The Southern Airport Line. Our Next Project After the City Rail Link

Southern Airport Line just makes sense


Before the Planning Committee started yesterday I was having a discussion with Orakei Ward Councillor Desley Simpson over what project should be next given the Government will be funding their contribution to the City Rail Link in their upcoming Budget. I stated that the Manukau to Airport via Puhinui Busway should be next off the rank given congestion issues to, from and within the Airport complex (this includes the industrial complex along State Highway 20A). My reasoning was that this Busway is easy and cheap to build (in comparison to other projects) and utilises existing transit lines very well such as the Southern and Eastern Lines (that also connect to the Western Line and the Northern Busway). This is remembering we are not just focusing on passengers at terminals but more so the workers.


Airport Origins
Source: Auckland Transport


In mentioning this I was asked to look at a more comprehensive package. So introducing the Southern Airport Line.


The Southern Airport Line

The Southern Airport Line takes its name from its two predecessors: the Botany Line and the current Bus Improvements (Airport – Manukau – Botany) so stated in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP).




The Southern Airport Line would start as the bus connection from Manukau to the Airport via Puhinui Station (and be possibly funded from the proposed ATEED Levy (the wrongly called Bed Tax)) before being fully upgraded to Light Rail (forming part of a Light Rail network to the airport from both the City Centre via Dominion Road and of course Botany and Manukau in the South.) Now I will get to the ATEED Levy to help pay for stage one of the Southern Airport Line in a moment.


So again what we looking at here as the next project off the rank now that the City Rail Link is a go is the Southern Airport Line. The Southern Airport Line starts as a bus connection from Manukau to the Airport via Puhinui Station. Then in time the bus connection is then upgraded to a fully fledged light rail line no doubt in time to connect up with the Airport LRT Line to the City Centre via Dominion Road and a LRT line from Manukau Panmure via Botany. This in turn would give the South-East, the South-West, and the lower Isthmus a fully integrated Light Rail Transit system that connects to the heavy rail system and major bus hubs like Manukau Bus/Rail Station.


Light Rail to Airport and Manukau
Source: Auckland Transport and NZTA



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



The Botany Line Sky Train Route. Also serves as a Bus QTN in the interim. Note the Yellow would now match up with intersecting with Puhinui Station



To me and Desley Simpson the Southern Airport Line starting as a bus connection then going to full Light Rail just makes sense especially as the next project off the rank post City Rail Link. The Southern Airport Line fulfils three key aspects lacking in transit to the Airport complex:

  1. Connecting Southern Auckland and Howick workers to the Airport whether via Puhinui Station if coming up on the rail line or via Manukau Bus Station if using local South Auckland busses or the bus from Botany
  2. Connections to the City Centre, Northern Busway or the Western Line via Puhinui and Britomart Stations on the Southern or Eastern Lines
  3. Tourist connections from the Airport to Puhinui Station to then either go north or south on the rail line or to Manukau Bus Station to link up with Inter City busses


Getting the Southern Airport Line off the ground would be a good quick win as the City continues to prepare for the Light Rail Line from the North (at least 10 years). With help of Central Government there is no reason to get the Southern Airport Line running by 2020.


ATEED Tax to fund it?

From the Airport to Botany via Puhinui and Manukau is $319m according to the ATAP document. Now I am going to assume given little development west of Manukau it would be $30 million for Puhinui Interchange (Manukau Bus Station is around ~$27m) and $100m for the busway from Puhinui to the Airport (Puhinui to Manukau would be 24/7 bus lanes). So $130m total. The ATEED Levy is meant to raise $28m/year and is designed to fund tourist and economic infrastructure in benefit of the City. Given the Southern Airport Line is a Capital Expenditure Project (CAPEX) it is funded by debt and repaid through the life of the asset. $28/m year on a very quick tourist and economic win that The Southern Airport Line is would repay that CAPEX in just 5 years. Given the busway is alongside SH20B NZTA could or rather should chip in as well lessening the cost on the ATEED levy.  Councillor Simpson believes The Southern Airport Line would be a good project for the ATEED levy as a possible example.

I would call this a very smart investment of the levy to pay for a crucial piece of infrastructure post City Rail Link.


So what say you?

Do we get The Southern Airport Line off the ground as fast as possible and use the ATEED levy to help pay for it?

I would say yes.


The second truck can be seen on its side, and people can be seen out of their cars wheeling suitcases towards Auckland Airport. Photo: RNZ / Jeremy Brick



6 thoughts on “The Southern Airport Line. Our Next Project After the City Rail Link

  1. Heavy rail is the best option to the airport from both sides, Onehunga and Puhinui. Don’t get caught up in the political spin of Labour/Goff and some in AT(+ AT spin off called Greater Auckland). Light rail is not the answer in either direction.

    Auckland airport is an international airport serving wider than Auckland and that includes people living in a place called the Waikato. Heavy rail line to the airport from Puhinui will allow Hamilton and environs to commute straight to the airport or to Auckland. It can be done with triple or quadrupling the NIMT and building high speed crossovers. Yes, Central Govt should foot the bill as Kiwirail will own the lines and infrastructure except the stations.

    1. The via Puhinui option is a dog and hurts Southern Line run patterns compared to The Southern Airport Line option that integrates with the Southern and Manukau Lines as well as the Manukau Bus Station.

      Inter City services can transfer either at Puhinui, Manukau or if heavy rail is built to the Airport – Otahuhu so they do not lose out.

      If anything given the prominence of Puhinui as a transfer will bring the need for the Manukau South Link to bring passengers wanting to go to Manukau from Papakura and Pukekohe directly to save clashing out with Puhinui Station.

  2. I suggest that to avoid confusion among those (most) people who don’t spend a huge amount of time studying transport issues, you call the Southern Airport Line the Southern Airport Bus Line. There are competing options eg trains and trams, and the argument is best understood if everyone knows which is being discussed.

    1. I was told to adjust the language and not use Bus in the Line term as it would give a final to what the Southern connection to the Airport would finally be.

      So on that advise I have used The Southern Airport Line.

  3. This make-shift scheme dodges the urgent need for heavy rail to the airport. It’s time to get serious about creating efficient public transport networks in Auckland.

    1. Nope. Even if Heavy Rail did come in from the north or via Otahuhu there was always going to end up with a Light Rail line from the Airport to Manukau and out to Botany connecting up with the SE Busway (or LRT).

      At least getting in the Airport to Manukau section away first while lining everything else up for the north the City will have a transit connection to the airport that also makes best use of existing assets.

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