City Rail Link


HISTORY - The beginning

PHOTO: The first timetabled train to run from Auckland to Onehunga on 24 December 1873, the 'F' class locomotive named Ada (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC145)

The idea of a City Rail Link has been included in Auckland's strategic plans for decades.

Sadly for almost 100 years, central and local government missed opportunities or took short cuts which had to be remedied at a later date and at a much greater expense.

Here are some of those earlier plans:

  • A Morningside underground rail deviation in the 1920s

  • A decision to not electrify Auckland's rail system in the 1950s in place of embracing a Los Angeles-style motorway system

  • The initial build of a four-lane only Auckland Harbour Bridge in the 1950s and for motor transport only

  • The decision to end a tram service in the mid-1950s including tearing up the tram tracks. Buses were to meet any need for public transport

  • Mayor Robbie's Rapid Rail scheme in the mid-1970s was not approved

  • Britomart train station replaced Auckland's main downtown train station at the Strand in Parnell but was not built as a through station.

This timeline shows highlights of Auckland's transport history

In fact moves to create an underground rail system in Auckland go back almost a hundred years in Auckland's history - starting in the 1920s

1923 - Morningside Deviation

In 1923, then Railways Minister Gordon Coates gave his support for a city-to-Morningside underground rail line. "The Morningside Deviation" was to be an underground tunnel from the CBD to Morningside.  

Envisaged was a rail link between the main trunk line station on Beach Road, underneath the central business district with a station near the Auckland Town Hall. It would go to Morningside on the North-Western train route to Kumeu. 

Estimated cost £400,000.

In 1930 the proposal was rejected and the main terminal moved to Beach Road.

EARLY PLAN: Part of the proposed route detailed in the 1929 Morningside deviation plan

Image: Auckland Star on 30 January 1930

References to a Morningside deviation continued to pop up. For example, in 1937, there was further brief discussion about the plan as a way to reduce unemployment but the war loomed.

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1946 - Ministry of Works proposal

In the 1940s, government department the Ministry of Works released an expansive rail plan for Auckland, refining the Morningside proposal. The report discussed electrification, proposed an underground inner city loop and an overground suburban western loop.

In the end, Wellington's rail was electrified but not Auckland's.

1949 - Halcrow and Thomas report

In 1949, with an election pending, the Government promised electrification "as soon as practicable" and hired two British consultants to report on Auckland suburban rail.

The resulting Halcrow-Thomas report proposed electrification and the building of the Morningside underground link and that road building be restricted until the results of the rail improvements came clear. The incoming government said they agreed.

In 1954 these plans, came to a halt.

Auckland City Council agreed to cancel the plans on the urging of the government led by Prime Minister Sidney Holland.

1955/6 - Master Transportation Plan

Auckland City Council moved to embrace motorways and ordered a Master Transportation Plan to decide the rail versus motorway issue.

The plan considered the Auckland Morningside deviation, which was to take a similar, but not identical, route to the 1928/29 plan. An investigation of buildings along the proposed route was undertaken, looking at their condition, type of foundation and value.

MID-50s: This drawing of a Morningside deviation appeared in the Auckland Regional Planning Authority Master Transportation Plan

MOTORWAY: In 1959, this architectural model of the proposed motorway interchange over Newton Gully was displayed (Photo: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 580-3912)

In the end, the plan, produced in 1955, recommended a massive increase in motorway construction at the expense of rail. An Auckland City Council engineer, in his preface to the plan, criticised trams and trains for their "fixed, inflexible routes" and argued motorways needed to start being built immediately or "creeping paralysis" would choke Auckland's transportation arteries. It was argued that buses could use motorways making rail unnecessary.

NOW A MOTORWAY: Beresford Street/Pitt Street area, in the 1960s, showing the area now occupied by the Northern Motorway, Karangahape Road, bottom right, Pitt Street, diagonally top right, Beresford Street, left to right across centre, Day Street, bottom left, Greys Avenue, top right, and St James Street, left (Photo: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 580-10453)

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