Rail users have put up with a lot of disruption over the last 15 or so years. Every Christmas/New Year or long weekend we tell ourselves that maybe this is it, that this is the last major shutdown and from now on, that now the network is finally fixed and we won’t have to put up with this disruption again. That coping mechanism reached new heights during 2020/21 when the network faced multiple months long speed restrictions and shutdowns after it was discovered the tracks were in much worse shape than previously understood and that about 100km of track needed. urgent replacement.

As I covered last week, rail usage has still not recovered to the same level as buses and ferries since those works with previous users seemingly changing if or how they travel.

But it seems all of those previous shutdowns were really just a practice run with Kiwirail and Auckland Transport announcing yesterday a massive series of shutdowns that will kick off at Christmas and last for two to three years.

Major upgrades to rail lines across Auckland will pave the way for more frequent commuter trains when the City Rail Link opens and will help future-proof the rail network for decades to come.

The $330 million Rail Network Rebuild will see sections of rail lines across the city temporarily closed over the coming years, so that the rock foundations under the tracks can be removed and rebuilt.

The work will move progressively across the Auckland passenger rail network – starting in early 2023 with the section of the Southern Line between Ōtāhuhu and Newmarket and the Onehunga Line.

KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer – Capital Projects David Gordon says the start of City Rail Link (CRL) operations in a few years will be a game changer for commuter rail in Auckland.

“CRL will allow more commuter services, not just in Central Auckland but across the city. However, for that to happen we need to make sure the existing rail lines can physically handle that growth.

“Like roads, rail lines wear out from use. We’ve been undertaking routine maintenance and replacing worn out track and sleepers and we’re now moving on to something more fundamental.

“The Rail Network Rebuild involves replacing the rock foundations (formation and ballast) underneath the tracks, some of which haven’t been renewed since the Auckland network started being built in the 1870s.

“We appreciate that this work will frustrate commuters, but it needs to be done. Given the scale of what we have to do, using our normal evening, weekend and holiday line closures could take decades to get it done. Even closing sections of line but allowing some peak services would push the completion date well beyond the start of CRL operations – which is unacceptable.

“Replacing the railway foundations will remove the growing number of speed restrictions that have been placed on the network in recent years and make it much more resilient.

“For Aucklanders it will mean more reliable trains, faster journey times, and is crucial to enabling the more frequent trains to come with CRL day one.”

They say the work involves lifting the existing tracks, digging out the existing ballast and the formation below it, adding a new formation layer and drainage to prevent future deterioration of it, then adding back the ballast and tracks.

The work is starting on the inner part of the Southern Line before moving to the Eastern Line with the outer parts of the Southern Line and the Western line happening sometime in 2024 and even into 2025. During the works freight trains and Te Huia will still run.

Following the usual Christmas/New Year network-wide closure, the Southern Line between Ōtāhuhu and Newmarket and the Onehunga Line will remain closed until late-March. Work will then move to the Eastern Line, which will be closed for most of 2023. KiwiRail and AT are currently working through the schedule for the next sections of work in 2024.

The majority of the Rail Network Rebuild is expected to be finished before CRL construction is complete by the end of 2024. It is likely some lower patronage lines – such as the Manukau – Puhinui Line, the Swanson – Henderson section of the Western Line, and the part of the rail network between Newmarket and Britomart (which will see a substantial drop in train frequency once CRL is running) – will be completed after CRL is open.

I get that this work needs to be done and we all want a better, more reliable network but it seems odd that the minister or anyone else didn’t step in and say no, find another way. Though we know they only told Auckland Councillors yesterday afternoon, despite working on this for seven months.

Closing lines for months on end is only going to severely erode confidence in the network and make it all that much harder to get people to use it again once the work is finished. One reason for that is despite Kiwirail’s claims that this is the shutdown to end all major shutdowns, their word simply can’t be trusted given how many times this keeps happening, not to mention that some of the network they say they need to replace is only a decade or so old, such as the Manukau Branch and large parts of the Western Line. You could say that Kiwirail don’t have a good track record here.

Can you imagine if Waka Kotahi suddenly closed a section of the motorway and dumped all the cars onto the local network for nine months while they rebuilt it. As rail historian Dr Andre Brett notes, governments would fall.

With the claimed improvements in network speed I’m also particularly interested to know exactly how much faster this will make services. Our trains are on average 5-10km/h slower than similar systems overseas and also slower than the original requirement for our electric trains – which was in line with those overseas systems. If we were achieving those originally required travel times we’d see the following on our existing network

  • Swanson to Britomart – 43 minutes instead of 56 minutes
  • Papakura to Britomart – 41 minutes instead of 50 minutes
  • Manukau to Britomart – 32 minutes instead of 37 minutes

If we’re going to be closing the rail network for months on end, I’m interested to know what else can be done at the same time. Kiwirail do say they’ll do other works such as some forward maintenance as well as tying this in with other improvements like the third main works. But how about also progressing some grade separation projects. There are number of places where perhaps lowering the tracks by a few metres would make grade separation a lot easier and could be done at the same time, thereby helping to prevent future disruption.

I have asked Kiwirail some of the questions posed above but they haven’t got back to me as at the time of writing this post. I’ll update if they do.

Compared to yesterdays post, one thing I found notable is how we can go through multiple rounds of consultation stretching out over years just to make minor changes to a street to remove a few carparks but the core of our public transit network can be shut down for a few years without any input.

I also wonder how much consideration has been given to the economic impacts of these shutdowns. You may recall that back in 2013 in Wellington the Hutt Valley and Wairapapa lines were closed for a week after a major storm washed out the sea wall and left tracks dangling over the harbour. The economic impact of that line being closed for just a week was estimated at $12-43 million due to the increased travel times caused by people switching to driving. Taking out the physical cost of the repair works, the disruption was estimated to cost about $1.3 million per day. In Auckland each of our three main lines has a similar level of ridership to that Wellington line so even at two years of disruption we could be looking at close to $1 billion in impacts. I wonder what the cost would be to dramatically speed up the work?

The real challenge with the current shutdowns is how users will get around. And it doesn’t look good with Auckland Transport saying there may be some rail replacement buses but also possibly not.

“Although we do face some extra challenges with the current bus driver shortage, we are working closely with our rail operator Auckland One Rail to make sure we are offering our passengers the most reliable, and regular alternative transport possible in the circumstances.

Some rail replacement buses will be available, and AT will also be promoting its extensive network of scheduled bus services which customers can use when their train isn’t running. Ambassadors will also be on site at affected stations to help make it easier for affected passengers. More information about alternative travel options for Onehunga Line and Southern Line customers affected by the first stage of work will be available from November.

Rail replacement buses are a poor substitute to begin with, often taking considerably longer than the services they replace as well as not having much capacity, less space for those with wheelchairs/mobility devices and prams etc. Even if they do have space they are harder to access. They also have no space for bikes.

AT need to do a much better job here and look to more systematic changes to support stranded rail users. A couple of ideas should include the systematic and urgent roll out of bus priority along parallel routes. Those routes should also get fully protected cycleways to help provide additional alternatives – and how about a subsidised e-bike rental scheme to give people one some additional options. This kind of scheme could also be rolled out to other parts of Auckland. And given the precedent set by the rail network closure, this can be done without the need for consultation.

These kinds of measures are needed to help prevent people jumping back in their cars and clogging roads. They could also be a useful trial run of some of the interventions we’ll need as part of The Emissions Reduction Plan.

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  1. This is pathetic. Heads need to roll at Kiwirail for even proposing this. Cities that take rail seriously would never shut down massive sections of their system for months at a time.

    No. Just no.

    1. Te Huia and freight will continue to operate. I wonder if this could be done quicker, if two lines are done at the same time?

      1. Yes. How can freight still operate yet people are left to sub-standard alternatives? This just shows their bias in keeping certain customers happy. We need to know more about what is really going on here. Is this just trial and error maintenance at a bigger level of disruption from what we have already experienced.

        1. Auckland Transport needs to go, and control of public transport returned to the council. Rodney Hide’s far right experiment has failed, it’s time for reform. End Fuller’s monopoly on ferry transport while you’re at it.

          As Auckland Transport have rightly pointed out, there’s not a lot of time to get this right before the CRL is complete.

    2. I don’t have an issue with them shutting down the network, what I have an issue with is what they’re proposing. We hope by shutting down the network we’ll bring it up to standard. That’s simply not good enough.

      Melbourne had shut majour parts of their network for years, but there was sanity behind the madness, they removed 50 something on road crossings, increased speed/capactiy new stations. A genuine improvement. Not just make it a standard.

      1. You may not have an issue with it, perhaps because you have a valid alternative and are not too disrupted by it. For many people, including myself, it will be a major disruption.
        It will also have wider implications – car usage will surge and the motorways will become even more clogged.

  2. Agree with dragging forward crossing work and other interventions while we can. If we have to cop this then we might as well get something to show for it. And we’re going to need some assurances that we won’t need to come back in the next decade and do it all over again. There’s a few stations on that line that also need some attention, they don’t have to be full rebuilds with hundreds of millions of dollars, but they could get a tidy up here which might go some way to making up for the disruption. I’m thinking GI, Meadowbank, etc.

    Amazing to think how little appetite there is for extending the network out to fast-growing bits of Auckland or tidying up bits like the Onehunga line but we can shut down almost the whole network for months at a time at the drop of a hat.

    1. Penrose station needs an underpass or new bridges.
      The 200 meter double zig zag walk on each side is ridiculous

      1. After being at Te Kuiti 2 weeks ago Penrose is great , Te Kuiti’s seems to be longer with more curves and at one a staircase . And that’s for a station that KR don’t use anymore .

    2. Yes, agreed. Every station that currently has level crossing access for rail users should be upgraded while the lines are closed. No excuse for leaving any work behind if the network is going to be unusable for so long!

      1. Of course there’s an excuse. There’s only a limited number of workers and they are needed for more important work. Unless you’re volunteering to do the work yourself.

        1. They could do what Stalin did and use those in prison to do the work , but then again the do gooders would be crying to the media about prisoners being cheap labour

        2. Wow, what ****sense. Unless you have lots of prisoners that are actually experienced rail labourers, what would they do? Shovel ballast? Hate to have to tell you, but we got diggers for that now that work a LOT faster than hundreds or even thousands of manual labourers. The constraints of work like this are in other types of work that people need training for.

  3. Insane.
    It’s almost as if the tracks are being ‘run’ for the benefit of the maintenance contractors. How is it that you need to close the whole track but can still run freight?

    1. I’m guessing the freight and Te Huia will run via the Southern line while the Eastern line is closed and vice-versa.

      1. I also wonder if they’re turning off the overhead power while they’re doing this work. Te Huia is diesel so wouldn’t be affected and could still run as long as there was a track to run on.

        1. Potentially. But from what I can tell there will still be a path for electric trains from Papakura to Britomart throughout 2023, so I imagine that given Te Huia is only 4 trains a day it would just follow this path.

        2. Yea I just heard the Kiwirail guy more or less confirm that they are doing two tracks at once.

      2. Yes, but parts of the southern line are being closed for the Auckland Metro services that Te Huia & freight has to run on / dont have redundancy.

        1. Which parts are you thinking of? From what I can tell it is closed between Westfield and Newmarket from Jan to Mar, then Westfield to Britomart (Eastern) between Apr to Dec.

          It looks like the serious disruptions – those without redundancy are coming in 2024.

        2. Seems more to do with overhead power being shut down but yes, south of Wiri there is no third line existing or going in from what I understand, so what are they doing here? Is there a third main going in south of here at the same time, something they should do during this time perhaps? Is the power controlled per actual track once we get to the “southern line only sections”?

  4. This is crazy. Closing down mass transit for months on end is not something that happens overseas. NZ’s transport authorities are out of control. Massive restructuring is nnecessary.

  5. Kiwi Rail might also use this opportunity to clean up the Auckland rail corridor, which is currently a disgrace with most surfaces covered in tagging, infested with pest plants and littered with discarded kit. But they won’t because rail freight doesn’t care about its surrounds although, oddly enough, road freight evidently does.

    1. Yea. While this is beyond infuriating, it is an opportunity. Could get in and plant the corridor. Do it like the Plantings along motorways that look after themselves. That or 4th/5th main, but nope it is kiwirail, they don’t care.

  6. I’ve got a great idea – let’s build an expensive new station at Puhinui, advertise extensively the Airport Link to Auckland Airport via Puhinui, then close the station for a year.

    The idiocy and lack of accountability (not to mention the secrecy and timing of the announcement one week out from local body elections) of this really calls into question the competence and legitimacy of the senior leadership of AT.

    1. I don’t think Puhinui is closing. However, it will only have trains running via the Eastern line from Jan to Mar, and via the Southern line for the rest of the year.

  7. If they care about the wellbeing of Auckland people and our economy then they must do all they can to support biking.
    Pop up bikeways can be installed quickly with car parking on main roads removed.
    Thousands of people commuting for hours more each day will be at high cost to many families.
    The extra congestion and emissions will slow down our businesses.

  8. Instead of closing the entire Eastern line for 9 months, why can’t they work outwards from Britomart and progressively reopen stations as they go?

    1. Or run trains in both directions around whatever bit is being replaced. i.e. if GI is out, to still run Britomart/Meadowbank, and Panmure/Manukau?

      1. The kiwirail line is, the power can’t be on while people are working under it apparently (I am pretty sure I saw this happening yesterday tho) .

        They do still have 6 diesel trains tho.

        1. Diesel trains can no longer enter Britomart, the ventilation required to remove diesel fumes has been removed….. sigh

        2. Steve D , Unless you have been to Britomart lately you may have seen big ventalation pipes either side for the new track works and when I went through there yesterday there was a Diesel powered Highrail vehicle at the end of platform 1

        3. So don’t enter Britomart. Use the Strand. This will suck, but lot lot less than rail replacement busses.

        4. Can you pull those electric trains with a diesel unit or do all the electric motors become generators and zap everything?

  9. I am amazed.
    Look like they did not plan for contingency. I mean they could have build or add a dedicated bus lane running parallel or nearby to the railway line. Another idea is to build a new cycleway and give people an e-bike for a year on contract.
    If all the railway lines were double tracked these would not have happened.

  10. I’m lost for words on this. It just boggles the mind that this was proposed, and that AT only just got wind of it after seven months of it being discussed at KiwiRail.

    There had better be some MPs come out lambasting KiwiRail and forcing a revisiting of this because it’s beyond embarrassing, not to mention wasteful (a bunch of still quite new trains are just going to sit in depots?).

    1. Kiwirail were discussing it with AT for months – just not with any elected local politicians, it seems.

      Who did they involve at a national level in this significant decision?

  11. The rocks are worn out?

    Surely there are lines in the rest of the world that get more use and certainly carry more load in a year than Auckland’s rails have carried since 1870

  12. What an absolute disaster. This is going to magnify all ATs other failings.

    The roading networks around the high density walkable catchments, of the outer bits of the rail lines are going to have a lot more traffic. This is going to affect the bus users the most, particularly the people on the RRBs.

    Watch AT do nothing.

  13. “ You could say that Kiwirail don’t have a good track record here.”

    …I see what you did there…
    Well done sir

    1. Yeah this. They must have worked on the Panmure area like 5x since 2020 with multiple week and then more recently weekend shutdowns . I’m like what were you doing all these times?

  14. One benefit might be students switching to attending their local school.
    There are thousands of students waking early in the morning catching a bus to the station. They get home at dinner time and are too tired to study.
    They might discover the local school is better.

    1. That wouldn’t be acceptable to some parents as they are, in part, using the transport system as a child minding service.

  15. PT in Auckland will never recover. This destroys public transport in Auckland for years to come. People are forced to go back to cars and it confirms the much held view that PT in this city is useless and unreliable. Already the growing bus cancellations have forced people like me to go back to using cars in a period of obvious climate crisis.
    What more proof does anyone need that AT and KiwiRail are incompetent and mischievous for the secretive way they have held this back from the public. The Minister, sadly, confirms that like many of his fellow ministers he is out of touch with the reality of the impacts on the public and has failed by just going along with the plan. Resignations are in order.
    And if I read the fine print correctly, the work won’t be finished by the time CRL is finished so the celebration of the benefits of CRL won’t happen. Unbelievable.
    Imagine if the harbour bridge was closed for much of the year.The public would be unforgiving.

    1. Minister Wood’s response is pathetic. Says he will be asking for a breather on rail shutdowns after this work. No, with a top top shape network there shouldn’t be in the longterm a need for shutdowns except for very irregular requirements, IF the minister makes sure KR put the required amount of resources into keeping the Auckland part of the national network in good condition. There shouldn’t be Xmas-NY shutdowns after 2025.

      And as Matt said, the speeds and the times from one end of a line to its other need to be improved if KR are going to do this work.

      After this work, the CRL, 3rd main and Pukekohe electrification, we better bloody well have the best quality network NZ has ever seen in Auckland from KR, and top notch service from AT. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. If the two organisations along with One Rail Auckland don’t get it perfect from 2025, then people should start losing their jobs.

      1. after this work? as a member of the public he can ask like any one of us here. We will see how he likes being ignored and his complaint being reviewed by AT or KR after few months of sending one. I think he missed the point or maybe he doesn’t realize that he is a minister now and he can do something about it. As a simple Michael Wood from Parnell or wherever he lives he wont even get an audience from anyone in AT. Pathetic

  16. Free public transport touts Efeso. That’s no good when trains are cancelled and replaced pt options are slow, pathetic or just don’t turn up at all.

    Efeso, keep your “free” public transport, Aucklanders just want SOME public transport.

    1. Although I have some reservations with him, I was thinking of voting for him because Brown is awful.
      But I won’t bother voting now, I am just so disillusioned with our politicians, local body or central government, it doesn’t matter.

    2. Hard to see how this is Efeso’s fault, mate. And everything will be needed to keep PT from collapsing even more due to this.

    1. Correct. And similarly, we need protected cycleways as we have protected rail corridors. I’m bloody lucky I can often work from home with my job, most people aren’t that fortunate and goodness knows how the school kids are going to get to Newmarket every day.

      1. From my read of Kiwirail’s plan you will still be able to catch a train from Manukau to Britomart throughout 2023, it will just vary as to what line it takes.

        But Kiwirail and AT’s lack of information and journalists not asking decent questions means I’m just guessing.

        1. Between Britomart and Otahuhu. Presumably Manukau trains will run via Ellerslie as they did during track relaying works in 2020 and 2021. However, clarifying this sort of detail doesn’t appear to be important to Kiwirail and AT.

  17. Doesn’t even get a mention on any of the news sites in New Zealand. Plenty of raging articles about potholes on roads though, you can see where priorities in this country lie. Starting to think its time to either leave Auckland or NZ all together…

    1. There was a big article on it in the Herald yesterday, that’s where I found out about it and commented on it on this website yesterday.

  18. This needs ministerial intervention.

    The work done in 2020 should have included this work.

    Even if it wasn’t done in 2020, the mitigation should be confirmed by now. There are so may opportunities to sort buses and bus lanes out to step up, but it should have been planned as an integral part of the works!

    1. Yep they would have been better off running slow trains for the last 2 years and shutting it down once rather than shutting everything down twice. One can only assume they have only just realised this is a problem, probably the cause of the initial problem.

      1. Re how long kiwirail knew. The kiwirail guy on RNZ 9 to noon today, did not answer the question directly but implied that they have know long term. There was 100% overlap with the 2020 rail rebuild.

        1. Agree, there were also plenty of times this was intimated by Kiwirail over the last couple of years but journalists never really asked the probing questions.

    2. Ministerial intervention?
      This isn’t “sexy” enough for Michael Wood to dirty his hands on. Give him a ghost cycle bridge across the harbour, or a tunnelled light rail from Wynyard to Mt Roskill (his electorate coincidentally) and he’s in his happy place.
      Remembering that the CRL project got underway under Key’s government then perhaps Simeon Brown will be more effective in getting answers and action than Wood.

      1. Brown probably would get more done, but that will be doubling down on roads at the expense of everything else.

        Check out his twitter feed. Anything that does not prioritise the car is “forced ideology”. The irony.

        Spoiled for choice.

      2. Weirdly enough the tunnel surfaces just before his electorate and runs at surface level through it.

        Still wondering what’s so special about Kingsland and sandringham that they get a tunnel, while surface is fine for Mount roskill, Onehunga and Mangere.

        Where dem white folks live again?

        1. While I won’t claim that such… people-based… considerations never exist, the northern Isthmus town centre sections are where the corridor between buildings is tightest of the whole route, to my understanding. So at least there seems to be some logic behind where it is tunneled (Doesn’t mean I support tunneled, mind).

      3. If we are looking for effective then I don’t think Simeon Brown is the answer. The only link he shares with John Key is the party logo.

  19. This is what you get when you do a half arsed “better than nothing” job and keep having to upgrade it rather then doing it properly the first time.
    While I would prefer it sooner, I do think a properly designed light rail tunnel that can be used for the North Shore and North West lines too is a better option than a cheap above ground single use line for Mangere and then have to shoe horn in the other two lines later or build a tunnel later at a much greater total cost and significant shutdowns.

  20. I’m confused wasn’t the Onehunga line completely rebuilt from the ground up when it was reopened. One track on most of the western line was new only this century. Seems like the engineers are in charge. Perhaps a better name for Kiwi rail is kill rail.

    1. Are they rebuilding the Onehunga line or is it closing because the Southern line will be closed? Isolated and maybe they can’t separate the overhead.

    2. The problem isn’t ground up, its the formation below ground and its drainage.

      The question is why they built new tracks on 120 year old formations. The answer to that is we spend all the money on cars and dont spend FA on trains.

  21. So many issues, only can be resolved by Govt level Commissioner in charge of a crack team of rail consultants, with financial control from Treasury and MP’s. Sideline KiwiRail and AT to attendees status.
    When EU rail intensive countries invest in rapid rail, I noted, they build an entirely new track next to old track, this keeps the old trains running until the transition. Apply to grade separations, bike path crossings, etc., as well! Why can this not be done here?? Use bike path in Meadowbank as a superb example of standard required.

    1. Under no circumstances should the Treasury or any other part of the Wellington bureaucracy be involved, they are a big part of the problem.

      1. They need to be involved. Thanks to Rodney Hide’s reforms of Auckland Transport, only the central government can exert any control or change.

        It is legislatively out of the hands of the council thanks to far right politics gone mad, and lazy lefties allowing the madness to continue.

        End the experiment and put control back in the hands of elected representatives, I say.

    2. None of hat you have just said is happening with Europe’s biggest infrastructure program, HS2. Living right beside it and having already put up with construction for two years I’ll have to drive to London or Birmingham to use it. Maybe the UK Torry party is running Auckland Transport!

  22. This is scandalous. Overseas lines are busier and older than ours, but don’t require months long shutdown for maintenance. New Zealand is not special.

    Kiwirail management deserve to be sacked.

    1. They seem to be claiming the shutdowns are needed in order to get it done in time for the CRL. Perhaps they should have started sooner instead!

      1. Maybe they should have started in 1980s.

        I have a lot of baseline sympathy for an organisation having to – on limited funds – fix many decades of neglect.

        The real issue, as people have pointed out, seems to be that the need for this work has been known for a long while (but was not raised) and that the mitigation for the impacts seem rather poorly thought out (for something that’s imminent in a few months). Those I see as the real failures, both due to a type of secrecy and silo-ing that is now causing it to all blow up.

  23. If this goes ahead as proposed my household will need a second car. I imagine many others are in the same position.

    This disruption will be the end of passenger rail — and probably decent public transport in general — in Auckland. Michael Wood should resign.

    1. Agree.
      It will have major implications – social, economic, environmental.
      Also while those impacts may be temporary to a large degree, some of them may become permanent as some people permanently shift their behaviour ie. permanently move from train-based to car-based transport. For many, including possibly myself, this is the final straw in terms of Auckland’s trains.
      There needs to be more coverage and scrutiny of this, it will also have major economic impacts or. Falling productivity.
      Great article, btw. And I agree if there were going to be big upsides, for example significantly quicker trips, then the major disruption could be more tolerable.

  24. I completely agree. Stuff that in other major cities would be fast-tracked to completion here takes years. I mean if you’re going to entirely replace the rail substrata, was widening the gauge to accommodate faster trains a possibility? Maybe it’s not, but this is a HUGE outage for a long time on top of annual shutdowns. Just as the Rail Loop becomes a drawcard for mode shift, sorry, the trains are off… as you were.

    1. Widening the gauge? That would presumably imply re-doing numerous tunnels, bridges etc to fit AND buying new trains (again). You’d be looking at both budget and timeframes blowing out yet again, by magnitudes. Also, we just building a multi-billion dollar tunnel for a certain gauge. Nah. That’s fixed. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

  25. Imagine trying to get that length of motorway renewed from formation up in a couple of years!

    I think it shows what great value rail gives for the engineering you put in.

    Great ideas here to use the opportunity for other improvements, I hope they get taken up.

  26. At this time, this is where AT really needs to pull their finger out of…. well you know…. and really seriously start looking at decent quick cycle infrastructure changes. They should get KiwiRail to also pay for a temporary connection between Orakei and the new cycleway towards Tamaki Drive while they build the bridge (which can’t come fast enough) and also a temporary protected cycleway between Panmure and the GI sections. There is likely other sections of the network around the city that could do with some quick wins too. And like they need to start looking now, not in a couple of months.

  27. Is the 15 year old Manukau spur, really being included in this? Is that even going to get a lot more trains post CRL?

    1. Yeah, that’s unbelieveable that one of the Western Line mains, and the Manukau spur will need redoing after only 10-15 years of being done in first place.

  28. This better be only one line at a time as anything else is simply ridiculous and in any case KR simply don’t have the workers or available contractors to do more.
    The other alternative is to replace one side of each line while retaining a single operating track is the whole network (or at least part of it) goes to single track during this process.
    Either way this is a clusterF especially after all the other disruptions when they could’ve been doing this at the same time when demand was lower.

    1. I don’t think single track running would work because surely removing ballast on one side would cause instability on the other

      1. You’d also presumably need to go super-slow past the work sites. After all, unlike roads, Worksafe presumably considers such work sites as part of their remit.

  29. There is no mention of including a geotextile to minimise water movement into the track base. In Adelaide they closed their suburban lines one by one to rebuild the base including a geotextile waterproofing layer, clean the ballast and reinstall the track. It would be a pity to redo the ballast in Auckland but omit this step. One needs to question the level of experience of the engineers making these decisions. Perhaps it’s a consequence of the rundown in these skills in New Zealand.

    In Melbourne our level crossings are replaced with bridges with only a few weeks of shutdown by working 24/7. One level crossing (Middleborough Rd) was replaced with only a 5 week shutdown, during which time the track was lowered 5 metres, a new bridge and station installed, the track replaced and re-electrified. Why can’t Auckland follow this model? Perhaps there needs to be some international peer review of the decisions of the KiwiRail engineers.

    1. They’re going to do a full network shutdown from 2027-2030 to do geotextiles.

      Then they’re going to do nanocoatings during the 2030-2039 shutdowns.

      Then in 2040 the network will be closed for good because oflack of patronage and the tracks paved over to make more roads.

    2. Looking at the third main work, There’s definitely been some kind of what looks like a waterproofing layer going down with the formation, so I would say yes, it’s included.

  30. If you have been on the Southern Line Lately you will notice they are putting the geotextile waterproofing layer down for the third main .

  31. I know AT were investigating quick win improvements to Great South Road during the covid rail shut downs … not much happened there though.

    So … Auckland Transport, if there was EVER a chance to be bold, and show Auckland that you can be somewhat agile and respond to change, here it is:
    Bus lanes on the majority of Great South Road
    Bus lanes on the majority of Great North Road
    Bus lanes on Pakuranga Road, Botany Road plus other roads in the inner eastern suburbs that rail replacement buses will be needed.

    Car parking CANNOT be prioritised over the movement of people. Implement your policy. Get the Executive Team along to Local Board meetings, public meetings and have them announce that these works WILL be happening.

    I know a few AT employees read this blog, so please, please … do something.

    1. RE: GSR. The “quick win” involved repurposing a lightly used on-road painted cyclelane into a bus lane. Cycle team cried foul. Result = Do Nothing.
      This is how it works, or rather doesn’t work… Same will happen if “quick wins” for PT are explored on other corridors. All other modes will want to be accommodated. Result = Do Nothing…

      1. Why should they have been happy with that? Making non-car modes fight over crumbs – or stealing from what limited space is there to improve one of the other modes – that is exactly why we have such a crap system overall. Might as well take the space from pedestrians while we’re at it.

        And meanwhile cars go brmmmm, brmmm, brmmm!

  32. A couple of questions:
    – will they work 24/7 to keep the closures to an absolute minimum?
    – on the longer term hit to patronage – will the government time the introduction of congestion charging to coincide with the opening of the CRL and return of these tracks to service to push people back onto the trains?
    – agree that AT must deliver bus and cycle lanes to provide alternatives during this distruption

    1. “will they work 24/7 to keep the closures to an absolute minimum?”

      Answer. No. Because Mother of Five, will complain to the media that 8 year old Tabitha cannot sleep at night due to the noise, and she will get grumpy and will miss her ballet practice.

  33. I don’t understand why AT is just taking it. They’ve been trying to get KR out of controlling Auckland’s lines for years, and this is the time where they could’ve just stood up, said ‘this is not acceptable’, not be lumped in with KR, and a better solution could’ve been found.

    In other countries, this is achievable overnight without disruption to most rail services. In NZ, our motorways are closed overnight without disruption to most traffic. The time frames here though are like someone decided ‘what is the best way for us to stop having to have passenger trains on our network at all’. I’m honestly unsure if the staff at AT are being taken for a ride, are being threatened or are so jaded from prior experience’s with KR that they have lost any sense of perspective.

    This is the time for them to stand up and rage at KR, not provide a ‘unified front’. There is no benefit to being unified with KR’s failures here, AT should be calling KR out, and calling for another organisation to control track access and maintenance for Auckland’s (or really the country’s) rail network. KR has shown again and again they are incapable of maintaining a rail network for a modern city of 1.5 million.

    1. They are digging out the FOUNDATION. To do that, and then put it, and the ballast and the rails, back by next morning, ready for a train to go over? You’d need elite precision and timing AND still would end up getting no further than a few meters every night.

      1. Depends on the parts of the network. Some parts of the railway is far enough from one another that you could do single track running and then switch when the other side is done, especially near stations. Other bits are tricky enough to require weekend closures. But my general expectation is do one bit as quickly as possible, then the next, rather than the current work schedule which seems more like a focus on working days/doing as much at the same time as possible.

        For the bits which require track closures during the day, it should only be the track between two stations closed(or three if there needs to be work on that specific station in the middle), and all lines running like normal apart from that small block.

        Re time, to my knowledge it isn’t yet a safety risk that the railway is going to fall over or collapse into a sink hole, and massively scaling up the resources to do this (and possibly taking more time) seems the far superior option to this April Fools lite option.

        From my understanding it’s only sections of the base that is compromised, yet they are closing entire lines. They can drill core samples during the night (while keeping another track open), figure out the exact margins of the compromised base, and figure out the urgent priority repairs.

  34. The bus priority will be a few single decker buses (most cancelled), some green paint on a few intersections on Gt South Rd – most of these journeys will be impossibly slow with the huge number of cars blocking everything. No enforcement, no cameras – useless.

    1. A day later, and there’s still nothing on the ‘News’ section of AT’s website. Nor on the ‘Planned Rail Closures’ section.

      Now, I realise they don’t have a CEO, and this may be why a new Executive General Manager Communications hasn’t been appointed. But there are presumably comms staff still employed. Are they unable to take the initiative? Has the acting CEO directed them not to?

      Having an acting CEO fill in should be a time when the Board gets more hands-on. If our governance rules don’t allow that, that’s simply another way they are not fit for purpose.

      1. Now, I realise they don’t have a CEO, and this may be why a new Executive General Manager Communications hasn’t been appointed. But there are presumably comms staff still employed. Are they unable to take the initiative

        Answer, no. The current comms and PR people are busy wandering around in high vis vests, taking selfies of themselves and posting them to LinkedIn, trying to look busy.

  35. The media release on the Kiwirail website says the Eastern line will be closed for the entirety of 2023 after March.
    However, digging through AT’s non- intuitive website (there’s nothing under ‘News’) it says the Eastern line will be closed between Otahuhu and Britomart. So I assume those of us who train from Manukau will be able to get off at Puhinui and then take the southern line to Britomart?

      1. Thanks, yep I found that. Why don’t they have something under their ‘News’ section? That’s where most people would intuitively go.

        1. there is also this from last year and bits buried at the end sort of showing cost and what may be needed ;-


  36. This is terrible. Makes you wonder if our pessenger rail Network is serving any purpose why not run at all with buses with better bus priority. Why build CRL?

    1. Strange comment there – what does the quality and usefulness of the end product have to do with whether or not the construction is efficient and minimally invasive?

      The two can be very very different, just as your mobile phone can be awesome – yet may be produced with slave labour and with toxic waste from the metals extraction being dumped untreated in some African country.

  37. hahaha classic AT and KR. Next announcement in 2024 will be: we are closing Aotea, K Road and Mt Eden stations for 2 years for maintenance…

  38. From a project/engineering managers point of view, it probably makes it easy and cheaper to just close a line for a month or two, dig up the entire section and rebuild the foundations in a bulk project.

    But governance team should be saying that this won’t work and to come up with better solutions. I get that doing small 50-100m chunks and trying to keep the line open for say 14-16 hours a day will be slower, harder to manage safely and more expensive but I think that decision needs to be made

    Thinking about it (as a non-train engineer), I wonder if they explored importing something like big track-laying gantry (TLG) vehicles used overseas? These are TBM style machine that can lift in big sections of track and even replace ballast and foundations under the tracks.

    Be interesting to hear from experts, but from an outsider, seems surprising they can’t develop a solution so that worst case only a section of track is out of action on any given night and specialised mitigation like lightweight shuttles or road vehicles that loop between stations on either end of the worked on segment. Guess it needs the desire to spend the money and do the hard way so as to not inconvenience public though

    I do wonder what the worst case scenario is if more limited work is done, like injection under the ballast or directed drilling for drainage. Did the governance team ask for all options to be costed?

    1. Those are the sort of questions KiwiRail needs to address if we are to have confidence in them. Governing Body and journalist should be asking them as well as a full exploration of alternative PT.
      Are emergency regulations required so that AT can install bus and cycle lanes without consultation? Thinking of how many bus routes deviate to connect with trains. While no train, is a direct route more practical? Are more buses needed? And so on.

    2. Kiwi rail’s track laying seems to consist of a digger and 5 or 6 workers hammering it all together. I know in the 70s, The NZR had a tracklaying machine. Of course long since sold for scrap and not replaced. Really they need to contract much of work to large overseas companies who have the specialist equipment.

  39. No good moaning about it now, if the strengthing of foundations needs doing it needs doing ,why bother spending zillions on the railway when the very foundation is failing. People should of protested and kicked up a stink in the 50s and 60s about the lack of investment and improvements not to mention the scrapping of the trams,but no people were suduced by politicians offering motorways and ripping out tram systems. Basically Auckland only has it’s self to blame for allowing this to become so run down in the first place.

  40. I want to see a map/description of exactly what work they are proposing on the Eastern line and where because a lot of it has been dug up down to the foundation already. Around Sylvia Park for instance.

    1. Knock your self out…
      Kiwirail as an SEO, thus subject to the OIA, AT is a CCO and subject to LGOIMA …
      Can’t see any commercial reason they could use to withhold it.

    2. I OIA’ed Kiwirail recently. Over the last 2 years on the Eastern Line:

      -62% of rails replaced
      -20% sleepers replaced
      -6.5% ballast replaced

  41. Watched the news items linked in David L’s comment. Rhetoric about 150 year old built standard & building foundations and such don’t add up if you consider they are doing the Manukau – Puhinui Line as well which doesn’t even take freight. Perhaps these sections will just be icing on the cake? Also did they hint that some little bits are already up to standard, perhaps right in station areas where rebuilds have already taken place.
    Is there still an unknown with the choice of bogies our Auckland metro passenger trains have that is causing more wear than expected?
    In any case, once this work is done I sure hope we have an improvement on ride smoothness and speed.

    1. “if you consider they are doing the Manukau – Puhinui Line as well which doesn’t even take freight. Perhaps these sections will just be icing on the cake?”

      Doesn’t mean they are doing the SAME work there, does it (I don’t know)? Maybe they just realise that if the (longest part) of the line is closed anyway, lets go do some (more minor) works there too?

    2. In the video he mentions 35 kms of track “and bits and pieces”. So the whole network I understand is ~93kms, depends on if we mean the double track length or what. It’s only where we have “soft ground and other things like that”.

    1. Wasn’t that what John Key did to rail lines around the South Island as he could make money on all those old Rails and Sleepers .

        1. Kaikohe was in the North Island last time I checked, while the Central Otago line closed in 1991 and was converted to a cycleway in 1998. Not sure what this has to do with John Key.

        2. Wasn’t Key the promoter of cycle ways everywhere and anywhere ? , and I don’t think I ever saw him ride a bike anywhere .

        3. He was, but I don’t think a single one of them involved sleepers or being removed and sold off.

        4. “Wasn’t Key the promoter of cycle ways everywhere and anywhere ?”

          He was certainly a lot friendlier to bikes than the current National crop, or the ones before his time. Doesn’t mean he created a bike revolution – he just did some good things for bikes. Full stop, go to press with that and no more.

  42. When I last lived in Auckland in the 1980s they were thinking of stopping passenger rail all together – if you look how far things have been achieved since then it is difficult to attack the current future-proofing and other great initiatives which have happened and will continue to happen to Auckland railways. Think of the many millions $$$ spent and often wasted on motorways and the detrimental social impact of roads since the ill-conceived system of motorways-only policies over the past 70 years or so, the present money being spent on rail is a drop in the bucket by comparison, and it is great to have a government willing to invest in rail’s future, both passenger and freight.

    1. You can agree to that and still agree to the fact that this current plan is atrocious in communication / planning / mitigation. And that’s before the question of whether the previous track work should have really been a lot more extensive rather than doing (parts of the work) twice within less than a decade.

      The people on here WANT rail investment.

  43. Just a moment… Ok, some of the track was apparently laid in the 1870s, blah blah. BUT, let’s not forget that the Western Line was double-tracked only around 20 years ago.

    Why does the Western Line, particularly, need to be so upgraded? Did they use 1870s technology when they did the double-tracking?

      1. Perhaps it’s that section from Quay Park through to Meadowbank that is built on the ocean i.e the causeway , is it sinking into the Harbour ? .

  44. “you could bring these back and use the six desels to pull them”

    Where are you getting 6 diesels from? KR have run out of locomotives as it is!

    1. There is a number at Woburn waiting to be scrapped or bring the DX’s up from the South Island when they get their new ones for the South .

      1. Using old diesels and then having trains cancelled or crap out under way… possibly worse than rail replacement buses…

      2. The New Zealand DM class Locomotives[nb 1] of 57 diesel-electric locomotives are a class under manufacture for New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail by Stadler Rail. The locomotives will be manufactured in Spain, and are expected to be introduced from early 2024 to 2026.

  45. I OIA’ed Kiwirail recently as I was concerned about the Eastern Line closures for ballast replacement, so soon after the rail was replaced. Basically they got the funding to replace the rails/sleepers and then funding to replace the ballast. Over the last 2 years on the Eastern Line:

    -62% of rails replaced
    -20% sleepers replaced
    -6.5% ballast replaced

    What an absolute waste of time and money, not to mention the disruptions. Would have been better to have speed restrictions in place until they could afford to rebuild from the ground up. There are no words for how frustrating this is.

    1. Aucklanders have lost trust in the railway system. People at the top need to go, total incompetence…and we are paying them for this with our rates and taxes?

  46. Rail buses between Newmarket and Otahuhu isn’t to bad but Otahuhu to Britomart via the Eastern line is a grind. In the past they have run train shuttles from Manukau to Panmure and Papakura to Penrose. They have also run them from Britomart to Penrose and Britomart to Sylvia Park. So full line closures don’t need to happen. I would suggest an enhanced bus 33 could be used when the outer southern line needs to be closed. Also an express bus via the motorway could run between Manukau and Papakura. The worse problem is the Eastern line and I really can’t think of anyway around it other than bikes on the GI to Quay Street cycleway but that’s not finished yet. My observation is a significant number of passengers on the line are only travelling a couple stations along the line.

    1. There is really no option at all when you live in Meadowbank and work in Manukau.

      Looking at the AT communication, the eastern line is out for almost all of 2023, followed by the southern line where the Eastern line to Manukau uses that in 2024, followed by the Manukau spur in 2025.

      Rail buses inexplicably never service Meadowbank Station, and the regular bus alternative is three buses and triple the time.

      Unfortunately cycling isn’t an option either – there’s a fantastic path to GI, but no way then through the hostile highways to Manukau.

      1. Yes, Meadowbank is a hard one to service without trains. I guess it depends on where people who use the station actually live. I imagine quite a few will just switch to using 75 buses but the few who work to the south have a long commute ahead of them no matter what.

      2. As part of a multi-strand approach, I was thinking there need to be some express buses put on for some pairs of stations along the southern line, using dedicated bus lanes on the motorway, and for West to South using the SW motorway… I wonder what would work from Meadowbank and Orakei?

        1. A bus shuttle from Orakei to Newmarket looks to be the only option and some electric golf carts to run between Meadowbank and Orakei along the shared path. Or just walk it probably only 10 minutes for the slowest person.

        2. Electric golf carts is a novel idea, but has potential. 10-15 minutes walk between the stations at Orakei and Meadowbank doesn’t seem huge, but when it comes on top of a 15 minute walk to Meadowbank station in the first place (instead of the usual 3-4 minutes on a bike, because of course anything that replaces the train won’t transport a bike….), it’s all adding up to an extra 45 minutes+ on the commute every day for months or years…..

          And frustratingly, if you want to go south from Meadowbank, it’s likely to involve a long detour towards the city before you can double back to head south.

  47. Where’s the smug hippies on here constantly ragging on roads being built by National when we have disaster after disaster proposed by incompetent transport engineers running AT and NZTA all under the noise of this so called competent government?

    1. Who’s calling this government ‘competent’? Only the most one-eyed Labour fanboys and fangirls.
      I’m centre-left and I think they are an incompetent basket-case.
      I’ll be voting TOP next election.

    2. Perhaps they are writing all of the articles and comments on this page ragging on Labour? perhaps they are angered by dogshit transport planning and not just the colour of tie or neckscarf the PM wears?

    3. This blog is constantly – daily – bagging AT, AC, WK and Labour.

      And those engineers are there regardless of which colour is in government. Keep up.

  48. Story focused on the disability access implications: https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/300704284/auckland-rail-closures-disabled-train-users-say-replacement-buses-inadequate

    Also says:

    ” Meanwhile, KiwiRail’s chief operating officer capital projects David Gordon said works carried out in 2020 and 2021 focussed on rail replacement safety work that needed to be fixed urgently whereas the newly announced Rail Network Rebuild would focus on the foundations of the track which required more planning and could only be done one segment at a time.

    A KiwiRail spokesperson said funding for the 2020/21 Catch Up work was intended to deal with the foundation work, but it soon emerged there was a more urgent safety question around the state of the rails and sleepers themselves.”

  49. So well put
    We really need more brains put together to work out better results.
    Sadly the people at the helm don’t agree

  50. i think we should have a round of consulation on use of the word network.
    Aucklands rail “network” looks more like a line (or bent noodle)

    Hey – while kiwirail trains are having a holiday – they could add another line/noodle to the future growth zones

        1. HaHa , and the China construction Company are putting a building up in Custom st East and if the Chines e are fast , so why isn’t finished .

  51. The model splitting the responsibility between kiwi rail, AT and TransDev obviously not working. Kiwi rail tries to get government money for maintenance, and AT lacks ambition and flexibility, and TransDev just tried to operate it in lowest standard to save some money.

    The analogy:

    Kiwi rail buys you SEAT low end car for the price of high end Mercedes and borrow money from loan shark and you have to pay back for 30 years loans plus interest. You are paying $300000 principle plus interest plus maintenance and the car last 5 years because the included maintenance is subcontracted incompetent mechanics who doesn’t care.
    You are paying 100k per year.

    NZTA comes along to make sure you drive the car at 30kmh, between 6am to 9pm at restricted destinations. They check the WOF 10 times a day for you and charges you $30000 per year for compulsory compliance service.

    Government choose an operator for you. The operator outsourced the driver to whoever cheapest. The driver is rude and always late, sometimes missing when you need him. The operation charge the government $50000 a year and the government chatges you $50000 + 20000 admin fee + GST.

    You end up paying for a $200000+GST + 5% annual increase per year for a crappy car, rude and late driver, who can only drives at 30kmh from restricted time and destinations.

    This is what happening. I would rather spend that $200000 annual budget on buying my own car and I have enough money left to buy myself a house.

    This is what social government does.

    1. I was with you on the analogy until you characterized it as socialist government.

      The outsourcing and loan sharking (PPI) is very much a neoliberal economic policy, along with deregulation of services.

      These are poster policies of the harder right, but are adopted and continued by center left governments that are economically conservative like their swing voters.

      The UK privatized track and signaling, before having to bring it back in-house in the wake of the fatal Hatfield disaster.

      It was probably caused by the company prioritizing investor dividends over investment in their safety-critical assets, with alarm bells being rung for some years before by the Rail Regulator.

      That was neoliberal conservative government.

  52. Its a debacle and so very Auckland transport planning. Proof yet again that AT sees itself as an (Auckland) law unto itself, not answering to anyone except its like-minded, ineffectual/disinterested Board.

    There is an opportunity here of course, for AT. It can sit by and wait for the highways to get flooded with more cars. Or it could quickly pivot to re-allocating parking spaces and lanes for cycleways and busways, ironically resulting in a better cycling and rapid transit city than we have now, even with disrupted rail. Implementing the city-wide changes its reports say we need, but which never eventuate.

    It probably has no real interest in the latter, the reports being lip-service to keep status quo car dependency and sub-optimal outcomes. It also knows AC will get the blame for the former. So in short, it cares little to do anything. So business as usual.

    1. Yes. It is fascinating to re-watch the council meeting video where the AT big wigs outlined their full support for the TERP (which requires substantial modeshift, ‘sector reform’, and overhauling ‘organisational conservatism’) in light of the information that this support was offered in full knowledge of KiwiRail’s bungle.

      The only logical and consistent conclusion we can make is that they do indeed intend to follow an approach similar to what you’ve outlined – or have some other competent strategy up their sleeves.

      If they don’t have a solution, and are about to say they don’t have the tools, the fine speeches simply come across as entirely lacking in truth and integrity.

      Trouble is, if the answer to ‘Did they have a TERP-aligned solution to this already-known problem when they committed to the TERP?’ is yes, then they would have announced it on Monday.

  53. Todd Niall writes a snappy summary: https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/130074504/auckland-rail-disruption-more-questions-than-answers-in-2023-shutdowns

    “Was it that the track operator KiwiRail told Stuff that it knew by 2020, that the ancient foundations of some lines would have to be dug up, but Auckland Transport (AT) said it found out “months” ago?

    Was it that the two agencies who spent months on the detail of how to shut down the lines, only told the city’s politicians several days before the council goes into a month-long, post-election political hiatus?”

      1. Because AT’s transport Dept are a bunch of Halfwits , and they told The Governance Board they would have to put AT staff at Pukekohe which they never had there except the Day GVR ran the specials out to Mission Bush on the week before the Dmu’s finished and even on that Day they had no-one there . And the Te Huia have their on staff on board that can do the Job .
        And most of the rail top brass are exKR who would have been down the road if they hadn’t left under their own free will .

      2. Because Pukekohe station will be a construction site and closed to the public during the works.

        Media are sensationalizing by leaving out this information.

        1. 2Thirds of the platform most likely will be out of action but there is a section North of the overbridge they could use and Te Huia could use that with 1 or 2 carriages letting the Passengers on or off .

  54. The urgency of climate change means that kiwirail need to be working on electrification of every rail line in the country. Passengers need to be first priority instead of the BAU of moving stuff about. We all have too much stuff, but I would like to be able to take my young children around the country without needing a private fossil fuelled or BE vehicle. We were a much more sociable people when trams dominated the streets, and a visit to MOTAT proves that on trams, people are happy, as they are on bikes. If we can re find happiness, we can perhaps extend the life expectancy of our young kids. Efeso Collins has mentioned many times that he will ask serious questions of AT and Waka Kotaki regarding funding important infrastructure in the most important city in Aotearoa / NZ. With an inclusive mayor we will have a real chance of pushing major necessary infrastructure projects without the smoke and mirrors of the current CCOs. A level of local democracy might also be returned; and finally begin to nullify the Rodney Hide effect. Lest we hope for too much?

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