Surface Light Rail calls for public support on Auckland proposal

April 3, 2024

Surface Light Rail calls for public support on Auckland proposal

The public have until March 28 to submit feedback on the council’s long-term plan. Photo: Evie Richardson

Watch:  Evie Richardson on the new light rail proposal

More than 70% of Aucklanders want mass rapid transit, like metro or heavy rail, to fix the city's poor public transport system.

And 12 of the 21 local boards in Tāmaki Makaurau support this, as they, along with the public rated mass-rapid transport solutions as highly important, council data found.

Despite this, the Auckland Light Rail project for a surface and underground train system to connect the inner-city with the outer suburbs, was recently cancelled as part of the coalition government's 100-day plan with no alternative suggested in the draft government transport policy released earlier this month.

Now one group is aiming to change that, lobbying a stripped back version of the initial plans.

Co-founder of Surface Light Rail Rachel Bate says they started the project to combat the persistent problems of congestion and emissions in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Bate says the government has been aware of a need for mass-rapid transit in Tāmaki Makaurau since 2015.

“The problems that mass rapid transit would have addressed are still there. We still have congestion in the city. We still have buses overcrowded, and buses so full they drive past you.

“Our plan is to return to the original plans for light rail. Essentially, it’s a tramline on the surface of the road. Auckland roads are already built for surface light rail, they used to have trams running down them, so why not use that?”

The group pitched the idea at Auckland Council’s long-term plan submission meeting last week.

Bate says she’s optimistic the group can get the first steps to implementing the project through council, adding that the plans for it are already fully formed.

“Once we get the steps through council and build momentum the government is more likely to be supportive. Either that or we’ll be ready to implement everything quickly once the political landscape is more favourable.”

Auckland councillor for Waitakere, Shane Henderson, says the council’s goal is to have alternative transport options in all areas of the city, but currently there’s no council plans for such infrastructure.

“It’s unacceptable that we’re not doing anything about that and unfortunately that’s set to continue. The more groundswell we can get from our community is going to make a huge difference. It’s something we’ve got to keep lobbying for.”

Henderson says he worries that the current public transport options in Tāmaki Makaurau aren’t prepared for future growth of the city.

“Forcing Aucklanders to jump in their car and contribute to emissions isn’t sustainable. I think that’s where we’re heading and that’s a challenge. Public transport has made some huge leaps and bounds but we’ve got to keep going.”

Bate and Surface Light Rail are urging Aucklanders to submit on the long-term plan .

“Get involved, do the stuff. If there's a mandate from the people to make something happen then the government must listen.”

Public submissions to the council’s long-term plan close on the 28th of March.

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