The Auckland Light Rail project will expand Auckland’s mass transit system by creating a new rapid transit corridor. This will unlock urban development opportunities and promote productivity and wellbeing by making it easier to move around the city to work, study and socialise.

About the Auckland Light Rail project

The Auckland Light Rail project refers to the future expansion of Auckland’s mass transit system (currently trains and buses) with a light rail network. Light rail is the name given to a range of options including trams (also known as street cars) which run on city streets, and light metro which runs on dedicated tracks separate to street traffic.

The Auckland Light Rail project is a key priority in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) 2018 which identifies the Government’s and Auckland Council’s transport priorities for Auckland. Over the next 30 years it’s expected around a million more people will live in Auckland. Transport problems need to be resolved to unlock productivity and promote wellbeing in New Zealand’s largest city.

ATAP expected that a light rail network would deliver many benefits such as allowing people to move more easily around the city to jobs, education and to socialise. Also important are the city shaping benefits of light rail which make this much than a transport project alone. Light rail can unlock urban development opportunities around the network and through this, can support housing developments.

ATAP identified that the Auckland Light Rail project’s first priority for delivery is the city centre to Mangere (CC2M) line.

Project outcomes

The benefits described in ATAP are expressed in the four key outcomes expected from the Auckland Light Rail project developed by the Government and central and local government agencies. These are:

Access and integration

Improved access to employment, education and other opportunities through enhancing Auckland’s rapid transit network and integration with Auckland’s current and future transport network.

Environment

Optimised environmental quality and embedded sustainable practices.

Urban and Community

Enabling of quality integrated urban communities, especially around Māngere, Onehunga and Mt Roskill.

Customer Experience

A high quality service that is attractive to users, with high levels of patronage.

You can find out more about these key outcomes.

What progress has been made?

Auckland Light Rail is likely to be New Zealand’s largest ever infrastructure project. Building the first light rail line in New Zealand involves setting up new systems and regulations and building local capability to deliver the project. This is a very complex project and it is important that we take the time we need to get it right.

Starting out

ATAP identified the City Centre to Māngere line (known as CC2M) as the first part of the light rail network to be developed, with expansion to the North and North West to follow in the future. ATAP’s work was informed by considerable research and planning undertaken by Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency over several years. Through this work, light rail was identified as the preferred mode for the corridor.  

In 2018, Waka Kotahi began working on an indicative business case for CC2M, and it started to engage with the market.

In April 2018, NZ Infra (a joint venture between the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Canadian institutional investors CDPQ Infra) approached the Government in with an unsolicited option for an alternative delivery and financing approach to the CC2M project. Later in 2018 the Minister of Transport sought further advice on the NZ Infra approach, recognising that the two models were very different approaches to delivering CC2M.

The Parallel Process

In June 2019, Cabinet directed the Ministry of Transport to run a Parallel Process (also known as the twin track process) with Waka Kotahi and NZ Infra so their options could be evaluated against a common set of criteria and Government could choose a Preferred Delivery Partner.

Waka Kotahi and NZ Infra (known as the Respondents) agreed to respond to the Response Requirements Document (RRD) [PDF, 2.4 MB] which set out what to include in the proposals and how they would be evaluated. Every aspect of the Parallel Process was governed by a probity plan and overseen by an independent probity auditor to ensure that both Respondents had equal and fair access to information.

The Respondents were given four months to develop their proposals. They were invited to take part in an Interactive Engagement Process (IEP) so they could check in with the project team and other experts if they wished to clarify any of the requirements. An Advisory Group of chief executives was put in place to assist the Secretary for Transport and a Ministerial Oversight Group was established.

The four months to develop proposals was a tight timeframe, and there were some limits imposed by the process on how they could engage with stakeholders over that period. However, the plan was that comprehensive stakeholder engagement would have taken place once a Preferred Delivery Partner was selected.

Waka Kotahi and NZ Infra submitted their proposals on the deadline of 29 November 2019. These proposals were subjected to a confidential evaluation process in line with the criteria in the RRD and both were deemed credible. The evaluation process involved more than 100 people from more than 15 local and central government agencies and expert advisory firms. In addition, a policy exercise was undertaken to ensure that the perspectives, system and public policy considerations were all considered. The outcome of this work was considered by an overall evaluation team (OET) which presented its recommendations to the Secretary of Transport at the end of January 2020. The Secretary for Transport presented his advice to the Minister of Transport in anticipation of a paper going to Cabinet in the first quarter of 2020. The COVID 19 pandemic slowed consideration of a Cabinet paper as the Government’s full focus was on the health and economic response to the virus, so cross party consultation eventually took place over late May. Near the end of that process it became clear that Government parties would be unable to make a decision on a Preferred Delivery Partner. Cabinet then decided to terminate the proposal process and ask for options on a public service delivery approach to be presented to the new government following the 2020 general election.

Although the Parallel Process ended without the appointment of a Preferred Delivery Partner the project did make significant progress over this time.

  • The outcomes for Auckland Light Rail that were expressed in broad terms in ATAP have been refined and agreed by Government and central and local government agencies and are stated in the RRD. This work is absolutely fundamental to achieving the best result for Auckland.
  • Work to identify changes needed to the current legislative and regulatory regime to allow for the operation and monitoring of light rapid transit systems made significant progress during the Parallel Process and this work continues.
  • There may be some useful intellectual property in the two proposals that could inform the next phase of the project. Discussions are underway on which elements could be acquired for this next phase.

Current status and next steps

In ending the Parallel Process, Cabinet directed the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury to build on the previous work and with support from partner agencies, develop options for the public service delivery of CC2M that could be presented to the new Government following the 2020 general election. This will ensure progress is still made on the project and the new Government is presented with a proposal to consider as a new way forward.

Frequently asked questions

How can stakeholders and communities have their say on the project?

When the new Government is formed, the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury will present its recommendations for engagement with partners (including Iwi), stakeholders and communities.  

How much will it cost to build the CC2M line and when will construction start and finish?

The new Government needs to make decisions before the costs and time frames can be known.

How will disruption be managed?

Takings steps to manage the disruption to businesses and residents will be a key consideration for the project well before construction starts. Engagement with businesses and other stakeholders in the early stages of design will help inform how this can best be managed. Work on CC2M will be coordinated with other public and private projects so the nature and duration of any disruption can be kept to a minimum.

Auckland Light Rail key documents

After the Parallel Process was ended by Cabinet, the Ministry made a proactive release of key project documents. These documents can be read and downloaded on the Auckland Light Rail key documents page.

Contacts

If you have a question about the Auckland Light Rail, project please email the project team at info@transport.govt.nz