• Dr Brian McDonnell works at Massey University Albany and previously taught urban geography and transport

A light rail line from the airport to the CBD via Dominion Rd is frankly a crackpot idea when there is a shorter, far cheaper and more practical solution possible. That is, of course, running light rail from the airport to the Puhinui rail station on the Southern Line.

The ill-conceived notion supported by the Auckland Council, and offered by the Labour Party at this election, is to somehow incorporate a double-track light rail line up the motorway from the airport through Mangere, then have the tracks cross a new bridge over the Manukau Harbour to Onehunga. From there the line must ascend the very steep hill to Hillsborough Rd, then jostle for several kilometres along already congested Dominion Rd and eventually run down Symonds St and into the city centre.

There is simply not room to squeeze in a double line plus safety zones in the centre of those roads while still having cars and trucks running on either side. Not to mention parking.


Apart from the illogic of superimposing this light rail line on existing roads full of vehicles, such a $3 billion enterprise is cripplingly expensive compared to the Puhinui option. Furthermore, when the essence of any proposed public-transport system is speed from the airport into town, these trams will crawl along with scores of stops and traffic lights.

I anticipate it will take at least 90 minutes just one way. No arriving or departing air passengers will want their journey to be that long. Airport passengers cannot ride on a specialised tram offering an express service because plainly their vehicles cannot overtake the slower commuter trams.

Puhinui is the only viable option.

This route, running from a sub-surface station between the domestic and international terminals east to Puhinui, is flat and runs mostly through countryside, followed by a bit of light industrial land to reach the existing Southern Line north of the Manukau City spur.

As well as running directly north to the city centre, trains leaving Puhinui can link to the Western Line, the Eastern Line and run south to Pukekohe.

There is room west of the present Puhinui rail station to construct a loop for airport trams to stop and create a simple cross-platform move for the passengers and their luggage to get on board trains to the city. Their journey will be quicker with fewer stops. The total cost will be very much lower and a completion date will be far sooner.

If the next government really wants to add a policy that will make a practical difference for Auckland, it should be to speed up the completion of the Central Rail Link from its rather leisurely pace. That's the best, cheapest and most efficient way to get public transport transformed expeditiously.

Present plans mean it will to take six more years from now to have the CRL up and running - and they have already been working on it for a year. I think at least a year or even 18 months can be realistically shaved off that target.

Work seven days per week, don't leave construction sites idle over the weekend. Minimise disruption to the Albert St area.

Bring forward the start dates for the mining and boring of the tunnels between Mt Eden and the Aotea station. As plans stand today the existing Mt Eden station is to be closed for three years.

That means no stop at all for passengers for three years between Kingsland and Grafton. This is not satisfactory.

Overseas such projects work at a much faster pace every day of the week and the goal is achieved earlier.

Extension work on the underground Metro Purple Line in Los Angeles has stations and tunnels being worked on at once. We need that too, especially with Apec looming in 2021.

What we don't need is to wait six more years - and that's not counting the sort of six-month delay schemozzle of the Waterview tunnels.