City Rail Link to be Built Properly and Future Proofed – a First for Auckland!

CRL Comes Full Circle


I’ll start with the announcement from Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff on the City Rail Link:

Full steam ahead on CRL expansion

Auckland Council and Government today agreed to future proof the City Rail Link and expand station sizes to cater for rocketing growth in rail patronage across Auckland.

The agreement to increase investment in the CRL means the tendering process can now consider work such as widening tunnel sizes, lengthening platforms at new rail stations to cater for nine carriage trains (rather than six), a second entrance for the Karangahape Road station and other associated station work.

The increased scope in the CRL has been agreed as a result of new estimates that predict that CRL stations need to cope with the capacity of 54,000 passengers an hour at peak rather than the original estimates of 36,000.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said, “The growth in rail travel is a success story for Auckland. Every passenger commuting to work by train is one less car on the road during peak hour travel.

“Last year we achieved the milestone of 20 million passenger trips a year, four years ahead of schedule.

“The growth in popularity of rail travel in Auckland required council to take the decision today to increase our investment in the CRL and expand new rail stations to cater for the huge number of people who will be commuting by rail in the next ten years.

“Getting the work done now while CRL is still under construction will avoid retrofitting the system which would double the cost and require the tunnels to be closed for two years for widening within a decade of it being opened,” Phil Goff said.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said increasing investment would ensure that when CRL opens in 2024 Aucklanders get a modern and efficient rail service that benefits the entire transport network for decades to come.

“A decade of under investment in transport infrastructure has bought Auckland to a near standstill.

“Today’s decision has allowed us to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when within 10 years of opening the Auckland Harbour Bridge it had to be expanded from four lanes to eight,” said Phil Twyford.

Auckland Council’s Governing Body voted overwhelmingly to expand the scope of work to cater for increased capacity requirements of the CRL. The Cabinet approved this yesterday.

Costs associated with expanding the scope of work for CRL are confidential while the tender process to procure the work is underway. Exact costs will be known more precisely early next year once tenders are received.

City Rail Link costs are shared equally between Government and Auckland Council.



Yay and for once we are trying to get ahead of the demand curve by building in future capacity into both the City Rail Link and the heavy rail network as a whole. Something the now former CEO Chris Meale refused to acknowledge seen in this Spinoff piece last year:

Is the project future proofed?
Auckland, of all places, knows exactly what happens when you build a big new project without understanding the likely future use. That’s what we did with the harbour bridge, which was at capacity almost as soon as it opened in 1959 and quickly needed four more lanes clipped to the sides.

You can’t clip more lanes onto a tunnel. Meale said, “You only get one shot when you’re building underground.”
True that. He added that the CRL will be a “hundred-year asset”. Which makes capacity an issue. The thing about that is, doubling the capacity of the existing lines is not a big target. As rail transit becomes the most appealing way for many people to get into and through the central city, demand will grow to far greater levels than that. This is something else we know in Auckland: when you build public transport, they do come. You’d be nuts not to think it will happen with the CRL.

Meale talked at length about all this. “Future proofing”, he said, was a watchword.

So I asked him, why are the platforms at Karangahape Station going to be only 150 metres long?
“Why would they be longer?” he asked.

I said that the current trains, when they have six units, are 144 metres, so if more units are added they’ll overhang the platforms.
“Who’s talking about longer trains?” he said.

But this is not a new idea. Auckland’s trains have always had the capacity to add extra units and many of the platforms on the current network are long enough to cope with that. I asked if that wasn’t part of the future proofing, to build in extra capacity by allowing for longer trains.
“Longer trains?” he said. “They may be. That’s a decision for another day.”

Not exactly a future proofing sort of thing to say.
I asked him, why will Karangahape Station have only one entrance? (It’s going to be south of K Road, down Mercury Lane, just by where the Mercury Plaza is now.)
He said the EOI requires allowance be made for a second entrance on Beresford Square, if it’s needed in the future. Yes, I said, but why not build it now?
Meale doesn’t think it will ever be built. “We’ve modelled the demand. Everything we’ve looked at suggests we won’t need a second entrance.”
Given that these days every prediction for public transport use in Auckland is quickly exceeded, this seemed bold.

You don’t think it will ever be needed?
As for Mercury Lane, passengers will have quite a steep walk up the street to K Road. I asked why there won’t be escalators rising to Karangahape Rd itself.
“That’s not a difficult walk,” he said. “It’s good for you.”

Not difficult for him or me, perhaps, but moderately fit adults are not exactly the benchmark for ease of use.
He and Carol Greensmith both talked about how because of space and heritage issues it was relatively easy to build on Mercury Lane but not on Beresford Square. In the end, Meale said, “We took the line of least resistance.”

We’re getting what’s easier, and it isn’t the same as what’s better.

quote context:


Both Meale and Greensmith have since moved on.


So the Council and Government are doing what should have been done in the first place. And doing so for $100m extra is a drop in the bucket for what it will enable.



  • Southern and Eastern Lines
    • 10 minutes at 750 passengers (6 car set) = 4,500 passengers an hour
    • 10 minutes at 1,135 passengers (9 car set) = 6,810 passengers per hour
  • Between Puhinui and Otahuhu where the Eastern and Southern Lines run together (note Puhinui will have the interchange for Airport to Botany Rapid Transit, Regional Rapid Rail as well)
    • 5 minutes at 750 passengers = 9,000 passengers an hour
    • 5 minutes at 1,135 passengers = 13,620 passengers an hour
  • Airport to Botany Rapid Transit
    • Bus at 130 passengers every 5 mins = 1,560 passengers per hour
    • Light Rail at 450 passengers every 5 mins = 5,400 passengers per hour (or 10 A380 super jumbos)


Capacity – it is all about future proofing it. Something Auckland has rather stunk at as the Auckland Harbour Bridge infamously showed. At least with the City Rail Link and a bit of luck Airport to Botany Rapid Transit we will not be making those mistakes again.


Dig Once, Build Right First Time – EVERY TIME!


Britomart station drawing
Source: Auckland Council