Perhaps this post is aimed at laying down a challenge to our future transport planners. It’s clear that rail needs to play a significant part in Auckland’s transportation future, with peak oil either just around the corner or having already happened, ongoing population growth that will lead to further traffic congestiong and (hopefully) growing concern about the effects of an automobile dependent city on climate change. Last year saw an 8% increase in the number of people using public transport – with more than a million additional rail trips being made in 2008 compared with 2007.
Some good steps have been made to bring Auckland’s rail system into the 20th century in the last few years, and in the next few years we should see some further steps that might at least partially bring it into the 21st century – with electrification being a critical step in the future of our rail network. However, it’s crucial that we do not rest on what improvements have been made, but rather strive to do better. Auckland’s rail system remains incredibly poor by international standards, the city in general remains incredibly car dependent while those who do catch trains (or buses for that matter) generally have to put up with poor conditions, frequently cancelled services and (believe it or not) over-crowding due to poor frequencies.
I have put together a map of what the rail network should look like in about 2030. That gives us 20 years to do these projects. Beyond 2030 there are probably further lines that could be built (such as an Albany to Henderson line or an extension of the North Shore Line to Wellsford). However, if we can have this system by 2030 (with enough tracks and trains to operate it effectively, I do think Auckland will be well on the way to having at least a half-decent rail system – if not something truly world class.
For a start, let’s look at a diagram of the current system:
OK, pretty pathetic. Right moving on here’s what I suggest for our system in 2030:
There are still three lines, although effectively there are actually six different lines, I’ve just coupled them all together to make it possible for routes to travel across the city rather than just into Britomart and out of it again. Obviously, a number of projects are necessary to make this a reality – beyond ones already underway such as the Onehunga Branch and the Manukau Link. By my reckoning there are four really big rail projects that would be necessary to undertake in order for this to be a reality.
- The CBD loop. Clearly nothing can happen in terms of adding new lines until we fix up the capacity issues faced by Britomart. As I have three lines approaching Britomart from the east it would probably be necessary to duplicate the existing access tunnel as well as building the CBD loop. Midtown and K Road are two new underground stations that would be built.
- Airport link. I would do this project second as it’s pretty embarrassing Auckland doesn’t have a rail link to the airport. The air bus is pretty popular, but can get stuck in traffic and in any case is not the same as having a proper rail link. New stations at Mangere and Mangere Bridge would significantly improve the access to the city from these two suburbs.
- North Shore Line. This would require a rail tunnel under the harbour, and conversion of the existing busway into a railway line. Initially I would have the rail line terminate at Albany, but there is potential for it to eventually continue to Orewa. This would provide a much better public transport link to those in Silverdale, Orewa and on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.
- East Tamaki Line. This would potentially be the most difficult, as it’s a very long line that has never really been planned for. Supposedly Te Irirangi Drive was built so that future light-rail could go down the middle of it, but I think heavy rail is the ultimate answer. Perhaps some serious tunnelling would be required, but I think in the long run this line is worth it. The communities it would serve are among Auckland’s most car dependent and have to put up with probably the worst public transport provision in the city.
Now I just have to find $10 billion to fund this all.