An article yesterday by Simon Wilson in the NZ herald (paywalled) seems to suggest that the government will select the “tunnelled light rail” option for the City Centre to Māngere project.

In October last year, Transport Minister Michael Wood said he was taking a recommendation to Cabinet for a line to run from Wynyard Quarter to the airport. It’s called City Centre to Māngere, or CC2M. The ALR working group Wood set up midyear had given him three options and recommended one of them. Cabinet made its decision in November. We’re still waiting to hear what it was. It is highly likely the Government has accepted the choice of the working group. This is for light rail that will run in tunnels all the way from Wynyard to Mt Roskill, before surfacing to run alongside state highway 20B to the airport, deviating into Onehunga and Māngere town centres along the way.

There are rumours a formal announcement may be as early as later this week.

I have written a lot about the merits of different options for the CC2M corridor in recent months, including why tunnelled light-rail is a “worst of both worlds” option: having the extremely high cost of tunnelled metro but still some of the limitations of an on-street system.  Rather than rehashing those points, in this post I want to focus on some of the other things I will be looking out for in the upcoming announcement. In particular:

  • What justification the government uses for their decision.
  • What ‘wriggle room’ there is for further design refinement in the next stage.
  • What the government says about the Northwest and North Shore rapid transit corridors.
  • Which organisation will take the project forward.
  • What happens to Dominion Rd if a tunnelled option is chosen

Justifying their decision

The very first thing to look out for is how the government justifies their decision, whatever it is. In particular, if they do go with the “worst of both worlds” tunnelled light-rail option, I will be very curious to understand why they have done so. Simon Wilson seems to suggest that a key factor may be minimising business disruption:

But Cabinet has decided. The Prime Minister, presumably, wants those tunnels. Social equity, transport efficiency, climate change? Please tell me they won’t be sacrificed just to keep the retailers of Dominion Rd from complaining about the construction fuss. Here’s a thought: Why not find better ways to help them through that fuss?

While Auckland Light Rail (ALR) recommended the tunnelled light-rail option, they were clear that all three options achieved the desired goals and delivered broadly similar value for money. Even spending a few hundred million on compensating retailers is still a much cheaper option that a tunnel.

Given this, it will be a very big call to go with something other than the cheapest option – and that huge decision will need to be very well justified.

Room for future design refinement

The next thing I will be looking out for is how much detail the government has ‘decided’ on and how much they leave to future work. ALR only had six months to prepare their business case and came up with a new recommended option compared to the seven years of previous work on the project. This means there’s probably loads of detail that needs to be worked through, even if a major call is made on mode and route. Questions I’m especially interested in are things like:

  • If a tunnelled option is chosen, is it clear where the tunnel begins and ends? Could future work on the project refine it to just a tunnel in the city centre but surface running on Dominion Rd or will they set in stone a tunnel all the way through the isthmus?
  • ALR’s tunnelled light-rail option went under Sandringham Road, or at least close to it, but the extra distance compared to Dominion negated much of the time saved from going underground rather than being at surface, especially once you count the time it takes to access an underground station. The route from Sandringham Rd to the city also seems to duplicate most what we’re building the City Rail Link for. Could the route be reworked in the future?
  • What route will be taken through Onehunga and Māngere? Unlike the metro option, tunnelled light-rail only worries about disrupting Dominion Road businesses during construction and is quite happy to run at surface through Onehunga and Māngere. This means important decisions need to be made, such as whether the line will take a slow indirect route through Māngere that loses most of the time gained by the expensive isthmus tunnel, or whether there is still room to explore more efficient options while still serving those communities.
Light Rail on Bader Dr
  • I will also keep an eye out on the city centre route and station locations. Previous tunnelled options in the city centre have had a ‘university’ station around the top of Wyndham Street – which is about as close to most of Auckland University as Aotea Station. Given the extremely high cost of building city centre stations (just ask CRL) I doubt this will survive for long. It will also be interesting to see what’s proposed in terms of serving Wynyard Quarter and what that tells us about future plans to extend to the North Shore. I get the feeling that we are being set up for a stupid combined road/rail harbour tunnel project even though a road crossing can’t be justified and will make congestion worse.

What this means for the Northwest and North Shore

My biggest concern about the tunnelled light-rail option is its cost – at over $10 billion in today’s value, this would be more than twice as expensive as CRL which is the currently the largest transport project we’ve attempted. With inflation that cost goes up to nearly $15 billion by the time it’s finished which is not much less than half the current entire 10-year ATAP programme (which has to cover all transport investment, including public transport operations, maintenance etc.). I’ve discussed before how all the light-rail options have laughably high costs when you compare them against projects overseas, but this should push us even more toward the cheaper option.

If the government goes with tunnelled light-rail, then I am very worried what the $5 billion (or so) extra spend compared to surface light-rail means for other important rapid transit projects across Auckland – especially to the Northwest and the North Shore. It was only last year that ATAP reinforced the urgency of getting on with implementing full rapid transit (not just the relatively modest bus lane upgrades) to the Northwest:

It’s coming up to 5 years since any significant work was done on planning proper rapid transit to the northwest.

Michael Wood has been pretty good at emphasising the importance of thinking about Auckland’s various rapid transit projects as a network, but we are yet to see that actually mean anything on the ground. I will be especially interested to see what the government say around how the torturously slow progress on planning and designing rapid transit in Auckland might be sped up and done in a far more integrated way across different projects in the future.

Who will take the project forward?

ALR progressed the CC2M business case with a strange mix of central government and local government decision-makers on its board. One of ALR’s tasks was meant to be providing advice on what entity will deliver the project, but they essentially ran away from doing this – instead saying that options should be kept open for now.

Working out the best delivery agency for CC2M is the wrong question though. Ultimately CC2M is just another part of Auckland’s rapid transit network, like the Northwest, North Shore, Airport to Botany, City Rail Link and many other future projects. The mess that every rapid transit project has to go through to get designed, funding and built means that we actually need a proper resolution to the question of “who should do rapid transit in New Zealand?”

In theory this should be Waka Kotahi’s job – as rapid transit is simply the public transport version of the motorway network – but they still seem stuck in last century’s road building paradigm and still appear to be actively trying to delay rapid transit projects. So perhaps a new national organisation (Rapid Transit Aotearoa?) should take this project – and others – forwards?

Either way, it’s critical that there’s clarity about not only how CC2M will move ahead, but also some reassurance that the government is thinking about rapid transit as a whole and how we can make future projects much simpler to progress.

What happens to Dominion Rd

One of the super powers of surface light rail on Dominion Rd is that not only is it a transport project but it also requires us to upgrade the town centres along the way. Those town centres have been in limbo for decades as successive transport plans for light rail and bus improvements have come and gone.

With a tunnelled light rail option the job of improving public transport and the town centres on this corridor will still exist but now with presumably no plans or funding. Will the government address this?

And if the answer is to leave it to the Council and Auckland Transport, I wonder what those businesses concerned about disruption will think of now getting nothing.

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  1. I am just still horrified that anyone involved in this process is pretending as if a project costing north of $10b will ever get built. Pure insanity

    Just build a bog standard LRT system up Queen St & Dom Road, save all the money otherwise wasted on turning it into a plush European boulevard and spend it on NW LRT, A2B, North Shore etc

  2. I suspect we’re more likely to see a CC2M plan that largely ditches the M altogether, and that serving Mangere will end up meaning some sort of motorway station with bus lanes coming off it rather than rapid transit into the town itself.

    What blows my mind though is how we seem to be planning to spend more and more and getting even less out of. The in-street option was meant to be for both the NW and CC2M for under $10b. Now we’re looking at spending 50% more than that for one route and we look likely to get something that is severely compromised in terms of connecting the communities that don’t have rapid transit that it was designed to serve.

    1. It’s about keeping everyone happy which in the end Keeps no one happy . I’d be surprised it is planned as part of a larger system.

      1. I appreciate that, but we were also pretty sure we’d be riding on this thing in 2021 too based on ministerial assurances. Even if we do get still Mangere proper, we’re still getting appalling value compared to what was originally proposed.

    2. I wonder if they should just run the Motorway route and miss out Onehunga altogether and just provide transfer from bus to rail at Mangere. Its really not that far from the Mangere Town centre to the motorway and most bus routes could be arranged to have a stop there anyway. That’s if it is deemed safe to use the bus lanes on the Mangere bridge motorway for light rail. I hope they don’t have to build another bridge that stretch of water is getting busy
      Is anyone picking they will announce something and still not give us much detail. All this secrecy means we don’t have any idea what they are thinking.

    1. Ian , trouble is instead of buying units off the shelf say , Auckland will want their own bespoke units which will cost an arm and a leg plus what ever other parts of the body they can get hold of .

  3. I’m absolutely horrified at the prospect of having tunneled LRT all the way through isthmus! One of the great things about LRT or trams is that you can admire the views from the inside and the trams themselves add a lot of visual value to the neighbourhoods. Not to mention such an investment forces redevelopment of the surrounding areas.
    I think that one of the main reasons they want to go with the tunnels is the fact that the general traffic lanes and/or parking spaces would have to be reduced which would actually do a lot of good but the opposition may be quite fierce. And yes, I agree that possibly the journey time itself would be shorter but getting to and out of the stations will negate that at a horrendous cost.
    Not to mention we would be duplicating the problems we already have with CRL, namely disruption to businesses because of the extent of works needed. Laying tracks and putting power poles is way less disruptive (and cheaper!) than boring tunnels. Also, tunnels would limit our future options to extend the network.

    1. Yes, I agree. If you can have that view, why wouldn’t you?

      Your point about the fierce opposition is true.

      We’ll know the government have finally woken up to the task of decarbonising and transforming transport when we see them choose to take this resistance on. There is no better time to have the conversation than for a project which delivers so much.

      If they are too scared to do it now, it will not just show that they are weak. It will weaken their position in future.

      1. The problem is if Labour is too weak, then we’re really doomed when National takes over. 🙁 Someone really needs to man up (or woman up?) and say “yes, we’re removing the lanes and some parking spots because there are much bigger things at stake than your convenience”.

        1. Again, the solution is in proposing best practice solutions, and using modern deliberative democracy methods to get them over the line.

          What we have instead is a fear of engagement. An assumption of opposition. And sometimes the opposition is actually true, due to the public being misinformed, but usually it’s not – it’s just a vocal minority voice you should expect from a population who haven’t seen the benefits of change yet. But the assumption compromises the technical solutions. So best practice doesn’t even get offered.

          But I guess we’ll see in a few days, maybe.

    2. Yes. The view is important and makes the journey more enjoyable.
      I always assume that getting on to the train from a safe street platform would be easy. Building steps, lifts, extra platforms underground makes it more trouble.

    3. OK my blood pressure has gone down abit thanks to your and others rational comments on GA.. Thank God. OMG I was like is this a twiglight zone nightmare ..

      But good to see all transport buffs are saying what a joke.. And yes National just as bad. NZ First is looking rational.

  4. I will be looking to see how many existing buses light rail removes from the CBD. Remember AT claimed the original problem was too many buses in the CBD and that needed light rail on Dominion Road as a solution?

    The decision will show us if any of that was ever true.

      1. Right, ‘Busnake’ was a thing back then but it didn’t capture anyone’s imagination as intended so we should never mention it ever again?

        If the decision is for Sandringham Road it will prove the lie.

        1. I used to see that chaos on Symonds Street every morning for a while.

          If you look closely you can also see those buses are gradually sinking into the street surface.

        2. There is a bus from Sandringham Rd every couple of minutes at peak so surely this would take just about as many buses out of the city ctr as Dominion Rd does?

    1. Yes that will be fascinating. I raised this many times, including directly with the Minister and ALR representatives, pointing out that light rail near Sandringham Road would mean that the 20 buses an hour on Dominion Road need to remain. So what about the claimed bus congestion in the CBD issue? How will that be solved? Like you Miffy I am keen to hear the answer.

      1. The probable answer is the buses were a convenient excuse for light rail which appears to be a solution looking for a problem.

        1. Perhaps the answer is since NZTA took over they are no longer worried about solving actual problems, and just trying to build bigger and bigger things because that’s what they do. Like their harbour tunnel, their east west link, their cycle bridge. All of those dropped all hints of problem solving and went gangbusters to build big castles in the sky.
          They’ve done the same here, it’s no longer aimed at transport problems but veered off on a weird tangent about getting a grade separated metro tunnel because some Canadians made a brochure.

        2. More about delivering overwrought jobs for construction firms and BCRs for the economists than about delivering optimal transit for Aucklanders?

          Given the fact that most of the RONS could have been better achieved with less-expensive existing highway improvements, and the kerfuffle over Transmission Gully, that seems to fit.

    2. “the original problem was too many buses in the CBD and that needed light rail on Dominion Road as a solution?”

      There is not enough kerb space in the CBD to accomadate any more buses doing peak time..unless you want to get dropped off at Victoria Park and walk into the City Centre.

  5. This whole shamble sounds like what Wellington has with LGWC (Let’s Get Wellington Consultations). The advantage of this option is that there might be less blowback from business in the initial stage so you can spend tons of money on consultants and studies for a couple of years. Of course this will never be built because the cost will be too high. When there is a switch in government, National will immediately cancel it and then you have to wait for restart with the next Labour government. And the Labour government after that doesn’t need to start the tunnel in the CBD anymore, since that area will be labelled as flood area because by then we know to expect a couple of meters sea rise.

    ‘set up for a stupid combined road/rail harbour tunnel project’
    This is obviously true. And with my comment above that the rail will be cancelled we then have the desired outcome, a new roading tunnel, which the next National government will start as a PPP to funnel a lot of tax money to private investors.

    1. Reminds me of the East West link which Labour has been “reviewing” for 4 years without any alternative scheme being discussed. The existing cycleway is also left with a Penrose-Southdown gap no doubt waiting for some decision to be made. Meanwhile the roads are jammed with trucks, which are not fun to cycle around.
      The LRT is expensive, so the thing I’d be most interested in is how it will be paid for. 4 years ago there was a lot of talk about rebuilding Dunedin hospital, Middlemore, Napier, etc. None of this has happened. Education statistics continue declining. There are many competing priorities and post the covid borrowing/spending I’d consider the cupboard to be bare.

      1. Governments need to be able to do more than one thing at a time.

        Constantly deferring Auckland’s need for rapid transit while piling in more and more people is how we got into this mess.

  6. Thats a good point that this is only costing a few times more than what CRL cost, for a whole line. I was thinking all these options look ridiculous, but perhaps not completely out of this world.

    1. Yeah I was thinking the same, especially as LRT will largely duplicate the CRL and construction costs are so much more these days. It actually seems really cheap compared to CRL, so maybe there will be cost blowout.

  7. The more I hear about light rail, the more I think we should ditch it entirely. Spend the time, money, and political capital on massive road reallocation to protected bike lanes. That would get vkt / emissions down. Then we could spend the huge money on rapid inter-city rail and start legislating air travel out.

    1. “spend the huge money on rapid inter-city rail and start legislating air travel out”. – Well, that’s not going to earn you any friends from Chris Luxton !

  8. We need more transparency. With such a large project surely the group should make public their reports and reasoning. There are many of us who would like to understand their logic.

  9. I’m shocked, all this logic of price and cost is absurd, just ignores what a people really needs.
    If you want to ditch cars you need to provide comfort and a fast solution for people to comute. This means heavy trains or underground subway.
    I don’t like a big elephant coming down on rails in the middle of a street and I’m not willing to taking a ligth rail to enjoy the views. I would like to comute fast.
    Also there is other questions undergroung option is not constraint by anything on surface and creates the opportunity to connect areas that otherwise would be possible. Also there is the fact of the visual impact on surface. Moreover, doesn’t lock the development options on surface. Price wise I haven’t seen in consideration the future price of land with a surface option. I don’t want to buy an apartment were the train goes by because of the noise etc… if underground the price of property goes up. Just saying light rail might be cheaper but people will still use cars and only use it if there is no other options…and that to me is waste of money. Any big city shaped for future uses underground, londron, NY, Tokyo, Madrid, Paris, Lisbon, Hong Kong have efficient transport systems based on underground and heavy trains.

    1. I think I agree with most of your sentiment: underground metro will get much more people out of cars as it has done in other cities.

        1. Its a pointless comparison given station spacing. It will rarely get the ability to leverage that speed advantage. As soon as it opens the throttle it will have to start breaking.

    2. It won’t be much or any faster under ground once you factor in walking to the station down stairs etc.
      LRT on the surface will probably be very quiet, especially if you factor in the buses it will replace.
      We are no where as big at NY, Tokyo etc

      1. Sorry, i disagree with this, it’s not 100% correct this statements why? Because a underground station does not have only one entrance in fact you should consider that might actually be fast depending where you are. A modern underground station will likely have 4 to 6 entrances from multiple streets and Short walking time not to mention that by having underground passage you can actually have secure street crossing as well. All that can also include shops and even connection to carparks. And other transport links which with a on surface option is probably not possible.

        1. As a resident of a city with an underground system, the stations with lots of entrances are usually in the city centre. Stations in the suburbs or secondary centres usually have between 1 and 3 entrances. Each entrance makes the station more expensive.

        1. Not with its own right of way, separate from traffic, as well as intersection priority. Which I think is largely what’s proposed

          LM might be faster in a race, but its going to have to service alot of stations and some not that far apart. Whatever its theoretical speeds in a tunnel, it will never get near it because as soon as it speeds up, it would have to start slowing down again.

          Which is an interesting point – did LM have as many stations as LRT?

        2. Maybe in other cities, but in Auckland the “own right of way” and “intersection priority” would be hopelessly compromised and you’d end up with an expensive snail crawling from stop to stop. Plus of course the excessive time to open and close the doors on the tram.

        3. Zippo – that argument makes no sense. It’s defeatist.

          Light rail doors would hardly be slow – in fact, based on the LRVs used overseas the doors would be significantly quicker than those on Auckland’s heavy rail trains.

    3. I think the underground metro system is popular in highly densed cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore is that roads are so clogged by cars, trucks, taxis/Ubers, etc. Because of their population density and convenience access, the underground stations can be very close to each other (as little as 15-20 mins from each other I recall when visiting those places), constructing that many underground stations could be very disruptive to the neighbourhoods for several years (a lot of smaller version of CRLs dotting along Dominion Rd).
      Also with the short distance between stations (for good accessibility similar to surface light rail), the underground metro train wouldn’t go very fast.

      1. For your information, the smallest cities in the world that have a rapid transit type urban rail system (underground/subway/U-Bahn/metro/MRT) are Lausanne, Switzerland and Rennes, France. Rennes’s population is 357,000 in a city about half the size of the Auckland Council area, while Lausanne’s are 139,000 in an area 1/15th of Auckland. If I ignore more detailed considerations such as terrain difference, Lausanne is denser than Auckland, but Rennes far less than the City of Sails.

        If Auckland built a full urban metro, it could work if smaller cities such as Rennes and Lausanne have already built them (yes I know caveats such as France is the 6th largest economy in the world, and Switzerland has the world’s second highest nominal GDP per capita, while NZ is a relatively poor member of the OECD, if you truly want something done politically there is a way out). I think it is inevitable once Auckland’s population passes 2.5 million mark some point in 2045+, but why not start the conversation today?

    4. Just to unpick some of your points:
      Fast solution for people to commute – many trips on PT aren’t just about commuting, speed is just one factor to consider
      Underground does not constrain anything on the surface and visual impact – the current impact of a 4 lane road on Dominion Road isn’t exactly appealling visually, and creates constraints anyway.

      Auckland is not the size of NY, London, Tokyo etc so why would we want to spend massive amounts of money on an underground line that effectively eats up most of the annual transport budget for years to come.

        1. Average car speeds on most big arterials in peak is under 20km/hr. Doesn’t take much to be a lot faster than that.

    5. “I would like to commute fast”

      From where to where? This assumes you just want go to the City centre??

      What if you only want to travel 2 or 3 blocks to go shopping or to go to the doctors. How will a tunnel solve that problem.

  10. Great article. Last 2 paragraphs sums up my main concerns as a community worker for Sandringham who has been fighting for a village upgrade for many years, only to see promised long-term funding for this “disappear” since Covid, and get endless push back from Council they can’t do anything because of the proposed light rail.

  11. Tunnelled LR is indeed the worse of both worlds option.
    Just build LM. Straighten out the line (this shrinking it and saving money). Mangere doesn’t need surface rail running through the town. Just follow the motorway on the surface or if underground is needed there then go under Kirkbride Rd (or just build it elevated).
    If they’re going to spend that sort of money then penny pinching a few hundred million for TLR is ridiculous when LM is so much better and will be far less disruptive.

  12. We could have started by building city centre to Mount Roskill and in the meantime squabble about what to do next. We would have had at least that line by now.

  13. “My biggest concern about the tunnelled light-rail option is its cost – at over $10 billion in today’s value, this would be more than twice as expensive as CRL which is the currently the largest transport project we’ve attempted. ”

    The final cost for CRL isn’t in yet and you can pretty much bet it didn’t get any cheaper. Then you need to add on the externalities- the costs accrued to all the businesses in Albert Street that have never been fully assessed and compensated. I think this is the biggest driver of the bored tunnels option and why the politicians don’t want to go down Dominion Road. They know they probably can’t get away with that sort of business disturbance again.

      1. The CRL is a stuff-up for surrounding businesses because the government didn’t understand they would become untenable on their sites.
        Contrast with Newmarket, where Westfield moved their tenants in surrounding shops while they reconstructed, then back in again on completion. It would be interesting to know what that cost.
        And, note, it has had an effect on Newmarket – it squeezed out other businesses at the time and has left many blanks among the shopfronts which are not yet filled.

    1. Miffy. the disturbance in Albert Street was the excavation of the long deep hole to install the Tunnel Boring Machine. Once the TBM is in place it moves at a depth of 20 metres, more or less, leaving the surface undisturbed. In theory the TBM installation hole for a tunnel under Dominion Road could be between Denbigh Ave and the motorway disturbing only eleven houses.

    1. If the SMART report from 2016 is any indication, then heavy rail would require more expensive, more heavily-engineered formations/viaducts/tunnels south of Onehunga, particularly around the Kirkbride Interchange and underneath the future second runway. The 2016 report gave a figure of $2 billion for Onehunga-Airport heavy rail; twice as much as light rail along the same route. National estimated $3.5 billion in their 2020 transport policy.

      There’s also the fact (which ALR correctly identify) that you’d also need to double-track and fully-grade separate the existing Onehunga branch and Penrose Junction, which could cost $0.5-1 billion or more. And that doesn’t take into account any improvements necessary on the rest of the network – signalling, tracks, new rolling stock, etc. – or the costs of urban regeneration which I assume are being bundled into the light rail costs.

      Based on those figures, plus inflation and the cost overruns I wouldn’t expect extending the Onehunga line to the Airport to cost anything less than $5-6 billion at least – add on another $1-2 billion for the still-necessary light rail to Mt Roskill.

      You’d still need to build separate mass transit solutions for the central Isthmus, the North Shore, and the Northwest. Extending the Onehunga branch to the Airport doesn’t solve the bus capacity issues in the city centre and along Dominion Rd. And branching heavy rail to the North Shore or Northwest is prohibitively impractical (poor through-routing options; limited CRL capacity; Northern Busway unable to take heavy rail).

      Adding more buses to Sandringham Rd and Dominion Rd isn’t practical. Dominion Rd in particular has suffered from crowded buses and congestion even with the pre-COVID 2 minute peak frequencies.

  14. It’s all a good idea LR is great the best but Auckland has missed the tram as far as getting a system in,they had it and dug it all up years ago too late now too expensive and the powers that be will continually argue what type to put in and down what street ,along with the general population. Bi articulated trolley buses on proposed LR routes and HR as far as Albany at least, could of had it all underway by now instead of day dreaming about something that will never be built this side of dooms day but not even that will happen so good luck with it.

    1. Bi-articulated trolleybuses aren’t the best substitute for light rail. They require additional space to turn around at each end, they have higher OPEX, they produce particulate air pollution from the rubber tyres, and their max feasible capacity (200 per bus, every 1 minute = 12,000 people/hr/direction) is still much lower than that of light rail (700 per 99m LRV, every 2 minutes = 21,000 people/hr/direciton) unless you want to build a fully grade-separate 4 lane busway corridor.

      Heavy rail is not feasible to the North Shore; the Northern Busway is not built to take HR axle loads, and the cost of tunneling from Aotea to the Shore would likely be much greater than light rail or light metro options. It also would not readily allow for a Northwestern line.

    1. I would put it more that in that article, Cullen articulated the party’s car dependent thinking of the past, with all its misconceptions and poor assumptions. Car dependence has not served the people the party purports to support, and luckily some of the younger MP’s are trying to change the party’s position to become more progressive.

      Cullen was a man of talent, but he was not a forward thinker on transport.

      1. Funny in the intervening months:

        Nobody can make the light rail project have a positive benefit-cost ratio, whatever heroic assumptions about inner-city redevelopment are made.

        That this has been proven objectively false.

        1. KLK, they’re still adding them and they still make up a lot of the benefits. But the costs of new highways are getting so out of control they still come out with 0.2 BCR’s

        2. What do you mean what a rort that was? WEB are are still being used as to get the CRL over 1.0. What you really meant was ‘what a rort they are.’

        1. Parts of Symonds street were resurfaced 4 years ago, and they are out there at the moment with the road narrowed, pedestrians diverted, business interrupted, doing those same parts again.
          Late last year there were enormous ruts in the pavement and cracks were growing at a remarkable rate. Symonds street is simply a busy bus corridor like bus fans imagine, the same maintenance would have to happen anywhere across Auckland if you started running similar amounts of buses on existing streets.

          They’re laying thick asphalt, just like they were 4 years ago. This simply cannot be a sustainable cost, the lifetime of this infrastructure is becoming warehouse electronics territory due to massive axle loading, and well over 100 buses an hour.

          Short of digging a meter + down, to fully redo the bed of the road, improve the subsurface, this wont change. If you want to reconstruct full roads that deep, disrupt and renew services, lay much more expensive and exotic asphalt or concrete, then where are the savings over putting sleepers and steel in coming from?

          The truth is that AT is already coming up against these issues, the cost is hidden within the billions for roading renewals. There has to be longer term thinking than just adding more buses and another x% to renewals until the road is closed for a good portion of the year.

        2. Out of curiosity, would you say the same thing if a new road is proposed?

          So, as an example, Penlink. No need for a new road for private cars, because they can already go via Silverdale. Just a busway instead?

        3. People just don’t realise just how tough buses are on suburban streets, most of which were not constructed to take the modern double deckers or tri-axle buses, which run heavier axle loadings than most trucks. The new busways at Albany and Panmure, have a concrete base covered with a high strength SMA, or mastic asphalt surface.

  15. I’m hoping for it to be Light Metro – best BCR, makes most sense for the future. Tunnelled LR is my #2 preference though, and it’s my pick for what they’ll go for.

    I still think they should’ve gone with NW first from Mercury Lane (initially as going into the city would be too expensive and can be done later when numbers grow), as it’s a far less controversial route through mostly motorway corridor.

  16. I now hope this falls through.
    I can’t see any logic in this plan.
    And feel we are getting all the expense of a metro but with all down sides of using tram trains but with none of street appeal tram trains offer.

    1. Who’s talking about tram-trains? These are specialised trams designed to mix in with conventional trains on conventional rail systems, as well as run along the street. I haven’t seen that proposed for Auckland.

  17. A decision on the central Auckland light rail/ light metro might be deferred until the CRL and the third freight rail projects are completed. Once these projects are operational they will in part show where the public transport systems in the central area and towards the south are best added to.
    What happens to the future of an Avondale-Southdown heavy rail line (is there a flat enough route for heavy rail?) if all the money is spent on a Dominion Road/ Mangere underground light/ metro rail project?
    There are developing autonomous buses and pantograph charging electric buses.(with smaller lighter batteries) Combine the two for 24/7 (minus maintenance time) driverless operation, to spread the commuter travel times.

    If the government wants to spend some more money on rail. The electrification of rail sections, Pukekohe to Frankton (about85km) and Hamilton to Tauranga (Sulphur Point) 107km might be done as emission reducer projects. Third rail line all the way to Papakura for freight and passenger service efficiency.
    In the above article, the render of the street scene of the light rail, I assume the light rail is powered by batteries/ in station pantograph re-charging or hydrogen to have no overhead electrical wires?

  18. This is a strategic arterial PT link that provides redundancy and resilience if there are maintenance works or train crashes etc north of Puhinui on the main line.

    To fully achieve this function it needs to be built with the flexibility and safeguarding to eventually extend from the Airport to Puhinui.

    Given its strategic nature, tunnelled or grade separated LRT/light metro is appropriate.

    1. Might as well build it with 3 foot 6 inch gauge and have it connect up with the so called heavy rail network at Puhinui then I can’t think there would be much difference between a light metro train and our CAF trains anyway except light metro is usually std gauge.

      1. And how would such a system operate?

        I see more benefit in high frequency RTN lines of different modes with convenient interchanges, independent in operation from one another. The Airport-Botany route is already slated for a busway/trackless tram/light rail line in future, interchanging with the CC2M light rail/metro at the airport and the Southern & Eastern lines at Puhinui.

        Triple- and quadruple-tracking on the heavy rail lines would likely offer enough redundancy in the event of accidents or works.

        1. I suppose a train would come from Papakura or further south and branch off about Wiri then travel via the Airport and Mount Roskill and then to a city terminal. Still it wasn’t my idea I just wanted to think about it. I am in the surface light rail camp however I would terminate it at Mount Roskill. If you are going to have tunnels then what you put in them is an open question so it could be heavy rail.

        2. I don’t believe there’s any advantage to direct South-Airport services; not with the Puhinui interchange and future Airport-Botany mass transit. People could easily & quickly change from trains coming from Papakura, Pukekohe, Hamilton etc. to buses or trackless trams headed to the Airport – or to Manukau, or to East Auckland.

          Whether surface light rail or tunneled light metro, my preference would be to connect up Airport light rail to a North Shore line and a Northwestern line, keeping the system independent from heavy rail. That enables highest frequencies on all rapid transit modes.

  19. If it is indeed the sub-optimal tunneled LRT, I wonder how much of the decision is driven by the North Shore?

    If they have decided already that one of the two LRT options will be chosen over the HR one, then that means – as a continuous north-south line – south of the harbour has to be LRT. But that raises the problem of surface level impacting businesses and cars, so hence, we must tunnel…

    1. Well the Shore and NW would both benefit more from light metro than light rail as both lines would be fully segregated and therefore can be automated for efficiency and frequency

      1. Automation is probably the strongest argument for light metro – the higher frequencies, the ability to run those very high frequencies 24/7 for low OPEX, the resulting increases in capacity & convenience.

        On the other hand, the North Shore & NW light rail lines would already be fully segregated, assuming that the Northern Busway corridor is converted. Only the Wynyard-Mt Roskill would be street-running.

        With 80-90km/h LRVs there wouldn’t be much travel time difference between LM and LRT for the North Shore & Northwest corridors; maybe a couple of minutes slower for on-street LRT between Wynyard & Aotea.

        1. The opex saving of automation is a tiny fraction of the extra cost of capital required to automate. The extra $6b capital is equivalent to $240m opex a year in perpetuity. That’s enough to pay the wages of 3,000 full time drivers.

        2. Huh – automated light metro had always been presented/promoted in the past as having lower OPEX due to automation (and higher ridership, due to 24/7 operation and the constant headways). Wasn’t aware of that capital cost of installing ATO.

        3. Yes would have around half the opex cost for the same route and timetable. But opex is nothing compared to the cost of capital on a metro line. If you have to make it 100% grade separated, sealed off and controlled and have special vehicles and signaling systems you will spend billions more than if you can do a couple of level crossings or the odd street section.

  20. Has the transport context not changed quite dramatically in a covid / post covid world where many (although far from all) people can work remotely for at least 2-3 days per week?

    1. Watch Digimon Adventure… the original series or (based on the only episode I’ve seen to date) the remake they did in 2020, doesn’t matter.

      Notice how, with the exception of that one episode (in the original) where they hitch hike, how independently mobile the main characters are? Despite being children?

      Public transport isn’t about commuting… it’s about mobility.

  21. I think the solution has been found. Simeon Brown in the Herald today insisting light rail be dumped for 2 new highways.

    Luckily, its paywalled so I could not be baited into reading it. Not sure I need to though

        1. Yep, let’s solve access for the isthmus by building a duplicate motorway and truckway to its south. Tarmac-addicted dunces.

    1. Reeve’s PTUA hard at work brigading again? Considering the theme of dogmatic heavy rail advocacy and unrealistically low cost claims it could be likely.

    1. That tunnel is only 2.5km long, its just the short core of the surface light rail network, kinda analogous to the city rail link. If they were doing the same as Auckland proposes the tunnel would reach to the next city.

      Raises a good question, why haven’t they looked at a short tunnel for just the city centre and running in the middle of streets elsewhere like they have in Stuttgart and other places?

      1. 2.5, 8, whats the difference?

        why haven’t they looked at a short tunnel for just the city centre and running in the middle of streets elsewhere like they have in Stuttgart and other places
        Because the city center and dominion road basically present the same problem, an absolute pile of intersections.

    1. The addition of the North Shore as a consideration for (additional) rapid transit ahead of the North West is a sick joke.

      1. It is a good choice if you like ribbon cutting ceremonies on a tunnel or a bridge.

        You get an extra irony achievement because other than the busway the North Shore barely has any functional bus network at all.

        1. Barely any fuctional bus network ?
          Thats just a drive by comment isnt it … doesnt match reality .
          Hint the local network is distributor for the busway

        2. “local network is distributor for the busway” → no, that is not how a public transport network works.

          And even if you look at it that way, it does a pretty poor job at that. Most buses that cross the busway are not frequent services.

          The next PT investment the North Shore (and probably some others) actually needs are a non-zero amount of frequent cross-town services. It is nothing glamorous, but it has to happen at some point.

        3. I guess that must be an “other than” situation similar to how I’m perplexed to how I keep getting left out of the All Blacks, even though I’m overweight, have no fitness, no talent and don’t play rugby anymore.

          Other than that it’s a total mystery to me.

        4. Maybe you need to try for the coaching Job? Your CV sounds familiar to Ian Foster’s and look where he is right now.

        5. Your All Black selection is a great analogy. The north Shore has 2 routes that are up to scratch (busway and Glenfield Road). Everything else is inadequate. It’s similar to a tall 25 year old having the physique, but nothing else for Rugby.

        6. Picking cross-town trips doesn’t change the actual point I’m making in that you have a massive dedicated busway alongside SH1 and have done for some time, which is more than some other rapidly growing parts of Auckland will be able to say for some time now, possibly decades.

        7. Well yes the original point is that it doesn’t make sense to build a second rapid transit line to the Shore before building the first one to the northwest. Obviously, yes that is true. I don’t see anyone arguing against it.

          My other point is that it is also not even the next improvement needed on the North Shore. That is to make an actual network. Nothing glamorous, but a bus network just doesn’t work well if most lines go north to south.

          I don’t know the current situation in the northwest, it looks a bit less wide on a map so maybe it would be less of a problem. But still, that busway is going to go to Westgate. Can you get there by bus right now? If not, that busway is not going to help you.

        8. OK Bus Driver, so how much connected network do you see on the Shore? Do you see any frequent lines that connect to places of the busway? Do you see many places where you can reach Takapuna on a frequent line?

          I also don’t think that fixing this costs billions of dollars. It should definitely happen before (or maybe while) we think about boring a metro tunnel across the harbour.

        9. The North Shore has a very well connected network. The real problem is most of the important connections aren’t turn up and go frequency which makes the connections fairly useless.

          It wouldn’t take much to fix, about four or five routes upgraded to frequent would do it. Say the 941, 942, 814, 856, maybe a couple more.

      2. Even more reason why they should get services on the existing (and recently upgraded) rail line past Swanson to the likes of Huapai and Helensville. It literally could be done tomorrow if they wanted.

        1. “Even more reason why they should get services on the existing (and recently upgraded) rail line past Swanson to the likes of Huapai and Helensville. It literally could be done tomorrow if they wanted.”

          Could be done tomorrow if we had stations to stop at, or trains to run the services. We should just get on with the bus shoulders and stations already.

        2. There will be some ADL DMU’s that will becoming available in September if they spend a number of $’s on them . and have someone to tidy up the stations that have been sitting idle all these years .
          And keep the bean counters out of the equation as they will say we can’t afford it .

        3. Could have shaved off a few billion from LRT by having it at street level and diverted that to a proper Bus RTN for the NW. Like the North Shore you would have had a relatively quick and perfectly adequate RTN for the next 20yrs

    2. Bugger indeed. The carbon estimates alone are mind boggling. And the modelling! Some results that demonstrate the flawed assumptions and methodology so clearly that honestly I would’ve expected any lay person – let alone people with some transport knowledge – to have sent it back with a demand for overhauling the modelling processes.

      This would all make sense if the ultimate goal of WK here is to wipe out advocates through depression, using the four-prong approach of bad cycling design, bad climate design, bad safety design and bad public transport design.

  22. So they’ve gone with the tunneled LR option… and are actively considering a North Shore link.
    At least they have confirmed that a North Shore service will be a new line rather than converting the busway! I’m guessing they’ll go through Northcote and Glenfield in that case unless the tunnel comes out near Taka in which case it’ll run up roughly along East Coast Rd.

    1. I think the plans were for the new route to go (north) through Takapuna and up to Smales farm. From there it would largely duplicate the busway but extend into Orewa.

      There was a post a few months ago about an alternative route up through birkenhead and Glenfield, which looked interesting.

    2. If its a part surface link on Isthmus its going to connect to the Busway …which always had the option of adding LR tracks and pantograph at some stage to run with existing buses.

    3. “and are actively considering a North Shore link”

      Aotea Station is already being future proofed for LRT to the North. The plan has always been to remove the buses from the Northern Busway and to replace them with Light Rail.

  23. Not necessarily, because the part of the busway on the lower north shore is looking like it needs to be retained. The forecasted demand cannot be addressed by rail alone.

    There is a post that showed the three options being considered and (from memory) two only aligned with the busway north of Smales Farm I think. And even then they complimented, rather than replaced, it.

    Maybe someone can post the link, I couldn’t see it.

  24. Wow this is even more pathetic than the harbour pedestrian bridge. So much for relieving bus congestion on Dominion Rd and in the city. What happened to all that amenity from surface trams? And the most expensive option humanly possible. $14 billion…. BILLION! And that’ll blow out, you just know it.

    Utterly pathetic this whole saga. Ardern and her cabinet couldn’t project manage their way out of a cardboard box, let alone put this monstrosity together.

    Bus lanes, bus priority and express services. They work. They’re cheap. And they can be done pretty quickly with comparatively little disruption. This is going nowhere. Oh and of course Simon Wilson supports it. What a shill.

    1. It certainly does raise the question; if bus congestion on Dom Rd and into the city was a problem that needed solving, how will this do it?

      I guess the Sandringham route might pick up some of the current Dom Rd users. But surely that new capacity will be filled sooner rather than later.

      1. It doesn’t raise the question at all.

        The risk of Auckland’s needs being ignored by Central Government agencies based in Wellington is and was obvious.

    2. “Bus lanes, bus priority and express services. They work. They’re cheap. And they can be done pretty quickly with comparatively”

      Isn’t the whole reason we are tunnelling because we can put in buslanes at the expense of cars and carparks?

    3. Bus lanes & infrastructure aren’t a permanent long-term solution. Buses likely won’t be able to cope with demand when intensification brings 3-6+ storey development to the Isthmus – a higher-capacity mode such as light rail or light metro will be necessary at some point.

      Ditto with the Airport-Botany route. The current Airport Link bus is alright, but improving it into a full busway running all the way up to East Auckland will eventuate.

      Mangere is going to need something better, transit-wise, than some rather winding frequent buses too.

      1. I think East Auckland is comparable to the North Shore and the implementation of the busway.

        In a perfect world, you would build rail from Day One. But a busway gives you fairly quick access to a RTN route for the next 20yrs, after which time it can be converted if necessary.

        However its going to be fun watching Simeon Brown – currently demanding LRT be scrapped in favour of a truck highway – pivot to demanding LRT through his electorate once he sees how popular the CC2M line will be. No more “loser cruisers”, thanks.

    4. There’s a planned station for the Universities and the line is running roughly down the Sandringham road corridor but not necessarily. Given they are tunnels, they can go wherever they want it to go, likely taking in the new housing divisions in Mt Roskill. The outrage from surface light rail fans is quite incredible to behold. It was never going to politically work. People down that corridor don’t want to watch construction for years without end. I see the chosen option as the best choice and it’ll do far more to get more Aucklanders out of cars than surface light rail does. It’s time for the bickering to stop and work to begin. What is chosen is essentially what this blog advocated for 10 years ago – except without the tunnels. Now so many on here are shitty because their preferred mode wasn’t chosen and would rather vote in the clowns who are ideologically and fanatically opposed to anything even remotely connected to rail. I’m incredulous.

      1. I think the main reason people are ‘shitty’ is because it turned into a $14b monster project that will either go nowhere until the next government dumps it, or if they do proceed it will chew up all the funding for the next ten or fifteen years while nothing else happens. I don’t think anyone would particularly mind tunnels if they didn’t add multiple billions to the cost.

      2. “Now so many on here are shitty because their preferred mode wasn’t chosen and would rather vote in the clowns who are ideologically and fanatically opposed to anything even remotely connected to rail.”

        Who the hell is talking about voting National because of this? People are angry precisely because they know this government is the only one that would even consider a project like this, and they are ballsing it up. Everyone knows a Nat led government would just start bulldozing the countryside for more motorways and let the cities choke on their petrol fumes

      3. Exactly. Underground route – deep underground – will mean negligible disruption to people and businesses on the surface, apart from obvious carefully chosen ventilation and access holes. Other than that – just the arse end of a TBM with concrete segments going in, and rock/spoil coming out. Meanwhile Auckland’s merry congestion hell can go on as usual.

        What’s bad about that?

        1. – The expense
          – The selection of an indirect route connecting only existing dense nodes, seemingly to avoid upsetting NIMBYs & businessowners associations.
          – The small number of stations on the isthmus that probably won’t adequately replace buses into the CBD
          – The fact that “tunnelled light rail” still runs on-street in Mangere, when a fully grade-separate driverless light metro would only cost 10-15% more.

        2. – and what it confirms about how outdated our transport modelling and investment evaluation processes are.

          You’re right, JBM, that there are far bigger problems to be fighting that this one. But the road projects, the PT projects, even the streetscape improvement projects all point to a system that’s stuck.

          We can fix so much stuff if we start using the right processes and tools. Disruption needs to be embraced. Reallocation needs to happen at pace.

          If “it was never going to politically work” here, where there are so many benefits that are easy to illustrate, we don’t have a chance of creating the city our children deserve. We’re stuck in an unsustainable system, but only due to a lack of imagination and strength, and a leadership unwilling to harness modern engagement methods.

        3. “If ‘it was never going to politically work’ here, where there are so many benefits that are easy to illustrate, we don’t have a chance of creating the city our children deserve.”

          Thanks Heidi. The bigger picture matters.

  25. . Its not my nature to be negative by the way but this light rail is quite simply unacceptable.

    Before I propose an alternative via Google MyMap I shared yesterday.. still improving it now..

    This lite rail plan is such a failure here are some reasons not being talked about yet I love to add to the discussion to reject it:

    1.) Travelling underground is a terrible experience. We all hate the London Underground and anyone who lives there quickly realises it better to pay a few pounds extra to catch a proper on surface quality rail like I did from Watford and hated if I had to take the underground.. Hated it. And everyone does.
    underground is only if YOU DONT HAVE A SURFACE OPTION ” not the dam preference for Gods sake Labour.

    2.) This will lower the culture of Auckland not increase the culture. Underground from south Auckland will be the beer train for nights. Tagging and all the rest.

    Unlike a Surface Tram line Melbourne bringing Dominion Road a nuance of sophistication and enjoyable dining experience.

    3.) The learning from Heavy rail to Lite Rail will be a massive investment even the electronics are different and will need overseas expertises arrh

    4.) Safety underground OMG

    5.) We need Queen Street to be ripped up and Dominion road and upgraded this is GOOD for the Struggling businesses it the opposite situation to Albert Street underground rail.


  26. So much oppositional passions on this site.
    Tunnelled Light Rail is the ideal solution, if flow on cost constraints on developing the whole network are ignored. If we are to go for the cheaper option of Surface Light Rail it should for now start at a CRL Mt Eden terminus, be under major cross roads and displace all but local motor traffic and parking en route. There will be a major NIMBY response, but will be for the greater good and allow budget for other parts of the network. CRL could displace much Symonds Street bus congestion in conjunction with this plan, based on seamless frequent connections.

    1. ‘Tunneled light rail’ still involves street running in Mangere – which is nonsensical as it slows journeys down and prevents a seamless future upgrade to driverless light metro.

      If the government is really set on spending $14 billion on light rail, they might as well go the $1-2 billion extra and build a 100% grade-separate light metro from the get-go.

      1. I am actually a big fan of light rail metro as well – it would be similar to Sydney Metro. However, it wasn’t chosen and the second best is this tunnelled light rail imo. Besides from the Mangere street-level stage, this option is pretty much very similar in style to the Sydney Metro (ie: big sections tunnelled, big sections above ground grade separated). I’m at the “let’s just get on with it” stage. A mode has been chosen, let’s go.

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