Last Monday I wrote about some of the trade-offs we can expect will need to be made when the government make a decision on Light Rail, something we originally expected later this month. Then on Wednesday, Transport Minister Michael Wood made an announcement on it, setting up a group look at the trade-offs of the various options that have arisen for light rail.

Transport Minister Michael Wood is getting Auckland light rail back on track with the announcement of an establishment unit to progress this important city-shaping project and engage with Aucklanders.

Michael Wood said the previous process didn’t involve Aucklanders enough.

“There’s wide-ranging support for rapid transit but Aucklanders felt shut out of the project. Today I’m drawing a line under that and involving Aucklanders from the get-go.

“Light rail is a critical investment to develop a modern, connected mass-transit system in New Zealand’s largest city, supporting jobs, growth, and housing.

“Without decisive investment in mass transit Auckland will choke on its own growth. Light rail will support growth in Māngere, Onehunga, and Mount Roskill in particular, connecting these communities and giving people the option to leave the car at home, which will help reduce congestion and emissions.

“As the new Transport Minister, I’ve been tasked with getting the project moving and I acknowledge Aucklanders were shut out of the previous process. We’ve had calls for Government to involve communities and stakeholders – I’ve listened and this is what we’ll do.

“The Government has tasked an Establishment Unit with a six-month work programme including:

  • partnering with Māori,
  • engaging with stakeholders and communities,
  • developing a business case so evidence-based decisions can be made on mode and route, providing cost estimates, and funding and financing options which includes looking at value capture,
  • determining the best form for the delivery entity, which will be either City Rail Link Limited or a new joint venture with Auckland Council.

“The Establishment Unit will be led by an inclusive governance board, involving an independent chair, local government, key agencies and community and Māori representatives. Taking this inclusive approach allows for a strong focus on engagement – which is crucial to getting the best outcome for Auckland.

“Involving Auckland Council is critical, so the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Auckland will work with me and the Minister of Finance to oversee this work.

“Once the Government receives the advice from the establishment unit at the end of the year, we will make the key decisions on route, mode, and delivery entity. We will then be able to give the public certainty on issues like cost and timeframes.

“I know some would have liked me to announce a shovel-ready project today, but I also want to be absolutely certain that the plan we move forward with is the right one. That’s why this fresh start is involving Aucklanders and doing the work alongside them.

“Our vision for Auckland is to create a vibrant connected city that’s easier, cleaner and safer to get around – light rail will help make that happen. The city centre to Māngere line will be a backbone that eventually will link with the North and North-west, forming a rapid transit network that fully integrates with other forms of transport across the city.

There is somewhat of an element of the government setting up yet another working group but at the same time it does feel like the right move for gaining clarity on the best way forward. The addition of light metro to the discussion over the last few years has raised a heap of new questions and getting a clear answer on them wasn’t helped by the Ministry of Transports dodgy process.

Perhaps most importantly is that Auckland will be involved in the process this time. During the last process the Ministry did seek some feedback from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport but clearly ignored much of it and were happy to ignore any existing plans, policies and strategies in order to get an outcome. For example, the Ministry refused to rule out letting the winner set fares instead of requiring them to work within Auckland’s existing integrated fares structure. It was even possible AT may have been excluded from having any involvement in the running of services, which would be like the issues we have with the Devonport and Waiheke ferries on steroids.

Following the announcement I also saw some concern about the suggestion of engaging with the community and if would result all sorts of weird and wacky ideas. However, if that discussion is kept focused on the trade-offs and with good supporting information it could be quite useful for fleshing out public support. I also think the issues could be somewhat mitigated by another important part of the announcement, the modes and routes.


The Minister confirmed that the trade-offs meant either a light rail or a light metro option would be chosen. I think this is useful and should allow this new establishment unit to focus on optimising what each of these look like. If this is done in a fair and transparent way then whatever the outcome it will help in building support for it. So while we think a surface light rail solution is the better outcome for Auckland at this stage, if the case for a metro solution is strong then we’ll absolutely get behind it.

Will we see light rail gliding through the town centres along Dominion Rd?


Perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement was that two routes are being considered, Dominion Rd as we’ve known but also Sandringham Rd. I’ve looked at Sandringham Rd and other isthmus corridors as options in the past.

My understanding is Sandringham Rd emerged from the Waka Kotahi bid on the previous process and the main reason for it is that the government, by way of Kāinga Ora, own a huge amount of land near the southern end of Sandringham Rd. This presents them with the potential to tie in light rail to the redevelopment of that land, and ensure that redevelopment happens as opposed to waiting on the private sector to deliver change around Dominion Rd – though the National Policy Statement on Urban Development should see a lot more of the land around Dominion Rd up-zoned for development. You can see the scale of the Kāinga Ora land in the map below with the grey squares being their properties.

The downsides to Sandringham Rd are that it currently has the lowest bus usage of  the central isthmus corridors and most obviously creates a longer route than Dominion Rd, by about 1.5km. That means comparatively it would be both slower and more expensive to build.

It would also see the system duplicate the Western Line more and I think that development could be just as well served by our crosstown light rail proposal giving locals a quick and easy transfer to either the western line or Dominion Rd services. Combined with a future route on Manukau Rd we could aim for a network that looks something like this.

With this process the government are intended to have a decision on the mode and route by the end of the year.

Finally, one thing I forgot to add to my post last week and is relevant for this discussion is the recent Sydney experience. While it won’t be completely comparable, it is the kind of difference I expect we’ll see when talking about this in Auckland.

The first part of Sydney’s new light rail opened in December-2019 and the second part in April last year in the midst of COVID. Even with those impacts, there were about 9.2 million trips in the 12-months to the end of February. Comparatively, the first stage of their new Metro system opened six months earlier in May-2019 and in the same 12-month period it carried about 11.3 million people. The metro system clearly carried more, though would have also benefited from being open sooner and light rail was very slow initially but has since improved. But there is a real difference in the cost. Light Rail cost about A$2.2 billion while the metro line cost about A$8.3 billion.

Put another way, the surface light rail option is moving about 80% of the people for a quarter of the cost.

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  1. Given the parlous state of Dominion road with derelict and boarded up retail spaces everywhere plenty of shops must be clinging on by their fingernails. With the fate of businesses along the route of CRL as a chilling example who could blame business interests along Dominion road signaling any light rail work will be fanatically opposed? And that opposition will be given a megaphone by the ambiently anti-PT, pro-extreme property right NZ Herald. A well resourced oppostion from Dominion Road commercial property owners could delay the project by years.

    So politically speaking pushing the route down Sandringham road instead is a really attractive option, especially if you can make a virtue of the route by tying it into Kāinga Ora developments. IMHO that route is starting to look more and more of a winner.

    1. Sandringham Rd is also lined with small businesses that’d be just as vocal expressing their fear of disruption. There’s no reason to think it’d be politically much easier.

      Fortunately the disruption would be less severe than for City Rail Link. Albert St was dug up for years for CRL 2. Putting in at-grade light rail on Dominion Rd (or Sandringham) should only take a few weeks to do any given section. In fact most of the construction time will be spent on service relocation and streetscape enhancements rather than laying track (not that that helps, disruption is still disruption).

      1. You never know how long anything will take with contractors in this city. The build process per km could just as likely be six weeks to lay the track, twelve weeks to realign & beautify the footpaths and kerbs then twelve weeks to build the cycle path that runs for just 500m in six different places followed by six months of sundry upgrades to the upgrades, repairs to the repairs and routine maintenance that happens to coincide with the roadworks and it will all done sequentially rather than concurrently.

        1. It’s locating and relocating the underground services that takes time/causes disruption, light rail is not just about track laying especially on an old road like Dominion.

      2. Yes I agree that any section should only take a few weeks. Kiwi Rail replaced or repaired 134 km of line in Auckland over 7 months and that was mainly overnight or in weekends. The track to Mangere will be mainly straight with no crossovers or points etc. We don’t need perfect like AT taking 2 years to build 1km of bikeway on K’Rd or similar on Tamaki Dr. The stops should be basic but attractive. We don’t need stations like huge Otahuhu station with 450m of covered platforms. Or a copy of the $50 million Puhinui station.
        I support a low cost build as any long disruptive high cost line will mean future lines will be delayed and the car lobby will be vocal.

        1. Yep. If they can sort the permits, it could be done overnight with sections of dominion road closed to traffic – lots of alternative route options so people shouldn’t be put out.
          Given the rate at which parts of Dominion road is changing, I would have thought light rail would be supported. It may even make it more convenient for people to visit eateries etc.

      3. “should only take a few weeks to do any given section” – you have to be dreaming mate. Seriously – there is a massive amount of time that would need to be devoted to that.

        “could be done overnight with sections of dominion road closed” – I fear you are devoid of any connection to reality. I’m all for Light Rail, but people need to be aware that this is a lengthy and extremely disruptive process. As Tom Semmens says above, the process is likely to take something more like 24 weeks (6 months) and be installed in a rolling maul sort of operation. There has been 50+ years of services installed down Dominion Road and they all have to be dug up and diverted out of there. Fresh water, sewers, storm water, electricity, data, gas, that we know of – and many more surprises lurking under the surface. Every single service will be linked to properties on both sides of the road at nearly every single property – it is a mammoth job. Huge disruption. And that’s all got to happen before they lay a single inch of track. Speaking from many years of experience here…

        1. I agree. There is no way of building anything down Dominion Road without it being a prolonged debacle. Anyone in business on Dominion Rd should negotiate a clause in their lease that they can leave without penalty if the light rail builders arrive.

          The biggest issue is that the authorities simply don’t care. With Albert St their only interest was not being held liable for any of the costs they put businesses to. After that if it is cheaper to build by prolonging the project then they will. Their preferred approach is let each contractor have access sequentially with the parts of the site that contractor isn’t working on being left idle.

          The only way to avoid that is to require the contractor to lease access to the road so if it takes twice as long they pay twice the rent. If they can reduce the duration they get a cost saving. It was used on motorways in the UK as lane rentals and was an effective way to get things finished. The cost of the rental is included in the contract price so it is neutral if the job is done within the projected time.

        2. It was the unknown underground services that caused the delays/cost blowouts for the Sydney Light rail extension.

        3. I used to think this too but after looking into it a bit more the situation on Dominion Rd is actually a lot better than expected.

          The hardest service to relocate is the gravity wastewater network. The mains are the deepest and are typically laid in the centre of the road so laterals from properties on both sides can feed into them. Well Dominion Rd doesn’t have any, all the properties wastewater laterals feed into mains on the side streets. I’m guessing this is because there would have been tram lines up Dominion Rd when the wastewater network was first put in.

          The water mains all run close to the boundaries. Only the road crossings will need to be relocated for light rail. Power, gas and telecommunications will be present but they aren’t deep and are relatively easy to relocate.

          I agree that abandoned services do pose a serious risk to the project but that’s predominantly on Queen St, not Dominion Rd. Relocating services is an operation that can be done without significant disruption several months ahead of the main track laying. Once the corridor is clear of services then track laying can be executed quickly (with the significant disruption of a full road closure but mitigated by rapid progress).

  2. Sydney Metro vs Light rail:

    Currently, the Sydney metro stops 10 km short of Sydney CBD at Chatswood, where you need to transfer. This constrains capacity and usefulness.

    Eventually this project will pass through Central and onto the existing Bankstown line.

    Together with other improvements, the aim is to increase Sydney’s rail system capacity by 100,000 passengers per hour:

    Sydney’s second light rail route replaces the busy bus routes of the south eastern suburbs (good old tram routes).

      1. Sure… For the record:

        Sydney’s SE light rail is 12 km long.
        That’s roughly Onehunga to Britomart.

        Stage 1 of the metro is 36 km long.
        That’s roughly Drury to Britomart.

        Eventually the lengthy of that Metro line will be 66 km:
        That’s Drury to Waitakere via the CRL.
        Sydney’s big!

        1. Do not that the Sydney Metro is mostly, by length, the conversion of an existing grade separated passenger heavy rail line to metro. The actual new build of tunneled and elevated sections is far more expensive than the average suggests.

    1. Yes they’re not directly comparable but useful. You do fail to point out however that to get to and through the city it’s costing an extra A$16b+.
      Also a lot the stage 1 route includes existing lines that were converted to metro operation, same with the stage 2.

        1. There is something wrong with Sydney’s infrastructure costs.
          They are eye-wateringly expensive and they have all blown their budgets.
          The Westconnex motorway started at $16 Billion. Current estimates place the cost at $20-45 B! They also want to build another harbour tunnel to connect to that too.

          I am not advocating for any Sydney projects.

          Like the NBN fiasco, it is a good cautionary tale.

          Billion is the new million.

        2. There’s something very wrong with infrastructure construction costs in New Zealand too. Such a difficult thing to break down and there likely isn’t an organization or individual or system that could be blamed solely, but something really has to be done eventually. Why is everything so expensive. Not just rail projects either.

        3. Two methods of Light Rail installation NOT to follow are: Sydney and Edinburgh, some of the most expensive builds in LR on the planet. Instead, get the Spanish in here, who have managed to install LR for a tenth of the price as Sydney. We should pay attention to Sydney as a prime example of what NOT to do, nothing else.

        4. average human: It was a Spanish company, Acciona, that built the Light Rail in Sydney so that may not necessarily get costs down.

  3. The Treasury has warned them against the current approach as it will dilute accountability. As far as I can see asking Auckland what they want on this will just attract a few hundred pro-forma submissions written by one numpty and clicked by the clueless.

    1. Treasury should have a good chat with AT then. They run a 6 month consultation just to remove a carpark or two.

      1. I think their issue is you shouldn’t fill the board making a decision with the stakeholders who all have different vested interests.
        My issue is that unless a minister provides a directive then nothing will ever happen. I saw that first hand trying to get a school built on the shore. If the Minister is vague then the public servants will also be vague so they don’t offend the minister. The result is everything stalls. Even setting a clear objective would help. If the purpose is to reduce buses then you choose Dominion Rd, if the purpose is to grow public transport then you choose Sandringham.

        1. The problem is that there are many objectives that light rail could achieve: airport link, remove buses, support development, placemaking, speed, catchment, etc. They should look to a solution to achieve as many good outcomes as possible, but if they can’t get there in 6 months then I guess the govt have to be ready to force a solution.

  4. I just had an idea and wonder if that’s been considered at all:
    From the city and along Dominion Rd metro would be (probably prohibitively) expensive, but the difference would be small from there to the airport as that party would already have a dedicated corridor.
    We could build two systems with a transfer: (driverless) metro from the airport to Onehunga and along the motorway (possibly extended to the Western line), and a separate light rail along Dominion Rd into the city. The metro could then also be extended along Manukau Rd (as was suggested on here before) in the future if warranted.
    I don’t know if the overhead of having two systems (stabling yards etc) makes this undesirable, but I feel like we could build what’s best suited for each of the two parts and then build a network from there. If we’re taking 5 minute frequency (as we should) then the transfer wouldn’t be a big deal.

    1. Why not save some money by having a ferry instead of a bridge over the Manukau? Ok it’s 3 transfers, but apparently that’s not a problem?

  5. Isn’t the Sydney light rail project a cautionary tale? Over budget and heavily criticised for how slow it is?

    1. Agree about the cost, however they’ve managed to speed up the Sydney light rail to 32 mins from end to end which isn’t too bad at all.

  6. If Sandringham Road is selected, would it be a good idea to start building stage 1 from Kingsland Station to Mount Roskill, could mean starting some services a little earlier? Gives an option to run the City phase either as normal parallel to Western Line or along Bond Street as a spur from the North Western line.

    Although we are yet to see business owners and residents of Dominion Roads official response, i’m starting to feel the same as I do about those responses from places like Taka (downtown carpark) and St Helliers (safety improvements) and that is if you don’t want something cool we should invest elsewhere, that being Sandringham Road. New businesses will pop up along Sandringham Road along with denser neighbourhoods and Dominion Road will be left to try and be successful without more people being given access to it.

    1. Is Sandringham as wide? The Sandringham shops part seems very narrow to me. Maybe they would need to go under there?
      To my knowledge the Dominion Road businesses are in favour. Realistically it is either light rail or very frequent diesel buses. Either way a serious upgrade is required.

      1. Yes Sandringham, Dominion, Mt Eden and Manukau Rd all started as 20.1m (or 1 chain) but there has been widening at intersections since. Dominion has a road widening designation for passenger transport where it hasn’t already been widened, but the AT scheme didn’t make use of it as they claimed they could fit everything into 20m. A stirrer could now object to that designation at the Unitary Plan review on the grounds it isn’t needed and use their scheme as evidence.

        1. Sandringham is starting to look like the easier option isn’t it, and it provides better catchment to Mt Roskill Kāinga Ora and western line rail connection at Kingsland. In fact I would call Sandringham the favourite at this stage. I notice Woods barely mentioned the Airport so I don’t think speed is as important to him as it was Twyford.

        2. No the designation expires 12 years after the Unitary Plan went operative so 2016+12=2028. But they will just roll it over even if they don’t need it. Designations are a bit of a sham. They hold this pretend hearing where the Commissioners can only recommend. The actual decision is made by the Requiring Authority who are not even in the room.
          See page 450

        3. ” but the AT scheme didn’t make use of it as they claimed they could fit everything into 20m. ”

          You are wrong on that, AT did make use of the widening designation where it was useful. Between stations they generally weren’t using it, but most of the station areas did.

  7. I think they should create 2 lines: Queen/Dominion/SH20 south/Airport and Queen/Dominion/SH20 west/Avondale. As noted there is a lot of state housing land on that second route that could be developed. I doubt there would be much extra cost to build the second line, it mainly leverages off the existing investment in Queen Street and Dominion Road.
    Optionally make the Mangere/Airport line limited stops on Dominion (or under) to speed it up with the Avondale line all stops.

  8. Okay build Airport Onehunga first then through to Avondale as outlined in Harriets post for cross town light rail. Buses on Dominion road connecting to light rail at Mount Roskill end. Investigate a cross town heavy rail route from Onehunga via a southern turnout at Penrose then bypass Westfield Junction onto Sylvia Park and terminate at Panmure. ie all in the present rail corridor.

    1. I’m not sure cross town light rail stacks up at the moment: there is barely enough demand to fill a frequent bus service. As in my post above I think its better to have two lines that both go to the city; we already know there is significant demand for this due to the current bus usage. And we know the busiest bit will be along Dominion Road and Queen Street so best for that section to have twice the frequency.
      Cross town users can change at SH20/Dominion.

      1. Okay but we need to think in terms of enticing people who are currently in cars onto public transport rather than just those who are using buses at the moment.
        With regards to having two lines then why not more maybe they can be light light rail maybe more like a tram and maybe there would be a link between them along SH20 which could operate as a cross town tram.
        As an aside back in the day of trams they would often hitch up a couple of trailers to satisfy peak demand. The other thing was the people loved there trams and were sad to see them go.

        1. Yes agree we need to get more people out of cars and onto PT and to do that we have to make PT attractive. Currently out West bus travel is very poor- stuck in general traffic. We need to start taking lanes and making them PT only. We cant expect people to move to more sustainable and active transport if we compromise those modes so as not to impact on single occupancy vehicles.

      2. And that is the problem. People think using PT to go across town is too much of a hassle so drive it. If it was clear and easy to use it will be well patronised. Just look at London’s Overground network as an example. Very underutilised until TfL brought the various railway lines in house and turned them into one.

  9. Its amazing how much this project has evolved: from originally being all about removing Dominion Road buses from Symonds Street, to then being an Airport route, and now I suspect its mainly about allowing for significant Kāinga Ora and private development in Mangere and Mt Roskill.

    1. Yes. I, for one, would be happier to see a project defined in terms of the services it is to deliver rather than the technology to be employed. “City Centre – Mangere Service Improvement” or whatever rather than “Light Rail”.

    2. That big grey chunk of Kainga Ora property south of SH20 has mostly been done. Having the light rail pass by there would have been a good idea.

      Maybe they will catch a connecting bus…

      1. They glide as softly as a cloud!

        (Seriously: the Pod People don’t ever seem to give up, not even after 15 years, looking for suckers who think there are technological fixes to political problems)

        1. They are trying to fix the wrong problem. They assume the problem is that people don’t want to use PT because they don’t like being near strangers. But the real problem is that it is too expensive to install decent PT. Would be great if they can fix the real problem through technology.

  10. So we knew they were revisiting Light Rail – what exactly did this achieve again? 12 months of nothing happening, except now they have a shield from “This was meant to be delivered already” when we get to the end of 2021.

    Meanwhile, the North West ‘bus shoulder lanes’ band-aid solution is more likely to become the permanent one, which is a joke. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any urgency in proper rapid transit being deployed any time soon, as there was nothing happening on the NW LRT business case previously, and scant mention of it now.

    1. Looks like the NW is in the queue after this project. That will probably be a good 10 years away before they start (assuming a PT friendly govt then).

      1. The NW has been a “we’ll get to it eventually” now for four years and counting. As an ATAP Decade One priority from 2018, there is now 7 years to get some form of rapid transit up and running along that corridor. If the Govt can’t uphold its end of the deal then it needs to explain why it’s building Kiwibuild infill housing in Massey during a climate emergency, with no firm plan to actually link the area with rapid transit. It can’t have it both ways.

  11. I think it would be extremly unwise to depart from standard “off the shelf” technology into the realm of unproven and likely to become orphaned systems.
    Several manufacturers offer standard designs 1435mm gauge 750V overhead supply equipment and vehicles that are interchangeable. Standard enhancements are available to enable wire less running for parts of the network. This configuration is widespread worldwide ensuring a continuation of competitive supply.
    Adelaide, as well as has it’s semi orphaned Obahn, has light rail consists from two different manufacturers sharing lines when they took advantage of a cancelled order elsewhere in the world to obtain more rolling stock at a very competitive price.

    1. +1

      It’d be crazy to do anything else. Auckland is not a special case. What works in many European and Australian cities will work here just fine.

      You can even get pre-cast concrete track slab sections to match. Improves quality and speeds up construction.

    2. I am sorry but that is a rule. They will appoint an Englishman who will be convinced that everything that has ever gone before in rail is wrong. We will end up with a new gauge, new voltage and doors that hinge in a different manner.

    3. Most manufacturers offer the same model light rail vehicles for different gauges. In Europe 1435mm is the most common, but 1000mm is also frequently used, and there are some odd ones such as 1100mm, and also the 1067mm Talinn tram (Estonia). For Talinn the standard CAF Urbos model was used. I would still go for 1067mm, because it gives greater flexibility in NZ. I’m not sure we would pick a gauge on the off-chance of getting some second-hand vehicles

      1. Good call to go for gauge uniformity with the rest of the rail system. Gauge uniformity has a multitude of benefits, no dis-benefits of any significance and comes at at the worst zero net cost and can result in savings of billions and the provision a wider range of journeys at minimal marginal cost.

        The large area of Kianga Ora owned land and larger area of surrounding land zoned for six level apartments, centred on the corner of Maiora and Stoddard Roads, can be provided with the highest standard of public transport possible in Auckland by building the shovel ready Mt Roskill Spur. It could be built and up an running well before the CRL opens.

        The area seems custom designed and shovel ready for development along the lines of Vancouver’s Metrotown which has multiple 20 plus story apartment buildings, rapid transit stop, shops, all desired services and a population of 30,000 in an area of 297 hectares. 100 people per hectare gross, now that’s some density. 297 hectares is the area of a circle with a radius of about 970 metres, very walkable.,_Burnaby

    4. Yeah, the original LRT design was standard gauge, 750V OHL which also had capability of wireless running between stations from Wynyard to Aotea, and through the town centres. One issue was what configuration to run – if you want low platforms you generally need smaller wheels, and the smaller wheeled LRV’s don’t have such a high top speed, making them less suitable for the rapid airport run. But a compromise was an LRV that could be capable of up to 80km/h that still had low floors.

      1. Thats an issue from 20 years ago. There are plenty of low platform, high speed steerable bogie LRVs on the market today.

        Some are 100% low floor, and some are drop centre, low floor at all the entries at the middle of the carriages with one or two steps up to seating areas.

  12. I still do not get the infatuation with a CBD to airport service.
    I am sure most people in and out of the Airport are either not CBD bound or originating, and heavy luggage favours door to door shuttles and taxis anyway.
    I know from a lot of my domestic business travel a group heading to or from the same meeting found a shared taxi would be preferable anyway.
    Let us see how the Puhanui frequent and priority bus service connecting to the yet to be provided frequent and fast train service using the yet to be completed CRL pans out before elevating the priority of another parallel service.
    The main problem is that the CBD is close to terminating bus service saturation and and resulting service degradation. That is the immediate problem. Replacing 80 seat buses with higher capacity light rail on the heaviest used routes will provide relief now and allow for increased patronage.
    So the central isthmus, the NorthWest via the causeway, and the North shore via a dedicated public transport tunnel seems to be where it is best to replace the most buses and give the most scope for increased patronage for the least cost.
    Hopefully the required analysis will start from determining the problem to be solved, rather then shopping for a pre favoured solution to an ill defined problem.

    1. I think that infatuation has almost disappeared. The main desire now is to get rapid transit to Mt Roskill / Mangere / Onehunga where there is a lot of govt and private housing development being built (and lots more potential development with LRT).
      If you get LRT to Mangere you may as well carry it on to the airport though right. Maybe they should make that a phase 2 or 3 just so the project stops being associated with it.

    2. “I am sure most people in and out of the Airport are either not CBD bound or originating,’

      Only 2% of Airport trips start or finish in the CBD. There is already a 24/7 CBD to Airport bus service, (SkyBus ) and also a 7 day Puhinui Station to Aiport bus service ( the AirportLink )

    3. You seem to forget the biggest users of the airport, it’s staff.

      As an ex employee of that airport now working at Heathrow, it’s public transport is pitiful. It’s a key workplace for many people in South Auckland who would benefit more then heading to Queen Street where most would never feel the need to go to.

        1. Exactly. PT is criminally bad around there. Better to have decent transport there then a tram (light/metro etc) in the richer areas. Don’t forget many airport periphery workers live in the Onehunga area as I did. I never felt the need to head into the CBD and nor do many people I still know in the area.

  13. DonR wrote “I still do not get the infatuation with a CBD to airport service.”

    As far as I can see the issue is not that at all, more like one painted by those who only want light rail and to discredit any opposition. The fact is we have an established, fully functional rail network that covers Southern line to Hamilton, Eastern line and Western line. Mangere and the airport can be connected via Onehunga for what we call “rapid transit” as opposed to light rail which would be far slower trundling down Dominion Road and Queen St.

    There can also be a line of truly “rapid transit” from Puhinui to the airport and Mangere. Fast services, connected to South Auckland and the Waikato.

    Light rail, also known as trams, perfect for Dominion Road to the Wynard Qtr.

    Yes, we need 3rd and 4th tracks. It seems ridiculous the govt who proclaimed “climate crisis” isn’t funding 4 tracks now, when it would be more economical to complete a 4 track while they build the 3rd (especially at pinch points like Middlemore station).

    Anyway, those who oppose criticism of light rail will continue to rant on about “CBD to the airport” when I have outlined this is simply a fake news headline touted by the pro-light rail “only” side.

    The fact is we need light rail to Dom Rd AND expansion of the existing railway network from Onehunga – Mangere – Airport – Puhinui. It will take 6 -10 years to build these two in any case.

    1. No one is “opposing criticism of light rail”, instead criticising the HR fanaticism which refuses to do the research and understand HR is not a solution for the Onehunga-Airport corridor. And ignoring that there soon will be a rapid transit link from the airport to Puhinui.

      Just because it looks achievable on a map doesn’t mean it works in practice.

      1. Having taken the preliminary bus service it’s pretty good, and will be much better once the dedicated lanes and station are done. I think it’s the best medium term solution. Perhaps a heavy rail link will be needed in the future, but doing it 30 years early incurs a massive opportunity cost. Reserve a corridor maybe or prevent further worsening of a potential corridor.

        1. The bus link is stage 1 of the Airport to Botany (A2B) BRT line, which can be converted later to LRT. It needs to be looked at in that context: an East Auckland rapid transit line.

          HR will never need to be considered for this stretch and why should it?. Its narrow thinking, just to connect with the Southern Line when A2B provides a whole new line and an easy connection to the Southern Line from the north and south.

    2. I do agree that they should revisit the heavy rail Onehunga/Mangere/Airport option if it is still doable (although I can’t see any real reason for Puhinui). Heavy rail would probably be a cheaper high speed option than Twyford’s light metro.
      However I imagine the best bang for buck by a long way is still the original AT street level light rail to the airport and that is what will be chosen. We don’t need a gold plated perfect solution to the airport, it doesn’t justify having billions spent on it.

      1. If its a refresh, the yes, it should probably be back in the mix for review.

        But its hard to see how the results will be any different; more expensive, less stations and a need to spend extra on double-tracking north of Onehunga. Oh, and network constraints.

        As has been mentioned many times, we can’t keep overloading the same network. It needs a complimentary one (or more).

  14. Im going to have the unpopular opinion and say I think the shuttle bus from the airport to the southern line is actually pretty good having taken it a couple times now. And will be a very solid long term solution, especially Once it’s bus lanes and dedicated station are done it will have consistent and fast average travel times. Imo faster than a heavy rail link there would inevitably end up. If demand was sufficient to run any kind of semi frequent heavy rail services then the services from the bus would be every 5 minutes which I personally would vastly prefer. The transfer from a 10 (maybe 7) minute southern or eastern line in the future to the 5 minute bus would be preferable direct to the 20 or 30 minute heavy rail frequencies to the airport direct. Especially because wherever on the heavy rail network you are, you will be able to single transfer to the airport bus (if post crl running patterns are to be believed).

      1. I commented similarly above, but it has to be remembered that the link will be extended into East Auckland, firstly to Manukau then up to Botany. East Aucklanders are commuters too and some will also need to access the airport.

        The A2B initiative adds a whole new mass transit line to a RTN starved area of the city, while also connecting the airport to the southern line. If as successful as I suspect, it will eventually be LRT.

        1. And excellent point on the comparison in frequencies. I am sure those pushing HR have not considered this.

        2. Yes the frequencies are always forgotten. LR every 5 mins to city will often be quicker then HR every 20 mins for turn up and go passengers (pretty much anyone leaving the airport). I really can’t see HR being any more frequent than 20 mins at best if via Puhinui, maybe a bit better if via Onehunga.

        3. I can’t see billions being spent on a rapid transit line unless it can run 5 min frequencies or better. That alone pretty much rules out anything connecting to the existing rail network.

        4. Great point. You would be better going for BRT and convert to LRT if/when capacity warrants it.

          Spending billions for 10min frequencies (or worse) is a waste of money.

        5. For sure, the rest of the line to botany / potentially the rest of AMETI is a huge deal / argument for the BRT service instead of a HR spur. If one seat journeys are the most important metric then continuing the BRT line down to the airport goes a long way to making up for the forced transfer from for people coming to / from the city.

          One issue I think may be a big deal in the future is the construction time while these BRT routes are being converted into LR lines. A good couple years where passengers will be displaced. Eg northern busway being converted would be an enormous pain. Shouldn’t be a huge detractor for BRT but, definitely worth thinking about.

          Frequency is a big deal, especially when you want to soak up off peak trips, rather than just commuters with repeat, scheduled trips

    1. Okay so post CRL and light rail you live on the western line and want to go to the airport could you just hop on a train and take a one seat ride to Puhinui. Or would it be better to transfer to light rail at some yet to be specified point and get a ride to the airport that way. What about for other journeys from out west to Eastern or Southern destinations. Think about the huge amount of traffic on state highway 20 will the light rail make any difference to this flow. Does there need to be a cross town public transport route to rival state highway 20. I think there is going to be a line via Newmarket that bypasses the CRL but it only runs to Otahuhu.

      1. I was saying that the already mostly built bus connection to the southern line makes any heavy rail spur (especially the direct, non-onehunga spur) to the airport mostly pointless. At least until capacity on a BRT route is constrained. I wasn’t making a comment about any other rail or PT route to the airport. Especially any cross town line.

        That said, some cross town rapid transit solution should be implemented. likely some kind of BRT line.

      2. “Okay so post CRL and light rail you live on the western line and want to go to the airport could you just hop on a train and take a one seat ride to Puhinui”

        Answer; Yes.

        You can do the same trip today, but you need to switch trains at Newmarket.

  15. Going via Sandringham would give good connection to the heavy rail network at Kingsland with a joint station there. Saves passengers having to go all the way in to Aotea before being able to transfer easily. And you could stage construction to have the initial northern terminus being Kingsland station, before continuing into the city proper in stage 2 to help with funding.

  16. I think the Sydney Metro vs Sydney Light Rail comparison is a bit difficult to use to make points about cost efficiency. SM is full-fat heavy rail that can do 40,000pphpd, comparable to what we achieve with our HR system or something like a London Underground line. SM won’t need significant capacity upgrades for the next century.

    Many of the light metro lobbyists would normally pull out examples like the Canada Line which are more comparable in cost as compared to LR.

    1. We can achieve nothing lke 40,000 pphpd on our HR system. Current peak capacity is 4,500 pphpd per line. Even the CRL is going to max out at 13,500 pphpd. Thats about the same as a light rail line.

      “SM won’t need significant capacity upgrades for the next century.”
      That sounds like a massive overspend on capacity that will be wasted for the next two generations then! That’s part of the point. Auckland needs to build something soon, something affordable. It doesn’t have to do everything under the sun for 100 years, it only needs to work for 10 years while the next line is being built.

      Rather than mortgaging the farm to build one metro line for a hundred years, we should be not mortgaging anything and building a new line every ten years instead.

  17. I should declare a bias in that I worked on the LRT to Airport (SMART) business case and then LRT Reference Design for AT for three years. I will confine my comments to facts already published and/or on the public record. It has been frustrating watching the project stall and I hope the road to hell is not paved with further planning reports. Genuine consultation is needed and should be commenced immediately but extensive option comparison was done previously.

    The omission of LRT to the airport is a good thing. Extending the LRT south of Mangere Town Centre was expensive (lots of structure) and contributed little patronage. More than 80% of patronage originated north of the airport. Mangere is far more important to the project in transport terms than the airport. Mangere passengers also derived high benefits from a fast, frequent service to the city, whereas airport passengers were already served by frequent buses that did NOT stop in between.

    Like the author I find it hard to believe that any Light Metro alternative will be cost competitive or offer better value for money, due to their high structural costs. Sydney LRT is the highest cost Australian comparator and a cost outlier due to high service costs, rework and contractual disputes and settlements. Gold Coast LRT is a better comparator for street running LRT built to a high standard, costing around 130 million Aus $ /km including rolling stock. In French experience Light Metros are three times the price, and only 50% more capacity.

    Construction of LRT in a street segment from scratch takes up to 12 months excluding planning, design and tendering. Sydney LRT achieved this. Delays longer than that were due to services and contractual disputes. For example see this time lapse video of a complex piece of LRT track construction, which was completed in six months.

    If Dominion Road is proceeded with in an at grade (street running) LRT option, there is now an opportunity to look at a traffic solution focused on local accessibility and better active transport provision. Covid has proven this can work, and car commuters in this corridor should be encouraged to use LRT to the city. One lane of traffic in one direction plus bike/micro mobility lanes may be an ideal solution. Modelling demonstrated that the traffic network did not “fail” if Dominion Road was entirely removed. Rather than worrying about traffic impacts, it is probably more important to provide local retail centres off street parking to replace on-street parking LRT would remove.

    It is still a necessary and viable project, so I wish NZTA and AT good (political) fortune in delivering it.

    1. Thanks Scott, sounds like the Airport should be a future phase (at best).
      What is your opinion on Sandringham vs Dominion? Especially considering the government’s objective to provide rapid transit to their existing state land in Mt Roskill?

      1. Jimbo I don’t have a strong opinion on Sandringham vs Dominion. Similar arguments would apply to both corridors. Last time the travel time and benefit calculations clearly favoured Dominion. Sandringham Road crossing of the rail line was a major geometric challenge. However if the catchment along Sandringham could change, then it may be viable. It will also depend on the politics of local discussions.

        If approaches like building replacement parking for shopping areas in advance of track construction were used I think it is possible to reach an understanding with local retailers. Last time we developed plans to provide rear access laneways connecting up the back of Dominion Road retails strips at Eden Valley, Balmoral and Mt Roskill to provide better business service access. This was to minimise business impacts in construction. Such approaches are possible for either corridor.

        The fact that business activity along Dominion is dead now might also offer a carrot. Business activity along the Gold Coast LRT corridor took a marked upturn after it opened. I would have a concern that Sandringham would increase travel time and reduce benefits for all the customers from Onehunga and Mangere, so patronage benefits would need to be traded off.

        1. Thanks Scott for sharing already done analysis. I cannot see anything in the meantime that has substantially changed the parameters.

    2. Fantastic insight, Scott – thanks.

      I am surprised how little trips the airport generated, as a percentage of all, although I guess its the fact they are already served by buses. Although Mangere’s potential is due to intensification, I would have thought growth in the Airport’s business park may also have been factored in.

      Regardless, I guess the future of RTN for that airport corridor is BRT, with a transfer at Mangere Town Center for LRT, Onehunga for HR, or just staying on for a one-seat ride to the CBD. Seems a good outcome.

    3. Thanks for your insights here, Scott. Much appreciated.

      The only one I would question is “building replacement parking for shopping areas in advance of track construction”.

      Since you were involved in the work, we’ve become aware that we need to decarbonise our transport system in just ten years, and that it is not pragmatic to do this with significant electrification of the fleet. We must radically cut vkt.

      This will take a new approach; one where the existing parking on the side streets needs to be priced, some new (priced) parking spaces might be found when dead-ending some of the side streets, but beyond that, parking provision in an area with LR is not necessary or desirable.

  18. I am underwhelmed.

    I mean it makes sense for central government to work with Auckland Transport and come with a set of proper requirements, determine the best solution and delivery model.

    What is really missing from the announcement is some acknowledgement that it has been 6 years, and they are *starting* a six month consultation period to determine what to build.

    If it was 2016 or 2017, this would make a lot of sense to me. In 2021, I have to wonder how much time and money has been spent by the various departments over 6 years, producing renders and options, and they hadn’t actually got around to determining what we are trying to build or why?

    Big infrastructure is undoubtedly hard, but it is a bit depressing to imagine scenes a bit like in ‘Yes Minister’ in public funds are spent for years on end having meetings about projects without anything actually being built.

    One less from large overblown IT projects is that requirements change. With traffic to/from Auckland airport precinct overwhelmed only a few years ago, it was important to get light rail to the airport. Now it is replacing bus snakes and getting transport from the housing areas to/from the city. In a few years if the bridge has issues it might be getting light rail to/from the shore with a new tunnel or bridge.

    The secret is to not get caught up in analysis paralysis, but to identify a core need (it really almost doesn’t matter which) and get a delivery model sorted and work underway. Nice thing about induced demand is that build it and they will come. So doesn’t matter if it is Domain road or Sandringham; either will intensify or get cross links built as a solution anyway.

    We saw light rail go nowhere over the last 5 years. I suspect unless Michael Wood is a much stronger leader, the result of the six month consultation will be that more research, consultation, information gathering and establishment of a new governance body will be required. So going to tender will be 2022 at the earliest and can’t see actual work being done until 2023, by which time there could be a government change.

    1. “I mean it makes sense for central government to work with Auckland Transport and come with a set of proper requirements, determine the best solution and delivery model.”

      Most of that work had already been done by AT, before the project was taken away from them for political reasons. The plans are in a storage room on the 4th floor of the AT HQ.

  19. I would be very interested to see population density and catchment along Auckland’s LR vs Sydney’s recent LR project. I’m guessing we would sit at less than 1/3 density which means the numbers just don’t stack up. LR only seems viable when population density is super high. If we are encouraging denisty, why not incentivise it around the soon to be opened city rail loop. There is huge scope around a number of the stations. City rail loop is almost complete (in relative terms) and the land is there ready to go, just look at all the vacant lots AT own around the Panmure Station.

    1. “the numbers just don’t stack up”: compared to what? Doing nothing? Buses? More roads?
      At least the likes of LR should be a future proof investment in terms of capacity; the road investments we have been making are almost always at capacity within a few years so we keep having to build more.

    2. The density / demand argument applies to any mode with high cost and capacity. This is therefore a major argument against Light Metro, which has the highest cost and capacity and elsewhere operates in medium to high urban densities e.g. Vancouver Skyrail. As was pointed out during the original LRT planning, the cost per km of LRT is still lower than the cost per km of freeways NZTA is already building. Thisis why I mentioend the Gold Coast LRT, which is a better comparator, with comparable density to Auckland (in fact lower overall). That project has been successful. Bordeaux, Calgary and Edmonton are other examples of successful LRTs in low density cities.

    3. You can be rest assured they will be encouraging as much density as they can around all the rapid transit stations currently under construction. And will also be legally required to under the zoning rules. However Panmure for example is dogged by rules now outside of Aucklands control
      I read somewhere that the viewshafts are considered under the treaty of waitangi and if so, then the nail is well and truly in that coffin. I believe the NPS conveniently steps around what would be a political wasp nest.

      Regardless the truth is that these sites don’t cover near enough of the city to provide a viable solution to the housing problem. And the upzoning that has seen some success needs to be expanded across more of the city. That can only happen with improved PT offerings. And we come back to the bus constraints that will be faced by the city center. Which was actually one of the main original drivers.
      I’m not personally sure about the current density around dom road and Sydney. But dominion road will become significantly more dense if allowed to. And the PT will become more well used if it was improved. Plus that corridor is the third busiest bus route in the city.

  20. A revitalized and robust bus system makes more sense overall doesn’t it? Especially when retrofitting a new pt system into an old two car lane based infrastructure. Is it possible to somehow have more bus numbers, more lanes, increased frequencies and more efficient routes that serve the purposes? If that’s possible then wouldnt it make sense to build that system first and give it precedence, get it up and running efficiently, gather data/numbers/feedback as the city grows, and slowly shift into light rail over time. A new bus system to ‘test’ out first before moving into a rail system as a first in a series of long term phases before investing so heavily. Maybe this is short sighted, hence the questions

    1. Nope. There is literally nowhere in the city for a another gazillion buses to go, this is where the LR plan came from in the first place; an analysis of the city centre bus problem, the CCFSA 2013, this situation has not changed. Which is unsurprising as it is a geometry problem at heart, and the city centre has not become less of an attractor since then, only more of one, nor has its street supply magically doubled.

      1. The CCFAS assumed no reduction in private vehicle use to the city centre though, which makes no sense.

        1. Lol.

          It seems to make sense to the engineers at AT. They seem to think they only have to “accommodate all the growth in demand” on sustainable modes, and completely ignore the requirements on them to reduce emissions and to stop allowing cars to dominate urban centres.

          Blowed if I know how they get away with it, year and year.

    2. There are significant improvements that could be applied to Auckland’s bus network. Much more extensive bus lanes, especially in the city centre. signal priority / preemption at intersections etc etc. All that stands in the way is politics. But there does have to be a transition to a more dense mode on the higher patronage routes sooner rather than later. Especially where less than optimal infrastructure will always be the reality. We cant just build a full grade separated busway down dominion road (at least at a reasonable cost) But we could build a light rail line with decent signal priority. That would have similar absolute max capacity at slower speeds for cheaper.
      We need the more dense modes because of bus constraints in the cbd and a lack of existing dense modes around. Eg we will run out of street space for busses. Plus a major project like this will usually improve the pt offering itself. Say the ride in a light rail vehicle will be smoother than a bus, and with a legitimate signalling system we will hopefully end up with better spacing between vehicles, and good signal pre-emption at lights.

    3. Yes, in general, but no when current bus numbers indicate the status quo isn’t sustainable for much longer, even with a busway.

      The latter is the issue with Dom Road. And correct me if I am wrong but SH16 has a bus every 90secs, doesn’t it?. So upping the capacity is a requirement that won’t be too far away.

      In short, buses will continue to do the heavy lifting of our PT network and so we should be rolling out more 24/7 buslanes. But for a small number of routes, we are already nearing capacity. Those should go straight to LRT.

  21. It is good that the Auckland light rail project is to be fully reassessed with a new working group over the next 6 months. Now would be a good time to also evaluate what the future heavy rail network will look like as well.

    There is a definitely a need for both light rail (as conventional modern street level trams) and heavy rail. Light rail should be used in the central city on key arterial roads leading out to Mt Roskill and Westgate rather than the airport, to provide more capacity than what buses will be able to handle in the near future.

    Heavy rail should be used for covering all four corners of the city so to speak, with upgrading and increasing the capacity of the existing network, together with building new lines to Silverdale, Botany, the airport and between Southdown and Avondale (linking with the southern end of the Mt Roskill light rail line).

    A good effective heavy rail network which would serve much of Auckland well could be created by building the following:

    – A heavy rail only tunnel under the Waitemata Harbour and converting Northern Busway to a heavy rail line, linking with the CRL via Aotea station.

    – A heavy rail line between Sylvia Park-Pakuranga-Botany-Manukau.

    – A heavy rail line between Puhinui-Airport-Onehunga (and double tracking the existing Onehunga line).

    – Build the long proposed Southdown-Avondale line.

    – Extend the double track and electrification on the North Auckland Line from Swanson to Helensville.

    With doing the above, four new simple convenient one seat journeys could be created as follows:

    North-South line between Silverdale and Pukekohe via Waitemata Harbour tunnel, CRL (Aotea station), Grafton, Newmarket, Penrose.

    East-West line between Helensville and Auckland Airport via Mt Eden, CRL, Britomart, Orakei, Panmure, Pakuranga, Botany, Manukau, Puhinui, Airport (same trains then continue onwards north via Onehunga and Parnell as the ‘Airport line’ terminating at Britomart).

    Airport line between Britomart and Auckland Airport via Parnell, Penrose, Onehunga, Mangere, Airport.

    Central loop line between Britomart and Auckland Airport via Orakei, Sylvia Park, Otahuhu, Puhinui, Airport, Mangere, Onehunga, Mt Roskill, Mt Albert (and then via existing Western line to Mt Eden and CRL to Britomart).

    A week day peak period DMU shuttle service should also operate between Pukekohe and Waiuku via the Mission Bush Branch line and Glenbrook Vintage Railway line.

    Light rail lines using modern conventional street level trams should be built as follows:

    Mt Roskill line via Customs Street, Anzac Avenue, Symonds Street, New North Road, Dominion Road, Denbeigh Ave, Stoddard Road.

    Westgate line via Queen Street, Karangahape Road, Great North Road, SH16 to Westgate.

    Ponsonby loop line via Fanshawe Street, Halsey Street, Victoria Street West, College Hill, Ponsonby Road, Karangahape Road, Queen Street.

    The Mt Roskill and Westgate lines would operate as just one continuous line from end to end, with the Ponsonby line operating as a bidirectional loop.

    Building the above heavy rail and light rail network will then provide Auckland with a decent rapid transit network which covers most of the city with service routes which are convenient and practical to use and will be more appealing to use than cars on congested roads. Not to mention also, an electrified rail network will be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, helping to reduce the city’s transport carbon emissions.

    The advantage of expanding the heavy rail network is that can also be used for (new) long distance inter-regional passenger services, perhaps at a new appropriate terminal befitting of New Zealand’s largest city, at the airport. Also more freight could be carried by rail, particularly if new rail freight hubs were to be developed on the North Shore, Kumeu, East Tamaki and Drury.

    And if the line to Northport at Marsden Point gets built, a line to the airport could provide security of fuel supply to the airport and Wiri Oil Services terminal should the fuel pipeline fail.

    1. Yep, a one seat ride between Silverdale and Pukekohe, and between Helensville and the Airport is really what Auckland’s rapid transit network is missing…

      1. MOAR one seat rides!!! At all and any cost. I need my hourly service going anywhere in the city. Once I’ve walked to the train, I’m physically incapable of getting off, waiting <5 minutes, and getting on again, even if it meant.

  22. I’m very disappointed by the announcement. So it took 6 months for the new minister to announce they’re gonna start working with Auckland and THINK about what to build. Why not working with Auckland 6 months ago and announce today what they’re gonna build. This government seems to be all about announcements of the announcements rather than actually doing anything. I remember when Twyford instead of decisions on LR announced further consultation to look at some silly new option and this seems the same… I feel like Light Rail still will be a Labour promise for the next elections

  23. Feels like Sandringham option is just something randomly added to have something to debate over. It’s too close to the already existing line so it will help less people and it’s gonna take longer to travel north-south. True it would be great if we would have that network presented above. But looking at the speed of delivery of the PROJECT of one line or LR, how long you think we’re gonna wait for the next line through central Auckland. It’s probably about 100 years timeframe. So let’s just think about that one line for now. Seems too much anyway

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