The government will soon be making a decision on light rail (if they haven’t already). If you’ve read our previous posts on the topic you’ll know we think surface light rail is the best option compared to tunnelled light rail or light metro. That’s because not only is it a highly effective solution, it is also the cheapest of the options suggested which means we could potentially roll it out  more easily to other corridors too, put another way, for the same price, two surface light rail lines will provide a better outcome for Auckland than one tunnelled option.

The Auckland Light Rail (ALR) team have recommended the middle ground of tunnelled light rail though they’ve also said they think all three options are viable. There is certainly a level of appeal to that, by tunnelling it means we could get a higher level of reliability and frequency, though those would still be very good under the surface option. It also makes it easier to use the surface space on Sandringham Rd for bike lanes and trees without needing to widen.

Furthermore, the chair’s report suggests it would deliver similar outcomes to a metro solution, at a lower cost. As a reminder, the tunnelled light rail option was about the same as light metro between Wynyard and Onehunga but then followed the surface route through Mangere Bridge and Mangere Town Centre.

However, the more I think about it compared to both the surface and light metro options, the more it feels like it’s the worst of both worlds. If the government were to choose an option that includes a large amount of tunnelling, we might be better off just biting the bullet and going for the full light metro solution. Here’s why:

The Driverless factor

The key benefit light metro has over the other options is that it is driverless and would be similar to systems like Vancouver’s Skytrain or the Copenhagen Metro. Like those systems it would be able to run reliably at very high frequencies and do so at less cost.

Travel Time

Based on the numbers released by the ALR team, compared to tunnelled light rail, having one less station and sticking to the motorway corridor instead of the diversion via Bader Dr means light metro is five minutes faster between Mangere Town Centre and other stations further north. For Mangere residents they estimate it means over 100,000 more jobs will be accessible within 45 minutes of travel compared to the tunnelled light rail option – though I always have some scepticism about these modelled outputs. As a result, ALR’s modelling suggests this makes light metro more attractive and consequently it is projected to have higher overall ridership.

Costs

The focus of the discussion has been on the capital cost of building these options – just a quick note on that, everyone has focused on the headline figures of $9b to $16.3b but those costs are inflated to the time of build and a more realistic comparison to today’s costs are the NPV figures of $7.1b to $11.2b – still very expensive.

The focus on capital costs is understandable given the scale of them but also because we all tend want a headline number and we tend to ignore the ongoing operational costs. Those costs are in an as yet unreleased part of the business case and some things we’d expect to be similar between the options, such as the cost of maintenance and the power to run the vehicles. But the ALR team did explain to me that there effectively two other big cost factors that differentiate the options

  1. Drivers – will be required for the two light rail options due to the on-road sections, just like our buses and trains do. By comparison the light metro option would be driverless
  2. Tunnels – are much more expensive to operate than surface solutions due to the need to run things like ventilation and safety systems etc.

That means we get the following matrix.

Tunnelled light rail may come out better here during the assessment but I wonder how it stands up over the entire regional network as proposed.

Regional Network

The City Centre to Mangere route is meant to be the first stage in a new rapid transit network for Auckland that complements our existing (and planned) rail and busway network. Interestingly, the planned future network map was recently and quietly updated to include a second North Shore line paralleling the busway. That seems an odd choice and probably based on someone deciding that upgrading the busway would be disruptive so we need to spend billions to build a parallel route.

In total the ‘red’ network above would be about 54km and both the North Shore and Northwest lines are likely to be fully grade separated. The only thing preventing that entire network from being driverless and the benefits that would bring would be about 6km of track around Onehunga and Mangere.

Of course, regular readers will know that we’re also in favour of staged approaches and have even suggested in the past we could build a surface light rail line and then a metro type solution on a different corridor in the future. The difference here is there will always be a need for a high-quality surface solution on Dominion Rd even if we eventually build light metro somewhere else. By comparison there isn’t likely to be much use for a surface section just between Mangere Bridge and Mangere Town Centre. So without significant additional investment to extend the line it seems it could become a stranded asset.

Vehicles

If we do want to get to Light Metro eventually for the network there’s another not to choose Tunnelled Light Rail but to go straight to Light Metro: vehicle types. It would allow us to go for high-floor metro styled vehicles which have advantages such as being easier to maintain, are quieter due to the use of bogies and have more interior space for standing.

There’s also something appealing about metro trains being somewhat boxy like these trains from Berlin.

And there’s one more cool feature about driverless trains, you can look out the front window.


As mentioned earlier, we still think a surface solution is the best outcome for the City Centre to Mangere corridor and there will always be a need for a high-quality solution on Dominion Rd. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t use light metro in the future on other corridors. However, if the government were to go for a tunnelled option, light metro would probably be a better long-term option.

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115 comments

  1. I just cannot get my head around the government selecting an option that costs over $10b. Tunnelling through the CBD feels like something that should happen in 20/30 years when we have the Dom Road/Mangere, NW & Northern lines up and running and we want to improve their speed for through journeys by putting them underground instead of Queen St. This just feels like a huge white elephant

    1. It’s not going to be a white elephant. There may be a giant question mark over whether it’s value for money or the best investment right now, but the light metro option would still be a fantastic asset for Auckland and well used.

      1. Of course, tunnelled light metro would be amazing. But where are they getting 11b from? And what happens to Dom Road now? And how much further back does it push the North West getting any sort of rapid transit? It would be great, but the opportunity costs are just insane, ok Sydney is spending this amount of cash on it’s Metro but its a city 3-4 times the size

        1. I don’t think any city regrets this kind of investment in the long run.
          In my mind a tunneled option actually makes the NW line easier doesn’t it? The city end should already be sorted. What is the non-tunneled option for the NW line? Surely it can’t share queen street?

        2. I believe exactly the same questions were asked when they proposed to build the Harbour Bridge… “Where on earth are they going to get the money for this extravaganza?” and of course “Where are all the people going to come from ? ” and then the inevitable “Can we cut it down and make it cheaper because we can never afford it…?”

        3. The situation in Sydney has become so critical that I imagine you could probably mount a credible argument that they should have been spending this sort of money 30 years ago when the city wasn’t much bigger than Auckland is now.

        4. The original harbour bridge cost £7,516,000 or something like $360 million in todays dollars.
          Financing $10 billion for one line is not easy or politically saleable. It’d pay for a lot of hospitals, etc.
          The whole project needs to be trimmed back to bare bones Dom Rd surface LRT or nothing will happen.

        5. Jimbo, it’s the same with surface, the city end is sorted by the airport line and the NW joins into it. Yes it can share a transit mall on Queen Street, that would have more than double the capacity of Dominion Road.

          For reference the Swanston Street transit mall in Melbourne moves over 50 trams an hour each way. If you take the cars out there is no problem. It’s all the fiddly signal phases for turning cars on and off that limit the through capacity on normal roads.

        6. “The original harbour bridge cost £7,516,000 or something like $360 million in todays dollars”

          I recall that some organisation, or country, offered to build the Auckladn Harbour Bridge for free, in return for the tolls. The NZ Govt turned the offer down, and instead kept collecting tolls long after the bridge had been paid for, so they could keep funding the “Harbour Bridge Authority” and pay for old guys in white coats to drive clapped out LandRovers back and forth across the bridge all day as a “safety and breakdown patrol”

      2. “It’s not going to be a white elephant.”

        No its not. It’s going to be a still-born elephant when it gets cancelled for being too expensive before anything has been done.

    2. I guess it depends on whether the surface option really does cost $9 billion. If so the difference seems justifiable to me.

    3. You need to understand the new form of transport planning where costs are benefits. The higher the price, the less chance they will have to actually do anything. They specifically opt for high cost options to ensure nothing comes of it.

      1. Opting for low cost options often has the same effect. If it’s not big enough for civil engineers who like big construction to get excited, there’s no guarantee it’ll go ahead. I’m concerned about the NW busway for this reason.

        1. “If it’s not big enough for civil engineers who like big construction to get excited,”

          Sorry, but that’s not a sensible argument. Even if the cheapest option cost, say, 5 billion rather than the 7 being discussed, that would still make it one of the biggest, biggest contracts around in any given year.

    4. I can’t see the whole thing being built at once, it will likely be staged in the same way Sydney’s has.

      My bet would be the first section would be Mt Roskill to Kingsland, making use of CRL capacity to begin with and once this becomes a problem building the city section of the line.

        1. That would require the new line to be built to our existing restrictive rail standards. Much better to do what Sydney has done and build metro to the best possible standard and have transfers in the interim, there will need to be a second CBD tunnel anyway.

        2. I expect that there would be little practical difference in performance and capacity between a tunnelled high quality grade separated alignment operated by existing AT CAF emus running under ETCS Level 2 with ATO and a light metro running on CBTC with ATO. At least the former option would be interoperable with the existing rail network.

    5. To get your head around whether the government would spend this sort of money, put it in the context of their other decisions on transport: the highways in NZUP, the Economic Recovery projects, and now the Fast-track projects like widening SH1 in South Auckland and Cameron Rd in Tauranga.

      And in the context of their other climate decisions: http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2021/11/climate-change-cold-feet.html

      These decisions mean the governments in 15 years’ time will have to choose between continuing to pay extremely high carbon mitigation costs internationally – resulting in economic poverty – or pulling out of international agreements on carbon, which will ultimate mean the same thing.

      So yes, the decision-making is so bad that they’re reasonably likely to commit us to that sort of project cost. And on the other hand, our children have so many costs to face – carbon credits, climate damage to infrastructure repair costs, higher commodity costs, higher public health costs due to climate events and diseases, transforming the systems that we’re refusing to transform now, etc, that it’s also clear that loading any more costs onto the next generation is inequitable.

      Basically, good transport planning and investment in projects is more necessary than ever, but the age of debt being used to fund projects needs to end.

      Whatever we build, we should be paying for it ourselves. Clarity on this point means we should choose Surface Light Rail.

      1. And we have to start reallocating space -for projects of this scale and local, small stuff that improves PT, walking and cycling for all.

      2. Hi Heidi, are you able to elaborate about the role of debt in funding transport projects? Are you suggesting a PPP or user-pays model? Or something else?

        1. Hi Mark, I believe our generation should pay for anything we invest in, because there is no future generation that is better placed to do so. Debt should only be used to smooth over the short term bumps of finance. This means polluter pays policies. It also means user pays policies where they are equitable and progressive, but not where they are inequitable and regressive. Rates and taxes need to be set at a level to cover costs.

          It also means stopping – not slowing – sprawl. It is sprawl that has been the cause of our building too much infrastructure for us to be able to maintain.

      3. So true, as a 17 year old with this rising cost of living, I don’t know what my future holds economically. Everything should be done to reduce NZ’s
        future carbon emissions now while we still have the time.

        1. Yes, and every older adult should be focused on doing so, so that 17 year olds can get on with the business of being 17, and not having to take this burden on.

          Lots of us are working on it, thankfully.

    1. I’ve been thinking that MagLev is the potential solution for the Auckland to Hamilton corridor, at ~350 kmh it’d be a 20 minute trip.

    2. Japan Maglev Tokyo to Nagoya section currently under construction
      ¥7T/285.6km = ¥24.5B/km = $317M/km

      LRT
      $7.1B/22km = $323M/km
      $10B/22km = $455M/km
      $16.6B/22km = $755M/km

      But is it fair to compare costs from a first world country and a scheme that operates at 505km/h which is 90% tunnels?

  2. Where did this insistence that North Shore rapid transit MUST RUN THROUGH TAKAPUNA come from? Is it really that important that it justifies a totally different alignment and probably a tunnel instead of an active/pt bridge? Is it going to achieve something that a Light Rail spur from the upgraded busway couldn’t?

    1. BW, I am with you and I just don’t get it either, even though I live in Takapuna, probably 150m from the station.
      There should be high frequency buses running on Anzac and Esmonde connecting to Akoranga and Smales and there would be a better outcome in terms of frequency, catchment and cost.
      My bet is that costs would be lower than now by cutting of the 8-9km the 82 travels to the city. The power of using the network.

    2. Takapuna is zoned as a metropolitan centre. So it needs high-quality PT (spur lines are crap for that). So I can get that logic. Either run that PT where you want your centre, or admit that it isn’t going to be one of Auckland’s 5 or so key centres, ever.

      1. Spur lines are crap. Witness Lower Hutt. But surely high frequency buses going in many directions from the town centre is better than one light rail? For a start the light rail won’t even serve the 350 unit Amaia development on Esmonde, without considering all the other building activity there.

      2. From memory, Westgate is zoned metro and we can barely get the rapid transit we’ve been promised for years along the corridor it sits directly on.

        The Takapuna diversion would trigger the need for a tunnel, the connecting infra at both ends and add billions of dollars of cost – probably the cost of the entire NW rapid transit project. It’s worth asking the question whether this is the best use of funds, and where each one stands relative to the other in terms of priority.

        1. BW, I agree. The west seems to need a solution more quickly.

          And a tunnel with just one station at Takapuna is surely a joke. Overseas cities have demonstrated that they change mode share with a network that allows people to use PT all day/everyday. Infrastructure that requires a walk up for many of over 10 minutes will only be popular for a certain range of journeys. It won’t serve anyone in Takapuna who is looking to travel to the town centre. The consequence is that the result might be the worst of both worlds, buses and light rail, with customer demand split between the two.

          I’d love to know where the proposal came from. My guess is the planning department of AC.

      3. Takapuna is the centre of the north shore public transport network, just about every bus south of Constellation drive goes there.

        Adding a rail line from the city and southern suburbs would be fantastic too, I wouldn’t call that crap.

        Access from south of Takapuna is the same in any case, direct rail trip. The question is whether saving people coming from the north to Takapuna (those who aren’t on the bus anyway) a transfer from train to train at Akoranga is worth the billions of dollars of extra tunneling and the extra minutes diversion for everyone going to the CBD or further south.

        If you look at the distances, it would be about as quick to drive every train both ways onto a Takapuna spur in and back out of a Takapuna station on the way through (a bit like Newmarket on the western line, but a kilometre longer), as it would be to do the same via a longer tunnel. It seems plain stupid to do that with a spur line, so why would you spend billions to do it with a long through tunnel?

        It’s similar to Manukau, maybe having it on the main line would have been better but the cost of relocating the southern line was too great to consider. And if not for it, where would the eastern line terminate? Probably at Otahuhu TBH.

        1. And for the record I think the starting point should be a decent bus alingment, a busway spur to Takapuna in effect.
          Then see if the added value of making that a rail spur is worth it.
          Then see if the added value of a through rail over a rail spur is worth it.

          It seems this planning has likewise been taken over by the same people at NZTA that turned the skypath into a billion dollar bridge and turned light rail into a sixteen billion dollar metro. Have they not come across a project that they haven’t supersized into oblivion?

    3. “Where did this insistence that North Shore rapid transit MUST RUN THROUGH TAKAPUNA come from?’

      Its so a few people who live in Remuera, can take the train to Takapuna to do some shipping.

  3. I feel the government wants ‘no losers’ policies when it comes to new transport infrastructure, rather than reallocating road space. Hence the proposed new bridge for cyclists paralleling the Auckland Harbour bridge, and the widening of the transport corridor for the Eastern Busway. However, the cost of creating new or wider corridors is so high (e.g. for the abandoned cycling bridge or undergrounding light rail) that the taxpayer and society as a whole become a loser.

    1. Cars not losing you mean? There are projects like Te Whau path, that get $35 million funding, then provide sub 2km of infrastructure with more or less zero connections. Ask for a on road bike lane that now cost $500,000 per km, there is no money sorry.

      If the govt approve light rail, they are going to have a hell of fight on their hands.

    1. Light Metro was #1, Tunnelled LR was #2 and Surface LR came out last.

      I fully agree with LM being better than tunnelled LR, seems another occasion where they go for the cheaper option despite the analysis pointing to the better one. Re Mangere, there seemed to be a large amount of concern about gentrification there. I personally think gentrification generally is good, and LM could be routed through Mangere, but if that is such a concern, keeping it along the motorway corridor might make more sense.

  4. I do think that given the 3 options and costs that the panel recommended that metro is the best. But I agree with Matt that we also need a cheaper surface level option that can be phased. The NZ housing market is about to crash due to high interest rates and significant supply increases, and with that will be the end of the “rock star” economy (and possibly the Labour govt). Any major project is going to get canned. Unless it is some kind of PPP with a contract they cannot get out of.

    1. I agree that it looks like the housing market is slowing down but I don’t think it’ll crash. Reason being it’s too big to fail. RBNZ can halt/reverse interest rate rises if they want (and if you don’t think they’d do that, look at how quickly they reacted to prop up the housing market when Covid-19 hit). Meanwhile the Government can simply turn the immigration tap back on claiming that it’s to address skills shortages.

      1. “about to crash due to high interest rates”

        Haha. Our interest rates are far from high, and worldwide they are even lower (so money will flow to here if rates rise). Yes, there may be people who are affected by increases (even if the overall rate remains low) but until we have people houses, have turned off the financial benefits of housing speculation, or the overall economy crashes (or a combo of all three) the housing market will not crash.

        Plus, unless you are caught in the gears, a crash could actually be good for the long term. Our house prices are far too high and should be 30-40% lower for many areas (but I understand that the pain would be mostly on the folks who just marginally got onto the ladder….)

        1. The Irish property bubble eventually re-inflated; Current real estate prices in the Republic have almost risen back to their 2007 peak (pre-crash). They know what is coming, but they keep on going!

    2. Regulating house prices has got to be part of our domestic monetary policy by now. The supply of houses will still be regulated to avoid a crash, just as with dollars.

  5. Catch 22 is a cheap highly disruptive fix the best option now or expensive long term option represent the best whole of life costs the best option. I think the level of information from the government on this is so poor that we can not understand the basis of their decision.
    Politics as always is probably playing it part in trying to minimise disruptive influence on AKL businesses after Covid. (But that is pure speculation on my part).
    Hard to tell if this is another think big white elephant project or far sighted thinking on the government part.
    Partly in my mind is the through of just build the damn thing I don’t care which option- but we don’t want lots of money flushed down the tube on yet another auckland rapid transit project condemned to the circular filing cabinet under the desk.

  6. I don’t think Labour can bring this off so we should try an envisage how a future project could be delivered. Hopefully something can rise from the ashes. It’s not much use arguing over the colours of the feathers of this dead parrot.

    1. This parrot has dies several times by now. What do you call a parrot that keeps being revived, and then dies again due to lack of life support by those who revive it?

  7. Absolutely, tunnelled LR is the worst outcome – almost as expensive as LM without the LM benefits. Just go full LM.
    The driverless thing doesn’t sound like much to most people, but the more you dig into it the bigger it becomes.
    1) Obviously cost – no drivers to pay.
    2) Operate 24/7 – possible with drivers but it’s an issue.
    3) Disruption – no driver strikes/go slows etc.
    4) Comfort – Smoother ride rather than erratic acceleration/braking by drivers.

    As for the North Shore, I have always said the disruption to the busway will be too much for only a small gain if they choose to ‘upgrade’ it. Better to build a new system which can include the likes of Takapuna.
    LM also has a lot more capacity, is nicer to ride on, and is faster.
    As you point out it doesn’t preclude a future LR system too.

  8. I have two concerns with the surface option
    1) In Light Rails own report its maximum rate is 6,250 people per hour. We would be spending $9 billion to get something which carries less people at peak than the Northern Busway already carries.
    2) A major concern is space for buses in the CBD. Tunneling frees up space.

    1. The “maximum rate is 6,250 people per hour” is a gross underestimate based on (I believe) the length and intervals at introduction. I think we calculated closer to 15,000/hour last time this came up.

      1. I am quoting what the report says. I hope they worked out correct numbers as we are looking at spending 10-20 Billion based on them

        1. I think you might have noticed from the discussion here that there is some dispute with their numbers.

          Anyway as I and others previously discussed with you ( https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/11/03/seeing-the-light-on-light-rail/#comment-471795 ) 194 people/car times 4 cars/train at 3 minute intervals is 15,000 people per hour per direction. Well over twice the maximum you give.

          I can’t even find the “maximum rate is 6,250 people per hour” bit except for the graph. Can you point me to where it is?

    2. It’s not the maximum capacity, it’s the maximum they’ve predicted light rail needs on the airport line. Maximum capacity is much higher.

      You have to read between the lines to see that they designed their modelling and assessment to make light rail look bad because the previous guys decided they wanted a metro.

  9. As a side comment to the main discussion, I find the constantly stated preference on this blog for driverless as a key factor somewhat off-putting – so we get “cheaper” service at the cost of putting a few people out of a potential job. Maybe not a great job, but one that is more than make-work.

    And then we probably will need more people on the stations and in the trains, because we are a city, and shit happens, and computers and CCTV ain’t enough when there’s no staff on the ground nearby. So I think the savings on that account will be trivial.

    1. “Maybe not a great job” – the problem is that it is a great job due to the ability to strike. Hard to know if it is indeed true, but when I lived in London there were rumours that the likes of doctors would become tube drivers because the money and conditions were better. We really don’t need these people holding the city to ransom.

    2. We used to have people operating lifts and collecting cans of sewage. Automation and mechanisation have been around for centuries, it’s how we advance. If we need staff at stations then put staff at stations but this would be the case even if the trains had drivers.

    3. so we get “cheaper” service at the cost of putting a few people out of a potential job

      If we want to give people money / resources to live (which is what a job does) then explicitly do that with government budgets. Don’t bake pointless jobs into every govt run system. Adding unnecessary jobs into these things is the definition of make work.

      I think it’s also a mistake to think that the driver in the train is doing anything in some sort of incident on a platform or in any way providing security. They’re not getting out of their train to chase someone or restrain them and would probably be expressly told not to.

    4. Better to have staff on the trains or at stations than having a driver who is doing an unnecessary job (especially if they can hold the city to ransom with strikes etc).

    5. Yes, but if you have a staffing budget, better to have a few extra transport police/Maori wardens patrolling than spending it on drivers that aren’t needed. I don’t think we need to worry about the number of drivers, given the heavy rail system will still need them, and services and freight are set to increase rather than decrease.

      Also strikes wise, it’s terrible for PT, people want something that they can rely on 24/7.

  10. https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/127138545/aucklands-progress-on-climate-change-insufficient-big-changes-needed–report

    This report contains some of the figures regarding how Auckland needs to change. It talks about 10x the number of PT trips by 2030(we would match Vienna.) It rapidly becomes obvious the huge magnitude of change that is necessary. From there it becomes just as obvious that one light metro route is just hopelessly inadequate to enable such change. In my view, looking from first principles, i.e. what Auckland needs, the answer has to be three lower cost surface options.
    Will any of those be overwhelmed by the resulting patronage? It would be a great place to be, but other routes could then be built to cover that demand.

    1. “The report said some lower-cost approaches might be needed to make an early start on local projects, such as re-allocating road space for cycling and walking.” Maybe AT should start another investigation / consultation. I doubt they would even complete that by 2030.

      1. Jimbo, certainly if they continue to follow the current consultation model of street by street, they would be lucky to even cover a suburb.

        1. But the mayor who signed up to the climate emergency says AT would be arrogant to not consult.

        2. Jimbo, in Europe they consult on a city wide basis to develop a Sump (sustainable urban mobility plan). It takes a while at the outset, but every part of a city realises they have to do their share.

    2. Surprised they needed a report to tell them that they weren’t going to halve emissions in 9 years by doing nothing. Immediate action is required, but don’t expect that any time soon.

      1. Even more bizarre is that the Mayor wants to change things by a rates charge on every rate payer. Parking assets produce a return of 0.7%. Herein lies a chance to require the emitter to pay by raising these to an acceptable return on capital. There’s $15 million. And sell another car park building and the $50 million is raised, with no pain and anguish upon householders who aren’t contributing to the emissions problem.

        1. How about leasing the enforcement rights for road parking to a private company. I’m sure Wilsons or Tournament would be happy to ticket, clamp, tow people as required.

        2. I don’t understand why parking wardens employed by a private company are supposed to be better at this than parking wardens employed by the council. You’re basically just have an extra company clipping the ticket, so to speak.

          The barrier to employing parking wardens is the same as the barrier to contracting a private company — our policy of not enforcing parking rules.

      2. I’m less surprised. In my office we had long kept the door between the office and a rear corridor open. Our air-conditioning people told us the system would work better if we kept the door closed.

        The person who sat closest to the door told me we should “try” keeping it open – the very thing we had been doing for years – to see if that solved the problem.

        So it’s not that surprising to discover that some people need a report to tell that that doing the same thing won’t produce a different outcome.

        1. Brendan, if the problem is too many car parks causing the cost of parking to be low then I can’t see the purpose of continuing to run it as a carpark.
          If the market subsequently decides there aren’t enough then someone can build some more, just as SkyCity did a couple or three years ago.

  11. I agree that if option 2 tunnelled street car LR is the worst of all options. And I don’t think we should get caught up trying to put a station in Takapuna, Akoranga station is still close enough and also serves Northcote. Plus high density development will eventuate around the station possibly connecting Northcote and Takapuna together with the station in the middle.

  12. “Tunnels – are much more expensive to operate than surface solutions due to the need to run things like ventilation and safety systems etc.”

    The vehicles aren’t going to be diesel-powered are they? Why the need for expensive ventilation and safety systems? Didn’t they de-comission the former ventilation system from Britomart Station when they electrified it?

    1. Hi Dave. There is a need to have smoke extraction systems as a part of the safety management system in the event of a fire in the running tunnels. This system needs to be configurable to move any smoke away from any tram or light rail vehicle which may be disabled due to, or as a result of a fire. This system has to protect customers and staff from the toxic effects of smoke as they evacuate. There is also a need to provide emergency escape routes, along with lighting etc from the running tunnels to a place of safety (either at street level or an adjacent service tunnel) which are DDA compliant. Some of these issues don’t exist when a surface level option is selected.

    2. You still have to circulate the air in the tunnels, a lot of heat is dissipated by the trains. London is a good example where they don’t have enough.
      You also have to have all the smoke extraction systems for emergencies, they have to be regularly tested and maintained. You cant just build something like that and then ignore it until the day you need it, has to be run regularly and maintained.

      They decided not to do the required upgrades to the diesel extraction at Britomart. I would heavily suspect that there is either a different system for emergency smoke extraction, or that the original diesel system still exists for the emergency smoke extraction purpose. Theres no way there’s just zero ventilation in an underground space like that.

      1. Mmmm. Point taken, though I wonder how many legacy underground systems have all of this stuff? Which begs the question, are modern specifications for rail systems in-general so high now that affordability is jeopardised? Meaning that many potential rail projects do not proceed, and so the traffic they would carry defaults to road which is inherently far less safe? And I have to include surface LRT as ‘defaulting to road’ unless it runs on a protected right-of-way. Though much safer than cars, it still carries a risk of harm to anyone getting in the way of it. Wellington CBD’s many bus vs pedestrian accidents attest to this problem. Is this a notable problem in Auckland too?

  13. I also think they are gold plating the dominion Rd surface option.
    I think a very basic version not including the airport could be had for just a couple billion.

  14. I’m still so confused over all this, and how it possibly can be better than other options to spend billions of dollars.
    Will there even be a need for so many people to be transported into the city – from Mangere?
    Would you catch a lightrail system from Mangere to the City every day – or just work from home three days a week? Do you even work in the city?
    Would you catch a bus to an express train at Onehunga, or heaven forbid extend the heavy rail to airport and then to Manukau? And extend across to Otara and back to the city via Pakuranga? And build the light rail to Mt Roskill only?
    There are so many actual good options that we are being blinded by this whole project, and the spin doctors are coming up with cost/benefits that fit…
    Lester Levy had us all zooming around in autonomous buses a few years ago, which sounds like a much more cost sensible solution than light rail!

    1. “Will there even be a need for so many people to be transported into the city – from Mangere?”

      Maybe you should take a drive out to the South East and North West some time and check out the massive number of houses being built out there.

    2. “Would you catch a lightrail system from Mangere to the City every day – or just work from home three days a week?”

      If you work as a cleaner or worker bee in the city , and live in Mangere, then you don’t have the choice of “working from home” unless there is now an app that I can download, that will clean my offices every night!

  15. a) +1 for driverless light metro

    b) the policy decision needs to be made to implement the congestion toll cordon around the CBD and the modelling take account of it, if it hasnt already

    c) The light metro needs to allow for the future extension to Puhinui.
    i) this provides strategic redundancy in the case of the main line being blocked or under repair (Puhinui to CBD via airport)
    ii) reduces the need for 3 modes & 2 interchanges (e.g OD from Manurewa to Mangere) down to 2 modes & 1 interchange

    1. Driverless metro sounds like the way to go for me.
      With potentially 67km of lines 29km Silverdale 18km Westgate and 20km to the airport I think it’s to much to ask for a low floor street car LRT to do well.
      There Will be much more space on board for those with check in baggage and personal mobility also, potentially 6 doors per car 3 each side, so even wheelchair users won’t feel like a hindrance.
      The vehicle limitations will also force a better quality route so no super tight corners or steep climbs, which should enable a more comfortable ride and higher speeds in a greater number of areas.
      Which will make it competitive with the car.
      To be realistic people on there commute will always choose the fastest way, I used to catch a bus to Takapuna and it often took 40 minutes so i hired a lime scooter it took 15 minutes so I never used that bus again, glad to see AT got rid of that bus route.
      It’s also becoming more common to build metro systems to the 120kmph standard, it could be something to look into.
      But regardless should we even be thinking about an Auckland wide rail line, wasn’t this just fixing the bus capacity problem on dominion Rd?
      I’m sure dominion Rd light rail could be done much much cheaper,

    2. Disagree on the Puhinui point. Busway that links to the eastern busway to the airport is the shiz.

      By extending metro to puhunui you cut down on one transfer for people going from south, to a destination further north than the airport sure. But nothing changes for people going to the airport. However, you add a transfer for anyone going to the airport from the east. The airport will be a bigger destination than Mangere.

      1. The number of people going to the airport on the Mt Roskill service would be single-digit percentages, apparently. Most people might take one flight a year, vs. a suburb that is about to get a rapid transit connection where people actually live.

  16. If the North Shore Line is automated metro, couldn’t there just be an in & out line (like a stub but with a flying junction in both directions) that diverts from the Busway and then reverses back out to carry on? Sure it’s slightly slower, but you could still run it over the (presumably new) bridge and have an Onewa station

    1. It might not even be slower. It’s only 2.6km from Akoranga to Takapuna and back. How much longer would that tunnel be, at least that…

  17. If Auckland wants to have a light rail system, it should be a 4-7 route surface graded system being the cheapest option as there are other major public transport requirements in other regions plus the upgrading of the national rail network to allow the re-introduction of regional and inter-regional passenger rail, increasing rail freight capacity and urban passenger heavy rail and/or a light rail system in the greater Christchurch metro area.

    Whilst central government would be funding the build of Auckland’s light rail system as a loan on the understanding, Auckland region’s rate payers will have to pay back.

    1. Why should Auckland have to pay back a loan?

      We’re taking on a huge portion of the country’s future migration and our current transport system issues are the result of years of Wellington interference in Auckland’s transport needs, while refusing to expand a transport system that it expects to cope with more and more people – a thing that Auckland as a city has no control over.

      This provincialism whenever it comes to Auckland getting badly needed infrastructure is getting tiresome, but it never stops anyone else demanding they get a hefty central government contribution when they want something their own population base can’t possibly support or afford.

      1. It is nothing to do with provincialism. Auckland’s public transport issues is a direct result of years of bad ‘here & now’ car based urban planning and development that almost decimated Auckland city previous public transport infrastructure, hence the high cost of rebuilding it especially since Auckland city is now NZ’s only ‘city’ region.

        Auckland will not be the only region in NZ there will see population growth over the next 10-20 years. There are 12 other regions that still have rail connectivity and will see population growth so it is important to upgrade the national rail network to allow the re-introduction of frequent urban, regional and inter-regional passenger rail connecting NZ’s 6 mains with 13 provincial cities, major towns, town semi rural and rural communities.

  18. Sad to see people viewing workers rights to strike as about ” holding a city to ransom” as opposed to a legitimate option to improve their conditions.

    1. All depends on the job. For many jobs striking is a viable and useful option, for other jobs it really is a case of causing unnecessary disruption that affects far more than just that particular role/company etc.
      When the job is no longer needed due to advancements (or in this case building a whole new system without that job being a part of it from the get go) is another story altogether.
      We no longer have people walking in front of cars waving flags, nor do we have a police officer at every intersection to direct traffic. We don’t have petrol pump attendants or telephone exchange operators.

  19. Just read this article Matt after emailing Greater Auckland through the contact page. Could you please give me an email address to provide information to your team about shallow tunnels? Thanks

  20. Deep “Tunnels – are much more expensive to operate than surface solutions due to the need to run things like ventilation and safety systems etc”. They are inconvenient because the station is usually far above the platform – 32 metres at Karangahape Road = an 8 storey building. Escalators, stairs and lifts all get congested at peak times. Deep tunnels are gloomy to be in and less safe than tunnels just below the surface like the New York subway.

  21. If they are going to do the full tunnel thing with an eye on extending it to the North Shore then they should actually look at a different route again. The tunnel should head under PoA to Bayswater with a station there, another at Hauraki then Takapuna before continuing on North.
    By doing so you can unlock the whole Devonport peninsula to increased density (not just 3 level stuff either… Bayswater is ripe for the full city fringe 5 level treatment). Would be a 3 minute journey into the city and you could easily house another 20,000 people there or 40,000 around the peninsula). It would also shorten the route. The only loss I can see would be Wynyard (which could be served by surface transport) and potentially Northcote if there were plans for a station there. If they ever (which is quite possible in 50 years time) wanted another underground line then that could be cross town using the Aotea deep platforms.

    1. It’s not a bad idea, entering the north shore from the port would also need to pass under Stanley point, but it’s questionable if it’s worth having a station there as Devonport has good access via ferry.
      If you want to look outside the box I still think a bridge to Hinemoa park and a tunnel to Birkenhead and Glenfield would be more beneficial the tunnel could continue to Rosedale on to the Busway or a surface route from Glenfield following kaipatiki Rd to Beachaven and across the harbour parallel to sh18 to hobsonville point and whenuapai.
      This will serve a larger area that has very bad connectivity and would enable high density without the constraints of character housing zones or super high land prices found on the Devonport peninsula.

      1. Yes, probably not worth it to build a station at Stanley Point (unless the council was going to get the gains from the improvements and upzoning to allow higher density there).
        But my main point is that whole Bayswater/Hauraki area is huge and one of the lowest densities within a 5km radius of the city centre. – huge potential (as well as being a cheaper overall tunnelling option than via Wynyard and Northcote).
        Yes to your Glenfield plan too. In a more budget generous world I’d like to see a line up the old North Shore (ie Bayswater, Taka, then somewhere along the route of East Coast Road-ish as well as your G line through to Albany where they meet up (and one continues North). There could also be a connecting/cross line from around Constellation through to Westgate and the NW line. Years ago before it was GA, Transport Blog advocated for a series of LM lines all around Auckland but especially the North Shore.
        That was of course using far cheaper estimates (which are probably more accurate than these crazy estimates we’re seeing now!).

  22. I saw a Tweet, I think it was by Scoot, that said someone was suggesting a universities and hospital stop for the tunnelled version. However, it also highlighted that doing this would create an extreme dogleg if the same route was also meant to go to the KO development the ALR team are so obsessed with.

    It just made it so obvious to me that we’re talking about three routes here with different functions:

    * Dominion Road LR to resolve a bus capacity problem
    * a North/South route to connect Mangere with the CBD
    * an East/West route to open up faster travel between West and South, East and West, Isthmus and West and intra-Isthmus travel

    It also made it so obvious that the New Network principles have been totally abandoned in favour of one seat thinking that has resulted in every single one of those functions being compromised to the point they may be incapable of performing them at all.

    1. Agreed – split the goals up into separate projects.

      1. Replace the Dominion Rd buses with surface light rail/tram. Perhaps add on a Sandringham Rd branch while we’re at it, that would better serve the KO development in Wesley-Owairaka.
      2. The main RTN route to Mangere should be a light metro via Manukau Rd. More direct and more homogeneous rock types would bring down the costs of tunneling, and elevated could be reconsidered.
      3. A crosstown light rail/metro utilizing the Avondale-Onehunga corridor and a rebuilt Onehunga Branch Line, potentially extending further west to New Lynn/Pt Chev and further east to Sylvia Park & Howick.

  23. There’s a much larger population to the west of takapuna (northcote, glenfield, birkdale, beach Haven etc) who are actual workers who along with their families and employers would benefit so much more from having better public transport options. This looks like a forgotten or ignored area on the map.

  24. I have just watched a youtube video of Transport Vlog using the Newcastle NSW tram/light rail. It was slower than a wet week – I can walk faster than that. Surely any option for traveling down the Auckland Isthmus has to be much faster than that or no-one will use it.

    1. About forty thousand people an hour use buses on the isthmus streets, so as long as it’s as fast as the bus it will be fine.

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