Auckland Transport Misses the Train – Again. Wants Inefficient Light Rail to the Airport

Auckland Transport moves towards inefficient light rail option for the Airport – City route


I was wondering when Auckland Transport would catch my attention again over the Summer break. I will give them credit it took about a week to do so but none-the-less this one will leave your head scratching. That is Auckland Transport want Light Rail between Britomart and the Airport via Dominion Road and the South Western Motorway rather than either extending the Onehunga Line to the Airport or building a new line from Otahuhu to the Airport.


EMU savings


From the NZ Herald:

Trams proposed for airport route

By Mathew Dearnaley 

Auckland Transport is considering running trams to the airport via Dominion Rd, one of the Super City’s busiest commuter routes.

Its consultants have nominated 20 potential tram stops between the airport and Britomart – including eight along Dominion Rd and four on Queen St – but questions are being raised about how the route could serve both long-distance travellers and commuters.

An estimated journey time of 44 minutes for the 21km trip is seen as optimistic by the Campaign for Better Transport and Auckland Council infrastructure chairman Mike Lee, who heads a steering group of parties including KiwiRail considering “rapid transit” options for the airport.

That time assumes trams would travel at up to 80km/h and compares with about 39 minutes for 110km/h electric trains or up to an hour for buses jostling with other traffic.

Transport campaign spokesman Graeme Easte, an Albert-Eden Local Board member, said yesterday that he feared commuters on what was now a very convenient and frequent-service bus route would lose out.

Mr Lee said he had reservations about the effectiveness of a longer-distance rapid transit airport service using Dominion Rd and was sceptical about some of the numbers and assumptions in a report by the consultants.

He believed there was “a major flaw” in business case comparisons estimating the cost of extending trains to the airport at $2.3 billion compared with $1.1 billion for trams.

That was because electric rail already ran to Onehunga – just 10km from the airport – yet a tram line via Dominion Rd “exists only in the imagination at this stage”.




Although funds have yet to be allocated, Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said then he did not expect a first stage from Britomart to the southern end of Dominion Rd to exceed $1 billion.

An Auckland Transport spokeswoman said yesterday a decision was likely by the middle of next year on whether the airport should be served by trains or trams.


The transport body is under pressure from the airport company to choose between heavy and light rail by then, to fit in with the company’s plans to build a new domestic passenger terminal by 2021 and a second runway a few years later.

Airport development chief Graham Matthews says the company is “mode agnostic” between heavy or light rail, but trains will need a wider turning circle to reach its terminals.

“Both would provide significant added capacity for public transport to the airport, which is what we want to achieve,” he told the Herald.

But he said whichever mode was chosen, its tracks would have to run under the proposed second runway to an underground train station or surface tram stop.



Source and full article:


Electric Train heading to Newmarket from Britomart Source:
Electric Train heading to Newmarket from Britomart


There are so many things wrong with what Auckland Transport is proposing here I am wondering what their brains trust is seriously thinking here.

Problems include using Light Rail via Dominion Road and the South Western Motorway:

  • Trip is slower with the trams at best 80km/h and on the surface sharing road space with cars unlike heavy rail which travels at 110km/h and is fully grade separated
  • Auckland Transport proposing 20 stops for the LRT line between Britomart and the Airport compared to 11 at most with heavy rail
  • Capacity of our EMU (electric trains) is 750 with the big 6 car sets. A tram would give 500 at best?
  • Heavy rail from Britomart to the Airport via Otahuhu (most preferable) is more of a direct route (and allows connections from the south until a Rapid Transit Network is extended along SH20B from Manukau) compared to the dog leg Auckland Transport is proposing for Light Rail via Dominion Road and the South Western Motorway (SH20)
  • 44 minutes (more likely to be an hour) for Light Rail compared to 39 minutes by heavy rail
  • Part of the proposed Light Rail route proposed by Auckland Transport goes down the Southdown-Mt Albert heavy rail designation that has been set aside for Kiwi Rail. Are Kiwi Rail giving up that designation designed for freight trains to bypass the network between Penrose and Mt Albert via Newmarket?
  • And while on that motorway corridor where is the land coming from for the Hillsborough Road to Onehunga section coming from?
  • Running an airport tram down the very heavy traffic Dominion Road seems counter productive to those who already use the road. Sure you could run a tram down it but I would see it just for Dominion Road to Britomart only, not all the way to the airport unless you want to bung your service patterns up
  • NZTA’s proposed East West Link would at this stage spanner any attempts for LRT or even heavy rail through Onehunga (hence the better route now is from Otahuhu)
  • And as Mike Lee said; Light Rail is just imagination at the moment (although AT Chair Dr Levy did say he was wanting a Statement of Imagination at an Auckland Conversations talk earlier in the year) where as Heavy Rail is all set to go to be added on to.


I wonder what Auckland Transport is trying to solve here. Yes we need a Rapid Transit Network connection between the Airport and the City (and for that matter Manukau and the Airport as well) but Light Rail instead of Heavy Rail? It seems Auckland Transport have developed a Light Rail fetish in detriment to heavy rail which is not only already there ready to be extended on but is again the most efficient form of moving a mass amount of people between two points over a medium-long distance quickly. That is 750 people along a route of 11 stops grade separated from road traffic from the Airport to the City in 39 minutes (or 25 minutes to Manukau).


But does Light Rail have a place to the Airport? Yes it does: The Botany Line Sky Train: Time to Link the Eastern Suburbs, Airport and South Auckland up with a quality Light Rail Transit System


The Botany Line Sky Train Route. Also serves as a Bus QTN in the interim
The Botany Line Sky Train Route. Also serves as a Bus QTN in the interim



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