The business case for a new harbour crossing in Auckland has been delayed by six months.

Light rail, or modern trams, have been pencilled in by the NZ Transport Agency as the preferred mode of transport running under the harbour for a second harbour crossing, with a construction start set down for the late 2030s.

After looking at three options - a tunnel for light rail, a combined road and light rail tunnel, and doing nothing - NZTA said earlier this year the best option was a combination of light rail plus road pricing.

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Truck restrictions could be needed on the harbour bridge by about 2030 and a new form of rapid transit will be required the mid 2030s when the Northern Busway reaches capacity, the agency told Transport Minister Phil Twyford in a briefing last year.

The NZTA has been working with Auckland Transport on a business case due to be finished by late this year or early next year. It has now been delayed until the middle of next year.

"Significant work has already been completed to look at the alignment and form of an additional harbour connection," NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said.

"The business case will determine the need for route protection (i.e. the process of identifying and protecting required land for a future infrastructure project). Community engagement will be undertaken as part of future stages of investigation and detailed project work.

North Shore residents could have light rail - but not until after 2040 when the latest plans for a new harbour tunnel crossing is completed. Image / Auckland Transport
North Shore residents could have light rail - but not until after 2040 when the latest plans for a new harbour tunnel crossing is completed. Image / Auckland Transport

"Following completion of this business case, the NZ Transport Agency and AT will be in a position to provide more clarity about the need for, timing, transport modal mix, alignment, operation and form of any additional connections, and will continue further planning work."

Knackstedt said public consultation will then take place at a later date once the case has been completed.

Ever since the Auckland Harbour Bridge opened 60 years ago, a second harbour crossing has been mooted. There have been plenty of plans for a new harbour crossing but nothing has ever got near the construction phase.