City Rail Link Operations MK2

Changes to proposed CRL Operations Plan after Auckland Transport drops Newton Station


The Old City Rail Link Proposal prior to August 1's update
The Old City Rail Link Proposal prior to August 1’s update


In light of the recent changes made by Auckland Transport to the proposed City Rail Link (see: Changes to the City Rail Link [updated with video from Auckland Transport]) I dusted off my two-year old City Rail Link Operation Plan series that I did and had a look back over it.

Looking at the changes announced on Friday:

  • the dropping of the Newton Station
  • the junction now at Mt Eden Station
  • The CRL East Link will have no platforms so you go from Grafton Station to K Road Station direct via that link. No stopping at Mt Eden Station

You can see Auckland Transport’s proposed City Rail Link operational guide below


Still no Manukau South Link I see. Each ‘Line’ also represents a two-way trip as well.

More on what Auckland Transport has changed can be seen here as well:


Looking back over the CRL Operation Plan proposals I drew up two years ago I see that nothing much would change if they were translated onto the new City Rail Link plans. The two main differences being that there is no longer a Newton Station with Mt Eden Station taking over, and that the City Rail Link East Link does not have platforms at the Mt Eden Junction so you go direct from Grafton to K’Road Station if you wish to use the City Rail Link via its Eastern Link.


I might have another crack at drawing up a City Rail Link Operational Plan reflecting these new changes (plus a change with the Manukau South Link) and post it up. Part One of the new CRL Operations [Pre North Shore Line] Plan is below


CRL [Pre North Shore Line] Operations Proposal MK2


Some changes have been made to my proposed Auckland Rail Network [Post City Rail Link but Pre North Shore Line] was first published just over two years ago. For starters Auckland Transport have ditched the Newton Station (which would have been the CRL’s third station in the series) in favour of Mt Eden Station becoming a main junction for the western end of the CRL and the existing Western Line.

Other changes since MK1 include:

  • Trains on South-West, and East-West Line no longer detour into Manukau Station along their journeys. The Manukau South Line (via The Manukau South Link) will run Manukau to Papakura/Pukekohe while the Manukau North Line runs north along the Eastern Line, through the CRL and down the Western Line
  • Recognition of the Airport Line (Onehunga Line extension) and Mt Roskill Spur
  • With recognition of those two proposed lines some service patterns like the existing Manukau-West Line have changed
  • Recognition of the Manukau South Link allowing direct Papakura/Pukekohe to Manukau Services
  • Takes into account addition and possible deletion of stations


With Auckland Transport’s rather interesting CRL (City Rail Link) operations proposal above raising eyebrows, below is my “refreshed” operations proposal:

CRl Post ops MK2 my version
CRl Post ops MK2 my version

Note: The Manukau North – Henderson Line would be replaced by a Manukau North – Mt Roskill Line service with trains running between Manukau and Mt Roskill (rather than Henderson) once the Mt Roskill Spur is built


Below is the Operations Proposal for the entire Rail Network

Included in the diagram is a base line that I will be using for frequencies when I come to reviewing/refreshing them in light of changes to the City Rail Link and wider rail network. The base line represents sending 1 train down each of the lines one way (So Up Main (towards Britomart) or Down Main (Away from Britomart)).

The diagram and table also recognised the future extensions of Lines or additions of new ones after the City Rail Link is built.


While I will work on frequencies and capacities per Line and get them into Part Two of the new Operations Plan, a recap of the potential frequency and capacity we can get with the Electric Trains:

Capacity of an EMU and Line Capacity per Trains Per Hour Frequencies
Standard 3-car 375 passengers
Double EMU (6-car) 750 Passengers
Wait Time between Trains 3-car375 Passengers 6-car750 Passengers
4 Trains Per Hour 15 mins 1,500 3,000
6 Trains Per Hour 10mins 2,250 4,500
8 Trains Per Hour 7:30 mins 3,000 6,000
10 Trains Per Hour 6 mins 3,750 7,500
12 Trains Per Hour 5 mins 4,500 9,000
14 Trains Per Hour 4:20 mins 5,250 10,500
16 Trains Per Hour 3:45 mins 6,000 12,000
18 Trains Per Hour 3:20 mins 6,750 13,500
20 Trains Per Hour 3 mins 7,500 15,000


The Lines (including Mt Roskill Spur and Airport Line)

  • South-West Line via Newmarket and Grafton (Brown)
  • East-West Line Via Glen Innes, Britomart and Aotea Stations (Yellow)
  • The Onehunga Loop via Newmarket, Britomart , CRL, CRL East Link, Grafton, Newmarket(or vice versa – bi-directional loop system) (Light Blue)
  • Manukau South Line (Orange)
  • Manukau North to Henderson Line (Light Orange/Gold)


  1. If the Airport Line via Onehunga is opened prior to the North Shore Line, the light blue Line would be simply extended to the airport. If the Airport line also includes via Puhinui (so an airport loop) then a new line would be introduced.
  2. The Manukau North – Henderson Line would be replaced by a Manukau North – Mt Roskill Line service with trains running between Manukau and Mt Roskill (rather than Henderson) once the Mt Roskill Spur is built


Breaking Down the Lines

The South to West Line via Newmarket and Grafton (brown on the map)


Starting/Terminating either at: Papakura, Pukekohe, Henderson, or Swanson . This particular service does not touch the CRL or Britomart as it serves the South-West link pattern in moving passengers. To reach Britomart or the CRL stations one would have to either use the East to West Line service OR transfer at Newmarket or Grafton and wait for the Onehunga Loop service train to complete the journey.

The purpose of the South-West Line is to form the basis of a cross-city service that current and potential passengers miss out on. Not all passengers want to go to the CBD and there are passengers who do travel South to West and vice versa. The South-West Line also means freeing up the CRL, its stations, and the Newmarket-Britomart Line thus freeing capacity up for other services such as the proposed high-frequency Onehunga Loop. The South-West Link coupled with the Onehunga Loop also removes the current Western Line situation were Western Line trains leave from Britomart and head to Newmarket, wait for three minutes from drivers changing ends, then continuing out west for the rest of the journey (vice versa applies as well heading from west to Britomart). Removing that situation removes the congestion from Newmarket as well.


The East to West Line via Britomart, CRL and Mt Eden/Kingsland Station (Yellow on map)


Starting/Terminating either at; Papakura, Pukekohe, Henderson, or Swanson . This particular service does touch Britomart and the CRL line (including the CRL stations) as it serves the East-West Link in moving passengers. To reach Newmarket, Grafton or the current Onehunga Line, passengers would either transfer at Otahuhu, Britomart, Newton Station, or Mt Eden Station to complete their respective journeys. The Eastern Line becomes the primary line to Britomart and Aotea Station from south of Otahuhu.

Like the South to West Line, the East to West Line also forms the basis of a cross city service linking up the south with the west. However in this Line operation, the service would travel via the Eastern Line (so Sylvia Park – Orakei) before stopping at Britomart, then continuing up the CRL through the West Link, and finally out on the Western Line towards Henderson/Swanson. So while we get a similar cross city service, the CBD and Eastern Line Inner Circuit gets served (as well as connected to the wider network) as well.

There is demand for East to West and vice versa with passengers often starting their journey from the current Eastern Line, and needing to head out and complete their journey on the current Western Line (or again vice versa). Cross City travel is there and very relevant to commuters, thus once the CRL is up and running, the CRL Timetable/Operation not only needs to reflect the needs of CBD people, but people who commute cross-city as well. Hence the three lines I am proposing cater for both CBD bound and Cross-City bound commuters.

See the embedded worksheet on draft timetable/operation plan for East-West Line


The Onehunga Loop via Newmarket, Britomart , CRL, CRL East Link, Grafton,Newmarket(or vice versa – bi-directional loop system) (light blue on map)


Both starting and terminating effectively at Onehunga Station, this particular line forms the basis of a high frequency loop that utilises; Grafton, The CRL East Link (now the Mt Eden Junction), and the Newmarket-Britomart Branch Line.  The Line basically follows the existing Onehunga Line from Onehunga to Britomart, however at Newmarket the service can either continue to Britomart or swing a left and head up to Grafton, then go down the CRL via The East Link through to Britomart, before heading back out to Onehunga via Newmarket as current. The beauty of the Onehunga (high-frequency)Loop is twin-fold:

  1. First it forms an alternative City Loop system that would move passengers from one end of the CBD to the other, and through to Newmarket in a more quick and efficient manner than the Inner Link Bus could ever provide. In a sense of irony post-CRL the entire operation I have proposed actually allows the Parnell Station (which I still oppose due its potential to foul the congested Newmarket-Britomart Line) to be effective and allow train passengers to reach Parnell, due to my CRL Timetable/operation proposal de-congesting that particular part of the line.
  2. Second, The Onehunga Loop allows from very quick transfers to/from the other two lines (as the Onehunga Loop shares the same track as both the South to West, And East to West Lines at some point. I count nine potential transfer stations that the Onehunga Loop passes through to allow seamless transfers from one line to another.

However I do see a snag forming a 5-7 minute frequency (that is between Onehunga and Newmarket, 10-14 minute frequency once the loop splits at Newmarket and each train goes in opposite directions on the loop) for the Onehunga Loop and that is the fact that it is single track between Penrose and Onehunga itself. It takes 8 minutes for the train currently to reach Onehunga once it leaves the dual tracked main line, around a 3-5min park up at Onehunga to exchange passengers and crews to change ends, then another 8 mins back to the dual main line heading towards the city. That means the line is blocked for upwards of 21 minutes before another train can go down – which means in short it buggers my Loop pattern for the CRL. 21 minute frequency between Onehunga and Newmarket, with 42 mins on the actual loop is not quite the high frequency I had in mind. There is an intermediate solution and there is an optimal solution to this problem.

The optimal solution is to double track the Onehunga Line – which will be needed when the Airport Line is built and open. The intermediate solution is to electrify and utilise the passing-loop between Penrose Platform 3 and Te Papapa stations. The idea is that either the arriving or departing Onehunga service could park up in the passing loop briefly while the other train moves out of the road. I believe by using the passing loop until track duplication is complete would increase the frequency by double (so 12 minutes between Newmarket and Onehunga, and 20-24min frequencies on the loop). However you could still have passengers waiting somewhere as the train makes it way through the passing loop which is not quite acceptable in my books for a high frequency rail service – especially for the kind of line/loop I am proposing. But pragmatism, experience and wisdom will tell me that we will be using this passing loop on the Onehunga Line first, before the Onehunga Line track is duplicated for the Airport Line. So I suppose once the CRL is open, the next project would be the Airport Line via Onehunga.


The Manukau North to Henderson OR Mt Roskill Line via Glen Innes, Britomart and CRL (Light Orange or Gold)

This variable frequent service (compared to the South-West and East-West Lines)  would act as an “Inner Circuit” relief to the longer running East-West Line Trains especially during peak times (the inner circuit being between Otahuhu and New Lynn (so inner stations)). This line though does serve the Manukau City Centre Station from the north (a separate line services the station from the south) while also making advantage of the proposed Mt Roskill Line thus expanding the catchment of the rail network. The Manukau City Centre Station is also the main station (being next to the proposed Manukau Transport Hub) for the upcoming Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre – the heart of the growing Southern Auckland. Manukau City Centre Station is also served by the proposed Manukau to Papakura/Pukekohe via the Manukau South Link which is described below.


The Manukau South Line (Orange)

This Line set at 15 minute all day – 7 day a week frequencies allow shuttle services between initially Papakura and Manukau via the Manukau South Link (to be built) before being extended out to Pukekohe as Drury and Paerata Stations get built over time. This Line allows Southern Auckland’s population base to be able to access and connect with Manukau City Centre (a future Super Metropolitan Centre) – the heart and hub of Southern Auckland. This Line would give people the choice of being able to use rail rather than drive between a residential population centre and its commercial heart. With Manukau also containing the proposed Manukau Interchange the Manukau South Line would allow you to train from Papakura to Manukau direct then transfer to (as an example) a bus heading to Botany Town Centre (and vice versa for the return trip home).




In Part Two of the CRL Operations MK2 I will update the frequencies and total line capacity for each of the lines.

So what are your thoughts folks? Post a comment and let me know what can tweaked on this idea.

Remember this is only the first version of the proposal and plenty of changes are certain to happen. But at least we get a high frequency – cross-city service that serves both the CBD and the wider city (unlike current arrangements).