Yesterday was a dramatic day for light-rail watchers, with a number of developments.

The Mayor prefers light rail on the surface

Mayor Wayne Brown shared his thoughts on light rail with Oliver Lewis at Business Desk, and he seems to nail almost every issue with the project so far, and the trade-offs involved.

Last week Business Desk had reported that Auckland Light Rail (ALR) was doing another investigation on a surface light rail option, although ALR insisted it was all part of a normal business case process.

However, as per yesterday’s article, it seems this reinvestigation was pushed by Mayor Brown and Councillor Chris Darby  – the council’s representatives on the light rail sponsors group – along with mana whenua representatives.

In an interview this week, Brown said he and Darby, as the council representatives on the light rail sponsors group, had pushed for a surface option to be given greater consideration.

“We have insisted that they are at least giving light rail the same amount of respect as metro rail,” he said.

“They’re not happy about that, but it’s not just me, the Māori sponsors think the same.”

There are three mana whenua representatives on the sponsors’ group. Ngarimu Blair, deputy chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, said the iwi was relieved there was going to be a serious investigation of a surface-running alternative.

“We’ve always supported an at-grade option, because we believe it has better urban outcomes, better accessibility, better equity in terms of it’s a much cheaper option, and we can build more lines than one single line.”

Blair was previously on the board that oversaw an earlier stage of the light rail investigation, at which point he was the only person to dissent on the tunnelled option. He did so with good reasons, so it’s great he’s still able to provide input into this process.

The reality is that the ALR team has never given a surface option a fair chance, and that should be a scandal given how far along the process is and how much money has been spent. Instead, they came up with a design that if delivered, would be the most expensive per km anywhere in the world – and they did so by applying a raft of arbitrary restrictions on services which aren’t seen in other systems, and all of which appear to be all about not impacting car drivers. They also argue we should spend billions more right now because the line might just be busy in 50 years time.

Mayor Brown also points out the benefit of being able to build a network rather than a single line:

But even if the cheaper surface-running option cost more, it would still be significantly less expensive than tunnelling, he added.

“If you spend $30b, which is what it will be, and get one line, for $30b you’d probably get four lines of [surface light rail].”

Brown believed the tunnelled option was chosen to avoid the disruption associated with surface-level construction, but said:

“I think they’ve overegged that omelette.”

Brown doesn’t say it directly, but four lines will deliver a lot more ridership and mode-shift than any tunnelled option ever will, by expanding public transport access to more areas.

Brown also notes that surface-running light rail is likely to deliver better urban outcomes and a more enjoyable rider experience. He even seems to understand the displacement of car travel as a feature, not a bug, when it comes to liveability and climate action:

Brown said there would be high-density development in nodes around the underground stations, whereas a surface option would lead to more gentle density spread along the route.

“I think that’s more Auckland,” he said.

Sightseeing in Sydney During his whirlwind trip to Sydney, which was disrupted by another heavy rain event in Auckland, Brown said he’d been impressed by light rail on George St.

“What impressed me most about the tram was the fact it brings in new public transport users who have never got on public transport before.”

The Sydney metro was high volume, fast and efficient, however, Brown believed navigating the underground stations was more complicated for first-time users. A surface-running light rail line in Auckland would be good on environmental grounds, too, he said, as it would displace short car trips. And it would be a more pleasant user experience.

“When you’re in an underground tunnel and you look out the window and there’s nothing but black wall, you want the thing over,” Brown said.

“But when you’re in a tram and you’re gliding through the suburbs, you don’t seem to be in such a rush because there are lots to look at.”

In his observations of the Sydney example, the mayor seems drawn to the detail of how much easier it is to access a platform that is right in the middle of the action rather than one underground.

One aspect the ALR team has never included in their analysis of their preferred tunnel option is just how long it takes a person to get down to – and back up from – the platform of an underground station. This can easily add several minutes of travel time, negating any claimed travel time savings for the vast majority of users on the isthmus.

Also, the Mayor is a fan of the advantage of being able to see and enjoy where you’re going. As captured in this classic meme:

ALR is hoping to put out notices of requirement for their planned station locations soon, but the mayor seems to have seen through this too.

When ALR had come to the sponsors to discuss station locations, the mayor said:

“Our view was, ‘Hang on, you’re asking us to notify the stations, but you’re in fact actually cunningly asking us to go down the route of underground.’”

One last thing to note from the interview is that it seemed he enjoyed working with Michael Wood, saying “he actually knows about Auckland transport and he’s interested in it.” However, just a few hours later…

Michael Wood resigns as a minister

Transport Minister Michael Wood resigned following the issues that emerged recently about his shareholdings. What’s important here is that Wood was a strong backer of the ALR process and of Tunnelled Light Rail, including writing a piece for us about it back in 2021.

The new Minister of Transport is David Parker, and while his views on light rail aren’t yet known, a new minister surely also makes it more feasible to have a change in approach to the project.

Light Rail Consultation Response

Right after the announcement of Michael Wood’s resignation, ALR released the results of their consultation from earlier this year, as well as from some geo-tech work they’ve done.

They say they received more than 1500 responses to the consultation, and claim 70% of people support it. If it’s so popular with people, why have they still not shared the full route and potential station locations yet?


In Onehunga, ALR consulted on a bizarre proposal to use the designated but currently unused Avondale Southdown route, which would have taken light rail out of the way and caused massive disruption, compared to a more direct option along SH20.

The Avondale Southdown Rail corridor proposal

“We heard there was a strong preference for a simpler and more direct light rail route alongside the Southwestern Motorway (State Highway 20) and the Onehunga Bay lagoon.”

In other words, people said: use existing corridors, build it cheap, put it in the middle of the town centre


For Māngere, the consultation was about whether the station would be located in the town centre or closer to the motorway,

Unsurprisingly most people wanted the station in the town centre:

“There is a strong desire – almost 80 percent – for light rail to connect into the Māngere town centre.  The motorway route option was the least preferred and is seen as too difficult for people to access.”

One other thing I found interesting from the feedback report was how support differed by age:

Underground Testing

Finally, the team has drilled 30 boreholes along their preferred isthmus route, to check the underground conditions for any potential tunnel. They say:

“The data gives us a 3D picture of Auckland underground. As part of the drilling work, we discovered several layers of basalt lava flows 40 to 50 metres deep, belonging to the historic Auckland Volcanic Field. These are ‘no-go areas’ where it would be difficult for us to build our tunnel. It’s critical information that allows us to work out the exact path for the tunnel and where stations could be located.”

How wiggly is this tunnel going to have to be to avoid that basalt – is it even possible? It’s not like Auckland having an extensive volcanic field was unknown.

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  1. The sooner ALR gets put out of its misery the better. Questions will need to be asked about the tremendous waste of public resource and time, while other corridors like the northwest have been ignored.

    1. I still believe that the consulting needed to be done, even if none of this goes ahead, Auckland has no planned rapid transit. But lots of planned freeways.
      I believe data gained during this rapid transit proposal will come in handy in years or decades time when there is political will to build rapid transit.

  2. I mean this sounds kind of promising, but we’re nearly six years after the initial announcement and we don’t know where the route is going to go for sure or whether it’s going to be a surface option. There is still no option for the North West all, when at one point the NW line was an ATAP Decade One priority (which tbh, was one of the few things that made a regional fuel tax palatable in that part of the world). In the end I got sick of being baited-and-switched on this and bought an EV.

    The basalt thing was entirely predictable; indeed some here in the GA LRT comments streams predicted it to be totally impractical and now we know that the decision was made without this fairly fundamental piece of information. While it’s starting to point in the right direction, current form to date suggests any sense of optimism is tinged with Nigella Lawson-esque lashings of caution.

    1. > I got sick of being baited-and-switched

      Ditto. I spent almost 20 years trying to do the right thing, but I was swimming against the current the whole time. These days I’m too tired and will just drive, since it’s so much easier.

  3. Mein Gott! Twice in one week Mayor Brown says something we can agree on!

    (He also wants to increase parking fines)

    1. I’m not so surprised to be honest. When he was elected, I didn’t write him off as many here did – because he seemed like he had some common sense. Now that he is uncovering the facts, he’s going to make common sense decisions.

    2. It isn’t common sense – it’s engineering sense, which takes human behaviour into account. Some things the Mayor really does see truly.

    3. This often happens with guys that get elected on “common sense”. Once they have the actual facts explained to them their view of common sense is adjusted (to some kind of uncommon sense I guess).

    4. He’s far better than what the media makes him out to be. I would like to see what positive changes he has in store for Auckland, without all the virtue signalling and unrealistic expectations the existing central government likes to see.

  4. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Hipkins cancels the two big Auckland transport projects and uses the money for electioneering.

  5. The whole ALR project has been dogged by factions ,who seem to hijack it for their own ends.
    Undergrounding to reduce on road disruption during construction.
    Kiwi Rail tying it to heavy rail.
    Pushing through directly to the airport,bypassing Mangere.
    It took one weekend visit to Australia for the mayor to see what light rail should be,and kudos to him for articulating his views.
    He now has to marry surface light rail with “fewer road cones” and the concept may get back on track. The elections though,will probably finish it off.

  6. I am shocked that you guys are falling for anything coming out of Wayne Brown, the man who was voted in on a platform of racism, rate cuts and NIMBYism, the guy who is toxic and bullying to Pasefika councillors, the guy who is trying to muzzle the press and to sell the Auckland Airport shares, the guy who went on holiday while Auckland drowned at Anniversary weekend. If that guy says surface option, put me down for Tunnel or Nothing.

    And gloating about the downfall of the competent and popular transport minister? It seems to me that this blog is drifting rapidly to the Right.

    1. I’m not sure about Wood.
      I believe that his heart is in the right place, but the shareholdings conflict as a minister is just baffling and unneeded.
      He was also on board with tunneled rail and the cycle bridge – both wrong options because they would spend vast amounts of money just to avoid inconveniencing drivers.
      As for Brown – yes, he’s terrible. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

      1. Yes, I am not a fan of Brown. But I only care about the message, not the messenger.

        Way too much emphasis on any failings of anybody who presents an idea, on left or right. Polictics should be a battle of ideas, not a popularity contest.

        1. I think that you have to see Brown like Trump. He will literally say anything to anybody, partly because I don’t think his brain is quite right, but partly because that’s the kind of politician he is. Lefties in the United States used to think they could “use” Trump to get good things done – like they could get him to bring in universal healthcare or student loan forgiveness by telling them it would own his enemies. I have, literally, heard a senior Green politician say the same thing about Wayne Brown.

          I suppose that – if you see a strong Right-wing shift coming – then if you have a very “insider” view of politics, that you get good things done by flattering and persuading whoever’s in charge, then it makes sense for urbanists to start appealing to the Newstalk ZB audience of whom Wayne Brown is the personification. I personally find it quite unpleasant, which is why I’m not politically successful myself, lol

      2. Don’t get me wrong; Wood had to go, the shares thing is a footbullet, and I didn’t support all his takes. But I’ve been struck by how many people from all walks of political life seem sorry to see him go. I only just found out his replacement is David Parker, the guy who got sacked from Cabinet for breaking lockdown for a bike ride, and a grey non-entity, so…

        1. Parker seems to largely go under the radar, whilst actually being probably the busiest minister: Environment, Revenue, Finance (associate minister)…and now Transport!
          I think he’s a good guy; very diligent and plays with a straight bat. But I worry he’s got a lot on his plate already. Did I mention he’s the Attorney-General as well?
          How can he have time to attend to the Transport portfolio as well? (And isn’t there anyone else sufficiently competent in the whole government, to take on just one Ministerial role?)

      3. If we complain about Wood, should we not also demand that all MP’s sell any investment/rental housing they own?

        1. No, we should complain about other MPs with rental properties that they do not register on entering parliament and then spend several years misleading cabinet saying they are disposing of the rental when they are not.

        2. I don’t know how many chances are acceptable, but I am guessing it should be somewhere well short of 12…

    2. “If that guy says surface option, put me down for Tunnel or Nothing.”

      You have just made the perfect “cut off your nose to spite your face” comment.

      I hate the guy, but if he prevents something stupid from happening, and makes something better more likely, then I support that and wish him well (in that regard). Doesn’t mean I’ll campaign for him to be re-elected next time.

      And as for Brown? Meh, I’m kinda sad to see him go, but only kinda. He hasn’t been very effective as a transport minister. Bureaucrats seem to dance rings around him. So yeah, no big tears here.

    3. What a nonsense comment Daphne.
      Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
      You didn’t get your choice of mayor so that makes Brown racist? Put a sock in it.
      I’m not a fan of many of his policies but he was voted in. Even mayors take holidays… that’s why we have deputy mayors. He wasn’t to know a big event was about to unfold.
      You just sound bitter and twisted as usual.

      1. Here we go – because Brown is (for some reason, temporarily, perhaps due to brain malfunction) supporting commenters’ views on LR, his racist election campaign and his racist targeting of Cllr Jo Bartley gets flushed down the memory hole

        1. Just because someone disagrees with your ideas and you can’t label them a racist.

        2. Typical deflection and woke nonsense as per usual with you Daphne. Anyone disagrees with you and you reach into you pocket and pull out whatever card you want to play to try to shut down contrary opinions

    4. Ah yes, the thoughtcrime of actually wanting the correct specification for Auckland’s need for a transport project – and not only that, actually wanting it to be built at some stage.

      Remember, we have always been at war with Auckland Airport.

    5. > And gloating about the downfall of the competent and popular transport minister?

      He chose tunnelled light rail as the best option. Far from competent I would say.

    6. I think you have hit it on the head. Brown is like a compass that points south. Not useless, you just have to know how to use him properly. Find out his opinion on any issue and the truth will probably be the opposite.

    7. > It seems to me that this blog is drifting rapidly to the Right.

      Wanting good tranport outcomes shouldn’t be a triblal left or right issue, you need to work with allies from all political spectrums.

    8. “then it makes sense for urbanists to start appealing to the Newstalk ZB audience of whom Wayne Brown is the personification”

      So, consensus building and bringing people to the table is a bad thing? Tons of those boomers will use LR once it’s built even if they’re against it now, get them on board.

  7. My take is that better public transport on the isthmus is very popular with Labour supporters, which is why they have persisted with the project despite opposition from other people. Labour also wanted to improve public transport in the Mangere area. Reallocating space away from roads and carparking has been extremely politically difficult, e.g. on Dominion Road, in the past. So Labour went for a solution that involved entirely new infrastructure that was very costly. It might have been better to have said that if the Auckland Council could get agreement on space reallocation to bus lanes and if up-zoning took place immediately, the business case for light rail would look much better. The government would then support the project once space had been freed up and new housing built to increase potential passenger numbers.

    1. I don’t think transport, at a local level in Auckland, is that partisan. Platforms of transport ideas have put people in the top seat (Len Brown and PT) and have tipped them out if it (John Banks and the eastern motorway)

  8. Following SH20 makes sense. I just hope they’ve abandoned the idea of putting heavy rail down the same route as light rail. For one thing it seems unlikely that trains would get up the hill beside SH20. And second, double-stacking the tracks would be slow and costly to build, and ugly and noisy when done.

    As for Michael Wood, he says nice things but has not shown he can get anything much implemented. I remember when he first ran for council promising that he would get rid of the high-voltage pylons through Onehunga and Hillsborough. I don’t think he even thought about it again once elected.

    1. I think that the route through the kiwi rail designation makes far more sense especially for the tunneled route.
      It places a station closer to royal oak center that would have more catchment, but if we are spending billions on a tunnel, why have a small section of the route massively reduce the quality of service, this is due to the steep gradient alongside sh20 headinig up to Mt roskill, I believe this would be another excuse for alr to low quality rolling stock.

      1. While they are building that piece along SH20 to Onehunga, they should also extend it up to the Western line and/or NW Busway. Get a cross-town route at the same time.

        1. The Avondale southdown line will be built as heavy rail. Can they not find any other place for the light rail? How about dominion rd to mt roskill rd? Or dominion rd to Balmoral rd to manukau rd?
          Why are we wasting time duplicating things

        2. I thought HR on the route was an idea long gone. Although Mayor Brown is a fan.

          The LRT line proposed would be one that loops back up and replaces the Onehunga line, up to (say) Newmarket.

    2. “Following SH20 makes sense”

      Yes it does

      So why did the experts with all the data, tools and skills have to ask the uneducated public to figure this out?

      Why can the public figure this out (and I note the Maori input) and not the experts who are being highly paid to work on the best solution?

      Why does it take a Mayor to do a day trip to Sydney to notice that surface running works well? I would think the expert advisors learn from best international examples everywhere; and don’t actually need junkets to be informed

      If there is a flip on the approach taken; even if justified by ‘oh, we didn’t know we would have to tunnel through basalt’, then next obvious step would be to remove the people who wanted tunneling as people not capable of effective planning

      TBH, not that sad to see Woods go. Seems like a nice guy, but he was played hard by WK on the bridge and light rail.

      1. What is your reasoning behind running alongside sh20?
        I don’t see the KiwiRail designation as a diversion.
        As the line would need to divert away from sh20 to Onehunga anyway.
        I also believe stations up against a motorway leave little room for good transit orientated devalopment.
        I would say most of the people who opposed the new route would be doing so due to their conflict of interest, likely own property near that designation.

        1. +1

          Having just spent two weeks using, trains, trams and metros across Europe, metro is the clear winner and anything near a motorway, a death trap ghetto.

          Trams are great for the last mile but not for a distance as long as the airport to the city.

          Perfect for Dominion road but no further, exactly as it was until it was ripped up in the 50s.

        2. @KLK. I work at LHR so use that daily.

          No, more like the Elizabeth Line but better examples exist on the Continent that I’ve been using quite a bit recently due to work.

        3. Cheaper/faster/straighter alignment along SH20 directly to existing HR station, and nice view of the lagoon in my opinion. Look at the maps. The only other station close to SH20 would be likely be by either Hayr or Hillsborough Rd, the latter on a hill not buried next to the motorway anyay.

  9. This is truly positive news.

    As far as I have observed, ALR seems to have been pure blablabla up until this point; but if the current mayor is accepting reality, then perhaps we can again be more positive about such an important, transformative project.

    With the CRL continuing to progress, and the Papakura to Papatoetoe electrification and station creation also moving forward, ALR would complete the trinity and truly make this Greater City a Great City; making it easier for everyone to move about without the risks of the road.

    As a father of two young children I can only feel positive about these announcements!

  10. What would be good to see would be if the Mayor can use his powers as “an engineer” to question how light rail is constructed. Considering a typical light rail vehicle is about same weight as a large truck, but when placed on sleepered track the weight loading is much better spread out. So why can’t we just lay the LR tracks on top of existing road surface (for majority of sections) and build up road level around them (if it needs to be at same level?

    It seems to me that digging a 1.5m trench and rebuilding the formation for light rail (and all the services relocations this requires) is what drives the costs.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to deliver light rail for a lot less per km than other cities, rather than more?

    1. I agree, a 300mm thick reinforced concrete slab with rails on top.
      and placed over the existing road would take the weight of the trams easy.
      This could be built in a year or two.

    2. Great idea. Keep it simple and save a lot in the process.
      They should really just focus on Queen St-Dom Rd and get that done.
      If as has be alluded to in the past it’s too narrow in spots then just compulsory acquire those properties, knock ‘em down and redevelop them on a smaller footprint building up and sell for profit.

      1. The majority of the buildings where it is too narrow are both heritage and earthquake prone. The owners aren’t investing in earthquake resilience because of the uncertainty regarding light rail – which they’ve been told is going to happen since 2010 – and the consequences for their properties.

        1. There is nowhere on the corridor that is too narrow for light rail. It’s only too narrow for through traffic, so we should just ban through traffic.

    3. Last time I suggested this I was told I’m an idiot!
      Bridges are far cheaper to build than our LR supposedly is. Just build a bridge that is 1mm above the ground ;). Make sure you don’t put the piles where there are services. Job done.

    4. I guess issue would be with pedestrians crossing road/track bed that is now higher (paths to shop door height issues etc)? Part of the reason to use LRT is the nice street walkability you can integrate in with.

  11. While all of this back and forth has been going on we could have had light rail along SH16 to kumeu – which was supposed to be done first. Instead we get bus shelters on overpasses at interchanges and are told it’s a busway.

    When is the west going to get proper attention?

  12. Well goodbye to Wood his demise is a plus for the Labour Party as his judgement is delusional. I am a bit skeptical about Brown as well I believe his advocacy of shifting the port is wrong as recent weather events have shown. So apparently tunneling is difficult so maybe the best scheme is to revert to surface level light rail is. Any new proposal should steer away from Queen Street as that is just beginning to look nice now. So a route that links Britomart to the University and the hospital would be a good first step. Another first step would be to finalise the routes through Onehunga and Mangere.

    1. Don’t the images of Sydney’s George Street look good to you? (There’s one in the article). Hence, Queen Street could also look good (better than now, which I agree is better than before) with light rail?

      1. They do but we have only just finished Queen Street and it has got the CRL anyway. The hospital and the university attract a lot of public transport journeys a connection to the ferries and Britomart would be well used. The airport Onehunga section would connect to rail at Onehunga and could also act as a standalone section until the rest of the line is built at a later stage. It would also tidy up the bus routes in Mangere.

        1. I’d probably like that better. But what route would it take from Britomart? Anzac Ave, Symonds St, Grafton Rd? Then where? Mt Eden Road or Dominion Road? Lots of direction changes and road junctions to deal with. The other way seems a bit easier.

        2. Yeah it’s a bit difficult to know where it would go after it get to Grafton Station which I suppose why they came up with tunnels.

        3. One of the criticicsms – even of surface light rail – has been the duplication of the CRL once you get in the CBD and down/up Queen St.

          Linking the University quarter with Britomart/Commercial Bay would seem a good solution, while also addressing a busy PT corridor. For Queen St, as long as we get cars out and leave it to electric buses and bikes, it can still be a nice street environment.

        4. The old tram maps show a route up Anzac, Symond over Grafton bridge then through Newmarket then Manukau Road to Onehunga.

        5. I think up Queen St onto Dominion Rd is still the way to go. The patronage using the CRL is more regional I would think plus access to underground stations are quite a walk away.
          Grafton Bridge won’t take the load of modern LRT now?
          There has probably been quite a bit of work gone into this route that could be “dug up again” to progress.
          It should continue to Wynyard Quarter with future provision for over the shore.

  13. I find it bazaar that wane brown would compare Sydney trams to there new driverless metro and think that we could choose ether one based on his riding experience.
    I agree that being on the surface is much nicer then being in a tunnel, hence my stance with the north shore connection being on a bridge.
    But if we don’t know the purpose of a tram or the purpose of a metro and think these types of transit are interchangeable, then I think we have bigger problems then the incoming national/act government.
    I still believe the airport/mangere section needs to be forgotten about. We could build the cheapest LR to mount roskill on dominion rd or sandringham rd and along symonds st, zero tunneling needed.
    The trams could have batteries that recharge at stations or sections with overhead wires.
    And stations could be single track with platforms on one side to reduce the amount of roadway needed.

  14. This is great news. I’m glad the mayor enjoyed and seem to appreciate the surface running route. Yes that rock will be an issue alright. Wood going is probably bad for PT and cycling in general but maybe not and with his support of the tunnelled option I don’t feel so bad.

  15. Regarding the numbers of competent Labour politicians currently steadily falling, and David Parker being put in place of Michael Wood, isn’t it seriously time to bring Phil Twyford back to the front bench and give him the portfolio? He’s the only MP I’ve spoken with who seems to have any glimmer of intelligence about transport (Chris Bishop is a complete vacuum on the subject, so watch out there) and he has surely paid the price and done his time on the back bench.

    David Parker is already way overloaded… Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Minister of Revenue, and Associate Minister of Finance.

    Give the role to Phil.

      1. He was in a much more difficult position with NZ First calling the shots. Maybe he felt the Super Fund was the only way to get funding.

    1. Twyford’s contribution to improving transport in Auckland was oustandingly negative, leading to the years now of zero progress.

  16. At least David Parker has a little time to start pulling development and transport into the same workspace. Wayne has spotted that string intensification along a corridor is a more likely Auckland proposition than high rise around underground stations. there is far too much legislation for good value capture, in the face of isthmus “character” opposition, for the unlocking of high-density node development. And waiting for the stations to be built before taking up any development land with current-market rebuild is improbable. Compare Permitted development with what people actually build. We may not get the number of dwellings needed to pay for underground ALR if all the land is full of new medium-density builds.

  17. There are a couple of simple equations here.
    Equations that Brown seems to have belatedly discovered, but kudos for both discovering , and now advocating for them.
    The same equations that seem to have eluded Wood for years.

    60km of surface light rail, will carry more passengers, and therefore displace more cars then 20km of any tunnelled metro through difficult ground. Both appear to cost about the same.

    Accessing subsurface platforms is a time consuming hassle, a hassle that negates any higher peak speeds attainable by the underground option.

    And surface transport is so much nicer to be on, then enduring disorientating underground transits.

    1. “surface transport is so much nicer to be on” – depends on how far you are traveling. At some point the speed difference is important. Surface is better for the isthmus, worse for Mangere.

      1. This project has been blighted by substandard identification of the problems in need of a solution.
        The history of the project started by the requirement for more required capacity from the central isthmus connecting with other rapid transit, (heavy rail, and dedicated busways), and the CBD and it’s other associated bus routes.
        This was because the option of just adding more buses to the existing routes was reaching it’s practical limit.
        Queues of buses waiting in the roadway waiting to get alongside the kerb, at already over length bus stops, and people scrambling to identify the right bus and then get to where it actually stops, was already occuring at some CBD stops.
        And accommodating more buses at their CBD turnbacks, will further amplify the existing challenges.
        So over a decade ago AT identified surface light rail as the best solution to solve this specific problem.
        Here nothing really has changed.
        What did change, is that politicians and advocates, sought to enlarge the scope and geographical coverage of the project particularily, airport to CBD
        For this surface lightrail is rightly questionable.
        So we now have wasted a decade of trying to fit a solution around poorly defined, and rated, multiple problems.

        1. I agree it’s purpose has got confused but I think there is nothing wrong with a solution that could solve more than one problem.
          As I wrote above, it should go back to the original design of Queen St, Dominion Rd. I think the obsession with times to the airport should just be muted somewhat and some extra stations put in. eg higher up on Queen St considering the steepness there for walking etc. We have the existing Airport link via Eastern/Southern trains & frequent electric buses which fulfils this. With it’s improved future plans for the station and right of ways this is a good airport option for many.
          The patronage using the CRL is more regional I would think plus access to the underground stations are quite a walk away (though I’m sure people will use this particularly when they first open!).
          The sparsity of stations along Dominion Rd (to try and improve airport times) should be rethought so as to not need buses as well along here. Perhaps you would keep the 25L & 25B bus lines & run them express between Mt Roskill & Valley Rd (LRT covers Dominion RD & the Ian McKinnon way).
          Regarding the SH20 area end, apart from The Mt Roskill Junction & Hayr Rd (mixed use zoning), you could probably put another station in around Queenstown Rd, looks a bit sparse there but within 500m walk is quite a bit of housing. You could up zone this area as a result too.
          From there towards the airport, the alignment would be pretty much the same as the current plan is with the current (tunnelled) thinking having same number of stops as the earlier Dominion Rd-Airport plan.
          At the city end the original plan had 10 proposed stops that would be similar to the City Link bus route:
          – Daldy Street North (Wynyard terminus)
          – Daldy Street South / Fanshawe Street
          – Fanshawe Street (between Halsey and Nelson Streets)
          – Lower Hobson Street
          – Downtown
          – Vulcan Lane
          – Victoria Street
          – Wellesley Street/Civic
          – Mayoral
          It also had 12 for Dominion Rd area (though included the dog leg bit for the depot):
          – Piwakawaka Street
          – Dominion Road / New North Road
          – View Road
          – Valley Road
          – Elizabeth Street
          – Balmoral Road
          – Kensington Avenue
          – Kings Road / Hazel Avenue
          – Mt Roskill shops
          – Denbigh Avenue
          – Stoddard Road
          – Sandringham / Stoddard Road
          This would be much better in my opinion than having just 6 underground expensive/hard to get to stations.

      2. 90% both comments
        Brown has finally seen some of what Auckland needs, but this comment highlights his still small-minded gaze.

        “Surface option would lead to more gentle density spread along the route. “I think that’s more Auckland,” he said

        This thinking will not get close to improving Auckland. We need the next 100,000 homes to be built in Auckland in a medium to high-density way. Both projects make sense, Queen Street Dominion Road Light Rail, and a Metro separated grade route to the Airport. The first will spur the re-energizing of Queen Street and Uplifting Dominion Road, the other via Manakau rd would connect employment Q Street Airport and 2 hospitals and create new High density housing areas in New Market, Epsom, Royal Oak and Onehunga.

    2. You can’t just choose a corridor and then put the cheapest option on it.
      The corridor is potentially Silverdale to the airport and back north to Westgate.
      That is not a tram route, but if we are going to build a tram along dominion rd and 3 other tram lines, where would you run them?
      We could rebuild most of the original lines for the cost of this tunnel.

      1. The North West is a separate corridor – it needs to be given the best option for the North West regardless of what happens with the central corridor, which is already super well served by transport options.

  18. When Wood was made transport minister I was excited. But it is hard to see what he actually achieved. Is the only new PT project started under Labour the Airport to Puhinui? Not even any cycling funding etc.

    I still think the best transport minister of late (or perhaps ever) has been Simon Bridges! Things seemed to happen under his watch.

  19. should have built onehunga-airport heavy rail back when we had the chance, when the sw motorway was being widened last decade.

    heavy rail via onehunga to mangere and the airport, light rail on dominion and sandringham rd to wesley & mt roskill as per the 2015 proposal. there, could have been sorted and done the same job as this neverending boondoggle.

    at this rate mangere will be lucky to get anything, since the nats still fixate on the puhinui-airport spur. bugger this country.

  20. The primary reason for dumping the surface option was that light rail in NZ is covered by the Railways Act which requires elimination of risk. Rail lines at the surface through uncontrolled pedestrian space will have 30kph maximum speeds unless fenced off from pedestrians.

    So, fence it off and divide the community, or very slow speeds. That’s the choice that they decided couldn’t be made, so they went for full separation instead.

    30kph isn’t so bad if it’s a network on the isthmus only, but if you want to go to the airport or some other far flung place it’s dead in the water.

      1. From the post, I’ll try and summarise:

        “Even with the slower speed along Dominion Rd and the more frequent stations, the calculations show that boarding light rail in the middle of the city, it should be possible to get to the Airport in just over 42 minutes. In other words, ATs estimation is correct.”

        City ctr post CRL he calculated via heavy rail and link from Puhinui as about 42 mins via Southern line & AIR bus link though I note the AT app is currently saying 17 mins rather than the optimistic 8 mins Matt used. So I guess would be about 53 mins for HR/bus link.

        “In other words, when you actually plug all the numbers in, travel times are about the same regardless of mode. One of the reasons for that is while heavy rail can travel faster and has fewer stops, it also has to travel a longer. For example, it’s almost 30km from Britomart to the airport via Puhinui compared with just 22km for the proposed light rail route.”

        “One of the most fascinating outcomes for me from this is that there’s no clear winner. Even though light rail isn’t really about serving air travellers, from the centre of the city all options take about the same length of time. The fastest way to get to the airport will be to hop on whatever train, light or heavy, is closest to you.”

        The Tunnelled LRT option is stating 43 mins from Wynyard Qtr to the Airport, so minus ~5 mins to city ctr stop. So flip that’s a lot of extra millions for a slight time saving, less stations & ugly view of black tunnels etc.

        A HR spur would be about 8 mins from Puhinui and no wait for transfer but you would probably have a service pattern less frequent and so lose time that way (longer wait on average).

        1. There is extreme, and unjustified sensitivity, about public transport journey times to the airport.
          Contrast this to the relaxed attitude about the airlines/airport authorities constantly requiring more and more pre boarding time at the airports.
          Or moving carparks further away from the terminals, increasing journey times for those who use private transport to the airport.

          The main requirements for transport to and from the airport is reliability, followed by frequency.
          A fast train every half hour is not as good as a ten minute longer journey leaving every ten minutes.

        2. And let’s also remember that first and foremost this is an everyday commuter line for people in that part of the city.

          On any given day, very few people as a percentage will be going between the airport and CBD, or vice versa. And on top of that, HR will serve less people overall because of less stations.

    1. People occasionally this up. Isn’t the simple solution to amend the Act to follow overseas best practice?

      There surface line would only be on street level down Queen Street, further out on Dominion road it would be separated from pedestrians by being in the centre of the road.

      Either way updating laws is something parliament can do.

  21. Why not build heavy rail to the airport? This would avoid the duplication of technology and equipment. So heavy rail from Avondale through Onehunga to Penrose. This would have to be quadruple-tracked to accommodate the Avondale to Southdown freight line. This way, trains from the airport can travel to Britomart from the west through Avondale and east from Penrose. I’m pretty sure all of this can be done for $10B rather than the $30B light rail is expected to cost.

    1. Because all it does is give you limited rail access to the airport with no additional community connection for anyone that doesn’t already have access to heavy rail. And as mentioned, the airport as a destination is sub-10% of users, so you’ve spent a bunch to not actually tap into the ridership the LRT is supposed to capture in the process.

      So you’ve spent $10B, you still have buses everywhere and you haven’t touched the NW, in addition to by-passing the communities in the South West. For $10B you should be able to build both branches at surface level, easily.

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