Last year the impressive new Puhinui station along with bus and transit lanes linking it to the Airport and Manukau were opened creating a much improved public transport connection to the airport.
The station is just the first stage of a larger plan to build a new rapid transit line from the Airport to Botany (A2B) and that’s an important project we haven’t heard a lot about recently. But that doesn’t mean nothing has been happening.
We know that in early 2021, a business case was completed for the project and sent to the boards of Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi for endorsement. Waka Kotahi also approved funding for route protection. Frustratingly, the business case has not yet been publicly released but there is a little bit of new information available.
The stated project benefits include:
- improving travel choices and journey times for people in south and east Auckland, with a reliable 35-40 minute journey time between Auckland Airport and Botany
- proving a 18km congestion-free rapid transit with high capacity services
- improving access to major employment centres, including Auckland Airport and Manukau
- provide an important connection in the rapid transit network, connecting to the rail network at Puhinui station and Manukau, the Eastern Busway at a new Botany interchange
- supporting growth opportunities along the route – as well as for the wider south and east Auckland area
- improving walking and cycling connections between Auckland Airport, Puhinui Station interchange, Manukau and Botany, with 12km of new facilities.
In June AT updated their project page to note that Supporting Growth team, the group mostly focused on the greenfield growth areas in the North, Northwest and South, have also taken on the route protection task for the A2B route. I think that’s positive and it would be good to see that team shift to focusing more on the planning and route protection processes for other existing urban corridors. They say:
During 2022, Te Tupu Ngātahi Supporting Growth will prepare Notices of Requirement (NoRs) under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) to protect the land needed by Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi for the project.
We will carry out the necessary planning work to confirm the footprint needed for the Airport to Botany route and this will involve a range of technical and environmental assessments by noise, ecological and landscape specialists. The intention is for Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi to lodge NoRs with Auckland Council by December 2022.
They also include a map showing the proposed route and station locations. The route is the same as we’ve seen in previous high-level maps which is unsurprising as there are not really many other alternatives to Ti Irirangi Dr. It also is a direct route so avoids diverting to the Flatbush problem. More interesting are the station locations along it and again these locations are unsurprising as they’re located at major crossroads which could allow for transfers to other bus routes.
They these travel times from the airport to
- Manukau – 18-19 min
- Using Rapid Transit
- Papakura – 31-33 min
- Rapid Transit to Puhinui
- Train from Puhinui to Papakura
- Botany – 36-30 min
- Using Rapid Transit
- Britomart – 45-50 minutes
- Rapid transit to Puhinui
- Train from Puhinui to Britomart
It’s also worth noting that the new Puhinui Station has been designed to allow a new bus only bridge to be built improving bus speeds and providing even easier bus/train interchanges.
What I find more interesting than the route is they include a potential cross section of Ti Irirangi Dr.
That’s significant because much of Ti Irirangi Dr currently looks like this.
It suggests that unlike with the Eastern Busway, where AT are busy taking out lots of houses to significantly widen the corridor in order to accommodate the busway, on Ti Irirangi Dr the plan appears to be largely about reallocating space within the existing corridor. That could hopefully be a significant win to hopefully help deliver the route faster and cheaper and with lower emissions as well as helping to encourage mode shift.
It could be a good candidate for helping to deliver rapid transit or at least bus improvements on other major routes, such as Lincoln Road out west.
Of course, I worry this is the layout in an ideal world and so worry that as part of the work to confirm the footprint we’ll see traffic flow focused engineers look to claw back extra road lanes by taking out or weakening the space allocated for pedestrians, cyclists and trees.
Hopefully we’ll hear more about the project soon.
While we’re looking at Rapid Transit in the East, it’s also worth noting that earlier this month AT confirmed they would proceed with their Buswood Deviation as part of the Pakuranga to Botany section of the Eastern Busway.
AT Board endorses Burswood option for Pakuranga to Botany route
The design from Pakuranga to Ti Rakau Drive Bridge was approved by AT in February this year. Residents’ feedback on the proposed design from Ti Rakau Drive Bridge to Botany Town Centre was given further careful consideration before a decision on that part of the route was made in late June.
Mr Lambert says the feedback showed keen support for construction of the busway, along with concern for the impacts of construction on the Burswood community.
“We acknowledge that the approved design will impact the homes of some Burswood residents, and we have given extra consideration to their feedback over several months. The decision on the preferred option was made only after a large number of alternative alignment possibilities were considered both on and around Ti Rakau Drive.”
“We also recognise that this project is an important step in our work to keep east Auckland moving as it grows and to ensure that people have a range of transport and lifestyle options in the future.”
The busway design between Ti Rakau Drive Bridge and Botany Town Centre will significantly increase people’s access to a rapid transport network, give them greater choice as to how they travel, and enable communities’ rapid growth and development.”
It will be a safer route for walking, cycling, bus and road users; improve bus journey efficiency and reliability; minimise disruption for the main freight route on Ti Rakau Drive; and be about 12-18 months quicker to build.
Will we end up seeing similar bizarre outcomes with the Airport to Botany route?