COMMENT: The airport, generating 10 per cent of Auckland's traffic, continues to frustrate travellers from both the city and the south despite the spending of $160 million to enhance the motorway to the north of the airport.
The Government's plan to provide a slow tram (23km/h average journey speed) from Britomart to the airport and an alternate bus to rail shuttle, will do very little to ensure a future that will be any better.
Its proposal will cost Aucklanders over $3.4 billion and save only minutes on the present SkyBus journey time.
Those supporting the project, who have the audacity to call this rapid rail, are treating the people of Auckland disingenuously.
The airport is the gateway to 75 per cent of the visitors to New Zealand. It also employs more than 30,000 people, either in the airport or in the surrounding business parks.
The largest single group that travels through the airport is New Zealanders who at the moment pile into their cars at a higher rate than those who take public transport to the CBD.
The airport is also growing at a rate (above 50 per cent in the past five years) that will see it as busy as Gatwick airport in the next 20-plus years (40 million passengers a year from the current 20 million). Or even earlier if the trending growth rate continues.
Our suggested rail path could also serve those living in the planned new housing development zone in Mangere.
Out of sheer frustration with this lack of smart transport thinking from the council and the Government, we established a campaign to demand a rethink and to ask what happened with common sense and international best practice?
According to our research of the top 100 airports by passenger volume in the world, in which Auckland sits, fast heavy rail is the preferred primary rail transport even in cities that are big trams users.
A recent NZ Herald poll indicating 82 per cent of Aucklanders would prefer to take the train to the airport, against 6 per cent wanting to take a slow tram.
Our proposed fast rail extension would deliver passengers to the airport from the city or Pukekohe in 30 minutes, making it an excellent alternative to car travel - especially at peak times and as the airport grows.
Customers connecting from other parts of the city and further afield, including from the Waikato, would also be given the benefit of a significantly better journey time leveraging existing rail and other transport connections.
After 40 or more years of discussions, the previous Government finally committed to the City Rail Link which will give all of those Aucklanders who can get to the current rail network an even faster journey to the CBD.
The CRL will bring the total spent on heavy rail to $6 billion since we moved the central station to Britomart.
Surely such an investment should encourage complimentary investment with trains and tracks that can use the same infrastructure at truly "rapid" speeds. But alas, not with this Government.
We are not an anti-tram group. Auckland Transport has previously proposed a tram-based system which we believe would be an excellent idea as the isthmus grows and when a better business case can support the justification of such a build.
Light Rail does a beautiful job complementing existing good public transport investment.
Sydney, Melbourne, London and many other international cities all have good heavy rail infrastructure that tram lines complement. This is a far more scalable way than buses alone.
A key challenge in building tram lines has been recently faced in Sydney where it involved taking existing key corridors and moving services such as water, power and fibre cables and compensating the businesses directly impacted by surface-based construction.
Despite warnings in 2012 from the city of Edinburgh that had significant delays and cost overruns, Sydney proceeded and has been affected with the same problems. This could also be a risk for Auckland in Dominion Rd and Queen St.
Dublin, which is just starting a very similar project to Auckland, has chosen to put all of the central sections of the project underground to avoid these risks.
Auckland needs to make a decision now on how Aucklanders should connect to the airport for both the medium term and the future.
Auckland Airport needs to finalise its plans for its new second runway and a new domestic terminal, both of which will need to be delivered in the next decade.
Let's lose the political vanity and select a fast and scalable option and avoid the four-lane Harbour Bridge mentality of Auckland's previous infrastructure short-sightedness.
• Paul Miller is the chairman and spokesman for NZ Transport 2050 Inc and START (Straight To Airport Rapid Trains).