So I attended the councils release of the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) today and came away pretty happy with the outcome. Within a few hours though that happiness ground away due to the governments head in the sand response to the study. This post will look at the announcement from the council and response from the government. First though a quick recap on the history that got us to this point so far.
- In November 2010, shortly after forming, the Council/Auckland Transport released the initial business case for the CRL which had started under the previous local body setup.
- In May 2011 both the government and council released their own ‘independent’ reviews of the business case that had vastly different outcomes.
- In July 2011 this was followed up with a letter from transport minister at the time Steven Joyce which started the process that led to the CCFAS. You can read that letter here.
- In December 2011, after working with officials from various government agencies, Len sent a letter to new transport minister Gerry Brownlee outlining what had been happening with the CRL and included the scope for the CCFAS. You can read it here.
- In February 2012, Gerry Brownlee responded to the previously mentioned letter. I will cover that in more detail soon but you can also read it here.
So lets break down Gerry’s press release
Mr Brownlee says he had expected a broader review of potential transport solutions for Auckland than the relatively narrow case studies in the report released today, which include a rail tunnel (the CRL), some enhanced existing bus services, and underground bus options.
“The consultants’ own report says they were ‘commissioned to develop a robust and achievable multi-modal programme for transport into the Auckland City Centre which considers a thorough analysis of alternatives.’
“Yet the report underplays State Highways entering the Auckland CBD from the south, both SH1 and SH16, and how improvements to these might impact central city traffic.
“Completion of the Western Ring Route in 2017 will also draw many thousands of traffic movements away from the CBD, yet none of these major transport corridors is explored in detail.
It was made stressed time and time again at the mayors press release that this study had not only be done by the Council/Auckland Transport but that senior officials from the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury were deeply involved in agreeing on the assumptions, options and outcomes of the study. In fact SKM who completed the report say this:
The CCFAS is an independent study undertaken by SKM.
The Study was commissioned by AT and has been overseen by has been overseen by the Transport Planning Senior Officials Group (TPSOG)
This group includes representation from the Ministry of Transport, Treasury, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport.
Workshops were held throughout the study with all those parties.
Key decision points required agreement from all partiesto proceed to the next stage of the Study
The Feb 2011 letter from Gerry also states quite clearly that he was comfortable with the scope of the project.
The letter even goes on to state how he is concerned that AT are trying to complete the study to quickly and that he wanted the timeline extended to ensure the it was done properly. It is very odd that he would now question the scope when both he and his officials, who were involved all the way through the process, were happy with it. As for there not being a broader review of options, how many does he want, the study investigated 46 different options as a way of providing improved access to the city centre. The options included pretty much every bus option known to man along with the wacky elevated rail option, light rail, an elevated bus options and it even looked at PRT.
The press release also talks about the benefit cost ratio:
“With a modelled benefit cost ratio of just 44 cents in the dollar, the benefits of the CRL are nowhere near the cost of building it.
“That benefit cost ratio looks decidedly questionable when you take into account the report’s assumed employment growth of 46 per cent in the Auckland city centre over the next 10 years, compared with actual growth of only 18 per cent in the previous decade.
The whole point of the study wasn’t about produces a cost benefit ratio to justify the project but to look at the range of options and assess them using the same criteria with the BCR indicating which one performs best. The results of this study are then to be fed into a comprehensive new business case to work out what the actual benefit is. He also questions the level of growth but once again, the government agencies involved agreed to this number and from memory the 46% employment growth was over the 30 year lifespan of this study but I will have to go and check this. Further we were told that the assumptions used in this study were the mid growth forecasts from Statistics NZ which is in comparison to the high growth scenario that was envisaged as part of the Auckland Plan
I am left with the feeling that this outcome means one or more of the following:
- That the government has just completely rubbished the work of staff within their own agencies showing they don’t have a high regard for them.
- That the government agencies have deliberately worked to sabotage the study by agreeing to assumptions and options that they knew they could challenge later
- That the government has its head so far up its ideological backside that it can’t see daylight.
I tend to think it is the latter option.
“In the meantime the Ministry of Transport and the Government’s NZ Transport Agency will continue to work on the best and most cost effective solutions for freeing up central Auckland congestion now and into the future.”
So what are those options Gerry. Your officials have been deeply involved with this study so unless they lied during the months of involvement they had with it, why would they come up with any different options.
I imagine that staff at the various agencies (and SKM) who have worked their arses off to produce this study will be feeling pretty deflated tonight. We will be doing some more detailed posts looking at the study over the coming days.
Note: Auckland Transport has also provided some clarification, likely in response to the governments statement, some of which is similar to what is said above.
- The reference base case included all transport projects in the Auckland Plan including the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing, Waterview, SH16 and Puhoi to Wellsford and the Study therefore represents a best case scenario of the problems of access.
- The Study provides a comparative assessment of options which were agreed with Central Government. The Benefit Cost Ratios (BCRs) reflect the comparative benefit of the options; they are not a business case evaluation.
- The Study used Statistics New Zealand medium population growth projections agreed between local government and the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury.
- The models used to inform the Study are the same as those used on a number of major projects such as Puhoi to Wellsford, Waterview and the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing.
- The comparative BCR assessment took into account the assessment of Wider Economic Benefits (WEBs) as is common practice for large infrastructure projects. If these WEBs are excluded, the comparative BCR for the City Rail Link option would still be more than four times better than the next option of surface bus.
- The Study considered a total of 46 options including light rail, mobility pods, ferries and multiple bus and rail options. They were refined using multi criteria analysis to reach agreement among central and local government agencies about those shortlisted.
- The Study was designed to select the best option, not to justify funding. The next step in this process is a detailed business case in which the options will be optimised and the fundability of the project fully worked through in a considered manner.