Airport rail dead
Why are our transport planners both so shortsighted and wedded to the 1950’s motorway ponzi scheme that even the Americans know it is time to get cracking with mass transit rather than more highways?
From the NZ Herald:
Transport planners in u-turn: Auckland Airport rail dumped
By Amelia Wade5:00 AM Monday Jun 27, 2016
A commuter rail link to Auckland Airport – which could slash travel times to the international gateway – has been dumped in favour of trams or buses.
The scrapping of the heavy rail connection is a u-turn by the New Zealand Transport Agency, which last year said it was “extremely committed to providing a rail link connecting the airport and the city”.
Auckland Transport (AT), which has favoured rail to the airport as a high priority, meets today to decide if it will endorse the agency’s position.
Road travel typically takes about an hour from the city centre to the airport. Commuter rail could cover the 20km journey in 35 minutes.
The Transport Agency’s board ruled out heavy rail after it was shown an AT report at its last meeting.
Agency regional director Ernst Zollner confirmed further investigations for rapid transit connecting the city to Mangere would be limited to light rail or a busway.“This is based on evidence from Auckland Transport that a heavy rail option to the airport would present poor value for money.”
…….Auckland Council infrastructure chairman Mike Lee, who heads a steering group of parties including KiwiRail considering rapid transit options for the airport, said he believed the imminent removal of the Neilson St overbridge at Onehunga would compromise the possibility of protecting the route for rail.
Removing the overpass was extremely short-sighted, he said, because a rail overbridge would need to then be built to allow for commuter rail, adding significant costs.
“The other odious aspect to this is NZTA suggesting they support light rail to the airport and foreclosing on conventional rail while conspicuously refusing to endorse light rail on the isthmus. Auckland taxpayers and ratepayers deserve better than this nonsense.”
The transport bodies are under pressure from Auckland Airport to make a decision by August when the company needs to know what form of rapid transit to include in its plans to build a new domestic terminal to by 2021 and a second runway a few years later.
Today Prime Minister John Key said he was not surprised at the decision to favour a different – and cheaper – form of mass transit to and from the city’s airport.
“It’s hardly surprising. Rail to the airport would have been extremely expensive and difficult to implement so I would have thought the right decision has been made that other alternatives should be explored.”
Mr Key, who also holds the Tourism portfolio, said while many large international cities had a direct city-to-airport rail link many were historic and not retrofitted.
“As we know with rail sometimes it can prove to be very successful and we’re seeing increased patronage on the new electrified and double-tracked lines but establishing that to the airport, I would have thought, would be a very expensive exercise.”
Well Prime Minister we would not be retrofitting rail to the airport if we had the vision to do it back in the 1950’s rather than embarking on a motorway binge that would even make the USA blush with envy.
In any case NZTA is talking out of its own backside stating heavy rail to the Airport would be poor value for money. Umm the East West Link that went to $1.85 billion from around $200m in projects costs would be a representation of poor value for money. One other thing is the interchange reconstruction at the State Highway 20A – Kirkbride Road looking at it again is or rather was designed for heavy rail rather than Light Rail as both Auckland Transport and NZTA want. The heavy rail design comes from the fact that the heavy rail line in that section of the Airport Line would be elevated with the Mangere Station also being elevated. Grade inclines between ground level, the elevated portions of the line and the tunnel section underneath the airport complex would be no problems for the heavy rail system given the EMU’s we already use (note we do not have any Light Rail rolling stock) have to deal with the steep incline of the City Rail Link tunnel from Britomart to Mt Eden Junction at the Western Line.
Auckland Transport does not help matters with stating that Light Rail to the Airport from Aotea Station would be faster than heavy rail. They could not be more wrong if they tried with Light Rail taking 45 minutes minimum while heavy rail from Britomart (which is also a major bus and ferry exchange where Aotea Station is not) to the Airport either via Onehunga OR Otahuhu was 35 minutes on a limited stop service.
We the advocates have probably not helped our case for heavy rail to the Airport either by focusing on the wrong section of the Airport Line (the most expensive part rather than the quick win). In a 2012 report (I will post the main highlights below) it indicated that the full heavy rail loop from Onehunga to the Airport and back to Manukau was the most viable, economical and costly option of the seven options available. The Otahuhu to the Airport option was next in terms of viability, economics and costs with Light Rail and Bus-Only being the worst options (hello irony). However, the rail loop was broken down into two distinct parts. It stated that the Airport to Manukau Line (if the loop was to be done rather than from Otahuhu) should be done first on economics/benefits to cost ratio with Onehunga done later if at all. If Manukau was not going to work (it technically would not if we pursued the Botany Line) then Otahuhu was always going to be the fall back option as Otahuhu allows connections to the South, the Isthmus, the North Shore via Britomart and the Busway, West Auckland via the Western Line and even north-west Auckland by the eventual North West Busway). Howick and Botany were looked after by the Botany Line to Manukau and the Airport.
The Airport Line Case Study 2012 Highlights
Suggestive Run Pattern using Otahuhu
From the South you transfer at Otahuhu, from the West at one of the CRL stations or Newmarket.
For an integrated package for the Mangere-Papatoetoe area and connecting eastern Auckland I had this:
Yellow forms part of the Botany Line:
Effectively heavy rail backed up by local busses and later the Botany Line form the integrated transport package (and one seat journey) connecting all of Auckland to the Airport. Something the Light Rail option currently being proposed by AT and NZTA will never do. Also we already have busses and heavy rail rolling stock meaning all we need to do is build the tracks and the bus/rail station interchanges. With Light Rail we need to design, cost, build, import and train (people) for an entire new system that will take at least a decade and cost a lot of money given the North Shore Line is at least 10 years away at the minimum (if at all with our current transport planners, and politicians).
So why reinvent the wheel with Light Rail we do not have when we already have busses and heavy rail. Technology and rail inclines up and down tunnels and elevated lines is not the problem, NZTA and Auckland Transport are the problems.
So will a change of Government next year put heavy rail to the Airport back on the front agenda? Will soon see looking at the below Greens presser:
National giving up on rail in Auckland
The National Government’s decision to scrap two planned rail lines in Auckland shows it is giving up on a city-wide rail network in Auckland, and on thousands of commuters who sit in traffic jams every single day, the Green Party said today.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) confirmed today that it would no longer investigate building a rail line from the city to Auckland airport. This comes just weeks after a document was released showing the NZTA has only protected the route for the second harbour crossing for a car tunnel, ignoring a previous commitment to include rail.
“By not investing in modern rail links to the airport or to the North Shore, National is condemning Aucklanders to a life of sitting in traffic jams for many years to come,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.
“Although National was finally forced to accept the urgent need for the City Rail Link, they haven’t committed any funding to the project, and are now refusing to work on expanding the rail network.
“The growing number of people catching trains in Auckland shows that people will opt for public transport when it’s efficient and affordable. We must invest in expanding the rail network now to catch-up and keep pace with rapid population growth.
“Aucklanders want a long-term commitment to a modern and reliable rail network in our fastest growing city. Unfortunately that has been undermined by the National’s short term, status-quo thinking.
“It’s ridiculous for John Key to dismiss rail as too expensive when hepromised in January to spend a whopping $1.8 billion on a new East-West link motorway, a project that hadn’t been fully assessed, and which has a very low benefit cost ratio.
“The Green Party remains committed to seeing rail connect Auckland airport with the city. We would like to see it completed by 2025.
“We are also committed to getting rail across the harbour to the North Shore by 2030,” said Ms Genter.
Source: Green Party
From the Public Transport Users Association (Auckland):
PLANS TO ‘DERAIL’ AIRPORT PASSENGER TRANSPORT, A FAILURE OF COMMON SENSE
Transport planners are letting down both residents and visitors to Auckland in the decision to abandon heavy rail to Auckland International Airport says the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA). “Transport authorities are foreclosing future options and compromising optimum long term solutions for airport access, just when they should be protecting the airport rail route and providing connections for heavy rail into the rest of the regional rail network” says PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves.
“Nearly every major airport in the world is served by rail. Dedicated, uncongested and seamless links between city hubs and airports are critical to provide certainty to travellers, but the New Zealand Transport Agency rejects this conventional wisdom in its current thinking”. “NZTA and Auckland Transport(AT) are proposing busway and/or tram-light rail solutions to the airport. In doing so they are rejecting the strong arguments in support of rail – an existing railway line already reaches within a few kilometres of the airport, whereas light rail or dedicated bus corridors require significant land and infrastructure development costs.
Political and public support for conventional rail services from the current Onehunga terminus is high. Extending the link through Mangere will improve that community’s access to the regional rail network and to the airport, while using existing infrastructure wisely”. “Light rail/trams and a busway are a dream, while conventional rail is already a successful reality for Auckland, and offers travel and construction time savings, cost savings, and it’s imminently do-able”, says Mr Reeves. “NZTA and Auckland Transport are overlooking obvious solutions while putting faith in uncosted, undeveloped plans that are in some undetermined future.
The agency is foreclosing heavy rail solutions even while light rail options are hypothetical, certainly not guaranteed”. “In the decision to abandon conventional rail which serves the region so well, and compromising future development by removing the Neilson Street overbridge, NZTA and AT are putting the cart before the horse” says Mr Reeves. “Yet this is just when planners need certainty as Auckland International Airport redevelops. NZTA are leading the process which is more rightfully an Auckland Transport role. But what we get as a result is a failure of leadership all round”. “AT and NZTA seem to have talked themselves into a corner which delivers poor outcomes for Onehunga, Mangere, the airport, Aucklanders, and travellers to and from the airport gateway. Meanwhile they exhibit a failure of imagination and common sense in rejecting the most rational use of existing corridors and infrastructure provided by heavy rail”. “We suggest both NZTA and AT go back to the drawing board, or at least carry out an independent review of their arguments against existing wisdom and investment, in favour of an alternative which is really just a wish and a dream”.
The PTUA supports the Campaign for Better Transport and Cr. Mike Lee’s abhorrent disbelief at the decision not to progress with planning for Airport Rail. Public opinion is set to grow against this highly flawed decision by NZTA and AT. Reeves said “These two agencies should be ready for a well deserved public backlash in the lead up to local body elections and the general election next year. It could well be a matter the Government will need to step in to sort out as it is