Southern Auckland and Manukau – An Omnibus

A Recap Series


Why the South needs the Manukau Rail South Link


Time to do some recaps of a few posts I have done on Southern Auckland and both its urban development plus transport potential. I have notice some age-old questions coming up in the comments section of Transport Blog (specifically here at the moment: Rail Station boarding stats) and I thought it might be time to do an omnibus on what Talking Auckland has commented or proposed in regards to the South.

In this post I am going to recap on the Manukau Rail South Link and why it is beneficial for Southern Auckland.


The Manukau South Rail Link

When the Manukau Station was opened during the first term of Auckland Council (2010-2013) it was designed to be served by two north links (which are there now) and a south link (which is not there). The north links would allow Manukau to Britomart services via the Eastern Line to replace the then Otahuhu Shuttles (Otahuhu to Britomart) while the south link was designed to allow Pukekohe/Papakura to Manukau services. Fast forwarding to 2014 after submissions, presentations to committees, meetings, lobbying, and even opposition from Transport Blog and we are still stuck in the same situation as we were when Manukau Station opened.

We got services running north via the north links with some pretty crappy patronage levels 8,600 for March 2014, although to be somewhat fair the delayed opening of MIT directly above the station has not helped. While MIT could have boosted patronage numbers, that boost would have already happened (and further increased after MIT opens) if the South Link was built by now.

Suggest modelling at the time indicated that the South Link would attract patronage levels similar to our 5th busiest station which before the latest stats came out would have been Ellersile or Glen Innes. This modelling had frequencies running via the South Link every 10 minutes which for now would be an overkill. Starting at 20 minute frequencies then moving to 15 minute frequencies two years after operations start would be sufficient for the South Link. At these frequencies I would estimate that the patronage levels would still be at the level of our fifth busiest station although if I was to take a punt, we could be seeing the 6-car sets (750 passengers) plying the link by 2020 when Manukau takes off as a Super Metropolitan Centre.


Population wise Southern Auckland (former Manukau City, Papakura District, and Franklin District Council areas prior to the super city) houses 38% of Auckland’s population with a projected increase to 45% if the South takes the brunt of growth through the life of the Unitary Plan. Manukau City Centre is the primary service hub for this part of Auckland as well as the northern Waikato. Manukau is also seen as the smaller second tier “City Centre” behind the first main City Centre, and even has road directional sign-age illustrating that point.

To Manukau City Centre
To Manukau City Centre

Thus having a high-speed, high-capacity, decent frequency rail service connecting Manukau City Centre up to the rest of Southern Auckland (Howick and Botany would be connected by the Botany Sky Train) including Pukekohe, Paerata and Drury (all to undergo massive housing growth through the life of the Unitary Plan) would be deemed essential. This is what the Manukau Rail South Link provides; that high speed, high-capacity, decent frequency rail service connecting Manukau City Centre up to the rest of Southern Auckland. Something the 33 bus route could never provide despite the constant opposition to the Link by of all places Transport Blog.


As it has been told to me by them a few times now the buses operating between 10 to 15 minute frequencies on this new all day timetable will provide the link from the south to Manukau as those buses trundle along the Great South Road. Two problems:

  1. Time of journey
  2. Capacity

It would take around 30 minutes from Papakura to Manukau by bus on the new 33 route which would trundle along the Great South Road. Now that 30 minutes does not factor in congestion between Walters Road and the Takanini Interchange sections of the Great South Road which easily adds another 15 minutes. The South Link would allow your Papakura to Manukau trip by EMU some 18 minutes with no risks of pesky traffic congestion. Even at 20 minute frequencies the train would still potentially beat two 33 route buses to Manukau (as even weekend traffic along the Great South Road is a shocker).

Capacity is an interesting one as well with South Auckland growing at the speed it is. A bendy bus holds 72 passengers but are being phased out. The new ADL buses NZ bus runs hold around 38-42 passengers and attract the regular ire of Isthmus bus passengers. An EMU 3 car set holds 375 passengers while a top-and-tailed 6 car set holds 750. So even at 10 minute frequencies the best a bus can do is 144 passengers within the same 20 minute period a single EMU moves either 375 or 750 passengers (there are events in Manukau that would warrant special event 6-car EMU sets – Polyfest being one). However, and most likely the bus would only move 84 passengers every 20 minutes compared to a single EMU plying the trip.

And with South Auckland growing as will be Manukau the South Link in my opinion wins hands down to whatever the buses could ever handle. If anything else call the South Link future proofing our future investments.


I nearly forgot two other points. 

Manukau Station will be right next to the Manukau Transport Interchange that would allow seamless transfers from the rail station to the buses (and the eventual Sky Train) that would head east to Botany. As we are trying to lessen congestion on our roads, the South Link would allow Southern Auckland and East Auckland a straight forward and efficient “connection” between the two areas of Auckland. Or you could play ping pong with either more transfers than necessary, or get stuck on the Great South Road.

I know I would prefer the South Link train before boarding the express bus to head to Botany.


The other point is MIT which is right above the Manukau Station. I have said before the bulk of MIT Manukau’s students will be coming from the south not the north. The South Link would allow direct and express connections between MIT and its main population base. Or again we could follow Transport Blog and play the ping pong transfer game as we do now by going up to Puhinui from Papakura, fluff around, then catch a Britomart-Manukau train and back track a good portion of your journey that you did on the previous Papakura-Britomart service. Seems rather inefficient and time-wasting even if the Southern Line and Manukau (north) Line trains were running at 15 minute frequencies compared to a single trip on a Pukekohe-Manukau via the South Link.

Slowly getting there with the Manukau South Rail Link
Slowly getting there with the Manukau South Rail Link


The Manukau South Rail Link? I think this is a quick win here for Auckland Transport. Except we keep waiting as AT keep “procrastinating” about it. Time for another presentation to the Auckland Development Committee in a couple of weeks. 


The Original RPTP Presentation I gave