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Auckland Light rail options released

Written By: - Date published: 8:09 am, October 29th, 2021 - 23 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, labour, michael wood, public transport, transport - Tags:

Construction of light rail in Auckland, proposed 50 years ago by former Mayor Dove Myer Robinson, is now a step close with the release of working group recommendations for options of a light rail line running between the city centre and the Airport.

From Anneke Smith at RNZ:

Transport Minister Michael Wood sent light rail back to the drawing board in March, tasking a group of experts to develop a business case to revive the project.

That group has come back with three options, ranging from a Melbourne-style tram to a London-style underground metro, that each pack a larger cost and timeframe.

The first option ‘Light Rail’ would be a modern tram that runs on the surface of the city’s streets, separate from traffic but following the motorway.

This is the cheapest of the three, coming in at an estimated $9 billion.

The second option ‘Light Metro’ would travel through an underground a tunnel under densely populated areas and on the ground’s surface through non-urban areas.

This option has the greatest transport capacity but also comes with the highest price tag, sitting at an estimated $16.3b.

The third option ‘Tunnelled Light Rail’ would see a modern tram running through an underground tunnel from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill before coming up to street level in the direction of the airport.

This option is essentially a hybrid of the first two options, priced at $14.6b, and came out as the working group’s preferred option.

The group found Tunnelled Light Rail provided the greatest level of transport and urban development benefits, the least disruption and the best opportunities for future network integration.

Although the economic analysis favours the Light Metro option, the group found it delivered fewer benefits than the other options and might restrict long-term transport options.

The cost is significant but so are the benefits.  The current bus system is reaching capacity.  The intensification that the project will provoke will allow Tamaki Makaurau Auckland to become a much more compact and sustainable city.

The working party’s key rapid transport and urban findings are as follows:

  • “Investment in rapid transit, integrated with urban interventions, will deliver the most benefit for
    the most people in Auckland with 25% of Auckland’s new growth inside the Rural Urban Boundary
    accommodated in the corridor.
  • To unlock the full potential of quality urban growth along the CC2M corridor, urban interventions will need to be integrated with the investment in mass rapid transit along the CC2M corridor. In the next phase of the Project, we recommend that more clarity on urban development opportunities at each node and partner roles to develop a Masterplan should be developed.
  • Considering the trade-offs, the Tunnelled Light Rail along the CC2M corridor is the preferred option, because it provides the greatest level of benefits in terms of transport and urban development within the corridor, the least disruption, and the best opportunities for future network integration. Our recommendation is that the tunnel should extend from the Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill.
  • During the next phase of the Project, we recommend this option be investigated further to ensure
    greater certainty on scheme design, costs, and schedule. Options on the extent of tunnelling at the
    northern end of the route (including the possibility of a shorter tunnel, with more surface running
    Light Rail) could be explored. This phase would also involve further consultation with community, iwi and stakeholders and the work would be informed by the work of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project and ARTP on broader network issues.
  • The surface running Light Rail option is also an attractive scheme which meets the investment
    objectives with a lower cost. The trade-offs include a commensurate reduction in the scale of forecast benefits and urban development.
  • Our recommended route for a surface running Light Rail would be Dominion Road.”

I suspect that the surface light rail will still get serious consideration when the options are considered by Cabinet.  As pointed out by GreaterAuckland the time savings are minimal and also it takes a lot longer for tunnelled rail to reach carbon neutrality because of the need to use much more carbon.  This option is also cheaper.

Whatever option is finally chosen I hope the Government gets on with it.  National will be ready to gum the works up as much as possible on this project.

23 comments on “Auckland Light rail options released ”

  1. Nic181 1

    Just do the cheapest, overland option.The extra cost involved in underground options is unwarranted. Dublin and Edinburgh have both "retro-fitted" trams from their centre city to the airport. Both sit on top of the soil. The waste in terms of planning and time spent on this project is unsustainable. I'm pretty sure that if all the money spent on planning, consulting etc so far, had been used to JUST DO IT, the trams would be running now.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    It isn't going to happen. Over on "We Wannabe ZB" Radio Corin Dann went out of his way to call this a "TRAM" – several times, just in case you didn't get the message that government was proposing to spend 14 billion on slapstick prop out of a Buster Keyton silent film. The media pack has worked out what is going on, even if the thickos in the Labour cabinet still haven't – they are being white anted by Waka Kotahi again.

    This is the same tactic as was used to kill the harbour bridge cycle lane. Take a simple plan designed in Auckland, send it to Wellington, selectively leak in a way designed to cause maximum damage to the project, delay it with endless reviews that utterly lose sight of the original, simple idea before spewing up a grossly expensive version of the Moscow Metro with nicer stations and sitting back and watch the usual suspects bury the entire project under a torrent of abuse to cause maximum political damage to the government before it chickens out and cancels the whole thing.

    No more talk of light rail for a decade, money freed up for another superhighway somewhere.

    Mission accomplished at NZTA and the Roading Lobby – back slaps and promotions all round.

  3. Ad 3

    $14.6B won't be able to come out of the NLTF. Alarm bells are already going off as it is.

    Even with a year of concept design pares away the waterfront connection.

    It sure won't come out of taxes or debt once Caucus and Treasury get hold of it before budget drafting.

    And with government stripping away Auckland Council's Watercare asset balance sheet there is no way Auckland Council is going to be able to make a substantial contribution (unlike CRL).

    Also there are only about 6 constructors worldwide who could take on an alliance contract of this size – and most of them are busy elsewhere.

    I suspect NZSuperFund to the rescue again, assisted by the Minister of Finance's new directive for all Crown financial institutions to show how their investments contribute to a Carbon Neutrality goal.

    New Investment Framework Aligns With Govt’s 2050 Carbon Neutrality Goal | Scoop News

    So when it's

    – too big for NLTF,

    – too big for Auckland Council, and

    – too big for taxes or debt,

    I see it likely that the procurement will be a PPP. It's really the only way it's going to happen.

    • Dean Reynolds 3.1

      Do you mean a PPP like Transmission Gully?

      • garibaldi 3.1.1

        Exactly DR. Experience of PPPs shows the big loser is the Public, which is left with the tab whilst the Private walks away with the money after managing to muck it up by overpromising and grossly under delivering.

    • bwaghorn 3.2

      Slap a congestion charge on the cbd, to pay for it

      • Ad 3.2.1

        Congestion charges are coming our way soon, but they will just be another little prop to the existing RLTP, not light rail.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    Looks rather like Surrealism 1.01 to me. NZF refused to support the initial Labour plan due to the cost, so Labour has decided to multiply the cost by ten. And then do something completely different. Monty Python would applaud, enthusiastically.

    Twyford last week told Parliament it was his intention to take a proposal to Cabinet by 19 June, the date at which the government shifts into pre-election mode.

    That's from the report of the ditching in 2020 (via your link). Did he do so? Did Labour say to him "Get outta here! We need something realistic."

    So Wood replaced Twyford & got a working group to start all over again. Wonderful. Particularly clever for it to come up with three big-spending options, eh? A blatant pitch for support from the capitalists I presume. You can imagine the puzzled look on Twyford's face: "I thought Treasury told us we have to be economical??"

  5. Pete 5

    What happened to the logical options?

    1 Do nothing

    2 Build more roads to the airport

    In some places they invest in rail.


    • KJT 5.1

      2 is not, "logical".

      • Pete 5.1.1

        It wasn't logical to put all eggs in the 'build more roads' basket but that's what was done.

        If there are roads the people will come.

        If there is land roads can be built. If there are buildings they can be got rid of.

        Link to images on:


        • Scott

          Really enjoyed reading the varied perspectives on this blog.

          Friends in London and NY both say they are avoiding use of subway because of pandemic.

          If Covid and other virus become endemic I wonder if clean self driving vehicles won't be a big part of our future.

          Perhaps we should bite the bullet -admit roads could work well – and build a four lane highway from Cape Reinga to Bluff. And more roads in cities for less expensive self driving electric buses, trucks and cars.

          • Pete

            Naturally, the shape of roading all over is largely based on history. Tracks became streets for horses and carts with buildings along the sides.

            Infrastructure in establishing Auckland Airport at Mangere as recently as the 1960s hardly reckoned on there being more than 21 million a year through the airports and tens of thousands working in the district daily.

            Catering for the development will be seen as triumphs of planning and investment by those with invested interests. A more sober view might have it that there has been stuff done around the edges akin to sprinting like hell, but because of growth that has merely been running on the spot.

    • Ad 5.2

      They did a substantial widening of SH20A in preparation for Rugby World Cup including widening of the Manukau bridge and grade separating Kirkbride Road in 2010.

      They are completing a substantial widening of the road within the airport for about 3kms to Domestic this year.

      There has been a major upgrade to the nearest rail station in Puhinui Station and further bus dedicated lanes.

      So it's all go.

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