After months of silence, Len Brown has started talking about the City Rail Link again. In an opinion piece in the Herald yesterday he talks about the need for the region to get on with building the transport infrastructure it needs like the CRL and associated with that the funding mechanisms to pay for it all.
The second major issue – transport and how to pay for it – is something we will need to work on for the next two decades.
Our transport infrastructure is already under stress. We must begin work on some key projects such as the additional harbour crossing, access to the airport, transport links to South-east Auckland, upgrading arterial roads and busways, investing in walking and cycling, and upgrading our ferry service.
The level of investment needed to cope with Auckland’s growth is considerable.
One thing I am pleased about is that he has started to articulate some of the benefits of the CRL and why it is needed, there are of course other benefits that he doesn’t mention, things like faster journey times but at least it is a start. The council and Len much more actively selling the project is something I have been suggesting needs to happen for some time.
Unblocking Auckland’s transport system is one of the keys to unlocking New Zealand’s economic potential. We need a much more efficient system for businesses to operate effectively.
As a trading nation, transport is our lifeblood. We cannot afford to have our products and workers sitting on blocked roads. A more efficient transport system is crucial if we are to reduce our carbon footprint, and improve the environment.
Our transport system must be integrated. Yes, we need new roads, but we know from past experience that new roads clog up almost as quickly as the bitumen sets. Unless we are investing in alternatives now – in a single transport system, involving trains, buses and ferries with an integrated ticketing system – perish the thought of driving across town in 2030.
The City Rail Link is crucial to this. It will essentially “complete” Auckland’s rail network, and effectively double the capacity of the rail network across Auckland. By turning Britomart Terminal into the through station it was designed to be, it will allow more trains to move around the entire network more frequently.
Combined with our new, clean and fast electric train fleet arriving next year, it will mean more trains stopping at your local station or transport interchange, with less time in between services.
Considerable analysis has been done on this link. There is significant public support for it. We know we need to get on and build it but what we do not yet know is how we will pay for it. The cost is significant, and we will need to look at a variety of sources.
So far, the Government has declined to contribute to the project, leaving the council to consider other sources of funding for this and other projects. Rates, obviously, are the principal source of funds for local government and will form part of the solution, but they are a blunt option and we need to always be mindful of issues of affordability. We must investigate new funding avenues. I want to consider a range of solutions.
He then goes on to talk about some potential funding options and has this nice little line for the likes of the AA who complain about road taxes being used to fund PT projects.
Yes, as the AA tells us, road users already pay for the costs of new roads, but they also stand to benefit considerably from reduced congestion with any shift towards public transport.
Of course while the funding issue is far from sorted, one thing the government did agree to last year was the council seeking a designation for the project. AT’s Chief Executive report to the board in December had this to say about what was happening.
Preparatory work to support the lodgement of the NoR to protect the CRL route continued in November. This included communications and stakeholder engagement planning to support this process, and a detailed review of the NoR material previously prepared for KRG/ARTA. The Terms of Reference for a CBD Access Study to respond to the Minister’s request was finalised by the Project Team and is now ready to be released to tender. An engineering delegation from CNTIC (China) visited Auckland and Christchurch in November. AT met with CNTIC and discussed the CRL tunnel construction.
Its good to see things are continuing, even if it isn’t as fast as we would like but even so I suspect that over the course of the year we will get a lot more information about both the designation and the funding options.