City Rail Link
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Rail renaissance

Rail renaissance

 

Regional Authority push

Near the start of the new millennium, the Auckland Regional Authority revived the push for electrification and for expansion of a passenger rail network. This was championed by the authority's chair and long-time public transport advocate Mike Lee.

In 1993, 19 second-hand railcars were bought from Perth as an interim measure.

DRIVER: Long-time local government representative Mike Lee fought for rail electrification and major improvements in public transport

DRIVER: Long-time local government representative Mike Lee fought for rail electrification and major improvements in public transport

In 2009, KiwiRail and Auckland's regional transport agency (ARTA) announced it would start a detailed study into the possibility of an underground route that would link the Britomart rail terminal with the Mount Eden railway station.

The cost of a twin-track tunnel was estimated to be more than $1 billion.

Electrification was announced by a Labour government in May 2007 and confirmed by a National government in 2009.

The first train arrived in 2013 and the first to go into service was on the Onehunga line in April 2014. Electrification extended from Papakura in the south to Swanson in the west, and includes the Onehunga Branch Line and Manukau Rail Link. Trains were powered from a wire held overhead by masts and cantilevers.

In May 2015, electric trains began to run on all of Auckland's lines. The $1.7 billion project included buying 57 232-seat trains bought from Spanish manufacturer CAF.

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Auckland's public transport renaissance

Public transport in Auckland is enjoying a renaissance - especially rail - since the introduction of electric trains from 2014.

But it has some catching up to do after a period when public transport was run down and the late 1950s government decision to concentrate on motorways not public transport as the future for transport in Auckland.

In 1939, Auckland’s 72km tram network had more than 80 million passengers a year.

In the year 1950, public transport patronage was 105.5 million trips - amazing when Auckland's population was around 400,000.

Tram tracks were ripped out to be replaced by buses and the growth of the private car.

After the last tram ran in 1956, annual public transport patronage slumped  to 66.5 million.

By 1972 public transport patronage was only 42 million trips per year.

NOT APPEALING: Old trains, uncomfortable seats... for years Auckland's limited train service was not attractive

NOT APPEALING: Old trains, uncomfortable seats... for years Auckland's limited train service was not attractive

In 1994 there were just over 33 million trips in the year. Stations were also unappealing and often suffering long-time neglect. Prior to Britomart, trains stopped at the Strand in Parnell. Snapshots of stations in 2001 are shown in the video below (no sound).

How quickly we have forgotten what it was like before the new electric trains arrived.

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Electrification and station upgrades

DESOLATE: As the electrification work began, stations like Greenlane looked unappealing and needed an upgrade

DESOLATE: As the electrification work began, stations like Greenlane looked unappealing and needed an upgrade

Old Auckland train at Morningside station

This YouTube video below show some of the railway stations in 2009. Some of the trains in use had been refurbished Western Australian trains. Onehunga and Manukau line services were added to Auckland's rail network.

MT ALBERT: The introduction of electrification was accompanied by major improvements to stations and platforms

MT ALBERT: The introduction of electrification was accompanied by major improvements to stations and platforms

MASTS:  Train passengers at stations started to discover the appearance of masts and other early signs that electrification was on its way

MASTS:  Train passengers at stations started to discover the appearance of masts and other early signs that electrification was on its way

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Rail patronage continued to rise, thanks to the rejuvenation of the Auckland rail network and expansion and the boost from the introduction of electric trains.

In 2015, Auckland Transport started rolling out the new electric trains - a completely different experience for Auckland public transport users. This was the Auckland Transport's promotional video for them.

THEY'RE HERE! Finally the Spanish-made electric trains arrive in Auckland pleasing Auckland Mayor Len Brown who made the CRL the number one priority of his mayoralty

THEY'RE HERE! Finally the Spanish-made electric trains arrive in Auckland pleasing Auckland Mayor Len Brown who made the CRL the number one priority of his mayoralty

GETTING THE CITY MOVING: Mayor Len Brown tries out a new electric train

GETTING THE CITY MOVING: Mayor Len Brown tries out a new electric train


Growth continues

  • In Feb 2014, annual rail patronage was 10.9 million
  • In Feb 2016, it was 15.8 million, a 45% increase in just two years
  • In April 2016, it passed 16.2 million
  • In 2015 alone, rail patronage increased 22.9 per cent or 2.9 million trips to total 15.4 million trips
  • The patronage target of 20 million trips per year, originally set by the government for funding of the CRL, was achieved at the end of 2016 three years ahead of schedule
  • About every four months, an extra million trips are being added to the patronage total – 3.5m in total a year
  • We have seen public transport patronage rocket to 90 million trips per year – unprecedented numbers of Aucklanders are getting out of their cars
  • In 2017, another milestone was achieved as the 90 million trips made on buses, trains and ferries over the past 12 months made it the biggest 12-month number for public transport in the city since 1956
  • 53 km of cycleways are being built by 2018, and we’re seeing resurgence in cycling        
  • Buses are proving so popular, double decker buses have been introduced including on the main arterial routes such as on Mt Eden Road
  • Aucklanders are discovering ferries so more services have been added and to more places
  • In the south and across Auckland, AT has been introducing its new network – meaning bus, ferry and train schedules are compatible with each other and are better suited to the needs of Aucklanders
  • To support the new more connected public transport network across Auckland, Auckland Transport has redesigned the current fare stage system and introduced a Simplified Zone Fare system. Integrated ticketing meant you pay one fare for your entire journey rather than paying separately for each leg.

Train patronage  - since July 2010

UP AND UP: Train patronage reached 20m (Image source: AT Board report)

UP AND UP: Train patronage reached 20m (Image source: AT Board report)


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