Auckland Transport (AT) has been investigating the future public transport needs of the North Shore, as part of better understanding the role and options for the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) in future cross-harbour transport plans.
Project status: Investigation
Project zone: North
Over the coming decades, population growth and land-use development (both on the North Shore and regionally) will fuel growth in patronage on the Northern Busway and push bus operations to their limits. This growth, and the success of the Northern Busway, is driving the need to plan for a longer-term rail solution, which will require some form of new Waitematā Harbour crossing.
AT is investigating ways to extend operation and performance of the Northern Busway, so that it can serve the North Shore, as it grows, for as long as practical.
It is also recognised that there is a need for a longer-term solution and AT is continuing to investigate future rail options. This includes light rail (planned for an airport link) or heavy rail (already operating south of the harbour), how rail could serve the North Shore and best tie in with the rest of the Auckland transport network.
Recent and current studies
Land use and transport planning have developed rapidly over the past 10 years. With increasing demand for cross-harbour travel, there have been numerous studies into an additional harbour crossing.
North Shore Rapid Transit Study
The North Shore Rapid Transit Study was undertaken in 2016. It was designed as a pre-scoping study to investigate North Shore public transport needs and inform the NZ Transport Agency’s Additional Waitematā Harbour Crossing (AWHC) route-protection planning. These investigations used updated travel demand forecasts, assessed the operational performance of the Northern Busway, and based on these, outlined preliminary options for the future North Shore RTN.
Summary of findings:
- The Northern Busway is likely to reach operational capacity sometime during the 2030s. This is due to increasing demand for bus travel and capacity constraints for buses in the city centre and on other parts of the busway.
- Bus-only public transport is unlikely to be the sole long-term solution for growing North Shore cross-harbour travel demand.
- Although no rail option has been chosen, the initial assessment identified that light rail is likely to be the most flexible and stage-able transport mode. It is a proven technology and could be integrated into a wider network (such as the airport link).
- Heavy rail comes with larger costs and more limited staging potential compared to other options. However, it has potential for high capacity and allows for wider long-term connectivity with the regional rail network.
As a planning requirement, these investigations are brought together into the Business Case Approach. The first component of this, the Strategic Case, outlines the continued and growing need to provide for North Shore rapid transit, in the context of Auckland's population growth and land development.
Programme business case
The North Shore Rapid Transit Network Programme Business Case was completed in early 2018. Following this an Addendum was required to provide and updated understanding of how this project aligned with the new Government Policy Statement on Land Transport and the revised Auckland Transport Alignment Project, this work concluded in 2018.
A summary of the major changes since the completion of the Programme Business Case include:
- Light Rail.
- Preferred option for Northwest and City Centre to Mangere rapid transit ATAP 2018 recommendations for:
- Bus shoulder lanes to Orewa and possible extension of RTN to Grand Drive.
- Road Pricing.
- Bus priority improvements on Fanshawe Street.
- Additional general vehicle harbour crossing by 2048.
- Light rail between the City Centre and North Shore (by the mid-2030s) New Network bus service implementation.
The detailed assessment of the Programme Business Case and confirmation through the Addendum, recommended a two staged programme that aligns with the growth in demand be taken forward. The two stages are:
- Firstly, to increase the capacity and performance of the existing Northern Busway. Secondly, to start planning for the implementation of a new, higher capacity rapid transit mode to meet growing demand.
AT is continuing to work together with the NZTA to establish the best approach to providing for cross-harbour transport. For the Northern Busway, this includes investigating ways to maximise and extend the performance and lifespan of the busway, taking into account developments such as new bus priority lanes, extending the Busway to Albany, longer station platforms, reduced ticketing/boarding times, larger buses, and advances in technology. For future rapid transit, this involves continuing to work with the NZ Transport Agency to investigate and refine options that provide for rail.
We will also continue to work together with the NZ Transport Agency to protect a route to provide for future cross-harbour travel. The route protection will enable a range of potential transport modes including buses, light rail, or heavy rail. Together with the Auckland Harbour Bridge, this will enable future multi-modal transport across the Waitematā Harbour.