Auckland Light Rail (ALR) have announced they think light rail is the best solution for the City Centre to Mangere corridor, though they are still holding back key details about just what that could be.

Back in April when this latest process was announced the Minister confirmed was keen to reassure us and the public  that this wouldn’t be a case of starting from scratch once again. He also made it clear it would be either light rail or light metro that would be built. However, it seems officials have ignored that and indeed started from scratch once again. They’ve spent time investigating a wide range of alternatives for the corridor such as rapid buses, trackless trams, heavy rail and even nutty fantasy solutions like Hyperloop.

Today’s announcement is that their investigations found those alternative solutions either can’t do the job or if they can, can’t do it as well as light rail or light metro would. Looking at the three most sane of these, rapid buses, trackless trams and heavy rail, here’s why they won’t work.

Rapid Buses

This is essentially a dedicated busway option, with them saying:

This option would contribute to a significant overall network issue. There are currently too many buses within the city centre, which is affecting the function and amenity of our streets. Even if they were all electric which is good from a carbon and pollution perspective – it still makes no difference to congestion. There’s simply not enough space for all the buses needed to support Auckland’s continued growth.

In addition, they told me that even if bus numbers in the city centre weren’t an issue, a busway solution would need a lot more space at stations with four lanes needed just like we see on the Northern Busway.

The Northern Busway is great but not appropriate on places like Dominion Rd.

Trackless Trams

As I’ve said before, trackless trams aren’t anything special. The key technologies and features are all things that exist (and have failed) in buses already but are really just being packaged up in a fancy marketing term. However, the key thing they do represent is that we need better buses and that’s not a bad thing. But it’s because of that they’ve become latest favourite idea for concern trolls and those politically and/or ideologically opposed to light rail.

ALR have put out a paper on trackless trams looking at what they are, the benefits of them and some of the downsides and risks of them. The TLDR version is:

  • They don’t have enough capacity – with realistic counts being they hold about 170 people per vehicle, about the same as two double deckers. ALR estimate that during the morning rush hour the vehicles would be full by the time they even got to Mt Roskill and so would leave customers behind. They say “the passenger demand exceeds the available capacity by a factor of 1.48
  • They are heavy so will require the road to be strengthened meaning they’d be just as disruptive to build as light rail.
  • The guidance systems aren’t as accurate as steel tracks so they would require about an additional 0.7m width corridor compared to light rail. That’s quite a bit in what are already constrained corridors.
ALR said these widths are based on ATs Transport design manual and doesn’t mean they’re proposing to widen Dominion Rd to over 31m.

I think one big concern they didn’t cover properly in the paper was the risk of supplier lock in. Essentially there are only a couple of companies looking at developing this idea and each with their own technology/implementation. The risk is that in the future when it comes time to add to or replace the fleet we may have no option but the original supplier, if they even still make them. These issues as well as unreliability are why cities like Nancy and Caen in France have or are now their replacing trackless tram like solutions with proper light rail.

Click to access ALR-trackless-tram-tech-note-Sept-21.pdf

Heavy Rail

For heavy rail they looked at three different options, a spur from Puhinui, extending the Onehunga line or building a version of the Avondale to Southdown line from the Western line to Onehunga and then on to the airport – in this one existing Onehunga line trains wouldn’t have access to the airport.

Like we’ve seen previously, the Puhinui option was ruled out as while it serves the airport, it does so at the expense of other services on the existing network and does nothing to address the need for rapid transit in Mangere and on the central isthmus.

Extending the Onehunga Line was also ruled out. While it served Mangere it didn’t serve the central isthmus so would still require a dedicated busway or other solution.

Meanwhile they say the Avondale to Southdown option did perform well but it too doesn’t serve the central isthmus meaning it would still need a busway or other solution. However they say while it performed well it didn’t perform as well as the light rail or light metro options.

I think one area they missed with this assessment is that while there are some benefits and efficiencies from having a single heavy rail system, there are also disadvantages and risks. Essentially, we shouldn’t have a single incident, such as an incident at Aotea or Britomart etc, grind our entire regional public transport system to a halt. In this regard having an independent corridor is a benefit.

Click to access ALR-heavy-rail-tech-note-Sept-21.pdf


The Missing Details

What’s missing from today’s announcement is information on what their even initial assessments of light rail and light metro are. For example, things like estimated costs, station locations, travel times, the level of development needed to justify each mode, the amount of construction disruption that might occur.

They did give a few small details though.

They have three options they’re looking at more closely.

  • A surface light rail option on Dominion Rd, though it sounds like this will take a tiki-tour through Mangere which isn’t ideal.
Why is there a bike on the footpath and a car on the light rail tracks?
  • A light metro solution. There was no detail about which corridor this would take but they did say they’ve already dropped the idea from their consultation of an open trench as the services to move and the amount of disruption it would cause meant it would cost about the same as a bored tunnel anyway. They also indicated that light metro stations won’t even be in the town centres the route passes through but ‘nearby’ in an ‘off-line’ location.
  • A hybrid solution which sounds like the tunnel option on the isthmus but the surface option through Mangere.
Light rail alongside SH20

The large amounts of tunnelling mean the second two options will have much higher costs though they argue they will have also have higher capacity and perform better in their models meaning that overall they all have a similar Benefit Cost Ratio.

All three options will have a station in Mangere Town Centre following very strong community support for it. Though that’s not surprising given they released an image showing it in the town centre but then didn’t give any information about the impacts and/or trade-offs that would have.

I also asked if as part of their assessment they’ve considered the potential of each option for other corridors as a way of solving the various capacity and connectivity issues, such as the crosstown light rail option we’ve suggested. They haven’t done so as they say that is out of their scope. It seems bizarre that they can spend time investigating silly ideas like Hyperloop but not spend any time investigating, even at a high-level, the idea of slightly more light rail as part of a network of additional corridors.


The next steps for the project are that at around the end of the month the ALR team will provide their feedback and a recommendation to the Ministry of Transport, who will then review it and prepare it for cabinet to make a decision, which is expected around November or December.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel like the ALR team leaning on the scales somewhat to favour the most expensive metro option. That will risk either being rejected by cabinet as unaffordable or the government accepting it then facing a Northern Pathway style campaign against it which they’ll eventually fold to a few months later. Either outcome would be terrible for Auckland.

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201 comments

  1. Surely…..SURELY….light metro is just not feasible under any sort of funding scenario. Surely they wouldn’t recommend light metro at the cost of 3 light rail lines in Auckland

    1. Unfortunately there’s probably the things that appeal to the pro-car group:

      1. fast
      2. don’t have to give up any lanes or parking

  2. Why is everyone involved with the light rail so thoroughly incompetent? I really don’t understand… I can’t wait to leave this depressing backwards city. It’s so frustrating.

    1. Sorry, was real effort, time, energy and money actually put into thinking about a “hyperloop” (a maglev train in a vacuum) ? That’s absurd beyond absurd.

      1. To appease those critics / “it will be outdated before they build it and they should build a HYPERLOOP” its probably worth the 20 minutes they would have spent writing something up about it.

        Right off the bat its totally unsuitable for intra urban travel. A top speed of 600km/hr (or whatever) is pointless over short distances like this and wouldn’t serve the needs of the communities on the way at all. And even all the BS marketing hype machines still promise abysmal capacity compared to any other public transport solutions.

    2. That is the point. That is where they put them. The Auckland City Council used to have a Waterfront office where anyone who had ceased to be of any use to the organisation was shunted to. They would sit in a downtown office writing reports about a mythical future waterfront development. Stage 2 was to send them home to ‘Consult on the Waterfront’ where they wrote more pointless reports for 6 months before they were forgotten about entirely. Unfortunately for the Council, the private sector came along and actually developed the waterfront at which point everyone could see how pointless the Waterfront Office was so it was closed.

      Now they have a Light Rail Group.

    3. At any ministerial level in this government, competence is missing full stop. I thought they’d broken the mould with Twyford, but no, there were Phil clones just waiting, hidden in the cabinet broom closet. Mr Twyford was just the penguin on the tip of the iceberg as it turns out.

      Lay on some tracks, put up some wires, buy some trams whist your at it. They did it at the beginning of the 20th century with minimal fuss so how hard can it be?

  3. Pot calls kettle black.

    I laughed out loud when I read “those politically and/or ideologically opposed to light rail.” Greater Auckland is politically and ideologically committed to light rail. How is that any better?

    Any idea where can we find all the papers on the ALR website, especially the rapid bus paper?

    The papers are titled memo – memos to whom?

    1. Never fear, it will never happen, these idiots can’t manage a MIQ facility let alone build a light rail system. We will get lots of reports though, endless reports and studies. In the end they will be so confused nothing will happen apart from some clever spin about a grander project that they are now working on.

    2. I agree re trackless trams. There’s long been a real prejudice against that technology, though for what genuine reason I have great difficulty fathoming, despite the many attempts to justify and explain the negativity. Yes, there are technical and practical issues affecting trackless trams, just as there are for light rail, light metro and heavy rail. And buses. And no, I DON’T think that it’s the right technology for Dominion Road and on to the airport. But we spend far too long on this blog site angsting about mode, when what we really should be doing is focusing on getting the complete projected rapid transit network in place by whatever technology is appropriate for the particular line in question, as quickly as possible. I would not want to pre-suppose that there will never be an RTN line for which trackless trams are the perfect fit, like some seem determined to do.

      As for light metro – I’m firmly in the camp that says that if we could have three light rail/rapid bus lines for the price of one light metro line, then the light metro option should be dropped like a hot potato. The costs are so eye-watering (BCR notwithstanding) that to start a light metro project is an open invitation to political interference and cancellation down the track (no pun intended). Besides, is it REALLY feasible to invest so many dollars on a single project?

      1. “But we spend far too long on this blog site angsting about mode, when what we really should be doing is focusing on getting the complete projected rapid transit network in place by whatever technology is appropriate for the particular line in question, as quickly as possible.”

        The only angsting about mode this blog does in the CC2M space is to complain about frivolously spending more time and money entertaining random alternative modes when multiple independent studies have identified LRT as the best option. It seems to me the tone of this blog is to just get the f*** on with it and build the damn thing.

        1. Read the comments on this post then – people are still going on and on about heavy rail as the best option, even though it’s been rejected in countless studies.

      2. DavidByrne – I agree with you about building a light metro dedicated system is a gold plated expensive exercise and for the cost, three light rail/rapid bus lines/routes can be built.

    3. “Any idea where can we find all the papers on the ALR website, especially the rapid bus paper?”

      Claims blog is ideologically blind for LRT but then indicates he has never read the business cases over 5yrs which led this blog to considering LRT the best solution. You know, like the original independent analysis.

      1. Also, it is trivial to track the evolving opinion of GA on the question:

        https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2009/10/02/airport-rail/
        https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2015/06/23/mangereairport-rail-2-0/
        https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/01/06/light-rail-to-the-airport/
        https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/10/20/does-crl-complete-aucklands-heavy-rail-network/

        And at some point after that GA started to “see the light” as it were. But you can see they’re clearly concerned about cost… a primary objection to Light Metro… even in those links.

  4. Michael Woods should be extending the Onehunga line heavy rail instead of bring light rail! It makes no sense if you’re coming from the airport or Mangere because your going to be travelling the same duration as the skybus or travelling on the 309 bus whereas with heavy rail it would be way faster and better for the community in Mangere.

      1. Makes perfect sense mate, it perfectly refers to mode of transport you should be able take to Mangere or to the airport….

        1. Except it doesn’t acheive any other objective other than getting to the airport.

          Why are so many “WEN HEAVY RAIL” boosters incapable of reading?

        2. OMG @BUTTWIZARD, clearly you’re the one who’s incapable of reading since I did include Mangere as an objective. Also you’re incapable of having a proper name for yourself….

          The main of this objective of this project ideally should be providing transport to the city for Mangere and airport district so don’t have to sitting on unreliable transport then make you wanna sleep nd miss your stop.

        3. Sorry Aaron, I’ve been on this site for a while using this username. For what it’s worth, having two identical letters at the start of a name with one being silent and the other not being silent doesn’t make that much sense as a name either, but that contributes little to the actual discussion.

          Also, you’re committing a classic HR booster tactic, which is ignoring the airport/mangere bit of this line is one bit of a corridor, and you’ll still need to do something about the rest of that corridor. I’m curious how you think the HR option from Onehunga can hit the same communities and catchments as the Light Rail alignment, given the major difference between the two in terms of the type of curves and gradients needed.

          The question you need to ask is ‘Is it good value for money to build the Onehunga spur and all the costs that come with an acceptable gradient and route when you’re going to have to upgrade the City > Roskill bit anyway?’. The answer is “no”.

        4. ‘For what it’s worth, having two identical letters at the start of a name with one being silent and the other not being silent doesn’t make that much sense as a name either’

          Lol’d

    1. Heavy rail is slow in Auckland. If you want all out speed than light metro is what you should be after.

      The skybus is advertised as 40minutes outside of peak hours, the onehunga line from onehunga to britomart takes about 30, and goes half the distance.

      Extending the heavy rail line would be slower than the skybus. The money is no object best thing for mangere solution would be light metro.

      1. Heavy rail is only slow right now because there work being done rail tracks due to the durability of the state of the tracks, Skybus isn’t 40 mins, clearly you haven’t been on it, I’ve frequently been on it and it’s taken me every time I’ve been on it an 1 hr or more into the city.

      2. Just wait till the safety-case people climb into whatever rail system is proposed and they will surely slow it down – be it light, heavy of in-between. The existing rail system ought to be able to operate significantly faster than it does, but it has fallen victim to a high level of risk-aversion – in many cases legally mandated. Maybe this is not a bad thing as safety is, as they say, paramount.

        But here’s the dirty deal: The same does not apply to road transport – at least not if it runs on rubber tyres. This mode of transport gets away with murder, has minimal regulation compared to the rail-mode, and to a large extent a legal blind eye is turned to its high level of risk.

        Those proposing (rapid) light rail in the street make are making the grand assumption that this will be covered by the lax road-transport framework, rather than the much more stringent rail regulatory regime. The reality may well be that light rail in the street will be so hamstrung in its ability to operate, or else be so expensive to immunise from this, that light metro or heavy rail emerge as a preferred option. Be forewarned!

        1. Skybus has suspend its Auckland operations from 20 August2021 for the duration of the current travel restrictions in Auckland.

          Are you saying Skybus has ceased their New Zealand permanently?

    2. Knowing what I know about any transport project in this city, the only way we are going to get better is to take the lowest hanging fruit. And heavy rail via Onehunga is that fruit. Auckland is too hopeless to get anything other than improvement on what we have and sadly this government is the most likely one to provide a good PT alternative, if only they weren’t so damned hopeless at organisation.

      The rail bed is there to Mangere Bridge (a bridge is required) and as the crow flies it’s the most direct course to the airport. It would take in Mangere Bridge suburb, skirt Mangere West and go through the airport industrial area.

      North Western Auckland has waited for the start of Twyfords vision and it’s never going to happen and yet heavy rail sits there unused. So gridlock prevails and holds back that part of the city from reaching it’s potential.

      Light rail is a pipe dream under Labours ineptitude.

      1. Billions of dollars for just 4 extra stations, on a line which can’t yet offer rapid frequencies. It might even be quicker to take BRT to Puhinui and change there for the Southern/Eastern. No RTN for any commuters on the Isthmus.

        Onehunga is the most sub-optimal option of all. Just because it looks easy on a map doesn’t make it the best option, unfortunately.

    3. Extending the Onehunga branch line (+ double-tracking and trenching it) would cost something like $3-4 billion dollars. Then you’d still need $1-2 billion dollars for Dominion Rd light rail/mass transit – total $4-6 billion.

      Light rail to the Airport would cost something around $2-4 billion. It would also not be as “slow” or “unreliable” as you claim – running in a dedicated right-of-way or kerb-protected median at all times, and calculated to take 42 minutes Britomart-Airport. That’s only 5 minutes “slower” than heavy rail via Onehunga.

        1. Yeah Right – Coz Let’s Get Wellington Moving has been such a success.

          Look for the common denominator and you’ll find the root cause of all the inertia.

          AT were well down the planning path for this 5+ years ago.

        2. Seems very much to be a Wellington thing to me; i.e. projects in Auckland are an opportunity to write endless case studies and reports to justify their own existence, but never to build anything.

        3. I reckon LGWM could give AT a run for its money here… Very frustrating having the constant need to go back to first principles with every. single. project. with an active and/or public transport focus…

        4. I propose a new group, LGAM, (let’s get Auckland motoring) based on the successful and rapid progress made by LGWM. It can dither and delay things for another decade while we work on some new motorway plans. Steven Joyce is the logical man for the job.

        5. @ luke. Ha ha, very good. +1

          To be honest, I believe that until Kiwis in large-ish numbers become accepting of the idea that their extremely car-based lifestyles need to be scaled back, any major public transport initiative is going to face an uphill struggle.

  5. If the Avondale-Southdown was built, it also helps freight now. I wonder if this benefit was considered. And future rail freight plans include building the line, so the “LRT cost” to the government is only for bringing its construction forward. While there would still be buses on Dom Rd, it’d be half the number, as routes south of Avondale-Southdown would transfer to rail. Maintaining a single rail type rather than two is a large CAPEX and OPEX saving. Calling resilience a benefit for two types should not be an advantage, as we should not be accepting the level of faults occurring here. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to achieve service levels like the Tube or Japan given nightly maintenance, and a single rail type would make this more likely to achieve due to scale and having a single team. Congestion in the CBD is a big problem for any surface option, so utilizing the CRL rather than building another parallel tunnel is a benefit, if West and Avondale Southdown train numbers can balance East and South.

    1. +1. The paper above assesed the heavy rail along the a~s accompanied with buses along dominion rd and then concluded it wasnt the best option as the buses didnt help the people along dominion rd as much as light rail along dominion rd.
      Of course not. These studies are only as good as their criteria and vision.

      Would have been nice if they had assesed the a~s alongside the dominion rd light rail.

      They need to think much longer term and design the whole network and then build each piece rather than assesing each individual piece.

    2. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to achieve service levels like the Tube or Japan given nightly maintenance, and a single rail type would make this more likely” – incorrect. The City Rail Link would still be the constraining factor for a all-heavy rail network (24tph envisioned by 2044).

      2 through-routed lines through the CRL would each be able to run every 5 minutes (12tph). For 3 through-routed lines that would drop to every 7.5 minutes (8tph). For 4 through-routed lines that would drop further to every 10 minutes (6tph) – no improvement over the present peak services.

      Two separate rail systems will allow for maximum frequencies on every line; heavy rail trains every 5-7 minutes at peak to Swanson, Manukau, & Pukekohe; and light rail service every 4-5 minutes to Albany, Takapuna, the Airport, and Huapai (plus on any additional crosstown line e.g. Avondale-Penrose).

      Also worth noting – London’s Underground lines essentially operate as separate modes due to the loading gauge differences between subsurface and deep tube lines, and Tokyo’s metro lines have 3 separate, incompatable gauges (1435mm, 1372mm, 1067mm).

      1. Beyond the tube being independent of the heavy rail network, many of the tube lines are independent of eachother. The Victoria, Northern, and Central lines are all completely isolated and running stock on other routes are completely incompatible with the small bore tunnels on these lines.

  6. While this delay is a pain, this new consultation at least comes to the same conclusion as pervious ones that LR / Metro is the best overall way to go.

  7. Wow, all that extra time to come up with exactly the same options we had after months already spent dithering, still with no key route and still with no plan for the North West or other parts of Auckland.

    What a tedious mess. Remember when people used to resign when something was a shambles? We are so far beyond that now it is beyond the pale.

    If a company had pulled this kind of bait and switch, you’d be seeing it on Fair Go for weeks. When the government does it, it’s somehow off-limits in terms of being framed as an embarrassing failure, but the endless retooling and interventions are framed as ‘steadying the ship’ or someone decisively taking control of the process; with scant consideration or accountability for why we are in this mess in the first place.

    1. The depressing part for me is that “come up with exactly the same options we had after months already spent dithering” is coming after five years of dicking around with this.

      I have been watching ‘Utopia’, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s a mockumentary about people working in an large Australian government department. Its funny, but depressingly close to the mark as it could be a fly-on-the-wall view of AT, WK and other NZ organisations at work.

      We keep complaining about it, but no change. The only thing I can think of is trying to expose leadership here. I mean during the last five years who has been responsible for the lack of progress? How much money has been spent? Are they still there?

      I don’t find it acceptable that people can collect high salaries for years without anything to show. In my job, if I didn’t have something to show after six months or a year, then I would be resigning before being fired.
      Surely the key stakeholders must have public profiles and not be hidden behind a bureaucratic facade

  8. Simon Wilson in the Herald believes the group is leaning towards the metro solution,

    “The costs and benefits go up at about the same rate,” he said. “You get what you pay for.” He seemed to be suggesting light metro is preferred.”

    Also he says the light metro option would not run via Queen street but would enter the CBD via a bored tunnel under the University, continue crosstown to Aotea station and terminate at Wynyard.

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/simon-wilson-governments-really-hard-call-for-auckland-light-rail/FWLT2AAGWDDTPUPMOCIIORJ3YQ/

    1. Damm paywalls.

      Also he says the light metro option would not run via Queen street but would enter the CBD via a bored tunnel under the University, continue crosstown to Aotea station and terminate at Wynyard.

      Ah, that sounds great. Would probably serve close to the hospital too.

      1. I suppose it would be a good kickoff point for a tunnel or a new bridge across the harbour. He also talks about a hybrid solution. So tunnels to Mount Roskill and surface from there the route would run to both Onehunga and Mangere township. So not clear whether that would include street running. But I suppose you can put a street light rail in a tunnel. In fact I believe there are high platform light rail vehicle systems in use. Apparently they are more roomy as they can better utilise the space above the bogies.

        1. The CBD tunnel option just doesn’t seem to fit light rail, especially if you want to link it to the Shore, surely it would need to be light metro.

          And considering how long it would take, surely you build light rail down Dominion now and then the tunnelled option can be another line via Manukau Road or something?

        2. From what I understand the proposal is pretty much this:

          Light rail wanted:
          Street running from city down Dominion Road to Mt Roskill.

          Light metro:
          Underground tunnel from city to Mt Roskill.

          The hybrid proposal is:
          Underground tunnel in city, street running from edge of city down Dominion Road to Mt Roskill.

          All three being identical once they reach Mt Roskill.

        3. Light metro would have to be tunneled in Onehunga and Mangere. The pictures show surface light rail at Mangere so it can’t be the same.

        1. There will be no buses on Queen Street once Light Rail get built surely, the gaps between all stations are walkable anyway? Only issue will be the steep bit between Aotea & K’Rd

    2. Interesting idea tunneling under Albert park and the university, and presumably coming to surface level at Queen St/Victoria st intersection.

      I guess on the other side of the University, run up Grafton gully ( there is a massive amount of space with the motorways there) toward Dominion road. Does suggest a Light Metro approach and not running on city streets where possible to avoid angering the car gods. That also suggests to me that stations will be stuck away people

      It reminded me that there are already runnels under Albert park, so I just looked them up and the Wikipedia article is interesting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Park_tunnels)

      I know there was a war on, and H&S would have been compromised, but shocks me that bunch of Auckland Council employees just got on and dug out over 3 km of tunnels in under six months. In that time, AT today with a similar team of people would maybe have done some renders, branding and set up a new office, perhaps releases some memos.

      Just no sense of urgency to provide transport solutions, reduce emissions or save money

      “more than 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) of tunnels, reaching from Constitution Hill to Wellesley Street, involving a network of shelters, sanitation facilities and first aid posts, all ventilated by air shafts with a total of nine entrances. The tunnels run through sandstone and volcanic rock, and were mainly dug by hand by a team of 114 council workers, most of whom were middle-aged men who were unfit for war”

      1. Yes I think technology is actually making things slower and more expensive. $1 billion buys you a lot of labour and pick axes and concrete and rail, its hard to believe you couldn’t manually build light rail on Dominion for that price. I winder what price the original light rail cost to run? Probably a team of ten guys and a horse drawn cart.

        1. I don’t understand the pricing either.
          I think you’ll be wrong. But looking at how much things used to cost, how much they cost now, the fact that every worker can be vastly more productive. On the surface it doesn’t add up, and I can see how you would arrive at that conclusion.

          Unfortunately I’m not an accountant and not good with spreadsheets. And usually these companies are not legally obligated to release all their itemized tiny costs. Nor are they willing for competitiveness reasons. It would be great to have an expert make a post going through an example like that on the blog and explain it all. But that seems unlikely to happen.

        2. I will add that I’ve read, when the United States was building lots of their infrastructure in the early 20th century that a 1/3rd of the average (or median, not sure) persons income went to infrastructure. That is an unbelievable number and you could only imagine the kinds of projects that would get done with that kind of capex funding today.

          Sometimes these infrastructure costs are measured as a % of GDP and people make decent arguments that this is a better measure, and our inputs and outputs measured by this pretty much paint the full picture. While our costs have raised significantly our GDP has too.
          Who knows how accurate these sources are but:
          https://www.statista.com/statistics/566787/average-yearly-expenditure-on-economic-infrastructure-as-percent-of-gdp-worldwide-by-country/
          https://www.infometrics.co.nz/new-zealand-infrastructure-spending-lags-international-partners/

      2. I’m not sure I see the logic in tunnels if we go for street running light rail on Dominion Road, just doesn’t seem to make sense for the extra cost.

        Especially as any new CBD tunnels should surely be connected to a North Shore line that would be perfectly suited for light metro not lgiht rail

        1. At the shops on Dominion Road the road reserve is less than 23 metres wide. If there is light rail occupying the centre of the road and pavements for pedestrians then there is little room for cars, car parking and bikes.

          There must be a tunnel from Upper Queen Street to the South Western Motorway down Dominion Road. It can be directly under the roads (and under services of course)

        2. Duncan, you make a great point about car parking, clearly it will be removed if LRT is built which will be great

    3. “The costs and benefits go up at about the same rate”: I wonder what the benefits are? Speed? What about the disadvantage of having less stops? Surely that is a significant disadvantage, especially as most of the street level stops would be well used (none would be ghost stops by any means).
      They need to answer the big question: is the main use case to get people from Mangere to city quickly, or is the main use case to service the isthmus? Personally I think the isthmus is the main use case and the best option for that is street level. Its kind of like removing half of the stations from London’s Piccadilly line just so the airport and some Zone 6 suburbs can get there quicker despite only making up a fraction of the total ridership.

      1. No they will claim that capacity and demand are the same thing. Then they will brief an international accounting firm to calculate the ‘Wider Economic Benefits’. The firm will say “How many do you need buddy?” AT will say “around $15 billion” and the accountants will write a report saying there is $15.05 billion WEB.

  9. This is absolutely bananas. How the fuck are we still, in 2021, being forced to repeat the same analysis that we did in 2016/17. Getting the same super obvious answers and getting the same boring concern trolls from the heavy rail or death and cars only clubs? How has this gone so wrong.

    This project could be consented, land acquisitions completed, and the Queen Street section built by now.

    FYI, early business cases should consider stupid ideas like hyperloop and shouldn’t finesse the route. The whole point of early business cases is to demonstrate a problem and show that your solution is the best fit. The issue is that we shouldn’t be doing an early business case. We should be doing the final business case in which we do finesse the route!

    1. So now it goes back to MOT who were involved in the initial bungled process, who then review it and then THEY report to cabinet, who will then take time to actually discuss and then, depending on political sensitivities like polling/sentiment, will defer any announcement until they feel it is in their best interests.

      Country’s bjorked.

    2. I alays love the absurdity of the stupid ideas. I worked on a couple business cases in London and we always had to throw in a new cable car option when looking at new/ extended tube lines near the Thames.

      1. It’s a great way to check that you are actually setting your objectives and assessment criteria correctly though. If the hyperloop (or four laning on quiet roads) gets through your screening, then you know something is wrong.

    3. But they have only been looking at light rail in Queen Street for just over 30 years. That is early days for Auckland planning.

  10. Confused. This post starts off with a statement the Auckland light rail recommends light rail. However at the conclusion of this post it says GA is afraid the group will recommend light metro. Have they made a recommendation? If so, is it light rail or light metro?

      1. I find it odd that the Light Rail Group seems to be visualizing light metro as “light rail/modern trams, but underground”, whereas at least in my mind light metro would appear more like the Vancouver Skytrain or DLR. Especially with the Light Rail website talking about light metro being automated I would expect a potential light metro line to be more like those systems.

        Personally I’m still on the side of at-grade light rail.

  11. “But it’s because of that they’ve become latest favourite idea for concern trolls and those politically and/or ideologically opposed to light rail”: a bit unfair I think. Many people (like myself) believe trackless trams can provide a similar experience at a much reduced cost and timeframe, and hence could enable many more places to get rapid transit. Whether it is suitable for this corridor is another question (I am often dubious about capacity projections though, I mean this is Auckland not Tokyo). But they have looked into it and said it is not feasible so that is fine by me.

    1. “Many people (like myself) believe trackless trams can provide a similar experience at a much reduced cost and timeframe, ”

      If the experience is going to be similar, the cost and timeframe will be similar. If you run trackless trams on a road then the experience, cost, and timeframe will be similar to buses on a road. If you run them on a dedicated right of way then the experience, cost and timeframe will be similar to a light railway.

      Trackless trams are driverless buses. The experience that you get depends on the corridor you provide.

      1. A bus is a small, noisy, unpleasant space with low headroom, tight spaces, diesel fumes, low capacity, and slow boarding. A trackless tram should be none of those things: much more like a tram but without the stupidly high cost of running tracks. A dedicated right of way on an existing road should not cost much to build.

        1. “A bus is a small, noisy, unpleasant space with low headroom, tight spaces, diesel fumes, low capacity, and slow boarding”

          Funny, with the exception of “noisy” and “diesel fumes”, opponents say this about light rail. But apparently TT is just like LR but cheaper. And new buses are not diesel, nor noisy anyway…

          Confused? Yes, you are.

        2. That’s true. If we only consider onboard experience, a bigger bus with automated driving can offer a better in vehicle experience than a standard bus. The onboard experience might even be comparable to a light rail vehicle.

          However, a dedicated right of way on an existing road costs about the same for either mode. You have to completely rebuild the running surface as a concrete road, so the only difference is whether you apply asphalt or lay rails nd the price is broadly similar. The only difference is that trackless trams need a wider bed so it’s more likely that you will need to shift kerbs of acquire property.

          The areas where these bigger buses could be good would be lower volume crosstown routes. We typically have the space to do centre running bus lanes with central platforms. Bus volumes and weight could be low enough to allow existing road surfaces to cope. But those aren’t trackless trams, they’re bendy buses.

        3. KLK: I am not an opponent to LR at all, I’d love to see it happen. But I would much prefer to see 5 or 10 trackless tram routes in the isthmus instead.
          Sailor Boy: It still confuses me how a concrete surface and some overhead wires can cost billions of dollars over 10km. $1 billion would be $100,000 per metre, and I am sure that Dominion Road LR will cost even more than that. My concrete driveway would be about the same width and recently cost about $500 a metre: 5 layers of my driveway would be 500mm thick concrete with 5 layers of steel and would only cost around $25 million over 10km (and that is without the economies of scale). There has to be another reason LR costs so much.

        4. “There has to be another reason LR costs so much.” There are several.

          Does your driveway move 30,000 people per day? Did you have to keep it open to access 1,000s of businesses and homes? Did you have to also build transit stations on your driveway? Did you include the cost of buying a car to run up and down the driveway? Did you include the cost of a garage to store the car in and a workshop to clean, maintain, and repair it? Does your driveway have signalised intersections that needed to be rebuilt? Did you relocate all of the utilities under your driveway at the same time?

          These are the things that massively increase costs for any project in the roadway, including light rail or trackless trams. As an actual transport engineer, working in delivery, we could probably do things for under half the price we currently do if we had carte blanche to close roads for a few weeks at a time like you would have done with your driveway.

        5. Yes, the costs of temporary traffic management to keep the traffic flowing during construction is a big part of the enormous construction costs for all kinds of projects in the streetscape.

          It’s another way that our car dependency is costing us. This needs to be rationalised.

        6. +1, for urban arterials with parallel alternatives, many cities effectively make the road access only with one way operation and forced turns. This is something we are likely to have to accept going forward.

        7. Sailor Boy: still it doesn’t add up. If the cost is moving the utilities, why not just leave them? They have obviously been fine all these years with 40 tonne trucks driving over them. The cost of the rolling stock and workshops is obviously significant, but not billions. As for closing the road, if it saves so much money and results in it being done much sooner, then just close it. Maybe just a section at a time.
          We are not a massive city needing a gold plated high capacity high speed solution. What we need is something much better than buses but cheap enough that we can roll it out through our sprawling city.

        8. Or to put it another way, we currently seem to have 2 options on our existing roads:
          1) Standard crappy buses that cost almost nothing for the infrastructure
          2) Light rail that costs $100,000+ per metre
          Am I wrong in thinking there should be some kind of in-between option here?

        9. They have to move the utilities to build an impenetrable concrete slab on top, otherwise they can never access or repair the utilities.

        10. “If the cost is moving the utilities, why not just leave them? They have obviously been fine all these years with 40 tonne trucks driving over them.”
          You can’t pull up a section of concrete slab with embedded track and relay it like you do an asphalt road.

          “The cost of the rolling stock and workshops is obviously significant, but not billions.”
          No, it’s hundreds of millions on a $1.5b project Queen Street to SH20 according to the 2016/17 documents.

          “As for closing the road, if it saves so much money and results in it being done much sooner, then just close it. Maybe just a section at a time.” I’d love to do this, but no council or government are going to have the courage to try this in court.

  12. Good news for we YIMBYs and supporters of NZ businesses;
    Kiwi Property today announced it is moving ahead with the construction of New Zealand’s first major build-to-rent development, marking an important milestone in the delivery of the company’s mixed-use strategy. A 295 apartment complex will be located at Sylvia Park in Auckland, accelerating the site’s evolution into an integrated retail, office and residential community.
    Enabling works are already underway at the Lynton Road site, with construction set to commence in late 2021 and renting to begin in early 2024.
    Kiwi Property’s ability to develop build-to-rent on its own sites enables the company to mitigate upfront costs and drive more attractive returns. In addition, by leveraging the asset management, security and maintenance platforms already in place at its mixed-use assets, Kiwi Property is able to unlock greater operational efficiency and economies of scale.
    Kiwi Property has a clear pathway to scale in build-to-rent. Under the Sylvia Park masterplan, approximately 1,200 apartments could potentially be built across the site over the medium term, transforming the location into a major residential hub. Resource consent is also being sought for a 25-storey mixed-use building at Auckland’s LynnMall, which will include 245 build-to-rent apartments, as well as three floors of office and additional ground floor retail. More than 600 apartments could be accommodated at the location in the coming years. Further details regarding the LynnMall mixed-use development will be provided once a decision has been made to proceed with the project.

    1. You have to wonder who is going to live in all these new places? We currently have almost no immigration, and Labour have signalled they don’t plan to go back to the previous levels. At some stage we will go from a shortage to an oversupply, I get the felling we are already close to that.

      1. New Zealand’s population increased by over 32,000 last year (https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/national-population-estimates-at-30-june-2021). We need 12,000 homes a year just to keep up.

        Lower income households in Auckland experience severe overcrowding which directly impacts of their physical and mental health. Further, many people live in shared accommodation, but would prefer a smaller home to themselves or their family. Household sizes will decrease as inappropriately large houses are replaced by right sized homes.

        1. Auckland is already building 12,000 houses a year by itself. Aren’t we just continuing our normal cycle: build too many houses, prices crash, build nothing for a decade while all the tradies change careers or countries, rinse and repeat.

        2. Prices haven’t crashed in Auckland since the 1930s. We are continuing our normal cycle of building too few homes and seeing spiralling house prices as a result.

        3. Yes correct prices may not crash, but they do often get to the point where there is no margin for the builder and a risk that they may not be able to sell them on. Even now we are seeing them pay $2 million or more for a section in South Auckland, so I can’t really see how it will ever make sense for the free market to build a house that is affordable for lower income households.

        4. Yeah it is not that we will run out of people to buy houses or apartments. It is that we will run out of rich people to buy them.

          Also, what would you build on that 2 million dollar section? You’re allowed to build at least 5 million worth of apartment building on it, right?

        5. The HIGH cost component of LRT is about utility, the ones affected and the ones required to run the services (e.g. high voltage Traction stations) then you build concrete slap on top.

          Seems lots of meth on the pavement for TT. they are only fractional heavier than a standard axle here so not expecting to reconstruct the roads for the same depth as for LRT. if you build a concrete slab on top, they will be fine.

          The challenge here is that ‘decision makers’ is seeking an ideal/ perfect solution at significant costs. the right step is to size it (right cost, right technology) and deliver it with pace (that would help with land use development, demands, and public support along the way).

          The other thing quoted in the doc for LRT vs TT re passenger capacity, this is a meth also. Firstly interesting to see the demand forecast they had; secondly, for LRT to have significant capacity e.g. Sydney’s CBD LRT, you have to couple more units together e.g. 67m in total length. TT typically 32m for standard unit – with capability to be coupled also. clearly, they are not comparing apples with apples (sadly and intentionally).

        6. Comparing a 67m LRT to a 33m TT is apples to apples. You are comparing the vehicles that can practically be used.

  13. “this project ideally should be providing transport to the city for Mangere and airport ”

    Only a very small percentage of trips to and from the Airport, start or finish, in downtown Auckland. This project is about providing high capacity frequent PT trips that serve the neigbourhoods of Valley Road, Balmoral, Mt Roskill, Onehunga, Mangere and the areas in between. This is part of a wider PT network. ie connecting to existing feeder bus routes. Connecting these areas to jobs and educational centres. It is NOT about taking a trip from Britomart to the Airport once every year.

  14. Trackless trams are the best alternative to light rail combining the best of high-speed trains and autonomous-vehicle tech, they are emerging as a less expensive, more sustainable option.

    Many of the arguments in the Simon Wilson article are untested, out dated and not comparing apples with apples.

    If Light Rail is the chosen option and it runs along Dominion Rd, it will force most of those unique businesses to close their doors….permanently as they wouldn’t be able to survive the length of disruption with construction. Yes something else will in time replace it but it won’t be Dominion Rd as we know it – Auckland’s World within a street.

    For the cost of one light rail or metro system along the City to Mangere corridor, you could have a more than suitable trackless tram mass transit system serving all of Auckland.

    1. They [Trackless trams] are heavy so will require the road to be strengthened meaning they’d be just as disruptive to build as light rail.

      Plus dominion road needs a streetscape renewal anyway for large parts. K-road is remarkably better now and with the better transport and amenity the businesses will do better than they otherwise would have.

      Financial support for businesses will in all likelihood be a feature of the project. It’s come through for CRL and they will not be looking to repeat that bad press. Just have to make sure the building owners aren’t getting paid on both ends. Bumping or maintaining high rents during construction, as well as getting their land prices upgraded with better transport courtesy of the taxpayer.

      And the cost difference argument is flat too. The vehicles weigh similar amounts with similar resources required, the alignment will cost similar amounts with similar amounts of disruption and resources required. Where exactly are these orders of magnitude cost savings coming from? Marketing? Hype?

      TT might work well on overbuilt concrete Chinese arterials, but Aucklands old under built road beds?

    2. If trackless trams were chosen for Dom Rd, it also would (by your statement) force most of those unique businesses to close their doors – You can’t get around the fact that both options require digging up the road and performing substantial rebuilding of the sub-surface before laying the concrete again.

      Can’t ignore that trackless trams take up more room and fail to meet demand. Remember the National govt “Advanced Bus Study” (costing many millions) also said that LR was the way to go… Well, that or a double decker every 30 seconds. The same result as study after study for a decade or so.

      Not forgetting it’s an unproven design with a very limited number of vendors.

      At the end of the day, trackless trams may well be the best option in the future for some lower-use networks. May, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

  15. “WEN HEAVY RAIL” boosters”
    “boring concern trolls from the heavy rail or death and cars only clubs?”
    “Also, you’re committing a classic HR booster tactic”
    “Idealogically opposed to light rail”
    This kind of talk gets tedious. People have different opinions an place different value on the same info. We could just as easily talk about the light rail echo chamber this blog is and how light rail boosters are idealogically opposed to any other solution. The problem with lobbying publically for this project like this blog has is that you tend to become entrenched.

    1. “People have different opinions an place different value on the same info”

      Indeed, most of the heavy rail or death club place so little value on information that they won’t even read a business case with evidence that their view is flawed.

      1. What if they own a business on dominion rd. ? And have a family to feed. Probably prefer HR from onehunga. If they are urbanists they would prefer the street light rail for community building. If financial/numbers types might prefer light metro for no of passengers and speed. Or if they want something built in 5 years not 20 they might prefer something else. The reports give an answer weighted on the criteria they were designed under and thats fine if you were designing a city for robots. But people will always weigh things differently.

        1. Yep, you can absolutely weigh things differently.
          The big issue that many commenters on this blog are frustrated by is that the heavy rail enthusiasts are assigning a heavy weight to a journey time for LRT that they have imagined and no weight whatsoever to the empirically derived travel times.
          They do not value at all the empirical calculations done on capacity.
          They are assigning a heavy weight to a construction cost estimate for both that they have prepared on the back of a napkin with glaring omissions and no weight whatsoever to the estimated provided by experienced estimators with access to far more information that the enthusiasts.

          Whether you weight travel time to the airport or number of new stations more heavily is a completely reasonable difference of opinion. Whether the existing Onehunga line can be double tracked without property acquisition isn’t a reasonable difference of opinion.

        2. @Sailor Boy – I agree.

          It’s always seemed frustratingly odd that heavy rail advocates grossly overstate the cost of light rail – throwing around the $10 billion figure (which I thought was the combined cost of the Superfund’s Airport + Northwestern light metro) while grossly underestimating the costs and scale of works to extend the Onehunga line to the Airport.

          Sometimes it’s almost like they pretend that there’s no need for double-tracking or grade separation at all. Which I suppose works, if one subscribes to their routing philosophy of low frequency single-seat journeys everywhere.

        3. “They are assigning a heavy weight to a construction cost estimate for both that they have prepared on the back of a napkin with glaring omissions and no weight whatsoever to the estimated provided by experienced estimators”
          There isnt a business case for light rail yet. We dont know what form it will take , or which road it will go down.
          We dont know how much disturbance and costs it will bring to businesses on dominion rd/queen st/mangere centre while being constructed as this depends on construction times that are hard to predict. Sydneys light rail was originally costed at 1.6 billion and ended up at twice that amount. Most of these large imfrastructure projects projected costs are way off.
          You’ll have to forgive some people if they dont hold the same trust in the “experienced estimators” you talk about. Its an incredibly difficult thing to do unless you have a crystal ball somewhere or perhaps a time machine.

        4. @MRB – by the same “cost estimates are way off” logic then it’s reasonable to assume that heavy rail from Onehunga to the Airport will also be more expensive than so far presumed.

          Based on overseas cost per km and various estimates here, light rail to the Airport would cost between $2-4 billion. Light metro on the same route would likely cost around $6-8 billion.

          Heavy rail from Onehunga to the Airport would cost $2-3 billion, plus another $1 billion to double-track and grade separate the Onehunga Branch Line & Penrose Junction – then you’d need another $1-2 billion for light rail or some form of mass transit along Dominion Rd anyway. So the total cost of all that (~$5-6 billion) could very easily equal an underground light metro.

          Disturbance is inevitable, unfortunately. If the transit situation on Dominion Rd is to improve, reconstructing the road will be necessary, whether it’s for light rail, trackless trams, cut-&-cover metro, or whatever. It’s what will bring the most benefit long-term that should be the important consideration.

        5. To sailor boy. I was referring to this.
          https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/452782/govt-awaits-auckland-light-rail-recommendations
          Not sure if its light rail or light metro. Not sure what road it goes on or how much it wil eventually cost but if anyone doesnt agree with it then some posters here whine and moan they are all ideologues. Thats tedious to see all the time. Just say you disagree.

          “then it’s reasonable to assume that heavy rail from Onehunga to the Airport will also be more expensive than so far presumed.”
          Exactly. These reports are always way off. The crl one is wrong. The transmission gully one is wrong. They are all bloody wrong. So when someone says they have a different idea or favour a different plan they have fair scope to post that here without being labelled idealogues. Im not saying they are right. Im saying i cant say 100% they are wrong.

          “Heavy rail from Onehunga to the Airport would cost $2-3 billion”
          Why do you keep talking about heavy rail?. I dont favour heavy rail from the airport. Thats a perfect example of what i was talking about.

        6. You can that there isn’t a business case until you’re blue in the face. It won’t make you right.

          Plenty of people disagree with the proposal in the business case. People have disagreed with the proposed route, suggesting that it should use local roads in Southwest Auckland to achieve different outcomes. People have said that it should go to the NW first. People have suggested that other routes are a higher priority. Some have suggested that the business case doesn’t adequately consider active modes or placemaking and that they can’t support the proposal until the effects in these areas are clear. Some prefer light metro to achieve the goals, despite the cost.

          These are all reasonable disagreements with the business case.

          Then there are about 6 commenters on this page who want this built as heavy rail regardless of evidence. Those 6 people ignore or deny the existence of evidence against their point. That’s unreasonable opposition and meets the definition of an idealogue. Particulary “an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology”

          Estimates are usually wrong, sometimes they are even wrong by as much as a factor of 2. However, heavy rail idealogues often claim costs for double tracking the Onehunga Line, for a branch from Puhinui, and for LRT along the city centre to Mangere route that differ from estimates by an order of magnitude. Such blind ignorance can only be attributed to ideology.

  16. “We could just as easily talk about the light rail echo chamber this blog is and how light rail boosters are idealogically opposed to any other solution”

    Not if you have been reading this blog for longer than 5mins. When the City-to-Airport discussion first launched, this blog pushed HR. Onehunga, Puhinui and even Otahuhu all being options discussed. If you have been reading for 5yrs like I have, you’d know that.

    From memory, it never supported LR or LM until the initial business case, from which point it pivoted. Changing your position based on independent third party analysis is the opposite of being ideological.

    Those who still insist on HR after years – literally years – of detailed analysis and comparison on why HR doesn’t stack up still drop by to push it, clearly never reading that analysis.

    Excuse some of the comments in response, but it does get tiring…

    1. And for the record, I was HR too (Onehunga). But you don’t have to read too far to see why LR or LM (and probably LR) is a far more compelling proposition and why HR is just too much cost for too little benefit (in comparison).

    2. I think a really valuable thing to talk about is the negatives of such an integrated system.

      https://youtu.be/uhvTxAvDu7A

      It’s gone on further than this too, where they’ve had a string of derailments on their light rail vehicles running like a metro system. Due to the tighter allowed curves with the light rail standard that were built.

      A long as we have a clear upgrade path for the grade separated alignment sections I’m happy. Maybe if capacity demands it in the future a isthmus tunnel connecting to the onehunga to airport section would be feasible, and then the whole thing could be more of a light metro system with higher frequencies and capacities. With the City center section to mt roskill section running as a decent tram.

    3. “. If you have been reading for 5yrs like I have, you’d know that”
      I have been reading since josh arbury (jarbury) started it which would probably be 10 or more years ago. Actually i used to discuss stuff with him on the better transport blog before he started his own. I remember your name KLK~ kuala Lumpur kiwi.
      “. But you don’t have to read too far to see why LR or LM (and probably LR) is a far more compelling proposition”
      It depends what project you are talking about.
      Im not HR. Or LR. I want the avondale southdown built as heavy rail, not the light rail crosstown option as mentioned here for reasons i have stated elsewhere. I want dominion rd to be light rail (with alterations) but dont think it makes sense to take that to the airport. The airport-mangere should be light rail through onehunga and then cornwall park~manukau rd to newmarket~hospital~city or potentially run up the discontinued onehunga branch to penrose. But fom rd is too much of a detour and kills off a~s opportunities.
      The comments are annoying due to people assuming any criticism of light rail or support of other options means you have an ideological bent.

      1. The comments were specifically about the CBD to airport corridor. The studies are done. The opposition to LR on that route is indeed ideological because it ignores all the analysis and is supported by a bunch of reckons.

        The rest? Horses for courses, I agree.

  17. I have a question.

    Who are the consultant people? Was it the same one as the last time?
    Did they use the same paper over and over again. This is bit like planning for the second harbour crossing scenario again – so many consultancies, papers, options in the last 30 years and never come up with a result set in concrete. I fear this is actually what is happening at the moment for the light/metro/heavy rail or whatever you can call it.

    This rot got to stop.

  18. “I think one area they missed with this assessment is that while there are some benefits and efficiencies from having a single heavy rail system, there are also disadvantages and risks. Essentially, we shouldn’t have a single incident, such as an incident at Aotea or Britomart etc, grind our entire regional public transport system to a halt. In this regard having an independent corridor is a benefit.”

    +1

    The benefits and risk mitigation of having the 2nd heavy line from Puhunui to CBD via the airport have not been properly considered.

    1. But “having an independent corridor is a benefit”, does not of itself preclude heavy rail. The concept that a single point-of-failure should not disrupt the whole system can be achieved simply by having routes separate from each other. It doesn’t matter if they happen to have the same rail gauge and use the same rolling stock.
      A shut-down on the Central Line in London will not disrupt the completely-independent Victoria Line also, even though they are both heavy-metro.

      1. We don’t trust the parking enforcement, so we need bollards to prevent vehicles taking over all streets.
        We don’t trust the network management, so we need different systems to prevent disruption affecting all lines.

      2. Along with the system redundancy of HR alone:

        It just doesn’t make sense that someone at the airport travelling south has to transfer to BRT and then to heavy rail.

        The same for anyone located along the LR corridor if going south.

        Visa versa for anyone from the south heading to the airport or somewhere along the LR line.

        1. Why doesn’t that make sense?

          Given high 5-10 minute frequencies (and thus short transfer waiting times) I can’t see how changing between modes would be such a horrible inconvenience, and I certainly think that’s more feasible and beneficial than trying to run a complex bunch of low-frequency single-seat lines everywhere.

      3. It precludes the stupid ideas that heavy rail enthusiasts trot out on here all the time. Extending the Onehunga Line and branching from Puhinui aren’t independent systems.

        Cost then precludes heavy rail for the SW rapid transit proposal. Why bother restricting yourself to heavy rail gradients and curves whenyou could build light rail or light metro.

  19. Just bite the bullet and build the light metro.

    Or else it is just going in circles, cost escalations and the cheap option become expensive. Then people complained and nothing get built.
    Ends up with nothing in the next decades.

    1. I know what you mean about going in circles. They should choose the best solution and proceed asap.

      But you have not shown why you think Light Metro is the better solution.

      Women in Urbanism have looked at the two options and concluded that Light Rail gives a superior solution for women, children and people with limited mobility.

      Is there a reason this should be ignored? Given the number of women who would start using public transport if the personal safety and accessibility was improved, this advantage is substantial in terms of ridership. Can you offer a reason these women shouldn’t be catered to? Is there some use case that has more importance than these women?

      Both Light Rail and Light Metro have their place. In this corridor, some sections are good for Light Metro (eg the motorway sections) and some sections are ideal for Light Rail (eg Dominion Rd). Light Rail is able to swap between these two forms. So going with Light Metro is not “biting the bullet”. It’s choosing to limit the solution to one that isn’t ideal for all parts of the route.

      I think you’re ignoring:

      – The advantages of on-street light rail in terms of accessibility, streetscape improvement and CPTED, as is demonstrated in many cities.
      – The need to reduce traffic volumes substantially means reallocating space is an advantage that Light Rail offers but Light Metro doesn’t.
      – That the regeneration of the streetscape is part of the Light Rail cost – whereas with tunnelled Light Metro, the streets above would remain in their deficient state, with no money provided to improve them.
      – That being able to build several light rail lines for the cost of one Light Metro line is an enormous advantage. We need a network, not a single line.

      1. Do you or Women in Urbanism speak for all women? Women live in vast cities all over the world, cities like London, Paris, Stockholm, Madrid, New York, Moscow, Tokyo, where they safely use underground rail day in day out. Modern underground stations have lifts for people with mobility issues; children in all the afore mentioned cities use metro rail without needing parents to accompany them. Kiwi women are not less capable then women around the world.

        1. Saying that “women around the world use underground stations” does not address Women in Urbanism’s points about light rail being less expensive, creating a better streetscape, and reducing traffic volumes better than light metro.

        2. Of course I don’t speak for all women. Nor do Women in Urbanism -but they’ve done more work on this subject than ARL have. I will continue to raise two issues:

          1/ CPTED should not be a tack-on after mode decisions have been made. Like cycling, bus connectivity and the need for rapid and large vehicle travel reduction, these issues need elevation within the decision-making processes, early on, to contribute to the mode decision for each route.

          2/ Good design involves establishing systems that are self-maintaining. The more that basic layout, passive surveillance and integration with the street can provide access and CPTED – with less reliance on technology which requires ongoing upkeep – the more resilient the design is.

          Auckland has examples of places made inaccessible or less safe feeling through the closing of stairwells or lifts, through the discontinuation of a camera surveillance programme or of insufficient maintenance of light levels. And Council disbanded its CPTED team a few years ago. As a result, it’s now possible to get a Council officer to agree – and even sign their name to a letter saying – that something isn’t safe and needs to be changed, but getting funding or any action taken (when the issue is on privately owned malls, for example) is way harder.

          It might seem fine to look to overseas cities and imagine we can get the best CPTED and safety on offer, but there is no guarantee of this at all. NZ’s current culture of penny-pinching and deprioritising safety and diverse needs means advocates do need to speak out.

    2. Kevin – The problem with a light metro system it requires a dedicated right of way which is expensive due to dedicate infrastructure and maintenance and rolling stock that is need and is not flexible for any future light rail expansion as Auckland grows.

      Depending on the light metro being planned – whether its under ground or above ground, will there be any visual pollution, how much land will need to be required, how any buildings will need to be removed etc to build the dedicated light metro right of way.

      The best option to give flexibility for Auckland’s growth, is design a 4-7 route light rail ‘tram’ system which is can be planned and built over a period time that gives system flexibility be using a standardised rolling stock, maintenance, etc that can be used for all routes

      1. A railway line is a railway line you can run what ever sort of vehicle on it that you like as long as the track gauge is right and if it will fit in the available space. So it would be feasible to have a low floor tram running in a tunnel then on an overhead then cruising on the street. Don’t get to wound up trying to categorise what system we need according to what is done overseas. Just trying to read between the lines I will predict this is what Wood’s will have recommended to him. Whether he acts on this is something else.

        1. Honestly I think it should either be at-grade light rail all the way or underground light metro all the way. I don’t see any advantage in only tunneling underneath the city just to run at-grade down Dominion Rd – not when there’s the opportunity to turn Queen St into a transit mall for considerably less than what would basically be a second CRL.

          It is necessary to consider overseas examples of light rail/light metro, there is nothing here in NZ that we can compare to. As Chris mentions, overseas light metros (e.g. the Vancouver Skytrain, the Montreal REM, the Frankfurt U-Bahn, the London DLR) are pretty much always grade-separated to a greater degree than light rail, particularly when those systems are automated.

        2. Matt – totally agree, although I wonder if south of Onehunga we should try to build grade separated so that section could one day be plugged into a proper underground light metro system

        3. Yes that does seem to change the plan somewhat. I feel like the 30 year vision should be light metro from under the CBD taking over the Onehunga to Airport section and the central isthmus is left with (multiple) LRT lines heading south to Onehunga, further west down to Blockhouse Bay as well as the crosstown route. We can but dream

  20. It’ll never be built light rail, trackless tram ,heavy rail or bi artic trolley buses,it’s all talk just money for consultants and pen pushers, millions wasted already that could’ve gone into health or education .They’re [ AT and whoever else is involved ] incapable of doing the job it will never get past the talking about it stage so why bother. As a previous comment stated here, they built a tram system at the turn of the century in Auckland an extremely good network they just got on and did it, then , like fools ripped it out during the 1950s ,now they’re not even capable of deciding how to start let alone get a shovel in the ground.

  21. “A light metro solution. There was no detail about which corridor this would take”.
    Does this mean not sure about the corridor like on dominion rd? or near dominion rd?. Or does it mean that they could come out of left field and say its actually going on manukau rd?.
    If its going to mangere then manukau rd makes a lot more sense.

  22. For the good of the city we need light rail (or metro, but for more frequent stops and costs and all the rest of it LR) as soon as possible. I grew up in the Netherlands and have lived in other cities with light rail (eg Melbourne) and trams do the most short of an extensive heavy metro system for bigger cities for building a city where residents within its catchment can conceive of not owning a car and generally making the city better. It’s no coincidence cities with a fully fledged light rail system are generally ones that people rave about living in, and visiting.

  23. Disruption on Dominion Road

    Can someone explain how much less disruption businesses will see if we are “only” digging massive underground station boxes rather than digging up the middle of the corridor?

    Reading Simon Wilson’s article seems to suggest they might be using the minimisation of disruption to businesses as one of the plusses for metro, but I can’t see that much of a difference to be honest, surely constructing underground stations at major shopping areas/intersections would take a lot longer than laying tracks through them and building fairly basic structures needed for LR?

    1. They’re pretending, maybe to themselves, maybe just to others, that tunneling means there isn’t any disruption.

      But we know from the CRL that every station and tunnel portal is at least one cubic fucktonne of disruption each so what gives?

      1. The K-road construction isn’t too bad for K-road itself. And that’s the only mid-tunnel station on CRL. In a more suburban area they would have had a better time with disruption, and would have probably purchased more private land to do it on. Aotea is going to be the busiest station in the country, its got extremely long platforms, and Mt Eden is the 3 way grade separated junction with 4 platforms. Not really comparable to a new light metro mid-block station.

        You could pitch it like this too: if we have some decent sized consolidated construction sites, probably with sub 100 meter platforms, on what is currently private land, you can demo a bit of a block, keep most of the construction confined to these non-public areas, then after construction you can value capture and sell the sites off to develop density and ridership. Rather than light rail which would exist almost purely in the existing carriageway and rely on private re-developments.

        1. Yes but on Dom Road, the station boxes would have to be extremely close, if not exactly at the big 4-way intersections where the mostly tightly bunched shops/businesses are, otherwise the stations are in the wrong place, no?

          K’Road is a bit of an odd one because its being essentially mined from below, whereas surely the Dom Road stations would be excavated from above and then built back over

        2. Most of dominion road is a row of commercial buildings / shops with new big box stores or low density housing say 40 meters behind that.

          Taking under 100 meters of the lower value shop buildings, plus some of the housing behind out near the major hubs would be pretty work-able I think and would constrain the construction to sites outside of the public domain. With some civilizing of the street so crossing isn’t a penalty or if we wanted more, an underpass for multiple entrances.

          100 meters platform length is on the high end of what you would need too. 60 or 70 meters is pretty workable for a decent light metro system. Could still almost do what we want CRL to do. The canada line in vancouver is 50 meter platforms, and with 90 second frequencies and a wider loading guage they will get around 15k ppdph maximum.

          I’m not saying this is the system we should go for. But the stations wont be near as bad as CRL has been. K road is mined yes, but the platforms are huge, there are multiple large deep entrances, and the buildings around the Beresford square entrance couldn’t or shouldn’t be demolished. And its a much denser area than the suburbia of dominion road. You wouldn’t need as much traffic control or pedestrian enclosure and restriction if its all land that the public couldn’t go anyway.

    2. I think the issue is everyone now knows they got away with CRL. The businesses there are stuffed and if you had to add business disturbance and costs actual compensation then the project would have been a worse economic failure.
      Nobody really has the appetite to shaft Queen Street in the same manner.

      1. What do you think they should do about these kinds of costs Miffy?

        I can’t imagine keeping the small businesses afloat during this time would have cost too much. The operating costs, excluding rent, for a small dairy, chip shop, or coffee shop, would be nothing in comparison to to such a project.
        The problem comes with extending this out to its maximum extent and preventing exploitation of such a system.

        Should we pay motorists compensation for construction works on the motorway that slows down traffic for a time?
        Someone could even make some crazy argument that if a transport project gets cancelled after being promised that we should pay compensation to those that banked on it going through.
        For CRL should we effectively pay landlords of these nearby businesses to have their property value massively upgraded?
        We cant force landlords to reduce the rent on businesses (I think) while there is construction going on, but we also don’t want to take all the risk out of things at great public expense, and effectively socialize the losses and privatize the profits. Seems unfair to the public.

        And clearly if we never do any construction, then the city will slowly deteriorate and nothing will ever get better.

        1. CRL road closures have on the whole reduced congestion in the city. Should we make city centre motorists pay a levy for the improved travel times, the levy could be passed on to business suffering from the reduced foot traffic.

        2. Paying for Business Disturbance costs is nothing new. If Waka Kotahi take land under the Public Works Act and if that forced sale means a business experiences particular costs they have a legitimate claim. What was rotten about CRL was everybody involved knew this was coming but they told Commissioners at the Notice of Requirement hearing that everything would be just fine. They got away with it by keeping access open albeit an access that the public totally avoided. This was a significant adverse effect that they didn’t avoid, remedy or mitigate. The next group of retailers will know what to expect and will be ready for a fight.

        3. And city centre businesses need high footfall, so the focus should’ve been on making sure the walking access was improved at each step rather than dark, circuitous or unpleasant. Instead their focus was on traffic flow.

  24. Having an independent, second corridor through the central city for light metro trains that can also operate on existing rail lines is a benefit (e.g.
    https://www.nexus.org.uk/metrofutures) but a second CRL would cost in the order of $5 to $10 billion and take ten years to build.

    The CRL currently being built will make Auckland’s rail network significantly more resilient. As long as there are double switches built a reasonable distance beyond the end of the CRL platforms, the CRL stations can be used as a terminus if needed at which 24 trains per hour can be turned back.

    If is an incident closes Britomart a half schedule of services can terminate and be turned back at Aotea. If there is an incident at Aotea half of services can terminate and turn back at Britomart and the other half at K-Road.

    1. I am predicting that in the event of a problem in the tunnel the network will revert to a pre CRL running pattern. If a train is stuck in the tunnel that’s it. Sending more trains in just makes the problem worse. If the problem is at Britomart then I don’t need to tell you what happens because you already know.

      1. And incidents like that would be compounded on an interoperable heavy+light rail network, especially if there are junctions between the two modes at constrained inner-city locations, e.g. Quay Park & Mt Eden. An accident at a heavy rail-light rail junction could shut down or heavily disrupt BOTH systems, and therefore most if not all rail lines across Auckland.

        The advantage of separate heavy & light rail, in that regard, is that incidents on one system will not affect the other system – less risk, more reliability. Take your example, Royce, a heavy rail incident in the CRL would not affect the operations of light rail along Queen St, and vice versa.

        The CRL Technical Information webpages for Aotea & Karangahape stations does not seem to show any crossovers or double switches beyond the platforms. In the case of Karangahape station each track is in a separate bored tunnel well apart from one another.

  25. The major problem of the mythical light rail is that it is ruining Queen Street. AT and the Council should have pedestrianised Queen Street by now but they are afraid that might preclude jamming tracks down the centre later.

  26. Someone referred me to this interesting article as we’ve been grappling with similar decisions in Wellington.

    I don’t have the time to read all these comments, but I’m really surprised that no one is considering tram-train as per the Karlsruhe model. It’s well-tried and proven and has all the advantages of both heavy and light rail, combined.

    Heavy rail gives us capacity and speed (where the tracks allow it) while light rail offers lower infrastructure costs (tighter curves and steeper gradients than heavy rail, hence fewer expensive engineering works), better urban amenity (not requiring trenching or cutting off neighbourhoods from each other) compatibility with pedestrian zones, taking people right to the centre of the activity centres where they want to go, allows better urban development, and indeed all the advantages mentioned in this article.

    Christchurch laid tracks for $5000 per single track metre (i.e. $10 M per double track kilometre). Double that and double it again for contingencies and it doesn’t even come close to the worst examples of cost blow-outs (Sydney and Edinburgh).

    Most of you will be surprised to learn that tram-train was being given serious consideration in the early 1990s. In Auckland, as well as here in Wellington.

    Using tram-train technology, the Onehunga branch could be extended through to Mangere and the airport, at least doubling its usefulness and capacity. Get that going and the Dominion Road / Mt Roskill track can come later. Onehunga can also be linked to New Lynn by on-street track with tram-trains running on it, as per the interesting diagram in your “Crosstown Light Rail Option” page.
    https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/08/10/the-crosstown-light-rail-option/
    Similarly, a Manukau branch extension (on-street) to Botany and linking up with the heavy rail again at Panmure, as per the purple line in the same diagram, but with tram-train instead of BRT.

    Another major advantage of tram-train is that you can use the existing heavy rail depots for storage and maintenance, without requiring an enormous outlay for land and brand new facilities. Light rail and tram-train can be implemented in small manageable stages. If we don’t have the expertise, it is readily available in Germany and other countries which have implemented it successfully.

    The possibilities are limitless. Don’t listen to the naysayers who say it’s expensive or it can’t be done. According to the Light Rail Transit Association’s magazine “Tramways and Urban Transit”, light rail is still one of the most popular mass transit systems with about 20 new systems appearing every year worldwide and tram-train is also rapidly gaining traction. There must be good reasons for this.

    1. Honestly, I’ve been talking with some people in Christchurch and they think a Tram-Train type system would also be perfect for their needs. Especially if they want to get some sorta capacity boost going in their city.

      As far as tram-trains for Auckland… the way I see it there is one big disadvantage. We’ll have to get Tram-Trains in Cape Gauge [which means we’ll need to get someone to modify an existing design, are there any tram-trains in cape gauge or metre gauge?] and they’ll be a tad more complicated then buying stock off the shelf trams/light rail vehicles.

      As far as advantages go… yeah, there is quite a few. We can make use of existing infrastructure. They can run onto the heavy rail tracks where they need it. Though potentially could be congestion issues if they run any further on the network.

      1. Agree that for Christchurch there’s a good argument for tram-trains. It would arguably be far cheaper to build cape gauge light rail through the CBD than to try and get a heavy rail tunnel & underground station there.

        Though a lot of Christchurch’s residential catchment is away from the existing heavy rail lines – e.g. thinking of the entirely industrial surrounds between Addington and Hornby.

    2. On the flip side, tram-train interoperability would require new junctions to be built e.g. at Avondale, Puhinui, Panmure (which would create choke points/potential single points of failure that could disrupt both heavy & light rail lines), and I believe that there may be an issue with signal compatibility.Not to mention that most ‘off-the-shelf’ light rail technology is 1435mm gauge, not 1067mm gauge – so more-expensive custom rolling stock (likely dual-voltage too) would be needed.

      More to the point, would tram-trains actually be of any use in Auckland, long-term? A network such as the CFN 2.0 doesn’t require any track-sharing between different modes. And for a crosstown line I’d be more in favour of extending the line from Avondale to Pt Chev (interchanging with Northwestern light rail), to create an orbital line that links all radial RTN routes. At 5-minute frequencies on each line transfers from the Western Line to the Crosstown Line would be very convenient.

      The Onehunga branch line would need to be double-tracked to offer true rapid transit service. Since the heavy rail option for that requires full grade separation & would cost >$500 million, I support the conversion of the OBL to light rail independent of the heavy rail network. That opens up the possibility of extending crosstown light rail from Onehunga via Penrose to Panmure, and also allows increased frequencies on the Southern Line.

      There’s also the fact (which the Auckland Light Rail group have pointed out) that one of the primary goals of light rail is to create new areas of transit-oriented development along Dominion Rd. Given the housing crisis and climate crisis I am in favour of building light rail along that part of the corridor ASAP, to enable eco-friendly intensification.

      1. Not that I don’t acknowledge that tram-train systems are possible, but I disagree with your comment about “don’t listen to the naysayers”. There are valid criticisms of why tram-trains aren’t suitable in some cities whereas they are in others. Neither do I think it’s accurate to portray all light rail systems as tram-train or interoperable.

        I would be in favour of tram-trains in Wellington, possibly in Christchurch too – but for Auckland I support separate heavy rail and light rail systems.

        1. Of all of New Zealand’s cities, Wellington is probably the obvious candidate for tram trains to link through the city centre. Christchurch and Tauranga also have good potential. In Auckland our heavy rail network is effectively maxed out after the CRL is built and we should be building independent systems (which may be heavy rail where appropriate) or extending existing services (not branching service) to serve new suburbs.

          Ramming more trains into an overloaded system would need a really good case that I don’t see in any of Auckland’s lines.

      2. The problem with tram-train in Wellington, is that if it is supposed to form an end-on extension to the existing regional metro service then it will need to be of sufficient capacity to accommodate the massive ‘unlocked demand’ that there is likely to be. Currently (i.e. prior to Covid), passenger flows off the trains in the mornings peak at 12,000 pph for short periods. Even if a significant proportion of these flows do not wish to continue via the extension, the increase due to unlocked demand is likely to more-than counter this. We are talking a full-scale metro system with packed 4, 6, or 8-car trains arriving every 2-3 minutes during the peak. This level of patronage does not lend itself to an extension trundling through the streets.
        Wellington needs a full extension of its regional metro system.

        1. Fair point, but what would the cost be of extending a heavy rail tunnel from Wellington Station under the central city to Newtown & the Airport? That runs into the same high expense issues as underground light metro for the Auckland Airport line.

          Light rail-type tram-trains would theoretically be able to achieve passenger flows of 12,000p/h/d, with 67m 450pax units running every 2-3 minutes. 99m 675pax units could cater for induced demand potentially up to 20,000p/h/d.

        2. I did not realise it was that high Dave! You’d be pretty much at the limit of on street capacity with even a 50% increase. It seems like we are in the unfortunate position of desperately needing a tunnel then!

  27. So have they not really clarified the Queen St / City Ctr route or style by the sounds of it? I’ve been off-line for about a month and a half, and happened to look at the light rail website the other day just after it was updated, was surprised something actually been thought about at least.

    1. Not at this point – I wonder if the fuss kicked up by the Queen St storeowners had any influence on that.

      Though to me Queen St seems like the logical corridor to use for at-grade light rail, and in the old 2016 AT route light rail did go along Queen St.

      I don’t know how they’d get a Karangahape Rd underpass station built if a Symonds St routing is picked.

      I think the underground light metro option is described deep in the business case for the AWHC – it would tunnel under Wellesley St, and then either under Symonds St or at surface around the CMJ in Grafton Gully. I doubt light metro would be cut-&-cover built below Queen St, especially right after the CRL.

      1. Symonds Street just doesn’t seem like a good idea for the primary LRT corridor. If they build it down Sydmonds Street there would be huge transfer pressure wherever the Dom Rd LRT line crossed with the CRL for all the passengers going to the CBD and not Uni

        1. I don’t think it would be so bad.
          The Symonds street route would lead to Britomart, and directly serves a good 1/2 of the dense city centre (guessing by looking at google earth).
          There would still be some queen street transit with electric busses probably.
          If there is no heavier lift mode for symonds street, here will be huge transfer pressure from LRT and HR to Symonds street buses.
          The only city center station that the dominion road – symonds street corridor would miss is Aotea, sure it will be the busiest station, but 2/3 ain’t bad.

          My reckon is that the transfer pressure wouldn’t be that bad. I’m not saying that we should do symonds, but it’d be a really tough decision from my perspective. There are some distinct advantages, and disadvantages.

        2. @Jack – I don’t think the transfer demand from the CRL or Queen St light rail to the Symonds St area would be that great.

          From Aotea to the Universities it’s a fairly short & not-excessively steep walk up Wellesley St. (Granted, I am able-bodied and willing to walk fast and for long distances).

          Improve the footpaths, and potentially consider subway station exits under the 300 Queen St building (https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2012/11/29/300-queen-st-the-perfect-future-transit-station/), and that could enable easier walking to the universities from the midtown stations on Queen St and Albert St.

  28. My aim in bringing tram-train into the mix was to stimulate discussion, because it is not really well-known or understood in NZ, let alone seriously considered. Addressing some of the replies:

    (1) I never portrayed “all light rail systems as tram-train or interoperable” or that the two were equivalent. Tram-train combines the advantages of light and heavy rail. The vehicles define it. Their specifications must allow them to operate on both light and heavy rail tracks. The tracks need no modification. The overhead wires need isolated dead sections where the voltage changes. They share the tracks with any existing LRT system and also with inter-city and goods trains on heavy rail. Simply put, they operate in both environments. Karlsruhe operates both LRVs (which never venture onto the DB network and operate only on 750 Vdc) and tram-trains (which run on both systems at 750 Vdc and 15,000 Vac).

    (2) By naysayers, I mean those who present spurious arguments against anything (such as “an issue with signal compatibility” as if this stopped other cities from implementing it) whereas the discussion of whether it is suitable for Auckland is indeed a valid one to have. Looking at your CFN 2.0, I see an array of coloured lines and I think to myself that these could (should?) all be one colour, in the fullness of time. Mention is made that BRT may eventually need to be converted to LRT so why not do it from the beginning? Mention is also made on the CFN page of LRVs doing 110 km/h. That speed can only be achieved by tram-trains or heavy rail. Currently, the fastest LRV can only manage 80 km/h.

    (3) Converting the Onehunga branch to LRT is a possible alternative, but you wouldn’t want the service to end at Penrose, so tram-train is the obvious answer. For its 3 km or so, it could easily be operated as single track and I see that Google maps shows a passing loop near Te Papapa. We have our single track Johnsonville line (with passing loops) which carries only commuter traffic and the Matangis can’t cope on its tight curves and steep grades. It is crying out for conversion to LRT and an obvious next step is continuation of the tracks into town. Since there would be no track sharing, it wouldn’t be tram-train but would provide a good learning curve for future implementation of tram-trains on the Hutt and Kapiti lines, including a loop from Melling through the Hutt (on-street, i.e. to LRT standards, but operated by tram-trains).

    (4) You can’t seriously tell me that the CAF units you bought (or our Matangis for that matter) were off the shelf. Most manufacturers are happy to modify existing designs to accommodate any gauge or body width. For example Skoda advertise their Forcity Smart (Artic or Classic) LRVs as being available in anything from 950 mm to 1524 mm gauge and a variety of body widths. Metre gauge is very common for LRT, too. It makes perfect sense to go for cape gauge, even for an isolated LRT system and there is no cost downside in doing so. This is true regardless of whether you are talking about light rail, heavy rail, or tram-train vehicles.

    (5) I grant that Auckland is big enough to justify two separate systems, but it should be obligatory to choose the gauge based on what rails you already have. It would be a real pity to choose a gauge which is used in NZ only in tram museums and prevent future integration of light and heavy rail. Future generations will curse you for it. Furthermore, narrower gauges are more tolerant of sharper curves, too.

    (6) I tip my hat to those who think tram-train is the best for Wellington. A stub terminal on the edge of the CBD is the worst way to operate any mass transit system and fixing such a deficiency is the logic behind your CRL.

    Finally, for those who have given up on ever seeing any large infrastructure project in NZ being delivered on time and within budget, here’s something to brighten up your day:

    https://www.railjournal.com/news/tampere-light-rail-network-opens-under-budget-and-ahead-of-schedule/

    1. You make some good points in here, but this statement isn’t true:
      “Mention is also made on the CFN page of LRVs doing 110 km/h. That speed can only be achieved by tram-trains or heavy rail. Currently, the fastest LRV can only manage 80 km/h.”
      There are several lightrail systems running over 100km/h, including the Siemens S70, which can operate at 120km/h and actually achieves 106km/h in North Carolina.

      https://assets.new.siemens.com/siemens/assets/api/uuid:251fd5b2-92c9-467a-bcc1-ba6c8064a8f7/low-floor-lrv-literature.pdf

    2. (2) – Why on Earth would you want “all the lines to be the same colour”? That seems to make the rapid transit network harder to use, if you ask me. Different coloured lines are standard practice for rapid transit internationally (and are already in use on the Auckland & Wellington suburban rail networks), and help users identify which line they need to catch even if other identifiers like letters or numbers are used.

      (3) I’d envision pure light rail being extended from Penrose across to Panmure, to create a crosstown orbital line interchanging with the Northwestern light rail, Western Line, Airport light rail, Southern Line, Eastern Line, and Eastern Busway. The Airport light rail line would replace the Onehunga branch line for direct Onehunga-City travel, and it would take no more than a few minutes longer. As far as I know retaining the Penrose Junction would limit possible frequencies on both the Southern Line and Onehunga Branch, without substantial and expensive grade separation or improvements (hence the proposal to convert it to standalone LRT).

      (4) – Then explain why the majority of standalone light rail networks across the world – especially brand new systems – are built at 1435mm standard gauge, regardless of the heavy rail gauge in that country? Most light rail networks of narrower or broader gauges are legacy systems. I would need to see official costs for 1435mm vs 1067mm light rail (including dual voltage vs single voltage stock) from a manufacturer like CAF.

      (5) – This is an emotive argument not based on fact. Converting light rail to heavy rail in future would be incredibly disruptive even with the same 1067mm gauge, since it would involve closing and rebuilding the whole corridor to take heavier axle loads. Not to mention that the corridors identified for light rail in Auckland (particularly the North Shore & NW lines) contain gradients too steep for mainline passenger+freight heavy rail.

      Also, separate heavy and light rail in the CFN 2.0 would be “integrated”, from a passenger perspective, though quick, easy transfers between high-frequency services. It is not necessary to run single seat journeys all across the network – that would be more difficult for users to understand and I imagine to operate as well. That’s my main qualm with the idea of tram-trains in Auckland – I see no advantage in a multitude of complex lower-frequency lines trying to run from everywhere to everywhere, when a simpler, smaller number of routes on separate modes can achieve the same or better results.

      The only possible shared HR+LR route I can think of is Kumeu-Waimauku, and even then I believe separate corridors or dual gauge track would suffice.

    3. Filosofos
      I support both LRT (tram with priority) and LRT (tram train) concepts when they are appropriate. I agree that most of the technical issues can be overcome in both cases, and already have been in multiple other systems. It is more a question of cost and effectiveness. Tram trains can operate safely in heavy rail or street environments, with a cost premium on the vehicles ($8m/30m LRV vs $5m/30m LRV).

      As low floor LRV bogie designs have improved, the speeds of the low floor vehicles are creeping up. Both the current standard Alstom and Bombardier trams can reach 80km/hr in service if they are fitted with pivoting bogies.

      There are trade-offs. The higher speed bogies with bigger wheels can’t go around quite as tight curves. There is some loss of interior space. But yes it is certainly doable.

      Taht being said, on previous analysis, it was more important to the overall travel time (City to Airport) to reduce the amount of slow speed curves, than to get the LRVs to travel at 100 k/hr instead of 80 km/hr. The difference was less than 2 minutes. Signal coordination and track priority in Dominion Road was far more important.

  29. Filosofos (5)
    I disagree with you on gauge, regardless of whether heavy rail extension, LRT or tram train is chosen. Running the same train along extensions has obvious advantages. But being able to interchange rolling stock generally is not otherwise an advantage. As systems develop operators often prefer to have an allocated set of rolling stock for each line, usually the ones that best suit its needs. For most networks, the fewer line branches the better.

    Depot capacity is also another critical factor. If any Auckland LRT would require another rail depot, then I’m not sure how much is achieved operationally being able to interconnect them via the same gauge. The previous Auckland LRT concept required significant rolling stock due to the Mangere demand (around 50 LRVs in the business case IIRC). I’d be surprised if that could all be accommodated in the current heavy rail depot.

    1. +1.

      With the future need for additional AM class trains on the heavy rail network (at least 47, potentially more for all 9-car trains), it makes more sense to retain space at existing depots & stables for those trains as well. If light rail and heavy rail shared the same depots, it would still be necessary to build additional stabling facilities somewhere down the line.

    2. In fact a single depot is a decided disadvantage. All the eggs in one basket, where a single event, such as a depot fire, could take down the entire system.
      We are already witnessing single centralised national rail control systems shutting down a huge amount of Auckland’s total public transport system.

      1. Good point. In some areas, particularly in an Auckland context, tram-trains would offer less flexibility and redundancy than separate heavy rail and light rail.

        Not only depots, but junctions between heavy rail and light rail would become single points of failure for every single line in the network, on both modes.

  30. I’m now sorry I commented in this forum. From innocently tossing in a little-known (and obviously poorly-understood) mode in NZ for consideration, one of you is hell-bent on misquoting, misunderstanding and twisting everything I say.

    Misquote: Where did I mention converting light rail to heavy rail? I mentioned the possibility of converting the Onehunga branch to light rail, but really, if you use tram-trains there is no need.

    Misunderstanding: I thought everyone would have understood that the diagram I referred to used different colours to denote different modes (heavy, LRT, BRT) and my point was that longer term, one should aim for uniformity of modes. Was I being too cryptic? [Obviously, I’m not including the orange ferry route.]

    Rebuttal: I can’t fathom the statement that tram-trains provide less flexibility. Quite the opposite. They are the epitome of flexibility.

    Misquote: I said depots (plural), not one single depot. I didn’t check to see where the current depot(s) is/are, but there are certainly several stabling areas around the network and the point is that tram-trains could share these, whereas for a separate LRT you need a new depot and new stabling facilities. Expanding existing facilities is much cheaper. This is an issue we would face in Wellington if we were silly enough to install standalone LRT on a different gauge.

    Rebuttal: I can’t provide costs for different gauges but I am assured by two experts I know personally (here and overseas) that there is definitely no downside to using 1067 mm gauge. Can you prove otherwise? You’ve also missed my point that future requirements may point to joining up of your brand new LRT to your heavy rail and not remain standalone forever. A problem we have in NZ is short-term thinking with no vision of what the future might look like.

    As for tram-trains, I never implied the vehicles themselves wouldn’t come at additional cost. We’re all aware they are generally dual voltage and have higher crash-worthiness but their advantage lies in flexibility to run on both light and heavy rail systems and go from one to the other seamlessly. Regarding the argument between light and heavy rail to the airport, it is clear that a heavy rail extension either from Onehunga or Puhinui would be prohibitively expensive and serve fewer users, so an easier and more efficient solution to get a quick starter line going, might be to lay track to light rail standards (preferably on-street but segregated from other traffic) allowing for tighter curves and steeper gradients where necessary to reduce engineering costs, hence much cheaper. By starting at an existing railhead (Onehunga is preferable since you can run it through Mangere town centre) you save on laying track all the way from the city centre (that can come later) but you’d have to buy tram-trains to provide the service from Britomart. Tram-trains would also be useful to provide your cross-town LRT, e.g. they’d run on existing track between Onehunga and Penrose, before heading east (perhaps directly from the triangular junction onto Penrose Rd) to Panmure, etc. as well as Onehunga to New Lynn (on newly laid light rail) and then continue on to Swanson, on the existing track. The options for future expansion are limitless.

    It’s a matter of weighing up the benefits against the costs. If you don’t think there’s enough benefit for Auckland in some of these ideas, that’s fine, but please don’t put up fantasised barriers such as “difficulty with junctions”. A light/heavy rail junction presents no more difficulty than an existing heavy/heavy rail junction and there are already enough of those.

    Finally, Sailor Boy, thanks for that link. Much appreciated. I stand corrected on that point.

    1. “I thought everyone would have understood that the diagram I referred to used different colours to denote different modes (heavy, LRT, BRT) and my point was that longer term, one should aim for uniformity of modes.” – You seemed to be referring to the CFN 2.0, not the ATAP rapid transit map.

      “Two experts you know personally” are not a verifiable source, especially when you are not quoting any actual figures or evidence.

      My point re. depots is that the existing depots and stabling facilities would likely not be enough for the fleet of tram-trains necessary for the new lines (Airport, Northwest, North Shore, Crosstown, Eastern Loop etc.); and that new separate depots and stabling facilities would be necessary, at the same cost as just building separate depots for separate light rail.

      Yes, junctions would create issues. No, this is not a “fantasy issue”. Junctions create capacity limits, and when you’re trying to operate a variety of high-frequency rail lines this creates issues, or forces the expense of grade-separated flying junctions. Plus, again, this increases the risk of single points of failure where an incident at a HR/LR junction would disrupt both networks. That is where an interoperable rail network is less flexible.

      Your reaction and language indicates that you did not want your idea to be criticized at all. There’s really no need to be all passive-aggressive. I am not anti tram-train, I support it in Wellington (since it would merely be a southward extension of the existing rail lines), but I do not support it in Auckland. I am open to hard evidence that could change my mind (just as I would support light metro instead of light rail if there is evidence that the benefits would be worth the cost).

    2. Good idea on the tram train and just extending the single track Onehunga branch at the 3 foot 6 gauge. I think the problem comes back to the specification of the the tram train. It would need to be heavy enough and crash resistant enough to mix it with the EMU’s and freight trains. Also it would need to be 25,000 volt capable even if it ran 750 volt DC past Onehunga. So it will need a transformer and rectifier which is pretty heavy. And it would have to get the safety Nazis approval even if it was deemed safe. At the moment apparently we can’t even take a diesel train into Britomart even if its engine is not running because the diesel in the tank is considered a fire hazard so that’s the sort of mentality we are having to deal with. But great idea it would be a neat solution running street wise through Mangere then on the main line. I am thinking batteries could get around some of the electrical problems maybe a dual voltage trickle charge setup. You would think it would just add weight but maybe not if most of the power is coming from the batteries which are being continually topped up from the overhead whether the train is running or sitting at a station or sitting in a depot at night.

        1. Tram trains have two aspects that increase their risk. Firstly if they run on a street there is the possibility of hitting another vehicle or a pedestrian but of course street running light rail has exactly the same problem. The second is the vehicle must be crash resistant enough to mix it with other traffic on the heavy rail network. If these risks can be mitigated then the safety personal job is done. If they have a hidden agenda to influence the outcome of a particular project then I think they are stepping outside there brief. Maybe they are light rail fanatics maybe they think that railways are silly. Maybe they think that climate change is bullshit and maybe they just love the smell of diesel. Maybe they think that New Zealand’s railway should be a mirror copy of Perth or Frankfurt. Maybe they think that home grown technology should be stamped out and we should buy off the shelf products from Siemens or CAF. I certainly got that impression when the SA sets were parked up at Taumarunui. There are a lot of agendas around and safety is a very convenient tool which can be used to advance them.

        2. +1 to Royce. There is a lot of concern trolling around the safety of various rail systems from their opponents. Whether it be concern trolling the signals integration of tram trains or the impact of street running on pedestrians.

        3. Sailor Boy, I am not “concern trolling” about the signal integration of light rail vs heavy rail. My argument is that signal integration between heavy and light rail would be an additional expense on top of custom 1067mm gauge dual-voltage LRVs; plus that such junctions between heavy rail and light rail would create additional choke points and hamper the running of a high frequency rapid transit rail system.

          I don’t see any point or long-term requirement for HR-LR interoperability, and I believe that an off-the-shelf standalone light rail system (similar to how several Australian cities have gone with the CAF Urbos 3 for their light rail) would be less expensive and more beneficial for Auckland.

          Royce – I am not denying that technical & safety issues with tram-trains can be resolved. What I (and others) are arguing is that the cost is not worth it. It is silly to try and misrepresent people as “light rail fanatics” or “climate change deniers”, or to insinuate that following the transit experience of international cities is somehow a bad thing, or to claim that arguing for a cost-effective off-the-shelf light rail solution means someone is against local NZ industry.

        4. My comment about concern trolling wasn’t directed at you Matt, avoid cost is a perfectly reasonable concern. I have seen comments on other forums that the signalling can’t be achieved, ignoring that it has in other cities. That is no different to claiming that we can’t fit an LRT corriodr on Dominion Road when we can look at overseas examples or just build up cross sections directly in things like street mix.

        5. @Sailor Boy – Apologies, I didn’t realize that and assumed your comment was directed at me.

    3. Thanks for your comments Filosofos.

      I was initially pretty against interlining trams onto the heavy rail network. And you know what I still am.

      But I think you’re right it would probably be better to default to compatible equipment on the most basic things like gauge unless someone with all the numbers and facts could say for sure that something different will be better for some currently unconsidered reason.

      “ By starting at an existing railhead (Onehunga is preferable since you can run it through Mangere town centre) you save on laying track all the way from the city centre”

      I dont know if anyone else commented this, but at peak times the tracks are pretty much full around here. You would probably be limited to the 1/2 hourly services that the current Onehunga line manages.

      1. Yep, extending from Mangere is preferable if your goal is to get a rail service to the airport.

        However, what we actually want is a rapid transit service to southwest Auckland, improved north-south speed and capacity through the central isthmus, and to remove some existing buses from the city centre. Extending heavy rail doesn’t achieve any of those things, whether it is heavy rail or tram trains.

        While it seems like there is benefit in making the new tracks compatible, there is a lot of cost. Track beds have to be engineered to take the higher weight of tram trains, but worse, the platform heights have to match the existing trains. This means 900mm high platforms in Queen Street and Dominion Road. It means 15-20m long ramps at both ends of those platforms. Is the benefit of hypothetical future tram trains worth the real damage of building a wall down the middle of these roads?

        Are the light rail vehicles on Dominion Road and in South West Auckland ever going to run on heavy rail tracks if we build the whole route?

        The Northwest route is probably the only proposed LRT route that would ever run tram trains if we extended it to Helensville. But we would have to double track anyway, so why not just build a parallel track for LRT or run an HR service with transfer at Kumeu.

      2. Not to mention the need to double-track the Onehunga branch line in order to achieve rapid transit frequencies to the Airport. Which (based on the Jacob’s Report) would cost >$500 million for heavy rail and involve extensive trenching/viaducts, or would involve closing the branch for a cheaper conversion to light rail.

        Either way, there’d still be the flat junction at Penrose that could limit frequencies.

        Evidence overseas that custom rolling stock costs more than off-the-shelf models: HS2 in the UK seems to be leaning towards selecting trains built to the standard European loading gauge, since trains built to the smaller UK loading gauge would cost up to 50% more.

  31. “Safety nazis” is not an acceptable term.
    It trivialities the deeds of a fascist genocidal group, equates genuine moves to improve safety to that group, is a dog whistle for groups such a those opposing Vision Zero and Godwin.

    We have previously discussed the issue of diesel trains within Britomart and why they should not be permitted. I have provided examples of fatalities arising from ruptured diesel tanks of diesel trains.

    I am surprised that there is no censure from the moderators of this group for such a phrase given the emphasis of safety on our roads.

    1. Furthermore it fails to acknowledge the current safety legislation in NZ which can result in jail time for those in charge of a corporate entity who fail to take ALL practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employees, those using their product or services and the public at large.

      Post Pike River the public wanted tighter safety legislation and that is what they got. Live with it and cease the bitching and moaning at those who are legally (and ethically) obliged to comply with it.

    2. “ We have previously discussed the issue of diesel trains within Britomart and why they should not be permitted. I have provided examples of fatalities arising from ruptured diesel tanks of diesel trains.”

      Wait until you hear about lithium fires.

      1. Evidence so far shows that lithium-ion batteries are no more likely to catch fire than a combustion engine; possibly up to 11x less likely if Tesla’s claims are to be believed.

        And Britomart doesn’t have battery trains currently, it is used by fully electric trains powered by overhead wires. I can’t find any record of OHLE electric trains catching fire.

    3. Ok I will not post about safety nazis again Pike River was a disgrace. I have worked in factories handling huge amounts of flammable materials and certainly electrical equipment must be up to spec. Of course there is instrumentation which can monitor dangerous atmospheres if it hasn’t being overriden. Some activities are just not worth the risks. I don’t think light rail or tram trains is one of them. And with regards to batteries in trains weight isn’t so much of a problem and I expect lithium iron phosphate would be a more suitable choice than lithium ion.

      1. Not sure why you’d consider light rail risky enough to “not do”, Royce. Hundreds of light rail systems operate safely in cities around the world. Majority of accidents or incidents seem to be the responsibility of car drivers or people trespassing on the tracks.

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