Auckland Rapid Transit System, New Zealand


With just four million people (estimated to be 4.3 million in 2010) in a landmass roughly the same size as Great Britain, New Zealand was forced to impose strict limits on public spending, including transport. The acute congestion in Auckland, the country's second city after its capital Wellington, however, led to the development of an integrated rapid transit and bus network.

Part of the existing suburban heavy railway, only operational during the day using diesel multiple units, is used along with eventual construction of new light rail routes. A significant bottleneck is the present road-only bridge over Auckland harbour, linking the north and south areas of the city. Opened in 1959, it sparked rapid housing development on the north shore.

Auckland is New Zealand's fastest-growing region with a population of 1.3 million. A new dedicated high-speed North Shore park-and-ride busway will serve this area.

The project

To be phased in stages it groups all the existing operators – heavy rail (Tranz Rail), buses (Stagecoach) and ferries (independent) – together within a co-ordinated network with single system, multi-mode tickets.

Phase One sees existing heavy rail services diverted to a new terminus, close to the heart of the centre at the bottom of Queen Street, the city's main shopping and commercial road.

Subsequent phases will see a three-line rapid transit network developed, which will take up to ten years. Land was secured to enable four rapid transit corridors connecting north (busway), west, south and east sectors through the central area.

"The Manukau rail link is the first extension of the Auckland rail network since 1930."

The total cost of the project is NZ$1.08bn, which included developing a transport interchange at Waitemata Waterfront (near the new heavy rail terminus), a rail link to Manukau city centre and new trains.

Construction of the Manukau rail link began in September 2009. Kiwirail is the primary contractor for the rail link.

The Manukau rail link is the first extension of the Auckland rail network since 1930. It is a 2km section rail track that connects Davies Ave in Manukau City with the southern railway line at Puhinui. The work on the Manukau rail link includes the construction of a 300m-long rail trench. The trench will comprise two lateral platforms and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority's (ARTA) station.

ARTA will construct the station inside the trench. Manukau City Council is responsible for developing a bus interchange at Davis Ave. The construction of rail infrastructure will be completed in mid-2010 with the station inauguration scheduled for 2011.

The Manukau rail link is part of the $600m DART (Developing Auckland's Rail Transport) project, which includes the upgrade of Newmarket station and junction, western line duplication and the New Lynn rail trench, and rehabilitation of the Onehunga Branch Line. The DART project is managed by New Zealand Railways, ONTRACK.

The Northern Busway, on the northern side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, was inaugurated in February 2008. It is the country's first built road dedicated to buses travelling alongside State Highway 1.

The much-debated project started in 1999 with detailed planning and costing and physical work started in late 2001. From 2003 to 20006 the Waitemata Waterfront Interchange opened, heavy rail stations were built or upgraded, the western line was introduced, a north shore busway (using the harbour bridge) was opened, new rail vehicles were ordered and an operator contracted.

Infrastructure

The first phase, to divert the existing heavy rail to the city centre, away from its present location near the docks on the edge of the commercial area, started in 2001. It involves building almost 2km (1 1/4 miles) of trackbed, of which almost half is in a cut-and-cover tunnel.

The new terminus will be in the ornate Old Post Office, which was the railway's original terminus. However, platforms will be underground, allowing the building to house ticketing offices and retail developments. Light rail and buses will depart from street level.

A new Central Transit route for light rail and buses will run from the new heavy rail terminus at the bottom of Queen Street to Newmarket, via the universities, hospital and Grafton. Grafton bridge was officially reopened on 1 October 2009. This restricts private cars, with dedicated sections for light rail and buses.

The existing western heavy rail line between Swanson and Newmarket is double-tracked. Light rail vehicles will leave the line at Boston Road and travel through the central business district to lower Queen St on the Central line, or Newmarket.

The heavy rail Isthmus Line from Queen St terminus to Pukekohe via the Eastern suburbs will also have a branch built to serve Manukau city centre.

"The Northern Busway, on the northern side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, was inaugurated in February 2008."

Rolling stock

City authorities contracted privately owned Tranz Rail to continue running the existing heavy rail lines until 2004. They were refurbished with new and improved stations and replacement rolling stock in the form of diesel multiple units after the government agreed to acquire Toll NZ (formerly Tranz Rail) in February 2008 at a cost of $665m.

The old stock comprised 18 two-car DMUs, transferred to Auckland from Perth, Western Australia in 1993. New vehicles were ordered for the light rail system.

Signalling/communications

Conventional colour light systems and tokenless block working were in service until 2004.

With the total upgrading of all heavy rail lines and construction of light rail routes there is the opportunity to install a central control, communications and signalling centre.

The future

Years of debate have dogged the project, but plans were finalised in 2000 when the city published a 50-year transport plan. It expects that by 2050 the population will almost double from 1.3 million to two million people and the phased approach of transport upgrades will cope with growth.