Auckland Transport’s Formal Response to Light Rail to the Airport

Business case to be developed for Botany to Airport


In October I had commented on Campaign for Better Transport’s presentation to the Auckland Transport Board on how they believe a review of the Light Rail case to the Airport from the City Centre should be reviewed. For recommended reading to give context first please see: Airport Light Rail Case Study Contained Errors Prompting Review? Back to Heavy Rail?


Auckland Transport formally replied to three questions about the presentation. This is their reply in full:

  1. What apparent mistakes did the Board find with the Jacobs report that might have prompted a review

The Board has not said that “the Jacobs report had mistakes and needed to be reviewed”, this was a statement from Cameron Pitches as part of his presentation to the Board.

The Board is not reviewing heavy rail to the Airport as, along with NZTA and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, it discounted heavy rail in June 2016 due to its poor value for money proposition. AT and NZTA are currently looking at bus and light rail options from the Airport to the City Centre, which will consider all of the work carried out to date and develop the most appropriate option for this corridor.


  1. When will the review be carried out

Please see above


  1. Will AT do an entirely new business case study again that would include an Airport Line from Botany to Manukau to the Airport as suggested here:

ATAP identified a northern and an eastern Strategic Public Transport corridor to improve airport access. AT and NZTA are currently considering options for the eastern Airport to Manukau route indicated in ATAP as part of the Strategic Public Transport Network and will jointly develop a business case for this corridor.



You can make your own judgement on the answer to question one.

Question three has my interest the most. The Auckland Transport Alignment Program (ATAP) has ‘Bus Improvements’ between Botany and the Airport via Manukau in the second decade (same time as Light Rail from the City Centre to the Airport) while widening State Highway 20B from Manukau to the Airport is in the first decade.

Given NZTA mess up traffic projections with motorway building or widening (hello Manukau/Southern Motorway Interchange and the queues from there to Papakura) (a little thing called induced demand when you widen a road) and the Puhinui Gateway (a new industrial complex) along SH20B is on the way, widening SH20B before improving Transit will really only make the traffic jams worse and the Southern Motorway widening at Takanini redundant from day one.


atap-major-transport-projects-by-decade-map Source:

Yes Auckland Transport and NZTA will jointly do the business case for Botany to the Airport transit improvements. But I recommend to both authorities given the amount of population and employment growth in the South that the Manukau to Airport transit improvements start now not in ten-fifteen years time. The first bit of transit is a dedicated busway along SH20B from Puhinui to the Airport and the 380 bus (well 38 – 380 Airporter Needs to be Split into Two) goes to every 10 minutes all day – seven days a week.

From there you can extend the 38 to Botany and by 2025 figure out whether to extend the busway to Botany or go straight to Light Rail for the entire corridor (on the basis whatever is picked is done by 2030). In effect the ATAP is still followed but the Puhinui to Airport busway is done now and the SH20 and SH20B widening is delayed into the third decade.


The good thing running the 38 via Puhinui is that it can link up with the Southern and Eastern Line trains allowing a fast and efficient connection to the Airport using the heavy rail and bus (later LRT) system. No more getting stuck in your car on the motorways nor expensive parking fees.


AT's proposals for the Botany Line to the Airport Source: Auckland Transport
AT’s proposals for the Botany Line to the Airport
Source: Auckland Transport