Late last year we illustrated how easy it is to afford to build the Congestion Free Network across Auckland over the next 17 years. Despite investing over $60 billion in our transport system over 30 years congestion is still expected to get worse and we believe that is predominately because overall the current plans prioritise investment in roads well ahead of investment in alternatives that can help improve mobility and encourage a shift in mode share.
Essentially, because the CFN provides such a comprehensive alternative to congestion, we think it’s definitely possible to reduce the proposed spending on new roads infrastructure between now and 2030 from around $22 billion to just under $6.5 billion.
It’s one thing to be able to afford the CFN programme over 17 years, but what’s just as important is how we have staged the CFN’s implementation to ensure that it is affordable in each and every year between now and 2030. Much of the problem with our current transportation plans seem not to be about what happens in 2024 or 2031, but the enormous trouble affording the huge number of projects we want completed before about 2030. This was shown in the Consensus Building Groups report – note the expenditure includes operating costs.
Put more simply, I just struggle to see how Auckland can afford to build the City Rail Link, AMETI, the East West Link (in whatever form), Penlink, the first stages of the Mill Road Project, the Dominion Road upgrade and many many other projects over the next few years. So we’ve been careful how we stage the implementation of the CFN to not fall into the same trap as the current plans – to ensure that in each and every year we keep the investment in capex to not much more than a billion dollars – significantly less than what will be required in some years under the current plans.
Broken down by project type, here’s our plan for implementing the CFN as well as other major capital expenditure works over the next 17 years that we think are worthwhile projects. We’ve also tweaked the costings of some of the projects from what we have published previously. For example we’ve increased the cost of rail to the airport as we believe the ITP costing is probably too low but we’ve lowered to cost of buying extra trains as the figures we used included the costs of the current EMU purchase.
(Note the project title is what’s listed in the original ITP, hence reference to Airport Eastern Rail Link, which in the CFN is actually a busway).
Because we don’t know exactly how long each project would take to build we’ve obviously had to make a few assumptions. Generally single projects have a slower start to their spend (because it’s on things like design, consenting and property acquisition) then they ramp up once construction is underway before having a slowish end again. For project categories (for example “other urban arterial upgrades” we’ve generally focused the higher amounts for later years because it’s likely the necessary projects aren’t well known at this stage, but as required in some years we squeeze down the funding a bit if there are other large projects on at the same time.
Looking at the above table in more detail it’s amazing to see what can be achieved:
- Southeast busway finished by 2020
- Mt Roskill rail extension finished by 2022
- City Rail Link finished by 2021
- Northwest busway finished by 2020 and SH18 busway by 2026
- $250m upgrade of Southern Motorway done by 2021
- Western Ring Route completed by 2021
- North Shore Rail (at the fairly generous price tag of $3b) done by 2030
And many others obviously.
Looking at the grand totals for each year, it’s clear that over time there’s a significant decrease in spending on motorway projects – but this makes sense with the Waterview Connection being sold as “completion of the motorway network” for so many years.
While the CFN does dominate capex spending in some years (especially in the big spending years for building North Shore Rail), generally there is plenty of money in other categories – particularly local roading projects – for worthy improvements.
We will continue to do more work detailing the affordability of the CFN over the coming weeks and months – hopefully informed by better costing information as Auckland Transport release it as part of their work on the Integrated Transport Programme (version 2). Our goal is to continue to refine the details of the network, to better understand its cost, affordability and timing and to highlight its many benefits for Aucklanders.
What becomes obvious from the exercise above is that Auckland can afford the Congestion Free Network. Sure, constructing the network will dominate capital expenditure on transport over the next 17 years but we are building a pretty massive high quality PT system from near scratch.