Public transport groups are calling on the Government to abandon "slow trams" and run trains from the Auckland CBD to the airport.

Plans to run trains from the city via a new double-track railway line for the 6km leg from Puhinui station to the airport were presented at a public meeting in Auckland tonight.

The project, which it's estimated will cost between $1 billion and $1.5b, would include a 1.5km underground link at the airport end of the line, NZ Transport 2050 chairman Paul Miller told about 100 people.

He said express, non-stop trains would take 30 minutes from the city centre to the airport.

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The plan also allows for rail freight and train services from Pukekohe, Hamilton and Tauranga to the airport.

A train journey from Pukekohe to the airport would take 30 minutes.

The idea is opposed by Transport Minister Phil Twyford, who is pushing for $3.4b modern trams, also known as light rail, to run from the CBD, via Dominion Rd to the airport.

Twyford maintained that light rail is the best option, more efficient, more versatile than trains and a magnet for investment and development.

NZ Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie said in July that the best route between the CBD and the airport is by train to the Puhinui station and transferring to buses for the 6km leg to the airport.

Artist's impression of light rail tram on Dominion Road. Image / Auckland Transport
Artist's impression of light rail tram on Dominion Road. Image / Auckland Transport

The transport agency still intends to build modern trams from the CBD to the airport, which is an election promise by Labour.

Miller said slow trams down Dominion Rd or catching the train to Puhinui and lugging bags on to an airport shuttle bus was a costly "lemon" which won't solve the massive congestion issues caused by the trending growth at Auckland Airport.

He said passenger numbers at Auckland Airport rose up by more than 50 per cent between 2014 and 2018, and were forecast to reach 40 million passengers by 2030.

"No city in the world with an airport the size of Auckland has selected trams or bus transfer shuttles as the prime public transport option," Miller said.

"Let's stop slow trams and start fast trains to the airport."

Melbourne, the world's biggest tram city, is building rail to the airport. Perth is investing in modern trams, also known as light rail, but running trains to the airport, he said.

NZ Transport 2050 and the Public Transport Users Association have called their plans START — "Straight to Airport Rapid Trains".

They have the backing of Auckland councillor Mike Lee, who as chairman of the former Auckland Regional Council oversaw double tracking, electrification of rail lines in Auckland and new electric trains.

Lee tonight compared the trains versus trams battle to past battles over a sewer outfall to Browns Island and the eastern highway — plans, he said, that were backed by officials but not supported by Aucklanders.

"We are going to keep on fighting because Auckland deserves better than this," said Lee, who advised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Twyford to tread carefully.