In his guest post last week on his view about light rail, Transport Minister Michael Wood started with a lesson from history.

Firstly, a few words about the history. This matters because the historic failure to secure the necessary political support and investment for rapid transit in Auckland tells us something about what we might need to do differently if we want the project to advance this time.

The starting point has to be Mayor Robbie’s Rapid Rail scheme – not light rail to be sure, but the main post-war attempt to develop a linked-up mass rapid transit scheme for the city. Tāmaki Makaurau would be unrecognisable had the plan gone ahead. Its failure was one of the key junctures that set us on a path of congestion, urban sprawl, and car dependency in the ensuing decades. It was of course quashed by the incoming Muldoon National government in 1975. Lacking central government support, it was simply unable to proceed.

Under Len Brown’s leadership, the new Auckland Council established in 2010 faced down an unwilling National government and secured shared funding for the CRL, but was unable to generate central government support for the Isthmus Light Rail network proposals it developed in the mid-part of that decade. The government of the day continued to fixate on a handful of mega-roading projects such as the East-West Link.

Finally, with Labour elected to government in 2017, central government was back at the table and with the Greens, two out of three government parties were keen to make mass rapid transit happen.

Having political support for rapid transit is essential and Auckland absolutely would look a lot different today had Robbie’s scheme gone ahead. But there’s another, equally important lesson from the failure of Robbie’s scheme that is extremely relevant to the current light rail process. What’s more, Robbie’s scheme wasn’t the first time it has happened. That lesson is “don’t go too big” and it’s only something we only properly learnt with the development of the rail network over the last two decades. Let’s look at some of that history.

1920’s Morningside Deviation

In 1924 the government approved a large package of works on the rail network all around the country. In Auckland that included building the Eastern line and shifting the main train station to Beach Rd, away from its location at what is now Britomart.

Also included as an integral part of the plans was the Morningside Deviation, a ~5km route through the city from Beach Rd to Morningside with the Western line being duplicated between Morningside and New Lynn.

The route is from the new station site, across Beach Rd then by a tunnel in a straight line to a point beneath the normal school. The tunnel takes a slight curve to Wakefield Street, where the proposed underground station will be situated, with a double line platform. Thence the route is by tunnel to the vicinity of the bottom of Newton Road. An open line continues along the gully to Morningside, where there will be another short tunnel.

There’s a little more detail on the route here too.

In 1929 a predecessor to the National Party was elected to government and in early 1930, they abandoned the project. The justification for this was the cost and a quick estimation based on government revenue and expenditure at the time suggests the expected cost of £2,174,570 would be the equivalent to today’s government building a single $10 billion project.

Though it seems they may have deliberately stacked the odds against the project as more than half of the cost was to electrify the network from Papakura to Helensville. Local politicians and organisations such as the Auckland Chamber of Commerce were quick to question why it was necessary to electrify to Helensville instead of just Swanson like earlier experts had suggested. It was also pointed out that the only reason people were complacent about moving the Auckland station out of the city was because the tunnel had been promised at the same time.

One interesting aspect that emerged later was the government also added two extra stations to the plans, one near Karangahape Rd and one in the Arch Hill gully. Interestingly the K Rd station entrance is in exactly the same place at the end of Cross St as the CRL will have. In another similarity to today, the government used the prospect of a harbour crossing as a diversion tool.


In 1950 the Morningside Deviation was proposed again, though with a slightly different alignment and adding an additional station. At the same time road planners were coming up with motorway schemes and with arguments developing over future plans, a technical advisory committee was set up to come up with a Master Plan.

As the late Paul Mees explains the committee was stacked with 23 traffic engineers and only one railway engineer, so it was no surprise when the 1955 the Master Transportation Plan really set Auckland on its motorway focused ways. It argued that the Morningside Deviation couldn’t be justified compared to the cheap motorways (they turned out to be anything but cheap).

The plan however did suggest building a spur line under Albert Park with a terminus station at what became the Victoria St carpark.

Robbie’s Rail

With debate continuing, in the early 1960’s, American Consultants De Leuw Cather were hired to come up with a plan for Auckland. The report they produced expanded on the motorway and expressway excesses of the 1955 plan, but they also produced a rapid transit plan which they said needed to be built first to prevent the motorways from becoming congested. Their plans released in 1965 included a potential future regional transit network.

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland

It was from this plan that Robbie’s Auckland Rapid Transit scheme was based off. However, like with the Morningside deviation of nearly 50 years earlier, it too was based on a single big project that completely overhauled rail and bus services across much of Auckland. The network would have been electrified, there would be fewer stations but they would have big bus interchange and park and ride facilities included. A third track was also to be added to some parts of the network.

The first stage of the plan was to do the city section along with the Southern and Eastern lines. Just those two lines alone were expected to cost the government the equivalent of about a $8b project today. Meanwhile plans for extensions to Henderson and to Albany would have brought the equivalent cost to closer to around $15 billion today. There was also the suggestion of future spurs to the Airport and Manukau.

For a bit more history, here is a selection of six articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in 1975 promoting his scheme.

  1. Great Financial Savings in Bus-Rail Scheme
  2. ‘All-Bus’ Scheme a Non-starter on Capital Cost
  3. Question of Who Pays the Operating Costs
  4. Millions Vehicles Strong Argument for Rail
  5. Rapid-Rail Helps City Development
  6. Decision on Harbour Crossing Urgent

In 1975 the National Party under Robert Muldoon was elected and in 1976 they killed the project. While some of the reason will have been ideological, a big part of the reason would also have been simply the cost.

One thing that frustrates me the most about all the previous schemes is that while the government failed to fund them, nothing was done to protect the corridors or look for opportunities to deliver parts of it. They became all or nothing affairs and we got nothing, until …..

Britomart, Rail Revival, Electrification and the City Rail Link

While there are some differences to those earlier schemes, for the most part the network we will have when the CRL opens in (hopefully) 2024 will be similar to what was proposed nearly 100 and 50 years ago. Where we’ve succeeded this time in getting the project built is that we broke the upgrade down to smaller chunks.

First we built Britomart which opened in mid-2003 returning trains closer to the city centre and became key catalyst for rail usage to grow. That growth gave confidence to further invest in the network such as upgrading stations, double tracking the Western Line, building the Manukau spur and reopening the Onehunga Line. Tied to that was also the introduction of more frequent services and combined usage grew even stronger. That further growth meant that when National was elected in 2008 they couldn’t just scrap the proposed investment in electrification, which led to the next surge in usage and meant they eventually had to agree to the City Rail Link.

Lessons for Light Rail

Perhaps the key lessons for the government from the CRL’s history is that projects that are too big make it easy for the whole project to fall over. You need a high-level vision but getting something built and starting the usage ball rolling is more likely to result in long term success than getting the perfect scheme from day one. This is also exactly the approach taken by the motorway builders, build a section and use the demand for that and the issues that demand creates to build the next section and the section after that.

There’s a lot of work on design, consenting and procurement that needs to happen before any shovels hit the ground for light rail regardless of what decisions are made. As it is, for a project of the scale proposed it feels like it will be a stretch to achieve all that before the next election.

With all of that in mind, it is one of the reasons we’ve been so supportive of the surface light rail option. As well as being more affordable, meaning we could deliver more investment across the region, we believe that it gives us a better ability to stage the delivery and importantly, actually get something built and start transforming parts of our city.

We can always come back later and build a bigger scale project, such as undergrounding part of the route or adding another corridor to address issues. The business case processes might not like it but far from being a negative, it would likely result in additional benefits to Auckland’s PT network. Furthermore, we’ll always need something on the surface on Queen St and Dominion Rd so it’s not like any investment in this corridor now will be wasted if we need to build a tunnel in the future.

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  1. Great write up, thanks for that.

    Something I find mad about this proposal is how poorly they have framed it. If ALR preferred option gets built, Auckland will have something close to a subway system, but the meida talk about it like it’s the Tram at Western Springs.

  2. History is always useful when considering infrastructure proposals, and not just the history of specific transport schemes. In France and other European countries any such infrastructure investigation generally includes historians as well as sociologists, economists and environmentalists and other non-engineering/accounting disciplines because there’s a recognition that such proposals have an impact over and beyond the simple calculations required for construction and financing. The absence of these voices is possibly the reason why so many New Zealand schemes either fail or default to the most technically efficient alternative, ‘efficient’ at least in the view of engineers and accountants.

    1. A lot of countries over-build infrastructure. It has always been seen as a way to retain power. Augustus didn’t need the banks of the Tiber to be rebuilt, he had it done to keep people busy and paid.

      Since WWII France has used projects to keep their economy ticking over. We have never really had the national income to do that. $10billion on light rail is $10 billion that can’t be spent on more productive uses.

  3. I fear that that the opposition to the $10 to $15 billion LR to the airport will ramp up and there will be strong calls to cancel the slow tram to the airport project. It will be a major election issue. The cost is 3 or 4 times the CRL project and it wont be acceptable to many. The roads people will want to bring back their $1billion E-W project, Mill Rd, more spaghetti junctions etc and have enough left over for tax cuts.

    1. Mill Road was over $3 billion.
      I actually think the surface level is more likely to get ditched as it is the “slow tram” option. National will take great pride in cancelling any surface level LR project unless it has already started being built, and that is unlikely before the next election. Hopefully once the Auckland lockdowns are over Labour will regain some of the support they have recently lost and get at least another 3 years to build this thing, that should be enough time to get some decent progress on either option.

    2. With the prices for these motorways, they’re certainly not going to have any tax cuts. Its getting a bit ridiculous really.
      And the benefits given are overwhelmingly crap and represent a long term drain on the economy.

  4. I think this is a bit different to other proposals; the others were changes to the existing rail network (many of them similar to the CRL). Yes bundling them up with other improvements like electrification etc didn’t help, although they probably still would have been cancelled regardless.
    In this case it is a whole new line, I think it would be crazy not to have a master plan in mind particularly when we also need a North West and North Shore line that will also terminate in the city centre. But that is not to say it can’t be staged; regardless of whether it is surface or underground, they could build the Mt Roskill to city part first with the second part just designated.

  5. Do we really believe that if they want to get any of these options built they won’t because of public pressure? Transport has never been an election winning subject and people are finding it a lot more palatable under the current atmosphere of climate change, the argument that we need better public transport gets made by all voters these days.

    It’s not quite the same as cycling projects which really invoke the culture wars divide for some reason, that and the cycle bridge was opposed by all.

    Unless there is mass protest by Labour supporters to not build Light Rail at all I can’t see why it wouldn’t go ahead based on some media commentary and people who are opposed to public transport in general.

    Also don’t think that 1 single metro line which is proposed which despite the massive price tag is still just 1 line is comparable to a huge multi line rapid transport netwokr like Robbie’s rail.

    1. Building 23 km of tunnels is very easy to re frame as not actually being that good for the environment. A electric surface system with light priority would not be massively slower over this distance. Displacement of cars is a positve outcome in many ways.

      Yea nah, its exactly like bike infrastructure, it can be built cheap and well if road space is taken from cars, or it can cost huge amounts do a similar thing all to essentially prevent car drivers from being mildly inconvenienced (they also never realise they are being catered to and complain about costs).

        1. I did. Transport is very political in NZ. Public transport is far from the main way people get around, this project is going to be endlessly attacked and Labour have a history of cutting things that damage them. The preferred options, are designed in part to limit political opposition, but end up doing the opposite via cost. That’s exactly the bike bridge.

        2. Again, haven’t read but thats ok. I didn’t say it wasn’t political, I said its never been an election deciding issue. They campaigned on this and got elected, they then got a total mandate to Govern in the last election. National and ACT also propose Rapid Transit, alberit not light rail along the same corridors. So I’m saying going ahead with any of the 3 options isn’t going to lose them an election, and if they don’t go ahead well they look even more silly as the party that doesn’t do anything.

          The bike bridge was a silly solution out of nowhere, that was never an election promise, that nobody wanted. Absolutely nothing like Light Rail which has been 10 years in the making.

    2. “It’s not quite the same as cycling projects which really invoke the culture wars divide for some reason, that and the cycle bridge was opposed by all.”

      The cycle bridge was not opposed by all. And the decision to can it was political, and informed simply by reckons about public sentiment, that were not informed by any analysis at all.

      I guess the cycling projects don’t go ahead because of “some media commentary” that’s been so targeted that people talk about cycling projects as invoking a culture wars divide – when the facts show support for cycling investment is high; even amongst older voters who have enjoyed cycling coming back into vogue. The culture war divide is a fabrication by the media, who give voice to a particular demographic, but it’s not a good representation of the Auckland public.

      So I guess I’m saying: while I’d hope the decision gets made for sound reasons, there’s not a lot of reason for thinking this decision won’t be based entirely on Cabinet’s reckons, which seem to follow the loud voices.

      1. I would agree that it was unpopular, but part of that was that it was unpopular because it showed the absolute reluctance to reallocate any road space from cars.
        I live on the Shore and would love to have a cycle option across the harbour (that didn’t involve going via Greenhithe) but I thought that bridge was a poor idea too.

      2. Is that in the public domain anywhere – that “Grant Robertson and Jacinda thought [an accessible, active-modes-enabled harbour crossing for Auckland] was rubbish [sic]”? If so, can you point us towards it? If not, what’s your source?

        It’s quite a large claim, especially in the current climate context…

      3. “Wasting a billion dollars on trying to retrofit a cycle lane on the bridge was a distraction and the money will be much better spent elsewhere.”

        What project are you talking about that was a billion bucks?
        It wasn’t even a billion dollars to build a brand new bridge for bikes plus a bunch of connecting cycleways. It was $685mil. Given that it would cost $50mil, maaybe $100mil to reallocate a single lane of the bridge to a cycleway, that’s $585-635mil to preserve one car lane. The SkyPath had only ballooned out to $360mil before it was cancelled.

      4. The bike bridge was designed to fail, the only way to get a pedestrian/cycle way will be to hide it in a motorway or rapid transit bridge.
        But Most people excepted the 200m clip on Sky path.

      5. A few comments on the thread.
        It was clear that Grant Robertson was against the Northern Pathway and anyone that is close to the Government will tell you that Jacinda runs a tight ship. The fact it was scrapped should be clear enough proof the PM was not in favour.
        I get the point about scraping active mode shift projects in a climate emergency, but that money would have been better spent on building a lot more cycle paths elsewhere.
        I think the change of mind came when the cost blew out to 780m. Given the unchecked inflation on commodity prices, that would have ended up at a billion. That’s far too much money to spend on 1km of cycle path. I think the government thinking is that they would all be out of jobs if they spent 1b on a cycle path when they could have spent 3b on a bridge that includes cars, light rail and a cycle path.
        According to the RR poll, 81.7% were against it and only 11% for it. This is not because of misinformation, it’s because the BCR was appalling.

      6. Yes, but the critical point is that the backdown on it will embolden the anti-PT/pro-road campaigners to think they can sink any further proposals.

  6. If you are going to use history as a guide a better approach might be to study how the various tram networks throughout the country were built and perhaps why they were pulled out. Although we probably have a pretty good handle on the later. But we should look at the conflicts between cars bikes and pedestrians which I assume was the main argument as to why the Trams had to go. As for the planning, financing and construction of the mainly highly successful tram networks well we need a historian to undercover the how’s and why’s. Maybe we can learn something that is relevant to the current debate.

  7. I think we need to decide on system to be used for light rail, in terms of specifications and then look at the various corridors that it will be applied to, with the first not necessarily being city to airport.

    The key is to get ground broken on the first stage, so that it is unlikely to be stopped.

    1. It always seems to degenerate into a debate about equipment and that leads to a solution looking around for a problem. If you want to kill public transport projects dead then open a debate about the type of vehicle, propulsion and bogey spacing.

        1. I think you will find they were named after the famous British Colonel who had an unfortunate and very personal accident with a rat trap. We don’t know what he was trying to do at the time.

    2. That’s a backward approach Nik.
      First you look at where you need your transit the most (again not necessarily the airport first, but maybe), then work out the corridor and stations that work best, then you look at the system that can serve them the best for your money.

  8. The history lesson “projects that are too big make it easy for the whole project to fall over” is apt. When Labour in 2017 promised to have Dom Rd LR finished in 2021, I think everyone was expecting Auckland Councils design to be built, i.e. surface LR on Queen St, Ian McKinnon Drive and Dom Rd with an underpass of K’Rd. It should have been near “shovel ready” after the time and money already spent, certainly this is the indication given by the promise to fund and built it in 4 years. But instead we’ve had 4 years of grand ideas, elevated rail, tunnels, the airport, the promise of NW LR, different routes through Mangere, Sandringham Rd, and most of all a huge escalation in cost. Labour has made the project too big, added nothing but confusion and distraction, nothing has been delivered not even decided.
    Now above we have the minister saying he likes Auckland Councils design after all, most worryingly he’s only “hopeful” the CRL will open in 2024.

  9. Bent Flyvbjerg, writing in the Harvard Business Review, agrees with Matt:
    In conventional business and government megaprojects—such as hydroelectric dams, chemical-processing plants, or big-bang enterprise-resource-planning systems—the standard approach is to build something monolithic and customized. Such projects must be 100% complete before they can deliver benefits: Even when it’s 95% complete, a nuclear reactor is of no use.

    On the basis of 30 years of research and consulting on megaprojects, the author has found two factors that play a critical role in determining success or failure: replicable modularity in design and speed in iteration. The article examines those factors by looking at well-known megaprojects, both successful ones and cautionary tales.”

    1. “As soon as you dig a hole in the ground, for example, things seem to become unpredictable, bespoke, and slow.”

    2. That seems sensible. Modularity would mean an ongoing process of planning, doing, learning, repeat. A lesser amount of resource could be committed on an ongoing basis; over time a number of people cycling through the team could give the basis for the ongoing maintenance crew for the existing lines and for a second crew to start another line in another part of town. Building in stages would allow for ongoing refinement of ideas like how to stage the surrounding space – what works in terms of adjacent motor vehicle/cycle/pedestrian space.

      We could do the same thing with other roads that are main transport routes – have a dedicated team working from one end of, say, Great North Road, to the other, rolling out improvements section by section.

  10. Feels like the author has started with a preference for trams and worked backwards from there.

    However I think you are missing the fact that we are just as likely to get surface light rail cancelled by a National government if possible – Most of the right hate the tram idea with the burning intensity of a thousand suns regardless of the cost. They see it a dinky, useless project championed only by upper middle class urban liberals ( Mathew Hooten’s ‘Grey Lynn luvvies’).

    I think you are also underestimating how much support there would be for the ‘spend now and do it properly for once approach’ amongst the general public. Wood’s statements about the harbour bridge and Robbie’s rail reflect pretty widely held opinions in my experience regardless of political preference.

    We can’t compare what happened in the 1970s with what’s going on now New Zealand and Auckland were totally different then. One thing Wood was certainly correct on is that, when the option is chosen, the one way to ensure it does fail is for public transport advocates to essentially ‘white ant’ it by opposing it because it’s not their preferred option.

    1. The tunnelled option isn’t merely “not preferred”, it’s actively bad… it’s billions of dollars to build something that doesn’t solve the original problem and which doesn’t align with the design principles of public transport in Auckland.

      ” the one way to ensure it does fail is for public transport advocates to essentially ‘white ant’ it by opposing it because it’s not their preferred option.”

      The tunnelled options should fail. They’re bad policy.

    2. It’s weird to say that the solution to a project which has no grassroots/advocacy backing is for advocates to move – rather than just changing the project into something advocates can support. Or at least engaging them to find some kind of compromise. But advocates’ cheerleading can’t be assumed: advocacy takes a lot of time and energy for no pay, if you’re not exciting advocates you’re not going to have support and it’ll go the way of the bike bridge.

      And proper engagement may be able to change advocates minds and actually excite them – but that will require more than an opaque summary of a business case and dismissing things like crosstown rail as “out of scope”.

      1. Alternatively, the minister can try do it without advocates behind him – but he’s one guy, and critics will be many. Hooten & HDPA aren’t going to change their tune just because the “Dinky Tram” is in inside a tunnel. The minister needs to be the leading voice in a choir, not fighting criticism from both sides.

    3. “I think you are also underestimating how much support there would be for the ‘spend now and do it properly for once approach’ amongst the general public.”

      An over-engineered, gold-plated section serving one corridor across the entire city for the price of a possible regional network that could serve almost all of it isn’t ‘doing it properly’, so not entirely convinced this is a starter as an argument to begin with.

    4. Why would the public transport advocates not ‘white ant’ a bad option just because some minister picked it? Picking a fifteen billion dollar option only means two things, light rail takes a decade to get off the ground, and nothing else happens for public transport during that decade.

      Not so long ago Auckland was a hairs breadth away from the then government selecting a wiggle CRL that went out over to Wynard and then back over to the uni and all sorts of things… guaranteed to drive up the cost and sink the project entirely. Should the advocates all have got behind that just because Steven Joyce thought it was the go? Then all of a sudden Phil Twyford was champion of a god awful PPP deal for metro tunnels that would have had Auckland paying royalties to Canada for 99 years. Should they all have got behind that too just because Twyford wanted it?

      If the minister wants the advocates support, he should pick options that are worth supporting!

        1. A concern-troll option that National hooked onto to try and avoid actually doing the CRL by suggesting it didn’t fix everything at once.
          From Britomart it went over to Wynyard ‘to enable development’ before u turning back to Aotea, then going 500m further to a university station, before u turning a second time to get to Karangahape, and then on to Newton and Mt Eden.

          Literally twice as long, so twice as expensive at least. The old transport blog rightly called it a crazy option and didn’t get behind the minister on that one.

  11. That’s your opinion, I’m sure you can produce some data to back up your stance and so will the Auckland light rail team and in fact they will produce a detailed business case around it which will be more than just a few excel graphs. What are you talking about when you refer to ‘design principles’ of Auckland public transport?

    If the the tunneled option is the preferred option and it fails then LR fails, no trams for Auckland – at least not for decades. That is the reality.

    1. Hi Michael,

      This ended up being very long so I have summarised it:
      following New Network design principles, the ALR team ought to have considered surface light rail as two lines:
      the CC2M via Dominion Road corridor they have evaluated, and
      a crosstown route between Onehunga and Pt Chevalier
      based on the cost estimates in the ALR Board’s summary report, those two lines could be built for about $14bn
      that is, for less than the preferred tunnelled option ($14.6bn), two lines that accomplish more could be built
      from this POV, it appears that the ALR Board has reached its preferred alternative because:
      the ALR team ignored New Network principles when designing routes, thus not considering a crosstown LR route
      ignored wider network effects in evaluating time savings, e.g. crosstown implications
      focussed on trips from Wynyard Quarter rather than from all stations along the three alternatives
      didn’t consider integration with the current PT system, only future North Shore and/or North West light rail/metro systems
      and therefore functionally compared two alternatives for a dual CC2M/North Shore proposal at the price of just the CC2M leg (the two tunnelled options) with a single, fairly priced CC2M scheme (the surface option)
      relative to the $16bn light metro option, building the two surface routes would leave enough money over to build a PT + active modes bridge adjacent to the current Harbour Bridge
      relative to the $14.6bn preferred scheme, the two surface routes would save some $417m
      in 2017, the fourth main was costed at $200m so would almost certainly be fundable with change to spare, i.e. this is a three for the price of one deal
      I urge you to consider the urban uplift potential of the unevaluated crosstown route that the ALR team ought to have considered initially

      Look, personally, I’m sceptical of the costs estimates produced by the ALR Team as they’re so out of whack with the previous studies and international experience. However, if we assume that these costs are correct, it still appears systematic biases were present during the initial development of route options. I suspect that this is because the feedback was developed alongside the ALR Team’s work, with no time for the feedback to affect that work.

      I am particularly concerned that the ALR Team did not develop their route analysis with the wider Auckland network in mind and instead experienced, if you excuse the pun, tunnel vision, conceiving their work as an investigation of a single route. The reason for this concern is that the ALR Team’s recent report has ultimately preferred an option to build one alternative for a single route, when for the same money two different routes that accomplish the same objectives could be built (with enough left over to build the fourth main).

      Given the publicly available information, it is very difficult to judge the veracity and integrity of the work conducted by the ALR Team. I know on Twitter that you expressed disappointment with the conspiratorial attitude of Greater Auckland (GA) and similar commentators. Such responses must be placed within context.

      Ever since CC2M was taken out of Auckland, the process has been conducted from Wellington in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of the mid-century developments described throughout pages 20-29 of this book. A particular concern raised by GA is that the surface light rail option developed into a road widening project, which is quite beyond the original scope of the project AT conceived years ago. The problem I raise here is less that the work is wrong or started to involve objectives unrelated to the original project (as GA speculates) and more that from the information we have, the ALR Team has produced a systematically biased recommendation using its own problem definitions, objectives and estimates.

      In that same Twitter thread, you referred to the possibility that you might ultimately reject the ALR Team’s Board’s recommendation and follow Ngarimu Blair’s advice, instead. Setting that possibility to the side, the Board has recommended an option costed at $14.6bn (the NPV being lower) so I will treat that figure as given.

      According to Greater Auckland, the expected cost per kilometre of the Dominion Road surface light rail is some $375m per kilometre. If this figure is generalisable to the experience of building surface light rail in Auckland, and we must assume it is, then the naive question is, “How much surface Light Rail can be built, and where, before we reach the $14.6bn of the preferred option?” A more informed question would be, “Is it possible to build additional surface light rail that can replicate outcomes expected of the two tunnelled alternatives, before we reach the $14.6bn estimate of the preferred option?”

      The answer to that latter question is, yes.

      And that is the problem.

      As you know, in the last half decade, Auckland has adopted “the New Network” as the basis of its public transport system. In the New Network, one seat rides are seen as reducing the overall frequency of the network. The purpose of local and feeder busses in the New Network is to connect to the Rapid Transit Network (see attachment).

      In this sense, the way the ALR Team appears to think of the development areas in Wesley is quite improper. According to the New Network’s design principles, the lack of a one seat ride from anywhere isn’t a problem. We might even see it as being the point. However, please don’t mistake my purpose; the New Network is not perfect. Indeed, it has one major oversight: Auckland’s RTN lacks crosstown routes.

      As Auckland lacks crosstown routes in its RTN, to stay within the frequent network, it’s necessary to make V shaped trips (see attachment). These trips can result in major increases in travel time and contribute to the lack of resiliency of the PT network. Without RTN crosstowns, when the trains go down (e.g. due to a death or a track fault) Auckland’s RTN also goes down, except on the North Shore. While resiliency will be improved with the addition of CC2M and A2B neither will achieve any meaningful reduction in V shapes (even though A2B is a crosstown route). However, if we compare the ATAP RTN (also attached), you can see that most V shapes disappear because of the planned crosstowns.

      Of the illustrative crosstown routes I drew, the exception is the Papakura to Botany trip. Based on published A2B trip estimates, I think this trip would take 36 minutes with A2B assuming (a) no transfers, (b) no travel time to Papakura/Botany stations and (c) an 18% improvement on the current Southern Line timetable. In other words, 36 minutes is not going to happen. 46 might be achievable if all busses and trains have co-ordinated transfers (currently they do not, which is the other notable weakness with the New Network). However, absent congestion, Papakura Train Station is a 22 minute car trip. Admittedly, without A2B, this trip would continue to take over an hour (to travel 15km as the crow flies).

      As you observe in the Twitter thread, South Aucklanders are almost entirely ignored when it comes to public transport discussions. GA is no better than Judith Collins in this respect (National’s rail spur proposal from the last election would eliminate almost benefits of the CRL for her own constituents). If we compare their CFN2, you can see they include an inner crosstown route for Howick to Pt Chev via Epsom, but ignore Papakura/Takanini/Drury to East Auckland (by the last Census, East Auckland is a major employment destination from this area). However, the ALR Team isn’t really opening Auckland up for residents of the South-West either. I will illustrate this by exploring the Mangere to Swanson trip I drew.

      To assess the impact of the preferred CC2M alternative, I need information I don’t have access to. What I can look at is the travel time if the point of the V is in Midtown. By the preferred option, Midtown to Mangere will take 32 minutes (a mere five minutes’ saving relative to surface LR). We can then compare the Midtown to Swanson estimate from the CRL, which is 40-50 minutes. This turns the light blue V I drew into a 72-82 minute journey. Which is arduous.

      Admittedly, because this is a particularly gruelling trip at present, 72-82 minutes is a substantial time improvement. Going by Google Maps, Mangere to Swanson is a 95-110 minute journey at present. And that really makes estimating the trip with the V point in Kingsland necessary. Unfortunately, with the available information, I have to be quite speculative here.

      Under the present Western Line timetable, a trip from Swanson to Kingsland is 34 minutes. Using a 7km estimate for the Midtown to Mt Roskill leg reported in the table GA produced, the speed for the tunnels appears to average out at a mere 35km/h. This seems very slow so I guess there are lots of stations with poor dwell times. In any case, at 35km/h we might expect 28 minutes to Kingsland, for 62 minutes total. If we assume the CRL might speed things up on the Western Line by 18%, that’s 56-62 minutes. Not bad, but not particularly good. (Absent congestion, a car does the trip in about 31 minutes; Google Maps tells me leaving at 5pm I can expect a 30-55 minute trip.)

      With a crosstown route, the travel time estimates can be expected to change substantially. The question is, do they?

      Following GA’s thinking, the crosstown route options are to Pt Chev via Mt Albert train station and Avondale Train Station. The question, then, is what would the travel times look like using those options? I will look only at the former.

      As I already noted, it’s hard to understand what Mt Roskill and Mangere mean specifically in GA’s table, but that’s likely a 10km leg. By the surface and tunnelled light rail alternatives, those 10km will take 20 minutes to traverse (15 by Light Metro, LM). The distance from Onehunga Train Station to Mt Albert Train Station is, conveniently, also 10km or so. That means we have 11 minutes to Onehunga (from Mangere) + 20 minutes to Mt Albert + 26 minutes to Swanson = 57 minutes. If we then apply the same 18% speed increase, we get 53-57 minutes.

      As GA points out, the Midtown to Onehunga, Mangere and Airport travel times only differ by five minutes between the two light rail options. As you’ve just read, a crosstown route running from Onehunga Train Station to Pt Chevalier via Mt Albert Train Station would save three to five minutes relative to the V shaped trip the tunnelled LR option for CC2M would currently require. (Again, assuming only use of present RTN routes and CC2M.) Why is this relevant?

      Because for the cost of the tunnelled LR CC2M package, we could build the surface LR CC2M alternative and a surface LR crosstown route.

      For sake of argument, let’s suppose a surface LR from Onehunga Train Station to Coyle Park, broadly as suggested by GA. This route would cover some 14.2km and includes the development areas at Wesley. Using the $375m per km figure GA calculated ALR’s cost estimate of Dominion Road surface LR, this therefore translates to a cost of $5,183,000,000, or $5.2bn.

      $14,600,000,000 – $9,000,000,000 – $5,183,000,000 = $417,000,000

      That is, for the cost of the tunnelled LR alternative, we could build two surface LR lines. One of which does almost all the same things as the tunnelled LR and the other solves a major existing problem with Auckland’s RTN network whilst also accomplishing one of the goals that tunnelled LR achieves (i.e. placing developments at Wesley on an RTN line). We can compare this to some of the major rationales stated by the Board:

      The Light Metro option, followed closely by the Tunnelled Light Rail option, attracts higher patronage because:
      It improves accessibility due to the faster travel times
      It serves the high growth Kāinga Ora development better than the Light Rail option
      It has better connections with other parts of the public transport network.

      None of these claims appear to be true. Not by assuming conspiracies but simply by looking at the numbers we’ve been provided and how public transport in Auckland is meant to run, they all appear to be false.

      The Light Metro and Tunnelled Light Rail options provide substantial speed improvements relative to surface LR for a very specific trip. If comparisons are made on a Midtown to Destination basis, as GA point out, then tunnelled LR is only five minutes faster than surface LR. As I have shown, we can expect that building a crosstown route will allow surface LR to achieve five minute travel time improvements for a multitude of trip types. If this scale of travel time improvement means that much, the ALR Team were extraordinarily remiss in not presenting the Board with a combined “crosstown and CC2M surface LR option” (Networked Light Rail, NLR).

      The NLR option provides a level of service with the developments at Wesley that, by the principles of the New Network, is equivalent. If the ALR Team considers a crosstown route to provide a lesser level of service, and therefore ignored the possibility of the NLR option, it has ignored the principles under which Auckland’s PT is developed. This makes that third bullet point ring just as hollow as the preceding two.

      It must also be considered that as far as we can tell, the better connections suggested by the Board (and presumably the ALR Team), really amounts to the possibility of connecting to a tunnel to the Shore.

      According to the NZ Upgrade Programme – Northern Pathway Options Summary Ministerial Briefing Note, the cost of a bridge with PT connections would amount to about $2bn once taking into account the necessary work either side. Admittedly, that seems to be with a bus in mind. Nevertheless, cost estimates for the tunnel amount to more than twice this in the Additional Waitematā Harbour Connections Business Case appendices and nearly eight times in the Ministerial Briefing Note.

      Given that LRT can run in the road, it is apparent consideration of link between Wynyard Quarter and Westhaven Dr or, instead, treating Westhaven Dr as the Wynyard Quarter leg (its being a mere 500m away). That is, instead of turning up to Wynyard Quarter as such (via Daldy St) from Fanshawe Street, light rail would continue along to Westhaven Dr. The likely loss of motorway lanes to accomplish this would be, in fact, considered a benefit of the project (as observed by Ngarimu Blair) not a cost (as considered by everyone else involved, it seems).

      In this sense, the additional $2bn to go from the preferred tunnelled option to the LM one, could be used to take the NLR and accelerate both rail and active modes to the Shore. At a very substantial saving relative to the linkages possible with the tunnelled and LM alternatives.

      I should note, the ALR Board’s summary report suggests that one of the reasons for preferring a tunnel is that a tunnel will be needed to accommodate the North Shore busway’s running out of capacity in 10-15 years. This seems very odd to me. As we can see, ideas such as the NLR increase capacity of the busway by allowing it to be upgraded sooner and more cheaply. Arguing that the busway will run out of capacity when the busway will have been replaced in the same time period lacks all logical sense.

      It should also be noted that AWHC Business Case process explicitly accounted for walking times. In including these, they argued that bridge infrastructure would increase severance, thus greatly inflating travel times between Takapuna and Wynyard Quarter. As far as can be told, the ALR Team did not take into accounting the vertical travel time underground stations induce but perhaps they did. More importantly, I question whether (a) this claim is true and (b) whether or not it’s relevant to the NLR.

      Bridges can certainly increase severance but, in general, I don’t think they do. It is a very simple matter to build the span of a bridge a few metres wider to accommodate a shared path. I couldn’t find much about the specific alignments they considered in either the Northern Path or the AWHC Business Cases, so maybe it was impossible to build bridges like in these examples. Indeed, I would argue those bridges serve to decrease severance caused by the motorway or NIMT. With the NLR (as I propose it) using, as far as I can tell, a very different alignment for its harbour crossing component, I’m not sure the findings of the AWHC Business Case would apply.

      (Again, it may be necessary to borrow some motorway lanes to utilise the NLR alignment I suggest. Again, I must stress that this is a benefit, not a cost.)

      Were the extra $2bn (relative to the preferred option) to be included, an additional benefit of the NLR is that it would allow you, your colleagues, AT, Auckland Council, NZTA/Waka Kotahi and the Ministry of Transport to build support for the proposal more readily than the preferred option. This is because building the harbour crossing component would result in a tangible contribution towards “Rail to the Shore”. I make these comments thinking mostly of some of the feedback the ALR Board noted:

      People in North and East Auckland indicated the most concern or opposition (29-34% of people). Some people in these communities objected to the proposal because they thought that their area should receive rapid transit first. People in the eastern suburbs also mentioned that they felt their area was regularly underserved by transport

      I agree that East Auckland is regularly underserved by transport so an alternative approach would be to include the $2bn and use it to accelerate A2B.

      As already noted, ignoring the extra $2bn and just focussing on the $14.6bn cost of the preferred option, pursuing the NLR (still with an eye to crossing the Waitemata from Westhaven Dr) leaves $417m unspent.

      This money could be put towards accelerating the fourth main, which was costed at $200m in 2017.

      As the fourth main is difficult to perceive as a natural extension of the NLR, I mention it mostly because it’s already costed and already known to be a good idea. However, it may be possible to improve frequencies on the Onehunga Line by operating it as a shuttle, which would almost certainly require a fourth main. (The hope is that the Onehunga line trains would be able to pass each other using the additional main lines, thereby allowing an outbound service to depart before the inbound service arrives.)

      In principle, it would be better to find projects that best tie in with the logics of the NLR, i.e. allowing the New Network to fulfil its true potential. The most obvious would naturally be converting the Onehunga Line to surface light rail. However, I don’t know how much that would cost. Ben Ross at Talking Southern Auckland thinks $300m might do it, though.

      As a resident of Papakura, I am interested in revisiting Mill Road but with an eye to transforming it to a bus project running from Papakura to Flat Bush (and possibly further North East). With the creation of a rapid bus along this corridor, it would be possible to (a) continue the 35 in the direct line, creating major time savings there and (b) increase the frequency of the 314 to preserve service levels in Flat Bush. Indeed, the 314 could be extended to Onehunga as envisioned in GA’s CFN2. But that’s by the by.

      I’ve got no idea if you or anyone who works for you is going to read this (or even just my summary), but the ALR Team were set up to fail by having to do their work alongside a feedback process that asked the wrong questions. And as a result, the ALR Board have been given a set of three alternatives where one of those alternatives has been robbed of the crosstown route that makes it work best. And maybe that’d be understandable if the crosstown route was horrendously expensive, but as far as can be told, for less than the price of the preferred option, the crosstown route and Dominion Road Surface Light Rail can be built. And the crazy thing is, even without the crosstown route, Dominion Road Surface Light Rail is trading blows evenly with the two tunnelled options (and their certainty of a timely delivery of tunnels across the Waitemata).

    2. “If the the tunneled option is the preferred option and it fails then LR fails, no trams for Auckland – at least not for decades. ”

      It depends what it is preferred for though. If it is preferred to give really fast trips from Mangere to the city centre, but someone doesn’t think that is a good goal, then it’s pretty reasonable to oppose the tunneled option and support at grade light rail. The government could reasonably decide that they support the provision of more stations on the isthmus to drive housing change, and thus support options.

      Any assessment should give you the objective information about how each option performs, it may even objectively tell you which one meets your goals best. But the choice of which goals matter is always subjective.

      1. Yes agree it does depend what it preferred and it could be that they decide to go with surface level and that’s great. They will be assessing against those metrics and will release a business case to support it.

        However if they don’t choose surface and decide on the tunneled option for other reasons and public transport advocates continue to attack it in concert with those who don’t want any light rail at all then the thing could well fail altogether and we will be left with the status quo for a long time to come.

        I’m not stating a preference I’m just saying once the decision is made and the work begins there is no point in continuing to attack it. They are not going to do another U turn at that point.

        1. I think that if the choice is ‘metro now’ or ‘nothing for the foreseeable future’ then, based on the costings released to date, I’d actually prefer ‘nothing for the foreseeable future’. Or, I’d much rather see us max out buses across the isthmus, given we would still need them even if we built the metro. I’m really keen to see where the actual cost is before making that decision though.

        2. Cam, your position would be fine:

          1- if this was our generation’s money being used. It’s not. This is being put on the children’s tab. It’s unfair to do this to them, given they’ll have a degraded ecology, environment, political situation, climate and economy. Better than a motorway project, yes. But still too much money.

          2 – if it was clear that good transport planning was being used. Concepts of baking in vkt reduction, of the benefits to the network of reducing road capacity and of reducing carparking, discussing the full swath of low carbon transport system options with landowners, applying the AFC’s MSM appropriately instead of as a way to compare different scenarios for the business case, changing paradigm from ‘predict and provide’ to ‘decide and provide’ … NONE of this has been happening in any of the projects that I’ve seen, from small to large. So I highly doubt ALR have somehow leapfrogged over these systemic problems to a better understanding.

          3- If Cabinet’s considerations of public sentiment were properly evidence-based and were focused on how to lead change with the public. There is an enormous gap in understanding about consultation and democracy in this country. Best practice and current NZ practice are like white and black. And while I really liked some of ALR’s communications, their approach to the engagement did not suggest they’ve overcome this problem.

          It’s a pity, because it’s really really critical, for climate and safety, that we overhaul all those problems. ALR could have taken on board best practice transport planning and been a shining light, leading the rest of the sector. We needed them to do that.

          There are many, many projects being designed currently and programmes just being finalised that need a U-turn. Everyone involved with each of these believes they can’t do a U-turn, and this is at the core of our transport problems. Officials don’t feel they can speak the truth because they feel the inertia is too strong. This problem needs addressing.

    3. “If the the tunneled option is the preferred option and it fails then LR fails, no trams for Auckland – at least not for decades. That is the reality.”

      Cam, Auckland has now had five light rail schemes in the last seven years. This will go the same way as the rest. We’ll tick over to number six in a couple of months and they’ll spend most of next year doing it again.

  12. Ok so you have copied and pasted verbatim a letter sent to, I’m guessing Michael Wood, with a lot of references to the opinions of the Greater Auckland commentators and some comments in a Twitter thread it’s all stuff we have seen on this blog a lot around cost per kilometer etc etc.

    Yes we get that the tunneled option is expensive and there are opportunity costs, there are opportunity costs whatever approach you take. There are also benefits to whatever approach you take.

    Have you seen the ALR business case yet which sets out the case for the tunneled option?

    I really think you are being quite naïve, LR has been such a political mess for Labour that if it fails this time it fails for the foreseeable future. Once they have selected the route etc. they are not going to backtrack again and delay this project again. If the center right gets in again it wont matter if you could build surface level trams for half the cost quoted they wont go near it, it will be binned.

    So if you think the tunneled option is so bad that the status quo of just using buses for the next few decades is preferable then ok, because that is the likely outcome if we can’t move forward this time.

    1. ‘Once they have selected the route etc.’ Agree, but they haven’t selected the route yet and Matt is putting a strong argument for one of the options and one I agree with.

      If a different option is chosen I will support it either way.

    2. “I really think you are being quite naïve, LR has been such a political mess for Labour that if it fails this time it fails for the foreseeable future”

      I could not have been more clear. Tunnelled Light Rail is failing. Please, respond to what I actually say, not what you want me to have said.

      Also, you have failed to understand what is happening with light rail. The tunnelled light rail option is merely the preference of most of the ALR board, it is not the “locked in” decision. This was the other part of Wood’s rebuke of GA/Matt in the Twitter thread.

      “if you think the tunnelled option is so bad that the status quo of just using buses for the next few decades is preferable then”

      As I started off with… that is what will happen IF they go with a tunnelled option.

      “Have you seen the ALR business case yet which sets out the case for the tunnelled option?”

      The business case is irrelevant. As I said in the email, the business case is based on comparisons between improperly designed routes. It doesn’t matter how good the business case’s costings are, it’s literally based on evaluating the wrong thing.

      “it’s all stuff we have seen on this blog a lot around cost per kilometre etc etc.”

      Are you even from here? -er – nled

      And, again, as with everything else, you’re completely missing the point. Greater Auckland/Matt complain about the costs per kilometre and question the veracity of the figure. In my email, I assume the figure is correct. GA just happen to have calculated the cost per kilometre.

      Similarly, GA/Heidi fundamentally disagree with me wrt Flat Bush and Papakura. If you think you’re reading “just another GA take” you’ve failed to understand both me and this blog.

      1. What I understand is this blog has become and exercise in group think and many of you seem to get quite defense when differing opinions are put across. It’s now just an echo chamber regurgitating the same opinions to the same people over and over.

        Your protestations about some of the others disagreeing with you on some minor stuff don’t disprove that.

        I hadn’t read this blog for quite some time for that reason but thought I would check in and see if thing have changed. Clearly they haven’t but at least if posters like me bail you’ll all feel more comfortable agreeing with each other over and over lol. So long

      2. “What I understand is this blog has become and exercise in group think”

        Let’s just run that through things I’ve actually said:

        * The problem I raise here is less that the work is wrong or started to involve objectives unrelated to the original project (as GA speculates)
        * If this figure is generalisable to the experience of building surface light rail in Auckland, and we must assume it is
        * As Auckland lacks crosstown routes in its RTN, to stay within the frequent network, it’s necessary to make V shaped trips
        * South Aucklanders are almost entirely ignored when it comes to public transport discussions. GA is no better than Judith Collins in this respect
        * revisiting Mill Road but with an eye to transforming it to a bus project running from Papakura to Flat Bush (and possibly further North East)

        I would characterise my email to the Minister as both going out of its way to attack GA and using GA’s own commentary to criticise GA’s plans. That is the exact same approach I used with the ALR’s board. Much like GA with Flat Bush, I don’t think their own rationales for what is and isn’t important always aligns with their proposals.

        I must admit, I also meant to talk about Favona in my email and whether or not it’s severed. I’m not sure what happened to that because I know I wrote it. Ah, actually, I think it was here in a comment. ( As you should be aware, Michael Wood argues that a tiki tour through Mangere (Bader Drive) is a “choice”. Matt, at least, is quite opposed to it. I can see it both ways.

        Once again, I ask you to read what I’m actually saying, not what you want me to be.

        “Your protestations about some of the others disagreeing with you on some minor stuff don’t disprove that.”

        They’re not minor objections. They’re fundamental disagreements over the basis of the problems. They just so happen to come to a different conclusion to you and one that’s fundamentally similar to GA’s. But that doesn’t mean they’re “minor”. It means they disagree with you.

    3. “So if you think the tunneled option is so bad that the status quo of just using buses for the next few decades is preferable then ok, because that is the likely outcome if we can’t move forward this time.”

      That would be the better outcome, yes. What you don’t build and what you don’t spend is more important than what you do. Signing up for two decades worth of public transport expenditure on a single route would be a terrible outcome for Auckland.

      1. Yep – maybe then Auckland Transport for example will push on for NW Light Rail with their own balance sheet.

  13. Great article and analysis – thank you. I also enjoyed the comments.

    Really great also to see the late Paul Mees’ – (who I had the pleasure of working with several times) excellent work being citied. There is real value in understanding this history if we are to create change today.

    Paul wrote a great history of transport decision-making for Wellington also.

  14. Great post. Although, my view light rail is a mistake.
    All simulations of cost do not take in consideration the future value of the land development on the surface. In other words the occupation of the land on the surface affects and prevent future development on surface and will lock those areas. In heavy dense areas should be always a subway system and in other areas fast heavy Train.
    Light rail adoption is a mistake. Although, cost is not everything, from design perspective having city streets without the rails and the light trains is much better looking and also better to leave the roads for people to bike and walk might worth the extra cost on a subway.

    Also government and council should try to establish the work places close to were people live.
    This way you will have local cumute.
    Create an integrated industrial/commercial zone, with primary health care, sports facilities and schools and then a local transport hub to serve the residential zone and the comercial zone. And people will not need to commute.

    1. Jorge, a main point in cities is that you get advantage of the scale that 1.5 million people bring. If you want everybody to live and work locally in little areas of 20,000 people then first ask yourself why 20,000 person towns are stagnating.

      The point of transport is to enable people from all over the city to take advantage of it’s opportunities. You want somebody to be able to live anywhere in Auckland and easily be able to work or play at the major hubs elsewhere in the City.

  15. Didn’t it all start like this?

    – problem: we can’t fit all buses through the city centre anymore
    – solution: pick the busiest bus route, i.e. Dominion Road and convert it to Light Rail.

    Would we have been worse off if that were under construction by now?

  16. Agreed that a lot of the opposition to the existing plan is many suspect it’ll never be built due to the cost. Queue arguments about goldplating.

    The motorway people seem to have learned the trick. Lots of $100m, $200m, $500m projects sitting around to soak up whatever money is available. The Light rail project was initially the same thing, stage one of $2b to SH20 and then stage 2 to the Airport.

    Perhaps it might be a good idea to go back to that. SH20 to the town. Perhaps only going as far as Wellesley or Britomart. The need for a depot near SH20 probably makes anything shorter not work.

    No problem with having the next stages all mapped out. But get something useful on the ground first

  17. Tbh, this light rail shouldn’t be happening at all, it’s a huge tax payer blowout for all who live in Auckland and most likly for those who will never use it due to it’s unreliable speed and duration for whatever destination their trying to get too. Along with it, you have to consider the overpriced project, will they have resources to construct, duration of constructing, predict in any delays which might occur since were living with Covid and seems like never ending cite and compensation for business disrupted by this project.

    Heavy rail should be the solution for getting to the airport, extending the Onehunga Line to Mangere and letting it terminate there should be the solution and along with turning Southern line into 4 lines!

    1. Heavy rail from Onehunga is the best solution to get a train to the airport. That isn’t the problem we need to solve though. We need to:
      -Provide better PT connection for SW Auckland to the rest of Auckland
      -Provide better PT connection for the central isthmus to the rest of Auckland
      -Remove a shedload of buses from the city centre to enable other routes to expand into the capacity left behind

      Heavy rail from Onehunga does OK at the first one and terribly on the other two.
      Metro and tunneled light rail do really well on the first one and ok on the other two.
      Surface light rail does pretty well on the first one and really well on the other two.

      1. If you isolate dominion Rd LR to central Auckland it does really well in all respects.
        But it’s clearly not a system that should be extended beyond central Auckland.
        I think this LR system is trying to solve to many problems.

  18. “Tbh, this light rail shouldn’t be happening at all, it’s a huge tax payer blowout for all who live in Auckland and most likly for those who will never use it due to it’s unreliable speed and duration for whatever destination their trying to get too.”

    I believe there were similar sentiments about the Northern Busway. You’ll be wrong too.

    1. Idk what twisted world your coming from, the cost of the project was only $294 million to construct the stations and busway, which way pretty cheap during that time, only thing they didn’t like about was people using public transport and wanted to get people using cars.

      At that time they weren’t in any sort of crisis or had to deal with any sort of health epidemic. If you were to go along with the whole light rail project, you’d be wasting significant tax payers money for a project which will face numerous delays and other constraints along with it. Along with it we already got such a high tax bracket which will contribute to this project and just increase it which something we don’t need at all!

      With Heavy rail you wouldn’t have to worry about anything, which is something I have stated on the very first post. You’d be able to spend on other transport project which need to be constructed too.

      1. “a project which will face numerous delays and other constraints along with it” is literally any transport project ever. This is a pretty laughable basis for objection to anything.

        “With Heavy rail you wouldn’t have to worry about anything, which is something I have stated on the very first post.”

        You also would be triggering the need for a huge number of other projects, given the lack of connectivity heavy rail offers and the fact it can’t be rolled out in the North West and there’s no justification for it on the Shore unless you want to spend more for the same outcomes you could get with Light Rail.

        So in short, you need Light Rail anyway. Once you start looking at the little bit to get from Mt Roskill to the airport as the actual marginal cost of extending the network you have to build anyway, the HR option basically becomes something that only makes sense to trainspotters.

        1. @Buttwizard heavy rail provides enough connectivity for those who will be able to use it, you have Panmure, New Lynn, Otahuhu and Puhinui which were in a horrible state, now it’s improved due to infrastructure upgrades along with it more transport utilising the stations more than before, its provided more bus routes and more connectivity. If you design a station/bus hub it will work. You need proper stations in order to connect to other mode of transport which light rail doesn’t provide at all both underground and above ground.

          North West doesn’t even need light rail right now due to low capacity, in future would likely require but definitely don’t need right now, better to do phase by phase. Light rail wouldn’t be a effective transport on the shore cause of amount of traffic which go into or past the city everyday, it wouldn’t be viable choice due capacity limit and would require to build second line to reach into suburbs which aren’t near northern busway.

          Heavy rail would be more ultimately beneficial in future when you have look deeper into 2040-2050+ that the airport line might need a line going south for picking people up from Hamilton or Tauranga, light rail certainly ain’t gonna cut it! On the upturn you’ll need a line for people living on the shore too which isn’t going to cut it either!

        2. Hmm that funny @Jack, once a wise person once said that “if ain’t broken don’t fix it”, clearly your a woke person and don’t know anything! Clearly you’ve got information which isn’t proper information which isn’t very useful and not good at making comparison between light rail and heavy rail. It’s a shame really!!!!

          Clearly someone here just wants to chaotic transport system which isn’t going help anyone at all, all it does clog’s up traffic and the transport system cute you make little progress on making more transport other than one particular project. now that’s just selfish and not considerate for other people around Auckland, you selfish?

        3. Who said an extension of our heavy rail network needs to be built to HR standards.
          Freight won’t need to go to the north or north west or airport.
          Just build extensions to light rail standard and ban heavy loads on them.
          This definitely wouldn’t be my 1st choice, I would rather see a better fully seperated metro built personally.

        4. It clearly is broke, max grade of 3.5%, overly restrictive signaling system (ETCS around level crossings in particular), poor maximum frequencies, poor reliability, no ability to do any street running, even if you wanted to on a feeder branch line, low maximum capacities compared to metro’s overseas.

          Aside from ridiculous interlining on fantasy one seat rides, that will never be operated, or make a drop of sense to run, there is zero advantage for the next line to go with our existing heavy rail standards. If we wanted more capacity out of the new corridor, we would use a metro like Sydney, if we wanted cheaper rollout and more flexibility we’d go with any standard light rail system.

          What can heavy rail do that something new can’t do better?

          (interlining for one seat rides is not the answer and I’ll be really bored if you say it is the goal)

          you make little progress on making more transport other than one particular project. now that’s just selfish and not considerate for other people around Auckland, you selfish?

          It would benefit anyone connected to the rapid transit network or anyone travelling into the city without a vehicle. Single transfer to or from any other radial line.

          Saying this will only benefit those living or working near it is like saying a new heavy rail branch line will only benefit those living or working near it. Branding it heavy rail doesn’t suddenly magically make it a more useful line to other parts of the city.

        5. Lmao your high @Jack? You don’t know about the reality of this particular project, know one would know cause one it will be 8-10 years plus project, second of all your heavy rail comparisons aren’t accurate at all cause those are overseas, not here which doesn’t mean the same thing will happen here.

          Hmm…. lets see what heavy rail offers people more shall we, more space for bike users, place to stow baggage if you’re going to airport, more capacity, more space inside the cabin so you’re not squashed into someone, greater speed of travel 100+ km/h, duration of travelling to destination, seeks to benefit those need for work, events ,shopping, owners of businesses, creates transport hub so more routes are created which will require due to city population growth, and creates one stop needed for most users instead of transferring one place to another. There is a lot of benefits on heavy rail….

          “You make little progress on making more transport other than one particular project. now that’s just selfish and not considerate for other people around Auckland, you selfish?”

          Lmfao please don’t even get started , you don’t know the share gravity, this project is radicalised and forcing people to have long journeys to what ever destination it may be and wants us to pay $9-14 billion for it which is a lot for one project, which will likely fail and become a white elephant. That just explains how inconsiderate you are for Aucklanders who need other projects other than light rail, their tax payer money is just gonna be raised because of the government.

      2. “With Heavy rail you wouldn’t have to worry about anything”

        Except for how to double track Penrose to Onehunga, how to extend platforms at the stations on the branch, how to close all of the level crossings, how to re-raise the Neilson Street bridge, how to grade separate the Penrose junction and somehow keep a Penrose station functioning, how to get it across the harbour, how to build it around the Kirkbride interchange, how to tunnel or raise the line through the entire airport precinct.

        Nothing to worry about……

        1. How to extend platforms is pretty easy, simply all you would need to do is reconstruct a new station right on Great South RD bridge, problem solved!

          For airport all you need is a tunnel going right through all the industrial business all the way through to the international terminal, pretty simple stuff really….

        2. @sailor boy
          I think the heavy rail fanatics like it because its ‘simple’ to think about. nodes and lines, all supposedly able to be interlined.
          Makes crayons on a map easy, junctions are merely a circle of ink. Achievable running frequencies, pfffft, who needs that when you can get your ultra convenient once weekly one seat ride from Tauranga to Auckland airport.

        3. Clearly @jack here doesn’t think about others around New Zealand and doesn’t want proper transport for those who live Hamilton or Tauranga, not only wants to have people cradle in their cars to the airport and leave then left tired and stressed once reached Hamilton or Tauranga , aww now isn’t that not nice! 🙁

        4. They will have a nice trip. Busway bus or light rail leaving every couple minutes to puhunui, single transfer to regional service.

        5. “Clearly you’ve got information which isn’t proper information which isn’t very useful and not good at making comparison between light rail and heavy rail”

          Other than the numerous reports done over at least the last 5yrs by the stakeholders involved, which categorically ruled out HR for the reasons mentioned above..

          I know you feel you are the enlightened one but the HR debate has been done to death and is not a serious alternative anymore. You might not like that or even disagree with it, but you are arguing with the wrong people, about a train (pun intended) that has already left the station.

        6. “Clearly @jack here doesn’t think about others around New Zealand and doesn’t want proper transport for those who live Hamilton or Tauranga, not only wants to have people cradle in their cars to the airport and leave then left tired and stressed once reached Hamilton or Tauranga”

          Check out the Regional Rail section of this blog. All your issues addressed by an elegant solution. And you’ll be please to know its heavy rail.

        7. Clearly @jack here wants people from Hamilton and Tauranga to suffer and wants you to have stressful transfer after transfer experience, aww I feel sorry for all your people who live there, smug face 🙁

          @KLK with all due respect, light rail isn’t exactly a good mode of transport which ever way you see for airport users in particular, your going to have a really long journey to the airport you’re coming from the CBD, if your coming from Puhinui and coming from Hamilton and Tauranga would be annoyed that your having to transfer onto a light rail given its 10 mins away from the airport, plus on top of that by 2040-2050+ they’re probably going to have to talk about putting a line for Hamilton to Tauranga for airport users due to amount capacity already reached.

        8. There is a BRT shuttle from Puhinui Station to the airport already, you would use that from Hamilton or Tauranga.

        9. “How to extend platforms is pretty easy, simply all you would need to do is reconstruct a new station right on Great South RD bridge, problem solved!”

          Te Papapa and Onehunga aren’t anywhere near Great South Road…

  19. It’s a strange thing to say we shouldn’t think to big.
    It’s well-known that we think to small regarding infrastructure in NZ, and this has resulted in many problems.
    But maybe a full Auckland driverless metro system could be hidden in a street car project.
    So maybe tunnels could be dug from Aotea to mount Eden and bring surface light rail up Along dominion Rd.
    Later the tunnels could be continued to Onehunga and across Vic Park to the north shore.
    And the street car line could ether terminate at the metro station or continue down Queen St like planned.
    The tunnel will be the same diameter as the CRL which is is dug by the same size TBM as the Sydney metro, so we could use similar rolling stock.

    1. I think is a misunderstanding to say we should go huge on day one. In doing that we have to make expensive assumptions about the future that might not be remotely accurate.

      An example I’ll use is the Dominion Road, New North Road intersection. Mega grade separated interchange for what are arterials. Consuming huge funds and space for little traffic flow benefit. The engineers building that would make the exact same argument we could about light metro. “Its cheaper to do it now”, “do it once do it right”, “go big go home”.

      We don’t want a city littered with projects like this. Eg the ALR could end up being a decently well used light rail line that for huge extra cost dives into a CBD tunnel. That takes 30s off the trip time, and has little other realised benefit.

      The next argument is, all of this money is borrowed. We’re not building something for the next generation, we’re using their future tax revenue now to build something for today. This has to be done to a point, we do have to make investments, but people in 50 years will know a hell of a lot better what infrastructure they want than we could possibly know. Making investments that only stack up on 100 year time frames or something crazy like that, is not a great idea.

      1. Yes it’s common for city’s to have Ghost stations and lines un used since construction and motorways that stop mid air due to a bridge not being completed.
        Yes some of these foresight project’s get demolished and others get completed or repurposed, often many decades later.
        I don’t see this as a problem.
        Yes the city tunnel idea is not for today, it won’t save much time but gets 2 seperate projects started in 1 go, if we want a 2nd Auckland metro rail network a 2nd city tunnel will be needed whether we like it Or not.
        But it is clear 50 years from now they will be starting from scratch and have even less of a clue then us today due to having to navigate a more built up environment at greater experience.

    1. Reece lives in, and predominantly talks about large cities. Significantly bigger than Auckland.

      I just don’t think his takes on what Auckland should have stack up all that well. We aren’t Toronto, or Sydney. Mega lines “for the future” where we would still have latent unused capacity in 50 years do not stack up when we need to retrofit an entire city with something decent.

      1. I think you should think that through, Jack.

        He doesn’t just talk about “mega lines for the future”. He matches modes to situations. Auckland’s planning for a low carbon future should involve some pretty high ridership… let alone what we could see if we get the geopolitical and environmental refugees that we might see.

      2. Yes Auckland is a small city, but it has a significant motorway network and a lot of sprawl.
        Covering an area larger then city’s many times it’s population,
        The point is are we building a modern street car down dominion Rd or is this the 1st leg of an Auckland wide network?
        As a system suitable for street running tight corners and Kerb side boarding will not be ideal for higher speeds longer distances or high loading.

        1. Why would it not be suitable for higher speeds? It wouldn’t have to go faster than 100kmh for the Airport line, and maybe even 80kmh would be fine. And longer distances? Noone is going to spend more than 45 minutes onboard and should be able to get a seat if needed

        2. Smaller wheels, Less space for dampening if we are talking low floors. Traction is often noisy at higher speeds also.
          Don’t just believe what the manufacturer’s say it can do, 100kmph “yes”
          Tight corner “yes”
          Steep hill “yes”
          500 people “yes if you run 3 X 3 car units”
          Low floor “yes”
          they just want to sell a technology and have us locked in.
          The light rail line is trying to achieve to much
          I say follow best practice, and use low floor street cars on dominion Rd and something else for the rest of the network.

  20. I believe that IF we are to actually get a Light Rail network off the ground and relatively quickly, we need to initially focus on where basically a demonstration line can be built that interconnects with existing public transit systems.
    There is still much debate about should the CBD to Mt Roskill section be surface, underground or elevated and we do need to settle that argument before that section can be even designated let alone built (or even started)
    The, what was originally considered a logical extension, Airport terminal has created a lot of friction as well with the short sighted heavy rail extension to the airport brigade muddying the waters for the entire light rail network.
    I find myself wondering if there isn’t a better way to introduce the Light Rail concept and show to those opposed to anything that will interfere with their addiction to private motor vehicles.
    Te Irirangi Dr was built with the expectation of light rail running down the middle. This to me would make an ideal first “showcase” section, connecting Botany Down commercial centre to the Manukau Rail Station, and even extending from there to Puhinui Station and on to the Airport, although I’d make the Airport extension an add on after the Botany section was started to help quell the short sighted heavy rail pushers.
    Basically, I suggesting a bit of slight of hand or good old distraction in get on with building a system in an area that is growing and in need of good transport connections while putting the (considerable) effort in to fully defining, designing and planning of the main system rather than risking the demise of the whole system simply because a system was rushed just to get it started.

    1. The more time goes on, the more I think this is a good idea. There is so much bad press around light rail now that we need a relatively straightforward demonstration project. Botany to Manukau seems a likely candidate, althout getting from Boundary Road to Great South Road is still going to be a bit of a battle.

      1. Agreed on having a quick win being better (or at least something started).

        Depends on what the goal is (both for the routes and which version of LR). There is the tram style (replacing buses, frequent stops) and rapid transit (essentially trains/metro but a different mode of it). CC2M started off as a project for the former, but currently is more a rapid transit spine, so is more of the latter.

        Botany to Manukau doesn’t seem to have the need though? Surely a similar result can be achieved via buses, and move to LR once there becomes the need? I can’t imagine the BCR of a Manukau to Botany LR works at present (or any cross town routes).

        NW seems a better choice for a ‘simple’ RT project. Although there is complexity, it has the advantage over CC2M by following the motorway corridor most of the route (until after Mercury Lane, but that can be staged later)

        1. I agree too. We need something that’s a bit more than a Proof of Concept to sell the benefits. After that, everyone will have their hand up for one.

          I’m not sure NW is that simple though, is it? Look at the “busway” that they have proposed. It’s got significant issues and its just “pop-up”.

          I’d be all for NW but A2B might actually be easier. Outside of that, I’m not sure there is another option that would not be just as well served (in the interim) but a busway or better bus priority.

  21. A2B would be far easier to build, just I don’t think it stacks up rn as a project for LR. Buses seem a better mode for it until demand is expected to outweigh what buses can achieve.

    It mostly goes through a single electorate (so spending would look like favouring a certain electorate, even if it is held by National), looking at the new network map has near 0 bus services running on it currently (so no demonstration of demand), and although at some point it will be LR or some form of not bus public transport, it’s not planned for being this in the short term.

    Either way though, are you imagining LR as filling the rapid transit or local connector role (obviously rapid transit can serve local connector trips and local connectors can be rapid, but there is still a primary purpose)?

  22. Some other considerations:

    * I can remember Jo Brosnahan speaking up at a transport industry conference about twenty years ago and her telling the story of how in 1976, she was at a meeting which saw Rapid Rail cancelled “when the costs doubled in the space of an afternoon”. I’m quoting from memory here, but that sort of thing does leave Governments gun-shy. Robbie trying to get central government to pay for pretty well all of it would not have gone down that well either.

    * At the time, the Auckland motorway building programme was in full swing, but it was made quite clear that it would not be reduced in order to release funds for Rapid Rail. The thought of the city not getting the motorways it had been promised would have set off a political hornet’s-nest. ‘Twas ever thus.

    * Finally, Robbie was also up against the Byzantine nature of Auckland’s local government as it then stood. In 1971 there had been a proposal to amalgamate the 20-plus councils into five cities and two districts – about the structure adopted in 1989 – but this had died a death in local rivalries. For all its flaws, it probably took the SuperCity to make everyone realise that, “we’re all in this together”. It was seen that RapidRail would benefit Auckland city – but it does not seem to have been made clear how it would benefit the region as a whole.

  23. The Light Rail consultation group has finally stopped calling the project “light rail to the airport”

    It is now called Mangere to City Centre

    “Cabinet has endorsed tunnelled light rail for the City Centre to Māngere corridor. Considering the various options and trade-offs, tunnelled light rail holds:

    – the optimal opportunity for high-capacity future-proofed transport that improves travel time and reliability;
    – enables a more flexible alignment and unlocks significant urban benefit within the corridor;
    – sets the stage for future network integration – including a new harbour crossing;
    and avoids overwhelming Queen Street and minimizes the extent of construction disruption.

    The tunneled light rail:
    – is a 24 kilometre route with up to 18 stations.
    – has the capacity to move 15,000 people and hour.
    – features a 32-minute reliable travel time from Māngere to the City Centre. ( their is no mention of the airport in this travel time )
    – will run every five minutes, so you can turn up and go.

    Their website is also full of spellin miss-steaks

    1. They haven’t actually ever called it “light rail to the airport”, that’s only what media and public call it.

      The last time airport was part of the project title was the Southwest Airport Multimodal Transport Study, about five years ago. But that didn’t pick the final mode.

      Since there it’s been officially “City Centre to Mangere” by NZTA, and it was called the southwest line by AT in the regional public transport plan.

        1. It’s always had a terminus at the airport, now and previously. The reporting in the paper has usually focused on that.

          But for the agencies concerted the project has been called City Centre to Mangere or similar for a long time, because they want to focus on the places served on the way rather than just the last stop at the end.

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