The government has released the recommendations from the Auckland Light Rail team (ALR), ahead of this being considered by Cabinet later this year. This appears to be a case of trying to gauge public reaction so they don’t end up with a repeat of the Northern Pathway – and that’s understandable given the cost of the options now range from $9 billion to $16.3 billion.

However, they haven’t released all the information, just a summary of it; and won’t release the full indicative business case which will allow us to properly see their assumptions until after the government decision is made.

Unfortunately, I feel that the government have once again been let down by officials who, as I have long feared would happen, appear to have leant heavily on the scales to justify a much more expensive solution.

Engagement and Opportunity

ALR say that from their engagement, 66% of people support light rail, with the strongest support being in South Auckland where the result in some communities as high as 82% – while the most concern or opposition to the project came from North and East Auckland, and some of that was because they want more investment in their communities first.

ALR also say the feedback shows reducing our carbon footprint is considered very important to Aucklanders.

Currently there are 60,000 households and 169,000 jobs in the light City Centre to Mangere corridor. They say that, depending on the option chosen and the scale of urban development that occurs driven by other ‘urban interventions’, by 2051 there could be as many as 66,000 additional households, housing 156,000 people, and another 97,000 jobs. That’s like adding a whole Hamilton to the corridor.

They also provide this diagram (below) to indicate the different levels of development enabled by different transport options.

But this is an overly simplistic take. There are many factors which drive housing typology, such as what you can access on the entire transport network, including on other PT routes connected to this corridor (and other modes), the levels of service offered (e.g. how frequently they run), and how that changes over the entire span of the day.

We’re also seeing already seeing those higher density forms on bus routes, such as along Gt North Rd and in the city centre.

The issue on the proposed light rail corridor has not been a lack of places to intensify, but zoning that doesn’t allow it. And, given what we’re already seen from the council so far in response to the NPS-UD, it seems we’ll be lucky to get zoning that will enable the light rail scale density shown in the graphic, let alone the metro or metro-plus scale ones.

The Options

As I’ve mentioned previously, the ALR team have come up with three options, and now we have a little more detail about them. The options are:

  • Light Rail – A surface-level solution on the road but separated from traffic. This would be on Dominion Rd on the isthmus and diverts away from the SH20 corridor in Mangere.

    Light Rail on Bader Drive – Where are the cycle lanes?
  • Light Metro – A fully grade-separated option that would be in bored tunnels for most of the route. This travels from Wynyard Quarter through to Aotea Station and then along Sandringham Rd on the isthmus.

    There would still be a need for buses and bus lanes on Sandringham Rd even with a tunnelled option, to help in delivering people to stations which will be further apart
  • Tunnelled Light Rail – This is a hybrid option and uses a tunnel like light metro from Wynyard to Mt Roskill on the isthmus but follows the light rail route through Mangere.

Interestingly, for light rail the report says:

One consideration was that Light Rail on Sandringham Road it would make it necessary to relocate a significant power cable to Dominion Road. This would delay works by up to two years and would mean that businesses and residents on both Dominion Road and Sandringham Road would be affected by construction disruption

Notably there are no station locations on the map above, which fudges what the actual impact of these options will be. But they must have some in mind, as they have provided the number of stations there will be for each option – along with some of the other outcomes of their assessments.

Travel times and demand

The two tunnelled options are forecast to perform better, but the modelling behind it is dubious at best. A lot of is because those two options are described as faster – but there’s a catch, and the information above allows us to break down travel times for each section to get a better understanding.

A couple of things stand out in this.

  • The two tunnelled options only save five minutes on a trip to Mt Roskill. That’s not much saving when you consider a tunnel adds over $5 billion in cost. Perhaps more importantly, it appears this modelling is just point to point and doesn’t take into account how long it would take people to get in and out of the underground stations. At Aotea for example, the platforms would need to be below the CRL and so it will likely take passengers at least a few minutes just to get between the station entrance and the platforms. More time would need to be added if you first have to walk up the hill from Queen St to the station entrance. So any travel time savings could easily be negated by that alone.
  • The diversion along Bader Drive adds six minutes to travel times between Onehunga and the airport. That loses more time than the multi-billion tunnel from Mt Roskill to the city gained.
  • Light rail between Wynyard Quarter and Midtown adds a lot of time. That’s not unsurprising – though it does appear the surface light rail option may travel further into Wynyard than the tunnel option does, and if so, that should be spelt out as wouldn’t be an apples to apples comparison.

Even if you accept the modelling results at face value, the extra 40-90k jobs are only going to be an extra few minutes away. A lot of people would still choose to travel by light rail in that scenario. It’s hard to believe that an extra few minutes will take out up to half of the demand.

The table above also suggests there will be enough capacity on all options for 50 years or more. If we do start having capacity issues, we can always build more lines then. We shouldn’t be thinking of this project as having to solve every problem.

Costs and Benefits

The costs are where things really get out of whack, and are likely to be the focus of attention for media commentators.

The tunnelled options are about what I expected based on similar projects overseas – with estimated costs of about $590 million per km for the tunnelled light rail option and $665 million per km for light metro.

But I have to wonder why the light rail costs are so high, coming in at an average of about $375 million per km. Most overseas projects come in between NZ$60-150 million per km, and even Sydney’s light rail – in which costs ballooned due to poor project management – came in at about NZ$290 million per km. Are they planning on using solid gold tracks?

I suspect the clue to this cost comes from the table showing they need to buy 489 properties along the route. That suggests they want to widen much of the Dominion Rd corridor – which is not needed, and wasn’t part of previous proposals. The government should really be asking for an independent peer review of these costs.

There is additional need to clarify these costs as the minister also suggested Auckland may have to pay for some of the project, which is something that hasn’t been on the table before. Rapid Transit should be treated the same as motorways and fully funded by the government. They are also considering value capture options, i.e. property owners who benefit from the project could be asked to contribute. (Ed: Talking to RNZ this morning the Minister suggested this could bring in $2-3bn towards the project).

I also worry what will happen to these costs as the project progresses. Could we end up with a $30 billion tunnel option?

As for the benefits, they all apparently have about the same benefit-cost ratio.

I wonder what the BCR of the options would be if a) more realistic and more directly comparable travel times were included, such as how long it takes people to access the platforms and b) more realistic costs for light rail were used.

Carbon Reduction

ALR have also included a graph looking at the impact of emissions from each of the options. The surface light rail option achieves carbon neutrality around 2041, while the two tunnelled options require a lot of concrete so have significantly higher embedded carbon to offset and therefore take longer to reach neutrality.

The Preferred option

The ALR team have come up with the tunnelled light rail as their preferred option. However, interestingly, one board member, Ngarimu Blair, dissented for the following reasons.

  • Carbon reduction – surface Light Rail has less embedded carbon (because there is less concrete, and steel involved in construction) so it achieves carbon neutrality fastest.
  • Lower forecast costs.
  • Greater Social equity – more funding available to invest in other projects to improve public transport access for lower income communities.
  • Greater potential for Mode shift – with the Tunnelled Light Rail and Light Metro options Dominion Road will remain dominated by private vehicles.
  • Better Safety and Accessibility – with the Light Metro and Tunnelled Light Rail options there will be fewer stations than Light Rail and some of them will be underground.
  • Better urban design outcomes.

What’s missing or should change

To me there are a couple of key things missing from the data presented.

A sensible light rail option

Given the travel time savings data, it seems odd that an additional light rail option wasn’t included: we could call it a reverse hybrid option. In such an option, light rail would travel on Dominion Rd on the isthmus like the option above, but would then stick to the SH20 corridor like the light metro option. It would also be useful to have this option stay within the existing road corridor instead of expanding it, to see what that does to construction costs.

It would also be sensible to drop the section of the route between Queen St and Wynyard Quarter. This would save quite a bit of money, and remove one of the concerns ALR have which is that a tunnel may be needed in future. It would also leave open the option of a mode like Light Metro for the North Shore and Northwest.

Service Levels

Despite the talk of the need for high quality public transport, I was surprised there is no information about what kind of service levels are actually being proposed. For example: the capacity graph above suggests tunnelled light rail has more capacity – which presumably means they need to run more services to achieve that, but that’s not outlined in the information they’ve released.

Likewise, there’s no information on operational costs. While the media will fixate on the construction costs, over time it’s the cost of running services that really adds up, and could be a significant differentiator between the options, particularly if the light metro option is driverless. So for example while the light metro option is more expensive to build, the long term operational costs may help make it a more effective investment than the tunnelled light rail option. But we just don’t know.

What next?

The intention is that if approved by cabinet to proceed, ALR would be tasked with coming up with a more detailed business case which will result in things such as confirmed routes and station locations.

We think the costs of the tunnelled options, combined with the fact it appears ALR have leant on the scales to justify them, mean the government should choose the surface option but with a clear direction to optimise it for better outcomes. It may also be useful to get some fresh eyes on the project, instead of many of the people who have been working on the tunnelled solution for many years now, both in this process and the previous one.

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      1. Whether it’s a tactic or incompetence the MO is the same, keep pushing down the wrong track, drop a giant WTF boondoggle into the public eye, then blame the minister for not proceeding with it.

        1. I agree. These numbers show either foolishness or intent to me.

          The most positive way out would be for the high tunnel numbers to basically kill off those options fast, and for people to go back to a more sensible surface option. But I doubt that’s actually the intention, or what will happen. I think this will be another (non-delivery) millstone around Labour’s neck. They will defend it feebly for a while, then drop it and go for another round of assessment and new design, and eventually National will come back in and build a tunnel to the Shore instead. Thanks Jacinda, thanks Phil (Twyford), thanks Michael Wood. You suck at achieving.

    1. Yep twice the CRL. Or If you take the cost to electricity the rail line to Pukekohe which was an NZUP project so not cheap, you could probably electrify entire main trunk line of NZ.

    2. Yes and judging from the few stations actually shown their priorities are improving the trip to the rugby and the airport. Good thing there isn’t a global pandemic on.

      1. Sorry I regret that comment immediately. Please don’t think I am one of those crazy covid deniers. Call it a sarcasm fail.

      2. It is standard practice with public projects to claim it can be done for half what it really costs to get it committed and then blame unforeseen issues for a cost blow-out that takes it up to the true cost. AT claimed they could squeeze it into a narrow road reserve without using the road widening designation put in place specifically for light rail 20 years earlier.

    3. Didn’t AT budget it as $3 billion? I know prices have gone up a lot since then, but not by a factor of 3.
      Maybe a way to kill the project altogether? Even the lowest cost option of $9 billion is a lot of money; something like $2000 per New Zealander, $4000 per taxpayer, $9000 per Auckland taxpayer. Its hard to see this being politically popular.

        1. Roads

          There will be same amount of traffic lanes; because that is how WK work. And they will be very nice fast wide traffic lanes.

          But they will add in bus lanes and maybe a token cycle lane.

          Until the tunnels start costing closer to $15b, and then that cycle lane will have to get dropped as they will calculate that if they drop that then the road won’t need to be as wide, saving property purchases and reducing prices by $1b.

          And everybody will be happy as $1b for a cycle lane is crazy money

          Who the hell is responsible for this, as feels like they are being played like a character out of Yes Minister or Utopia

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the original three branch proposal (can you imagine the effects of this under the 2020 Policy Statement) was $5.8b?

        That was for the three N/S branches throughout the central part of the city, with the potential for future cross-town and NW/Northern busway services.

        Potential Robbie’s Rapid Rail moment lost?

        1. Jezza, $5.8b is a lot of money. Had they started, and got a steady programme underway – one which used a standardised approach, which designed for the best outcomes instead of for the least disruption to car dependence, and which wasn’t focused on keeping traffic flowing throughout construction, for example – NZ would have finally both got their prices down reasonably and well, understood what they actually are.

    4. I have to agree with Kraut and the author that the cost estimate for the LRT option borders on unbelievable. Sydney LRT costs were an outlier in recent Australian experience due to documented failures in planning (rushed) and consequently service costs and land acquisition. Other comparable projects like Gold Coast LRT, which includes a higher speed run alongside a motorway in Stage 2 very comparable to City to Airport, cost more like $130-150 million per km. For $9 billion you could build LRT to the Airport, NW, and possibly north as well. Looking at capacity in one corridor obscures that for the same money you could build a network with far greater capacity.

      It looks like the project has shifted focus once again, from a transport project to an urban redevelopment project. I have to wonder what other housing or service liabilities are being buried in the LRT cost. Those may be valid things, but it is hardly an “apples with apples” comparison if one option is transport plus urban regeneration and the others are transport alone.

      1. I think once they decided they must have a metro to sandringham they did everything they could to make normal light rail look terrible.

      2. As you note they seem to think widening the corridor is necessary in order to turn all of Dom Road into a European boulevard with wide footpaths, cycle lanes and “proper stations” – not sure what they mean by the last point as surely LRT stations are just barely elevated concrete platforms with basic shelters?

        Am I right in thinking the original AT proposal had no corridor widening planned at all?

    5. Amazing- this post doesn’t have any supportive comments for light rail proposed and there are a lot of comments…nett this proposal really really really sucks

  1. This is the SECOND TIME this project has been severely set back by wild and beyond-scope specccing and assumptions. Instead of $6b for two branch lines we end up with one for $10b. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

    The current mob aren’t suddenly going to have a Come to Jesus moment, we’re going to keep getting these “Hey here’s what you asked for but totally different, way more expensive and don’t ask about catchment because we don’t know where it’s going yet” ideas. They aren’t fit for purpose.

    The original AT guide which first floated LRT for Auckland was concise and clear about what it was trying to achieve. It’s been four years since the election and I still have no idea what Wellington is trying to pull here. All I see is whatever goodwill people had towards the idea of mass transit in Auckland being slowly and continuously unwound.

    1. Madness. The whole of the Eastern Busway and A2B will be finished before a single, sensible decision is made about this route.

      1. Remember the fact that this whole Dom Road light rail or whatever discussion follows on from a decade (or was it two?) of talking about the bus improvement upgrade.

        1. Not to mention failing to protect/ensure a sufficient corridor for an Onehunga Line heavy rail extension along SH20 and SH20A. If I remember right that, and the associated escalating costs of the heavy rail option, were what led to light rail being preferred for the airport as well as for Dominion Rd.

    2. At what point will the govt look at these crazy numbers vs the original numbers from AT and ask why they’re so different…

      There seems to be a cadre of people in high places with a penchant for a high-carbon future and enough influence to ruin any chance of changing that.

      I’m not against some tunneling of the route, but man… It’s almost as if the working group didn’t include anybody with a clue when it comes to how mass transit works.

      It’s one of those times when I’d have fully supported a “fact finding” mission to Vancouver and Hong Kong to see how this works in practice.

  2. They sure have gone out of their way to avoid a sensible direct LR route for a good comparison. Resulting in additional cost and lower benefit for that option.
    Show us where these stations are meant to be. Too much concealed. So optimistic for the big engineering options, so pessimistic for the easier, quicker to build, street space using one. Hmmmm.

    1. It really reads like they’ve tried to make it as indirect and expensive as possible. Is this NZTA managers working in bad faith to ruin the project?

      1. No, surely not! /sarc

        One has to wonder, when you look at the very big list of things NZTA ruing in Akl over the last decade.

        1. Delay delay delay, until a road friendly government is in power so a giant motorway project can go ahead instead. It’s another LGWM

        2. In fairness Labour have been pretty pro roads with the countries’ most expensive ever road project bypassing Levin.

  3. Maybe it would be better to stop treating Auckland transport network as a series of single massive projects like the CRL.

    Instead maintain a permanent year by year budget and crew/contract to build an ever extending deep ( no cut & cover ) underground metro service. Multiple boring tunnelling crews & underground stations built with minimal surface impact.

    Keep extending the lines with a focus on getting each station operational before extending the tunnel beyond the next two stations.

    Have new underground lines the Manukau and Waitemata waterfronts. Build loops under the Manukau heads opening up new commuter housing & under the Waitemata harbour connecting the north shore.

      1. Yep, funny how “disruption” is self-evidently good in tech-and-business-land, especially when it unlocks a rigid system that is blocking better options.

        But “disruption” that reduces traffic, makes public transport the more appealing choice, and frees up nimble wheels and feet in a climate emergency, is… to be avoided at all cost, up into the billions?

        1. Not sure that you realise how tone deaf that sounds. It really isn’t funny that businesses are going to the wall due to COVID19 disruption.

          I respectfully suggest that you find another analogy to illustrate your point.

        2. I respectfully disagree, MFD. Given the scale of change in our systems required, we absolutely need to stop trying to prevent disruption, and view it instead as a challenge to turn into an opportunity.

          We’re talking about a corridor which is currently deficient, unsafe, and not serving any user well. The term “disruption” has been used here, specifically, to mean “reallocation of traffic lanes to other modes”.

          That’s a good thing; a necessary change that will benefit all, including businesses.

        3. Heidi, My issue is with the analogy being used; “funny how “disruption” is self-evidently good in tech-and-business-land”.

          In the midst of a pandemic that statement is crass (and I am being very restrained in my choice of words). COVID19 is a massive disruption to numerous businesses in NZ and particularly in Auckland. It is self-evidently bad, not good. Businesses are going under, turnover has evaporated, employees are being laid off.

          It’s not funny.

          My own business took a massive financial hit last year but I am one of the fortunate ones; friends and colleagues have hemorrhaged money trying to retain employees, others are suffering mental health effects or trying to run businesses with materials and components delayed massively.

          Last week we had a contractor on site who was apologising for his demeanor on a previous visit; an ex-employee had committed suicide.

          It’s not funny.

          Disruption to vehicular traffic on Dominion Road? Doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

      2. Sacha, good point. The problem is that AT has no plan for modeshare shift and so they need to have roads that accommodate at least the current number of vehicles. Compare Vienna that has 26% car mode share and is aiming for 20% in 5 or 6 years.
        What would Auckland traffic look like if AT had a coordinated plan to reduce modeshare? If they incorporated all the sorts of things discussed on this blog such as: parking levies; implementing the parking strategy as written, continuous improvement of the networks, more capital spend on PT transport and less on roads, more cycle lanes, congestion charging, cheaper PT for the majority who use it rather than trying to pick winners, just for starters.
        The problem is, there is no plan. The result, enormously expensive one of solutions.
        Top marks to Ngarimu Blair.

        1. Let’s try and get all those things written into the Emissions Reduction Plan. In the meantime, getting cars off Dominion Road adds $9 billion to the benefits of the street-level option, problem solved.

        2. @Auckland is not Vienna – what argument are you trying to make? Surely that’s a case for investing in light rail, “road diets”, congestion charges, and setting a goal for reducing car mode share?

        3. Matt, I was agreeing with Sacha that disrupting vehicle flow by building light rail is a great move.
          Projects like this are enabled by AT reducing car modeshare, using a number of mechanisms.

      3. Buses are surface vehicles…

        A surface line on Dominion Rd would result in many years of disrupted bus travel for the many current users.

        1. Not necessarily- I presume there’s a way to stage construction efficiently? Perhaps by building the central median corridor without tracks first and running buses along there until the rails are laid?

  4. Same pump and dump as the harbour bridge bike path. Pump up the price, then sit back and let a torrent of abuse kill it.

    Light rail seen off for another decade.

    Promotions all round for the road lobby and NZTA.

    1. yep – another competitive threat to roads, cars and fossil fuels sent to the newstalkZB scrap heap.

  5. In this day and age it should be possible to have a hybrid that allows (heavy) freight trains on limited routes with (light/er) trains across the whole network. I can’t believe that this isn’t possible.

    1. Possible? Perhaps.

      Optimal? No, definitely not. High-frequency rapid transit (every 10 minutes all day at least), regardless of whether it’s heavy rail, metro, or light rail cannot reasonably coexist on the same tracks as long-distance passenger or freight services. Unless you’re prepared to build a third or fourth track, any freight services would be limited to the middle of the night.

      Plus, I’m not sure if short freight shunts to the Airport, or on suburban routes to the North Shore, would be really viable.

      1. Freight would continue on its current (limited) routes. Why would any new (suburban) HR/LR lines carry frieght. The ALR seems to be quite favourable to HR. Why not look to combine the best of both HR/LR?

  6. I think I can summarise how this process played out:

    1. assume that /additional/ light rail is BAD
    2. assume that taking away space from cars is BAD
    3. assume that adding busses ad infinitum WORKS
    4. assume that all stations are equally easy to access regardless of specific design

    (1) means that you have to have one project that will solve all problems.

    (2) means that anything on the surface has to go.

    (3) means the original motivating problem that AT came up with back in 2015/16 DOESN’T exist.

    (4) means you just need to locate stations, you don’t need to consider the specific use of the station

    Consequently, this allows you to say:

    * benefits of surface light rail are costs
    * not doing things the tunnelled options do is a cost for surface light rail
    * not doing things surface light rail does AREN’T costs for the tunnelled options
    * things that tunnelled options do that are bad AREN’T problems and therefore DON’T reduce the benefits

    And to greater or lesser extents, these assumptions are all over how everything works in this country. There’s that CRL station with the (initially) missing entrance, the location of Parnell Station or the lack of a northern gate at Papatoetoe station, for example.

    1. Also add in a pathological hatred of and disrespect for AT. Or is it a case of some people feeling threatened by AT?

      1. It is hard to imagine that political histories of our present won’t be largely on the theme of “National versus Local Government Conflict”, yes.

  7. Do they atribute a cost to the 500 property acquisition? That could be anything from 1 to 3b of the cost of the light rail option

    1. Good point.

      If that is the case (and optimistically hoping it’s more for the sake of intensification & a wider active mode boulevard instead of more lanes & carparking) then they really shouldn’t be framing it as part of the cost of light rail, and rather the cost of the associated redevelopment around the line?

    2. any attributed cost should only be a 5 year financing cost as at end of project the sites, without their front yards, can be sold off again at the same or higher value

        1. Might as well buy them then sell them as a block to a developer for more $$ to build up higher density. Can capture most of the gains that way too.

        2. I’m actually not sure that’s legal. I think they can only forcibly purchase land with the public works act that they actually need for the project itself. This kind of value capture is not supposed to be a thing.
          Mt eden is getting away with it because they actually do need all that land for staging etc.

          KO could see the writing on the wall, play the game and buy a lot of property there perhaps.

        3. It all depends on how much they need and the viability of the remaining land in existing configuration. Often it just isn’t viable anymore so does need to be redeveloped – in which case they can and are allowed to do so. Also often the landowners don’t want what is left so agree to sell the whole property rather than just part of it.

  8. Good on Ngarimu Blair for homing in on equity, the potential for mode shift, and the issues of safety and accessibility. Women in Urbanism also had a good take on this:

    The more I think about it, the more it makes me wonder about the range of perspectives in the room. For example:

    “…it appears this modelling is just point to point and doesn’t take into account how long it would take people to get in and out of the underground stations”

    Hand-waving away the effort it takes to get to and from underground platforms is a way of externalising the extra costs of accessibility – not just for disabled people, but for older people, anyone travelling with kids, shopping, luggage, etc – to those who already bear them.

    It doesn’t feel right or fair, especially if it’s done to make travel-times look “better”.

    1. >Hand-waving away the effort it takes to get to and from underground platforms is a way of externalising the extra costs of accessibility – not just for disabled people, but for older people, anyone travelling with kids, shopping, luggage, etc – to those who already bear them.

      These issues should be immediately apparent to anyone who’s ever run late for a train… or even a bus.

      You only have to look at stations like Parnell. Say you’re coming from UoA and want to go south… you’re either approaching through the Domain or Carlaw Park. If the latter, you have to use a fairly steep uphill boardwalk and then walk the entire length of the northbound platform, use an underpass and then walk half the length of the southbound platform whereupon you can now access the stairs. If the former, you’re a bit better off because you only have to do those last two steps. Unless it’s dark, in which case you need a torch to see anything at all in the bushwalk bits.

      Now, obviously, if you’re carting a baby around, you aren’t going to try sprinting anywhere, if you’ve got mobility issues the both the Carlaw and Domain routes are probably too steep and so on.

      My point is, though, that even if you’re maximally able yourself, every station in Auckland is going to have presented you with a situation where you wish something like “I wish their was an access point here” or “I wish I didn’t have to go up/over/across/through”. And, if not you, someone else you can see. Perhaps you’re at Penrose and you see some poor soul trying to transfer across the bridge or you’re watching someone run along a path adjacent to the tracks at any number of stations…

      It should be a condition of employment for anyone on the board of or otherwise working for an organisation like AT, NZTA Waka Kotahi, the ALR team and so on, to use PT and/or active modes at least twice a week. Even if it involves actively setting aside time in the working week to do “imagine you’re a person who lives at X and must get to Y”.

      1. To add, I tracked down my submission and while the way I saved it has chopped off some of my feedback (my best guesses of the missing text in [] brackets), all I had to say about the relative accessibility of the options was:

        “If you look at the public transport options in Auckland that are best, they’re t[he ones not subject to] severance. You don’t have to find crazy circuitous means of getting to the oth[er side of the station for]
        example, or waylay yourself instead of taking a direct route. For example, my [local train station now forces] me to walk to the middle of the platform and then double back on myself bec[ause there are only mid platform] entrances only post gating. At the same time, I used to cross to the other side [of Queen Street using the] underpass in the original layout of Britomart all the time (like a lot of other pe[ople.]

        “The guiding rule I use for negotiating an urban environment is the Pythagorea[n Theorem. The idea is] you want to try and travel along the hypotenuse. Vertical elevation will comp[licate matters of]
        course, but if you’re trying to go somewhere, you want as few deviations from [the direct line] (the hypotenuse) as possible. So, if I was travelling from the City to Mangere, direct as possible. [the rest of this paragraph I can’t figure out]”

        So, in practice, I was equally dismissive of the vertical (“vertical elevation…”) and wrote something which might well endorse underground stations (implying that they increase accessibility with that stuff about the underpass) but also shared a substantially similar complaint about the conveniences of stations gating there (as above) and talked about severance (albeit in a fashion I suspect might be understood as saying “underground stations reduce it”).

        On reflection, then, and in this sense, it does take more than experience being a PT user to think to raise many accessibility and similar problems that disproportionately affect some groups more than others.

        But I think the very questions they asked were geared to limiting discussion. I would have hoped for open ended questions along the lines of “what are the benefits you want from LR?” and “what are the challenges/problems LR might have?”. I mean, I often look at other submissions for things and I think, “I didn’t realise we could talk about that” but I really do think those questions were deliberately framed to avoid gathering constructive criticism.

  9. 11 stations on the Britomart Puhinui train route and most South Auckland people take their cars to work. Would 22 stations on the light rail proposal get people out of their cars. The light metro and hybrid proposals are even worse. Is there enough stations and enough potential passengers to justify the cost and disruption. They should have came up with something simpler this isn’t going to fly.

    1. Number of stations alone isn’t a good measure Royce.

      The Dominion Rd light rail route would have very dense surrounds, especially with the NPS-UD enabling 6+ storey development around rapid transit.

      Agree that the light metro proposals here are boondoogles. They won’t be significantly faster than light rail and they’ll have fewer stations and less catchment.

      Based on overseas cost estimates ($100-150M per km), light rail to the airport should cost no more than $2.5B-4B. Acquiring adjacent properties to widen Dominion Rd shouldn’t be necessary.

      1. It doesn’t say how many kilometre the various options are but we should have a spacing between stations of about 1.0 kilometre so passengers only need to walk 500 metres to access the nearest one. We don’t want to end up like the Southern and Eastern line where we have to provide buses to fill in the gaps. The street light rail looks better in that respect.
        I don’t think we should discriminate on the basis of whether the train is running through an industrial or residential area as neighbourhoods will change over time probably driven by the rail line itself. Still I can’t see it happening its to expensive and complicated. I wonder if the Govt will cut it back in the first instance.

        1. That’s my point Royce. It shouldn’t be this expensive and complicated. Overseas light rail can be built for $100 million to $150 million per kilometre – whereas what the government is proposing costs 3x that.

        2. Royce, completely agree with you about station spacing and I suggest 1.0km gap should be the absolute maximum. 500m walking at 5km per hour is 6 minutes and there will be plenty who can’t be bothered with that for a trip to the dairy, shop etc. These projects need to be about removing all trips from our roads and not just commutes.
          It is obviously way cheaper to build “stations” for light rail. For some stops I imagine that a pole in the ground could be all that it needed at the start and fund improvements from congestion charges.

        3. I read somewhere that the distance is 22 kilometres so the 22 stops is 1 km per stop. And I agree they should resemble a bus stop not Otahuhu railway Station. That place is a complete overkill.

        4. Royce, your maths isn’t right. If you have a 2km line with 2 stops the gap between stations is 2km. The gap will be 1047m.

      2. Is 6-12 minutes saved really worth $6-7 billion to you? Cause it isn’t for me.

        Remember that one of the problems light rail is meant to solve is bus congestion on the Isthmus. An underground light metro will have fewer stations than surface light rail, necessitating the retention of buses along Dominion Rd/Sandringham Rd, and not solving the bus congestion in the CBD at all.

        And if you tried to build light metro stations at the same spacing as surface light rail, light metro would be even more expensive and have even less speed advantage over light rail.

        I’d rather have a light rail line that enables consistent urban redevelopment and connectivity, than a “fast as possible to the Airport” light metro which could be built later anyway if we need it.

    2. “Would 22 stations on the light rail proposal get people out of their cars.”

      ANSWER: If the existing car lanes were replaced with the Light Rail tracks, then the answer is yes.

  10. So the Light Metro options don’t even solve the original problem which is no more buses fit into Dominion Road? This is just braindead from start to finish

    1. The “Advanced Bus Study” (result: use LR) and the tens of millions of dollars worth of prior studies aren’t relevant because they “weren’t made here”.

      Also, more money to be made by doing their own first principles research. I mean, what would those prior experts know?

  11. Well that sucks. Twice as expensive as the massively overblown Sydney light rail, on the drawing board.

    How did this group not think that if all options are going to be most expensive infrastructure project in NZs history, why not investigate a cut down version? Maybe connecting at MT Eden or something?

    I can’t wait to be road lit again. Timaru needs a bridge apparently…

  12. RNZ introducing this with a carefully enunciated “Tram”. A 14 billion dollar TRAM, in case you didn’t get the clear message.

    Jesus Christ, RNZ is now run by commercial radio morons, isn’t it?

    1. No, it’s just operating in the same vacuum of credible information that everyone else is, which we can safely say is a deliberate ploy. Government agencies have never shown any interest in articulating what Light Rail is, why it was needed and what it could achieve – because they were busy trying to move the goalposts as part of a constant make-work scheme.

      If an agency (NZTA, MOT, Kiwirail, even sodding MOTAT at this point would be a decent go-to- option) who were actually interested in building this, you’d have seen more than a handful of renders and some meaningful rebuttal of the “WHY NO TRAIN TO AIRPORT” crap that has been spouted freely in the absence of any actual progress.

        1. I don’t think a tourist-oriented shuttle service between two museums and one zoo is in the same ballpark as urban mass transit.

  13. Please discontinue using the term South Auckland when referring to Mangere and the airport.

    There is a large part South Auckland further south – Manukau, Flat Bush, Totara Park, The Gardens, Manurewa, Takanini, Papakura, Drury for instance

  14. The more I think about this, the more angry I am.

    -We’re proposing tunneling through huge chunks of the city’s volcanic centre for no reason other than appeasing local businesses who – shocker – the government could actually just design a functioning support program for in the first place?
    – Has anyone actually done a full geotech survey along the length of the route? What things like lava tubes and other such natural treasures are at risk?
    – Why has the North-West been totally forgotten?
    – How has the Shore managed to make its way into prime consideration for a South and West-pitched project?
    – Why is no government agency capable of working to the brief they’ve been given?
    – Was this ridiculous report worth the extra year in delay that it caused?
    – At what point has this been so flubbed that someone is forced to actually resign over it?
    – Why is it acceptable to delay rapid transit during a housing development and climate crisis?
    – Is this the reason the government uncorked development in single-house zones – because they knew they weren’t going to roll out rapid transit in Auckland to unlock the 2020 Policy Statement density changes in key corridors anymore?

      1. The volcanic field & hot spot itself is still active/dormant, and a new cone could potentially erupt in future.

        1. Lol Seriously? Come on, if the volcanoes in Auckland were a genuine threat, a whole city wouldn’t have been built on this isthmus. Of all the stupid reasons to oppose this, volcanoes is not one of them.

      2. It doesn’t matter whether they’re extinct. You’re talking about tunneling through a) basalt and b) potentially through some major geological features.

        Have we discussed whether we want to do that for the sake of a project that is cheaper to run at surface level? Some stuff can’t be un-drilled through.

        1. Agree, it just seems amazingly ambitious (cavalier? cowboy?) to propose boring through the entire north-south length of the isthmus, city to Roskill, just to avoid restoring trams to Dominion Road in 21st C form.

          My curiosity about the technicalities of tunneling – the consenting, lava caves and wahi tapu, the entry points for the boring machine(s), the scale of the work zones and vehicle storage, where the spoil would go and how many trucks that would put on which streets every day for how long, what it costs to include escalators, lifts, lighting and public toilets in every underground station – is rising almost as fast as our sea levels.

          (Maybe the cored-out basalt cylinders would be stood on end to become apartment towers, in some kind of magical thinking about how big-transport-creates-big-housing??)

        2. Remembering here how NZTA refused to cut out a maybe 4m width of rock below the St Lukes motorway overpass, which would have basically solved all car-bike conflict and capacity issues at that spot for the next century, even as an addendum to the mountains of money shoveled into the related SH20 works

  15. I am definitely going to be writing a strongly worded submission to ALR and Michael Wood decrying this outcome (with the criticisms from this article), and calling for a return to the original AT/ CFN 2.0 plan for at-grade light rail.

    Not sure if it will actually do any good, but I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try.

    1. That was the first thing I did this morning. I genuinely believe that Michael Wood means well, but the working group have completely f***ed this one up. There is no way it should be this expensive

      1. +1

        $4 billion dollars, tops. That’s what I’d expect for CC2M light rail.

        I’m starting to think that Michael Wood has been “sucked into the system.” The same thing seemed to happen to Phil Twyford – talked a big talk but ended up being sidetracked by the Superfund light metro proposal.

        1. You’re the one who picked the name “Keyboard Warrior”, mate.

          Internationally light rail tends to be built for NZ$100-150 million per km. For the 23km CC2M route that translates to a cost of between $2.4 billion and $3.5 billion.

          No, I’m not an engineer – but I do my research when it comes to transit and am basing my estimates on what’s done overseas in terms of cost. I am interested in partaking in the democratic process, even if I’m just one voice (and clearly I’m not the only one concerned by these crazy spiraling price tags given by NZ officials).

          At-grade light rail to the Airport should not cost nearly $10 billion. For that cost we should be getting light rail to the Northwest and crosstown as well.

        2. Any idea how much the Manukau spur cost? Just would give a baseline for building new rail line in NZ. I know it is heavy rail not light rail but if it is way cheaper than the proposed light rail then why?

        3. @Waiukuian – I don’t think the Manukau spur is a valid reference for the cost of Onehunga-Airport heavy rail.

          The 2016 SMART report estimated at least $2 billion for Onehunga-Airport HR, plus at least $600 million for double-tracking and grade-separating the Onehunga-Penrose section. Not included was the cost of upgrading the Penrose Junction for trains every 5-7 minutes (presumably $100-250 million) and the cost of still-necessary Dominion Rd light rail ($1.2-2 billion). All in all I’d expect that to come to $5-6 billion.

          If you mean a Puhinui-Airport spur – there is no point in that. It doesn’t serve Mangere or the Isthmus, it messes with Southern & Eastern line frequencies, and the beginnings of the Airport-Botany busway/trackless tram are already there.

          I don’t trust the figure of $9 billion for surface light rail. It shouldn’t cost that much – they have to be adding on excessive property acquisition. Going by the previous costings & overseas experience it should be no more than half that – at least half a billion dollars cheaper than heavy rail.

  16. Shifting to Sandrigham Rd makes an even more indirect North South route.
    Surely the housing development area could be served by a heavy rail spur running alongside SH20 on the already prepared section of the Avondale-Southdown. This could connect with Dom Rd surface light rail.
    Overall this would have a larger catchment.

      1. Avondale to Onehunga heavy rail, as set aside 60+ years ago means that a lot of freight trains can bypass the inner suburbs freeing up scheduling and capacity issues. Especially if Northport starts picking up POAL’s business

        1. The gradients between Hillsborough Rd and Onehunga along SH20 would be too steep – even passenger-only heavy rail with 3.5% gradients would require extensive viaducts, or trenching as far back as Mt Roskill.

          And even if it were possible, you’d miss out on the potential to economically extend such a crosstown line to Pt Chev and to Panmure.

          The designated Avondale-Southdown line winds through the suburbs north of Onehunga, and would only interchange with the Onehunga branch at Te Papapa station.

          If I had to support any option for Northport freight, it would be triple-tracking between Avondale and Hillsborough, so that light rail and heavy freight rail could coexist. But I’m not sure if there’s enough space, and I’m not sure if Northport will fully replace the PoAL – running freight trains at night via Newmarket might be sufficient.

        2. The gradient between Onehunga and mt roskill will be to steep for any standard rail.
          And “passenger only heavy rail” is basically light rail apart from from extra large double decker cars like the ones used in Sydney.

  17. When I heard the rumours of a $15 billion light rail package with tunneling, I assumed that they’d announce an LR line from the Airport to the Shore. With a bored tunnel between Wynyard and Akoranga with road running through the city and out to Mt Roskill along an arterial. This announcement is for a ridiculously gold plated option that will never be built.

      1. No adequate explanation why surface running along a car-free Queen St would be “insufficient”.

        Especially considering that 99m and 120m long LRVs are clearly possible – which oddly enough ALR seem to have discounted from their studies – if 2 minute headways are possible up and down Queen St then LRT would have capacity very close to that of light metro.

        1. So queen street would become a rail-corridor, as busy as the approach tracks into Britomart Station. Of course it should be tunnelled.

  18. How much does the ‘status quo’ alternative cost? How much does it cost to buy and operate the cars and maintain the roads if project doesn’t proceed? What are the environmental costs? health costs? social costs?

    1. Good point David – every climate-resilience project that looks expensive should come with the full costs of the “do nothing” scenario… which increasingly includes confronting images and videos of climate disasters, ever closer to home. But also always includes the life-course of the children already right here, and the invisible ranks of future generations.

      A bit more forward accounting needed, eh.

      1. Ah, the ‘Helen Lovejoy’ response.

        No, sorry, appealing to “Won’t someone please think of the children” as a shield for criticism for a project that was meant to have a large chunk already completed by now isn’t an acceptable defense from meaningful scrutiny.

        Auckland deserves better than letting such a blatant disregard for the needs of the city get papered over by such waffle. Nothing short of actual, proper, scrutiny will do – buzzwords like ‘forward accounting’ be damned.

        1. I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways. Gotta do something, and soon. Gotta remember the cost of doing nothing. Gotta get the most out of our resources.

          So yes, gotta examine the assumptions that looked at the question “Hey shall we put light rail back on Dominion Road where it used to be, looks relatively affordable and quick?” and came up with “Nah, dig a tunnel through the whole isthmus, will take way longer and cost heaps more!”

        2. Absolutely. Failing to establish how we’ve seen years-long processes for projects far beyond the original scope of what was discussed will mean we are essentially accepting this level of ‘being led around by the short and curlies’ for essential transport projects during a climate emergency.

          The community being gaslight by the minister as if GA objected to connecting Mangere while ignoring the huge blowout in surface-level costs being questioned is not acceptable.

  19. I’m very disappointed. They need more planners who think about budgeting and building good basic functional projects. The car lobby planners won’t give up any road space and put the line underground making it difficult to access. They expect that there will be still road congestion and people must be free to drive to the CBD.
    8 years, $16 billion and increasing is far too much.

  20. With my sunny hat on: one positive thing to come out of the process so far is the engagement with, and strong support from, South Auckland in particular. It must have helped that the creative communications told a really clear and appealing story.

    Looking at the ALR ads about how light rail would bring people closer to jobs, housing, and each other, while also tackling climate change and making everyone’s lives better, it was hard not to think: wow, is there *anything* that great public transport *can’t* do?

    Usefully, on the radio this morning, the Minister gave a strong reminder that “CBD to airport” trips are a relatively small part of the picture, with most of the transport benefit being everyday trips for everyday Aucklanders, to work, shopping, school.

    So – maybe the next step is to honour the way the project has been sold to people, by bringing that level of citizen engagement to the details? Bring in community advocates who understand the everyday needs of the people this project is designed to serve, and transport, accessibility, and climate advocates who know the landscape.

    They’d be able to test some of the proposed trade-offs (e.g. travel time vs. accessibility, the good-enough-now vs the perfect-never) and query the assumptions (does tunnelling really “minimise” disruption? does buying hundreds of properties to preserve access for driving stack up? do you need metro-plus to intensify housing? I dunno, Ockham doesn’t seem to have waited…).

    And as experts at doing more with less, they’d also have very pragmatic suggestions for maximising bang-for-budget and getting things up and running ASAP.

    1. Oh and: put those clever comms to work on reframing light rail in the wider context of the Emissions Reduction Plan, and the “build better now” story of the massive potential for healthier lives via rapid climate-resilient transformations. No time to lose!

  21. Epic Failure! My measure of failure? You announce a public transport project in Auckland and what happens? This blog, designed for debating issues of public transport in Auckland, has everyone saying it is a bad idea!!
    The last time this happened – probably the $900 Skypath idea.

    1. see Sanctuary’s comment above.
      This is a great outcome for roads, cars, carparks – the threat of PT and active transport has been put back for another 8 years.
      Champaign will be flowing. – Epic Success !!

  22. Loving those pics comparing us being able to build like SIngapore if we went for the Metro option when in reality we have a council that takes ITSELF to court to stop it from building 5 levels in the very area we are talking about. Can’t make all this up…ah well, was nice living in Auckland for all these years, think I’ll be off soon.

    1. Can’t see Singapore density happening in AKL for brownfields sites….we can only do this by compulsory acquisition to aggregate sites etc….as they do in Singapore.

    1. If left-wing voters jump ship to the Greens, and the Greens have a larger share of the vote for a L-G coalition in 2023, I wouldn’t be too upset about that. Never was a fan of the idea of Labour governing alone.

      1. Well, but Labour’s win last time was NATIONAL-leaning voters coming to Labour. If they lose those because centrists are disappointed with Labour’s lack of achievement (and their mucked-up tail-end COVID response), then even if the Greens get stronger there’s no certainty Labour will get a third term.

  23. Really disappointed. What a mess and waste of money of a farking long winded rigged process.
    We just want surface Light Rail along Dom Road as signaled which seems like nearly 10 years ago.
    Also I don’t think they did as much campaigning for comment across the isthmus as they did in Mangere (which was good at least) so it conveniently skews their bias towards small minded business owners away from Light Rail along Dom Rd and Q St.

  24. So do we really still think some form of extra long articulated electric buses would be so bad? I am talking some kind of really high end bus that feels more like a train. Run them up the existing motorway shoulders with some kind of fix at the offramps, then dedicated bus lanes on Dominion. I reckon they would get most of the benefit for less than $1 billion, the BCR would make the rail option look stupid.
    I don’t buy the city centre bus congestion argument. There are plenty of roads in the city centre which could become bus only. If they continued these to the Shore then there could be a really nice bus service all the way from Albany to Airport.

    1. If you’re going to dedicate bus lanes down Dom Road then you might as well go the whole hog and actually lay rail down.

      This proposal has been sunk because we’re determined to keep current road space allocations down Dom Road – 24/7 bus lanes would have the same effect. Just build the actual thing.

  25. Twitter thread from the minister talking about the proposal

    he commented on the GA discussion here:

    ” I always think GA have an important analysis in these discussions, but I do urge parts of urbanist Auckland to drop the conspiratorial thinking about the Unit because it hasn’t just ticked off their preferred option. The people in the Unit are genuine & committed people who want the project to succeed for Auckland. The report notes that at-grade LR is a credible option & it may be where we land. Some of the costs are genuine choices. For example, creating new stations at Mangere to give people in South Auckland access to the network is a deliberate choice & has received massive backing from that community. They have been cut out of transport planning for years, and frankly don’t get the same voice in these debates”

      1. I would have asked him if the purchase of almost 500 properties is “credible” or just a cost borne to ensure no impact to private vehicles.

        1. Yes. It’s unbelievable.

          Also, I would have asked if trucking out that much spoil through Auckland is really less disruption to Aucklanders than reinstating and updating the street-level rail we once had.

        2. The 500 number means 500 properties are affected. That doesn’t mean they all have to bought out completely. The vast majority of these will be the govt buying a few metres of the front area of people’s lawns to extend footpaths etc. The only exception would be around stations perhaps.

        3. Which begs the question, where’s the cost coming from? A large amount of property acquisition was a reasonable explanation, but the cost per km seems extremely high.

          Like you say buying a few m of lawn won’t double the cost per km over Sydney LR

    1. Totally agree with the minister.

      Let’s just get something going before Winston or National comes back to cancel it. Too much mucking around talking. Let’s just do it. If one of these options is it, then do it and let’s get in behind it.

  26. To me they are look at this whole project from the wrong end.
    There still seems to be a almost sole focus on connecting the airport and the Waitemata as one long line.
    I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a need for a better connection between the airport and other parts of Auckland, but is a single line Light / Heavy / Metro system to best option or even a single seat option between the two terminal points.
    For now the Airport has a good system that connects in to the Heavy rail network. This service should be looked at with the idea of extending it both through to Botany (or even Panmure station) and Onehunga station. The airport needs to be looked at as more than just the passenger departure part and offer a better system that fully integrates the whole of the industrial area around the airport. Even a circular service that connects to one of the backbone services.
    While there is merit in the detour to and through Mangere town centre, the detour gives the impression of trying to justify what really should be a backbone system where a branch line to and through Mangere town centre would make far more sense.
    It’s very obvious that the City end is going to be the most expensive and most difficult part of the whole project and because of that will take the longest to build.
    Why not start at the opposite end, where even that might be, and work on building a network in Southern Auckland that interconnects with the present heavy rail and bus networks and get the system up and running, while sorting out the finer details of the more central connection.
    Surely having at least making a start on laying the track in the South would gain more political “pixie points” that still arguing about where and how to central line should be build when the next elections rolls around.

  27. Dear God, how bloody hard can it be too lay some tracks along roads where once, light rail ran? To me it’s as hard as you want it to be…or not!

    Its not dissimilar to relaying the seal of any given lane. Yes there is the overhead but most of that can be done at night.

    How hard Michael Wood? Do you want out of this? It looks it.

    Wood needs to know that anything short of delivery on this promise will be the final nail in the coffin of this government. This is not a nice to have/cancel as per their other failed promises!

    1. I agree. Kiwi Rail have installed about 200km of line around Auckland and up to Whangarei over the past 2 years costing $100s of millions. Surely this is the main cost. Then there are signals, lights, etc. I don’t understand the very high cost.

      1. The high cost is in the “Don’t touch car space!”, which is being clothed in “better speed and reliability” terms.

  28. I must admit I am completely torn on this project. These are my thoughts:
    1) I can see GA’s arguments for a (cheaper) surface level option and mostly agree
    2) But having lived in countries that have proper metro, it would absolutely transform Auckland much more than surface ever will, maybe it is worth the stupid amount of money
    3) Or I can also see the option of going much cheaper (like a really upgraded type of extra long bus) and using that money to implement say 10 lines instead of one.

    1. The point is for 13b we should be able to pay for all of Auckland to have rapid transit instead. That should be able to cover:

      – Dom Road to airport LRT
      – NorthWest LRT
      – Botany to Airport BRT or LRT

      AND convert the Northern Busway, ok maybe not the crossing

      Light Metro is what we build after every part of Auckland has rapid transit and we want to start adding more capacity or speed, like London built Crossrail to complement the existing network

      Spending 13b just on this locks out huge parts of Auckland from public transport for decades

      1. Yes agree; although it might be that a metro attracts a lot more development compared to surface and that is the big issue at the moment. I can’t think of any city that has built metro and looks back thinking that surface LR would be better.

        1. How many of those other cities proposed surface LRT to prevent bus caused congestion becoming a major problem, but ended up building a metro line that requires keeping the same busses at such levels that bus caused congestion will only be avoided if PT use never recovers post-pandemic?

        2. Light metro is also more suited to connecting denser, important nodes – whereas surface LR is better for continues corridors of density (like Dominion Rd should eventually become.)

          It’s been discussed on this site before – but Auckland should be building light rail to be converted to light metro in future. A Wynyard-Onehunga light metro deviation underneath (or over) Manukau Rd could replace the Dominion Rd LRT when higher capacity & faster speed become priorities. (Dominion Rd light rail would be retained, and focus more on local isthmus mass transit).

          Though that probably would require light rail run along SH20 and not Bader Dr.

        3. Our ‘Business Leaders’ stuck in the 20th Century don’t want development along their routes lol. That last sentence!

          Dominion Road Business Association manager Gary Holmes told Morning Report the cost was eyewatering but he supported the value capture approach being proposed whereby those who would benefit from the work would help fund it – through higher rates, for example.

          Holmes feared that the area may never be the same again if it lost is unique ethnic restaurants if it were hit hard by construction disrupting business.

          “If we were faced with (a six to eight year) construction period and the sort of impact that would have, many of our businesses have simply said it would not survive…

          “Because our livelihoods are at stake we are not giving up until light rail along Dominion Road is off the table once and for all, and we are prepared to throw everything at it to avoid that happening.”

        4. The comparison isn’t between a metro line or light rail line… it’s between a half a metro line and a light rail line, or between a metro line and two light rail lines.

          There are examples of cities that regret building metro. Take Genoa in Italy, they built about half of their planned line and have one station permanently mothballed. In twenty two years they’ve managed to fund 7.5km of metro in three stages, and are considering a single station extension for the next decade. That’s the equivalent of auckand managing downtown to Mount roskill by the 2050s.

          Or look at Honolulu, their light metro line has been under construction since 2010, while the original budget has ballooned threefold since it was approved in 2006.

          Both cases probably regret embarking on such large and risky metros and might have done much better with a light rail alternative.

      2. I agree a better question for people to think about is, what can you do in Auckland for $13bn? Especially with value capture for the number of properties that actually need to be purchased, including their residual development value.

        1. “If we were faced with (a six to eight year) construction period and the sort of impact that would have, many of our businesses have simply said it would not survive…”
          Stupid comments like this are not only helpful but destructive. No single block of Dominion Road is going to remain dug up for 6-8 years.

  29. No surprise at all, but utterly disappointing, again.

    Light rail using the street space and reducing private vehicle traffic and car space would be massively beneficial for cyclists, pedestrians, businesses, and residents through calmed streetscapes and less noise, pollution, and all the other negativities of car-dominated streets. Plus easily accessible, highly visible public transport, win win win! Imagine, light rail running down the street, big street trees, cycle lanes, cafes with outdoor dining, people friendly streets, pleasant to walk along, stroll in the evening.

    But a tunnel, ugh. No positive upgrade to the existing terrible streetscape, hidden public transport, harder to access, massive cost, plus likely will never be built. I can only assume that reducing car priority on our streets is seen as a negative, rather than the massive positive that it is, hence these terrible outcomes. Labour could not be a bigger disappointment regarding transport policies.

  30. My prediction 6 months;
    Labour will come up with a grandiose scheme which makes no economic sense ($10B plus) and then cancel it at the last minute and say they are working on another scheme which will better suit the needs of the tax payers.

    In any case $14B suddenly makes electric buses sound very attractive and with maybe an light rail inner city line to keep all the buses out of the city centre and prevent bus congestion. There we go, just saved $10B.

    1. In any case $14B suddenly makes electric buses sound very attractive and with maybe an light rail inner city line to keep all the buses out of the city centre and prevent bus congestion. There we go, just saved $10B.
      So extra forced transfer for everyone? Not a good idea from a PT perspective.

      Funnily enough, all the schemes still have a positive BCR. Same cant be said about half a dozen much cheaper planned motorway projects.

    2. But is that a better outcome? Forcing last-mile transfers to get to the central city; not to mention that electric buses are significantly lower capacity than light rail.

      Going by international LR costs ($100-150M per km), the CC2M line should cost no more than $4B. With a budget of $14B we could also afford light rail to the Northwest and North Shore, plus a crosstown Pt Chev-Penrose line.

      Massive property acquisition or expensive tunneling aren’t necessary and should be eliminated.

      1. Matt, you are right. Auckland needs many, many better PT options to reduce emissions and congestions and so we should do what we can afford.
        Will Auckland have to go back and revisit these projects because they are at capacity? Nothing about our recent past and plans for the future suggests that will happen any time soon.

  31. Question – at this point, would anyone else be reconsidering an extension of the Onehunga Line as preferable to the two $10+ billion light metro options?

    Yes, I know the challenges & issues with extending heavy rail (cost, geometric constraints, fewer stations), and yes, I would still prefer a less expensive surface light rail CC2M as my first choice.

    but if the government really wants to prioritize a 35-40min City-Airport trip, surely extending the Onehunga Line plus building Dominion Rd light rail would still be less expensive than light metro? I’m guesstimating those two projects would be around $6 billion?

    1. Yes, in favour of all your proposals.

      Only because I’ve been around long enough and in Auckland to know the authorities are incapable of providing necessary infrastructure like this AND future proofing it.

      This one reeks of been set up to fail do an extension of the Onehunga branch is the simplest quickest way to satisfy the objective!

      1. Not sure if extending the Onehunga line is the simplest or quickest way to get to Mangere or the Airport anymore; though it would very likely be less expensive & easier than light metro it still has issues that make me prefer the original 2016 light rail proposal to the Airport

        – Double-tracking & grade-separating the Onehunga branch, which would disrupt or even briefly close services along the line.
        – Rebuilding the Penrose junction and station to enable high frequencies (up to every 5 minutes at peak each on the Southern & Airport lines)
        – Getting from Onehunga station to the Mangere Bridge
        – Elevated viaducts over much of SH20 & SH20A
        – The SH20A/Kirkbride Rd interchange, which was designed with light rail in mind
        – Extensive tunneling within the airport, under the second runway and all the way to the terminal.
        – Light rail still required along Dominion Rd

        Admittedly, many of these problems seem to have resulted from insufficient route protection & no thought to future-proofing since the late 2000s and early 2010s. Hindsight is 20/20…

        1. True – even back in 2016 they had deleted Favona and Ascot stations from the SMART heavy rail proposal.

          (Though I wonder why the old c.2008 reports gave heavy rail the same number of stations as light rail between Mangere Bridge & the Airport.)

      2. “an extension of the Onehunga branch is the simplest quickest way to satisfy the objective”

        Only if the goal is another way to the airport besides the SW motorway and the busway from Puhinui. Does absolutely nothing for transit coverage in the isthmus or preventing bus-geddon in the city.centre.

        1. If the Onehunga line had been/could be extended to the Airport, light rail along Dominion Rd would still be necessary. It could be through-routed with light rail to the North Shore – imagine the CFN 2.0, but with the green line carrying onto the airport and the blue line terminating at Onehunga.

          Those two combined projects would be more expensive than CC2M light rail *should* be, but probably less expensive than light metro or anything involving tunneling.

        2. The only reason for heavy rail is really if freight is required to use the route. However i wonder if they should investigate the 4th and 5th main running from the CT site in southdown through to onehunga -mangere~wiri alongside the south western motorway where it joins the NIMT at wiri. Passenger trains from the city could run down the onehunga branch and to mangere then continue and terminate at manukau and freight could reduce the congestion between wiri and westfield by having a 4th and 5th main. Airport can have a spur that runs specials. By combining two projects in one (4th main and mangere/airport public transport) it may save money.

        3. @MRB – I fail to see how your proposal would be economical. It would involve triple- or quad-tracking corridors that have only provided for double-tracking, and it would involve the procurement and demolishment of many properties between Mangere and Wiri. Not to mention the potential conflicts between passenger and freight trains (unless you’re allowing for flying junctions), and the inefficient route to Manukau (you could probably get similar Mangere-Manukau service with BRT).

          The Westfield-Wiri route is wide enough for easier quadruple tracking for the 3rd and 4th mains. It should be kept separate from the Mangere/Airport mass transit project.

        4. “It would involve triple- or quad-tracking corridors that have only provided for double-tracking”.
          Youll have to ne q bit more specific about which corridors. I was suggesting a new corridor that hadnt been provided for anything yet .

          “procurement and demolishment of many properties between Mangere and Wiri.”
          Yeah youre right, lets abandon this one. Would be nice if they could squeeze it in though
          ” Westfield-Wiri route is wide enough for easier quadruple tracking for the 3rd and 4th mains”
          My understanding is most of the money for the third main is being spent around middlemore because there wasnt enough space. Not sure if they had planned for the 4th main as well.

        5. @MRB – was assuming that your line would follow SH20 between Onehunga and Mangere, similar to the 2016 Airport heavy rail and light rail proposals. As far as I know there’s only provision for double track rail as far as Favona; past there would require a viaduct for any mode.

          Point that a 4th main may not have really been planned for apart from the usual vague “in future” announcements (which is poor planning) – but still, retrofitting it in will probably be cheaper than a whole new freight/passenger route.

    2. yes, the airport and the isthmus need 2 different solutions. And developing Favona, et al, needs a different solution to the isthmus.
      Go back to rails (with whatever on them) down Dominion + Sandringham + Mt Eden Rds. Dominion Rd has twice had property frontages purchased in the last 60 years and most things built over that time has had a required set back. The Valley Rd shops is the tightest pinch point.
      And then a separate system of rails either i) from Onehunga to the airport and looping around to Manukau or ii) a rail loop from Manukau via the airport, Favona, etc to the Otahuhu exchange – both with an interchange at Wiri to pick up the Hamilton to Auckland line.

      1. Yes I agree. An isthmus light rail would also make an excellent distributor system in the CBD by running on the surface at Queen St. CRL isn’t going to do that job very well.

    3. Yes probably. But they went off track by thinking a cheap and nasty version of light rail squeezed into Dominion Road could then be extended to Mangere. At least now they know the true cost of that. The new costs will mean they can rethink it and maybe unbundle the two schemes which have quite different objectives. It might not seem like it but this news is a step forward.

      1. I doubt that $9 billion should be the “true cost” of at-grade light rail. Comparable high-quality light rail systems in Seattle and Los Angeles cost $100-150 million per km; which should translate to $2.5-4 billion for the whole City-Mangere light rail line. The ALR group must be tacking on unnecessary extras, like road-widening, property acquisition, or redevelopment, to push up the cost – or they must be using a faulty costing model.

        Extending the Onehunga Line plus Dominion Rd light rail would likely cost at least $5-6 billion. Still cheaper than the ALR options, still cheaper than light metro, but more expensive than light rail ought to be, and remember there’s the technical challenges of more viaducts over SH20, tunneling into the airport, and the downside of fewer stations & catchment between Onehunga & the Airport.

        1. And the US’s projects are famously expensive.

          From Minister woods tweets, the property acquisition stuff actually sounds reasonable and wont be the source of the high costs.

          Which begs the question, where’s the cost coming from? Are we doomed to absolutely insane civil costs from here on out?

        2. The additional will probably be land purchase costs to get the corridor wide enough to actually fit the thing in. AT ignored that and pretended it would fit.

      2. Well put. A bus upgrade to light rail on Dominion Rd doesn’t fit with the Northern Busway-like terrain of Mangere.

  32. This is an 0ngoing theme on all of the government’s investigation of light rail. They refuse to even consider the option developed in 2016. I’m really interested to see the full business case to see how they could possibly justify not even taking it to a short list.

    The minister needs to give these guys a bollocking, instruct them to assess the 2016 option.

    1. I’d say it’s the political realities of squeezing it down Dominion Rd. It’s technically doable but I doubt there’s a politician in NZ that is willing to put their name to such a dramatic change.

      The suggesting of needing to widen Dominion Rd is the hint here.

      1. Then resign and let someone who isn’t afraid of making hard calls or telling it point blank how it is take the reigns.

        “Taking the path of least resistance” ends in one thing: Nothing ever gets done. Unsurprisingly, this is what we get 99 times out of 100 in Auckland.

        Being a leader sometimes means being the bad guy, not totally shying away from anything of actual consequence that requires fortitude. You have to decide whether you want to be liked or you want to be effective. We have forgotten how to be effective, and it’s costing us billions and billions of dollars.

        1. We’ve had a couple of them before – Douglas and Richardson. It’s great when they are doing something you believe in but more often than not that’s not the case.

          I’d take a few sub-optimal outcomes any day over random ideological politicians, it’s probably only about 1 in 10 times they deliver something that I also believe in.

        2. ‘I’d take a few sub-optimal outcomes any day over random ideological politicians,’

          Following global best practise and evidence to build a transport outcome is hardly random ideology now is it?

        3. I’m not sure there is a ‘global best practise’ for any given route. If you gave this problem to 10 different governments around the world you would have got 10 different solutions.

          One solution I’ve never seen anywhere in the world is what was proposed for Dominion Rd. I thought it was a great idea but I’m also pragmatic enough to realise it was going to be a very hard sell.

          Whether ideological is the right word I’m not sure but you have to take the good with the bad when backing politicians to follow through on something they believe in but the majority don’t.

        4. Extremely similar in parts to Cavill Circle in the Gold Coast. They can fit Light Rail, a street wide enough for V8 Supercars AND provide access to thousands of apartments in a very small area.

          NZ exceptionalism seems to be at its strongest when it’s suggested we can’t do something that even Australians have figured out.

        5. Cavill Ave bears little relevance to Dominion Rd, there’s a four lane main rd less than 100m west for a start. Dom Rd is a suburban arterial road with numerous residential driveways, I can’t see anywhere in the world where light rail has been placed in this context.

          Yes, it would have been great if it had been pulled off but it was always going to be an extremely hard sell.

        6. Look at Nerang St, Scarborough St or Queen St on the Gold Coast then. Almost identical to Dominion Road.

        7. Jezza – around Cavill Circle, the corridor narrows considerable. They get around that by making some choices about what bits of traffic can go down which bits of road – and there isn’t a universal right to park alongside every single metre of the road.

          (To be fair I spent most of my time walking from the Circle to the pub and I appreciate it was a lot wider in many places, but it certainly narrows down in places around the Circle).

        8. None of those are even remotely close to Dominion Rd. They are largely areas of high rise residential and street level commercial sandwiched between two wide arterial routes. None of them are anywhere near 5.5km long either. There are few driveways and little reason for large amounts of through traffic.

          If no fan of NZ’s exceptionalism generally but in this case Dominion Rd is exceptional.

        9. Jezza is right none of them are like Dominion Road. Cavill has a section that is only 18m wide but I think the footpath has a handrail and you just would do it if you had any sense. Most of the GC light rail sits in more like 28m roads. You can go narrower but it really isn’t rapid transport. That was the original problem with the AT scheme, it wasn’t what it claimed to be.

          Maybe it is needed as a tram on Dominion but Mangere deserves better.

        10. Queen street Gold Coast is the same width as dominion road and had single storey by gulped up each side. They put two light rail tracks in the middle and a single road lane each side, with a skinny bike lane painted on too. Got rid of the parking.

          Just do that.

        11. Queen St Gold coast is 25.5 to 27m depending where you measure.
          Dominion Road is 20m to 24m depending where you measure. We keep going through this exercise, there are very few places where people have squeezed light rail in like the original AT scheme wanted to. Nobody has done it and called it rapid transit.

      2. I’m not denying that it’s difficult and politically contentious. What I am saying is the the government seem to be refusing to assess it fairly. They’ve lumped the on street option on Dominion Road with an on street option south of the harbour instead of doing the lowest cost option on bott sides as s reasonable option. They’ve also repeatedly refused to share the cross sections they are considering on Dominion Road making any discussion or consideration by the public impossible. They need to assess it even if to just say why they’ve excluded it.

      3. Jezza, you often talk about the “political realities” of transport transformation but are you trying to keep abreast of what’s actually happening? Here’s an article that’s worth reading:

        “a persistent theme is that voters have time and again reelected the mayors responsible for ambitious road reclamations, often with overwhelming majorities… Voters consistently remind us that it is they and not the pundits, tweeters or headline-writers who decide elections. Though road reclamations reliably serve as public-relation challenges for cities, experience shows that residents adapt quickly to road changes and predictions of traffic nightmares and business failures do not come to pass.”

        Continuing to talk about “political realities” without keeping on top of this subject is really unhelpful. Each one of us has a responsibility to avoid truisms and make the next steps easier for our leaders to tackle the big problems like massive road reallocation all across Auckland, head on.

        1. Agree, the fallout often isn’t as big as expected. There’s an interesting theme with those mayors, they are all mayors of cities with larger surrounding metro areas ie. much more likely to get a Chloe Swarbruck like mayor than we ever are. We get vanilla mayors elected by suburbanites.

          Also Hidalgo backed projects that delivered benefits within her term. Anyone backing light rail will likely be gone once it’s finally implemented, whether it’s the cause of their demise or not.

        2. “they are all mayors of cities with larger surrounding metro areas”

          “London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan”

          Something’s not quite tight here…..

      4. “It’s technically doable but I doubt there’s a politician in NZ that is willing to put their name to such a dramatic change.”

        So instead you think it is more realistic for NZ (not Auckland, NZ, because that’s in the end the political level at which it is decided and funded) to support 10b of project for a city many think is getting too much investment already? A politician, especially at national level, needs to make calls that can hurt some locals. This is a scheme which instead galvanises the opposition at *their*(national) level, and will make it fail.

  33. Yup ok, that’s it.

    Prediction: This is of a price so outlandish, in a political environment so distracted, that this will never get built. It’s going to get picked apart until cancellation over the next few months.

    This plan is more expensive than both Sydney and Melbourne full-blown METRO systems currently under construction. What the actual f*ck.

    1. By my very rough calculation the cheapest option on the table would build light rail at a cost per kilometre of something like two thirds the figure for Britain’s notoriously expensive HS2. And that’s not just a high-speed line, it’s a high-speed line with very serious cost overruns.

      The government is proposing to decide in secret among three options, all of them terrible.

  34. In 2017 Labour campaigned on light rail to the airport and to the west. Total was said to be $2.1b or thereabouts. Sucked enough in to get them elected. What with all of the studies on this and the cycle Bridge they have already spent about half of that estimate without a single shovel in the ground. And yet there are still people who take them seriously.

    1. I for one still take light rail seriously, if not Labour.

      Based on overseas costs-per-km ($100-$150mill per km), light rail to the Airport should be costing between $2.5 billion and $4 billion.

      Seems that Labour keeps trying to compromise for the sake of cars – a separate cycle bridge (without mass transit) so that the Harbour Bridge stays at 8 lanes; light rail with tunneling or road-widening so that drivers still have on-street parking and multiple lanes each way.

      1. I still see LR getting the nod, but it will be way more expensive than it needs to be. And it will be a lot longer to finish.

        No tunnels, no property purchases if its for providing private vehicle capacity. Its almost 2022.

  35. Hopefully a straw man proposal so that when the Ministers knock it back, they (the LR Group) can hand on heart say a surface light rail option wasn’t their recommendation.
    Everything about this is so disappointing……

  36. Building surface is False Economy that sound cheap in theory but end up just costing as much as boring underground.

    The experience with many projects is it cheaper to bore a tunnel then rip off the road and build a surface rail or do a cut and cover.

    Building surface sounds cheap in theory, but in practice you will have to dig up a lot of things, reroute underground wiring, water etc.. and then put it back. Not to say about disruption in the business.
    This happens to both Albert St cut and cover, and Sydney city center surface light rail.

    I think engineers now learns the lesson, building surface/cut and cover is a false economy and just ends up as expensive as boring underground.

    1. So then why is the average cost of surface light rail $60M-150M per km overseas, and the average cost of underground rail $200M-600M per km?

      Most of the expense of the surface light rail proposal here seems to revolve around the government & ALR group trying to purchase properties and widen the roads light rail will run along, presumably in the interest of preserving road lanes and car parking.

    2. Kelvin, the way people are using ‘surface’ here does not mean a cut-and -cover tunnel rather than a bored one. It means rails running on top of the corridor, not under it.

    3. I agree with Heidi. How tunneling is more cost effective directly and indirectly than surface construction?

      1. Having just sold my house in Auckland recently I can assure you that there’s some pretty expensive real estate in the city. Widening Dominion Rd will certainly add to the cost.

        1. not cost additional in the long term. Buy the properties down one side, take the front 5-10m off them, then sell back the smaller sites 5 years later for more than you bought them for. A lot of the buildings are already set back due to previous project plans over the last 60 years

        2. The government isn’t allowed to do that. They either have to use the land for the transport directly or sell it back to the previous owner at the earlier price.

  37. Underground rail means underground stations which are fantastically more expensive to both build and operate, then simple surface light rail stops.
    Just the escalators are really expensive to buy, operate and maintain.

  38. Disappointing, the three options are all awful,where to from here. The delivery /non delivery of this is now political,to backtrack from one of these options is surely political self destruction. The only credible option is surface light rail using existing width corridors,. Underground transit is such a male thing,for what ,a faster travel speed,but ultimately a slower journey to your destination,and you get the added bonus of feeling unsafe as well.

    1. I’m male and I don’t want it underground. The CRL gets us our fancy underground stations. We can go for a couple decades before we add more.

  39. Hopefully this is the last time our Minister is taken for a ride by officials again. But if he is to step out of this quagmire and achieve success from now on he will need to understand something important:

    Whereas once, “not undermining officials” was an important part of his job, today it is a sorry excuse for failing to realise the enormous shift underway. Today Minister Wood is a climate change minister; in the style of James Shaw’s “every minister is a climate change minister”. This changes EVERYTHING.

    It means that Minister Wood’s job is that of a CHANGE AGENT. It requires him to set extremely strong expectations amongst officials that if what they present does not stem from a new paradigm in transport planning, that it is unlikely to gain his support.

  40. Looks good for the light metro option. Makes sense, keeps communities together. Minor routing issues, but that’ll be solved in consultation.

    People here are too focused on the original plan and not really looking forward to what Auckland could be. Trams are unpopular, metro isn’t. Prices wise, like, it’s expensive but at the end of the day, better to pay now rather than have a subpar option in the future.

    1. Lucky no one is proposing trams then.

      The sub-par option would be blowing the budget – for the entire region – on LM for 5mins faster travel time.

      1. I think of it as trams as it’s surface LR that stops at intersections all through Dominion Rd. Sure it has its own lane on the road (like most other trams, e.g. Melbourne) but it’s not grade separated/isn’t separated from pedestrians. I’m not sure what difference you’d put with the surface LR option and a tram along the Dominion Rd corridor?

        1. If you ask me – a tram runs mixed with traffic (or with no lane protection) and has more frequent street-boarding stops more like a local bus. E.g Melbourne’s trams.

          Light rail has a protected corridor (kerb- or fence-protected median), traffic light priority, more substantial stations (shelters and level platforms) spaced every 800-1000m.

          Average speeds, too – a tram would average no faster than a bus in traffic (15-20km/h), light rail would average closer to the Western Line (25-40km/h)

        2. The traffic light priority that Matt Bear has highlighted makes it very different from your impression of “LR that stops at intersections all through Dominion Rd”.

        3. Looks like I can’t reply direct to your comment @Matt Bear

,144.9573773,3a,75y,48.53h,87.85t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sxvG1CIViJBBDkvIV-7HjCQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 was more of what I was picturing for what Melbourne’s trams looked like.

          Light rail I imagine as fully grade separated, e.g.,-0.1131041,3a,60y,355.07h,87.36t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s8JCYrowmRRu2dohfWarPmQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 in London (yes I know parts of the network revert to tram style).

        4. @Freddie – Add some kerbs between the traffic lanes and tram tracks (near-eliminating the risk of cars straying onto the tracks), and I would consider that Melbourne example to be light rail.

          The London tram example uses former heavy rail formations, and in other locations it runs on the street in the same space as vehicles.

          With fully grade separated light rail, I’d argue that it starts to fall under the banner of light metro (even if it isn’t automated). It’s tricky to categorize these things because there are no official “standards” for trams vs light rail vs light metro.

        5. @Heidi

          Re intersection priority, I would expect that there would be some form of priority regardless. I would assume the intersection priority would be reactive like normal (when bus comes up they get to go first rather than waiting for other phases) rather than proactive (predicting the time the bus will arrive and ensuring that it is already green for them when they get close so they don’t need to slow down for it). End of the day though, there will be pedestrians cutting across the tracks which will require slowing either every 50m or so if fenced or along most of the Dominion Rd corridor if not. I don’t see them building bridges/underpasses every 50m or so for pedestrians to be able to cross the tracks.

          Still think a streetscape cluttered with wires overhead (I know there are battery trams but don’t expect they’d be used here), with fences in the middle to stop pedestrians wouldn’t be particularly nice. I much prefer the options where they build bike lanes along it/widen the footpaths. In a perfect world they’d make it a green park/walking/cycle/bus corridor with local access only, but I don’t see that happening initially with whatever option they pick.

        6. Freddy, surface light rail in a well-designed streetscape without fences, and with intersection priority is very popular.

          Could you please either
          – limit your “trams are unpopular” statement to trams that have to share with traffic and wait at traffic lights, or
          – extend your statement overtly to a claim that “street level light rail with its own dedicated lanes and intersection priority is unpopular”, and then provide evidence for your assertion?

          Just so we can all be on the same page here. 🙂

        7. @Freddie – proactive signal priority has been used overseas on both BRT and LRT systems, and in the US there are design standards for it:

          Good point re. pedestrians. I wonder if there are alternate solutions for surface light rail in that regard – spaced “crossing islands” inbetween stations, with pedestrian lights and/or gates for safety.

          Disagree on “wires overhead” making a streetscape visually unpleasant. I think the overhead wires in Wynyard Quarter go quite well with the street planting and the apartments buildings, and I think the same could apply to Dominion Rd. Battery LRVs, capacitor LRVs, or ground-power source LRVs are still new & developing technologies; overhead wires are more reliable.

          Yes, a light metro under the street with a green linear park overhead would be nice – but given the sheer cost of light metro I can’t really support it. “Green tracks” for light rail along Dominion Rd would likely create a similar effect.

        8. Just refreshed the page and seen your latest comments, Freddy, which I hadn’t seen prior to my last comment. Yes, agree the fences don’t make for a good environment.

          The time savings for fully separated options are small because the space of stops means most of the time the light rail vehicle is accelerating or decelerating. And then most of that saving is lost because people have to go down to a station below ground.

          Since the costs for the LM option don’t include streetscape upgrades, we’d also get left with the deficient environments we have now.

        9. @Matt Bear 2.0 – I think of it as Light Metro being heavily automated, high capacity, grade separated, Light Rail being grade separated, and trams as not grade separated/having the potential for pedestrian or vehicle interactions with the trams. But I do agree, it’s kinda semantics, as at one point it can be one and at another point it can be the other.

          Re your earlier comment about the Western Line speeds, the trains seem to move much faster than that, it’s the excessive dwell times that mess up the calculation. I don’t know what sort of dwell times they’re using for each option in this, but it’s quite hard to safely increase the speed on a corridor that has the potential for pedestrians crossing.

          Technically I guess they could fence the LR corridor, and put pedestrian level crossing gates every so often to let people cross, but I don’t think that’d really be that desirable of an outcome, even if the speeds could come up.

          @Heidi 2.0

          I’m limiting it specifically to this project re trams, and that’s from the various opposition groups to the project/people I know/commentators and the like.

          I personally don’t mind trams, and for the purpose of the original aim of reducing bus traffic on Dominion Rd, it makes sense. Just the project scope has grown/changed from that to Auckland’s first Rapid Transit line to service from the CBD, growing KO’s housing devs, increasing density, supporting Mangere/the airport. For that I don’t believe trams are the best option (although if the scope was only replacing the buses on Dominion then it’s the no brainer).

          Because of how political it has become, and how for a first of it’s kind project in Auckland you want something without significant public controversy (it seems like Dominion Rd doesn’t want the project from news coverage), better to leave the LR along Dominion for later.

          @Matt 3.0

          Agreed that proactive intersection priority is totally possible (and should happen), just in this case I’m not convinced it is what the project would deliver with the intersection priority.

          It’s a trade-off between safety, speed, accessibility and streetscape. If it goes slow enough, you wouldn’t need fences/lights for safety which would destroy accessibility/the streetscape. But if you’re a major transit route, speed/capacity is most important, so putting it in an environment where you’ve got pedestrians isn’t desirable.

          Wires wise, it’s personal preference, but there is a reason why Entrust members underground the wires in their own suburbs first…

          Agreed on the linear park bit.

          @Heidi 3.0

          I said essentially the same earlier in this now quite long comment, but it’s part of the whole tradeoffs between safety/speed/streetscape/accessibility.

          Speed is super important for RT, and stopping frequently isn’t desirable. Agreed about the accelerating/decelerating bits, but seems to be different goals. For replacing buses you want the low speed/frequent stops as it’s about transport within an area/low disruption, while for rapid transit it’s about high speed/low stops as it’s from area to area rather than within an area.

          I think it goes back to the core aims of the project. For replacing buses as they’ve reached capacity along Dom Rd, LR is the obvious option. The other 2 can’t do essentially the same thing as the buses just in a better mode. But I think the aims of the project have moved on from that, hence why surface LR isn’t the preferred option anymore. 2/3rds of the options aren’t even related to Dominion Rd anymore, as they’ve decided that the route is too difficult community wise, and that they can gain better benefits by going through areas gov owned that they can densify easier.

          The streetscape upgrades ideally would come under the cost of enabling infrastructure for urban development which was separated out. As don’t large brownfields developments still have to build intersections/bike lanes and the like when the council asks for it as a mitigation of the negative aspects? Also I’m assuming Panuku/KO would be involved mostly in those bits.

        10. The government must steer away from making rash and undemocratic conclusions about the Dominion Rd route being “too difficult community wise” until they’ve stepped up to understand their role in climate action and modern democracy, and how they must lead us towards a sustainable transport system, in every sense of the word – including economic.

          I’m not seeing them organising citizen’s assemblies or deliberative democracy or even quality engagement on the national conversational that needs to be had about tackling the political economy of car dependence. If the decision on this follows the current pattern of a populist government not doing its homework on how to gauge public sentiment equitably, or on how to lead the transport transformation, we will have been failed again.

        11. If you have an unimpeeded path you can plan a light rail trains timing. If the train has to stop for red lights at intersections its timing is put out. This not only means long trips but also less people per hour carried

      2. “End of the day though, there will be pedestrians cutting across the tracks which will require slowing either every 50m or so if fenced or along most of the Dominion Rd corridor if not.”

        If that’s the case, why aren’t we putting cars and buses underground? Or will pedestrians only cut across the road because its surface LR, but with buses and cars they’ll dutifully wait for pedestrian crossings?

        1. That’s why we have speed limits, so cars/buses also slow down to increase safety for pedestrians cutting across the road. Then we separate out pedestrians and allow higher speeds. I don’t see how you could have LR going at 70km/h along it safely without separation. LR going slow along there is great for local stuff (and you can have more stops and not destroy the streetscape) but not so much for longer trips outside of the area.

          It’s strongly arguable that the current speed limits are too high along it safety wise, but I’m not going into that for this.

        2. Do you mind laying out how many minutes of the trip a light rail vehicle would achieve 70 km/hr in your modelling, Freddy?

    2. Not if it’s at the expense of rapid transit anywhere else in the district. Then it’s an even crappier deal than it looks on paper.

      For those amount of money, we should be able to light rail the South West, North West and have a decent chunk left over to make a start on the Northern Busway.

      1. Is it? I think the tram option would be at the expense of rapid transit anywhere else, but a successful option shows it works and lets other projects continue. Hence why I always thought the NW line was the best option to do (start at Mercury Lane and build out, then build into the city once patronage justifies the enormous cost of the CBD works) for rapid transit in Auckland, rather than the CC2M route.

        Prices in NZ for infra is inflating super fast, so I would doubt that we’d be able to do those projects for that amount. I agree that we should, but I don’t think it’d actually happen.

        To start on the Northern Busway you’d need to do the 2nd harbour crossing, which will be $$$s. Not convinced that the SW needs LR rather than a busway that can be upgraded later. Like the Upper Harbour Rapid Transit route doesn’t need to be LR but a busway until in time it grows enough to upgrade it.

        1. By the SW do you mean the Isthmus, or the Mangere area?

          Because buses have been struggling to cope with demand on Dominion Rd and in the city centre in the past few years, and BRT options have already been investigated and discounted for the following reasons:

          – not reducing the number of buses in the city centre
          – requiring a 4 lane busway to be able to match light rail’s capacity
          – less potential to attract intensification and transit-oriented development (developers seem to prefer rail-based modes)

          Dominion Rd, at the very least, needs light rail. And since extending light rail from Onehunga to Mangere & the Airport would be cheaper & easier than extending heavy rail, why not do that?

          If we assume typical international light rail construction costs of $100-150 million per km, the Southwestern light rail line would cost no more than $4 billion. For the same $14 billion as an airport light metro, you could build light rail to the southwest, Northwest, North Shore (with a bridge crossing as opposed to a tunnel crossing), plus a crosstown Pt Chev-Penrose line and potentially even the Airport-Botany route as light rail.

          Imagine the cost of that network if it had to be built as light metro.

        2. @Matt Bear

          I was actually meaning Airport to Botany for SW, although I might’ve misunderstood where BW was referring to.

          I know about the bus on Dom Rd bit though, and I do think surface LR will eventually be needed to address that, just I think addressing Dom Rd’s buses/CBD buses isn’t the primary aim of the project anymore, and other options will hopefully delay the need for it.

          Typical international LR cost isn’t realistic for NZ. Our costs are way higher (and similarly Aussie is). It shouldn’t be, but that’s something that I don’t see being sorted in the short to mid term.

          My view is they should build the NW line first as a fully grade separated to Mercury Lane (so much of the cost/controversy is the CBD end so delaying that until necessary makes it far more feasible), then roll out the other options. But if they’re fixed on doing CC2M first, then underground is the way to go (strategic regional line priorities vs upgraded local line priorities)

  41. During the Holodomor many people would cry out to their local apparatchiks “If only Comrade Stalin knew!” A few people sound like that here today – “If only the Minister knew”. The simple fact is the minister knows and doesn’t care. This government doubled our national debt over the last 18 months and things are going to be chopped. Light Rail is gone.

    1. It’s a high risk way of going about chopping something and risk seeing themselves chopped in 2023. There’s only so many times you can put up a grand plan and then abandon it before you loose all credibility.

      John Key would have abandoned this much more quietly. I suspect there is something else at play, although I’m not quite sure what it is.

      1. Exactly. If it’s “gone”, why keep blowing time and money on plans and bringing it back to the public’s conscience?

        1. Jobs for Wellingtonians. How many Harbour Bridge studies have we seen over the years?

          We should have so many Harbour Crossings now that we can live on them. Yet we just get more and more reports. Eventually we’ll be able to build the Light Rail bridge we actually need out of them.

        2. Its one thing to pay people in Wellington for reports until you get the one that works. Its another for you to release all of them to the public and open yourself up to ridicule/failure/both over and over again.

      2. Do you think this government has any credibility left? The LR was supposed to be done to Mt. Roskil end of last year.

        Without been snarky, have you worked in or with government. Blowing $50 millon on a report when they know the project won’t happen.

        1. No, I don’t think you blow $50m on a report for something that won’t happen. .I think it will happen, but it will be sub-optimal or more expensive than it needs to be (or probably both)

          One of us will be right.

        2. Yes, I work in the government at the moment. When a minister wants something to die there’s no fanfare it just disappears.

  42. The most staggering bit for me is that they are looking at building tunnels through the CBD and isthmus at great expense but they want to run it on street through Mangere meaning it will have to have a driver. if they’re planning on getting up to 11 figures then lets just go with light metro.

    1. Light metro seems the best option based on their analysis, still don’t understand why they thought the tunnelled LR option was better. Seems a repeat of the 3rd/4th main thing where the 4th main was easily the best option, so they picked the 2nd best one.

      1. “Light metro seems the best option”

        The BCR’s are practically the same and LRT is $6bn cheaper – the cost of another line. Now take out the outrageous cost of property acquisition baked into LRT, to accommodate car movements we are trying to reduce – and it won’t be close any more.

        1. Do you mean the property acquisition involved in keeping the road open to one lane of vehicles each way? Or do you mean the much higher property acquisition costs of buying up every property along the route because they no longer have access? Or are you thinking of the even higher property costs of building a service road on either side at the rear of all those properties?
          You can’t just close a road to traffic and tell the owners to get stuffed. That isn’t an option open to them even if you wish it was.

    2. Especially because the Mangere bit has a viable option for above ground grade seperated tracks in the motorway corridor.

      1. But if you’re trying to build a route that connects communities, why would you build a route that sits alongside the motorway? Wouldn’t it be better to go through local urban areas in Mangere so it can directly serve/access the people?

        1. The Northern busway doesn’t serve communities but it’s very effective at moving people. Also the motorway route is more effective at serving communities to the east of it.

        2. My preference would be for light rail to run alongside the motorway (perhaps with a short trenched deviation to directly access Mangere Town Centre), and for bus priority improvements to be implimented along the Bader Dr route.

          That would allow for the 36 Onehunga-Manukau bus to be upgraded to near-BRT standards, and better connect the Mangere Bridge area with the Southern Line & Manukau city centre. Additionally, it would enable a potential future conversion of the CC2M light rail to light metro, assuming a new isthmus tunneled/elevated line e.g. along Manukau Rd.

    3. The tunneling option that requires masses of concrete, more extensive construction, and keeps cars on the roads above?

      Versus the surface light rail option that has the potential for grass-planted green tracks and to reduce driving demand via road diet?

    4. +1 jezza
      For this money it should be a fully grade separated & fully automated system able to run 24/7 (aside from the occasional maintenance period).

      1. But then again, there’s the question: for $14-16 billion would you rather have:

        1. a single light metro line to the Airport


        2. a whole light rail network spanning the Airport, the Northwest, the North Shore, and East Auckland plus a crosstown line.

        1. Matt, yes succinctly put. Auckland desperately needs more than one new PT option. And there doesn’t seem many options to fund them.

          But there could be. I’m all for selling the airport shares and all the AT car park buildings. That would put $2.5 to $2.7 billion in the pot to invest in sustainable transport options.

  43. If tunnelling becomes the option, why not consider making cars go underground in the city centre with light rail and better cityscape for pedestrians, cyclists etc above ground. Maybe Waka Kotahi might even chip in to pay for the tunnelling for roads, and we can finally have a pedestrianised Queen Street!

    Loved it when I visited Guanajuato, Mexico where cars go underground and pedestrians can just walk around in the city centre, with plenty of outdoor space for cafes, parks etc (outdoor space is now even more important to prevent the spread of COVID).

  44. The best option is obvious – NW light rail. Give up on this for a while build LR to Westgate and come back in 20 years time and have another crack at this route.

    1. I know what you are saying, but at least there is a “sub-optimal” busway going in there.

      I would hit A2B and do that first. Once done, come round to NW in 6yrs when everyone sees the error of their ways. We’ll have two RTN routes within a decade.

      Do what we can about bus priority on Dom Rd, run a busway-type service from the NW busway down the SW motorway to Onehunga and then down to airport. Later A2B LR can be extended up to Onehunga. Its not perfect for Mangere etc, but its a step forward.

      Do what we can with bus priority on Dom Rd and wait for other factors to fall into place to convert it to LR

      1. And during all this, there’ll be the new route over/under the harbour and transforming of the Northern Busway.

        We can handle only so much in the next 10-15yrs and the Isthmus corridor is going to have to be dealt with by better buses.

        1. Feel this report undersells Busways. The Northern Busway has hit 6,800 people in an hour, the upper limit shown on the graph for Busways (pg 24), and more than what light rail is said to do at 6,300 per hour(pg 23). The problem is building a busway on Dominion Road. A Busway is wider at stations and to build it properly there would be no intersection competition so going over or under every cross road.

        2. @Waiukuian – Busways do have their place – but as you mentioned, they require wider 4-lane corridors & grade separation in order to match the capacity of light rail or light metro, so in space-constrained inner city areas they become less viable.

          Additionally there’s finding the extra space for these buses to turn around or lay over (which light rail doesn’t have to do, with double-ended LRVs). And I think the OPEX of BRT are also higher than LRT.

          I think ALR are underestimating the capacity of light rail. With 99m LRVs every 4 minutes, light rail could move over 10,000 people/hour/direction. And with 120m LRVs it could move over 12,000 people/hour/direction.

        3. As a side note, while all this dithering is going on to ignore a perfectly viable solution agreed on 5yrs go – as well as the debate about the second harbour crossing – we aren’t moving on bus priority elsewhere.

          We should be rolling our busways and buslanes as the first solution, and moving up the mode-options where they are not (or no longer) sufficient.

          Now we have the ridiculous situation of the National MP in Pakuranga lambasting officials for the delay on the eastern busway (ignoring the initial delay by his own party), but at the same time demanding the T2/bus lanes put in place during construction on Pakuranga Rd be temporary, instead of making them permanent to allow his constituents to use said busway

  45. Cut and cover is not as expensive as made out to be, it just done in wrong areas. Albert street is some of the oldest mess of pipes and wires in Auckland, and had major water and sewerage systems, and was a very steep slope. Choose another route

    Cut and cover the bumps and hills in the roads, and the intersections. No sneaking in other projects at same time (at least not in the same budget)

    Also, do not manually build the culvert in the cut and cover, just drop in precast, pre-tracked, and pre-wired sections

    Stations do not need to be massive glory projects either (looking at you Aotea Station), people just want to get from A to B without fuss or burning a lot of fossil fuel. A shallow cut and cover does not really need a station, just a bunch of stairways (and one small lift) direct to the loading and unloading platform

    Stations that are in parks and squares like the do in Shanghai, not the middle of the road

    1. And surface-level light rail would surely be less expensive and disruptive to construct, and more accessible for all users.

      1. Accessibility isn’t discussed enough. Each underground station needs massive excavation, multiple sets of escalators and at least one lift, fire hazard requirements, air filtration, etc.

        Surface level needs a space for an island, a roof and some seats

        1. That type of light metro network would still be significantly more expensive than surface light rail. And less accessible, too – why require a lift or stairs to platform level when street level could be platform level?

      2. Yes 6,300 per hour does sound low for Light rail Max. Possibly it is not fully separated. For instance does it still have to go through an intersection? even with priority this would slow it.
        Again one of the details we cannot fully debate here if no-one has been giving the details!! At least we know no Aucklanders would run the lights so that will not slow them!

        1. I suspect it’s more that ALR purposely restricted the size of the LRVs. I think they were limiting themselves to 67m LRVs (450pax) and 4-car light metro units (530pax).

          At-grade light rail should be able to move 10,000 people per hour per direction. I don’t think signal priority would be a technical issue, there are preemptive signal priority systems used on BRT and LRT overseas. My concern would be that the design is compromised for the sake of cars, and given the evidence the ALR group and the government are inclined to do that; seeing as they think $14 billion partial light metro is the best option.

      3. Surface level causes other issues. And if you have ever been to countries which have them, they are much noisier than modern EV’s. Street loading is awkward and a safety hazard. No one wants to wait in middle on the road on a rainy day for a “tram” etc

        Cut and cover mean track for both direction don’t have to be in middle of road, or even on the existing roads, they can go into other areas which makes sense. The can go through intersection easier

        Cut and cover means we get our road space back to turn into nice lanes, parks, cycle ways etc

        Stations to shallow tracks do not need to be big or expensive, and they don’t need escalators. They are simple ramps or stairs one floor down, direct onto platform. They can be pre-cast and cut and covered too. These should not be massive building projects

        Process is: dig up 20 m of road, extend/move wires and pipes, drop in precast section(s) (precast has provision for existing wire and cable conduits), cover and re-seal. Repeat. System needs to be developed until it can be done without the mess like Albert Street. Do not put routes through busy underground pipe areas if you can afford to. Go through parks and open spaces, or even shopping malls. Smooth tight route corners by going through back gardens etc

        1. I’m not saying surface LRT is without its flaws. But I find it difficult to believe its worth an extra $6bn to get a service that is only 5mins faster (wiped out by the time it will take to get to the surface at Aotea) and to maintain vehicle capacity on Dominion Rd.

          $14bn will get you 2, if not, 3 new RTN lines across Auckland. That is far more transformational than just a LM line between the city and the airport

        2. “These should not be massive building projects”

          But compared with surface level, they are massive. In isolation, maybe nothing to worry about. But its got to be done 17 times. And there will be times where escalators and lifts are required, whereas they will never be required with surface, nor the excavation required to cater for the hundreds getting off at major stations. You can’t get away from that comparison.

        3. Surface level light rail in reallocated street space would reduce our injury rate considerably per person km compared to our current transport system. Tunnelled wouldn’t achieve this, as it would not have the advantages of reducing traffic lanes. Tunnelled also introduces many personal safety issues, and offers much less in terms of regeneration potential.

          The reduction in traffic volumes that surface level street rail in reallocated traffic lanes provides is also a huge benefit, given Auckland’s irresponsible transport planning in the last few decades. Auckland’s emissions have increased by over 40% due to poor planning in the same period that cities that are reallocating space and following a sustainable plan have decreased theirs by over 40%.

          The difference in paradigm is being captured today in this discussion succinctly: too many in the sector are failing to understand the urgent need to reduce vkt via road reallocation, and that putting huge sums of money onto the children’s tab is negligent, given all the costs they will be facing in a changed climate.

    2. FYI, we did a detailed costing a year ago, ~$20 million per Km. This is for a single track, in one direction, with regular low profile stations

      There is no requirement to have both tracks directly next to each other. This keeps trenching simpler and more importantly faster as it’s just a continuous line. Station section require parallel and perpendicular trenching

      Track is 1.575 meter long pre-cast concrete culvert sections are pre-tracked, pre-wired, painted etc. And they support re-routing existing pipes and cables without additional trenching. Just drop and connect to previous one. Stations similar but fitted for people, not trains. All ramps, stairs, lights, gates, scanners etc all in pre-cast, and fitted before delivery. It’s about speed. Drop in trench, cover and go

  46. Connecting surface or tunnelled options via Newton Gully is a hideously difficult thing to achieve. CRLL has sorted its option connecting K Road to Mt Eden stations in the only viable option that does not cause disruption to the Northern Motorway. Light Rail will need to connect to where the people want to go in the CBD.
    As our Great and Glorious Leader, Comrade Cindy noted “the project is quite a bit more complicated than we first thought”.
    None of the options put up are affordable and all are political suicide.
    Yet another major infrastructure project failure by Labour – just piss and wind. Sadly, people are too naive to see it and voted for these chumps!

    1. There’s a simple solution for Newton Gully – at-surface all the way from Queen St, in a new median along Ian McKinnon Dr. Only real challenge would be figuring out how to cross Spaghetti Junction – use the existing Upper Queen St bridge, or build a new one just to the west?

      The problem is light rail *is* the best solution. It solves isthmus bus congestion and accesses Mangere & the Airport in a single project. If we could follow international light rail construction costs this shouldn’t cost more than $3-4 billion.

      Yes, Labour is completely mishandling things, but they and the Greens are the only one who have acknowledged the evidence with light rail. All the other major parties are rejecting light rail on purely ideological grounds (“Labour can’t deliver light rail so light rail bad”) and ignoring the evidence that heavy rail or BRT aren’t the most suitable options anymore.

      1. Sydney’s Southeast light rail, 12km, cost 3-4bn. Auckland’s light rail, 22km, cost 9bn, not too outrageously expensive. Though certainly not cheap.


          According to this comparison of light rail costs per km overseas, Sydney’s lines cost $200 million per km, and were at the very upper end of light rail projects. Even Seattle’s Link light rail, which has a larger proportion of viaducts or tunnels, cost around $150 million per km.

          Apply Sydney’s costing to CC2M and we should be expecting a pricetag of no more than $5 billion. Apply Seattle’s costing, and it drops to $3.6 billion.

        2. Not long before completion Sydney SE LRT cost was up to 3.3bn. Think the final bill was close to 4bn, somewhere in the region of 300m/km.

        3. I think some of the cost blowouts + delays for Sydney were to do with a dodgy PPP deal and the use of “wireless” light rail (aka an Alstom-exclusive third rail design) in the city centre.

      2. Matt – I don’t disagree that either side of Newton Gully is doable. The “gap” of SH 1presents a huge issue. The Upper Queen Street bridge was not designed for such loads and is a key connector for other modes. If you stand on the Upper Queen Street bridge a look west, you’ll get to appreciate the scale of the motorway gully. There is no way in hell Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency ( a Govt department formerly known as NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi) will countenance any disruption to traffic movement on SH 1. They are already very nervous about CRLL building a tunnel under said highway. The underground options present huge issues viz. acquisition of subterranean land interests and affects on land surface occupation where tunnels are less than 5 metres below the surface. Just ask CRLL how challenging that is, even with Public Works Act powers. It all takes time a shedload of dollars!
        The Dominion Road option hasn’t been honestly portrayed either. They need to show vehicles will have a left hand run only option out of side streets due to the bunded tracks. Imagine the rat run that is going to create and impact of Mt Eden and Sandringham villa values? The shit hasn’t begun!

  47. Why not use AT Southern Line, vere off at the northern turn-out of the Wiri EMU Depot, cross Roscommon & Mclaughlins Rd, skirt north of the Auckland Regional Women’s Facility. Head for Puhinui Rd and then the Auckland Airport.

    1. A Puhinui spur has already been debunked several times. It would not add any new stations or catchment aside from the Airport; it would constrain frequencies & thus capacity on the Southern & Eastern lines; and there’s a perfectly good BRT service between the Airport & Manukau in its place already (which in future will become Airport-Botany mass transit).

  48. Airport HR isn’t looking so bad now is it? Even the full Onehunga-Airport-Puhinui option. Even adding Dom Rd LR would still be cheaper than these options.
    Also we now have actual LR travel times rather than the lalaland anti-HR ones GA have made up in the past.

    These LR/LM costs are however ridiculous. Tunnelling really is costly (and more costly to maintain). Elevated is much less expensive both in construction and ongoing operating costs. This is why Vancouver did it that way (although admittedly they did tunnel the CBD section).
    Even if they only did the inner CBD sections as tunnelling then switched to elevated along Dom Rd before ground level along the SH20 etc corridor, they would shave billions off the total cost.

    1. The travel times here actually line up pretty well with GA’s past predictions. 44 minutes Midtown – Airport (GA estimated 42 minutes in 2018, and if you were running light rail via SH20 instead of Bader Drive that would probably be achievable).

      Based on international light rail costs ($100-150 million per km), the full City-Airport surface light rail should cost between $2.5B and $4B.

      Extending the Onehunga Line would require rebuilding the Penrose junction (a couple of hundred million), double-tracking and trenching the OBL ($>600 million), and more extensive viaducts over SH20/SH20A plus tunneling into the Airport proper ($2-3 billion.) I’d expect heavy rail to cost near $4 billion without Dominion Rd light rail (+ $1-2 billion) and without the Puhinui link ($1-2 billion) which isn’t needed anyway because of the A2B project.

      Yes, I would rather see heavy rail from Onehunga extended to the Airport than underground light metro, because it definitely would be cheaper than that. But my preference is still for surface-level CC2M light rail.

    2. The idea of running elevated rail down Dominion Rd doesn’t match with your name. There is zero chance of ever getting approval elevated lines immediately outside single and double story suburban houses.

      1. And even if you took into account the 6+ storey redevelopment possible with the NPS-UD, you’d probably want to widen the Dominion Rd corridor to greater than 20-24m, to avoid a crowded, shaded, and unpleasant streetscape underneath the elevated metro viaduct. Which brings us back to the problem of property acquisition.

        (not to mention that elevated stations are less accessible, and require more maintenance and security to keep safe)

      2. Jezza – those single and double storey suburban homes down Dominion Road are history now. Within probably 5 years they will all be apartment blocks – and not before time too. Its important that we don’t miss the chance to strike now and get the rail project in, before there is a significant mass of people living there and opposing it. Instead, build the transport link now, and then use the popularity of that to help build the housing around it.

        1. I imagine Dominion Rd residents and businesses are still going to put up a hell of a fight against intensification, despite the NPS-UD.

          Yes, agree with your point on getting the mass transit infrastructure in there early – but elevated or tunnelled rail isn’t necessary for Dominion Rd. At-grade light rail can have rolling stock up to 120m long, carry <900 passengers, and run every 4 minutes – coming very close to the capacity of light metro.

          Why spend billions more just to shave off 5 minutes travel time and increase capacity by only a quarter? Surface light rail is a better placemaker and community connector.

        2. “Within probably 5 years they will all be apartment blocks”

          Nonsense, unless they are forcibly acquired. They are all held in private ownership. People don’t develop just because they can. They may not have the money to do so, they may have a comfortable situation they are in and can’t be bothered, they may have emotional attachment to the status quo, they may find that it’s too hard, or that the industry is too busy to return their calls. And the fact that GOVT ISN”T GETTING OFF THEIR ASS means they don’t know whether their new apartment block project will be bowled next year when the publics works act takes the front half of their site. All of these reasons mean that the “apartment block boom” will happen, but MUCH slower than the 5 years you state. And be – that’s cities – massively inconsistent. 6 storeys next to 1-storeys for decades. That’s normal.

  49. I don’t understand the obsession with the line to Wynyard quarter.
    No one knows how the line will continue to the north shore yet.
    The line needs to pass under Aotea and have an above ground station at Victoria Park, it’s still a short walk to Wynyard quarter and leaves more options open for future extentions.

    1. Even with surface light rail down Queen St – Wynyard Quarter is a fairly easy flat walk from Britomart, especially with the new Quay St pathways. And if necessary the City Link bus could be retained just between Wynyard Quarter and Britomart, until a decision is made on the North Shore line.

  50. Carbon reduction…hurrumph!
    None of the options remove GHGs from the atmosphere to compensate for the carbon embodied in their construction so the modelling must assume that if none of the options are taken up people will continue to use ICE vehicles to 2081 and beyond at what appears to be the same rate as today.
    Highly implausible…and on that basis the 2 more expensive options will never “recover” their embedded carbon.

    1. No – you expect an entire LRT vehicle’s worth of passengers (500?) to get off, go down to the platform and then squeeze on to a train that is already full?

      1. It would also be a difficult transfer to engineer well, especially with the CRL bits pretty well set in stone now.

        It’d basically end up being 2 stations a hundred or so meters from each other. Like the NX1 and the Britomart platforms. Which is a pretty poor transfer.

        It would add quite a bit of time and would not be an upgrade over the current buses.

        1. Speaking of – I can see that being an issue, any transfers between a “Dominion Junction” light rail station and the Mt Eden heavy rail station. That would be a 300-400m walk between the two stations.

          Though that would probably only affect people looking to transfer from the CC2M light rail to the Western Line – people headed south or east would be better off catching the bus to Puhinui and changing there, or going all the way to Aotea/Britomart and changing there.

        2. @John D – thanks.

          Plus, ideally, there’d be a Crosstown light rail or BRT line, and/or frequent buses from Onehunga to Western Line stations (e.g. New Lynn) – additional, more direct options for those living further west.

  51. Why not just have designated bus expressway. Build a bus/train transfer station where ian McKinnon drive passes over the western train line to tie the project into the CRL. You could even explore autonomous electric busses.

    1. They’ve already been investigated and disproven.

      A busway down Dominion Rd would require 2 bus lanes each way, extensive property acquisition, grade separation at every intersection, and would barely match the capacity of light rail.

      1. Why do they need 2 lanes each way? Shouldn’t they need only 1.

        Create a designated bus lane down the middle of dominion road. Expand the footpath creating a shared bike/pedestrian space. No cars or parking

        Buy all properties that have driveways on dominion road. Rezone to 6 story mixed use. Sell to developers at a profit.

        You could probably make money off the thing and get an awesome urban hub.

        1. 1. To match light rail’s capacity, buses would need to run at least every 60 seconds. That requires passing lanes at stations.

          2. Busways actually require wider corridors than light rail, because tired vehicles tend to weave in their lanes. A 2 lane busway would be 0.5-1m wider than 2 tracks of light rail.

          You could do the same redevelopment and streetscaping with light rail, and it would have more capacity, be more attractive to users, no risk of being turned back into a road by zealous car nuts, and you could even green-track the light rail.

        2. Run well busways can transport over 25,000 people per hour and could have extended Airport -Mangere catchment. But I cannot see how the infrastructure could be feasibly put on Dominion Road. To be fully functional passing lanes are needed at stations that can be over 100metres long. Fine next to a motorway as on the North Shore but not something to impose on a residential suburb.

    2. Forced transfer for what is now a one seat ride for an entire lines worth of people is bad.
      Long term we will need more capacity entering the city centre that what CRL will offer.
      The city center is the hub for all lines, this way we can have 1 transfer rides to and from any other radial line.
      Mt Eden station is set in stone, and said Ian McKinnon station would be less than 500m from Mt Eden. With 200m long trains thats a bit comical.
      Mt eden station is not designed for another interchange line in mind, a LR station transfer here would end up being poor and a decent distance.
      One of the driving goals is to get rid of busses into the city center. The north south streets, like symonds, are extremely busy already (120+ buses per hour in peak from memory) and simply don’t have capacity for more than a decade or so. And degradation of service long before that.

  52. I guess I was thinking of something like this Matt. You have a point though. The capacity may not be there with bus lanes.

    Rue du Général Giraud, 76000 Rouen, France

    1. It’s a good example in terms of surrounding development & space allocation to transit & active modes – but in context that busway seems like a secondary transit route. Rouen also has a premetro-type light rail system.

  53. Do we know how much was spent changing the road layout from Puhinui station to the airport. To me it looks pretty much ready to have tracks laid in the Bus/Transit lanes. Surely that would give us some ideas of how much the street sections of light rail should cost.

  54. So reading these comments the reason why surface option in ENZED costs double the amount of similar schemes overseas is because we want to retain parking and sufficient traffic lanes?
    Can we please see the costs for the option where parking is gone and traffic is reduced? Then we can clearly understand how much we’ll be paying for the car parks and traffic lanes. Pretty sure that if this was made clear these would be the most expensive car parks the world has ever seen.

    1. Thats the thing, looking at Minister Wood’s tweets, the parking and lanes stuff sounds like its not actually the source of the cost. He was saying all the right things regarding decisions around property purchase. The

  55. “Unfortunately, I feel that the government have once again been let down by officials”

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate you seem to never what to actually hold this shit house government to account and keep making excuses for them.

  56. CRL just keeps looking like a better and better deal every year.
    Downtown tunnel, stations, future proofed, all for 4.4B

    Sounds like in 10 years we’ll be looking back on that as the deal of the century. TBH same with DART.

      1. And from what I can read on the internet, that was considered so expensive and outlandish that the mayor got the boot over that, thankfully after construction was started.

        1. Yes, Banks got voted in on a platform of cancelling it, however the contracts were already watertight by then. By 2010 he was supporting CRL in his unsuccessful campaign.

    1. Heck, even the Superfund light metro proposal, $10-15 billion for both Mangere & Northwest lines, seems like a better deal in hindsight (though not the 7% interest over 50 years part)

      1. Yep, I really really want to see that proposal in full. Really I want to see all these documents in full.

        Brings up the point that so many of these proposals languish in a drawer somewhere. Someone put a lot of work into them, would be good for everyone for them to see the light of day. I really think the policy around this should change. “Commercial insensitivity” excuse I think is becoming overused and undermines things.

        1. If only that proposal had been way more transparent. What bugs me most is that Phil Twyford suddenly changed tack all of a sudden, from promoting the surface light rail proposal in 2017 to touting “35 minutes to the airport” light metro in 2018 like that had always been the plan, with only the few leaked images to go by.

          Light metro should really have been up for public consultation in 2016, as another option alongside light rail & extending heavy rail. The design itself, with the travel times and the approx. costs, would have been interesting to compare – would extending the Onehunga branch line as per SMART have been better or worse than a $6 billion underground light metro?

  57. haha looks like it’s rigged for government to choose something expensive and then cancel it because it’s expensive… no hope

  58. So for the underground light rail, would it run in the middle of the street when it gets to mangere? Or would it just follow the motorway. I’m really hoping it just follows the motorway as that would be a bit silly tunneling all that way all for it to come out as a tram

    1. Seems so…

      Agree – if you’re spending *that* much on tunneling it should be an automated light metro all the way. At least enable some operating cost savings that way.

  59. CONGESTION FREE NETWORK 1 ALL were involves : CBT etc

    Version 2 with light rail GA ignored many and what a shame….

  60. Why wasn’t a suspended / elevated option considered?….such as the Honolulu rail transit…just for the section of Dominion Rd to Mt Roskill….in my view, there isn’t enough space on Dom Rd for light rail, bike lanes, pedestrian traffic, vehicles for deliveries to businesses etc. It is too tight, and Mt Eden will be cut in half.

    1. – Visual disruption of an elevated viaduct – even with denser development around it, the streetscape would be made more unpleasant for pedestrians and active mode users underneath. Same reason why the Reeves Rd Flyover won’t make for a pleasant public space underneath. Not to mention NIMBYs would lose their minds and probably put up a big fight.

      – The concrete pillars for the viaduct would likely take up just as much space as at-grade light rail. Chicago-style metal supports don’t seem to be commonly built on modern elevated metro networks.

      1. Nope, go to Vancouver, the elevated tracks are wonderful. They look great, provide shelter, and don’t take up a lot of room for the most part.

        1. Those streets are usually over 2x wider than dominion road.
          Elevated on dominion road would be far more dominating than any of these overseas examples.

        2. The example we would be more likely to be similar to is Seattle’s link light rail, their elevated guideways are 8.7m wide.
          on an 18m wide section of dominion road you’d have 9m of sky split between each side of the street. Go and measure out 4.5m, it is not much by any stretch of the imagination.

        3. What @Jack said.

          You can’t compare elevated metro running down the median of a ~30m wide boulevard, or over parks/greenways, and usually for only short stretches before it deviates somewhere else, to elevating light rail all the way along 20-24m wide Dominion Rd from Eden Terrace to Mt Roskill (over 5km of continuous viaduct).

          Most examples of elevated light metro are on significantly wider streets or even highways than Dominion Rd – and in many cases, especially in the Americas the elevated line seems to be an excuse to retain “car sewer” lanes.

    2. “Why wasn’t a suspended / elevated option considered’

      The unsolicited bid from Canada, proposed an overhead option. Imagine living in an apartment building on Dominion Road and having a light rail train go past your bedroom window every 5 minutes! PLUS, how do passengers get UP to the elevated stations??

      1. AND:
        Numerous plans have been advanced over the years to reorganize downtown Chicago rapid transit service, originally with the intention of replacing the elevated Loop lines with subways. That idea has been largely abandoned.

  61. With over 300 comments it must be a GA record, but most unfortunately are negative due to the massive price tag.
    But i am excited for this project and
    I don’t even live any where near this corridor.
    There is a silver lining to this, you won’t see another big project in Auckland for 15 plus years including roading projects.
    Bike lanes will be all they could afford.
    It will also be new Zealand’s 1st dedicated passenger metro line.
    I often think just build the street car style light rail on the routes that had been pulled up including dominion Rd but it won’t suit any extension past that that due to Auckland being so spread out and people in post 1950s suburbs are used to the convenience and speed of driving.
    The tunnel is expensive but I see it as the portal to the future, meaning it will one day be extended to outer suburbs like where I live on the north shore and not be so slow that I just end up driving or riding my scooter.

  62. It seems Vancouver had this same discussion a few years ago, and it appears that they went with the more expensive subway option vs surface/raised options.

    “Subways are much more expensive to build and maintain than other forms of transit. Costs for building SkyTrain have steadily risen from $68 million per km for the Millennium Line to $121 million per km for the Canada Line to a whopping estimated $491 million per km for the Broadway subway (all costs converted to 2018 dollars).

    Costs for building surface light rail are much less with many examples from around the world being built for less than 50 million per km, some for far less than that.

  63. .
    Auckland International Airport (AIAL) is the wrong destination.

    This outdated concept feeds the defunct AIAL strategic plan of operating two runways that drive a multi billion tourist industry and airfreight hub with a plethora of retail paying below average wages to south Auckland workers. This strategy is in the freezer and so is the 22cents dividend (last paid in 2019) to its largest shareholder, Auckland Council.

    Time to face the facts. Long distance aviation is a very dirty business. It’s worse than the coal we burn to generate electricity, worse even than the dairy industry and worse than years of talk. The carbon saving graph is the best bit in this bs because even if carbon neutrality is projected to be reached by Airport light rail in 2041, that’s 20 years of increasing emissions to link to the world’s dirtiest activity. Don’t forget that per capita, NZ is on a par with China, the worlds’ dirtiest polluter at just over 7 tons CO2 per person (we are about 40th by country per capita). As the world wakes up to climate change, do you think the tourist industry and Auckland Airport will resume pre 2019 activity levels? I hope not.

    Get some real brains onto this and look at community need, like the north west corridor, crosstown connector, central arterials, and southern sector networks not a political spin that quickens our pathway to hell.

    Poor Minister Wood, he continues to make it difficult for himself even if his lifetime retired MP free air pass becomes one hot ticket.

    1. I think you’ve missed the main point of the project. The airport is a convenient location for a terminal station, the main purpose of the project is to serve communities on that radial leg. Its where a lot of intensification is going to happen.

  64. Does anyone else feel like they’re living in groundhog day? I’m sure I’ve heard all sorts of talk about some new form of public rail transport through the central isthmus and south-westerns suburbs to the airport before. More than once. And nothing has ever gotten built.
    The current CLR project shows even going underground is still disruptive for surface level businesses. Do any of their proposals have a fair and realistic plan to deal with that?

    1. Wish we actually were in a transport groundhog day that reset to the past, so we could learn from our mistakes. Imagine having the opportunity to go back 10, 20, or 75 years and influence Auckland’s transit direction.

      (yes, that’s my coping mechanism…)

    2. They got CRL though without any compensation initially because it’s basically the first of its kind in NZ, businesses/ their associations and the public largely didn’t realise quite what it would be like. Its highly likely (guaranteed in my mind) that any future projects of this scale will include compensation.

      I am concerned that this sets a precedent though that smaller and smaller projects will need to include compensation. Like with the kinds of traffic impact mitigation we see today, it keeps making projects more and more expensive. Even basic utility work etc is significantly more expensive than it has to be, and means we accept either higher taxes, or worse infrastructure.

  65. It may be tempting to contrast how relatively easy the settling of options for the CRL was, compared to ALR. Sure, decades of denial and obstruction passed before John Key and National finally signed-off on it (after much lobbying from Len Brown and Auckland businesses). And sure, scope has expanded and costs have multiplied after arguments over station lengths, where the entrances should be etc, but the basic objective of unlocking capacity and unblocking Britomart wwas always fairly clear-cut. It is always easier to build on what you already have than start with something completely new.
    So where to start for the parts of Auckland that are currently not already rail-served? There are a myriad of options regarding whatever new system is settled on, and the dissension and false-starts are arguably healthy for gradually whittling down those options to what is most appropriate. I don’t think it reflects badly on the current government that they are also groping their way forward with this, and the same with the struggle to come up with a way forward for Wellington. Many major PT schemes in other parts of the world that are valued and taken for granted today, also took decades to crystallise-out from concept to construction. If Auckland had ploughed ahead with proposals from the mid 1980s it would have ended up turning all its rail-lines into O-Bahn busways. Thank goodness for dithering and procrastination!

    1. Agree, even the CRL was effectively about the 4th iteration. I do think though if the government had bitten the bullet with the rail proposals in the 1950s the city would be in a better position now.

  66. I came across this article when reading around the large disconnect between the issue of he new GHG reductions target and the ALR announcement of preferred options.
    As Michael Cullen put it “ARL is a solution looking for a problem”. In skimming through the comments I did not see any mention of not doing any form of rail development and using electric buses on improved bus routes. Low impact, development can continue over a bigger area, and GHG reduction from the first passenger on board – next week if busses are available.
    The vast majority of bus journeys are nowhere near the full length of the route. If they were, some simple maths would have every bus running 18hours a day, 7 days a week at near capacity – doesn’t happen.
    GHG for an electric bus is similar/passenger for LR. Diesel is about 4 times more.
    But the big GHG emission is the construction of the tunnels and related infrastructure.
    Concrete is the biggie here. Every cubic metre of concrete produces about 400kg of GHG.
    Again do the maths, but this time look at the GHG produced in the LR construction and compare this to the GHG produced from running electric buses from next week.
    The result? It would take somewhere between 100 and 200 years to get LR GHG emissions down to those compared to running electric buses.
    The logical path is encourage people to stop using private vehicles, increase electric bus services and improve infrastructure to encourage walking, cycling and bus use. More housing density can come with this option, and not all crammed around rail stations!
    A lot cheaper, healthier and greener.
    Leave the politics and historical arguments out of it and look and plan for reality.

    1. Hi Michael, you make some good points. And there’s a world of difference in terms of concrete use between surface LR and tunnelled LR.

      There are many different aspects to the decision to consider. If you put “light rail” into the search engine on this site, you’ll find dozens of posts looking at various details.

    2. On Dominion Road we already run bus services, and within a few years they will be electric. The problem is that we cannot run enough buses to meet demand.

    3. The last thing we need is more rubber particles ending up in our harbour, any long term rapid transit decisions should involve steel wheels and rails.

  67. Right, so you don’t mind 50,000 tonnes of CO2 from the ALR construction going into the atmosphere and contributing to global GHG emissions, but are more worried about a few extra tonnes of fixed carbon from electric buses going into our waterways?
    Carbon from tyres going into waterways is not desirable and can be fixed, but the maintaining of the status quo for other existing road transport, with no reduction in the current tonnes of rubber from tyres is what you will have with the ARL.
    At least encouraging people to leave their cars and use free electric buses should give an overall reduction of tyre rubber in the environment.

    1. I *think* Kraut, Sailor Boy and Jezza were all arguing surface rail LR is needed. I don’t believe any of them were arguing for the resource-intensive tunnel options (which are a big concern).

      The “T” of “tunnelled” does make discussing it tricky: “LRT” means light rail transit – which is typically surface level, whereas now with this “tunnelled light rail” option, all of a sudden “TLR” is a thing.

    2. All of Auckland’s buses are going electric already, AT have been quoted as saying that all new buses will be electric, so you point is moot. Your idea will do nothing to add capacity to the corridor and will continue the problems it currently has

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