Yesterday the Herald ran a sponsored article from the Auckland Light Rail team (ALR) on their plans for tunnelled light rail. The main point of the article seems to be about trying to justify their solution compared to a surface one. That, combined with it coming at a time when there is no other news or major public discussion about light rail gives it almost a defensive feel, making me wonder if this is in part about fending off some pressure from behind the scenes for a cheaper and more likely to be delivered solution.

Let’s break it down.

The piece starts out well by explaining how the project will allow us to make better use of our existing neighbourhoods, helping to prevent sprawl. It’s great to see this being framed upfront and something that needs to continue to be pushed strongly. The biggest challenge to that is likely to be the Auckland Council who seem determined to prevent change to the inner suburbs in particular, something I’ll come back to later in the post.

Moving on to their proposed solution of tunnelled light rail, the idea of future proofing gets thrown around a lot.

The first light rail line will run in a tunnel from Wynyard Quarter to Mt. Roskill, then jump to the surface through to Onehunga, Māngere and the airport. This alignment was selected because it ensures light rail is built for the future.

With more and more people living in the city, and additional light rail lines planned to the North Shore and Northwest, the tunnel from the city centre and central isthmus is a key feature for several reasons.

“It isn’t just about transport – it’s about planning Auckland’s future and integration, improving housing access and quality of life as well,” says Parker.

Many people saw only the price tag, comparing the initial $14.6 billion initial outlay for tunnelled light rail to about $9 billion for surface light rail.

But tunnelled light rail is preferable to surface light rail because of its future-proofing, he says: “Tunnelled light rail, with a city centre tunnel, will accommodate light rail from Māngere and future lines from the North Shore and North West. With surface light rail, it would be extremely difficult to achieve connections between the services or find the space to build three street level rail lines in the city.

“Tunnelled light rail also means a seamless trip so, in the future, a student can travel from Māngere, for example, to university in Albany. That’s not possible with surface rail. There would have to be transfer points, with several surface lines intersecting in the city centre, overwhelming the area with trains – and negative effects for buses, pedestrians, and cyclists.”

Building surface light rail now, for a cheaper cost, would only postpone solving Auckland’s transport problems to sometime in the future – when attempting to add to surface rail or build tunnelled light rail would add to the overall cost and create ongoing disruption.

“We are simply seeking to avoid a short-term solution which, in years to come, may be seen as short-sighted,” he says. “What we are seeking is something a little like London’s tube system, where multiple lines come together in fixed hubs.”

There are few things to unpack here.

  1. It’s really hard for the public to understand about how the project will improve the communities it passes through when ALR release no information about where the potential stations are likely to be.
  2. I still have no idea how ALR have come up with surface light rail costing $9 billion – even though they say this is peer reviewed. In 2021 dollars this is about $296 million per km which is similar to the recent, issue ridden project in Sydney but is several orders of magnitude larger than almost any other recent surface light rail projects in Australia and other cities.
    Sydney’s procurement issues are a lesson of what not to do, not what we should be aiming for. It is also far more likely that we will see a more infrastructure intensive solution have a cost blowout.
  3. One of the things that most annoys me about the way the project is currently being framed is the idea that we only have one chance to build something and therefore we have to build a solution for 2070 and beyond. As COVID has shown us all too well, it’s hard to predict what will happen a year out, let alone 50 years. Going for a cheaper option now that we might need to upgrade or complement a few decades in the future isn’t a bad thing. Not only does that improve affordability and deliverability but also likely means we get a better overall result as a result of having multiple lines instead of one, giving us a stronger network. Put another way, building on the surface now doesn’t mean we can’t build a tunnel in the future if we need it. In addition:
    • We will always need a surface solution on a corridor like Dominion Rd.
    • Saving six billion dollars means we can afford to start rolling out other lines, like to the Northwest or maybe our Crosstown line, sooner. That means greater benefits for more of Auckland sooner.
    • Suggesting that investing in a surface solution is a wasted investment because it might be busy in 50 years’ time is like saying we should never have built Britomart and upgraded our existing rail network until we could do it at the same time as we were building the City Rail Link.
    • It also gives us a chance to start building capacity and knowledge in the industry which will be instrumental for other projects in Auckland and across New Zealand.
  4. There are many, many examples around the world of surface networks where not only do multiple lines join or intersect with each other but they also interact with pedestrian areas.

  1. There seems to be a strong aversion to transfers. Transfers when done well are not the issue that many transport planners in New Zealand seem to think they are. I find it particularly funny that they go on to reference London’s Tube system as an example of what they’re trying to achieve. The tube is network where transfers are common, so common in fact that just 37% of trips don’t involve a transfer. There is also no reason a surface route can’t provide a single seat trip.

Finally, I also wanted to address the bullet points listed on the advantages of a tunnelled solution.

  • Capacity: Tunnelled light rail can carry up to 17,000 people per hour and will meet demand up to 2070. Surface light rail can carry 8400 per hour at peak and will potentially reach capacity as early as 2051, once the extension of light rail to the North Shore occurs and patronage increases. That’s 20 years sooner than tunnelled rail. “What we build now needs to serve Aucklanders well into the future,” says Parker.

It is true that the tunnelled solution can move about 17,000 people per hour. However, that needs to be shared amongst all the lines using it. What that means is that while there may be some justification for a tunnel through the city centre where multiple lines join together, there isn’t a capacity justification for it through the middle of the isthmus.

  • Time: Travel time across the length of the tunnelled corridor is estimated at 43 minutes, compared to 57m with surface light rail – a 14-minute faster journey end to end. Faster, more frequent and reliable services attract more users and more people out of cars.

The 43 minutes journey time is for a trip from the Airport to Wynyard. Not many people are likely to be doing that journey and most trips will be to destinations along the route or to the middle of the city centre. The journey time to midtown is much closer at only around a five-minute difference.

  • Housing: The tunnelled corridor will cater to 66,000 homes directly along the route, more than 15,000 more dwellings along the corridor than surface light rail will attract. The urban planning aspect of this is to grow housing in Auckland along key rail nodes, as many other countries have done. The rail corridor will attract investment in high-quality urban forms, providing more homes and regeneration.

The number of homes along the route will depend entirely on how much growth is allowed and as mentioned earlier, Auckland Council are determined to prevent anywhere near that level of development from occurring. Putting aside the issue of planning rules, there is also no practical reason to assume that same level of development couldn’t happen with a surface solution. However, we are also seeing with development around our existing rail network, that even when planning rules allow for much more intensive developments, developers are ‘under developing’ sites. Sometimes they build 2-3 storey townhouses right next door to train stations that will be a short trip from the city once the CRL is completed.

There’s no reason this couldn’t be achieved with a surface solution

None of this isn’t to say there isn’t value in a tunnel but if we’re going to go for a tunnelled solution, we should do it properly and go for a light metro solution, which at least allows us the benefit of being able to run automated trains at even higher frequencies. As it stands, the tunnelled light rail solution remains the worst of both worlds.

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  1. This whole thing is so depressing in that we could’ve had some kind of surface light rail running by now if Winston was able to be bribed correctly, instead we’ve ended up with this horribly bloated monstrosity which is going to be cancelled within seconds of National winning the next election

    1. Or if Labour let AT handle it’s own projects and not take it away from them? We got the fuel tax literally for the reason so auckland could borrow more money for projects like this.

      1. It started as a relatively simple project and has turned into a monster in every sense of the word.
        How about building an HR spur from Avondale down to the governments owairaka development for like 100 million and save ourselves 14.9 billion

    2. I have been thinking more about your comment. I agree the whole thing will be cancelled by Nation. Probably it has already been abandoned by Labour but like the Rapid Rail project in the 1970s they will leave it to the next Government to announce that. Even the Light Rail team must know this.

      Probably the real point of the Light Rail team’s press release is to try and keep their soft jobs going a little bit longer by making it harder for the current lot to close it down.

  2. $6 billion not spent on an expensive solution is not necessarily money that is available to do anything else with. By not spending money we do not have, it does not become available to spend on other things. An error in your logic, I think.

    1. If you’re contemplating huge amounts of debt funded capex then ‘what can the same money buy us across the entire region if we don’t spend it on a gold-plated and possibly over-engineered option in one part of the city’ is a valid question.

    2. If you can borrow six billion bucks to spend on tunneling you can borrow six billion bucks to spend on other public transport. There are a lot better transport projects to spend it on that making sure dominion road doesn’t get rail.

    3. If we don’t have the $6 billion (or $29 billion) then why the hell are we signing up for something this expensive?

  3. The obsession with one seat journeys is ‘driven’ by a car centric world view. In a world of personal car ownership and usage swapping from one car to another part way through a journey is quite rightly an absurd idea. Let it go.

    1. And yet along the NW they are telling community they must get used to transfers as that is how the busway will operate – until the light rail comes along ( also requiring transfers) So are they saying transfers being good or bad depends on which part of the city you live in?

      1. AT fully understand transfers can be made into non issues, if there is are high frequencies of services. They are somewhat successful in implementing this.

        Transfers are part of PT everywhere. The ALR clowns not getting that is incredibly on brand.

        1. You say transfers don’t matter, I agree they don’t but look at the huge amount of fuss people are kicking up at the planned transfers for the Onehunga Line at Newmarket for services to Britomart. It’s like the world is ending.

        2. That only comes once every half hour, which isn’t enough for transfers. The light rail would be every five minutes, which is.

    2. The transfers justification makes whoever wrote it look horrifically out of touch with the genuine experiences of public transport users. You want to believe that the officials behind this have at least some clue of what’s going on, but statements like that make Auckland Transport planners look extraordinarily competent by comparison.

      1. This is not really AT. This is Tommy “I love the smell of tarmac” Parker’s ALR team. Saying they don’t get PT is an understatement.

        1. Indeed, I had been saying ALR makes AT’s PT team look heavenly competent by comparison.

          Frankly, the notion that significantly fewer people would use a underground metro if it required a connection for ~37km journeys is so ridiculous to be startlingly worrying as to who is giving them advice.

          Does this mean their patronage models include transfers at all? Does it assume people in Maangere will make bus connections to reach light rail? Will light rail stations be transfer-friendly for people coming off buses? Have they even looked at how the bus network would integrate?

          So many questions this ridiculous line raises about the competency of the process underway.

        2. “Does it assume people in Maangere will make bus connections to reach light rail”

          No, why do you think they have run a tunnel over to the arse end of sandringham, then run on suburban streets wiggling through mangere to put a tram stop on every block. They don’t understand transit or connections, so they’re planning this rail line like your grandmas shopping bus.

    3. “Travel time across the length of the tunnelled corridor is estimated at 43 minutes, compared to 57m with surface light rail – a 14-minute faster journey end to end”

      Ha ha these clowns are really trying hard to make their dog do tricks. End-to-end is only because their super expensive tunnel got cut back short, while the light rail carries on to Britomart and Fanshaw street.

      If they want to wring their hands about transfers, how about mentioning their tunnel means people have to transfer to get to downtown!

  4. At the moment, 2050 is widely considered a plausible armageddon; if suitable action is not taken to reduce emissions and reverse climate change. Therefore, if surface light rail will serve Tamaki Makaurau until 2051, it is perfect, and also might not be flooded by rising sea levels. Now is the time to keep it simple because we humans have been proved stupid!

    1. The government should be making decisions based on climate science. The money they are proposing to spend on tunnelling to serve ridership predictions for 2070 is needed for an affordable solution that creates short term modeshift. Substantial modeshift is the only pathway to a climate-stable 2070, and it requires road reallocation.

      The politicians need to wise-up about why ALR aren’t saying this.

      1. Surely that “affordable solution” is articulated electric buses. Dedicated bus lanes the length of SH20, Dominion Road and Queen Street. Probably get change from $500 million if done right.
        $9 billion for surface LR seems like the worst possible outcome to me: slow, not future proof, overpriced. And if the same thing is done for NW and Shore, it could all up costing more than a single tunnel. Now if they could do surface level for say $3 billion I’d be on board.

        1. The surface light rail option is clearly way overpriced. But that’s not due to the mode, it’s due to their inability to understand the scale of road reallocation possible.

        2. If they insist on the tunnel, then dedicated buses (electric) is the more sensible option. But then that probably still means removal of parking spaces and lanes, so we would probably get shoved a bus-tunnel anyway….

          Let’s be honest about why surface rail is so expensive; its the cost of an indirect route and of not disturbing car use on the surface. Its ridiculous.

        3. The affordable solution is reallocation of road space to protected bike lanes.
          That’s it. No great mystery.

        4. No, lets not have any more rubber particles running off into our harbours than we need.

      2. “Now if they could do surface level for say $3 billion I’d be on board.” – which I was before they did this study and found it would cost $9 billion.

        1. The surface rail cost includes moving a power cable (that apparently will take years) and buying several hundred properties to ensure, no car parks are left behind.

  5. With the revenue that Efeso Collins is suggesting from public transport I think that we will end up with a single tok tok running up and down Dominion Road, with ongoing talks with Eoin Musk for sponsorship to make it electric.

  6. It is all making the 2015 $1billion for light rail on Dominion Rd and $1.63 billion for heavy rail to the airport seem like a bargain.

  7. I would like to understand how either option would work from a customer perspective and which is likely to encourage the most use. My feeling is the visibity of surface light rail, and ease of hopping on and off, would make it more attractive to all types of users and especially shorter trips. Does the table of travel time include access/boarding time or just travel time onboard?

    1. yes and also I want to know, how long will it take to reach the tunnel rail from the surface? Unless the tunnel train move faster than the surface light rail.

      1. Kingsland station is 50 meters above sea level. It will be at sea level at Onehunga. So like twice as far down as Britomart easily. Hope the escalators don’t break…

        1. “At sea level”. That can’t be right.

          What happened to the rising sea levels the climate alarmists are always banging on about?

    2. I agree with Paula Bennett, that surface light rail using low floor units/trams is about moving large number of people between stops more efficiently not about the quickest time from airport to mid town and the ease of getting on and off vehicles.

    3. No, the travel times don’t include the time spent to access the platforms. I’ve timed it at Britomart for someone walking at just over 1 minute from the time you enter the CPO to the edge of the platforms. It is longer again if you’re wanting to go further down the train or if you’re not able to move as fast as I can.
      For most of the light rail stations I’d expect them to be a bit shallower but I suspect we’d still be looking at 45 seconds at least and longer for those with disabilities or say parents with prams who need to use a lift.
      By comparison, on a surface solution, depending on the design you could be off the train and at your destination in as little as 10 seconds.

  8. Yeah everybody looks around Auckland agrees the problem is it’s so close to being OVERWHELMED WITH TRAINS.

  9. Personally I agree with the tunnelled option if their costings are correct. A 50% increase for a tunnelled solution seems sensible to me. If that tunnel is used by 3 lines then its much less than 50% per line to make them all ~5 mins quicker and more reliable. Whether that tunnel should be LR or metro is another story.
    As for surface level cost comparisons, I would say you can at least double if not triple any cost seen in another place and time. Building anything in this country at the moment costs a fortune. If anything the Sydney costs might be lower than ours.

    1. What would you suggest would be the cost comparison for a tunnel here compared with overseas examples
      “As for surface level cost comparisons, I would say you can at least double if not triple any cost seen in another place and time”

    2. The city part of the tunnel could be used by all three lines, and that might be very useful indeed

      … but they’ve also whacked on an extra eight km of tunnel and eight or so more underground stations to get from the city to mount roskill. That bit would only ever be used by one line. That seems like a seriously dumb way to get there.

    3. I also agree with the tunneled option being by far and away the best solution. Three lines using the core section Wynnard to Aotea then they branch to the Mangere/Airport, West and the North Shore. West would be in a short tunnel until it reaches the North Western Motorway then surface or elevated until it reaches the terminus, the Shore would be tunneled for the first portion then elevated or surface to Orewa, maybe the section from Silverdale to Orewa should be tunneled.

      It just needs to be started, the govt should sign bullet proof contracts ASAP so when this govt loses the next election (highly likely) the incoming govt can’t wriggle out of it.

    1. Or its just a good plan to get three very decent new train lines to the city centre. To not plan ahead and do all three ad hoc sounds a bit crazy to me.
      I just can’t see how they could do NW, airport and North Shore all surface level through the city, all intersecting with each other and heavy rail to enable transfers, and still leave room for buses. To me a tunnel will need to be built at some stage, so why build it twice.

      1. Two things. This thinking implies the surface route would somehow become useless with a future city centre tunnel. Why? Cities everywhere even with the best most OVERWHELMING metros all still have surface transit. Does Melb have no LR cos it has trains and metros? London have no buses? Budapest the city with the busiest surface LR lines in the world also has a very good and widespread metro.

        No if we build for the next few decades and this succeeds so well we need more capacity then this is SUCCESS. We get to add even more lines and routes and access. But, importantly we have spent and invested proportionately and in a timely way.

        These LR people don’t seem to understand the time value of money.

        1. Yes you do need a surface route but I doubt we need a surface level LR sitting on top of a tunnel LR, not even the likes of London do that. The surface route could be buses which we already have.
          To me it all depends on when they plan to do NW and North Shore. If they are doing all 3 in the next say 20 years, why bugger around building 3 surface routes which may cost even more than one tunnel? If they are more like 40 years out, then yes I agree don’t build a tunnel yet.

        2. Yes. I can understand the appeal of enocrmous construction projects – even if I have no respect for people promoting them when the evidence is so secure that this will hog the funding and construction capacity required for real climate action – which demands a whole raft of smaller, short term projects instead.

          But I do not understand why they are ignoring the time value of money and basic economics. That, to me, is why the whole thing stinks. They’re not playing by their own rules. They’re either angling for nothing to happen or angling for big contracts for the big construction companies. I don’t know which, but either way, it’s rotten.

        3. Yes 100% to FinanceforCities post.

          Build a surface LR system asap. IF it’s a huge success then add more lines … All the inner isthmus main spine roads could have LR which would spread out demand for any one line.

          The North West, North Shore and East Auckland all desperately need rapid transit solutions too, let’s not put all our debt funding in one line.

      2. Because you have to spend a heap of money maintaining and servicing debt on something you didn’t need for 50 years. The people to decide what they need in 2070 are people closer to that time, not random speculation from half a century prior.

        Not to mention the opportunity costs.

        1. The extra $6,000,000,000 they want for the tunnel under sandringham means an extra quarter billion dollars every year in additional payments (that’s before it blows out to double that)

          You could do the surface version then spend another quarter billion on other transport every year for the next forty years and you’d still be saving money.

      3. If we look at the Copenhagen model as the first line is in build, the next line will be in design, then started immediately afterward the first is completed; Copenhagen has built 4 lines since construction started on the Metro in 1996. Extensions to the existing lines and a 5th are being planned.

  10. 2051 and 2070 are a long way in the future.
    Avondale-Southdown is scheduled to be built for freight purposes long before either of these dates, I think the latest date I’ve seen was around 2032. It could provide passenger services too and would certainly upset any estimates of patronages through the area

    1. Avondale Southdown will never be built cos it doesn’t solve the problem as it fails to bypass the Avondale incline. A full solution for similar cost will be needed as Northland and Northport grows.

        1. No it should be heavy rail. Because that’s what it’s designated for. It provides greater capacity and allows both freight and passenger.

        2. What happens if/when Northport becomes the replacement for POA? Do you really want freight trains clogging up the inner network 24/7, this would lead to some pretty heavy disruptions to passenger trains.

        3. How many trains will it be? Like it said below ports of tga to metroport in auck run 14 a day. 7 each way. One every 3 and a half hours each way roughly. If Northport grew massively and got to those levels then 14 trains a day wouldn’t clog up the network if they went down the A-S line but might cause issues if they went through the busier Newmarket part of the network. Just schedule them before and after peak. Have few more at night than during the day and bobs your uncle. Also it might be doubtful that auck yard and CT site could deal with that extra number of trains to strip and reload in the space they have. So there will likely be a CT site in the northwest somewhere.

        4. The ASL wouldn’t do that much unclogging because it would only end up at a junction between Avondale and Mt Albert. Exactly the same impact on the western line.

        1. What would be the purpose of Avondale Southdown as HR? To separate freight and metro services, sharing the double track slow and wiggly western line.
          Tripling or quading on the same route Like on the NMTL is not possible really anywhere, but especially through the Newmarket Junction, nor desirable. The current route is good for metro services as landuse has grown up around its stations. However this makes it a poor freight route, which wants to be as direct and level as possible, and away from dense habitation.

          ASL bypasses Newmarket and some of inner western line, good, but fails to bypass the level crossings of the Avondale incline nor the fixed double track sub level New Lynn Station (super expensive to a 3rd or 4th anywhere here). So to grow both freight volumes (esp with NorthPort) and Metro services post CRL separating these uses becomes vital and best solution is a new freight route, as ASL does but insufficiently.


        2. Kiwirail built the 3rd main because there are close to 40 services a day heading to/from auckland from the south. Most of the country is to the south and so it makes sense to separate freight and passenger there. However to the north you can’t justify building a massive tunnel just to separate them. There’s only one destination up there at WREI and Northport.
          If we imagine Northport grows massively and has the same output as ports of tga currently then that would be 14 trains a day between Northport and auckland. Enough to justify the Avondale southdown line, but nowhere near enough to justify a massive tunnel to separate freight and passenger.

          The post you attached is massive overkill.

          Also The passenger potential of the a-s line connecting auckland with a circle line are underestimated in my opinion. The inner west-then Avondale southdown-and then eastern line back to the city running as a Continuous line would tie any network together. There should be only 2 HR lines in my opinion. One the circle line and second a Swanson to city to papakura line. With proper HR transfer stations at Avondale and a grade separated one at southdown somewhere.

          After you have the key elements of the network in place you can build other routes that interconnect of whatever type.

        3. If the ASL route has passenger value then LR delivers it. Clearly not going to build parallel HR and LR there?

        4. The a-s is already designated. Kiwirail already has the land and the spans on the Mt roskill motorway are already built with extra space under them to allow for a double track rail line all the way to Avondale. Most of it is through open grass areas.
          To Chris H – Definitely won’t be building LR next to HR. That’s why I never supported this LR plan. It just duplicates the crl in the city then duplicates the western line to Kingsland then duplicates the a-s line from Wesley to onehunga.
          I like the potential of the a-s to connect to the other heavy rail lines to create a circle line.(eastern line to a-s to inner west then to city and back to Eastern) It doesn’t matter the mode. If the eastern line/Inner west was already LR then I would favor LR on the A-S.
          Living on the circle line in auckland would be a desirable thing as in many other cities with circle lines and create a proper network, and all it takes is the A-S line to be built.
          Also allowing for the freight usage as well.

        5. I don’t really think the designation matters. We haven’t sliced a new freight rail line or motorway alignment through a suburban area in decades? Even waterview which is mostly open space above was forced into a tunnel.

          Doing a HR line which will carry freight is an entirely different prospect to, eg electric buses. I’m not convinced that A-S will ever be built as a HR line, but it could be useful for other lighter touch modes.

        6. I think the designation does matter. Kiwirail already own the land and it’s quite extensive. That will save quite a bit on land purchases. And as I said before the spans on the motorway overbridges along the route have already been built wide enough to accommodate a double track rail line due to the designation being there.
          I haven’t seen any analysis of how much it would cost in full though.
          Not building the a-s as heavy rail would be classic auckland planning of cutting its potential short imo.

  11. Not only “how do you enable high-density development” but also “how do you prevent low-density (2-3 story) development soaking up the opportunity for high density?” Especially difficult if the infrastructure for high-density living won’t be there for decades.

  12. How do they justify the 13min light rail travel time between Wynard and midtown? It’s a 7min cycle from Metro Halsley St to The Civic. Are they making it look bad by saying there won’t be any traffic light priority and it’ll have to share general traffic lanes through the city?

    1. Yup, they’ve leant on every scale to insist surface LR is slow (no priority or separation) and super expensive (massive property purchase instead of traffic lane repurposing). In the article we can clearly see the priors that led to these decisions, and the subsequent unbelievable numbers and dead heat BRCs.

      Maybe they shouldn’t have put a motorway guy in charge of transit and city-shaping project?

      His job is to rebalance the city with trains and access, yet his commitment to his prior work helping to create the problem of a city overwhelmed with cars prevents him understanding how and why to do this.

  13. This divergent debate suggests that a general Transport-101 course is needed; pursuant to which priorities might be established:
    1. Regional Rail Freight corridors to Southdown.
    2. North, West and South Metro lines to Britomart (tunnelled, as necessary).
    3. Predominantly surface bus routes and LR Lines ancillary to Metro Lines.
    Planning and funding (with 50-year vision) to be intelligently prioritized across all transport modes.

  14. I read the Light Rail longlist to shortlist document last week. Lots of sensible seeming steps that made things just a little longer or picked a tunnel because it was slightly better.

    The big thing seemed to be requirement (as Matt noted) for this single line to do everything.

    Personally I like the proposal for a cheaper Dominion/Sandringham surface line and the Airport/Mangere could be served by a Light Metro going above Manakau Rd. We should be able to build both for $15b.

    We can get started on the Surface Light rail now and start on the Metro in a few years.

    I’m personally I little suspicious of the 20,000 ppl/hour using “Light Rail” vehicles. Especially in the sections around Mangere Town centre that are supposed to be surface running.

  15. “The number of homes along the route will depend entirely on how much growth is allowed”

    This is the fundamental problem.

    Transport/travel is simply the outcome of the spatial allocation of land use.

    Thus transport and landuse are not separate processes and yet we and most of the world treat them as such.

    The rail proposal should be a land use/ rail proposal with the two going ahead together using the Urban Development Act (wit modification as needed) to enable the land use changes.

  16. The number of homes along the route will depend entirely on how much growth is forced upon us.

    Fix that for you.

  17. One things for sure. If this ever gets built there’s no way in hell anyone could ever complain about the supposed subsidy cars receive ever again.

    1. Don’t you believe it. The cost of the light rail itself is trivial. These billions of dollars are all about keeping it away from the cars so they aren’t affected. It’s still a subsidy to cars.

      1. Totally. This is a $3 billion project, with an additional $12 billion being spent to ensure it does not affect car use or car parking at all.

        1. Someone should work out the cost per car park retained. They will have to be the world’s most expensive car parks.

  18. Surface light rail sucks because it’ll attract years of bad headlines from the usual crowd along Dominion Road. Refer to the current CRL issues with businesses whingeing every couple of weeks about it.

    The purist decision of surface light rail is not necessarily the most politically feasible one. We do, after all, live in a democracy and people living along that route will hikoi to parliament every bloody month if surface light rail was built.

    1. Spending an extra $10 billion to try and prevent the Herald and Bernard Orsman complaining doesn’t seem a good use of money.

      Especially since it won’t work. The station building and (if it still happening) sewer pipe move will generate plenty of complaints.

      1. Auckland transport decision-making favours options that require the absolute least personal courage or political leadership from councillors and local boards, and then finding scads of money to shovel into them later on.

  19. Can’t help but feel myself that the costings for BOTH surface LRT and tunnelled whatever are grossly over-stated. Seems to me that these are scare-off figures by people who don’t want any sort of rail to be built.

  20. What utter and complete garbage.

    Surface operating light rail, by nature will offer competitive travel times, when compared to light metro.

    The nature of modern LRT is a tram operating on a dedicated or reserved rights-of-way, with priority signalling at intersections. With station spacing, gives the same commercial speeds and higher capacities than a light metro. This is why light-metro has largely been made obsolete by modern LRT decades ago!

    As for future proofing, surface operating LRT gives the best value for money and why modern LRT is the first choice of transit planners around the world. LRT can economically move 2,000 to 20,000 persons per hour per direction, which would serve the future quite well.

    Building tunnels or subways, means you will have a smaller transit system, due to the high cost of subway construction, where the majority of investment is for the subway. Future extensions will not be affordable due to the high operating costs for a subway. Subways are notorious for hugely expensive mid life rehabs, which again deters system expansion.

    Anyone proposing a LRT tunnel is doing nothing more than gold-plating the proposed LRT, with needless over engineering, which will not benefit transit customers but will benefit, engineers, planners, government bureaucrats, steel and cement manufacturers.

    Remember this, even a short subway will add about NZD $50 million to the annual operating costs of the subway, due to the ventilation needed, sump pumps needed and all the electrical appliances needed to service the subway including escalators and elevators. This is why subways are never considered in Europe until a transit route has traffic flows well in excess of 20,000 pphpd!

    1. Then why is Sydney building multiple tunneled metro lines, why does Copenhagen continue to add to its system, why did Honolulu go with light metro, there are dozens of light metro projects all over the world being planned and built.

      Are you saying this because trams are your jam or are you a legit transport planner?

        1. Jeepers that Hawaii example has really bloated out, was following it’s progress a couple of years back. Thought it was really good they doing something when have nothing but the totally elevated nature of it was a bit ugly.

      1. So, so much misinformation.

        Trams do not cause “jams”, in fact they do the opposite, improve traffic flows. Cars and trucks cause traffic jams and there has yet to be an independent study (I mean independent study) that proves trams causes jams.

        As for subways, most politicians who approve the funding for subways, really haven’t a clue what a subway is all about and believe subways are the ultimate transit investment.

        Sorry no, not even close.

        Subways are the ultimate money pit and unless traffic flows exceed 20,000 persons per hour per direction, subways are a long time detriment to ones transit planning. The Germans found this out back in the 80’s and 90’s!

        The French, also did major studies with subway versus on-street/at-grade and found that they were somewhat inferior in service when compared to surface trams/LRT and why there has been a huge explosion of new tram/LRT lines in the country, including major conurbations such as Paris.

        One major problem for subways is that they do not attract ridership, partly due to the fact that stations are too far apart and that is because of the massive costs for subway stations.

        Building a subway, means you will only have a small “showcase” transit system, next to useless, except for politicians wanting photo-ops and ten second sound bites at election time.

        Politicians demanding subways = major corruption.

      2. For the record I am not a transit planner, but have been a long time advocate of affordable and user friendly transit in Canada and we are having the same debate in Vancouver where a $2.8 billion (NZD $3.49 billion), 5.8 km subway for our light metro system, is now expected to cost $3.5 billion (NZD $4.36 billion). I also get advice from real experts in transit planning for our Rail for the Valley blog.

        The subway has caused a major land rush, where density limits are being relaxed and towers and high rise condominiums are the order of the day. Rents and leases are increasing and affordable housing is disappearing (demoviction), due to smaller, affordable apartments being torn down to build higher density housing, which is unafordable.

        As I have previously stated, subways should only be built when ridership on a transit route exceeds 20,000 pphpd, because you will then have the traffic flows to generate the revenue to operate the damn thing.

        Think of this, for one km of subway construction, you can build 10 km of LRT and up to 20 km for a tram. For the cost of this subway in Aukland, you can easily build three stand alone 10 km LRT lines or six stand alone 10 km tram lines.

        Think about that for a moment, which would be more beneficial?

        1. We know, everyone knows. That was the plan, but the project got handed to the highway agency to deliver a few years ago and they’re driving it into the ground with their usual approach of supersizing everything and build or dig to avoid political difficulties. They’ve also got it in their head that this is all about urban development and they need underground for their wet dream plan of apartment towers on one plot of land they own. Meanwhile the council dithers on whether to allow anything but single family houses in most of the catchment…

          They don’t understand transit, or networks, and think it’s about building the biggest longest infrastructure they can. All their buddies in the civil construction industry are rubbing their hands with glee.

          We just have to ride this shit out until the next government comes in, when the conservative side of the house will drop it like a hot turd.

  21. If you want to see what Public Transport should be like then you only have to visit Brussels a city with a similar population but a little more compact. They have trains, light rail and buses all services interconnect covering the city in all directions. Trains run every 7 minutes weekdays and 9 minutes weekends. Public transport is widely used it is convenient, efficient and relatively inexpensive. Compare that to Auckland where everything must start and finish in th CBD. when will AT realize most trips do not go through the city which is why cars are the preferred option.

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