Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown at one of the Central Rail Link stations

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown yesterday sent his strongest signal yet that he opposes the light rail project for the city currently being developed by the Government.

In a statement yesterday, Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said that though he remained concerned about the final cost and timelines for the new City Rail Link (CRL), it would transform Auckland’s public transport system and reduce roading congestion when it finally opened.

Somewhat bizarrely, the Mayor yesterday released the first photographs of his inspection of the link, which took place a fortnight ago.

“The CRL and the world-class regional rail network it will enable must be at the heart of the single, big, joined-up transport plan Auckland needs, linking cars, buses, trains, cycleways, the port, shipping, ferries – everything,” he said.

The statement said City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL) had advised Mayor Brown that midtown Te Waihorotiu “Station (Aotea) was also futureproofed for any rail across the Waitemata Harbour.

This means that should there be a new harbour crossing – tunnels or another bridge and any introduction of rail across the North Shore – it could be easily connected to the existing Auckland rail network without having to alter any part of the CRL tunnels or system,” the statement said in what was obviously a reference to the Government’s desire to have light rail cross the harbour.

The statement quoted the Mayor saying that maximising the benefits of CRL also required the Avondale to Southdown route to remain available for dedicated heavy rail lines for both passenger and freight services.

The route was designated for rail lines in 1947, but no line has ever been built.

At the moment, all Auckland freight trains heading north need to pass through Newmarket and the inner part of the Western Line – which means plenty of potential conflicts with passenger services.

As passenger service levels increase in the future, it is likely to become more and more difficult for freight to find an appropriate ‘window’ to operate in, particularly through busy junctions like Newmarket.

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This is the case where the Avondale-Southdown line would come in handy.

It would be made more necessary if more ships were to berth with freight (or cars) at Whangarei instead of Auckland.

 The freight (and cars) would need to be moved by rail to Auckland.

In 2019, then deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, told “Q+A” that he would be concerned if the light rail project went ahead because it would use some of the land designated for the heavy rail Avondale-Southdown link.

Brown also appeared to make another reference to the light rail project when he talked about “the next shiny new idea”.

“After decades of debate, billions of dollars and unacceptable delays, CRL is going to be a reality and we must not let the next shiny new idea stop us from getting the maximum benefits that it promises for our city, region and country,” he said