Greens Commit to Airport Rail by 2021

Can we do it?


From Julie Ann Genter and the NZ Green Party:

The Green Party is announcing today that in Government it will fast-track the building of a new rail line to Auckland airport to be completed in 2021, in time for the next America’s Cup.

By light rail it will take approximately 43 minutes to travel from Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street and Dominion Road to the airport. The $2.3 billion rail line will be a project of national significance funded from the transport fund. In Government we will also investigate additional funding sources for this project such as land value capture.

“Light rail to the airport is the most urgently needed transport project in Auckland, and it will start this year when we’re in Government,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“A new rail line will give people the freedom to by-pass congested roads and travel from the city to Dominion Rd and the airport easily and quickly.

“Light rail will mean far more consistent and shorter travel times for people traveling to and from the airport and surrounding suburbs.

“2021 is an ambitious goal that will require unprecedented cooperation between Government and Council, and we can make this happen.

“It’s absurd that National still thinks this project isn’t needed for another 30 years. In that timeframe the number of passengers travelling to and from the airport will double and the number of people working near the airport will triple.

“It took 6 years for National to realise the City Rail Link was a priority for Auckland. We can’t wait 6 years, let alone 30, for work on airport rail to start.

“Rail to the airport is just one of a number of transformative rail projects that the Green Party will fast-track in Government. We intend to announce more projects closer to the election,” said Ms Genter.



It is of note the Government is still saying it will commit to Airport Rail – in 30 years time.


So the Greens and later Labour (they are due to announce within the next few weeks) have committed to Airport Rail although it is the Northern Airport Line (Airport to City Centre) rather than the Southern Airport Line (Airport to Manukau).


The difference?


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).


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


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

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.




Why I chose the Southern Airport Line over the via Dominion Road option came down to simple what works now and beyond the defence in 2021. By 2021 LRT from the City Centre would only get down Dominion Road but not to the Airport so you end up missing a critical link in moving people from the Airport to the City Centre. The LRT via Dominion Road route who as I have mentioned before does not solve (as it were) the commuter issue to and from the airport which comes from the South. In comparison you can get LRT from the Airport to Manukau City Centre (Manukau Bus and Rail Station) using Auckland Transport’s Option One complete by 2021 with the Airport to Puhinui Station stage done within two years (so 2019).

The beauty of the Southern Airport Line is it links up with two major interchanges: first the Southern and Eastern Lines at Puhinui Station allowing a two seat journey from the Airport to Britomart, the second being Manukau Bus Station that serves as the primary bus hub for Southern Auckland allowing feeder busses into both the Eastern Line and the Airport Line. Remember I am catering for both tourists AND commuters.

You will probably ask is LRT overkill on the Southern Airport Line and why not use Double Decker Busses seen else where? The route is not suited the double deckers nor is the type of patronage that the route would serve especially those with luggage. And while a double decker holds 144 passengers and a LRT unit around 400 I would go with the 400 right off the bat with a train every 15 minutes minimum. Again remember I am catering for commuters as well as tourists and inter city traffic.

Also the Puhinui Gateway industrial complex along SH20B has live Light Industry zoning per the Unitary Plan. That complex while fields for now will be the second major airport logistics warehousing complex similar to the existing one along SH20A. Logistics bases are land intensive and generate a lot of traffic both goods and people. NZTA are already preparing the case to widen SH20B to cater for this future growth. We might as well get light rail in alongside SH20B at the same time and chuck in a station to service the new complex. Remember and again I am looking at transit that services commuters, tourists and inter-city traffic. If that new industrial complex gets going rather soon we will be wishing for that transit line to avoid the mess that is currently SH20A!


Airport Origins Source: Auckland Transport


As Greater Auckland says build it and they will certainly come especially as the inter city benefits begin to pay off.


Speaking of inter city:

Puhinui Station in Need of Four Platforms

Station to become major interchange


Those who travel the Southern and Manukau Lines in Auckland wouldn’t think much of Puhinui Station. Puhinui current sits in between the larger Papatoetoe, Homai and Manukau Stations all which serve as interchanges in some form. While Puhinui Station serves as a transfer point between the Southern and Manukau Lines its role could be a whole lot bigger within the next decade.


Let’s take a look at Puhinui Station and the surrounds:

Puhinui sits prime on major transport routes to both Manukau City Centre and the Airport complex. There is also sufficient enough land belonging to Kiwi Rail to build a proper interchange at Puhinui Station with four platforms and an extra track free for freight trains to bypass the station. This is made possible with four mains and a loop running through the interchange site. Technically the Fourth Main (the Third Main on the left hand side would be kept clear for freight) would service Platform Three with an extra loop servicing Platform Four as demand allows but none the less we will need four Mains between Wiri and Otahuhu to get best use out of Puhinui Interchange.


The Four Platforms

This is how I have allocated the platforms at Puhinui:

Puhinui Interchange


As I noted earlier I have kept the Third Main on the airport side clear of any platforms to allow freight trains to run through the Interchange area unimpeded. The existing two Mains plus the Fourth Main take up Platforms 1-3 to service commuter, airport and inter-city patronage with an extra loop on the Manukau side forming Platform Four if demand ever warranted another platform (such as an inter city train heading south and keeping the other Mains clear given the extra loading time that might be needed).

The yellow is the interchange area while the grey is the bus line to and from the Airport remembering the interchange will need to be able to service Light Rail when the time comes to turn the Southern Airport Line from a bus-way to  Light Rail Transit line.


Puhinui Interchange with the tracks


How Puhinui Interchange will look in a wider context. The white lines are the two existing Mains with the black the Third and Fourth Mains in utilisation. You can see where the new platform along with a loop track goes keeping the Third Main entirely clear for freight trains. The Third Main also allows for the electric passenger trains to enter and leave the Wiri depot without impeding on the other three Mains.


Puhinui Interchange and Manukau


This is how Puhinui Interchange would interact with Manukau Station and the Southern Airport Line from Manukau to the Airport. You will also notice that I have added the Manukau South Link back in there allowing services from Pukekohe and Papakura to Manukau directly without a transfer at Puhinui Station. With Puhinui Station set to be a major interchange handling commuter, inter-city and airport traffic, re-directing Manukau passengers away from Puhinui Station through a direct connection to Manukau from the South would ease loading pressures at Puhinui.

So the economics of the Manukau South Link do make a comeback with the Puhinui Interchange and the Southern Airport Line.


As for inter-city trains?

Call for Hamilton to Auckland commuters to get on board rail service

Friday, 12 May 2017, 11:20AM


Proponents for the establishment of a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland will need to bridge political gaps and unite if the initiative is to gain traction, it emerged last Sunday.

Community group The Rail Opportunity Network (TRON) held a meeting earlier this month in the historic Frankton Hotel adjacent to the railway line the train would traverse as it left Hamilton heading for Auckland – if it came to be a reality.

TRON is a collective of people from a range of backgrounds who have all expressed ongoing interest in bringing the intercity train into operation.

Engineers, railway staff, politicians, tourism organisations and health and safety experts have all entered the ring in support of the service.

Susan Trodden, spokesperson for TRON, was among the key organisers of the discussion.

There was a large turnout, including members of the public, Hamilton business owners and numerous local political representatives.

“It’s quite important we have a good roundtable community discussion on this,” Hamilton city councillor Dave Macpherson said as he spoke on the discussion panel, emphasising that the train should not become party political.

“The growth in the Waikato, from Hamilton north to Tuakau, is phenomenal at the moment and is going to be phenomenal for some years to come.”

Macpherson noted expanding and upcoming residential developments in Pokeno, Mercer, Huntly and Te Kauwhata which he said would all increase the pressure on Stage Highway 1 and the need for a train service to those areas, which could double in benefit to link Hamilton with Auckland.

“A lot of the planners in this area and nationally are actually way behind the 8-ball there. We’re seeing figures coming forward from supposedly reputable planners to the Waikato District Health Board saying the population in Hamilton is only 147,000 at the moment – it was that seven or eight years ago,” Macpherson said.


Full article and source:


The Tweet below also relevant:

If you want to move lots of people with little space,
the car will always be the loser

As for the Airport Southern Line?

In red as Option 1

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


Building Puhinui Station out to four platforms when the Southern Airport Line Puhinui Interchange is built makes sense to handle the varied mix of patronage coming through that station.




Remember I am building not only for the America’s Cup defence but also the future beyond the defence as well. Especially with Southern Auckland growing the second fastest behind the City Centre itself.



So good on the Greens just wrong Airport Line 😛