Auckland Transport (AT) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) agree to progress light rail for Auckland to urgently address Auckland’s growing congestion and accessibility problems.
Project status: Investigation
Project zone: Central
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.
Our own research and analysis, as well as global case studies, show that light rail can be both a solution and a catalyst. It has great potential to improve amenities, develop communities, provide access to jobs and education and attract investment. It will support Auckland as a forward thinking, sustainable, connected, and globally competitive city.
Why Auckland needs light rail
Auckland is growing, bringing diversity, vibrancy and opportunity. But growth also brings big challenges: such as current public transport reaching capacity, rising land costs, and increasing congestion. These affect our quality of life and productivity, as well as visitors’ experiences and our ability to host world-class sporting, business and cultural events.
Light rail for Auckland is not just about reducing traffic congestion. It’s also about unlocking our City’s potential. The certainty of permanent infrastructure creates better connected neighbourhoods where people want to invest in building housing and amenities. When we improve our public transport, our city as a whole benefits, not just people using public transport:
- Growth potential. Permanent infrastructure like transport hubs supports urban development, increased productivity, and economic growth.
- Moving people. Based on its route and frequency, light rail will get more people where they need to go – to work, home, education and leisure.
- More capacity. Each 2-carriage, 66-metre light rail vehicle carries up to 420 people, compared to 180 double decker bus passengers in 2 buses and only 10-12 car users in the same space.
- Better frequency. You don’t need a timetable, simply turn up to a stop, as a light rail vehicle will be along approximately every 5-10 minutes.
- Service reliability. Light rail’s traffic signal priority and dedicated tracks make reliability close to 100%.
- Sustainability. Light rail vehicles will be electric, meaning zero emissions operation. Better public transport options mean fewer private vehicles on our roads – reducing Auckland’s carbon footprint.
- Airport access. This will support regional and national business and tourism, as well as employment and residential accessibility for this growing precinct.
- Problem solving. Light rail addresses bus congestion in the city centre and commute times along Dominion Road (New Zealand’s busiest arterial corridor).
- Better access. Light rail will support lower socio-economic neighbourhoods along its route by improving access to and from work and study, and attracting investment in infrastructure and amenities.
- Room to move. Light rail’s capacity, frequency and reliability will encourage more Aucklanders out of their cars, creating more space on our roads for all users, including private vehicles.
Light rail is like a tramway, but runs on its own dedicated right-of-way. This means it’s not affected by traffic speeds. In Auckland, light rail would have fewer stops than buses, but the service would be more frequent and travel faster than buses. Light rail vehicles also have much greater capacity than buses and cars.
Image: Artist's impression of the 2-carriage light rail.
We are working to ensure a light rail solution is integrated into the single Auckland public transport system and follows a customer-centric and service design approach that meets customer needs and expectations.
An integrated approach to transport, housing and social infrastructure will enable better access to workplaces, education, healthcare and leisure facilities and generate other real benefits for Aucklanders and New Zealanders.
Key decisions are still being made on timing, design, and staging, which involve consultation with Auckland Council, NZTA, local Iwi, community and business interests and the public.
We’ll be updating this page as further decisions and progress are made.
Image: Artist’s impression of side platform
"Light rail will help decongest our roads and provide a 21st century gateway to visitors to Auckland. It will also allow for more intensive housing development around transport hubs bringing economic benefits to those suburbs it travels through.” Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff
Read and download project background documents
- The Draft Regional Land Transport Plan 2015-2025 described the public transport network proposed by AT for the region, identified necessary services over a 10-year period, and included policy changes needed to facilitate a light rail network.
- Emerging technologies for rapid transit - Part one: Future-proofing investment decisions (PDF 2MB).
- Emerging technologies for rapid transit - Part two: An evaluation of specific technologies (PDF 1MB).
Central Access Plan
The Plan and its peer reviewed Business Case explain Auckland’s capacity issues, and detail the options and analysis carried out by AT with the NZTA and Auckland Council.
- Central Access Plan Programme Business Case (PDF 4.5MB).
- Central Access Plan Strategic Assessment (PDF 1.87MB).
- Central Access Plan Programme Business Case with peer review (PDF 252KB).
- Bus Reference Case Report (PDF 2.7MB).
- Stage Timing Model (PDF 2.1MB).
The South-Western Multi-modal Airport Rapid Transit Study (SMART) identified preferred LRT and BRT options. The recommendation from SMART was to discount heavy rail as an airport access option due to poor value for money.
- Download the South-western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transport indicative business case (PDF 5.6MB).
- Download appendix A - SMART investment logic map (PDF 110KB).
- Download appendix B - Heavy rail - General arrangement plans (PDF 21.5MB).
- Download appendix C - Light rail transit - General arrangement plans (PDF 12.3MB).
- Download appendix D - Bus rapid transit - General arrangement plans (PDF 17.8MB).
- Download appendix E - Hybrid bus rapid transit / heavy rail - General arrangement plans (PDF 12.5MB).
- Download appendix F - Shortlist option estimates (PDF 214KB).
- Download appendix G - Auckland public transport model outputs (PDF 10.7MB).
- Download appendix H - Onehunga branch line challenge workshop report (PDF 4.3MB).
- Download appendix I - Auckland airport rail alignment challenge workshop report (PDF 1.1MB).
- Download the South-western Airport Multi-Modal Corridor Project scoping report (PDF 3.7MB)
Auckland growth and transport challenges
- Auckland's population is forecast to grow to 2 million people by 2030, including 300,000 more employees.
- Employees in the city centre and city fringe are forecast to almost double during that time.
- Trips to the city centre in each morning peak will increase from 70,000 to over 130,000.
- Over 50% of people use public transport to travel to the city centre.
- Public transport trips around Auckland are forecast to grow from the current 90 million trips to more than 230 million trips by 2046.
- Auckland's current transport system does not have the capacity to accommodate demand for city centre trips.
- Improvements to rail, roads and buses won’t meet growth in demand.
City Centre Studies
Studies have shown Auckland’s growth will outstrip its road capacity and identified the need for the City Rail Link (CRL) and bus improvements. maximising rail is essential to effective, integrated public transport.
While the CRL is needed, it cannot address significant city centre access issues: from the north, the central and southern isthmus or Auckland University and Wynyard Quarter. Likewise, more buses would increase city centre congestion.
The need for light rail was identified through an objective assessment of options in a follow-up study. Further studies showed a light rail network serving the central isthmus is the best solution to address access issues to the city centre and bus congestion, while supporting economic growth.
Light rail will also integrate easily with existing vehicle, cycling and pedestrian space, supported by smooth interchanges with other transport modes.
- Central Access Plan Programme Business Case (PDF 4.5MB)
- Central Access Plan Strategic Assessment (PDF 1.87MB)
- Central Access Plan Programme Business Case with peer review (PDF 252KB)