Auckland Transport defying an official report into most viable option for Airport Rail
When the Airport Rail saga came into the spotlight late last year and earlier this year I took a multi-prong approach to the situation:
- Filed a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request
- Write a letter to Minister of Transport Simon Bridges (and others)
- Write up a possible run pattern if the Airport Line was to be Heavy Rail via Otahuhu
The LGOIMA came back yesterday and can be read below. The LGOIMA is composed in four parts as the cover letter from Peter Clark of Auckland Transport shows. However, and ultimately Auckland Transport have decided to ignore the recommendations contained in the LGOIMA (the Phase 1 Summary Report) and decided to go for the option that was not recommended at all!
The LGOIMA into Airport Rail Methodology
Time Calculation Between Heavy and Light Rail coming in from the City Centre
The memorandum looking at the time calculation showed heavy rail from Britomart to the Airport to be calculated at 38 minutes while Light Rail was at 43 minutes. This assumes LRT has priority clearance at intersections along the route, something that is not a given and is more likely to cause the LRT trip to be over an hour-long given congestion along Queen Street and Dominion Road.
I had calculated at a limited stop service from the City Centre to the Airport via Otahuhu would be around the 35 minute mark:
Going back to doing heavy rail from Otahuhu and using this https://voakl.net/2016/01/06/airport-via-otahuhu-heavy-rail-suggested-running-pattern-aklpols/ as a suggested run pattern (can work on frequencies later, I am looking at the routes and stops) I theorise the following:
- Britomart via G.I to Airport (via Otahuhu): 30mins if the EMU can hold its speed in-between the limited stops
- Aotea via Newmarket to the Airport (via Otahuhu): about the same
- Papakura to the Airport with a transfer at Otahuhu: 35 mins
So time of trip favours heavy rail.
The second part of the LGOIMA report shows:
- Light Rail from Mt Roskill to the Airport including rolling stock costing $1.15b
- Heavy rail including double tracking the Onehunga Line and four more EMU’s costs $2.35b
Spot the problem?
No cost of LRT down Dominion Road and Queen Street given the tracks have not been built for that section yet either. Given that this section of LRT would be built at a similar time to the suggested Dominion Road to Airport section of the LRT system there would be addition cost up and beyond the $1.15b listed above. At least with heavy rail the tract from Onehunga going north is there
The Auckland Transport and NZTA South Western Airport Multi-Modal Corridor Project
The LGOIMA provided the joint agency report that was done in 2011 recommends a very different outcome to what Auckland Transport is now pursuing in the form of Light Rail. This in summary is what the report suggested:
While Heavy Rail is expensive (and I acknowledge this) providing heavy rail from Onehunga and Manukau/Wiri (thus forming a loop) was deemed the most viable and beneficial option for passengers and even to the wider freight network. As a back up on economic lines the report also stated running heavy rail from the Airport to Manukau (backed up with bus lanes heading north) would also be viable.
Ultimately and as the wider report would demonstrate heavy rail from Manukau and Onehunga (forming a loop) should be considered into Phase 2 which is a full business case. Auckland Transport however, would proceed with Light Rail via Dominion Road which was not recommended at all.
Policy Context, Development Opportunities, the Future (which is rather now) and Issues
Below are extracts providing context of the eventual recommendation of heavy rail into a Business Case Study
Policy Context and Development Opportunities
Future Trends and Issues to be Addressed
Effectively we have a problem! That is we have about nine years left until SH20A reaches capacity with any further upgrades after the grade separation at Kirkbride Road going to be ineffective owing to congestion points elsewhere along State Highway 20. SH20B is pretty much at capacity already and with the Puhinui Plan Change coming through to allow the rural area go to industry it will cost us at least $500m to get the highway upgraded to a 4-lane expressway (more if we go motorway).
That problem is only going to get worse as Manukau City Centre and the Wiri Industry complex continue to develop rapidly once the Unitary Plan goes live later this year. Panuku Development Auckland is already beginning the Transform program for Manukau while Wiri is being upzoned from Light Industry to Heavy Industry to take on industrial intensification. This means more people and more freight on the move. And as pointed out in the last paragraph of the quoted report above the connections between the airport and South Auckland are very poor…
The Seven Public Transport Packages Linking the Airport
Below are the seven public transport packages initially considered by the report:
And here are the Assessments
From the initial assessments heavy rail from both Manukau and Onehunga forming a loop through the Airport provide the best benefits although the highest capital costs as well. As a twin fall back though the report does suggest that if we can not front the initial costs for the full loop then heavy rail from the Airport to Manukau would be the next viable choice. The other twin being as the final fall back being Airport to Otahuhu as it did allow north and south passenger and freight connections just as the full loop would. However, and I do concede the benefits for via Otahuhu are lower unless a wider urban renewal plan took place on the wider Mangere area (as picked up on in my Airport Line commentary).
In the end the report concluded the following to take to Phase 2 – Business Case Study:
The full rail loop from Onehunga and Manukau to the Airport would be your best bit while heavy rail from Manukau to the Airport is your most economically efficient choice as noted below:
The assessment in Phase 1 of the multimodal packages on a standalone basis suggests:
- Packages incorporating rail connections in the airport corridor will be the most effective in delivering the project objectives in the long-term
- The Rail Loop package would provide the best network resilience and highest benefits, while the package associated with a rail connection to the South is the most economically efficient
- The rail options would be expensive compared to a package incorporating bus services operating mainly on the existing state highway network; however the latter option is likely to be less effective in the long run.
In conclusion the report that I received from Auckland Transport via LGOIMA recommends that a Business Case Study should be pursued for the full rail loop to the Airport from Onehunga and Manukau with the back up option of rail from the Airport to Manukau being pursued as well (Otahuhu would be if the former two failed). But no Auckland Transport has decided to pursue an option that was not recommended and had more costs than benefits than the all four heavy rail options including via Otahuhu.
So tell me why Auckland Transport you are defying recommendations of your own joint report with NZTA when Light Rail on the Isthmus is still as Dr Levy Chair of AT said – a Statement of Imagination!
You might want to forget this Light Rail fetish to the Airport and focus on what has been recommended in your own commissioned report: Heavy Rail to the Airport from both Onehunga and Manukau with Otahuhu as the last fall back.
Note on Airport Rail via Otahuhu and the subsequent Botany Line LRT.
It can be considered that my commentary asking for heavy rail to the Airport from Otahuhu and the Botany LRT Line from the Airport to Manukau (and out to Botany and Panmure) is there as the fall back if the rail loop from Onehunga and Manukau to the Airport can not be done.