Manukau South Link – Operations – Part One

A Proposed Operations Plan For the Manukau South Link – Part One



Yesterday I had written a post expressing my anger at Auckland Transport basically getting its priorities wrong in regards to Manukau, South Auckland and Counties Auckland:

AT Asks For Money



Yesterday I had mentioned my presentation and the results from that presentation to Auckland Transportyesterday:

So you could safely gather that I was pleased with progress being (slowly) made in advancing Auckland’s public transport system (as for private transport I am keeping an eye on the Redoubt Road-Mill Road Corridor) knowing the financial restraints AT currently faces. It is also why yesterday in my presentation I outlined some budget reshuffling on capital projects to fit in the top three projects outlined in my presentation.

While literally as I was giving the presentation yesterday to AT, someone else from AT was at the Auckland Council Strategy and Finance Committee (this is the committee that sets and approves all revenue and expenditure by Auckland Council and the Council Control Organisations (CCOs)) asking for a budgetary reshuffle to fast track the Manukau Line. Now if you thought it was AT asking for $3.6 million to be reallocated for the Manukau Rail South Link – I am sorry folks but that would have been too simple. Thanks to an alert from Councillor George Wood who was at the committee I noticed THIS is what AT was trying to do in asking for the $3.6m being reallocated for the Manukau Line (check page 100 of the agenda):

You can read the rest of the post by clicking the blue hyperlink above


After that post was written, a debate on Twitter happened on the merits of the Manukau South Link between myself and either Matt L or Josh Arbury from Auckland Transport Blog. Initially (and keeping it short) ATB were against the South Link but supportive of duplicating the North Link from the Manukau Line to the North Island Main Trunk Line (the Main Line) – where I support the opposite. As we also know Auckland Council’s transport planners are busy building a business case on the Manukau South Link; while Auckland Transport on Thursday was rejected by the Council Strategy and Finance Committee for reallocating money to duplicate the North Link and told to go back to the Council Accountability and Performance Committee to build a business case for the North Link duplication. Through all this you could probably figure out why I was spitting tac’s yesterday with AT after their “stunt” on Thursday.


However as yesterday drew into the evening, whoever was commenting via ATB’s Twitter Page to me on the South Link asked what kind of frequencies are you (that be me) looking at with the South Link. This is where this post comes in.

Proposed Operational Plan Using the Manukau South Link


Post Electrification – But Papakura to Pukekohe Not Electrified Yet


As we know; electrification of Auckland’s rail metro services will only go as far as Papakura yet we run services from Pukekohe in Counties Auckland. We also know Auckland Council is considering finishing the electrification to Pukekohe but that will not be complete until at least 2018 (although I have mentioned 2016 else where). This means we have a three-year gap between the main electrification being online and Pukekohe being electrified. As a result we will have Diesel Multiple Units (ADL Class) running shuttles between Pukekohe and Papakura, and the Electric Multiple Units (the Electrics) running from Papakura North. In the same regard if the business case is favourable towards the Manukau South Link, that link should be open by 2016 giving us a two-year gap before Pukekohe is electrified and we run a homogeneous fleet.

You can see documents on Pukekohe Electrification at my: PUKEKOHE ELECTRIFICATION CASE and PUKEKOHE ELECTRIFICATION CTD posts.


So with the two-year gap what operations are we looking at?


We take into account the following:

  • 10 minute service frequencies to Britomart from Papakura and Vice Versa
  • However because the line splits into the Southern and Eastern Lines past Otahuhu both still going to Britomart the frequencies are actually 20 minutes per direction
  • The line is not electrified south of Papakura so you need to run the DMU’s between Pukekohe and Papakura to relay with the EMUs to head further north
  • Pukekohe needs decent frequencies as the area is due for rapid growth
  • We also have services from Manukau to Britomart via the North Link and vice versa
  • We have frequent bus services on their way from Manukau Train Station through to Botany via Redoubt Road and Te Irirangi Drive
  • MIT is due to be operational in due pulling in a few thousand students and staff


Taking all things into consideration I propose to run 20 minute frequency shuttles using the ADL’s from Pukekohe to Manukau and return via the South Link; from 5am until 10:40pm Monday to Friday, 7am-10:40pm  Saturday, and 8am until 7pm on Sunday.

Journey time using an ADL both ways (Pukekohe <-> Manukau via the South Link) is approximately 32-35mins which means done properly you have trains leaving the two origin stations at the following times:

  • On the hour
  • 20 past the hour
  • 40 past the hour

That means a 5-8 minute turn around at Manukau and 24 minutes at Pukekohe to start the journey again the other way. Now that should not be too hard given that ADL’s are the fastest diesel passenger unit in the fleet and are only 2-car (shouldn’t need to top and tail two units to make an ADL-4).


However the ADL shuttle when running MUST run in front of the EMU service leaving Papakura to Britomart to allow passengers to transfer over anywhere between Papakura and Homai Stations, while running behind the EMU from Britomart to Papakura to allow those passengers to transfer to the DMU to finish their trip at Pukekohe.

Thus I recommend all things considered that the EMU leave Papakura five minutes after the ADL goes through heading north, while the DMU is five minutes behind the EMU when heading south.


Although what I am afraid of only using a five-minute gap between a DMU and EMU (DMU in front) is that the EMU’s with quicker acceleration could catch up with the DMU before the DMU either enters the Manukau Line or heads south out of Papakura slowing down the EMU and its journey. However we won’t know this particularly well until the EMU’s are here and fully tested on the main line starting September this year.



Using 20 minute frequencies and given that the journey time is 32-35 minutes, I would estimate for efficient running that five ADL’s (there is a total of ten available) be used to allow a complete circuit of running trains committed to this shuttle service. That means we have five spare ADL’s that are either in maintenance or if patronage does take off more than expected (and ADL can hold 384 at crush loading) – top and tailed  to give an ADL-4 on selected services.

I will illustrate a table on how the DMU shuttles and the EMU full services would interlink with each other. However this point came to me last night while playing around with the Auckland Council GIS.


At the moment and in the future (frequencies increased) we have buses running from Homai and Manukau Stations out to Otara and Botany Downs out in the Eastern Suburbs. The Botany Rail Line from Manukau to Botany via Te Irirangi Drive is not due to be built for at least 25-years if at all, so in its place a very frequent bus service would be running in place of that line. We also know passengers don’t like transferring more than once (most will not mind a single transfer) in a single given trip to their destination. Now with Botany, Manukau, Papakura and Pukekohe all due be hubs; and cross city commuting due to increase because of this – this is where the sole Manukau North Link situation falls over no matter how frequent the trains are from that direction.

This is an example journey that I know happens already:

  • Current Situation (no south link in position): Pukekohe or Papakura -> Puhinui (transfers trains) -> Manukau (transfers to bus) -> Botany and vice versa
  • If we run the ADL’s only on the Papakura – Pukekohe stretch AND no South Link is built: Pukekohe -> Papakura (transfers trains) -> Puhinui (transfers trains again) -> Manukau (transfers to bus) -> Botany and vice versa
  • The South Link is built and ADL’s run the PUK <-> MKU route: Pukekohe -> Papakura -> Manukau (via the South Link) (transfers to bus) -> Botany and vice versa

Looking at that trip I see two transfers in the first one, three transfers in the second one, and one transfer in the last trip. For ease of journey I know which one I’d prefer before the journey becomes to complex and the car becomes a better option.

This is where the Manukau South Link stands on its feet in warranting its construction: the allowing passengers a single seamless transfer from South AND especially Counties Auckland by train to a frequent bus service that goes out east to the Eastern Suburbs (people are we shopping at Botany today 😀 ). Yes the South Link would allow better accessibility to Manukau from Papakura and Pukekohe by train than having to transfer either at Papakura herself, Puhinui to head to Manukau via the North Link, OR BOTH – but the South Link allowing even better accessibility to relay with services heading out east is where the opportunity lies!


Table of Proposed Operation Plan


Looking at we have a situations that could cause issues.

The situation is that when the DMU arrives at Pukekohe, by definition it has a four-minute turn around before heading back out north. I would be against that and rather had the DMU lay-up at Pukekohe for 24 minutes while another already placed DMU at Pukekohe from an earlier service take up the next timetabled run north. However you have an idea on how such a timetable would run while we had a hybrid fleet in action for the transition (that is until Pukekohe is electrified)


This is a working draft of the Manukau to Pukekohe DMU Shuttle Service pre Pukekohe Electrification. Being a draft is is subject to refinements including alterations if two new stations are built (Spartan Road and Glenora (Walters) Road.



Part Two of the “Proposed Operational Plan Using the Manukau South Link” will be posted either later today or sometime tomorrow. Part Two will be the proposal looking at the Pukekohe – Manukau Shuttle Post Electrification with Pukekohe Electrified.


As always, comments and feedback welcome via the usual channels.


3 thoughts on “Manukau South Link – Operations – Part One

  1. I have just put through the AT Journey Planner ( an example if I want to get to Botany Town Centre from Papakura or even Pukekohe

    If this link does not work

    Then go to the AT Journey Planner and enter Papakura Train Station on the FROM bracket and then Botany Town Centre in the TO bracket, select for services leaving after 9am on any week day and see what comes up.

    In my example I got six services that were Mickey Mouse and took any where between 55mins to 1:14 hours.

    I have not even tried weekends yet and would hate to think

    Still – with that kind of situation the Manukau South Link seems to be more viable in seamless transfers

  2. The Manukau Branch project was a Manukau City Council initiative, and its purpose was to add Manukau to the main trunk. It was always a bit silly having the biggest city centre in South Auckland built 2km east of the railway, so the idea was to build the line, with north and south facing links, then re-routing most Auckland-Papakura trains through Manukau. Trains would link the main centres of Auckland, Newmarket, Manukau and Papakura.

    Unfortunately, later planners who inherited the project, dropped the south link, making the original concept impossible, and leaving the largest potential patronage group (south-to-Manukau) finding it easier to continue driving or taking the bus. Patronage has suffered as a result. If it wasn’t for the proposed bus network changes and MIT campus, the line would remain a failure. Even with those changes, it will still not perform properly until the south link is built.

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