NZ light rail option

Auckland Transport will investigate the viability of a light rail network in the city to reduce congestion

Auckland Transport (AT) will investigate options for a light rail network which could relieve traffic congestion on some of the region’s busiest roads.

The Board of AT has called for the investigation which stems from work in 2012 (the City Centre Future Access study) which responded to a government request to develop a robust and achievable solution for access to the CBD.

This study shows the City Rail Link, together with surface bus improvements, provide the best regional solution for public transport.

However, it also identifies the city centre is already facing serious congestion across all major road entry points which, if not addressed now, will worsen.

Key arterials such as Dominion Road and Symonds Street were identified as major bus routes which will be significantly congested in the future as the demand for public transport grows, along with increased jobs and residents in the city centre.

Recent work by AT has pointed towards light rail as a possible solution and is referenced in the draft Regional Land Transport Programme currently being publicly consulted on. 

Light rail would move more than three times the number of people per hour - approximately 18,000 - at higher speeds, than buses.

AT Chairman Lester Levy says cities such as Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast have reached the same conclusion and projects in Australia can be drawn on for more detailed analysis.

Levy says any light rail solution will be complementary to the critical City Rail Link and the existing rail network, providing fast, efficient, environmentally friendly public transport services in parts of Auckland which buses alone will not be able to cater for in the near future.

 "Population growth and the challenges that brings cannot be met by simply adding more buses to already congested arterial roads," he says.

"There is very little that we can do in terms of widening those roads so we have to be smarter about how we use that limited space."

Levy notes that the potential cost is likely to be significant and is not currently provided for in the Regional Land Transport Programme or the Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan, which are being publically consulted on.

"Therefore a key focus of the on-going work is on how we may be able to introduce private sector investment," says Levy, who expects an update to come back to the board in late March.

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