How train closures in 2023 could unravel Auckland's public transport progress

Auckland's rail network will undergo a major rebuild in 2023 which will cause some routes to be closed for months at a time - and there are fears it'll fuel the perception that public transport is unreliable. 

The $330 million Rail Network Rebuild will see sections of rail lines across the city temporarily closed over the coming years, to future-proof the network for when the City Rail Link opens in late 2024.

The Southern Line between Ōtāhuhu and Newmarket - including the Onehunga Line - will be closed from January until March. Then from March till December, the Eastern Line will be out of action.

The Southern Line from Pukekohe to Papakura will be closed until the end of 2024, and that's when work will likely begin on the Western Line.

Kiwirail says the rock foundations beneath those train tracks need to be replaced. Some haven't been renewed since the network started being built in the 1870s.

"The people who built the network originally built it well, but they didn't build it for 18-tonne axle locomotives," Kiwirail Chief Operating Officer David Gordon told Newshub.

"We wouldn't be embarking on this if we didn't think it was essential. The time is right because the alternative is you wait until the City Rail Link opens and then you disrupt, and that to me just makes no sense."

But the news didn't go down too well with passengers Newshub spoke to at Newmarket Station on Monday evening. 

"Three months? Wow, that'll be a huge inconvenience," one said. 

"That's pretty bad, I must say," said another. 

It is extremely unreliable. But the only way to make it more reliable is these improvements," a third added. 

The disruption between Newmarket and Ōtāhuhu alone will impact around 6000 daily trips.

Sustainable transport advocate Tim Adriaansen is worried it'll turn people back to their cars.

"Auckland has a plan to reduce our transport emissions by greatly increasing public transport patronage. What we're finding out now is that for the first two years of that plan, we're going to see massive disruption to the passenger rail network, so I can see this is a real problem," he told Newshub.

"Auckland Transport needs to find a really good strategy for mitigating this and making sure that public transport remains an attractive option for people while the disruption takes place."

Replacing rail in the meantime will buses -- and Auckland Transport says it'll have more on those plans next month.

"We're currently assessing those numbers - how many buses will be available. But probably, the number of buses won't be the challenge. The biggest challenge is our bus drivers," Auckland Transport Group Manager Metro Services Darek Koper told Newshub.

Passengers Newshub spoke to weren't convinced, one saying: "I don't trust Auckland Transport to provide enough buses for people."

Adriaansen says Auckland Transport has a lot of convincing to do. 

"There's even a problem of where we would put all those buses when they arrive into the city, so this is something that needs a lot of work."

A straightforward route home for Auckland commuters now could be filled with a lot more uncertainty in the months ahead.