In June 2013, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, for the first time showed support for the proposed Auckland city rail link with the caveat that he wants to delay the project until 2020, suggesting that only by then will there be enough patronage to justify it. He has not committed central government to funding the project. Research shows that similar announcements were made by another National Prime Minister in 1967 and 1969. This paper provides an historical overview of public transport planning and policy in Auckland to identify the institutional challenges that can explain centrallocal relationships in rapid rail project. The concept of political path dependence is employed as a theoretical framework to investigate the history of small events and circumstances against which rapid rail projects have been conceived, argued over and advanced by local government, but failed to proceed due to institutional, funding and political biases against rapid rail from central government. Public transport decisionmaking is thus understood as having become locked-in to political decision making concerning the nature of the problem and its solution, eventually creating political path dependence. The research concludes that current barriers to public transport in Auckland can be understood by analysing the history of central and local relationships in wider social and political environment.