Light Rail to the Airport Lacks Analyses

Published on 30/10/2021 at 4:40 pm.

Auckland is facing the three major crises (Covid aside) of climate change, inequity and traffic congestion. To help solve these problems, transport systems are pivotal. During the 2017 election campaign, Aucklanders were sold the project of “Light Rail to The Airport” by Labour. As Sir Michael Cullen put it, “...supporters...had dismissed the enormous cost and disruption and arrived at the solution before adequately analysing the problem”. Labour have subsequently battled their way through with this idea for the last four years trying to justify it, rather than doing what Sir Michael suggested.

When the spin doctors sold this project to residents and transport campaigners at public meetings, they became all starry eyed and talked of “connecting communities” (Mangere and Mt Roskill?) and the employment hubs in the CBD and Mangere? Employment hubs need connections to where the people live. They then talk of its extension to Albany. “It appears that this is a quick connection to the airport for those on the North Shore? This sort of money ($9 - $16 billion) could do so much more to encourage more passengers on public transport” Niall Robertson, Chair of the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said.

With a straight forward connection, from the existing Onehunga line to the airport, Mangere becomes connected to Penrose and the CBD. Another relatively simple connection to the North Island Main Trunk railway line (NIMT) at Puhinui connects South Auckland to the airport and the surrounding employment hub – high quality rail, not a slow, cumbersome, bus shuttle transfer currently on offer.

The PTUA believes KiwiRail will soon want the rail connection (on existing railway land) from Avondale to Southdown so that freight is directed away from the congested Newmarket area. A simple connection at Onehunga would effectively connect South Auckland with West Auckland.

The NIMT needs a third additional railway line now and will not function without it when the City Rail Link tunnel opens in 2024.

The North Shore will need heavy rail by the 2030’s as the bus way or Light Rail will not cope by then. It also needs capacity to go further to Silverdale, Warkworth and/or to Kaukapakapa, to link with the North Auckland line to create a rail loop over to West Auckland.

There is a case for a light rail system in South Auckland from Drury along Mill Road, through to the employment areas of East Tamaki and onto Botany Downs, with a short link to Manukau City railway station. There is also a case for light rail on the Auckland isthmus arterial roads. Robertson added “The easiest of all is a simple hybrid-electric passenger rail service to connect Huapai to the Auckland rail network at Swanson using existing rail and stations.” This is a system that improves inequities by targeting the service areas. It improves congestion by serving a wider range of Aucklanders and a wider range of journeys across the city.

All rail use minimises harm to the environment and reduces emissions. It provides equity throughout the city. The Mangere, airport and West/South connections alone will serve so many more people, and remove so many more cars from the motorways, for a fraction of the cost of the expensive waste of money we know as “Light Rail to the Airport”. On behalf of passengers who us public transport in Auckland, Labour, please bin your proposals and return to the original described here.

A press release from the PTUA dated 30 October 2021

The PTUA (Public Transport Users Association) is a voluntary organisation to represent current and future users of public transport across New Zealand. We are completely independent from Auckland Transport and other regional transport authorities and are the only organisation in New Zealand to protect passengers’ rights.

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