Last week Auckland Transport confirmed how they’ll attempt to mitigate the first of the rail network shutdowns that begins at Christmas. The first section covers the Southern Line between Newmarket and Otahuhu as well as the Onehunga Line and is expected to last until March next year and will then be followed by the Eastern Line.

KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer David Gordon says: “Stage one of the rebuild will run for two months, between 16 January and 19 March, with trains unable to operate on the Onehunga Line and the Southern Line between Ōtāhuhu and Newmarket, effectively closing six stations – Remuera, Greenlane, Ellerslie, Penrose, Te Papapa and Onehunga.

“During this time we will be digging up and replacing the rock foundations under the tracks and improving drainage in the rail corridor, which is a crucial part of preparing the network for the more frequent trains to come with CRL.”

Auckland Transport Interim Chief Executive Mark Lambert says AT has been working closely with KiwiRail to ensure there is the least possible disruption for Auckland’s rail customers while this work is underway.

“For those customers unable to travel to and from the six stations where trains will not be running we have released details of a range of alternative bus services, including two express services,” Mr Lambert says.

To ensure those replacement bus services will be able to give customers faster and more reliable alternative bus journeys, AT is also working to ensure our traffic lights are optimised for buses travelling on those routes.

“Because the Rail Network Rebuild is being completed by KiwiRail in stages we are able to reduce the number of passengers affected by disruption from this project at any one time,” Mr Lambert says.

“For this stage one of the project about 85% of our rail passengers will be able to continue catching the train. All Southern Line passengers travelling between Britomart and stations south of Ōtāhuhu can still use trains as Southern Line train services will be rerouted through the Eastern Line, meaning trains will continue to run between Britomart and most Southern Line stops.

“It’s hugely important that we are able to keep running rail services for as many of our customers as possible during this project.”

AT has also launched a customer communications campaign today which will provide affected passengers with information they need to plan their journeys with confidence when stage one of the Rail Network Rebuild begins in January.

KiwiRail will also be communicating with rail corridor neighbours about the work in stage one.

The date is shown as 16 January but that’s only because the entire network will be shutdown from 26 December through to 15 January for both this work and other projects, such as the third main on the Southern Line.

As for how they’re mitigating the closure, This section is probably the easiest for AT to mitigate out of all of the planned rail closures due to the nature of the road network with allowing for relatively direct services along roads with at least some existing bus priority measures.

Despite this, AT seem to have made the whole thing as complex as they possibly could to understand. The mitigation revolves around the four areas below but there are a few fishhooks hidden in the detail of some of them.

  • rail replacement buses that follow the train route
  • express rail replacement buses direct to major destinations, such as Britomart and Newmarket
  • re-routing the Southern Line so that customers travelling between Britomart and Stations between Ōtāhuhu and Papakura can continue to use the train
  • existing bus routes (you may find one of our existing bus routes better suits your journey).

Let’s look at some these and their fishhooks in more detail.


Re-routing Southern Line services

At a high-level this is pretty straightforward, Southern Line trains from Papakura will use the Eastern Line trains to get to Britomart. The caveat though comes in the form of the existing Eastern Line services, which are impacted in two ways:

  • Trains will only run every 20 minutes during the peak. This means those that catch the train from Manukau will be disadvantaged, potentially with longer waits, especially if transferring from a bus. The upside is those on the Eastern Line between Otahuhu and Britomart will have up to 9 trains an hour – however, these aren’t evenly spaced and so spacing between services varies from 3 minutes to 10 minutes.
  • Off peak eastern line trains will terminate at Otahuhu meaning those travelling to/from Manukau will be forced to transfer.

Newmarket Rail users

The Western line will continue to run as normal however the timetable has had some additional services added off-peak between Britomart and Newmarket so there are still 6 trains per hour at that time. Like with the Eastern line though, these aren’t evenly spaced and run only a few minutes ahead of the western service meaning for all intents and purposes, trains are still only every 20 minutes – I’ve highlighted this in the image below.


In total AT are running four different rail replacement bus routes

Otahuhu to Newmarket

A rail replacement bus will run between Otahuhu and Newmarket and it will run at the same frequency as the trains. However, surely AT could have done a better job to tighten up the transfer as there is about 8 minutes between the Southern Line train arriving at Otahuhu and the rail bus departing. It appears focus was more on having a cleaner timetable than on minimising customer delays.

Ellerslie to Britomart

For those at Ellerslie, Greenlane and Remuera wanting to get to the city there’s a separate weekday only ‘express’ rail bus running every 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon peaks. Interestingly it doesn’t mention this service stopping at Newmarket even though it will have to travel through there.

Outside of the peaks or those going to Newmarket will either need to catch an existing bus service, most likely the frequent 70 route, or the normal rail replacement bus and transfer to another bus or a western line train at Newmarket.

Onehunga to Newmarket

For the Onehunga Line, AT are running another ‘express’ bus between Onehunga to Newmarket every 20 minutes from Monday to Saturday. It is scheduled to take just 20 minutes to run making it both faster and more frequent that the existing rail service is. It will also run every 30 minutes on Sundays. This route seems particularly odd given the speed and frequency plus that this route is already served by both the 30 and the 309 services.

Onehunga to Otahuhu

You may have noticed there are two stations missing from the information above, Penrose and Te Papapa. To serve them AT are introducing a forth temporary service that will run from Onehunga to Otahuhu via those two stations.

Existing bus routes

On top of these rail replacement buses there are obviously sill regular buses.

Probably what I find most frustrating about all this how AT communicate it. They leave it up to the public to decipher a page of text and a bunch PDF timetables just to work out what the options are – and it was only by looking at this in that level of detail I could see the fishhooks like that Manukau rail services is being reduced. With that in mind, here’s a couple of things AT could do to make it easier for the public to understand what the options are.

  1. How about a map showing the rail replacement bus routes and the changes to rail line routing. Even better, how about those as well as showing the most relevant existing bus options like the 30 and 70.
  2. A link from the Rail Network Rebuild to the journey planner and existing timetables might be useful.
  3. How about for each station being closed having some recommendations on how to get to/from it. For example, highlighting the ability to use the 30 or 309 from Onehunga or the 70 for Ellerslie, Greenlane and Remuera users – interestingly they/Kiwirail did this in in a briefing to Transport Minister Michael Wood in September so why not show it to the public?

It’s important that AT learn now how to get their messaging right as this section is probably the easiest to mitigate.

There is of course no mention of alternatives such as safe options for riding a bike, because there are none and/or it seems AT have no plans to put any in.

Share this


  1. “There is of course no mention of alternatives such as safe options for riding a bike”

    Well no – not if AT’s understanding of a cycling project is to take 5 years to plan it, and then 3 years to build it (if their latest “senior leadership” team doesn’t cancel it to appease some Councillor who hates bikes).

    1. And if they do put a bike lane in, they do it so badly they have to redo it later, or they just ignore what rubbish it actually is and hope we will also.

  2. Why would they make those Eastern line trains terminate at Otahuhu? I don’t understand the logic… is there any?

    1. Probably that they don’t feel the need to double the off-peak capacity between Otahuhu and Britomart, since the Southern Line is stopping at those stations instead.

      1. Which is crazy as they are effectively reducing the off-peak frequency between Puhinui and Britomart for no good reason, not great for airport link users.

        My guess is they know they will have to do this from April onwards as there is no way Eastern line services would fit through Newmarket so lets reduce frequency for the whole year. If so it’s a terrible reason.

  3. Sorry are they not turning the bus lanes along Great South road on full time? Is the storage of private property really that much more important than train customers?

  4. You forgot to mention that AT and KiwiRail had not realised there was a small concert at Eden Park featuring a Billy Joel and had cancelled trains that weekend- and still have.
    AT’s communications people need to be replaced based on the disastrous unintelligable information dump about next year. Thank you Matt for your work in making sense of it.

  5. Te Papapa doesn’t do that greatly out of this. Yes, there is the connector bus to Onehunga and Otahuhu, but that route’s already available by the 670 bus. There is no longer any route that takes you north (past Penrose) like the train does.
    To get to Britomart, you would need to take at least three buses – first to either Onehunga or Penrose, then to Newmarket and then to Britomart – or take a bus for 10 minutes in the wrong direction to catch a train at Otahuhu (670 or Connector) or Sylvia Park (743).
    They should ditch the Onehunga-Newmarket Express (which replicates the 30) and Onehunga Connector (which, other than a detour to Penrose, replicates the 670) and put on the standard bus replacement train.

      1. In saying that why doesn’t the Ellerslie to Britomart express run from Penrose so links with the Onehunga line better. Perhaps the turn around is a consideration.

    1. Anyone living south of te papapa has the worst bus services and the old bus network was better,had buses going to places without having to transfer to a train station just to get a train or another bus to complete journey.

  6. Let’s face it a Onehunga Otahuhu direct bus running every 20 minutes is a far better option than a half hourly train with a change at Penrose or Ellerslie. Missing out Newmarket on the Ellersie express bus will shorten the trip. So a good effort on AT part. It will be interesting to see what they come up with for the Eastern line which looks much harder. Over the Labour weekend an approx 50 metre section of track was dug out and the formation replaced and the track restored. This was just south of Papatoetoe Station on the track heading to Britomart. It took the whole 3 days. This shows the extent of the problem Kiwirail faces as it needs to replace kilometres of formation. Note this work was on existing track not the third main which is progressing but still no sign of any work at Middlemore Station.

  7. The whole thing could have been dealt with using a frequent bus running from Otahuhu via GSR and Newmarket to Britomart and a 20 min bus running from Onehunga via Te Papapa and GSR to Newmarket.

    It would have covered every movement, even if a bit slower. The other services are just tying up valuable drivers.

    1. There used to be some direct bus service that travelled along great south road between Newmarket to Otahuhu and went further south to Manukau(via otara) and Papakura(and vice versa) 470-495 but all were canned after the new bus network, A.T should of kept these services and made them run frequent every 20 mins etc

      1. They were right to can it given it would effectively be replicating the train line. However, it’s the sort of route that should be reinstated temporarily.

        1. Well kinda not convenience if you work along great south road between otahuhu to Greenlane. Buses should of terminated at greenlane then to complete journey catch the 70 bus

        2. Yes before the new network I remember sitting at Penrose and watching the zillions of Great South Rd buses going past duplicating themselves somewhat. In saying that I’ve always said I think it is a bit weak from Otahuhu through to Ellerslie now, with only the 321 hospital bus covering that and only weekdays at that. They should either beef that up to a frequent service or extend the 33 bus to Ellerslie which connects to the 70, as you can turn around like the 295 does at the Harp of Erin. Train or no train, there is a lot of businesses along the Great South Rd itself. The 70 probably won’t overload as lot of px gets off at Panmure to transfer to train I guess (or do more get on there than off)?

  8. There’s this odd logic within AT that assumes that a rail customer cannot be persuaded to use a normal, scheduled bus service and has to have a special bus laid on that does exactly what the train does. Would it not be far simpler and resource efficient (as others here have pointed out) to just beef up existing scheduled services where capacity issues are present and promote those messages as the “replacement” option? Whenever the Western Line has not been operating, I would never use a rail replacement bus that dawdles through back streets to get to every station along the line, when there are existing parallel bus routes that are far quicker. The proposed “response” outlined for Stage 1 seems horribly complex, when it really doesn’t need to be. You might even end up with customers who understand that there is more than one way to get around Auckland on public transport…

    1. That assumes the bus route goes parallel, bir at least somewhere you want to go. AT are masters of this strategy at Meadowbank Station, with the rail bus never calling in there, and directions instead to use the regular bus. The fact that the train from Meadowbank goes to Manukau, and the bus to Mission Bay is evidently irrelevant….

    2. Like South Auckland for example the old network had local buses travelling to CBD and Newmarket without having to transfer but all canned after the new network cuz they thought it was duplication to what trains does.

  9. Cutting the Eastern Line short at Otahuhu is crazy and one of the ridiculous parts of this. When the inner Southern Line was closed in 2020 for emergency repairs, they just ran the Southern via Panmure and kept the Eastern Line the same. I don’t understand why they can’t do the same now – aside from maybe penny pinching.

    That means everyone from Otahuhu to Puhinui – including airport passengers – have just lost frequent service to the city in off-peak. Remember when the new bus network was meant to have frequent trains to transfer to?

  10. From a Facebook group

    One understands that additional cross-overs are proposed at Sylvia Park, Meadowbank, Manurewa and Fruitvale.

    1. That would be great when something happens south of Homai as previously they had to can trains at Homai because that’s where the current crossover is

  11. Heads up that consultation on setting speed limits on state highways closes 12 December. Almost nothing offered for Auckland, e.g. old SH1 Puhoi-Warkworth to remain at 100 km/h when motorway opens.

    My submission below:

    I am objecting to the entire ISMP on the following grounds.

    1. It is not consistent the Stockholm Declaration
    2. It is not consistent with Vision Zero
    3. It is not consistent with Ausroads guidance on speed limits
    4. It is not consistent with the Setting of Speed Limits 2022 rule.
    5. It does not deliver Road to Zero

    For example, from Road to Zero: “We also need to understand and make roads and streets safer for unprotected road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and scooter riders… We cannot continue to rely on four inches of paint for avoiding head-on collisions between vehicles travelling at 100 km/h towards each other on busy stretches of open road.” Can you really claim that the ISMP is consistent with these statements?

    It is frankly unbelievable that after such an amount of research, evidence, policy studies, and legislative processes, WK could come up with this proposal. Its contribution to achieving the targets of Road to Zero is so close to zero as to be likely unmeasurable.

    In fact, I note that on page 9, WK say, “The ISMP puts on on the pathway to achieve these targets” [i.e. -40% DSI by 2030], while on the immediately preceeding page, it says that the IMSP does NOT aim to deliver the safety outcomes.

    The -40% national target is erased in the ISMP and replaced by a non-quantitative objective to “reduce DSI on state highways”. As the RCA for roads that account for a large proportion of DSI, WK should state what their target is for the state highway network – presumably at least -40% – and state what proportion of that is to be delivered by the ISMP.

    Actually, ALL five objectives are non-quantitative, which renders the “measures” on page 8 flimsy. Even the “measures” are non-quantitative – what is the actual target for state highways with safe and appropriate speeds?

    I am at a loss to explain the proposal. All I can conjecture is that WK has chosen to make the one mention of “pragmatic” in the Guide override its 154 mentions of “safe and appropriate speeds”. What a disaster.

    This “pragmatic” approach is said to be needed to “ensure communities are brought along on the journey towards a safe Aotearoa”. The proposed ISMP does not do that. It offers a lot of fluff, no range of choices, and nothing linking the choices to specific safety outcomes. Nicole Rosie replied to the AA’s question, “Do you think the public are prepared for the scale of speed reductions that are going to be coming?” with “Well, we don’t know the scale yet because it will genuinely be dependent on each community and each consultation.” But the community have not been offered ANY safe choices, or fair information on which to base their contribution. In this situation it’s more likely that you will hear a lot of pre-existing misconceptions.

    Yes, pragmatism is one component, but it cannot outweigh actually achieving the required safety goals. To pragmatism, I would like to add the missing ingredient – leadership.

    When Road to Zero was introduced, the Ministry said, “Safer Journeys lacked national targets and overall outcome targets. This allowed operational focus to shift away from road safety. It also meant there was limited ability to track the impacts of interventions and the overall impact of the strategy over time.” This is exactly the same mistake that WK is now proposing to make again.

    I would like to remind you – as you should have reminded the public – that pedestrian fatalities are up 44% this year compared to the previous 3 years. Cyclist fatalities are up 74%, others up 11%, for +16% overall. The lockdowns make comparisons difficult, but petrol use is now down 10% compared to last year, indicating lower VKT especially from commuters, so the lockdowns cannot be the whole explanation.

    Pedestrians and cyclists comprise 16% of road fatalities, not a small number. Since 2018, 43 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed on state highways with 100 km/h speed limits.

    The legislation (12.13.2) states that “An interim plan— (a) must also include, for any changes being proposed to a speed limit that do not align with the Agency’s confirmed assessment of what is the safe and appropriate speed limit for the road, an explanation for why, after considering the matters in clause 3.2(1), the road controlling authority proposes a speed limit that differs from the Agency’s confirmed assessment (unless subclause (4) applies)”. OK, a lot of legalese, but I cannot find this explanation in the proposal.

    You know that the vast majority of speeds are not safe and appropriate. In the Waikato, of roads currently at 100 km/h, the MoT found in 2018 that 49% should be limited to 80 km/h and 38% should be limited to 60 km/h.

    A speed plan consistent with Road to Zero would make give all state highways safe and appropriate speeds immediately.

    A weaker (pragmatic?) plan would achieve this in 10 years, indicating that 20% of the state highway length (or VKT) would be covered by the IMSP.

  12. What puzzles me is that with the southern line partial closed. It could have made sense just to have the old Britomart to Papakura service via Glen Innes, paired with a Puhuni to Manukau shuttle. If only Puhuni opened with 4 platforms.

    1. Thought the same thing but they could of ran like one service from Kura to britomart via Newmarket then next service Kura to britomart via Glenn Innes, and he Manukau line one service to britomart via Glenn Innes and next service to britomart via Newmarket

    1. …and run over cyclists, text while driving (or stuck in a traffic jam) and complain on reddit about all the horrible traffic and that all other drivers are idiots. If only there was a solution to this!

  13. Is the express weekday-only bus from Ellerslie to Britomart perhaps going to join the motorway at Gillies Ave after Remuera (and exit the motorway at Market Rd on the outward leg), so that’s why it isn’t stopping at Newmarket?

  14. Great so instead of taking 1 hour and 14 minutes to commute via PT (one way) it’s now going to take 1 hour and 49 minutes.

    Almost 4 hours of my day spent commuting… no thanks. Not when I can get in a car and drive to work in 25 minutes, even with a bit of traffic on the way home that’s about a quarter of the time spent away from my kids!

  15. Assuming the Onehunga express to Newmarket takes a more eastern route (the train line more or less I would guess) than the 30 and 309, it could be a much faster bus. Avoiding Manukau Road and other car-heavy areas of greater Onehunga, despite some bus priority, would make it at least comparable to the current train service.

  16. Going around Tamaki Drive Yesterday Saturday 3rd Dec. it looked like they were doing work on the Eastern line between Parnell Baths and the 1st Bridge heading East . And with the size of the works it looked major with what they were doing under the tracks .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *