Plans to introduce light rail from Auckland Airport to city centre confirmed video

Jason Dorday/Stuff.co.nz

Andrew Little talks to media on Dominion Rd in October about Labour’s plan to tackle Auckland’s traffic problems.

Urgent action is needed to improve mass transit to Auckland International Airport, including the introduction of light rail from the city centre, Auckland Transport says.

NZTA and Auckland Council controlled organisation Auckland Transport (AT) said there would be a staged transition from bus to light rail transit from the airport to the city centre.

Dominion Rd was confirmed as the preferred route. 

There is currently no rail transport to Auckland International Airport.
SUPPLIED

There is currently no rail transport to Auckland International Airport.

Auckland Council did not say when the transition would begin.

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The timing for the transition would be based on demand, capacity and funding.

The announcement comes after NZTA announced in June last year that heavy rail from the airport to central city was off the cards because it was too expensive and difficult.

In September AT estimated light rail would cost about $1 billion compared to $2.2 billion for heavy rail. 

In December Labour Transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney said traffic to and from Auckland Airport was like travelling in a third world country.

In 2014 the airport revealed an "airport of the future" 30-year vision, which includes connecting the domestic terminal to the international terminal, construction of a second runway by 2025 and building infrastructure to accommodate rail transport.

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Last year Labour promised to fast-track a light rail system from Auckland's Wynyard quarter through Britomart and along Dominion Road to Mt Roskill.

Further work needed to be done to assess flow on effects, transition impacts and network resilience, NZTA said.

Before making the transition to light rail short-term changes could include higher capacity buses and a dedicated bus mass transit right of way, NZTA said.

AT chief executive David Warburton said the parties involved were in agreement that urgent action needed to be taken.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff "welcomed" government and council agreement on the need for light rail from the airport to city.

"This is the first time there's been an explicit agreement," he said.

"We're getting nearly 18 million passenger arrivals a year at Auckland Airport, so a mass transit alternative to the growing gridlock is absolutely critical."

Goff said what will trigger the need to move from buses to light rail will be set out in a report due later this year.

"I'm relaxed about having bus lanes first because they can easily convert into a light rail service," he said. 

"But the questions I raise are one, if light rail is needed within the next decade for example, why wouldn't you move directly and immediately to that? Rather than the disruption of putting in a bus way and then build a light railway.   

"The second thing is, you're talking about $1 to $1.5 billion as the cost of mass transit from the Airport to the City. Minimum. That adds urgency to the need to find new revenue streams to fund it. 

"So if we don't have something like a fuel tax, how does the government expect council to raise the funds to pay for its share of what we need to do?

"My view as mayor is that you should have a system that is related to use of the transport system not simply on property tax which is what rates are."

Goff said he thought the programme was going to have to be brought forward "in part because ATAP [Auckland Transport Alignment Project] was based on a growth rate in the city of 26,000 a year. We're already up to 45,000 a year". 

Transport Minister Simon Bridges welcomed the decision.

"This is a significant step for Auckland and will secure better transport options for both Aucklanders and visitors to the city."

Light rail transit to the airport would be a credible solution over the next 30 years, he said.

Work on mass transit route protection would progress with urgency to future-proof options for both advanced bus and light rail, he said.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the Government was dragging it was feet in rolling out light rail to the airport.

"A Labour Green government would prioritise rail to the airport, and would have it opened by 2025," Genter said.

"It can be done," Genter said.

"We have record numbers coming into the airport and it's embarrassing that travelling from the first entry point into our country is so overcrowded.

Light rail construction should start as soon as possible, she said.

NZTA Auckland regional director Ernst Zollner said the collaboration was to ensure transport delivered value for money. 

"Further work will be undertaken to identify how, over time, a transition from the current bus services and bus lanes to higher capacity mass transit and a dedicated mass transit right of way could occur," Zollner said. 

NZTA and AT will work with council and Auckland Airport to develop and implement short-term access improvements to the airport.

Transport blog's Matt Lowrie said improving current public transport with better bus lanes and double deckers could help but it wouldn't be enough long-term, which was why light rail transport was necessary. 

Lowrie said he worried the light rail would come too late. 

"We need this and other routes built and built sooner than currently planned," Lowrie said.

 - Stuff

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