Northern Busway, Auckland

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Passengers boarding an Auckland Transport Northern Express service operated by Ritchies Coachlines.

The Northern Busway is a segregated busway with dedicated park-and-ride facilities that runs alongside the Northern Motorway, part of State Highway 1, in the north of Auckland, New Zealand, linking the North Shore with the northern end of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The busway consists of two-way segregated lanes running between Constellation Park & Ride station and Akoranga Station, and from Akoranga Station a southbound-only lane running alongside the motorway to join the harbour bridge approaches just south of the Onewa Road on-ramp system.

City-bound Northern Express (NEX) services commence from Hibiscus Coast Park and Ride station and use local roads to connect to Albany Park and Ride station and from there to Constellation Park & Ride station, from where they travel on the dedicated busway lanes; from Albany Park & Ride, the lanes reduced travel time to Britomart Transport Centre from around one hour by car during peak hours to about half an hour by bus.[1] In the reverse direction, NEX services leaving the city travel north to the Akoranga off-ramp, cross over the motorway, and enter Akoranga Station, from where they travel north on the busway lanes. The busway lanes are also an important transport link within the North Shore, where it is the spine of the bus-based public transport system.


Concept, design and construction[edit]

Smales Farm station, shortly before the busway opening

Concept design for the busway was developed by MRCagney (formerly McCormick Rankin Cagney), with detailed design and consultation completed by Mario Madayag Architecture, Jasmax, Beca Group, Opus and Connell Wagner. Fletcher Construction was responsible for construction. Akoranga, Smales Farm, and Sunnynook stations were built by NZ Strong Construction.[2][3][4]

Difficulties encountered included the nearby residential areas, the predominantly soft ground, and environmental efforts to protect New Zealand dotterel breeding grounds. Construction employed around 300 people at its peak, with around a million man-hours being invested, including shifts during 512 nights.[4][5]


The busway was officially opened in February 2008[6] after several years of construction, though the Albany and Constellation stations had been operating since December 2005 using the normal Northern Motorway lanes.[7] It was credited with reducing peak traffic on the Northern Motorway by around 500 cars each rush hour one month after opening,[8] and about 39% of passengers on the Northern Express bus service had never used public transport before.[4] The busway was initially used by 70 buses per hour during peak time.[5]

With its completion, the busway has raised interest amongst technical experts and other groups. There have been advertisements filmed at the bus stations, and requests to allow filming of car commercials, denied as being inappropriate for a public transport facility, and interest from overseas movie location scouts wanting to use the 'futuristic' stations as backdrops.[9]

In 2008 the busway received the 'Shell Bitumen Excellence Award for a Major Roading Project' and the 'Roading New Zealand Supreme Award'.[10] In June 2009, it received the Ingenium 'Excellence Award' (in the category for projects above NZ$2 million construction cost).[11]

In June 2010, the busway carried its 5 millionth passenger. Patronage has kept rising, and in 2010 the busway was estimated to remove the equivalent of about 5,100 cars in the morning peak, with 80 buses per hour during peak times.[12]

By mid-2011, frequency of the Northern Express had risen to every three minutes during the morning peak hour, five minutes during the 'shoulder peak'.[13]

In 2015, most Northern Express services began to continue on past Albany Park & Ride station to Hibiscus Coast Park & Ride station, with services leaving every 15 minutes.


The busway became fully operational in 2009, with some final sections being completed with little publicity, for around NZ$290–294 million: $210 million for the busway and $84 million for the stations.[14][15] The project was funded by Transit New Zealand, ARTA and the Auckland City Council and North Shore City Councils.[5]


Constellation Drive Park & Ride station


The busway has two lanes for 6.2 km[16] running parallel with the eastern side of the Northern Motorway from the Constellation Park & Ride station at Constellation Drive/Upper Harbour Highway interchange to Akoranga Station at the Esmonde Road interchange,[17] from where a one-way southbound bus lane extends a further 2.5 km to south of the Onewa Road interchange, where it merges with the motorway for the Harbour Bridge.[4] There are no dedicated bus lanes on the harbour bridge itself.

Its use is limited to buses of 25+ seat capacity, emergency and maintenance vehicles.[14] The busway has been designed for possible use by car pools.[18]

Bus stations[edit]

The busway includes six dedicated stations, some with extensive park-and-ride car parks. Feeder bus services serve the stations, allowing transfer. Many services travel on portions of the busway as parts of local routes.

The stations are (north to south):[2][16]

  • Hibiscus Coast Park & Ride (the busway lanes do not yet extend to this station). Serves Silverdale, Orewa, Red Beach, Whangaparaoa, Redvale, Dairy Flat.
  • Albany Park & Ride (the busway lanes do not yet extend to this station). Serves Albany, Rosedale, Long Bay.
  • Constellation Park & Ride serves Mairangi Bay, Murrays Bay, Browns Bay, Rothesay Bay, Torbay, Unsworth Heights, Greenhithe, Albany.
  • Sunnynook (this station does not have ramps to allow local buses to enter or exit the busway lanes).
  • Smales Farm serves Takapuna, Milford.
  • Akoranga serves Takapuna, Devonport.
Akoranga - the footbridge leads to the western side of the motorway.

All stations provide shelter and cycle parking and were designed with public safety in mind, such as with glass walls, low planting, night lighting and CCTV to enhance security.[19]

Other structures[edit]

Major related structures are the new Esmonde Interchange (including large-scale improvements for general traffic) and Tristram Avenue Viaduct, which crosses the often-congested Tristram Avenue via grade separation. The viaduct has 12 spans of 30 m each, with the foundation piles being 1.5 m thick.[17]

Electricity transmission cables[edit]

Cable ducts were placed beneath the busway during the construction in 2005, to provide for the future installation of electricity transmission cables. The cables installed in these ducts during 2012 and 2013 form part of a major upgrade to the security of supply to North Auckland and Northland.[20][21]


Sunnynook, the smallest of the five stations.

The dedicated busway lanes will be extended northwards from Constellation Park & Ride station to Albany.[22]

An extension towards Orewa in the north is being debated for the long-term future. It was originally expected to cost around NZ$500 million,[15] although the success of the scheme has now sparked potentially more extensive schemes for between NZ$700 million and NZ$1.2 billion to at least Silverdale, with up to five tunnels and seven bridges, including a motorway flyover between Constellation Park & Ride and Albany stations. New stations are proposed at Rosedale, Redvale and Silverdale.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rail electrification - Region Wide, Auckland Regional Council newsletter, June 2007, Page 3
  2. ^ a b Northern Busway Project (PDF) (Map). 1 : 4,000. NZ Transport Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  3. ^ North Shore Busways (from the NZ Strong Construction company website. Accessed 2008-03-03.)
  4. ^ a b c d Dedicated busway a roaring success - LG, New Zealand Local Government, March 2008, Volume 44 No 03
  5. ^ a b c Busway bits 'n' pieces - Region Wide, newsletter of the Auckland Regional Council, March 2008, Page 4
  6. ^ "Multi-million dollar busway opens". Television New Zealand. 2 February 2008. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Northern Busway - The New Zealand Herald, Saturday 30 June 2007, Page C6
  8. ^ Busway reduces cars by 500 each rush hour - Region Wide, newsletter of the Auckland Regional Council, March 2008, Page 4
  9. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (22 March 2008). "Busway creates interest overseas". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "Busway wins excellence award". The New Zealand Herald. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Northern Busway wins award". The New Zealand Herald. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "Like a railway, but with buses". Region Wide. Auckland Regional Council. July 2010. p. 2. 
  13. ^ "Keeping our region moving". Our Auckland. Auckland Council. July 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Welcome to the Northern Busway (from the official project website)
  15. ^ a b Following the money - magazine, IPENZ January/February 2007
  16. ^ a b "SH1 Northern Busway". NZ Transport Agency. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Busway the way of the future for North Shore - LG, New Zealand Local Government, May 2007, Volume 43 No 05
  18. ^ "On the bus". Auckland Transport. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  19. ^ Frequently Asked Question (from the North Shore City Council website. Accessed 2008-03-21.)
  20. ^ "Transpower 220 kV Auckland CBD Cable Ducts Project". Transpower. 18 May 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  21. ^ "$415m cable project to protect power supply". NZ Herald. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  22. ^ "Northern Corridor Newsletter - August 2015 21 August 2015" (PDF). New Zealand Transport Agency. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  23. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (13 November 2008). "Buzzing busway could get even bigger". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 

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