To Auckland Transport: Here is Your Heavy Rail to the Airport Route

Auckland Transport Brains Trust needs a good kick

 

Debate has being going for most of the day so far after the Herald ran the story on Auckland Transport wanting to run trams for the City to the Airport rather than use our existing electric trains and extend the Heavy Rail network. You can see the story and post here: Auckland Transport Misses the Train – Again. Wants Inefficient Light Rail to the Airport

Remembering:

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.

…………..

 

Now I am aware there are extensive costs in double tracking the Onehunga Line, upgrading Penrose, Te Papapa and Onehunga Stations and removing several level crossings on the Line that do make heavy rail prohibitive compared to Light Rail. As for running elevated Heavy Rail along SH20A until it needs to go underground I don’t see Vancouver complaining about their elevated Sky Train lines that often run elevated along a highway or major road…

As for elevation inclines and turning curves hampering heavy rail compared to light rail; the EMUs are to handle the steep City Rail Link incline and can take the curves at Parnell and Vector Arena although it does slow them to 25km/h in doing so. So providing your only heavy curve is at the airport the EMUs will have no issues with any other part of the Airport Line.

 

Foolishly while Auckland Transport has this fetish for Light Rail and think Heavy Rail can only go via Onehunga and over the Manukau Harbour a solution for heavy rail to the Airport already presents itself and is less cost prohibitive. It is called running the Heavy Rail line from Otahuhu Station to the Airport via Mangere and Mangere East.

 

Here are some comparisons of the routes:

Airport Line Comparison  Red = LRT proposal by Auckland Transport Black  = Heavy Rail Route proposal Black dash = Via Mangere route to Airport instead of Onehunga Yellow = LRT to Manukau as part of Botany Line
Airport Line Comparison
Red = LRT proposal by Auckland Transport
Black = Heavy Rail Route proposal
Black dash = Via Mangere route to Airport instead of Onehunga
Yellow = LRT to Manukau as part of Botany Line

 

Your existing Eastern and Southern Line trains run north and south of Otahuhu thus link the north and the south to the Airport Line via Mangere. You are virtually extending the heavy rail network.

 

Looking closer

Close up of the LRT and heavy rail via Onehunga route vs the via Mangere to Otahuhu route
Close up of the LRT and heavy rail via Onehunga route vs the via Mangere to Otahuhu route

Now I know there is around 50 house along that dashed route heading to the Airport as it follows the old motorway designation from the State Highway 20/20A junction (that got subsequently lifted in the 90s after the junction was completed). I am fully aware of social disruption caused by public works of such scale like heavy rail but I am also aware of the urban renewal and connectivity that would trigger from the line being built through as well. Especially when you see this:

 

Airport Line with Sky Train and buses Black = Heavy Rail Connection Blue = Buses Yellow = Sky Train
Airport Line with Sky Train and buses
Black = Heavy Rail Connection
Blue = Buses
Yellow = Sky Train

 

And rail is nowhere as disruptive as a motorway as NZTA tried to plough through the same area….

If we can underground the heavy rail section in the Mangere area so be it but I am inclined to take the surface option and kick start upzoning in the Unitary Plan to Mixed Housing Urban (currently MH Suburban) thus intensification of an area right smack bang in the middle of four major commercial or industrial complexes surrounding it.

 

What do you think?

 

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6 thoughts on “To Auckland Transport: Here is Your Heavy Rail to the Airport Route

  1. Its completely logical and sensible for overground heavy rail to go from Otahuhu to the Airport – the travel time, the service efficiency and the land use benefits heavy rail and 1-2 stations enroute will bring to the Favona/Mangere East-Central corridor (economic and social uplift), far outweigh both the case for LRT to the Airport and the case for extending heavy rail from Onehunga to the Airport. No other major city in the world runs LRT from its centre to the airport, so why on earth do it in Auckland?

    1. Undergrounding might happen if it is not overly expensive to do so

      But that will still not stop triggering the urban renewal process I mentioned in your previous comment.

      So again we tie the urban renewal in with the community alongside when the Airport Line is built or we let things go willy nilly

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