Auckland Transport

Light rail

Auckland Transport (AT) is investigating light rail as a way to relieve traffic congestion on busy arterial roads and get more people around Auckland quickly.

Project status: Investigation
Project zone: Central

Artist's impression of light rail on Queen Street, CBD

Project overview

AT recognises the need to urgently address the worsening congestion and accessibility problems in Auckland. We continue to assess high-capacity public transport solutions that can ease congestion and provide more transport options to help make Auckland a more modern, sustainable, connected, progressive, globally-competitive city.

AT continues to investigate mass transit options between the airport and the city centre. AT studies to date support a solution being required by 2024 and Light Rail Transit (LRT) as the preferred option. LRT will take buses off key corridors and carry more people, more efficiently, between centres.

LRT-based solutions have also been shown internationally to improve urban outcomes through development opportunity and provide permanent infrastructure, which attracts investment.


Light rail offers significant benefits for commuters, residents, tourists, pedestrians and other road users, including:

  • Increased capacity - up to 420 people per 2-vehicle, 66-metre set.
  • High frequency services - one every 2.5 to 10 minutes.
  • Service reliability close to 100% (within 2 to 3 minutes of timetable), achieved through traffic signal priority and dedicated tracks.
  • Electric - less fuel consumption, lower emissions and carbon footprint.
  • Permanent infrastructure encouraging urban development, increased productivity, and economic growth.
  • Improved access to the airport precinct and surrounding centres for employment and residential growth.
  • Fast, reliable access to NZ’s ‘gateway’ airport, supporting regional and national business and tourism.
  • Safety benefits.
  • Improved pedestrian and urban amenity.
  • Addresses bus congestion and urgent access problems in the city centre.

Project details

Light rail is similar to a tramway, but operating principally along exclusive rights-of-way, with less frequent stops, higher capacity, and higher average speeds than local bus services.

Artist's impression of how light rail could look in Mt Roskill

Image: Artist's impression of light rail in Mt Roskill.


Most light rail routes are proposed to travel along the centre of the road (median alignment). Median alignment with side platform stops is the simplest and fastest solution for light rail operations, as it:

  • Reduces interaction with cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Allows for higher operating speeds.
  • Eliminates the impact of road traffic slowing down to turn left.
  • Minimises congestion by allowing light rail to travel separately.
  • Minimises impact on parking.

Project background

Background documents

Central Access Plan documents

The Auckland Central Access Plan and the Auckland Central Access Plan Programme Business Case with peer review explain the capacity issues currently facing Auckland’s public transport network. The documents detail the options and analysis carried out by AT in partnership with the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Council.

Auckland’s transport challenge

  • Auckland's population is forecast to grow by over 1 million people by 2046, including an additional 300,000 employees.
  • Employee numbers in the city centre and city fringe are forecast to almost double over the next 30 years.
  • Total number of trips to the city centre in the morning peak will increase by about 85%, from 70,000 to over 130,000.
  • Auckland's current transport system does not have the capacity to accommodate demand for city centre trips.
  • 45% of people (approximately) use public transport to travel to the city centre.
  • Public transport trips around Auckland are forecast to grow from the current 70 million trips to over 230 million trips in 2046.
  • Improvements to rail and road capacity will not meet the growth in demand.
  • Road and bus terminal capacity in the city centre is reached at about 400 buses per hour.

City Centre Future Access Study 2012

The City Centre Future Access Study 2012 identified the need for the City Rail Link (CRL) and surface bus improvements. The study showed that Auckland’s growth will outstrip its road capacity and maximising rail is an essential part of an integrated public transport solution.

However, even with the CRL and planned bus improvements, there will be significant access issues to the city centre. The CRL does not address access from the north, the central and southern isthmus or Auckland University and Wynyard Quarter. Buses from areas not served by heavy rail will create significant congestion and affect economic growth.

The need for light rail in Auckland was identified through an objective assessment of options in a follow-up study.

A light rail network serving the central isthmus is the best solution for addressing access issues to the city centre, bus congestion, and supporting economic growth. Light rail will also integrate easily with existing vehicle, cycling and pedestrian spaces, and will be supported by smooth interchanges with other transport modes.

How other cities have benefited from light rail

France - Montpellier

  • Surprised by success.
  • Had to extend all their light rail vehicles from 32m to 42m two years after opening.
  • Would have been cheaper to buy them longer to start with.

Norway - Bergen

  • Purchased extra vehicles before their first extension to increase service frequency.
  • Consequent issues with very small and poorly laid-out depot.
  • Temporary depot built to cope until route was built to reach the permanent depot site.

Ireland - Dublin

  • Greater than anticipated uptake.
  • Vehicles had to be extended within a few years.

Gold Coast, Sydney - Australia

  • Sydney - planning to build 66m-long vehicles rather than the 45m originally proposed.
  • Risk-conscious approach because of likelihood of unmanageable success.
  • Gold Coast - ahead of expectations - 238,000 passenger trips in the first 14 days.

For more information on this project

Contact Auckland Transport