CBD. And not every business or leisure traveller is going to Britomart nor will care of the 5min difference.

          So much angst over the airport, let alone the proposal to spend twice as much money to accommodate them.

  18. Great and timely article. Let’s build the LRT. If it takes an act of Parliament to overcome resource consent then so be it.

    1. Absolutely not. I don’t want the best government we have had in years voted out because they wasted political capital on a boondoggle that costs far more than the estimate and doesn’t do what was promised.

    2. To KLK: The HR train to the airport will also bring many airport workers to the airport. It is also serving people on that route. The beauty of this is that it links graeater Auckland to the airport. It is the LR project which is simply a CBD – airport connection, especially if it becomes the elevated monstosity that the Minister is proposing. Even the at level Dom Rd plan wants to reduce the current 24 stops to just 8 alond Dom Rd. Any LR specialist will tell you that that won’t work. Just build the thing along Dom Rd.

      1. This makes no sense. The HR serves the airport, but LR doesn’t. LR is a CBD-airport connection, but the HR is not.

        They are both the same thing south of Onehunga. Its just that one costs twice as much, isn’t accessible for as many people and has sub-optimal frequencies that effectively wipe out the 5min time saving for the minority of people going end to end.

        To ignore those deal-breakers just suggests your argument is about what your personal preference is.

        The route is the same south of Onehunga, right?

        1. KLK: No the route is from Wiri. Have a look backthrough these comments. I have given a more comprehensive view of how I think it will work.

        2. The cost of a spur through Wiri was pretty high for a one station extension that adds no new catchment. And you still have terrible frequencies because of network constraints.

          The BRT link from Puhinui does the same thing and while it does involve a transfer, that will be seamless via the inter change being built and probably will have 10min frequencies. It will also be the first stage of the eastern AMETI BRT (and eventually LRT) direct to the airport. I think rail from Hamilton would stop at that interchange too.

          Prioritising airport trips for that kind if expenditure doesnt stack up. Southern line users will now get access to the airport anyway via the HR-BRT/LRT link and we get a whole lot better amenity for the money.

  19. As a number of people have pointed out, running light rail down dominion Rd, or just about any of Auckland roads, is going to cause massive congestion during the construction phase, and once it’s up and running then we will see speed problems because surface running in busy pedestrian areas can and will see problems.
    So, does going underground make any sense if we take out the cost factor.
    I tend to think that once again we will see massive congestion during the construction phase, just look at what is happening around the CRL construction.
    That really only leaves two options. a) do nothing or b) aerial. I thunk we all agree that the do nothing option is foolish in the extreme.
    So if we go aerial how do we go about that without creating an eyesore.
    For my money a suspended monorail system makes the most sense. It can be built on slender supports with the track system attached.
    The system could be designed so that the cars lowered to street level at each stop removing the need to have difficult access to them

    1. We opened a bypass for through traffic on Dominion Rd less than three years ago, congestion shouldn’t be a roadblock to this project.

    2. Construction disruption is temporary. Value is permanent. Tunnelling is not disruption free, especially cut and cover, which is likely through the isthmus. Arial construction is also disruptive during construction, and then permanently through eye-sore, shading etc. It’s no different to a road flyover. So is an option over an existing motorway or railway, but not a suburban arterial.

      Bite the bullet. Pay out existing retailers properly. Build the cheaper permanently high value surface LR that the whole suburb was originally formed by! Upzone and invest all along it.

      Permanent value.

      1. “Build the cheaper permanently high value surface LR that the whole suburb was originally formed by!”

        Great point.

        1. “So, does going underground make any sense if we take out the cost factor.”

          So, you mean what’s the view in Fantasyland?

    3. Construction disruption, managed in line with the GPS priorities – prioritising walking and cycling, public transport, access, environment – can work towards our climate goals.

      In the city centre, had the CRL been managed like this, businesses would’ve kept the footfall they have so clearly voiced the need for. And people would’ve flocked to public transport because it clearly became the efficient choice. Instead the car domination ensured the KPI’s dictating CRL management prioritised traffic flow.

      This error should’ve been set right quickly. At this stage, this experience should pave the way for all construction projects.

    4. An interesting concept. Unfortunately I don’t think that its workable.

      The primary objection would be issues with high loaded road traffic. Excluding them from the length of Dominion Rd wouldn’t be too much imposition but Dominion Rd crosses Greenlane Rd West (as well as other main roads) and there’s no way that you could ban high loads.

      Switching isn’t an issue but turning corners would be due to the wide radius required. So the route recommended by the CFN from Dominion Rd to the Onehunga rail hub would be an issue.

      Lastly, there isn’t any precedent for such an installation. To my knowledge, no major city in the world uses monorail as a primary means of PT. That doesn’t mean that Auckland couldn’t be the first, but one has to wonder why larger cities have not adopted it if it were such a practical option.

      I am in favour of anything that improves PT in Auckland. The Dominion Rd corridor is a prime candidate for something to be done, whatever that might be.

      If tunneling (grade separation) were considered viable, disruptive works could be minimised by combining cut-and-cover techniques with precast concrete sections. Just dig a hole, build a foundation, drop in a precast concrete section and fill the hole up again.

      Actually, despite the expense, I think grade separation for most the route north of the Manukau is the only long term answer.

      Before everyone flames me, consider this: The council is trying to limit urban sprawl by encouraging development of apartment buildings, high density housing etc etc. Now imagine the Dominion Rd corridor with double or even triple the number of people living near it.

      How practical does surface LR appear now?

      We know from the construction of the Harbour Bridge, that accessible transport links means that people will use them. Auckland’s north shore was little better than a collection of small towns before the advent of the Harbour Bridge. Now look at it.

      LR through the Dominion Rd corridor is fine to meet our current needs. However I suspect that future generations will find it necessary to rip it all out and grade separate. Of course we could just do what we always do and say “that’s their problem, not ours.” However, I’d like to think that we’re somewhat better than that.

      1. ‘That doesn’t mean that Auckland couldn’t be the first, but one has to wonder why larger cities have not adopted it if it were such a practical option.’

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        One clarification, the bus network is designed to meet Dominion Rds current needs, the LR proposal is to meet future needs. Dom Rd buses currently move 3 million people a year, tripling that would be 9 mil a year LR can handle that and a lot more.

      2. I agree with most of what you say. “Before everyone flames me, consider this: The council is trying to limit urban sprawl by encouraging development of apartment buildings, high density housing etc etc. Now imagine the Dominion Rd corridor with double or even triple the number of people living near it.
        How practical does surface LR appear now?”

        Very. It reminds me of plenty of overseas cities. And street level LR has a good capacity to cope with population density increases.

        We have the need for incremental PT improvements all over the city. Grade separated at this stage puts too much of our money into one project. As the GPS says:

        “They should also consider possible future changes and uncertainties so that investment can be made in options that perform best across different scenarios.”

        There are other corridors that would suit grade separated lines if that’s what’s needed later, when we have a rates base to support it (and maybe a population not constantly trying to minimise their rates 🙂 ), but the population numbers will depend very much on how things pan out with migration patterns and the economic consequences of climate change.

        1. Way back in the dim dark days of the 1950’s I seem to recollect that during one of the Auckland City Councils many attempts at doing something with the now started CRL there was a suggestion that a small section of Queen St would be dug up at night and by the morning heavy steel covers would be put over the hold so that Queen St could function normally.
          While I don’t know just how practical such an approach would have been, it does make you wonder if such an approach could work for Dominion Rd.
          Obviously if they had to cap the hole every morning and uncap it every night it would extend the construction period, but in theory should reduce disruption to the businesses there.

        2. Agree and it is also worth remembering that density also brings destinations. We wouldnt have density in housing alone but with the oportunities for retail and other activities close by. No need for big box retail sprawl.

        3. Robert: I’m not sure if this is common knowledge but I was lead to believe that a railway station had been incorporated at construction into the basement of what was the ASB building at the corner of Wellesley and Queen.

          I’d tried unsuccessfully to establish this fact during a service visit in the 90’s.

          If true, it might be incorporated into a potential underground LR/Metro system as the soon-to-be-completed Aotea station has been future proofed for a line running perpendicular to the HR lines.

        4. Heidi
          I think that it is also important to remember that there are other activities that should support the success of Dominion Road light rail. It will service Eden Park and if Auckland had a more enlightened economic approach to managing Auckland sport this would be the home of more than Auckland rugby.
          It should be a way to access St Lukes mall, 15 minutes walk from the Potters Park corner, or one would hope frequent buses on Balmoral Road.
          I still believe that one of the things that Auckland needs to greatly increase PT ridership is the very cheap monthly and annual passes that prevail across many parts of Europe. A belief amongst riders that a network system works rather than taking one single trip would also help.

        5. “There are other corridors that would suit grade separated lines if that’s what’s needed later, when we have a rates base to support it”
          Heidi, you raise an excellent point here being whether it should be the rates base that supports it.
          I know that you have questioned the value that NZ derives from tourism and I have been surprised recently how some of my acquaintances, who I wouldn’t expect such a view from, are doing the same thing. How many billions of dollars will this virus event, solely caused by tourism, cost NZ?
          In the same way that all of us who own property pay an EQC levy, is now the time to introduce a travellers’ levy so that ordinary hard working kiwis don’t have to bear the huge cost that is being imposed on them currently? What might it look like? With tourism numbers likely to be severely reduced to say 3 million per year might the starting point be $150 if you want to fly to Sydney for the weekend, and moving up if you want to spend a longer period off shore? Even at these levels it would be years before the country recovers the cost of the tremendous harm this single event has caused.
          International community disease specialists are suggesting that these virus events will only become more common as our climate changes and populations grows.
          I have traveled about once every two years up until now and on each occasion I am surprised how in those countries you pay for items that in NZ are generally free: road tolls, parking charges, toilets, tourist attractions, restaurant cover charges etc.
          Let’s only have tourists coming to NZ who value the experience, so that we can move away from a NZ that isn’t clean and only green in the winter.

        6. johnwoodtakapuna.nz: I wasn’t going to add further comment to this thread but your comment intrigued me.

          I’ve always been concerned that NZ was reliant upon tourism (as well as primary products) as its main export earners. Take those away and we don’t actually produce anything that the world wants to buy.

          Unfortunately, Covid-19 has done just that.

          I suspect NZ and Kiwis as individuals will look towards being more self sufficient in the future. I also suspect that this what Trump was alluding to with the “Make America Great Again” slogan. BTW that wasn’t an endorsement… Trump has been a disaster for the US – but that’s another story.

          I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that Kiwis love the Chinese money… its just the Chinese themselves that they don’t want.

          I liken the current situation to being a wage earner. No matter how much overtime you do, you always live your life up to the limit of the available money. Most people would view this as wrong but they still do it.

          Similarly, NZ should live within its basic means and anything gained via tourism or exports should be viewed as a bonus. Wrapping tourism & exports into the “business as usual” operating model leaves the country vulnerable to global downturns such as the current scenario.

          Once this is all finished & done, I’m sure there’ll be a complete reevaluation of how things work in this country.

        7. Interesting thoughts, guys. Yes to a travellers’ levy (and yes, set at a meaningful level that does recoup at least some of the cost of this travel-induced crisis) on top of the carbon prices that need to be added to aviation for the climate change it causes.

          Will there be a complete re-evaluation of how things are done? Let’s see when we analyse where the economic recovery money actually goes. Incumbent business-as-usual processes are currently smoothing the way for perhaps the worst backwards-looking spend-up we could envisage.

        8. Rodney, the Civic car park was designed to integrate with the then planned city look.
          The idea was that people could depart there for Queen St, the Civic Build and the Aotea Centre

        9. @Rodney…
          There have been rumours floating around for sometime now… I believe that particular rumour was more about the ASB tower (now AC HQ) on Albert St.
          There was however an idea on the former Transport Blog that if a CRL2 was built, to use the basement and building entrances of the ASB building you mentioned on Queen St as a station (which makes a lot of sense).

        10. Correct Heidi. Densification will need LR, but on all the main roads on the isthmus. Start with Dominion Rd, but designed to serve that population with 24 stops along the route, (not just 8 proposed for the airport idea). Such a service will work well and that what it is designed for. Repeat this on Mt Eden, Sandringham and Manukau Rds. This will served a densified city well and reduce greenhouse gases. Trying to take capacity on the Dom route muddy’s the water and will not provide a service to the airport at all. LR for the isthmus. HR to the airport via Wiri (with the Avondale to Southdown line later to enhance this) will serve Greater Auckland and give a lot of airport workers from South Auckland a direct run to work. In the futer HR could be extended to about Montgomery Rd relatively cheaply from Onehunga for the folks who work and live in Mangere.

      3. By “city with metro” standards, even triple the current number of people per area around Dominion Road would still be kind of low density.

        1. Rodney
          You could look at international tourism another way -we need it to pay for the importation of oil and cars. Greatly reduce the demand for the latter two reduces the need for the former.

        2. johnwoodtakapuna.nz: I don’t disagree with what your saying.

          However, given that we’re potentially looking down the barrel of a 2nd Great Depression, I think it reasonable to consider the mindset and views of that era.

          As a society, the modern world is extremely wasteful… Pens that you discard when they run out of ink, plastic bags (and many other types of plastics) that you use once then discard etc etc.

          My parents & grandparents lived in a time of no waste. My grandparents ran a corner store. Newspapers that didn’t sell one day got turned into paper bags for the next day. They had a huge water tank which collected water off the roof (mainly for washing the clothes).

          What I’m highlighting here is that they were self-sufficient in as many ways as possible.

          I’m not sure how we could cast-off oil & petrol imports but anything that frees us from that millstone has gotta be a good thing. Perhaps the government should increase incentives for the uptake of electric cars?

          I’m even considering how I might make strides in that direction myself. I don’t believe its possible to be independent of the grid (power, water etc). However I do believe that its possible to reduce dependence of the grid.

          Take water for example. Grey water is just as good for flushing the toilet, washing your clothes, washing your hands, watering the garden etc. You only need fresh water for consumption.

          All of us know that the world will be a different place once Covid-19 is no longer a major threat. Part of that question is will we be different people after Covid-19? It’s certainly been an eye opener for me so far.

      4. Maybe not as a primary PT system, but you will find several suspended and non suspended mono rail systems in Japan.
        I’m trying to remember what it’s final destination was, but I remember using a non suspended mono rail service, because it was there, to head out of Tokyo. It travelled for some distance as well.

        1. Robert: You’re likely referring to the Haneda Airport-Tokyo line although as you note Tokyo has a mix of everything including subway and surface level HR as well as private operators. I don’t think they have suspended monorail (in Tokyo) though.

          From my experience of Tokyo, I doubt that Aucklanders will accept a similar level of visual clutter. All lines that I travelled on were grade separated with HR on elevated trackways. They may have had LR but certainly not in the areas that I visited.

          It’s worth noting that both Haneda & Narita airports are quite some distance from the city so travel to/from them is via monorail or HR. I understand that the remoteness is due to the US Air Force being the only entity that has rights to overfly Tokyo itself.

          Compared to Tokyo, the largest city in the world, Auckland is a flyspeck. I do admire their “out-of-the-box” approach to technology and problem solving but it has the byproduct of producing some of the strangest ideas that I’ve ever seen.

          Auckland is frequently comparted to Sydney. There they have a mix of HR, LR and are presently developing a subway. I see no reason why we couldn’t emulate them.

  20. +1, if the local residents don’t like the idea then offer them more than market value in exchange for their house. Then you own a whole lot of land next to a rapid transi station.

  21. You cant build your way out of climate change. If low carbon is the goal just ban traffic and turn the whole of Dom rd into a cycle lane.
    It’s almost completely flat anyway.

  22. Serious question: is it possible for govt to just bypass NZTA and hand over the money for AT to get on with their original proposal? With all the infrastructure projects needed to stimulate our recovery wouldn’t that be the easiest thing to do? The approach to funding has to change if anything is to happen quickly. Who better to plan and build than the local agency?

    1. Better to have the Government vest the light rail project with the NZ Railways Corporation as new Government rail agency, which could take charge of both heavy rail and light rail projects and to manage and fund them in a more coherent manner as part of a unified nationwide public transport network where the two modes are not competing with each other, rather complementing each other.

      Agree the driverless metro light rail to the airport proposal should be dropped in light of the massive decline in air travel and concentrate on implementing the more appropriate original AT light rail proposal with having street level light running out of the CBD along Queen Street and Symonds Street and along the main arterial roads into central suburbs, as well as along the North Western motorway to Westgate.

      1. “…the Government vest the light rail project with the NZ Railways Corporation as new Government rail agency…”

        I like this idea. Of course a government agency would cover the entire country and not just Auckland. Even a sub-part of Kiwirail could work.

        1. KiwiRail is a freight logistics company, they barely tolerate or understand passenger services on their existing network, there is no benefit in having them involved in any new urban passenger network.

          Not suggesting either Transdev or AT are great at running Akl Metro services, but there is no doubt having three players involved complicates everything enormously. Especially when one of them is focused on something else entirely on the network.

          NZRC is an asset holding structure, it simply owns the land beneath the rails (and Wellington Station), that would bring very little benefit to the construction and operations of new rapid transit systems.

          It’s a mistake to think just cos a new urban rapid transit system will run on rails that our existing rail organisations have much to bring to it. It’s much more important that it’s integrated with the city itself (housing, employment, etc) and especially other passenger systems; bus systems, cycleways etc.

          Much better that NZTA and/or AT are in the, err, driver’s seat here.

        2. Chris N: Kiwirail also operate The Great Journeys of New Zealand which includes the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific, TranzAlpine & InterIslander. I’d hope that these are passenger carrying services given that I’ve travelled on two of them.

          That said, the services mentioned are long distance services, so its highly possible or even probable that Kiwirail lacks experience in urban transport solutions.

          It’s all academic anyway. This is the government we’re talking about. Whatever the most sensible solution is, they won’t be doing it. For a detailed description of government operations just look up the dictionary under S.N.A.F.U (Situation Normal, All F*cked Up).

        3. Chris N – Kiwirail operated Wellington’s passenger services for years and did a perfectly good job of it.

  23. Given what the virus has done to international air travel, and the unknown number of years before its possible recovery, the business case for the high speed metro to the airport is surely now dead, if there ever was one to start with. The original LRT plan is probably far more shovel ready than anything else, and was much cheaper.

    The last few weeks has been an interesting lesson in what is really possible for transport demand management. Maybe the idea of shutting down Dominion Road to through traffic is more acceptable now. The locals would get much less traffic and there are alternative routes as others have said.

    If that change cannot be politically stomached, then the NW line seems the next best way to do something useful for the most people.

    1. Agree driverless metro light rail proposal should be dropped in light of the massive decline in air travel and concentrate on implementing the more appropriate original AT light rail proposal with having street level light running out of the CBD along Queen Street and Symonds Street and along the main arterial roads into central suburbs, as well as along the North Western motorway to Westgate.

      1. Yes a serious re-think is needed about light rail in Auckland now. Auckland Airport should not be the primary focus for rapid / mass transport for the city. Light rail in the central city and to Westgate makes sense, but I’d rather see improvements and expansion to the existing train system, and more ferry services to take advantage of the city’s harbours and waterways for public transport.

        New ferry routes to Browns Bay, Takapuna, St Heliers Bay and Howick should be seriously looked into. Building new ferry terminals would be a lot less involved and a lot less expensive than the most recent light rail proposals to the airport and could be built far quicker and would serve a lot more people.

        1. While the Airport should never have been a termination, and extending to line to terminate there was a big mistake because it gave focus to those that oppose public transport in any form.
          However, including the airport as just another station on a system that connect South East Auckland with South West Auckland and the CBD make total sense.
          I think that we need to start building the Light Rail system from Puhinui Station outwards towards both the Airport Precinct and Manukau Centre and learn from the experiences with that and then extend the system towards Botany and Onehunga Station and then towards the CBD and even continue on to Panmure.
          If we look back in history at our old trams system we can see that an enlarged and efficient light rail system will give Auckland the basis of a great interconnected multi mode public transport system.
          I see Heavy Rail as the major backbone system running from the CBD to the South, East and West then Light Rail being the secondary system doing the heavy lifting to the major destinations and Buses, and mini coaches filling in the last mile commuter gaps.

        2. Instead of light rail from the airport to Botany, why not just expand heavy rail to run from Sylvia Park-Pakuranga-Botany-Manukau-Airport-Onehunga, and thus linking the Onehunga Line and Eastern Line together via the CRL to make a big city loop as a new backbone to the public transport network. This could be supported with buses and more ferry routes.

          I don’t see the point of spending massive amounts of money on creating a separate light rail system which is reliant on road space and will therefore be hugely contentious to build and will be difficult to get built, when there is already a good heavy rail network which just needs some capacity expansion in places and some new routes.

          Heavy rail train services should be extended to Helensville as well as to Waiuku, along with a new daily inter-regional service to Tauranga.

        3. Hard to see any logic for ferries from Howick. They would need a very long wharf, which reduces an already small walk up catchment.

          Once the Eastern busway opens it will be much quicker to get to the CBD via a bus to Panmure and train from there. There is also the added benefit of connecting to many other destinations something a ferry can’t do easily.

        4. “why not just expand heavy rail to run from Sylvia Park-Pakuranga-Botany-Manukau-Airport-Onehunga, and thus linking the Onehunga Line and Eastern Line together via the CRL to make a big city loop as a new backbone to the public transport network. This could be supported with buses and more ferry routes.”

          Because tunnelling heavy rail along that entire route would be more expensive than tunneling a metro from the city centre to the airport, that proposal doesn’t add any capacity into the city centre, that proposal doesn’t add rapid transit through the central isthmus, and circle lines are absolutely terrible operationally as there is no ‘end’ to correct bunching.

          Essentially you need to ask yourself, do I want:
          a) the heavy rail line you described, or
          b) 150 km of surface light rail.

          Because they cost about the same.
          Also, regarding your ferry idea. It currently takes about 20 minutes to get from Takapuna to Aotea Sq on a bus. The ferry takes almost 15 minutes just to get from Devonport to Britomart. Who on earth would be better served by a ferry from Takapuna? We should learn from Sydney, another harbour city: ferries there carry an even lower share of public transport passengers than in Auckland.

        5. Who said anything about tunneling the entire route for heavy rail? The only section which would need tunneling would be between Manukau station and the southern end of Te Irirangi Drive near Hollyford Drive. A heavy rail line could be built at surface level using a mixture of road corridors such as the middle of Ti Irirangi Drive, which was originally designed with rail planned to run down the middle, and creating new rail corridors.

          Agreed a ferry to Takapuna would probably take the same amount of time as a bus – but buses can be delayed by congestion. And isn’t there a looming issue with too many buses coming into the CBD – hence the original AT plan for light rail into the CBD?? Having a ferry service from Takapuna would reduce the amount of buses coming into the CBD. Ferries are also not affected by road traffic congestion.

          A ferry to Browns Bay and to Howick would be popular with being new express public transport services running along ‘congestion free’ routes.

          Ferries would be a lot more popular if the fares were bought into line with the same level of subsidies as trains and buses get, along with having the same zones and fare prices. The cost of ferry travel is quite high compared to alternative travel options with the independent private ferry operators running these services such as they are at present.

        6. A ferry to Takapuna wouldn’t be anywhere near competitive with a bus. It’s 12 km from britomart to the reef at the northern end of Takapuna Beach. This is the same distance as Beachhaven, which takes half an hour. The town centre is also a 1km walk from this potential ferry terminal.

          So you’re looking at a 15 minute walk and a 30 minutes ferry ride, instead of a 15 second walk and a 20 minute bus ride.

          Browns Bay is about 19km from the city centre, so this is closer to Gulf harbour or Waiheke times, which are 40 minutes+ and the ferry terminal would be 600m from the actual town centre. So you’re looking at about 50 minutes total. The bus currently takes 50 minutes *including* all of the dog legs from Albany to Constellation which are currenty being removed.

          Not only this, but every single ferry journey ends 400m away from the nearest destination in the city centre. It’s terrible for accessing Wynyard Quarter or Aotea. A ferry route is a transit line with only 2 stops. None of these are ever successful.

          Heavy rail could not run on street anywhere except maybe SH20B. The curves are too tight, and you’d have to grade separate it at every intersection. Creating new corridors would be obscenely expensive too, you’d be buying 1,000s of homes in Auckland, that’s billions of dollars just in land. Then you still have to grae separate every road crossing.

        7. Its weird how building surface light rail on existing road corridors is a problem, but not for HR if that is your own personal preference…..

  24. Nope. Already looked at and ruled out. There isnt the extra capacity, its ridiculously expensive because of geotechnical issues and in a similar vein, those issues restrict how many stations you can have between Onehunga and the airport.

    More money, less catchment and terrible fequencies. Its all in the analysis if the HR folk care to read it.

  25. Just heard on TV1 news that Govt has canned Auckland Light Rail and they will wait until after election then maybe look at it again.
    LR RIP

      1. Don’t forget failing to test before leaving quarantine.

        Funny how Ardern is always MIA when it comes to fronting bad news stories.

    1. Yep, twyford has butchered light rail by dropping the designed and funded plan in 2017, spending three years fiddling with with himself then trying to save face by picking up an insane $20b rent-to-own metro scheme that everyone knew was a terrible idea the second the Canadian investment bank dreamed it up.

      The paper is right, rail is further behind now than it was when he started. How is this clown still in office.

      1. Now also immensely damaged by the perception that it is for the airport only and totally removed from the initial reasons for using it on key transport routes.

        Three years, and we’ve managed to go backwards – and Twyford has been promoted.

  26. Surely we can have broad agreement across all who have an interest in PT that Winston Peters has done everyone a favour by putting his foot down against the expensive PPP proposal? It wasn’t even light rail.

    By making it an election issue once more, it gives the public the opportunity to demand deatils of what each party is offering. If Labour want to resurrect it, then they’ll need to clearly articulate whether they are pushing light rail or metro.

    It’s also an opportunity to stop incompatibility from being established in the rail network. Any new lines must be 1067mm, fully compatible with the existing network, to maximise future benefits.

    1. Rumour has it the prime minister put her foot down too, and clearly the greens did also. Luckily politics seems to have worked to avoid a total disaster.

      Twyfords hugely expensive metro plan was dead before it started, even without the insane PPP plan. The light rail was contentious enough, then quadrupling the cost and making it even more invasive was just stupid.

    2. Agree regarding PPPs.

      However, I can’t see any logic to making light rail down Dominion Rd 1067mm gauge. None of our heavy rail rolling stock are ever going to run down Dominion Road. In addition light rail vehicles will likely have a different floor height to our existing EMUs thus would be no use on the existing HR network. Making them 1067mm just for the sake of it will just increase the cost of purchasing them.

      1. As they say, Yes but…..
        If the light rail is built to run on 1067 mm then the line from the Airport to Puhinui could also be connected to the mainline at Puhinui which would allow for a freight spur to the airport commercial area.
        Actually there are a number of narrow gauge Light rail system around the world, admitting most are 1m gauge

      2. jezza, 1067mm enables a third class of vehicle to operate across the light and heavy networks. Why have 1435mm gauge to Huapai, when the Huapai-Helensville portion of the SH16 commuter belt is already built, and is 1067mm? Join them up to enable a single through service.

        Likewise, if the North Shore line to Orewa gets extended to Wellsford at some point, you would want it compatible. It wasn’t even two weeks ago that the council up north announced it is including commuter rail in its plans for Maungaturoto, Kaiwaka and Wellsford.

        You could also have a Papakura-Airport service at some point, or CBD-Airport service.

        Interoperability between the two 1067mm networks opens up so many options for the future. The current plan to have two incompatible networks is another four lane harbour bridge/no rail mistake that future generations will criticize us for.

        1. Do you know the best thing about the four lane harbour bridge Geoff?

          It was practical and affordable to build. So they did build it, and it worked extremely well, and then they expanded it, and it’s still working extremely well.

          I don’t see why you would criticize them for actually building a bridge, when the alternative was to not build a bridge because you were talking about some expensive odd thing that never gets off the ground.

          The minister should have learned the same lesson before taking the affordable and practical light rail plan and turning it into a ten billion dollar metro line that’s impossible to fund or build.

          If he’d followed the bridge builders model he would be going into an election with Auckland’s next rail line already under construction, rather than announcing that he’s not even going to proceed with the planning of it.

        2. That’s hardly a strong reason go with 1067mm. If commuter rail ever goes west of Huapai it will likely require electrification and double tracking at which point you might as well just build two new tracks a 1400mm gauge.

          If the port moves north and freight train frequencies go up it’s unlikely trams will be sharing the tracks anyway.

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