Airport rail: a no-trainer.

By   /   April 29, 2014  /   11 Comments

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This week, electric trains were all the rage. It was embarrassing, really. Politicians rode them around with what seemed like pleasure but was probably just bewildered relief.


This week, electric trains were all the rage. It was embarrassing, really. Politicians rode them around with what seemed like pleasure but was probably just bewildered relief.

Finally, they must have been thinking, Auckland has unwillingly pushed a fingertip into the 21st century.

I did not experience the same rush at seeing electric trains scooting around Auckland’s inconveniently-sited railway lines.

I felt mostly anxious humiliation. I mean, we call ourselves a big city. We act like we’re a big city. We walk briskly around with the real grown-up cities and hope nobody peers at us too closely.

But with all Auckland’s gridlocks and traffic problems, we still have no alternative to roads for getting to and from our city’s only international airport (let alone the next-door domestic one). If traffic is especially bad, you’ll just have to miss your flight. Tough luck. That’s Auckland for ya.

It’s not just embarrassing. It’s inexplicable.

In Tokyo, you can get a perching monorail, a hanging one, a bullet train, or any number of regular train lines to and from your flights. You’d be mad to try for a taxi, bus or private car. And it’s fair enough that we can’t possibly compete – we don’t have even a tenth the population of Tokyo. But even in Miyazaki, a sleepy rural city in the south of Japan, with only 360,000 citizens, there are frequent, efficient trains to and from the airport. Of course there are trains. You’ve gotta have trains! You’d be mad to rely on just roads, which are notoriously vulnerable to incidents and gridlocks. Right?

Well, we’re the 15th most congested city in the world (out of 169 surveyed last year), with daily trips to and from the airport are predicted to increase from 63,000 per day to 140,000 per day next year, yet we still don’t have any bloody concrete plans to get trains running to the airport. The current loose plan is a half-hearted aim at having an airport rail link by 2030.

Wowee, guys! IF we’re lucky, in more than 15 years time we MIGHT have a contemporary transport option for our country’s biggest city. While the airport is indeed setting aside land for a possible-potential-maybe-might-have-one-day future underground station, it looks a bloody long way off, and is by no means a certainty (especially when you look at the amount they make from carparking).

It has been about bloody time for a bloody long time, and it still hasn’t happened.

So, look. I saw what happened with the legal highs. Labour was sensible and was all like “We’ll sort the problem out, NZ” and then National quickly went “WAIT WAIT WE’LL DO IT, NZ.”

Well, Labor. You want my vote?

Promise once and for all to drag us into the 21st century with a rail link to the freaking airport, and you’ll bloody well get it.


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  1. Michael Tavares says:

    Burnt out teacher,

    You’re probably best off giving your party vote to the Greens if you want to see better public transport in Auckland.

    To get rail to the airport the City Rail link needs to be built. The Greens have been unwavering in their advocacy for the link. National has pretended to support it, but made the patronage criteria too high, and even then will build it much later than it needs to be built. It needs to start next year.

    In fact, if it wasn’t for the work of the Greens as far back as 2006 we wouldn’t be celebrating the electrification today. Labour would not have signed off on the plans to electrify the Auckland network if not for the tireless advocacy of the Greens.

    So better than a vote for Labour, give the Greens a stronger voice in Parliament so they can steer the country to better outcomes.

    They have the vision for the kind of future I want in this country, and that is why I am a member and a volunteer for them.

    • GM says:

      Can’t agree with Michael more. First the CRL has to happen (to increase network capacity) and then airport rail can be built.

      It is also useful to realise that airport rail is not only good for people travelling or meeting people travelling. The largest benefit will be to the thousands of people working in the industrial parks to the north of the airport (road congestion at commuting rush hours is getting bad, which of course National is proposing to ‘solve’ with yet more roading investment) and to the locals in Mangere and Mangere Bridge, who will benefit from vastly improved access to both the airport and to the north.

      As part of a broader Auckland rail network expansion, and on its own merits, airport rail just makes so much sense. I will leave it to others to decide which parties understand this and will fight for it.

    • This is true alright, but a party vote for Green is worthless without an electorate vote for Labour (except in Epsom, the only place I can think of where I’d advocate casting your electorate vote for the National candidate to block ACT).

      Note that where I say ‘worthless’, I mean it; if the left doesn’t win this election, having opposition mps won’t count for shit. It’s double or nothing this time.

      • Naomi says:

        Actually your electorate vote counts for little if nothing. Unless a party is sitting around the 5% threshold, the electorate vote does not affect the number of seats that a party has in parliament.

  2. Ryan Mearns says:

    Not before we get the City Rail link.

    Here is a timeline and cost breakdown of a public transport network in Auckland with the Airport to the rail for completion by 2025;

    Check it out.

  3. her says:

    Let the tourists pay for it. If we charged every visitor $200 for the privilege of coming here we would have hundreds of millions every year and we could afford it quicker than we could build it.

    Personally not a fan of rail. I believe the rail loop will be replaced with a better solution long before we finish paying for it. Possibly before it is completed.

    • Jpotgirls says:

      I wouldn’t call myself a ‘fan’ of rail either, but I really think people should be and would be rightly pissed off about such a $200 fee as you propose. It seems like an easy way to make money but also a rip-off. I hope our Kiwi sense of fairness/decency never allows such fees on our visitors.

      • Danyl Strypey Bruce says:

        Agreed, if we taxed all the cannabis vendors who sell to all the pot-smoking international visitors who come here, instead of arresting them, we could probably raise the same sort of funds, without a punitive entry tax that would put people off coming.

        As for the rail to airport issue, unless someone invents a form of air travel that doesn’t use vast quantities of fossil fuels, air travel will be over in less than 50 years, and unaffordable to the hoi polloi like me in no more than 20. That’s just acknowledging we are nearly ten years past global peak oil (“conventional” oil, not counting fracking and tar sands), not even factoring in that people might voluntarily stop flying in the hopes of keeping global warming under two degrees.

  4. GM says:

    Burnt out teacher,

    Thank you also for bringing this important transport issue to wider attention. But if I may be a little picky, Tokyo’s airport rail access is as below.

    Haneda Airport (HND – main domestic airport)
    1. Tokyo Monorail, perching as you note
    2. Keikyu Line – conventional heavy rail, recently significantly upgraded and now through-runs onto the subway through the middle of Tokyo and on the Keisei Sky Access Line (see below) all the way to Airport

    Narita Airport (NRT – main international airport)
    1. JR Narita Express – conventional heavy rail limited express (flash rolling stock), also the regular commuter train Airport Narita on the same tracks. Not as fast as the Keisei trains (below) but through-running to many parts of Tokyo and to the north, west and south-west is convenient
    2. Keisei Sky Access Line – technically several different lines but the Skyliner trains run all the way from Ueno in downtown Tokyo to Narita Airport. This is the fastest airport link in Tokyo, with the Skyliner trains (the regular commuter trains on the same tracks are slower) running at up to 160 km/h. They use aspects of Shinkansen technology but are not true high-speed rail/bullet trains.
    (there are also some services on the old Keisei Main Line and while a touch cheaper they are slower and fewer in number)

    However your main point – that there is a variety of rail access options in Tokyo – is well made and I agree 100%. While there are buses and taxis to Tokyo’s airports and you can of course drive your own car if you want (parking at the airport is naturally expensive, cheaper options are all a shuttle bus ride away from the terminals – sound familiar?), I have always found the rail links to be by far the most comfortable and stress-free way to get to and from the airport. On time, no stress, no hassle. Rail to AKL is indeed a no-brainer.

  5. Draco T Bastard says:

    The current loose plan is a half-hearted aim at having an airport rail link by 2030.

    And by 2030 we won’t be using planes.

  6. Andrea says:

    While we’re at it: how about a very cheap and frequent ferry service between the domestic and international airport bits? The airport company has been stinging the travelling public for years; it’s the least they could do.

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