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Light rail in Auckland

Written By: - Date published: 9:56 am, October 14th, 2018 - 96 comments
Categories: greens, infrastructure, labour, phil twyford, public transport, sustainability, transport - Tags:

There has been some push back against the Government’s light rail proposal for Dominion Road from some unlikely sources.

Councillor Mike Lee, former NZ First candidate and public transport enthusiast Jon Reeves and others have formed a new organisation NZ Transport 2050 Incorporated to advocate for the Puhinui spur, a rail line that will link the Airport to the Southern line.  There are people involved in this group who have taken a long term interest in public transport and who have been effective advocates for change.

They recently held a public meeting and then following on from this had some media exposure.  The advert for the meeting contained this pessimistic analysis of the Government’s proposal:

NZ Transport 2050 Chair, Paul Miller, says “The Government and Auckland Council have been sold a lemon which won’t solve the massive congestion issues caused by the trending growth at Auckland Airport. It seems that officials have been hi-jacked into something which simply does not solve the congestion problem, wastes the billions we have spent on trains, will cause significant issues for those living on Dominion Road and won’t remove a single truck from the roads trying to reach the expansive airport logistics and surrounding manufacturing zones.”

Radio New Zealand had this report on the meeting:

At a public meeting last night, the Public Transport Users Association and NZ Transport 2050 said the government had got it wrong.

In April the government and Auckland Council released the details of a $30 billion plan for transport in the city. It allocated an initial $1.8bn for a light rail network for trams connecting the city and Auckland Airport.

The Transport Agency, which is leading the development of the light rail, said the route and total cost will be released later this year.

Paul Miller of NZ Transport 2050 said the trams should be ditched in favour of trains to and from the airport.

“The airport itself is growing rapidly and by 2030 it’ll have 40 million passengers. Auckland will be the only airport of the size of it is with 40 million passengers in the world that only has a light rail connection to the airport.”

Mr Miller said Auckland desperately needed to focus on building infrastructure that would grow with a fast-growing city.

“Anyone that’s been down the south western motorway near the airport in Wiri would know that it’s pretty much all grassland between there and the actual airport itself – a distance of about six and a half kilometres.

“We’re saying that that should be a track with heavy rail tracks and linked up to the main line,” Mr Miller said.

Simon Wilson analysed the claims in this article published last Friday.

The Puhinui advocates have preferred to stress that their proposal offers the quickest route from downtown to the airport and would also be good for freight haulage. Both those points have merit.

But the advocates also say we should build the spur instead of running trams from the inner city through Mt Roskill to Mangere. That does seem to miss the point about trams.

Forget for the moment the air travellers. Think instead of modern transit vehicles, each with a capacity 10 times greater than a bus. Running down the middle of the road every five minutes in both directions. Going slow in the inner city and on Dominion Rd but fast once they get to the motorway at Onehunga.

They’ll go all the way to the airport so, yes, they will offer an airport transport option. But that’s the least of their roles.

They will provide everyone living on their route with a frequent and reliable commuter transport service, which will take both buses and private vehicles off the roads, easing the mounting traffic crisis on Dominion Rd. Other benefits: fewer cars means less air pollution at ground level and fewer greenhouse gases; fewer cars means safer streets.

Those trams will replace many of the buses that currently choke up Symonds St, Britomart and Victoria St East, thus freeing up capacity to allow more buses into the CBD from elsewhere in the city.

This is one of the most-overlooked benefits of the new tram lines: they will help build public transport capacity not just along their own routes, but everywhere it’s most needed.

And at Greater Auckland Matt L agrees with Wilson’s reasoning.

[I]f you compare a Puhinui spur with light rail, you get a bit of a win for people travelling between the city centre and the Airport, but at a huge loss for everyone else. Instead of helping to fix many of Auckland’s most significant transport and housing problems, you get a line that’s probably going to be mainly used by international tourists and business travellers. That doesn’t make any sense to us, which is why we much prefer what’s outlined in ATAP and our Congestion Free Network: a light-rail link from the north and a bus rapid transit connection from the east.

I also agree with Wilson.  The light rail proposal is much more than just dealing with airport requirements.  It will improve public transport to a significant part of Auckland.

And eventually, once the construction disruption has ceased, Dominion Road will be a far superior place, able to be accessed with ease and devoid of the current car congestion that is a blight on the area.

Twyford’s proposal is brave and will no doubt cause considerable local opposition.  But if we want to fix our city and convert it into a properly functioning 21st century city then this is the sort of project that will have to be proceeded with.

96 comments on “Light rail in Auckland ”

  1. Ngungukai 1

    Will be one of the biggest F&%k Ups since Dunkirk IMHO

    Labour/Greens Initiative hopefully JAG will put in a Cycleway to the Airport at the same time ?

    • jpwood 1.1

      I know you said this to mock the proposal of either trains or trams but actually it makes sense to install cycle infrastructure at the same time. It can be added at a negligible marginal cost if done at the same time and would add a valuable transport alternative locally and regionally. Great idea!

  2. Matthew Heine 2

    I think there are some pretty fair points about heavy rail to the airport. Not too sure about Dominion Rd myself, though I do think linking the rail networks with light rail would could well, maybe New Lynn to Onehunga. Western, Southern line and potential Westgate light rail lines via maybe St Lukes Rd. I do think the light rail line to Westgate could work well, as long as it’s not taking up an existing Motorway lane. I think in general Auckland still seems focused on everything heading to the Central City, which is not how many people actually live and work. Ideally I think Heavy rail from Onehunga and Puhinui to the Airport would be the way to go and open up more population to the rail network, plus of course freight. Also the fact on a train you can take bikes etc. I know Onehunga presents difficulties with issues around road changes a few years ago, maybe a section would have to be a tunnel or elevated. Basically only one chance to get it right after years of procrastination, so debate about it is healthy. The other thing about heavy rail to the Airport is it could offer a life line for Jet Fuel if the fuel pipe is cut again.

  3. Sacha 3

    For those interested in this topic, Greater Auckland also have a comprehensive post with links to previous relevant ones: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2018/10/10/airport-connections-consider-the-whole-network/

    The main problem with adding a single heavy rail line to the airport is how to fit the extra trains into the rest of the rail network. Adding a separate complementary light rail network gets around that restriction. The current regional plans also integrate with the planned busway from the airport through Manukau to Botany and Panmure. That GA article has diagrams.

    I do wonder how airport travellers with luggage will mix with local passengers on trams along Dominion Rd, but there is no longer room for another heavy rail link in that direction (though historically the corridor that the motorway from Onehunga follows to the Waterview tunnels was designated for rail, and a 4 lane motorway was planned parallel to Dominion Rd hence the stranded big overpass at Eden Terrace).

  4. Ad 4

    +1000 Mickey

    It’s going to be a fight, but we are going to win it. 🙂

    Note Puhinui Station is being tendered now, and there’s plenty of future proofing in the design for either light or heavy rail to the airport. But in the course of my remaining lifetime it will be a dedicated busway route that line up with the busway coming down from AMETI Botany Downs and down Te Irirangi Drive.

    We can argue about further extensions to heavy rail once we have the 3rd main done, the CRL done, light rail up SH16 done, and light rail first stage from Queen Street to Dominion Road done.

    That will keep us all busy for the next decade.

  5. Carolyn_Nth 5

    As a frequent user of Dominion Road buses, I do see a need for a change – but I don’t know how it compares with other areas of Auckland.

    I do think probably Dominion Road is the only major arterial route in Auckland that doesn’t have a mass transit system separate from the roads used by other traffic.

    The amount of people using Dominion Road buses, especially during peak times, is phenomenal. In the evenings, the drivers often have difficulty leaving the St James stop because there’s a steady stream of people boarding the bus. As soon as they close the doors, another stream of people arrives and start knocking on the door.

    And that’s with buses going every 5 minutes at peak times. Also it does mean significant congestion in Wellesley street and outside the St James.

    Meanwhile, in the backstreets between Dominion and Mt Eden roads there are major rat runs of cars trying to avoid the main road congestion. And that’s not great for local pedestrians and cyclists, or for the school walking buses.

    I think the original plan was for a light rail network serving several areas of the city. That seems to me the best plan for the city’s future.

    Paul Miller is quoted in the above post:

    Auckland will be the only airport of the size of it is with 40 million passengers in the world that only has a light rail connection to the airport.”

    But Matt L’s post says Toronto is bigger than Auckland, has recently opened a heavy rail line to the airport, and is struggling to get enough use.

  6. newsense 6

    The curious thing is the raft of articles in the Herald, including an editorial and from Brian Rudman and Fran O’Sullivan. It almost seems like part of it is a straight up political hit- but on whom and by whom?
    Clearly groups with differing motivations. It’s not an entirely useful line of attack for National, but it does muddy the waters. AT seems to come under a lot of fire too

    • Sacha 6.1

      Jon Reeves works for the same media company as the Herald: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-reeves-a44a302a

      And this new 2050 organisation has the same leaders as his other one, PTUA. Handy to have another group ‘backing’ your message I guess.

      • Sanctuary 6.1.1

        Don’t forget the new lobby group “Straight To Airport Rapid Trains (START)” – that consists of just Jon Reeves and Paul Miller.

        You can’t make this shit up.

        There will soon be more astroturf lobby groups than the people who are members of them.

        • Sacha

          Hey if it works for the Act party, Taxpayers Onion, Ak ‘Ratepayers Alliance’ ..

        • Dukeofurl

          Thats exactly right. taxpayers onion spawned Ratepayers Alliance and Free Speech Coalition and likely a few others

          The START seems to be a spawn of ‘ NZ Transport 2050 Inc ‘ who were registered last month .
          Its home ‘base ‘ is just off Dominion Rd, so maybe they are Nimbys but another business is connected to that address where Miller lives
          Insightful Mobility Holdings Limited.
          The other person pushing it seems to be an advertising Account Manager at NZME ,Jon Reeves ( from online sources) who has previously stood for NZ First.

          Im guessing hes active on this post today. LOL

          • Visubversa

            Don’t forget the cluster of conspiracy theorists, flat earthers, Agenda 21 nuts and similar which cluster around the Transport 2050 bunch. They seem to have taken over the tinfoil hat brigade from Auckland 2030 which was the body formed to make sure that nothing over 2 levels was built anywhere where white people lived.

      • georgecom 6.1.2

        “former FAILED NZ First candidate and public transport enthusiast Jon Reeves”

      • newsense 6.1.3

        That still doesn’t answer any question, unless you think it’s the Herald doing it independently to get page views from controversy

    • Sanctuary 6.2

      This might help in explaining why the Herald is running interference on light rail by a simple examination of the dramatis personæ…

      First, when MickeySavage says “…former NZ First candidate and public transport enthusiast Jon Reeves…” he neglected to mention Reeves is currently employed as an “Account Manager at NZME”. He has the extension number of…

      Bernard (B)oresman, chief negative critic of everything city reporter at the Herald that never saw a story that he couldn’t put negative spin on. (B)oresman wouldn’t know a balance story from his arse. The reason (B)oresman is such a tit is because…

      The Herald’s base is people like John Rougham – white boomers who now live in perpetual fear of anything that will put their rates up. So the idea of just building a spur line from Puhinui (it’s across farmland! In South Auckland! And it’ll be cheap! We don’t care if it fucks up the commuter network, the toy set, trams, loser cruisers and those absurd cycle ways they are for the second class people who don’t drive anyway!) appeals to them as a supposedly super cheap option for know nothing/do nothings who may use it every now and again when they want to go to the airport for their holiday in Fiji.

      • Sacha 6.2.1

        Even Roughan is begrudgingly seeing (some of) the light: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=12141349

        on medical advice I haven’t driven a car for a couple of weeks and consequently I’m now better acquainted with Auckland’s bus service.

        It’s good. Quite startlingly good.

        I’m less confident the Auckland Council’s newly awarded 10c/litre will be well spent, and worried the present Government is ordering NZTA to waste too much on light rail, an expensive urban planning fad worldwide, and cycleways that already look like follies.

        But then, public transport promoters will remind me, I doubted the worth of the busway once. I’m glad its working well.

        Busways are not railways, one vehicle breakdown does not stop the system. Trains are good for a fast journey between busy places such as airports and CBDs, but a well designed bus network is a more complete commuter service.

      • Dukeofurl 6.2.2

        A NZME senior employee is the ‘coordinator’ of the START group. Go figure.

  7. AB 7

    I wouldn’t be investing lots of money in links to the airport, because the useful lifetime of such infrastructure won’t be very long.
    Given the realities of climate change, unless humans are determined to sleepwalk to extinction, discretionary air travel will have to be curtailed.

    • Sacha 7.1

      Any investments now need to be future-proofed, yes – electric mass transit integrated tightly with cycling and walking and denser urban design, and serving whole catchments of people rather than dedicated services like express between one city centre and an empty airport.

    • Dukeofurl 7.2

      No suggestion next 50 years will be extinction.
      As well the main purpose of the Tram is to serve the communities it passes through- with modern electric option.

    • millsy 7.3

      I really dont agree with going back to the days of sailing ships is going to be a great way to stop climate change.

      A lot of people on here tend to bascially advocate austerity when it comes to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Do we really want to go back to horses, carts, traction engines, coal ranges, and so on? Animals probably give off more greenhouse emissions than than the transport and energy sector so that knocks it on the head,

      Im sorry, but I like hot water, electricity, petrol cars and technology. I dont think living like Amish has any virtue whatsoever.

      • AB 7.3.1

        ‘Austerity’ is something imposed by the rich on the poor with life-threatening consequences.
        Curbing discretionary air travel (tourism and business trips basically) is a minor inconvenience for the well-off that benefits everyone. I would actually characterise it as the opposite of ‘austerity’ in both principle and effect.
        It is something that might help you (and me) avoid having to live like the Amish.

  8. Ngungukai 8

    The two ideas are not mutually exclusive however the clowns at AT have “tunnel vision” and are leading us all down a “rabbit warren” IMHO.

  9. Dukeofurl 9

    Whats this about LRV with 10x the capacity of bus?

    Thata con that Auckland Transport is using, as the normal LRV are say 205 capacity. You can see this with the extra long Trams that are running now in Melbourne.

    To get over 400 capacity on a LRV means TWO independent trams are coupled together. This wont happen, as its better to run trams with smaller headway during peak time.

    Ironically if you want 10x the capacity of a bus you really mean the current trains.

  10. Ngungukai 10

    AT are definitely not up with the play on rail systems, they should get JR Japan Rail down here to give them some professional advice and a plan. Japan is one of the world’s leaders in rail technology ask any dog. We seem to be intent on f#$king everything up in this country, and we pay these clowns big money $$$$ to do it for us. Talk about shooting ourselves in both feet Wayne ????

    • Dukeofurl 10.1

      Japan ? The population of 104 million on Honshu alone changes everything, thats in just twice the area of the North Island. A Plan is based on the population it serves, they would probably say we dont even look at anything less than 5 mill

  11. adam 11

    What I don’t get is why we don’t do both.

    Sorry but the fact is South Auckland is under done when it comes to public transport. And anything which would help that would be a step in the right direction.

    Why not have a tax on every visitor to Auckland of say a $2 that goes directly in fund for heavy rail option, and the government carries on with Dominion road light rail to get the more public transport into the South West corridor. And open up more light rail west to south.

    Insted we going to fight over which is best. Isn’t the time to be brave, and start doing more, than just doing a little??!?

    • Ngungukai 11.1

      Got to cater for the Asian Property Developers along Dominion Road ?

      • Dukeofurl 11.1.1

        What a terrible racist remark.!

        Housing NZ is doing a lot of redevelopment in the area and Auckland Council has been attempting to develop apartments in top of Dominion Rd as well.

      • adam 11.1.2

        Did you not read what I said on purpose to push your own agenda?

    • Ngungukai 11.2

      WE need to cover all the basis not just this myopic thinking from Twyford and AT ????

      • Dukeofurl 11.2.1

        yeah right , because you have lived in Switerland where the 8.5 mill population lives in an area smaller than Canterbury region. of course they have fast regional transport

      • adam 11.2.2

        No wait, sorry you are pushing your own agenda without reading what other people are saying.

    • Sacha 11.3

      If you raise extra funds, a heavy rail spur to the airport is not even close to the top priority for Auckland’s transport infrastructure as outlined in the joint regional/national ATAP agreement: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2018/10/12/over-estimating-the-importance-of-city-airport-trips/#comment-282932

      If we have money to build LRT [light rail] via Onehunga and HR to Puhinui, we should build LRT via Onehunga and LRT to Botany.

      If we still have money for HR to Puhinui, we should quad track the NIMT [main rail line] to Pukekohe.

      If we still have money for HR to Puhinui, we should build the Bombay tunnel.

      If we still have money for HR to Puhinui, we should build a busway on Pakuranga Road.

      • adam 11.3.1

        As I said, South Auckland is underdone for public transport. And the South west corridor is where the biggest hole is.

        I see the airport as a useful point to get public transport into the area. Not as the goal itself.

        • Sacha

          How do you imagine that the expensive heavy rail option these guys have resurrected can meet that goal, better than other options including the one already agreed in ATAP?

          • adam

            Not sure it can, but it has generated debate, and the need not just to do one project.

            This only one option culture has to stop.

            • Sacha

              The plan already has a rapid busway from the airport through Puhinui and then to Panmure, as well as the trams via Mangere and Dominion Rd.

              Any other ‘options’ you add are taking away funding from those ones and from other more important parts of the region’s total network.

              Generating the appearance of a ‘debate’ is exactly what these particular activists want to do. They already had their say when the agreed plans were developed, as did others. Now it is time to get on with it.

              • adam

                Oh course, get on with it. The plan to do lite rail down Dominion road is awesome.

                But I’m arguing for more funds for public transport, It’s time to ask for the world. Because I’m sick to death of people will sit on their hands and go oh look we did good, but really they done sweet bugger all. Which has been the case in Auckland for a very, very long time.

                • Sacha

                  Long way behind, yes. Will not be surprised if future revisions of the 30-year plan switch way more effort into public transit and away from bloody roads. Whether that will be enough ..

                • Molly

                  Agree with you Adam. The discussion on the LR and HR options are limited, and not looking at the areas of Auckland that are currently underserviced. South Auckland is abysmally serviced at the moment. If social returns were included in deciding in which projects were pursued, the discussion would not be so limited as to deciding between LR and HR to the airport.

        • Visubversa

          That is what the A2B (Airport to Botany) is all about.

        • Carolyn_Nth

          I don’t understand what you mean about no public transport to the south west corridor?

          There’s a train line to Puhinui, and the South Western Motorway which could have a busway included.

          In contrast, Dominion Road bus routes begin and end in Blockhouse Bay and Linfield. These are growing residential areas and not very high income – especially for new immigrants. They have no motorway (with or without a bus lane), nor a train service.

          • adam

            When did I say not do the lite rail option? I get the need for Blockhouse bay and Linfield, and am a big fan of the lite rail option down Dominion Road. I specifically said both, not this either or culture which dominates debate.

            As for the south west Mangere all the way down to Weymouth are really caught out of the public transport loop. The southwestern and busways is a bad joke, we need renewable transport – not buses which are quite frankly bloody terrible. But a service which people will use.

            • Carolyn_Nth


              But the northern busway is far from a joke, and is very heavily used.

              Puhinui also links to the southern motorway and Manukau train line. Those train lines always seem pretty good every time I’ve travelled on them. It seems far better served by train lines than the north, east or west.

              • adam

                By the people in Glenfield and other poor suburbs in the north shore?

                That aside, I want disable people to use public transport more, and sorry buses just don’t cut it. Hell they don’t even stop sometimes, especially for wheelchairs and large groups of disabled.

                There is a fight we have at the moment is getting drivers to actually pull up to the specifically designed curbs to get people off simpler – which some just won’t. Thousands AT has spent to get good curbs, and it all undone by bad driving.

                Buses are a bad joke, until they are better for the end user they will still be a bad joke.

                • Carolyn_Nth

                  The whole of the north shore has had poor services to the busway. I have heard that the new north bus timetables have added some improved services for Glenfield.

                  Glenfield serving routes here:


                  I’m sorry to read disabled people are treated badly by drivers. It’s not something I have witnessed on my regular routes. I have only seen drivers stop for wheel chair users, get off the bus, and ensure they can get up the ramp and into the wheelchair space on the buses.

                  Also, people with crutches seem to be able to use the buses OK.

                  But, any shortcomings are an education issue. That and the overcrowding on buses in peak times.

                  If there were unlimited funds we could get a great heavy rail and light rail service around the country. In the mean time, buses provide and important part of mass transit.

                  my experience of bus drivers is that they are pretty helpful for bus users.

                  And as someone no longer as fully abled bodied as when younger, my experiences of buses is very positive.

                  • adam

                    My belief is that the major shortcoming is the tech, not education. As for funds, we pay taxes, why don’t we demand better. Have we been under austerity so long we naturally limit ourselves? Look I get we’re not going to get everything – but ask for everything – aspirations are a good motivation.

                    As for disabled, good to hear you have had positive experiences, but you only have to ignored once by a driver to be put off for a very long time. The ramps help, but many a bus driver has freaked when I’ve used it to get my partner off and on the bus.

                    As for drivers, I’m not the only one who has bad experience. We constantly give them feedback – hence the new curbs you may have seen. And the disability awareness education they get 🙂

      • Dukeofurl 11.3.2

        The real reason , is based on Australian experience, that airport users dont really use the heavy rail options even when the station entrance is in the terminal – as is Sydney.
        It seems even Sydneys rail users are mostly to go from domestic terminal to the other side of Airport and International terminal.

    • Graeme 11.4

      “What I don’t get is why we don’t do both.”

      See Ad’s comment above,

      Light rail in Auckland

      Going by that timeline, Auckland will have heavy rail to the airport before, or at the same time as the light rail get’s there.

      The “problem” is that the light rail has been sold as CBD to Airport, probably as that was the easiest proposition. This has created confusion (deliberately?) about the purpose of the project. Is it to serve the Airport, or communities along the route. If it had been CBD to Manakau or Botany, which incidentally went to the Airport we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

      I grew up in auckland in the days of Robbie, I’ve seen all this before and wonder where Auckland would be now if it had been done then.

      • adam 11.4.1

        So bugger the South west again?

        The airport in my opinion is not the goal, the goal is getting effective public transport into the South West.

        • Sacha

          Using precious funding and construction workforce capacity to build a rail line from the airport to Puhinui instead of other infrastructure would most certainly be giving the south-west the middle finger – so that some chaps in suits can get from the cbd to their flights faster.

    • One Two 11.5

      Yes, Adam…

      One or the other is the standard offering of the established frameworks…for so long that it’s not seen for the imposter it is…

      Build both systems…

    • mike 11.6

      i agree build both rail is cheaper to build than road and why not allow the likes of mainfraight access to the rail net work rail should be treated just like road allow other operator access it

  12. cleangreen 12

    To simplistic there Mickey with your summary of the current “road gridlock’ here, – as you forgot to consider the hundreds of freight trucks coming into the Port and industrial areas too”. Trucks are far more worse than cars at emissions of Greenhouse gases.

    NIWA has produced evidence to us in a transport study we produced, that one truck can emit 100 times more than one car.

    Others have said this.

    How much pollution comes from a big truck compared to a car?

    Answer; – many big trucks actually emit as much pollution as 150 cars!

    Micky said; – quote;
    “which will take both buses and private vehicles off the roads, easing the mounting traffic crisis on Dominion Rd. Other benefits: fewer cars means less air pollution at ground level and fewer greenhouse gases; fewer cars means safer streets.
    Those trams will replace many of the buses that currently choke up Symonds St, Britomart and Victoria St East,”

  13. Tuppence Shrewsbruy 13

    Light rail down dominion road is a great idea. Let it go to the extension. Then stop it.

    Trying to continue it to the airport is like rolling a turd in glitter. It’s also being sold to the wrong audience if you want to buy it.

    If light rail to the airport is continued, it will be another three lane tunnel. With only nz being stupid enough to build it.

    Have light rail meet the southern Line line with the Puhinui sour somewhere like onehunga. Then everyone will have options.

    Edit: it could be this governments legacy that they did the right thing by auckland, rather than attempted to force auckland to do what they want

    • Sacha 13.1

      “If light rail to the airport is continued, it will be another three lane tunnel”

      Where did you get that idea from?

      • Tuppence Shrewsbury 13.1.1

        The terrace tunnel in Wellington. Short sighted infrastructure thinking at its finest

    • Carolyn_Nth 13.2

      This earlier post by Matt L on the greater Auckland blog argues that an extra station and line from Puhinui to the airport actually won’t be that easy to do. It argues that the heavy rail lines already existing will be over stretched by the Puhinui to airport heavy rail option.

      contrary to popular belief connecting to the heavy rail network at Puhinui isn’t really the “easy option” that it’s often made out to be. There would be extensive tunnelling within the Airport, there would be major and very complex track work around Puhinui to link in with the existing rail network and there would need to be substantial additional track infrastructure on much of the southern line to provide for these extra trains.

      Ultimately I think the Puhinui option is not a great idea….. Because it’s not easy, that means it’s likely to be quite a lot more expensive than you might think. But my main problem with this option is that it over-emphasises trying to serve Airport passengers, to the cost of everyone else. Analysis suggests over and over again that most people using rapid transit to the Airport in the future will be workers, not travellers…. And huge chunks of southwest Auckland would miss out on gaining access to rapid transit.

      … a busway through to Puhinui, Manukau, Flat Bush and Botany – with a really good interchange at Puhinui with the rail line – seems like a vastly more sensible option, and one that can be implemented much sooner too.

      • Muttonbird 13.2.1

        They are obsessed with buses for some reason. Clambering on and off buses to get to trains for the next 100 years doesn’t sound like forward thinking to me.

        You might say doing the Puhinui line is over spec-ing for what the rest of the rail network offers but you have to start somewhere and the CLR open is another part of that start.

        We know that the airport is going to be very important in the coming decades with a lot more tourism and a lot more business in the area so why wouldn’t you begin on a seamless line from that area right through South Auckland, to the city and every suburb in between, accessing the CLR, and the whole of West Auckland.

        The airport is also in direct connection with the rest of the country and what if the rail triangle between Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga becomes a reality – which it should.

        I just don’t get the push for such a weak link in terms of buses to the east of the airport. Of course South Auckland gets the buses while the privileged in the gentrified South West get the new light rail line….

        • Carolyn_Nth

          But the south already has 2 rail lines.

          And the south west is not that privileged.

          The lack for the south is for mass transit south of Puhinui. But that’s true of all the areas of outer Auckland – eg north of Ranui/Massey.

          Plus, if you are talking privileged, high income areas, the north east has the flash busway – no light or heavy rail for them.

          North of Ranui to the far north desperately needs a decent heavy rail system.

          So I think your privileged-rich to low-income-ignored argument doesn’t really work in this case.

        • Sacha

          “Clambering on and off buses to get to trains for the next 100 years doesn’t sound like forward thinking to me.”

          The busway will be designed to easily convert to light rail when the extra capacity is needed – just like the existing North Shore busway is. Quite forward thinking, you might say.

          • Muttonbird

            That’s fine but the light rail vehicles won’t run on the existing lines.

            I just think one compatible connection for the 20-40 million passenger trips every year and the rest of the supposedly to be developed rail network is an idea with several decades built into it.

      • Tuppence Shrewsbury 13.2.2

        And all that freight that can be carried on buses and light rail?

        I don’t normally say this, but heavy freight delivers the options and capacity the airport precinct needs to become the industrial area to a southern cbd in manukau.

        Think about all those industries that could grow in manukau and provide jobs given a mass proper mass transit connection between cbd as well as the airport and removes choking traffic from the southern?

        • Sacha

          All the analysis and modelling says freight from the airport is not right for rail. Too many short trips, not enough bulky items (air freight is expensive compared with ships). Removing other trips from roads does help freight trucks, no matter how that’s done.

          The main rail line shared between freight and passenger trains is also a bit of a bottleneck already.

        • cleangreen

          Tuppence Shrewsbury

          It wont remove the ‘chocking trucks’ you seem fond of as you are not concerned that the trucks are killing people every week now?


          11:18, Oct 12 2018
          That made ‘my concerns’ about truck gridlock placed correctly in the ‘right audience.’

          Then maybe you ‘drive a truck and don’t want to see trucks taken off the roads’?.

          Of course it is your funeral as more truck freight will pour yet more pollution into Auckland’s air so you will end up sicker as time and road freight increases so enjoy that “chocked traffic” you complained about.

          “Think about all those industries that could grow in manukau and provide jobs given a mass proper mass transit connection between cbd as well as the airport and removes choking traffic from the southern?”

          • Tuppence Shrewsbury

            Fuck is that supposed to mean? I want trucks off the road round the airport. Dick

    • Red Blooded One 13.3

      I vaguely remember when the Mangere Bridge was doubled in size it particularly was built with rail future proofed on it so I assume it can be developed to accommodate heavy therefore also light rail. No need for tunnels.

  14. tc 14

    Do both. The puhinui link has been allowed for and Dominion road’s a no brainer.

    Shake a leg and we could beat melb to an airport cbd link.

    • Muttonbird 14.1

      +1. Do both. The country needs it.

    • Sacha 14.2

      *Bus* from airport to Puhinui has been allowed for – and will be finished sooner. Heavy rail instead is not in the plans.

      • tc 14.2.1

        the land is reserved alongside richard pearce drive etc all it takes is the cojones and vision from govt as AIAL expect one to eventually go there.

  15. Matthew Heine 15

    How about using what we already have better as well? I use the trains all the time, but it’s difficult when I have a later shift to use them Monday to Thursday as they finish around 10pm, they are normally pretty full by the way. Plus extend the rail further West and South with some of the disused Diesel units to shuttle to the electric system. I see this as something this Government could do immediately without building anything new. When I brought the timetable issue up with an M.P they said AT set the timetables, which I thought was a cop out really.

    • Ngungukai 15.1

      Useless MP’s making excuses most of them are uneducated and totally out of their depth’s on their portfolios, as they are normally ex bankers, ex school teachers, ex lawyers of professional politican’s with degrees in political science and no real world experience ?

    • greywarshark 15.2

      Yes let’s have government by direct government, not hand the whole thing over to smarty-pants with business degrees that are generic and then have relevant stuff pasted on so they can say they are experienced even passionate about where they are going to be working!

  16. Ngungukai 16

    Just Do It, but make sure there is open dialogue and a peer reviewed business case, not some mickey mouse scheme dreamed up by AT and it’s consultants.

  17. Jenny 17

    I liked the suggested mock up photo of how this tram will look.

    Just some practical considerations:

    How does it work?

    Where are the overhead wires?

    Have they been left out for artistic reasons?

    Could this tram run on batteries?

    This might be a cheap way to get over all the famous Dominion Road undulations without having to make cuttings to accommodate overhead wire systems that can’t follow undulations.

    • Jenny 17.1

      Dominion Road is bending
      Under its own weight
      Shining like a strip
      Cut from a sheet metal plate

    • Sacha 17.2

      The electricity comes from beneath the tram.

      • Jenny 17.2.1

        Like the third rail system?

        I wouldn’t have thought so. As this would divide Dominion Road in half bilaterally for its whole length. Third rails systems need to be kept isolated from being touched. This means no cross traffic. Except by bridge or underpass. I suppose Balmoral Road and Mt Albert Road could be put on a bridge or underpass. To do this for all the other lesser road intersections and pedestrian crossings would be too expensive. (not to mention unsightly)

        I also don’t know how the community would feel about being cut in half.

        Not too kindly I imagine.

  18. Jenny 18

    Another practical matter:

    How on earth will it cross down to Onehunga? It’s quite a steep grade – I think it would defeat most forms of rail.

    Unless you build some sort of minature Raurimu Spiral, or dug a tunnel.

    Is that the proposal?

    A tunnel under the blockhouse bay ridge to resurface on Dominion Road, perhaps?

    Or maybe a gigantic cutting?

    I note that the old original Dominion Road Tram never made that descent. And the rail line that served the Onehunga wharf went through Penrose, a longer rout that also avoided the incline.

    Will this connection ever be made?

    Suggesting that the Dominion Road tram line will one day continue on to Onehunga, and from there to the airport a marketing ploy to get wider public support for a tramway that will be only benefit one road in one suburb, and possibly not even that, causing major disruption for Dominion Road residents in its construction. And on its completion impeding the flow of cross traffic on Balmoral Road possibly leading to major congestion particullarly during rush hour.

    • Carolyn_Nth 18.1

      The plan on the AT site is here:


      There’s a video and near the beginning it shows the route from Dominion Road. It turns at Mt Roskil and heads towards Hillsborough along side SH20 (the blue line). It goes along side the water approaching Onehunga and Mangere Bridge.

      The yellow line is bus rapid transit. there’s a plan here on p 26 which has the bus rapid transit in red.


      Here there are possible routes along the Mt roskill-Three Kings-Onehunga route, beside SH20:


      • Jenny 18.1.1

        As Ronnie Barker once said; “If all British rail lines were joined together, it would be a good idea”.

        This plan, at least initially, is for a light rail down Dominion Road and bus connection to a Kirkbride Road terminal and then on to the Airport.

        Followed later by a light rail link from the Airport to the Kirkbride Road Terminal then crossing the Manuakau Harbour joining to the Onehunga Penrose line.

        Time lines and final designs for the rest are extremely vague.

        The projected rout of descent to Onehunga alongside State Highway 20 beyond Blockhouse bay road connecting the two sections together seems to be missing from the computer simulated flyover.

        What is the projected maximum design gradient of this section?

        No description of the terminals along Dominion Road, and what they will look like.

        Total costings for joining it all together are said to not be worked out yet.

        • Carolyn_Nth

          Yes. Reading some Greater Auckland posts, it seems the City to Mt Roskill plans are the most worked out, but have a way to go

          As someone living in the area, and someone who grew up in a street off Dominion Road (decades ago before it went upmarket) I see how congested the area has become. It is Auckland’s only main arterial route (almost from one coast/harbour to the other) that is really just a suburban street still. So it does need to have a mass transit corridor.

          It probably will need some massive changes in the long term. The further along Dominion Road, the less upmarket.

          I’m sure retail owners along the road will not like it, but it will be better for a large number of Aucklanders in the long run.

          You are asking some good practical questions.

          • Jenny

            Hi Carolyn

            It occurs to me before we start laying track, we should be investigating virtual tram lines. (similar to how the Auckland Harbour Bridge lane divider vehicle stays on track.)

  19. Jenny 19

    Another practical consideration:

    I notice that the artist’s conception shows the tram line running down the middle of Dominion Road. How will passengers board?

    Will stations be built in the middle of the road?

    What will this mean for road traffic?

    What will this mean for pedestrians?

    Will the road have to be widened to allow cars to pass around a station?

    Will footbridges have to be built to allow pedestrian access to the boarding platforms in the middle of the road, safely?

    If the road is to be widened, how many properties will have to go?

    Where will the stations be?

    Are there any detailed plans at all, anywhere?

    So far there seems to only be some computer rendered artist conceptions.

    When will the concrete blueprints and projected time line for construction be made publicly available?

    • ScottGN 19.1

      A quick trip to Melbourne should answer some of those logistical questions for you Jenny.

      • Jenny 19.1.1

        I have never been to Melbourne.

        Are the roads where there trams run as narrow as Dominion Rd?

        • ScottGN

          The tram network in Melbourne runs on roads of varying widths, as did the old network in Auckland, of which of course, Dominion Road was once a major route on the network.

  20. Jenny 20

    Personally If I was building a rail link to the airport down Dominion road it wouldn’t be a surface tram. I would cover and cut it down that stretch. Hugely expensive. But it looks like there is going to be at least one tunnel in the proposal already, under the Karangahape Ridge and possibly another one under the Blockhouse Bay ridge.

    But I have some doubts this link will ever be fully joined up. The engineering challenge and cost seem to be against it.

    More chance of actually completing a serviceable and affordable joined up link to the airport at Puhinui.

    • Sacha 20.1

      Please read the plans.

      • greywarshark 20.1.1

        Yes i guess that it is time for commenters to go quiet and study the plans before erupting again, so that it’s not deja vu all over; sort of like ‘When all else fails read the instructions’. Very wise advice that!

    • Carolyn_Nth 20.2

      The light rail network is not so much about a route to the airport (which will serve a minority), but as something included in a city wide mass transit network.

      Light rail requires far less tunnelling than heavy rail would. e.g. light rail for the final airport section will involve no tunneling at the airport, while heavy rail will.

      the main reason for ditching the heavy rail option was the cost. The cost for the heavy rail option would be far greater, service fewer people, and not be cost effective.

      I’m pretty sure that the city to Mt Roskill light rail will go ahead as the government is strongly behind it.

  21. Jenny 21

    Hi Carolyn

    At one fifth the cost of a traditional tram, It occurs to me before we start laying track, we should be investigating virtual tram lines. (similar to how the Auckland Harbour Bridge lane divider vehicle stays on track.) The system shown in this video is pure battery powered. But there is no reason that it could not be powered partly or fully by overhead wires and pantograph.

    English soundtrack starts @2:13 minutes

    • Jenny 21.1

      As the narrator says, such system combines the best of bus and trams. In my opinion such a system would also lend itself easily to our already constructed bus-ways, greatly increasing their capacity.

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