General election outcome may swing on Auckland light rail

The government will probably lose the general election if it continues with its proposed Auckland Dominion Road Light Rail project, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson believes Aucklanders now strongly oppose the proposed $14.6–29 billion Dominion road light rail project, described by respected public transport advocate Matt Lowrie as the “worst of both worlds”.

To quote Greater Auckland: “with stations so far apart, there’ll still be a need for buses…This undermines one of the key reasons for initially investing in light rail to begin with.”

A number of city councillors are also opposed to the plan. Other critics include professor Peter Davis, the husband of former prime minister Helen Clark.*

The Public Transport Users’ Association (PTUA) has called for the light rail project to be cancelled immediately, and replaced with a simple extension to the existing heavy rail network from Puhinui to the Airport.

Matthew-Wilson, who’s a strong advocate for public transport, agrees with PTUA: “Rather than light rail, conventional heavy passenger/freight rail trains are a proven way of dramatically reducing emissions, road damage, car use and road deaths.”

“As the Public Transport Users’ Association has already pointed out, conventional heavy trains already run most of the way from the city to the final destination of the light rail project: Auckland Airport. It would require only a short section of track to join the airport to central Auckland.”

“Also, buses could probably do the same job as the light rail network for a tiny fraction of the price and with a tiny fraction of the disruption. For example, the Guangzhou bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor in China successfully carries around a million people per day That's most of the entire population of the Auckland region and double the population of Wellington”. 

Greater Auckland also warns that Auckland will face 3-5 years of severe disruption if the light rail plan goes ahead. The government plans to also extend light rail to Auckland North Shore.

Matthew-Wilson says most Aucklanders understand climate change and strongly support improved public transport, but:

“Voters are now completely alienated from grand transport plans, and I can’t blame them.”

“The current government promised to replace Auckland’s inefficient car-based culture with a smoothly-running system based around bikes and public transport. However, the harsh reality is: Auckland’s transport system is far, far worse than when the current government took office.”

Busestrains and ferries are hopelessly unreliable and often operate seemingly at random, with the government apparently unable to do anything except promise more massive disruption.”

“Due to the chronic unreliability of public transport, there are more cars being driven and more pollution being produced. The government is directly responsible for this shambles."

“General elections are won or lost in Auckland,” Matthew-Wilson points out.

“I have not discussed this matter with opposition parties, but it’s pretty obvious they’re going to use transport issues as a club to hit the government over the head. For the opposition parties, the light rail issue will be a gift from heaven, along with the $51 million bike bridge to nowhere.“

Even though the light rail project has already been confirmed, Matthew-Wilson believes the opposition parties will probably scuttle the project by simply announcing they will cancel it if they take power.

“The uncertainty caused by such an announcement would probably freeze the project in its tracks and give the Auckland public a clear choice between options at the elections.”

“At election time, the voters of Auckland are going to make a mental choice between multiple more years of transport chaos, or a change of government. The current government is therefore likely to lose.”


* Davis’ comments are at the bottom of the opinion piece linked to his name above.