Greens to fast-track airport rail for America’s Cup

Written By: - Date published: 2:36 pm, July 5th, 2017 - 79 comments
Categories: Environment, public transport, sustainability, transport - Tags:

Honestly, I could give a flying f*ck about the Americas Cup. I would much rather that the our money be spent on things that are core and urgent like the mental health crisis in Christchurch, which is a crisis that shames us all in our abandonment of post-quake Christhurch to their fate.

But given that Auckland needs light rail anyway, this is a smart approach from the Greens in terms of framing. It’s aimed squarely at Aucklanders and addressing one of the urgent needs around transport, and it does so by tying in to a high profile, well supported event that is going to happen anyway and which would also be enhanced by better public transport. The thing that really stands out though is the concrete plan to get the rail line up and running in a short, sharp timeframe. I also look forward to seeing more from the Greens on the necessary collaboration between central and local government in order to make that timeframe work.

Press release,

Greens to fast-track airport rail for America’s Cup

The Green Party is announcing today that in Government it will fast-track the building of a new rail line to Auckland airport to be completed in 2021, in time for the next America’s Cup.

By light rail it will take approximately 43 minutes to travel from Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street and Dominion Road to the airport. The $2.3 billion rail line will be a project of national significance funded from the transport fund. In Government we will also investigate additional funding sources for this project such as land value capture.

“Light rail to the airport is the most urgently needed transport project in Auckland, and it will start this year when we’re in Government,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“A new rail line will give people the freedom to by-pass congested roads and travel from the city to Dominion Rd and the airport easily and quickly.

“Light rail will mean far more consistent and shorter travel times for people traveling to and from the airport and surrounding suburbs.

“2021 is an ambitious goal that will require unprecedented cooperation between Government and Council, and we can make this happen.

“It’s absurd that National still thinks this project isn’t needed for another 30 years. In that timeframe the number of passengers travelling to and from the airport will double and the number of people working near the airport will triple.

“It took 6 years for National to realise the City Rail Link was a priority for Auckland. We can’t wait 6 years, let alone 30, for work on airport rail to start.

“Rail to the airport is just one of a number of transformative rail projects that the Green Party will fast-track in Government. We intend to announce more projects closer to the election,” said Ms Genter.

79 comments on “Greens to fast-track airport rail for America’s Cup”

  1. Sacha 1

    “will require unprecedented cooperation between Government and Council, and we can make this happen”

    Yes and once they’ve shown it can work once, all the dilly-dallying this decade from our current govt will be shown up for what it is. Boldness is called for.

    • weka 1.1

      I’m usually ambivalent about Auckland issues, but I have to say I’m starting to feel excited about this. If they can pull this off the benefits to politics and change will be exponential (am thinking particularly of CC). Imagine that boldness in other areas.

      • Sacha 1.1.1

        Quite. It’s how to get more than one term in government.

        • Wayne

          This is a waste of $2.3 billion. It would not conceivably meet any reasonable cost benefit ratio. Light rail to the airport would probably be the least important of any infrastructure project in Auckland.

          To put it into perspective the Waterview tunnel and all the associated connections and overpasses cost $1.4 billion. This project will largely solve the airport connection issues. Early reporting (and my own drive through) shows that. It is now way easier to get to the airport. Buses will deal with any public transport requirements to the airport.

          The next $2.3 billion would be far better spent on improving the road network, including a busway to the North West and extending rail electrification to Helensville and Pekekohe, in fact all the way to Hamilton.

          • weka

            You got a climate impact disclosure statement to go with that Wayne? I’ll hazard a guess that’s the main difference between your view and the GP’s.

          • Ad


            Waterview is doing a good job already. With Waterview going, you could operate buses from downtown to SH16 to SH 20 every 10 minutes and not chew through $5m a year. Melbourne’s main airport connects to Southern Cross Station with excellent buses, very fast, very frequent. They are in the try beginning stages of thinking about a dedicated line.

            SH16 Busway is well and truly supporting the growth of Auckland better than either light rail to airport, or East West.

          • left_forward

            Of course cost benefit hasn’t been all that important for the current Government – so may not be the best yardstick for Wayne to critique the Green’s policy.

            This was brilliantly revealed by Julie Anne Genter in her parliamentary questions to the Minister of Transport a few weeks back:

  2. Karen 2

    “Honestly, I could give a flying f*ck about the Americas Cup”

    Me neither, but if it can be used to persuade voters of the need for fast tracking rail to the airport then great.

    I am really hoping that Julie Anne Genter will be the Minister of Transport later this year. She will be absolutely brilliant.

    • weka 2.1

      Yes! I’m starting to see her as potentially eventual PM material. I watched her in the Stuff cannabis debate this week and she’s just right there. Very smart, very prepared, holds herself well in the debate, and I would guess loves what she does.

      • weka 2.1.1

        What’s the concern garibaldi?

      • She and Marama are definitely lining up to be the two contenders next time there’s a co-leader vacancy.

        • weka

          That would be a tough choice.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            It’s a good place to be in when you have multiple people you actually enthusiastically want to win in an election though, right? Either of them would be amazing, and could be Prime Minister one day if things go well for the Greens.

            • weka

              QFT. It’s one of the pleasure of voting Green, so much talent there.

      • Bob 2.1.3

        “I’m starting to see her as potentially eventual PM material”
        Really? I find her to be the most off-putting politician in Parliament, self righteousness with an American accent. Being smart is one thing, getting across your point without people feeling like they want to wipe the smug look off your face is quite another, she has never put forward an argument that has made me even consider changing my opinion on any topic (although granted we agree on a number).

        • weka

          She reminds me of Helen Clark, probably doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She can learn not to look smug. I agree the accent is potentially going to count against her.

  3. greywarshark 3

    What a good idea. The electric loco will be named Euphoria and a plastic bottle of Le Brun champers will be bashed on its nose. Let’s do everything we can to win brownie points benefiting NZ wide out of the yachting fever.

  4. BM 4

    Why the need for a railway to the airport?

    Who’s going to be flying to NZ? won’t peak oil render the need for moving large amounts of people back and forth from the airport redundant?

    • weka 4.1

      Who lives out that way BM?

      • BM 4.1.1

        So it’s primary use won’t be for moving people back and forth from the airport?

        • weka

          It’s the Green Party, look at the holistic vision for the policy in the context of their other policies. Short term, medium term, long term, climate change, where people live, who moves when and how and why, peaks and troughs etc.

          Good to know you are on board with Peak Oil now 🙂

    • Carolyn_nth 4.2

      Dominion Road (the main road leading from the CBD towards the airport) is a major arterial route. At the moment it lacks an adequate public transport system. I get buses on that route, to and from the CBD. Often, at peak times, by the time buses get to my stop they have “BUS FULL” signs up. And these buses run about every 5-7 minutes.

      There’s a large number of highly populated residential areas along that route. Cars continually clog up the route, even at off peak times. In short, that route needs a major public transport over-haul.

      • BM 4.2.1

        Be a hell of a lot cheaper just to have more buses.

        • weka

          Not when you factor in climate change, pollution, time etc.

          • indiana

            OK, I’ll bite. Have the Greens also announced what the carbon cost of this project is as well. Will this project make it harder to achieve our ideal emissions target for the duration of the project? Quite frankly, the Greens need to re-brand to what they are. A socialist party.

            • weka

              According to the socialists they’re not 😉

              You’d have to ask the Greens what the carbon cost is, but lookie here, the Greens also have a Climate Impact Disclosure Statement policy, where each new piece of legislation would have to acknowledge the reality and costs of CC.


              “Will this project make it harder to achieve our ideal emissions target for the duration of the project? ”

              Honestly, I’d be highly surprised if there wasn’t a substantial net benefit for NZ in terms of emissions. Do you think otherwise?

          • dukeofurl

            Electric buses, surely you have heard of them

            • weka

              We now need one of those diagrams that shows how easier it is to transport x number of people using light rail in an hour than it is to use buses or cars. See MW’s comment below.

              • jcuknz

                I doubt that statement Weka since I have seen electric buses in Denver and articulated buses too …. while I am a lightrail supporter I do not think one should make exaggerated reasons for it.
                I like the Los Angeles solution which is to have free ‘G’ bus connecting airport to nearest existing rail station.
                Though with a reasonable number of stops rail can carry intermediate journeys As when a schoolboy we packed ten seat SR compartments with up to 25 bodies for short trips.

        • Buses still have to use roads, BM. If you have a rail solution, it will actually make the airport route quicker for those left on the roads too, as there will be less people driving the route. Everyone wins. Buses have less infrastructure requirement, sure, but that just gets you to a point where the limiting factor is how many buses can reasonably use a given road route. Auckland is already reaching that limiting factor on some of its routes, thus it needs to be thinking of other mass transit solutions instead. The airport is one starting point, and another will be expanding rail capacity beyond the current CRL project, as that will just meet current commuter demand.

          Costings have been done on the consequences of a rapid bus route to the airport, and actually it looks worse than either a light rail or a “heavy” rail route to the airport.

          • inspider

            I think BM meant that having more buses would be cheaper for all those commuters than building the airport train that it is proposed will be picking them up. Of course if they are getting on the train, that’s going to make it slow and crowded.

            • Grafton Gully

              Absolutely right. Airport passengers won’t be happy with delays stopping for non-airport commuters.

              • In Vino

                But what about the ridiculous numbers of new cars we are putting onto Auckland’s overcrowded roads each month? Anything based on roads is utterly doomed. Rail only will work. And who are the buffoons who already know about how many more new cars are coming on, and how few are being written off, and given that Auckland is bloody near gridlock level, how bloody stupid are they?

                • Carolyn_nth

                  Yep, overseas travellers from the airport will not be happy getting bogged down in gridlocked traffic. And come a special international event, locals will be extra pissed off with the added weight to such road traffic, including for buses.

                  Better a few light rail stops than gridlock.

                  • jcuknz

                    Vancouver has an answer to road congestion with its ‘skytrain’ snaking across the city high above ground level except in CBD where it goes underground.

              • Draco T Bastard

                I suspect that most airport passengers coming in from overseas would already be used to using trains as their cities already have them. It’s NZ still hanging on to the Dark Ages and insisting on trying to use cars to solve the problems created by cars.

              • It’s not as if we haven’t invented a fix to this problem. Express services have been a thing for ages.

            • Draco T Bastard

              I think BM meant that having more buses would be cheaper for all those commuters than building the airport train that it is proposed will be picking them up.

              [citation needed]

              Of course if they are getting on the train, that’s going to make it slow and crowded.

              So many people using trains. So good for our economy and environment.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              “Cheaper” has to be measured in cost/benefit, not just in cost, and the benefit side of the equation for rapid bus isn’t sufficient to justify the cost savings when compared to either light or heavy rail options, because it involves either:
              * Clogging up existing road traffic even further by removing a lane from existing roads to dedicate to buses, as BRT options require dedicated buslanes. This is the low-cost low-benefit option.
              * Building extra roads and/or widening existing roads to dedicate lanes entirely to buses, which is expensive. This is the high-cost high-benefit option.

              (adding more buses without dedicated bus lanes is essentially the null hypothesis where we do nothing, as it’s not a rapid transit option, and traffic from the airport to auckland demands a rapid transit option at its current volume)

              Light and Heavy rail both come out as something approaching a medium-cost high-benefit scenario, although IIRC the analysis I read gave heavy rail a better BCR.

              I have looked through the costings, so unless you’ve got a minority report that disagrees, it’s not even citation needed, it’s “points for citation go to the honourable gentleman arguing for the Railway.”

        • katipo

          The cost of buying a bus is not the only thing to consider.
          i.e To minimize congestion and land prices in a city, it’s transport network needs minimize the space it requires too.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Nope. Good rail does far better than buses for moving people and is cheaper to run and maintain.

    • Macro 4.3

      You obviously haven’t visited Auckland Airport lately.

    • mauī 4.4

      Congratulations you’ve had a massive leap of faith and now believe in peak oil.

      • inspider 4.4.1

        For Robert atack it’s been a bit of a religious experience. Like the millerites, he is still waiting…

        • Robert Atack

          No comment really. The greeds and you fools that support them are going to look frigging stupid soon enough
          There is just no hope
          Would an ice free Arctic wake you up …. na
          Would millions starving after this year’s grain harvest no show, wake you up … na
          Ho hum I think you should all have more children

      • Too bad peak oil is no longer relevant as we actually have to leave a fair amount of already-discovered oil in the ground to avoid climate change. BM being so slow he misses the bus after the one he needed, as per usual.

    • Halfcrown 4.5

      “Why the need for a railway to the airport?”

      Why is it then that the London Underground runs to Heathrow?

      Personally after recently having to catch a flight from Auckland airport, I think it is time Hamilton was developed like Gatwick or Stanstead as Aucklands second airport.
      If that happens you can spit on the main trunk line from Hamilton airport so a rail link to Hamilton airport will possibly be cheaper and easier.

      • In Vino 4.5.1

        Not stupid – but I fear that our rail link to Hamilton needs a lot of work so that trains could travel at a reasonable speed. Like 120kph as normal freight trains do in France. Unlikely to happen with the current nongs running things here.

        • Halfcrown

          Agree with that. Not the stupid bit. It is costing at this stage a million dollars for the bypass to go around Hamilton (17 bridges in a 20K stretch of road) They keep on crowing how it will reduce the travel time to Auckland by 20/30 minutes. No, it won’t, all it will do is get you to the massive traffic jam called the Southern Motorway 20/30 minutes earlier.
          As the small towns in North Waikato are now becoming the new commuter belt for Auckland I would have thought this money would have been better spent building a wide gauge high-speed commuter train from Hamilton to Auckland. But that won’t happen will it, the trucking lobby will have a heart attack if they felt that money is not being spent on MORE roading for their giant Juggernauts that are travelling on our roads.

          My comment about Hamilton becoming the Stanstead or Gatwick of Auckland, I had a grin to myself this evening as a news items said aircraft were being diverted to Christchurch owing to the bad thunderstorms in Auckland. We didn’t have any in the Waikato where I live, so they could have been easily diverted to Hamilton if the facilities were in place.
          Now if I was Rumbold of the Baily I would say “M’lord, I rest my case”

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    I would much rather that the our money be spent on things that are core and urgent like the mental health crisis in Christchurch…

    Different set of resources and thus the money isn’t actually an issue.

    • Halfcrown 5.1

      “I would much rather that the our money be spent on things that are core and urgent like the mental health crisis in Christchurch…”

      Yes I agree with that too.

      • greywarshark 5.1.1

        Perhaps the major problem in Christchurch is a lack of decent wages and jobs.
        So offer people yemporary shift to Auckland with reasonable accommodation there to work on the railway from Hamilton to Auckland and solve two problems.
        At the end the people can choose to have their fares paid back to Christchurch or stay in Hamilton. Avoid Auckland and its crazy housing.

  6. Ad 6

    Would be a pretty tough logistical job to get through the land acquisition and construction constraints – particularly at that speed.

    It’s about 30 kilometres on that route from downtown Auckland to the airport.

    With 240 working days per year, over 3 years to mid-2021 that is 720 days.

    That’s 30,000 metres divided by 720 days, means you have to complete on average 41.666 metres per working day, no matter what, to get it operational by then.

    I like political ambition for public transport, but there’s going to find some constructibility issues.

    • John 6.1

      Best get started now!

    • Graeme 6.2

      Wouldn’t heavy rail from Manakau, rather than Onehunga, be more achievable in that timeframe?

      That would fix the airport public transport issue properly and be much quicker. Light rail down Dominion Road is a good idea, but it will be busy enough with Dominion Road without putting traffic from the airport on there as well.

      • Ad 6.2.1

        Heavy rail in any area is just too hard unless you’ve got a decade to do it in, and a whole lot of money.

        A big constraint to the Onehunga line – the Kirkbride Road level intersection – is close to being eliminated with the grade separation.

        The Manukau stretch would have its own bridge and alignment constraints.

        I just don’t want the Greens to start writing cheques with their mouth that their ass can’t cash.

      • Carolyn_nth 6.2.2

        More like one way Dominion, other way Sandringham. And even that would have the same impact as below.

        For those of us that live in roads between Mt Eden and Dominion, there’s already too many cars doing rat-runs through our back streets, as they try to drive around the congestion in the 2 major roads.

        If Mt Eden and Dominion were each one way, imagine how many cars would be cutting through side streets along the length of the major roads. Not everyone drives the whole length of those 2 roads each journey.

        Stop people being able to park on the main streets at shops like at Mt Eden village – would ease a lot of all-day congestion.

    • tc 6.3

      It’s mostly allocated for on airport land along Richard Pearce drive, seen it in an old master site plan.

      Puinui station to the airport double tracked will be a challenge. Not double tracking the onehunga line was just stupidity IMO.

      • Ad 6.3.1

        Since that plan Richard Pearce now has a number of fresh intersections.

        The really big constraints will be the East West Link, Onehunga to SH20, and the SH20 bridge over the Manukau.

        Still, with enough taxpayer money anything can be overcome.

        • Graeme

          So any rail link, light or heavy, has been kicked off into never never land because no provision has been made for it (deliberately??) and now it’s so hard to be almost impossible?

          • Ad

            Not impossible. Hard.
            Both AT and AC have ruled out heavy rail.
            Light rail is the agreed preferred option.

            But it’s simply this: rail takes at least as long as motorways.

            • Graeme

              “But it’s simply this: rail takes at least as long as motorways”

              And the existing bus takes 55 minutes, light rail is going to be 40 something, so more like 55 once they go through the same traffic.

              And hardly anyone gets off the bus en-route. So why persist with Dominion / Mt Eden Roads. Your idea of using the motorways /greens-to-fast-track-airport-rail-for-americas-cup/#comment-1348553 has got a lot more going for it

  7. Andre 7

    I’d be really interested in a competent traffic planner’s thoughts on making Dominion Rd one way into the city and Mt Eden Rd one-way going out.

    Philadelphia had a system like that on Walnut and Chestnut Streets, and I was always astonished at how smoothly and quickly it moved a huge amount of traffic. Lights were phased so you could hold a steady 33mph in a 35 zone, try to go faster and you would just have to slow again for a red.

    On Dominion and Mt Eden, it would also make it easier to give a lane to light rail and buses.

    • Tuppence Shrewsbury 7.1

      First sensible idea I’ve heard on this ever! Congratulations Andre, this will cost a fraction and would revolutionise thinking about roads and public space and traffic in NZ.

      Then the introduction of a compulsory bus lane in each direction on every auckland motorway, with buses running along these lanes every five minutes at all times would make sense as the hub connections could be scattered on to main ring roads.

      • In Vino 7.1.1

        Totally agree. When I lived in Lyon (France) they had a one-way street system that helped greatly. (They also had superb modern underground, and a great bus system, along with some amazingly modern, silent, smooth electric trolley buses.) But that one-way system worked far better on the rare occasions you needed to take personal car instead of using underground/bus. (But woe betide you if your map did not show one-way streets!) But nowadays with satnav…

  8. Molly 8

    A negative impact of that fast track, might be the effect it has on the SOUL campaign who are challenging a SHA on archaelogically sensitive land near their village.

    Ihumatao, is one of the suggested stops from the airport, and it will give more weight to the developers to suggest that the housing go ahead given the cost of providing the infrastructure, rather than letting it be utilised only by the reasonably small number of residents in the Maaori village. (The only one I know of in Auckland that has papakaianga zoning for the whole community).

    • weka 8.1

      Is the power with the council on that one?

      • Molly 8.1.1

        It was, but the SHA was approved by Auckland Council and is currently being challenged by the community.

        Good brief history is here.

        IIRC, Manukau City Council and Auckland Airport, as a concession to the local community during the resource application for the airport extension, promised to give heritage status to the stonefields and buy it for public access. (I understand it is one of the oldest Maaori settlements in NZ) Then along came Auckland City Council, and this concession was not passed along in the legacy package. The family has now sold this to Fletchers who have asked for, and received an SHA.

        I understand this was going to be challenged in court, but I can’t see on the websites if there is any progress on this.

        • weka

          Ok, good background, thanks. I was wondering if the L/G would have some influence if they get to do the rail, but it sounds like it’s far along the process already.

  9. dukeofurl 9

    The Dominion Rd light rail extention to airport is a ruse to give it a higher ridership using modelling.
    Essentially getting every driver travelling on D Rd during peak hour onto the Tram still would give it enough BCR. Its an old trick extending it to a high origin /destination location like an airport to make the numbers work.
    have you seen the size of the car parks out there, its very hard to compete with that when you are only going to one other destination, the CBD.

    Sydney has its rail lines under both terminals going to the main city station 10 min away , yet the airport train boardings are still very low, and some of those are just transferring between domestic and international terminals. ( please dont confuse by comparing the through traffic which comes from Sydneys South west)

  10. Grafton Gully 10

    Wynyard Quarter ? That means driving into the central city and finding somewhere to pay for parking or getting a cab and getting out of the cab, walking to the train (maybe in the rain) with luggage and sitting in it next to who knows what, getting out of the train and walking with luggage to the check in. I’d be tempted to take a cab the whole way from home. Competing for custom with the light rail should drive cab prices down.

    • Nick 10.1

      I like the concept of the train to the airport. It will be good to drop off or pick up people from the train too. I guess they could have some express trains straight to the city, but others stopping along the way. That other post about one way traffic along Dominion Rd was good too.

  11. Stunned mullet 11

    The Greens will be a junior partner in a Labour led government assuming Labour and the Greens get enough votes and then manage to bring NZ first on board.

    if Labour and Winston decide that this is a waste of money it will never happen….hence it will never happen.

    • left_forward 11.1

      Not sure which logic school you went to Stunned mullet, but a sequence of conditionals; assumptions and ifs, does not lead to a certainty.

      • Stunned Mullet 11.1.1

        …..hence it will be very unlikely to happen.

        Happy now ?

        • left_forward

          Yes, but not convinced – why does it follow that the Greens would have less political leverage in your scenario than NZ First?

          • Stunned Mullet

            The Greens have a single option to be in government, Winston has two.

            • left_forward

              You are assuming that the presence of the MOU will weaken the Green’s leverage. If NZ First were to be essential for the formation of a Government, and if they were successful in negotiating with Labour a contradictory position to the MOU, then the Greens of course would no longer be bound.

              • Stunned Mullet

                The Greens at a party vote of what will likely be less than half of Labour have little to no leverage in a Labour led government as they have made it very clear they won’t be going with a Nat led coalition…Winston on the other hand will happily go with whoever offers him the better deal.

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