By Steve Forbes, Local Democracy Reporter
Auckland Transport has today rolled out new electric buses that will run on the AirportLink between Manuaku and the Auckland International Airport.
The vehicles will be operated by Go Bus and will run from the Manukau Bus Station to the Puhinui Station Interchange, to Auckland Airport and back.
The nine buses were built by Chinese company Yutong with support from JW Group. They are expected to be able to operate a full shift on a single charge and can carry up to 78 passengers.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the new Airport Link was an important first for South Auckland.
"What we're determined to do is tackle the challenge of climate change. Here in Tamaki Makaurau 40 per cent of our carbon emissions come from our transport fleet and much of that is due to private vehicles."
He said the new buses will help reduce the Auckland transport network's carbon emissions and help the council achieve its climate change goals.
"We will not be purchasing any more diesel buses from July this year when our 10-year long-term plan comes into effect."
Goff said the buses will run every 10 minutes and the service will eventually run through to Botany and link with the Eastern Busway.
Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said it has been trialling the electric buses since 2018.
"It's been a good way to understand the systems and how the customers feel about them. And it's been positive working with the operators. It has also informed the council about what's needed to accelerate the rollout of electric buses," he said.
The AirportLink service is part of the wider Auckland Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project, which will eventually include dedicated lanes for buses or light rail between the airport, at Mangere and Botany.
Work on the feasibility study started in 2018, but additional funding for the rapid transit project, estimated to cost $1.8 billion, remains up in the air after Auckland Council's recent budget cutbacks because of Covid-19.
According to Auckland Transport, the rapid transit route would travel from Auckland Airport, along State Highway 20B and Puhinui Rd to the upgraded Puhinui Station Interchange. From there it would continue along Puhinui Rd and Lambie Drive and through the Manukau centre via Manukau Station Rd, Davies Ave and Ronwood Ave.
It would then travel via Great South Rd and Te Irirangi Drive to a new high-quality interchange at Botany, where it would then connect with the Eastern Busway.
The Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has already started work on upgrading SH20B between the airport and Puhinui Rd and Lambie Drive. The $67 million Puhinui Station Interchange is expected to open in June this year.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan last September said it would use electric buses on the rapid transit system, but it will futureproof the route so it can be used for light rail if passenger demand exceeds forecasts.
He said after the rapid transit project's business case is completed, the next stage will be to progress with the route protection and consents for the rapid transit corridor in mid-2021.