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Rodney Hide on the CRL

What is it about right wing politicians in this country and a seemingly irrational fear of trains? Rodney Hide has written his weekly column on the City Rail Link and the two most recent reports, the 2010 business case and the 2012 City Centre Future Access Study.

It’s not obvious to me that a heavy train having to stop and start and be confined to tracks is the best way to ferry people around Auckland. Buses along roads strike me intuitively as a cheaper and more flexible form of public transport.

Many more people live closer to a bus stop than a train station. That’s because buses go along roads that people live on. Buses can also pass one another. Trains can’t do that.

Because of the flexibility and convenience, more people travel into the city centre by bus than train. That will stay true even if Auckland spends billions on trains at the expense of better roads and better bus services.

Nonetheless, Auckland Transport has produced the Auckland CBD Rail Link Business Case (2010) and the City Centre Future Access Study (2012), both saying rail is more cost-effective.

So it seems Rodney admits he has a mode bias simply because he doesn’t understand how trains work, hell you could almost take from his argument that he thinks we are the first city in the world to think about moving people by rail. He then goes on to talk about trying to get more information on the two reports.

My research led me to Wellingtonian Tony Randle, who spent months trying to get the analysis underpinning the 2010 Rail Business Case, succeeding only after a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Once Tony got hold of the analysis he found:

1. Basic spreadsheet errors. The spreadsheet fails to calculate the running costs of the second purchase of 26 trains. That ignores $689 million on the train option.

2. Incorrect exclusion of costs from the rail option. The study excludes the necessary funding to extend the Northern Busway into the city centre. Building this access is a necessary part of the rail option.

3. Addition of a second bus tunnel without explanation, adding hundreds of millions to the bus option.

4. Unreasonable assumptions, including a prediction that under the rail option, present bus capacity into the city centre will carry another 20,000 passengers a day without any new bus lanes or busways.

The errors and poor assumptions total $1.5 billion. The bias is systematic; each and every mistake favours rail over buses. Correcting for the errors reverses the study’s conclusions and shows the CBD bus tunnel more cost-effective than the City Rail Link.

As soon as Tony Randle’s name popped up I knew that a derailment was imminent. We have looked at Tony’s report in the past and it is full of misinformation and his personal opinion on issues. For example why is extending the Northern Busway required for the CRL? it was required for the bus tunnel option because of the number of buses that would have been fed through the bus tunnel and over the shore. With the CRL, we only need to feed buses to the shore that actually need to go there. There are similar issues with the additional of the second bus tunnel. Tony seems to think we can get away with only one lane each way, however it simply wouldn’t have been enough for the number of buses that would have needed to be fed through the tunnel. It also creates the same issue that Rodney raised at the start as no buses would have been able to pass each other. It’s also worth pointing out that Tony is, or at least has at some point been a member of the Bus and Coach Association, the organisation that among other things lists this as one of their objectives “Promote the use of road passenger transport as a valuable resource.”

In saying this, there were definitely a number of errors in the original business case which is what lead to the CCFAS and that is what Rodney looked at next.

Last December, Auckland Transport released a second report. City Centre Future Access Study also concludes that the city rail link beats the two bus options considered, but now for different reasons to the first report. And, once again, Auckland Transport published the study without the underpinning analysis.

I followed Randle’s lead and requested the spreadsheets and the relevant model output reports. Auckland Transport has refused to supply them to me.

Its latest is a lawyer’s letter explaining that Auckland Transport will provide what I want but only if I pay them $3850.

Oh, and they won’t send me the spreadsheets.

What Rodney either fails to realise, or at least fails to explain is that it wasn’t just Auckland Transport who worked on the CCFAS but also the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury. Further all agreed that the CRL was the best option as surface bus improvements alone were not viable over the long term due to the sheer number of buses that would be needed which also had the effect of making things really bad for cars. A bus tunnel, like Tony prefers was found to have cost more and move less people than the other options. As many of you will know, some route already seem to have decent amounts of bus congestion even when bus lanes are in place.

Bus Congestion

What’s more we have since learnt that there are significant problems with the modelling that even the MoT admit, are likely to overestimate car trips and underestimate the number of trips via PT. I do agree that where possible AT should be releasing the information behind the numbers however we also need to be aware that most of the figures coming out of the modelling are likely to need a lot of explanation as otherwise they could be very open to interpretation.

Once again we now have the various agencies involved agreeing that that the CRL is the best long term option, where they disagree now is on the timing. Auckland Transport are now working on a new business case that will hopefully address the issues raised in the two earlier reports. This also shouldn’t be a mode discussion. There isn’t one silver bullet that will solve Auckland’s Transport issues, we need a combination of improved road, bus and rail to really make this city work and arguing of the merits of one specific project for one mode has the potential to keep us locked into the same cycle that has gotten us into the mess we are in.

97 comments to Rodney Hide on the CRL

  • Anyone in any doubt about the quality and objectivity of Mr Randle’s analysis can see here who he is working for:

    The objects of the association are to:
    (a) Promote the use of road passenger transport as a valuable resource.
    (b) Institute, promote and support or oppose legislative or other measures or proceedings affecting the interests of the industry.
    (c) Take unified action in the interests of the road passenger transport industry.
    (d) Foster dialogue and a constructive relationship with government and other stakeholders.
    (e) Represent members by promoting the supply of road passenger transport industry related products and resources to members.
    (f) Assist members with adding value to their businesses.
    (g) Promote and encourage ethical and professional conduct amongst members.
    (h) Enhance the professional standing of the Association’s members.
    (i) Promote and assist with activities related ot the road passenger transport industry.

  • Jon Reeves

    The Nats/Act followers are trying to pull out all the stops to de-rail the City Rail Link for Auckland. Rodney and “ring in” Tony Randle are just the latest in a long list… and yes, they are aware there will be local body elections later this year. Does Rodney like Mayor Len Brown?

    And with the Nats in power – do you trust them running Kiwirail? Any wonder who is forcing Kiwirail to close rail lines around NZ?

    So looking forward to next years general elections to oust these ultra rightwing biggots.

  • Dave SP

    Is it not a normal requirement to publish who they work for or if they are a member of an organisation?

    The NZ Herald gives the impression he is just a concerned Wellington transport advocate

    I do find the political focus in this country against commuter rail bizarre. Most countries debate the ownership/operator model, not whether there should actually be trains!

  • Typical national denial of the truth and refusal to consider the facts while twisting everything else around it. Talk to any national mp or related and you’ll get the same word vomit.

  • The key issue is that onesided mode versus mode arguments are always the sign of another agenda. Does Hide really want hundreds more buses on Auckland streets and a whole lot of streets given over either in whole or part to permanent bus lanes? Or does he just want to muddy the whole Transit debate and attack Brown? The flurry of tweets and support from the likes of George Wood suggest that this article and it’s timing the day before the release of the road pricing report is really about attacking the Mayor and the project he is championing for Auckland.

    I don’t believe for a moment that Hide, or Brewer, want a single additional bus and especially no more bus priority on our streets so when they say bus they mean road, by which of course they mean car.

    In truth Auckland needs integrated all modes transport solutions that include not only buses and trains and ferries but also better walking and cycling infrastructure to complement the existing lavish driving amenity.

  • I can’t imagine Rodney using PT anyway so his opinion should be ignored from the start.

  • Cam

    This is basically a compainion peice to John Roughan’s stupid (there is no other word for it) article yesterday which said all we had to do was fix traffic light sequencing and both private and public transport issues city wide would be fixed. I’m hoping most people see these articles for the ignorant drivel they are.

  • Noodle

    So is this Rodney Hide advocating for more bus lanes throughout Auckland? Or just another right wing politician pretending to support buses?

    • Nick R

      It will be interesting if Mr Hyde would stand up and tell Auckland that he wants to close Symonds St to cars so that it can be a four lane busway to carry the extra buses he is proposing. I wonder how popular that would be?

      • Like Brewer he’ll never propose anything… Just attack vision with mendacity and half truths.

        And of course he isn’t campaigning for more or better buses, just playing grubby politics. Is he now the right’s free range attack dog? I take it he won’t stand, being such tarnished goods.

  • Sacha

    Hide’s first sentence phrase “confined to tracks” gives a hint of the underlying psychology – roads mean personal freedom, and selfish neoliberals sure prize that above all else.

    Arguing in favour of a swift, reliable, frequent journey at the time of one’s choosing, free from the mass tyranny of traffic jams and hefty running costs might go some way to countering that.

  • Liam W

    More buses = more congestion on roads = more time in traffic = less personal freedom. How hard is that for these libertards to understand?

    • Swan


      Heard of the tradgedy of the commons? Apply it to roads, think about the standard solution to this standard problem, think about the affects said solution will have on mode use and travel choices, and get back to me on whether you still consider your logic to be faultless.

  • Sacha

    The way buses and trains will interact soon needs to be explained clearly, so Hide and his ilk can’t paint them as either/or networks.

  • San Luca

    People who have never caught buses or trains should not legally have an opinion on public transport.

    • Why not, what if they haven’t caught PT but want it to be better so that they can in the future?

    • ben

      San Luca: that would make slightly more sense if those same people were also entitled to opt out of paying for the PT they never use.

    • Nick R

      The worst thing is Rodey says right up front he is making his claims based on intuition. Not research, not evidence, not advice, not international practice, not logic, not investigation, not observation, not experience. But intuition. He says the benefits of rail are not obvious to him. So who cares what this mans gut feelings are and what he considers obvious? Since when did we plan cities based on obvious instincts?

  • Sacha

    To make change, you only need to have an imagination and the ability make sense of what others say. Experience helps but it is not essential.

  • Mike

    Patrick Reynolds: you say “Anyone in any doubt about the quality and objectivity of Mr Randle’s analysis can see here who he is working for:“.

    Can you point out where it says he’s working for the BCA?

    • His ‘research’ is in full alignment with the aims of the association as outlined on their website. I am not the GCSB, so am not able to pry any further into this relationship and nor would I want to. But his actions sure point to a very mutually satisfying hook-up, he sure is tireless with his rail hate and bus promotion. And this is anomalous in the Public Transit advocacy world, a much more common thing is advocacy of all modes in a case by case way. Sure different people can tend to favour one mode over another but this is almost never expressed as virulent attacks on other modes, especially ones that are mainly championed by the car lobby and their political allies. Ie the ex leader of the ACT Party. Because the net result is in fact damage to the whole sector. So perhaps I’m wrong, he may just be a strangely muddled headed freelance rail hating bus obsessive; is that your view?

      • Mike

        So you might just as well have linked him to the AA, or the RTF, or the National Party, or ACT, or … A bit bizarre – and way, way below the standards of your usual posts!

        As it happens, I think the description at the end of your post (though expressed more moderately) is much more likely. His views may be mistaken, but are honestly held.

        And “And this is anomalous in the Public Transit advocacy world, a much more common thing is advocacy of all modes in a case by case way.” – would that this were always so! There are (unfortunately) virulent pro-rail advocates too, but I wouldn’t damage the cause by drawing attention to them.

        • Tony Randle

          Although I have never seen any such disclosure from any author on Transport Blog, I am willing to confirm I am unaligned and operate by myself.
          I am NOT a member of the Bus and Coach Association although they do send me their magazine for free (which probably why I turn up on their web site). I am also not a member of any political party although I do know some members from National, ACT, Labour, Greens and NZ First. I AM a member of AA but have never been to a meeting or met any AA official on any issue.
          No-one has paid me or even asked me to do this work on the CBD PT studies … I do it for the fun of really understanding the justification of things and for fun (and yes my wife does think I am a little crazy).

    • “Working for” may not be totally accurate, but he is certainly a member of that august *cough* forum.

      • Working *with* then, I dunno? Makes no sense to me I’m only trying to understand the nonsense. Naive dupe or whatever, Rodney is riding him for political gain not adding to intelligent discourse around Auckland’s transport needs.

        • I wasn’t particularly picking at your choice of words, more trying to demonstrate to Mike that Tony Randle is absolutely an interested player in the bus game. His insinuation was that you were drawing a long, evidence-free bow.

  • Mike

    The comments on Hide’s article include a link to this blog (excellent), and specifically to the original October 2011 CBD bus tunnel article. That article contains many good points, but also pathetic personal abuse of Tony Randle (eg imbecile, sleazy), which does this blog no good at all – as a general rule, if people have to resort to insults they have lost the argument, and they will alienate the very people that need to be convinced.

    I suggest that all insults such as the above be removed, to avoid damaging the high reputation of this blog.

    • Tony Randle

      Thanks for the comment Mike. I am not sure that Auckland Transport Blog can be a place of Open debate when it is so full of commentators that resort to playing the man not the ball. Pity.

  • JeffT

    Yes, censor all the comments. Make sure they’re squeaky clean! I note TR is a Wellingtonian telling Auckland what transport systems it should have. I wouldn’t dare do that to Wellington.

  • Waspman

    What is it with right wing politicians and putting out blatantly misleading information?.

    I don’t think Rodney is thick so I wonder why he has not noticed that Auckland PT is largely based on buses, since the 1950′s in fact and its been none too successful either. To read his article would make one think the whole bus thing has never been tried before. The point is as I noted in the Herald yesterday with John Roughan is that there is a slow building campaign against rail as it was a real vote winner at the last local body elections. If you put out crap research like Rodney did along with other misleading info from other commentators then the hope is Len Brown, Mike Lee and other similar minded local body politicians support base will be eroded.

    You also have to smell a rat when the likes of Rodney Hide and other right wing commentators start showing an interest in public transport or the good of the public in general.

    Of course Rodney knows all this as I said before because he ain’t thick.

  • Dave

    Tony Randle’s contribution in Wellington a few years back was to try and block any upgrading of the Johnsonville line and instead have it converted into a busway to enable Northern Suburbs buses to escape from peak-hour congestion in the Ngauranga Gorge. Randle managed to grab the ear of former mayor Kerry Prendergast and for a while it looked like his destructive proposal had became City Council policy. Fortunately it all came crashing down when David George, the then head of “Ontrack” (former SOE owners of the rail network before KiwiRail re-merged tracks and trains), pointed out that the Johnsonville Line belonged to Ontrack and no, they were not going to release it for conversion to a busway. Then the Hon Michael Cullen stepped in and granted the funding to upgrade the line, stating that no way would the Labour Govt countenance the ripping out of an environmentally frieldly electrified railway in order to replace it (at high cost) with a diesel busway. So sense prevailed and the J’ville line now has its upgraded infrastructure and Matangi trains, but for a moment there it looked like we could have lost it. After his defeat here he presumably went away to lick his wounds and it comes as no surprise that he has now re-surfaced, peddling the same tired old agenda in Auckland. This is Mr Tony Randle for you. I am sure he is, or has been involved in the Bus and Coach Association and he is a strident opponent of money being spent on rail. Just like our own, home-grown, Wendell Cox. Right-wing, anti-rail politicians love him!

  • jonno1

    34 comments to date, many of them ad hominem attacks (even Cameron Brewer is attacked twice, and he’s not even mentioned in the post!), with not a single rebuttal of Randle’s claim that the calculations in the business case were flawed (see points 1-4 quoted in the post).

    I have no idea whether Randle was right or wrong, or whether he’s a biased bus-spotter (as distinct from the balanced commenters here [sarc alert]), but I do know that the posters on this site are highly skilled at analysing stuff [not sarcasm]; most posts are full of charts, tables and maps etc, so where’s the analysis please? If he was wrong and the original business case is valid it shouldn’t be too hard to demonstrate this. Otherwise this site just becomes an echo chamber.

    • jonno you missed this link above?

      Here from above:

      As soon as Tony Randle’s name popped up I knew that a derailment was imminent. We have looked at Tony’s report in the past and it is full of misinformation and his personal opinion on issues. For example why is extending the Northern Busway required for the CRL? it was required for the bus tunnel option because of the number of buses that would have been fed through the bus tunnel and over the shore. With the CRL, we only need to feed buses to the shore that actually need to go there. There are similar issues with the additional of the second bus tunnel. Tony seems to think we can get away with only one lane each way, however it simply wouldn’t have been enough for the number of buses that would have needed to be fed through the tunnel. It also creates the same issue that Rodney raised at the start as no buses would have been able to pass each other.

      Anyway it is valid to question his motives, important to show this is no objective analysis. It is frankly naive to think that Rodney has latched onto this source because of its amazing insight and wisdom free of any agenda. Hot on the heals of Roughan’s nonsense we are clearly getting a fairly co-ordinated campaign of mis information and distortion. I mentioned Brewer because his case is egregious; he chips and attacks every project to improve Transit in Auckland, including the viability of priority but then uses the same tactic of claiming that Auckland doesn’t need rail because transport problems can be fixed by more buses. This is mendacious and contadictory and a valid point to make.

      • jonno1

        Absolutely Patrick, I re-read that link before commenting today as it was mentioned in the post, in case the answer was contained therein, but nothing. And still no reasoned rebuttal of Mr Randle’s claims (or link thereto). So let me limit my query to point 1: basic spreadsheet errors. That should ring alarm bells but also should be dead easy to confirm or refute. But still nothing. The point is that I don’t know who’s right, but failure to engage at a reasonably intellectual level suggests an entrenched position.

        Someone above said that this blog is milder than Kiwiblog or Whaleoil. Well if those are the benchmarks… (sorry, words fail me). Actually there is a difference: on those blogs there are very abusive comments at times, but usually in the context of a counter-argument. Where that counter-argument is missing someone else usually points that out. In other words, there is often intense but honest debate on both sides of an argument. That’s what is needed here (but without the bad language preferably). There’s another difference: those blogs are unashamedly populist; essentially a contest for hits. ATB gets a lot of hits too, I suspect because it’s generally informative. Let’s keep it informative and not abusive.

        • Hi Jonno
          You get it ! I found, and highlight to others that the supporting spreadsheet analysis does NOT support the statements and recommendation in the 2010 CBD Rail Link Business Case. The specific issue you outline is the clearest example of this and, no, AT Blog have not explicitely acknowledged this in their counter article.

          If you want to understand my finding on this point I suggest you do the following:
          1) Go to the original Kiwiblog article
          2) Download my full 93 page report which is linked off the bottom of the page.
          3) Also download the copy of the actual alternatives costing spreadsheet for the CBD Rail Link Business Case released by Auckland Transport after I complained to the Ombudsman.
          4) Read section 4.1 of my report and go into the spreadsheet to confirm if the Rail Operating Cost calculation has the error I claim to have found (and outlined in Rodney’s column). Some knowledge of Excel formula is required.

          Jonno, you be the judge off the raw spreadsheet data and report instead of reading what is, from my perspective, spin from avid rail supporters (unlike many other topics discussed here, ATB is an advocate for the rail tunnel).

          And do note that I did not put any of the errors outlined in my review report into the analysis … I just found them. When I first published my review of the supporting analysis for the 2010 Rail Bus Case I feared someone would prove it was clearly faulty or incorrect and, using clear counter facts and argument, force me to withdraw the criticisms I outlined, but no-has done so to date.

          Equally, if the CCFAS supporting spreadsheet analysis and modelling is as conclusive as the published report, it will be I who will be shot down . . . which is why I am surprised at ATs reluctance to publish it. Perhaps they are deliberately holding back just to show me up … but I don’t think this will happen basically because the case for a CBD PT solution based on well-designed BRT combined with a bus tunnel as outlined in the 2010 Business Case is inherently very strong … at least the equal of, if not clearly superior to, the rail tunnel that this blog so passionately promotes.

          Even if the bus tunnel is not as good as the rail tunnel, don’t Aucklanders deserve to know exactly why it is second best to the other ?

          • tuktuk

            A couple of quick points – my understanding of your bus tunnel proposal is that it would also need to include full-blown busways through the inner western suburbs as far as Mt Albert, and south as far as Greenlane/Ellerslie. Have you costed this in your proposal?

            What sort of safety systems do you have planned for the central busway tunnel? One of the reasons trains cost more are those safety systems built into underground rail networks. What provisions have been made for fire mitigation in particular, for what are inherently less safe buses? Given the nature of the vehicles to be used, I would expect as a minimum a sprinkler system to the same standards as those being fitted to the most recent large scale road tunnel projects in Switzerland and elsewhere, plus clear passages to escape zones and so on.

            The other issue to me is the massive investment made to date in rail in Auckland – Britomart, Project Dart, Electrification. Do you believe we should write this off and replace with this busway system? The issue to me is that having made the investment, we are going to severely compromise its future efficiency without doing the CRL. My understanding is that the operational subsidy will come down markedly. I look forward to the formal CRL business case.

            I believe you may have had a viable opportunity to rip out rail and replace with busways in Auckland in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Although even then at a minimum, the southern and eastern rail corridors were/are/will be needed for rail freight. Public transport and rail in particular, is politicised to an extraordinary degree in New Zealand, just as ripping out Auckland’s tramways and replacing by motorways in the 1950s was very much a political exercise in beliefs and ideology.

            Lastly – what are your views on the economics of the RoNS? In particular Kapiti Expressway and Transmission Gully?

          • jonno1

            Thanks Tony, I’ll do that (but not right now, I’ll need to find a tame Facebooker first).

          • Just a quick note on ABT: we do advocate for the CRL because it is clearly best and best value solution to Auckland’s transport issues, especially when anything other than a short term view is concerned. And this conclusion is not founded on one report from 2010.

            However we most definitely cannot be accurately accused of only advocating for one mode; we are also tireless advocates for a busway for a North-Western Busway, as well as bus RTNs in other areas such as between the north and north-west, and on the south; bus is the right mode for many places in Auckland, but not the next stage for the inner city. We support AMETI as well of course we also advocate for the Active modes, especially for a vastly improved investment in cycling amenity. And in particular we also are huge supporters of the new bus network redesign; which it is important to note relies entirely on the core RTN network; The Rail Network and the Northern Busway.

            We support an integrated solution regardless of mode. We analyse and then advocate for whatever solution is the best fit for the problem. Mr Randle however, whatever his motivations has the answer always to hand; bus, as well as the problem, rail. A false and unhelpful opposition.

            The biggest issue in Auckland for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our buses is the lack of on street privilege and hegemony of the private car. If mode fetishism is your thing and the object of your love is bus, well then the clear obstacle is the car domination of our roads not the fact that there are trains on a completely separate Right of Way.

          • Tony – We have acknowledged that there were some serious issues with the original business case however some of your assertions are wrong.

            - For the bus tunnel option, the northern busway definitely needs an extension to town to handle the number of buses. For the CRL that can be done as a separate project.
            - You adjust for issues you believe exist in the bus tunnel operating cost twice
            - The two bus tunnels are there to allow for each to be two lanes each way, in large part to handle the number of buses that would be fed through it. Without it there would likely be serious bus congestion in the tunnel, especially if something went wrong.
            - Dominion Rd bus improvements are needed for the bus option but can be done as a separate project if done as the CRL. This project is now $47m not $80m
            - By focusing on a bus only system we will need to be feeding many more buses along routes into the CBD, they will need much greater bus priority in the same way as the extension of the northern busway and Dominion Rd. With the CRL many of those journeys can be moved onto the rail network avoiding the expensive need for busways.

            It is also worth noting that we think there are serious issues with the CCFAS, see my post on transport modelling as well as the info I received from the MoT. On the CCFAS don’t forget that the MoT came in to the project with a dislike of the project and have now accepted that it is the best long term solution. They just don’t agree with the timing.

          • Matt L, I am happy to comment on the 5 specific assertions outlined above that I am wrong.

            But first, having authored the main article, could you first give your view on the article’s main point which is AT refusing to provide the CCFAS supporting calcuation spreadsheets ?
            More specifically:
            - Do you agree with Auckland Transport’s refusal to release the actual supporting analysis spreadsheets (and only provide the PDF figures) when the spreadsheet data and formula are the detailed logical justification for the CCFAS recommendation of a CBD Rail Link over bus alternatives ?
            - Do you agree with their demand for $3,850 to provide even this information ?

          • Tony – The short answer is no I don’t agree with it however I can also see some of the issues surrounding it. Some of the information will likely relate to some very complex and detailed modelling and just releasing that information carte blanch is likely to result in people misinterpreting it so it needs to have caveats attached to it. I wonder how much time it might take them to put that information together so that the info isn’t misinterpreted.
            Still perhaps AT would be better to do that and put a requirement with it that a certain statement is included if the released information is ever used in a report or some analysis.

          • I would agree, if someone asked me for all the spreadsheets and analysis of my work, I’d have to take days to assemble them properly, explain the criteria and constraints and caveats, explain the results in context and note the assumptions and places where information was estimated or not available. I’d have to put all this together into something I like to call a “report”, which summarises the findings.

          • Matt, as I promised, here are my responses to your claim that “some of your assertions are wrong”:

            ML – For the bus tunnel option, the northern busway definitely needs an extension to town to handle the number of buses. For the CRL that can be done as a separate project.
            TR: Quoting from Section 8.1 of the 2010 CBD Rail Bus Case “The bus tunnel enables buses from the North Shore to pass through the CBD and link with the western edge. The CBD rail link does not provide this benefit, so an adjustment is needed to facilitate comparison.”
            The consultants stated the link into the CBD was needed for the CRL option “to facilitate comparison”. IOW, for the purposes of comparing these options, excluding this link cost was incorrect making the CRL appear cheaper than the bus tunnel that inherently links the Northern Busway to the CBD.

            ML – You adjust for issues you believe exist in the bus tunnel operating cost twice
            TR: I do because this calculation has two errors. The first is a spreadsheet formula calculation error that meant that the bus tunnel operating costs were charged for several years BEFORE the tunnel was built. The second was because the bus tunnel costs were estimated at $9M/year but information also held in the spreadsheet (cells B250 & C250) gave an alternative estimate of $2.1M/year. I have tried to get a copy of the report on the $9M/year cost but AT refuse to provide it.

            ML – The two bus tunnels are there to allow for each to be two lanes each way, in large part to handle the number of buses that would be fed through it. Without it there would likely be serious bus congestion in the tunnel, especially if something went wrong.
            TR: Really ? There are really two issues here and they are both very serious. a) why are 2-lanes needed in both directions for the Auckland bus tunnel when the Brisbane, Seattle and proposed Boston bus tunnels are designed with “only” one lane each way (as I explain at length in my report) ? Even more important though is why is this significant issue not discussed in any part of the description of the bus tunnel option in the main Bus Case Report ? Two tunnels are mentioned once on page 62 of Appendix D (i.e. buried).

            ML – Dominion Rd bus improvements are needed for the bus option but can be done as a separate project if done as the CRL. This project is now $47m not $80m
            TR: Again as for my first response above, this may be true but a busway on Dominion Road is needed as much for the CRL as for the Bus Tunnel . . . it doesn’t matter which option is selected, commuter from Mt Roskill will be bussing to the CBD. Therefore the Dominion Road bus improvements should be in both or neither of the options for comparison purposes. Including this into the Bus Tunnel but not the rail tunnel is not correct.

            ML – By focusing on a bus only system we will need to be feeding many more buses along routes into the CBD, they will need much greater bus priority in the same way as the extension of the northern busway and Dominion Rd. With the CRL many of those journeys can be moved onto the rail network avoiding the expensive need for busways.
            TR: This is true. But the CRL option assumes an additional 20,000 BUS passengers/day and so it will still need some busways. The patronage figures from the Bus Case (but not in the Bus Case) show that for every CRL rail passenger there will still be two commuters travelling into the CBD by BUS ! My approach is to assume the CRL will still need half the investment in busways as the bus only options to support the required bus capacity improvements needed for the CRL.

          • Yes Brisbane has ‘only’ one bus lane in each direction, but it also has a maximum directional capacity of just under 300 buses per hour.

            I believe the anticipated figure for an Auckland equivalent was 534 bus movements per hour total, I’ll use that figure. The problem is you’re not accounting for the asymmetrical loadings of bus movements across the network, and therefore not accounting for the fact bus vehicle flows will be antisymmetric. You appear to have assumed that the total figure of 534 can simply be divided by two directions, giving 267 each way. This is wrong. That would only be appropriate if half the buses in Auckland came from the North Shore, and half came from everywhere else. That is obviously not the case!

            Approximately three-quarters of movements would be accessing the tunnels via southern portal, from all parts of the city south of the harbour. The north shore would account for the remaining quarter running into our out of the Northern Portal. That means your peak flow is approximately 400 buses per hour per direction. Whether you run everything from the southern portal through to the North Shore is inconsequential, that would only result in masses of dead running and no change to the peak directional demand.

            That’s why you would need two lanes each way. Because your tunnel has to carry one-third more movements than is possible with only one lane each way.

            One key attribute of the CRL is that it connects back to the existing network in both directions at both portals. Your bus tunnel does not connect back to the majority of the bus network at the northern portal (only the minority to the North Shore)… well not without driving hundreds of extra buses at surface level across CBD streets which entirely defeats the purpose of the tunnel in the first place.

            I’ve scanned through your document, not in complete detail, but it appears you’ve given no consideration to vehicle throughputs at all. Maybe you should revise your critique taking that into consideration. Some of your premises are questionable too, like the suggestion that there is no need for busway on New North Rd under the bus tunnel option, because we would simply remove the ‘underutilised’ western rail line and build a busway there instead. I think that is quite unrealistic to remove the existing passenger and freight services from this line, but similarly you don’t appear to have allowed for the additional bus movements that would be required if the rail line from the west to Britomart was removed. The base case assumes the existing rail network is maintained. Remove the western line and you need to accommodate approximately 3,000 peak rail commuters on extra buses too. That adds another 60 or so buses an hour to your tunnel requirements. You’ll definitely need two lanes each way in your bus tunnel with 460 direction movements per hour (that’s one bus each way every 7.7sec FYI).

          • Let me get this right Tony, what would you do to fix the remaining issue of rail capacity once the bus tunnel is built?

  • Why didn’t Rodney just ask his mates in govt for access to the report or would that just be too easy?

  • ejtma

    Perhaps one of the writers here should head over to KiwiBlog where they have engaged with Rodney HIde, he does make some good points, which I think Auckland Transport should be defending. The bottom line is that the 2010 study was flawed, I think we all know that, the 2012 study was better, but by not releasing the information Auckland Transport and Len Brown are doing nothing to quell the debate and take it in the right direction.

    I suspect that this will be a major issue in the elections this year, and with the poor job the council have done with the unitary plan, could well see the end of Len Brown and his council as many people are opposed to both, personally I support the need for the CRL, but am opposed to what the Unitary Plan is proposing, and I don’t have grey hair!

    • But there isn’t any conspiracy here, this is just a trick charge by Hide to imply some kind of evil, just grubby politics.

      Again in CCFAS it was agreed by all parties NZTA, MoT, Treasury, not just AT that surface bus is literally impossible; there is simply not the road-space, and that bus tunnels are no cheaper and clearly of less utility than the CRL. Buses, needing more drivers per passenger, and barrels of diesel to operate them are also way more expensive in terms of running cost. Randle proposes a smaller less viable bus tunnel will be cheaper, and it would be, but it would also be of little use. It is clear that he has little grasp of the scale of the issue in Auckland. There is no point in spending these sorts of sums on a short term and soon to be obsolete answer.

      When choosing the appropriate mode for a need, buses generally have the advantage of being cheaper to build for because they can use existing roads. In this case that just isn’t true. So the primary reason for preferring buses isn’t there. The other advantage that buses have is flexibility, but again in the CBD there are no places for many more buses to operate. However at the periphery there is, and this is the point of the integrated transport plan we have for Auckland; buses covering the more dispersed populations using less congested existing streets in the suburbs connecting to the direct and grade separate RTN network [trains + Northern Busway] to speed many more people below the crowded and congested city streets above. It’s hardly revolutionary; being the mix that allows almost every successful city in the world to function.

      Perhaps Randle doesn’t understand how much Auckland is growing? We need to move many many more people than in dear old Wellington and this type of need calls for a solution with scale.

      And this is even before we observe that there is a huge resource sitting out of reach in the already existing rail network. From the 20 trains an hour limit caused by the Britomart deadend to at least 40 tph and even perhaps 60 depending on other changes that may be worthwhile in the future. Fast clean modern electric trains running every 5 minutes at suburban stations served by connecting buses on the new routes all heading through the heart of the city free of the traffic above and to a variety of new city destinations not just the one at the waterfront.

      This just feels like a cynical attack from a washed up politician with a sly agenda using the opinions of a single mode obsessive who can most charitably be described as misguided and ill-informed.

      And Auckland is the loser for all this effort. Hide himself saw the value in the City talking with one voice on issues like this, until it seems we didn’t vote in the man that now is the leader of his political party. This is politics not transport analysis.

      In short, the CCFAS found that Buses vs the CRL are not cheaper to
      Build for [capex]
      Operate [opex] or
      Better [less capacity, more pollution, slower]

      There is not a tricky choice to make for the core of Auckland’s transport needs. Buses are still and will remain a hugely important part of the mix. So are trains.

  • We are all waiting for the right to announce their knight on a white charger. Or should the be some bloke driving a dodge?

  • JeffT

    I wonder if other countries in the OECD are aware of NZ’s right wing politician’s campaign for a country operating with only cars and buses, without trains. I think they may laugh at us. A country that wants to call itself a first world country without a developed rail network.

    A piece in a british newspaper wouldn’t go astray. Some of our politicians might be embarrassed. We struggle with the idea of a small section of underground rail in our largest city – look at london! It’s embarrassing.

    By the way, I thought Rodney Hide was writing in favour of crl a while ago? Why the change of opinion? Political?

    • obi

      I’m not sure why we should care about what other OECD countries think of us. But we’re nothing out of the ordinary. Canada is an OECD country and Calgary, with a population over a million people, makes do with light rail, buses, and motorways. Vancouver’s SkyTrain is more basic than Auckland’s rail system, but they have an extensive bus service. The UK is also part of the OECD and Bristol has a metro population of over a million people. Wikipedia notes “Public transport within the city is still largely bus-based, with Bristol Bus Station being located in Marlborough Street, near the Broadmead shopping area”. The US is also in the OECD, and I really don’t think I need to name a dozen examples of large cities with none or only a token rail system.

      Unsurprisingly, none of the residents of these OECD countries feel the need to write to the Herald in an attempt to embarrass their governments regarding public transport.

      Regarding Hide’s column… I’m surprised that someone wants to charge him thousands of bucks for some official information. Posters to this site often cite OIA requests they’ve filed. Has anyone been charged for these? Something just doesn’t sound right. AT needs to realise that this is OUR information that we’ve already paid for and that we have a right to examine it as a matter of public policy. Just release it, for free. Maybe put it all including working documents, spreadsheets, and models on to their web site?

      • Vancouver has trains as well, not just SkyTrain and buses.

        • Vancouver has one conventional commuter train called the West Coast Express that runs five inbound trips on weekday mornings, and five outbound trips on weekday evenings only. It’s reasonably well patronised with 11,000 trips a day, but that’s not much compared to the 390,000 trips carried on the Skytrain metro network. Curiously both these systems have the same route length, the commuter line has 69km of track and the Skytrain network also has 69km of track.

          It also has intercity connections with VIA and Amtrak.

      • Mr Bean

        Yes, Bristol has mostly bus based public transport but it also has one of the worst average peak time vehicle speeds in the UK! There are also plans underway to create a Greater Bristol commuter rail network in addition to this announcement:

        Even developing cities like Bogota (which has a decent bus network) and Quito are building rail systems, as the simple fact is that buses cannot on their own meet the needs of rapid population growth, similar to that expected in Auckland. If the rate of population growth was lower then maybe a bus only focus would be more cost effective-unfortunately more people will keep streaming here in the future.

        True, NZ does not seem to care what the OECD thinks – most immigrants now are from India and China!

        • obi

          “True, NZ does not seem to care what the OECD thinks – most immigrants now are from India and China!”

          The most recent figures I can find say that the UK is still our biggest source of immigrants, and that many of the Indian and Chinese immigrants are students that stay on after their studies. So, people leave the UK which has underground and overground trains just about everywhere. And they come to Auckland which has a much more modest rail system. If JeffT is still keen to write to newspapers in other OECD countries then he might want to include this relevant information.

          • Mr Bean

            Sure, but the data also shows the combined total from China, India and the Philippines more than doubled the UK. Yes the UK is still the largest individual source but per the DOL Migration Trends and Outlook 2010-2011 “….the number of migrants from the United Kingdom has been decreasing steadily since 2004/05″, i.e a trend for developing countries to be the source of immigration to New Zealand, hence the thought that INZ do not “really care where, as long as they are here”. There are expat/immigrant websites around now that paint a very negative picture of New Zealand to potential immigrants from OECD countries, very poor public transport is just one of those components, alongside low wages and expensive yet inferior quality housing. Point being, think a lot of people realise the transport system in Auckland is already very very marginal at best – but for people from parts of India it looks “flash”.

            But getting back to your Bristol example – why are they spending large amounts of money on rail if a bus system is all that is needed in your view?

      • Well Hide and Randle are grandstanding clearly; just file an OIA, we do all the time…. Oh and MoT love to dump piles of paper on us, not nice exel ready digital files.

  • Christopher T

    I understand that Mr Brewer’s grand announcement was interrupted by events in Boston; apparently he was seen posing on the mayoral staircase at the Town Hall in front of a Campbell Live crew (make-up artist, camera and compère) and recorded as stating that it was merely a matter of ‘watch this space’.

  • MrV

    Once again it degenerates into a roads v rail discussion. The obvious question being, why can’t a 1st world nation have both?

  • Eric D

    A disturbing feature of the CCFAS is that road speeds within the central city cordon will drop to unacceptable levels for all the options studied. None of the options studied represents a solution to the CBD traffic problem. It is a counsel of despair.
    Clearly a solution to the CBD traffic problem cannot be found at ground level, and the CCFAS indicates that bus only solutions will lack capacity by 2041 or earlier.
    The CBD rail tunnel, together with bus enhancements, is the only one of the options studied that can move the required number of people into the CBD. Allocating more road space to buses reduces the space available for cars. This is not rocket science, and it explains why the preferred solution in the CCFAS actually drops general traffic speed more than the straight CRL option. The passive acceptance by almost all parties that things will just be allowed to get worse, seems strange. Even with the CRL and enhanced bus services, traffic speeds will halve. More importantly, the whole central area and most major routes will be above critical densities and gridlock will erupt at the most trivial trigger events. Is this what Auckland wants?
    The CRL is a partial solution to one end of the rail problem. Fifty years of rail stagnation can’t be overcome quickly. Rail has to reach out to passengers to maximize the benefit of what is already there. Auckland should have many more lines to allow access for passengers at the residential end of their trips. For starters, consider that the cost of the CRL tunnel is only a minor part of the entire project cost. Why not eliminate the three way junction at Mount Eden and run the tunnel underneath the station and out to Mt Roskill/Three Kings. People would just have to change trains, as happens in big cities. You can get 5km of tunnel for the cost of one deep station like K-Road. Once Auckland has a pressure balance tunneling machine in town, it should never be allowed to sit idle. (Or leave town.)
    A decent transport plan would increasingly use rail to do the heavy lifting, aim to stabilize the number of buses by providing rail alternatives to the most heavily used bus routes, and keep some road space so that the 40% of people who will still be using cars in 2041 don’t grow old in gridlock.

    • Eric, an interesting suggestion and I definitely agree with the comment that “A decent transport plan would increasingly use rail to do the heavy lifting, aim to stabilize the number of buses by providing rail alternatives to the most heavily used bus routes, and keep some road space so that the 40% of people who will still be using cars in 2041 don’t grow old in gridlock”.

      But that is exactly what the Regional Public Transport Plan does. If you look at the proposal, there are no buses from west, east or south Auckland entering the isthmus. Everything west of New Lynn, east of Panmure and south of Otahuhu and Onehunga is shifted to rail. The buses only exist for local corridors on the isthmus, and the northern busway and northwestern motorway corridors.

    • IanL

      So traffic speeds in the CBD will halve? Great! Bring it on!
      In my experience the most attractive European cities are the ones in which is near impossible to drive because the speeds would be so slow it becomes a pointless activity, so hardly anybody bothers. And the streets become places one goes to rather than highways one drives through.
      I want to see the CRL, but emphatically NOT to improve CBD traffic speeds but to remove the need to travel by car in the CBD at all. Let’s have the CRL AND terribly slow traffic speeds please.

        • Yes well I don’t much care for what happens to traffic speeds, I’m much more interested in being about to move thousands more people without being in traffic at all.

          • Cyclist

            Interesting thought slowing traffic down. Traffic lights already do quite a good job. A surface mounted tram up queen, k rd, ponsonby rd etc would make a good dent too. Any merit in this or is the idea rubbish?

          • Cyclist- i don’t mean to eavesdrop, but-

            Did you just say “A surface mounted tram up queen, k rd, ponsonby rd etc”?

            I like the cut of your jib. Have you thought about running for Council? There’s elections soon ish..

          • Sailor Boy

            @Cyclist, that is in the 30 year transport plan.
            Or city centre master plan, can’t remember which.

  • Dear Constant Readers-

    Has anyone seen any evidence that AT/AC is making a proper video that sells the CRL?

    If they did, you could play it to people when people like Rodney and his bus pal try to derail it.

    (we know you read this!) Get busy dammit!

  • Stu Donovan

    I actually welcome Rodney’s (newfound?) interest in the quality of our transport investments. I’m really looking forward to his article next week, and would suggest that he starts with the Kapiti Expressway – which is widely reputed to have a BCR of only 0.2. In fact, you could say that the Kapiti Expressway makes the CRL look like the sanest investment this government has never made.

    • Mike Mellor

      And the Kapiti Expressway etc have other ramifications, too: largely because of the RoNS, Greater Wellington’s experts predict that the region will fail to achieve at least four out of the seven key RLTS outcomes by 2040, with public transport and active transport mode share both below their current levels, increased carbon dioxide emissions and a doubling of vehicle kilometres on congested roads, largely in Wellington city.

      It almost makes me want to move north…

  • Jon Reeves

    Is Tony Randle focusing on Pro National Party transport projects???? Seems like he is not – conclusion , he’s a National Party hack. They are getting desperate to win Auckland away from Len Brown, big time!!

    Tony, do us all a favour and stir up a mess in your own neighbourhood, thanks.

  • Tasi

    I’m pretty sure at one point, the reporter called it a “loop”.

  • Jon Reeves

    Mike – the “man” is trying to take away the CRL based on dubious facts which have been highlighted on this website already.. So, let´s look at the man….then figure out what his true game is, or better still, what team he is really in.

  • Torbayite

    I think a 20-30 second video of buses stacking up carries a stonger message than photos. It took 4 minutes for the 881 bus to get from Sunny nook to Constellation ( it normally takes 2 minutes) because of the queue of buses at Constellation station at 5:30 pm this evening which would have shown the limits of buses

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