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Len trying to kick-start the CRL

News today that Len Brown is pushing for an earlier start on part of the CRL.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is offering $250 million of the city’s money to kick-start the $2.86 billion underground rail project before the Government starts contributing.

He has told Prime Minister John Key his council will pay for an “early works” programme from next year to get the project out of its starting blocks at Britomart and under much of Albert St.

The council, through Auckland Transport, has already spent more than $100 million on property purchases and other route preparation work, and has included $193 million for the “transformational” project in its draft budget for 2014-15.

This is exactly what I have predicted might happen for some time and I first suggested it might have been a good idea back in July last year when it was announced that Precinct Properties were planning to get started on redeveloping the Downtown Shopping Centre and that they would build the section of tunnel under their site at the same time. The reasons the council/AT might want to carry on with the CRL work are simple in that there are a huge amount of public and private sector projects, both announced and unannounced that are currently being worked on. All of them would benefit from the construction of the most disruptive elements of the CRL being completed earlier. It’s the private sector ones that Len is rightly focusing on as they are the ones most likely to get the governments attention.

In his letter to Mr Key, he listed a string of private sector projects likely to be affected by construction of the 3.5km rail link from Britomart to Mt Eden.

They included a $300 million-plus redevelopment of the Downtown shopping centre above the route, and the convention centre which Sky City intends building for the Government in return for being allowed to install extra gambling machines.

Mr Brown said an early start to the rail project would minimise disruption and provide “a more effective and investment-friendly approach to the overall development of Auckland’s CBD”.

Precinct Properties wants to start rebuilding the Downtown centre next year into a possible 41-storey tower. It will co-ordinate foundation work with excavations for a “cut and cover” section of two rail tunnels between Britomart and a new underground station near Aotea Square.

Mr Brown said Aucklanders had shown overwhelming support for the rail project, and the private sector was making investment plans around it.

“We are saying to the Government, there is a big head of wind coming in behind this project from the private sector, and do we want to hold them up while we continue to dally, or do we want to move.”

As mentioned earlier it is more than just Precinct Properties that have plans in motion, many of which aren’t public knowledge yet and I doubt none of the private developers want to have just completed a massive investment and have their gleaming new buildings almost inaccessible due to the CRL construction just getting under way. I wonder how many jobs all of the planned projects would enable and interestingly how much they would contribute towards achieving the government’s condition of a 25% increase in CBD employment to agree to an early start to the project as a whole.

There are also a number of council projects dependant (or at least very much affected) by the need for the CBD parts of the CRL to be completed. These include:

  • Quay St Upgrade – Quay St will probably need to be available to handle Customs St traffic while the tunnel is built under the Customs St/Albert St intersection.
  • Customs St – We’re likely to need a proper bus priority on Customs St but that can’t happen until the CRL tunnel disruption has been completed.
  • Victoria St Linear Park – Again while some parts of it can be built without the CRL, some of the key parts can only happen once the CRL has been built under Victoria St
  • Wellesley St – The Victoria St linear park will reduce Victoria St to one lane each way and so all buses through the middle of the CBD are likely to shift to Wellesley St which will require proper bus priority, probably even a full busway.

There are a number of other potential street upgrades in the CBD that will be on hold they will be needed to help handle the disruption caused by the CRL construction. We know Len really likes focussing on the big projects but the reality is that without the most disruptive elements of the CRL construction being completed then many of the smaller but vital projects to make Auckland a more liveable city simply can’t happen.

So the interesting question is how much will $250 million get us? Well because much of the property acquisition and design has already taken place then it will get us quite a bit really. Here are the project costs from the original business case in 2010 (so they are bound to be slightly different now).

crl-costs

It can be a bit hard to read but the Britomart to Aotea section of cut and cover tunnel is costed at just ~$81 million while the Aotea station itself is costed at ~$138 million, about $220 million all up (not including rails or other fit out costs). It’s these two parts of the project that will be most disruption to the CBD and $250 million would get them out of the way. Here in orange the section that AT have been seeking a surface designation for to allow for the cut and cover tunnels (as opposed to a sub-strata designation where the bored tunnels will be in blue to the upper right hand part of the image).

CRL Cut and Cover section

And here’s how the cut and cover section would be built.

I’m not sure if this would allow for the Aotea Station to be used by trains or not. If it did it might crucially allow for a couple of extra services on the network during peak times giving some crucial extra capacity earlier than planned.

It will be interesting to see how the government responds.

141 comments to Len trying to kick-start the CRL

  • Patrick R

    This is what Auckland voted for. Let’s go!

  • Fred

    This basically has to happen otherwise Precinct’s development could stuff up the CRL route or the deal between AT and Precinct that means they don’t have to buy the site is voidee.

  • Need to get it through upwards of three committees first before anything can start.
    I do not believe the $250m of CAPEX budget has been set aside in the current Annual Plan that is out for submissions so this will make things somewhat interesting.

    If it standard procedures are to be followed the Finance and Performance Committee kicks off the deliberations. They will vote and if successful the matter is then kicked up to the Budget Committee to get a budget line sorted. Once that is sorted then and if that vote is passed (thus the money “appropriated”) then it is to the Governing Body to “authorise” the line and pass instructions to Auckland Transport to start whatever work the $250m entails.

    That said the Budget Committee or Finance and Performance Committee could be bypassed but not the less at least two bodies will hear the case.

    Now the living wage was defeated at the Governing Body last year on an 11-10 vote. So appropriating the budget line might not be that easy nor ratified in the Governing Body if the Councillors decide otherwise.

    Not over yet folks and sorry to be the brutalist here

  • pete

    Just watching the crazy video (is that cost in the budget?)

    They could drill and fill the retaining wall holes as part of the “Protecting / diverting services” phase using the same short length of single lane traffic barriers. The excavation phase could be then done much quicker, and the many lanes closed problem would be reduced

    Also, why refill the trench? It should be made into an underground road (ala Sydney), and the ground turned into a shared people/car space (Customs to Wellesley at least), like Elliot Street

    • re refilling – I’d not noticed that before. Does anyone have insight there?

      • Underground roads are expensive! Lots of the cost of the Waterview tunnel is the ventilation and other life-safety work associated with internal combustion engines (including dirty diesels) in confined spaces. The OSH requirement for atmospheres in which carbon monoxide are routinely present is at least 40 full air changes per hour, which means enormous, redundant fans, huge smoke stacks, and expensive monitoring equipment. It’s a big enough, expensive enough exercise just building long tunnels for electric trains, which only need to account for emergency ventilation and evacuation.

        • pete

          Yes, 5 to 10% of a road tunnel budget can be ventilation. This is somewhat offset by long term reduced maintenance costs of the road due to it being protected from the weather, and reduced costs in traffic delays etc :-)

          But since the tunnel boring is already happening, it seems silly to waste it. At least turn it into an underground mall or something!

          • Auckland’s climate is not exactly one that causes damage to roads. It’s mild, not subject to ground freezing, and doesn’t get snow so there’s no need for sweepers/graders on a regular basis. I doubt there’d be much saving at all on surface maintenance, and the additional costs of tunnel maintenance would more than suck up anything else.

    • You couldn’t build an underground road because of Aotea Station, it’s really only a bit below street level so there isn’t any room for the road to pass over it.

      • pete

        The current Britomart track is 11m below ground level. The CRL follows Albert St at around 11m below ground level and comes to Aotea station at 13m below ground level. So plenty of room for car and bus tunnel below ground

        It would start with a ramp on Lower Albert St (a step hill already), and end coming out just past Wellesley St where there is already a natural dip, so no ramp needed. Most of the buses travelling on Albert enter and exit at these locations, so it would be ideal for them, and with some extra space at Aotea end would provides a handy direct link from bus to train. Much nicer than the open air Lower Queen St mess

        • What about just a bus tunnel then? Brisbane has that great bus tunnel that goes through the centre and has the station at King George Square. Could be a kind of underground bus exchange like was planned for Chch before the earthquakes. Auckland really needs a centralised bus exchange.

          No idea if that is feasible but I know the one in Brisbane works well. Would the ventilation requirements be less for a bus only tunnel?

          • Exaucklanderinsydney

            Great way of dramatically adding on to the cost of a project that is struggling as it is. We don’t need anymore additions, especially roads

        • It still isn’t enough for the rail clearance, the concourse of the station, the structure to hold up the road tunnel, the road tunnel itself and the structure to hold up the surface.

          • George D

            We already have plenty of roads.

          • pete

            Rail structure .5m, rail height 4.25m, road structure 1m, road height 4.25m, roof structure 1m = 11m, that should fit in no problem?

          • Minimum clearance for height to the overhead is over 5m. The 4.25m hight limit on some level crossings is the max height a vehicle can be to still not touch it along with some leeway. Also your’re forgetting that the Aotea station needs a concourse level so that people can get off the platform and out to the surrounding city.

          • Pete, road height can’t really be 4.25m, either, unless you’re planning to exclude some legal-height vehicles. Needs to be clearance for exit lighting, fire sprinkler heads and pipes, exhaust ducting, fans, etc etc. Take a look next time you pass through the Victoria Park Tunnel at just how much stuff is hanging from the roof above the roadway, and none of it is extraneous or optional. So that lot adds about another metre to the road height too.

            By my calculations, an exceptionally skinny rail passenger can just about squeeze through the remaining available concourse height on their stomach.

          • pete

            It would be car and buses only. Trucks don’t belong in cities anyway. Given the ramp up on Customs St end, you do effectively get 13m over entire length anyway, so another 2m to play with

            Plenty of room for ceiling equipment, you don’t have to have big fat round fans, you can have low profile rectangular ducts as used in Asia etc. Tunnel size = money, always go for smaller

            Ped and cycles use above ground shared space, deliveries there too, speed limited, and preferably out of daytime hours

    • Loraxus

      An underground road, to make any sense, would also need access to / from it. Such ramps could be very damaging to the urban fabric, if we have to add extra lanes to every intersection…

      Would only work for something like a bus route where we don’t need constant (vehicle) ramps back to the surface – and hey, along that alignment we can just use the train in the future, so no use for a bus tunnel either.

      Maybe use it as service corridors / underground storage for nearby buildings maybe, if that’s structurally possible. Or just fill it back up as intended.

      • pete

        Due to the lie of the land at either end of the cut and cover tunnel, the ramp would not be a significant as would be the case on flat land

        The cut and cover area is 700 m long and at least 10 m wide. Auckland city CBD retail space is $200+ per m2, so that’s a $1,000,000 a month they are throwing away if they at least turned it into a retail area

  • Enough talk – get it done. We need this to become a 20th century city – let alone a 21st century one.

  • JimboJones

    I wonder if they could terminate one of the lines in Aotea? I guess there will only be two platforms so couldn’t terminate more than one of the lines there… Probably the southern line??
    Something like that might be enough to get the patronage up to the required levels – although I suspect it will take a fair few years to build…

  • Let’s get on with this thing!

  • Paul in Sydney

    Surely they could run a limited service up to Aotea by installing a set of double slips just before entering the Aotea platform, close to Victoria street. I believe this is how Bondi Junction in Sydney is worked. Also it could give them the ability to have more peak hour trains by stacking trains in the new section and firing them out in quick succession in the evening and vice versa in the am, parking them up. It would be a great step forward getting this stage up and running, hopefully it would drive further momentum to complete the project.

    • Greg N

      Was the original plan when the cut and cover of just the Downtown centre to Albert St was planned – park up surplus AM trains in the tunnel for PM services.

      If we can get the whole line to Aotea done, then we have a potentially much better solution.
      Even if they parked trains up one line and used the second one to run shuttles between Britomart and Aotea during the day it would be a marked improvement over the options now.

  • obi

    “I’m not sure if this would allow for the Aotea Station to be used by trains or not.”

    Does the tunnel design include any cross-over points that would allow, say, a train to stop at Aotea then reverse out and switch to the opposite track? If not, maybe these could be added to add a bit of flexibility in failure situations?

    • I would have thought cross-over points in the CRL tunnels will be essential, so that it’s possible to get trains around a broken-down train either for service continuity (or emergency by-pass) or simply to have a service crew get around a disabled unit to detach and extract a functional one.

      • Loraxus

        Mmmh, cross-over points in the BORED tunnels could be difficult / good bit of extra cost. In these cut-and-cover sections however, they should be easy to include, so…

  • PS1

    Len should go on kickstarter! We could offer tickets in advance like the ski fields used to offer lifetime passes.. Lifetime train pass get in early – $1000. 10 year train pass $250 Or inaugural CRL ride – $100. A one year pass for a car in a transit lane for $1000. Or corporate naming rights for the tunnel or station. The downtown shopping center is a really smart move for both parties. We need to continue partnering with the public sector and be creative about funding.

    • Greg N

      Careful do we really want to have “This is Aotea station, mind the gap. Aotea station is brought to you by: SkyCity Casino, Vodafone, Briscoes, The Warehouse, ASB Bank ….”

      Reminds me of the Aotea Centre all over again, and really one public building with “Aotea” in its name slapped all over with corporate branding is quite enough thanks.

      • PS1

        I really needed a smiley emoticon at the end. It was a whimsical rhiff on the articles headline. Maybe too much time doing paperwork this avo was making me silly. But i do think that combining it with downtown revitalisation is smart. And would be good to see them continue with the thinking out of the box.

  • Exaucklanderinsydney

    If they get it built to Aotea, could they still run some train services to Aotea or would they still have to stop at Britomart until the rest is completed?

    • I don’t think they could build, open an operate Aotea with just the first bit given the need to launch and retrieve the tunnel boarding machines there.

      What might be more feasible is the ability to park trains in the first section of tunnel interpeak. This doesn’t give you an extra station yet but it would allow greater peak frequency to Britomart. For example, say you could stack eight units on the two tracks in the stub tunnel. That is eight trains you can get in through the Britomart throat in the morning that you don’t have to send out again until the evening peak.

      That would allow you a net increase in peak frequency of about four trains overall, perhaps a bit more. Doesn’t sound like much but it could represent an extra 3,000 peak commuters, or indeed the ability to run two trains an hour to Mt Roskill ;)

      • Loraxus

        Actually, if you look at the length of the cut-and-cover above, it could work well. The station has quite a bit of distance from the Mayoral Drive section south of Wellesley Street, where the TBM could be started.

  • KLK

    Clever politics from Len – didn’t realise he had it in him.Squaring off the (tory) government’s procrastination against private industry impetus. The response will be very interesting….

    If he does pull off an earlier start, development in the CBD and all along the rail corridor will boom. Bring it on.

    • doloras

      Len has been forced into these clever politics by the fall-out from his ridiculous sexcapades. He knows that, unless he’s bold for the remainder of his term, his legacy will be as the punchline of Bill Clinton-style jokes. Good on him, nonetheless – time to throw caution to the wind as there’s no way he’ll get the feral Brewer/Quax/Wood/Slater camp back onside.

      • Loraxus

        “time to throw caution to the wind as there’s no way he’ll get the feral Brewer/Quax/Wood/Slater camp back onside.”

        He never had that chance. But maybe you are right, and he realises that.

        Sad thing is that his opponents know full well too that they need to stymie this, or he might even get another term. They need to make him (and Auckland) fail, so their own ambitions to topple Brown succeed.

  • Amy

    A positive (if unintended) side effect of construction could be that it helps cut down number of cars moving through CBD – if Albert Street is shut to traffic for some time, people will find an alternative.

    • pete

      Albert St is mainly used by buses :-(

      • Luke C

        Well under the new network North Shore buses won’t use Albert, just North-Western ones. North Shore buses will use Wellesley St to go East-West.
        Also at same time Western buses will be rationalised, no more competition with rail. So may actually see shorter term decline in bus numbers here, though once NW bus-way kicks off this will start heading up again.

  • Greg N

    Got to be careful here, unless the Private Sector is willing to come to the partr around the other two stations as well as we may only end up with only Aotea being built at this rate
    – yet another half-arsed solution foisted on Auckland by Wellington in the guise of “minimising spending to match your revenue”.

    • Loraxus

      Unless building the other stations then STOPS the operation of the CRL for a while, the outcome of a single-station CRL would still be extremely positive for Auckland, and the calls for the two other stations to be deafening. Wouldn’t take long…

    • Luke C

      Well the private sector has to come to the party for the first section because the tunnel goes right through a large land parcel. Importantly this is already a highly attractive area for development. However the CRL will change things for lots of small landowners at K Road and Newton, so development will have to come later.
      Interestingly enough landowner that will benefit the most from CRL is the council, due to their huge landholdings around Aotea Square.

  • Luke E

    If the Council can afford to build all the way to and including Aotea, then they should just do it now, forget what the government says. They don’t need to ask permission. Build it, get Aotea up and running, and then go to the government (if they haven’t agreed already) and say it’s time to meet their part of the deal. It could well be Labour/Greens then anyway, and if it’s not then it would be a massive bargaining chip. National wouldn’t want to look like the bad guys going back on their deal, leaving the city with years of disruption for an unfinished rail line.

    But that’s if the city can afford it. And please for the love of God, don’t skimp on Aotea!

  • Bryce P

    Here is a good reason to stop ‘gold plating’ the shared spaces and other projects like the Te Atatu Rd widening, Lincoln Rd widening etc. While it would be great to have bus lanes down Lincoln Rd, it is not as important as the CRL at this time. The money is more needed for the CRL. Neither should council be blowing cash on white water facilities.

    • Greg N

      If we postponed the St Lukes project and the Te Atatu Road Widening, and the Lincoln road horror story, why we’d be half way there next year already.

      Sure, half of the St Lukes money may be NZTA’s and not allowed to go on CRL, but AT’s half sure can be redirected to CRL without much issue.

      • Bryce P

        I’d love to know how much has been spent on investigations for the E-W link already.

        But yes, this and AMETI are the 2 big projects at this time. Delay the Albany Hwy rebuild as well. Also, what do we get for the $40M going on Dom Rd that couldn’t be put back a few years?

        • Sailor Boy

          Don’t delay Albany highway, just scale it back so that the road doesn’t become four lanes, do only cycle lanes and signalisation

          • Bryce P

            The roundabouts work pretty well from what I’ve seen. As for the bike lanes – protect the existing ones with bollards and fix up some intersections. Maybe even a couple of more roundabouts. Is it perfect? Nope. But plenty good enough for now.

          • Sailor Boy

            You obviously haven’t been to the area much haha. Probably only 10% of the project areas if that has cycle lanes and the roundabouts are scary enough for someone my age on a road bike, my ex’s 17 year old brother rides to school on the footpath and will drive as soon as he gets his licence. There are a lot of schools on or near this road and fully segregated cycleways are needed to allow children to get to school safely, signalistation is an extension of that thought.

      • Loraxus

        AT is paying relatively little for St Lukes, as far as I know, so not much money to be saved there. Lincoln Road funding isn’t slated to be needed for several years yet, and Te Atatu is also a little off. So the only project you could stop with big financial gains would be Albany Highway and Dominion Road, and that would be stupid in both cases.

        Not saying that there aren’t projects that can be stopped, but the named ones won’t give us big cash right now, or aren’t the right ones to stop.

        • Bryce P

          They’re already buying properties for Te Atatu Rd and it’s slated to start later this year. Why would stopping the Albany Hwy be stupid? I’ve driven along there at close to peak recently and it flows pretty well. Not fast for sure but well. Not required at this time.

        • Bryce P

          The Dominion Rd project actually offers very little, in my opinion, that couldn’t be achieved with changed times to the bus clearways. Most of the cash is on beautifying.

          • JimboJones

            The Dominion road upgrade was meant to be started in 2 years time when I bought my house in Mt Roskill over 7 years ago. Then council spending was put on hold prior to the formation of the super city, then AT completely changed the design, and now 7 years on they still haven’t started. I don’t think delaying it even further is fair to Mt Roskill residents who don’t see much of their rapidly increasing rates being put back into their local area.

        • Greg N

          We don’t need big cash right now.

          Most of this spending will happen in years 2+, all we need is the decision made to not spend money for these projects and instead spend it on the CRL cut and cover.

          And in any case, these are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to looney spending, I am sure there are dozens of gold plating road projects At will do in the next 3 or so years where 10-20m can be shaved of them – not necessarily by cancelling, just deferring for a few years.

          • Patrick R

            Dom Rd needs:

            1. Extended bus lane hours, effective immediately
            2. Permanent 7-7 bus lanes at the expense of on street parking, as soon as the painting can be done.

            Why can’t the first happen AT, while you get your act together on the second?

  • Jon Reeves

    Let’s go Auckland, even if the National Party are feet and hand draggers.

  • Exaucklanderinsydney

    What would be the aproximate time frame to build the tunnel and station?

  • Anthony

    What are sky city planning for Aotea station?
    The convention centre site is on the opposite site of sky city.
    I wonder how much of the station they might pay for if it leads straight to their facilities?
    I wonder if they’d pay for naming rights?

  • Riccardo

    Question from stupid Aussie who knows nothing about kiwi politics:

    if they build this thing does Auckland council or the national government get the credit?

    • Good question, It would surely have to be the council as Len has effectively dragged the govt kicking and screaming to support the project.

    • Loraxus

      Until it is a success, nat gov won’t be asking for credit. Afterwards, it will be in every press release how they helped Auckland succeed.

      Same as with electric trains – blocked it for years, tried to scuttle it, but now their part-funding deal supposedly shows everyone how pro-PT they are…

    • JohnP

      If it is a success then both will claim credit. If it costs millions more than expected and carries fewer people then both will claim the other pushed it.

    • obi

      I think it is the council’s idea. But central government has actually announced formal support and funding, whereas the council still haven’t made the hard decisions they need to pay for their half. So there is the concept and the execution, with the council doing one reasonably well but falling down on the other. I think the early tunneling discussed in this post is a great idea, even if it just gets a few hundred meters in order to allow real estate development to proceed around Britomart. However it feels like Brown is trying to foster an illusion of progress while actually covering up his inability to announce the full council funding package.

      Most people here credit Labour for the electrification and the new trains on the basis that the last Labour government announced a vague intention to proceed with these projects, even if they left National to actually fund and deliver them. To be consistent, the tunnel would have to be considered a National government project regardless of who eventually builds the thing. Gerry Brownlee should go down in history as the father of Auckland underground rail, although I suspect consistency will be sacrificed on the altar of Labour-Green-good, National-bad.

      • Well let’s be accurate here Obi, with electrification Labour did have a funding source- a regional fuel tax, whereas National has come up with a funding process; a loan to Auckland ratepayers. I’m not complaining, we all should be grateful that Joyce agreed to that. But make no mistake the can has been kicked down the road, just like with the PPPs for the RoNS.

      • Obi the government hasn’t announced funding. They said they now agree with the need for the project (but not the date) however so far they haven’t actually said how much they will pay towards it. The thinking is 50:50 however if you read the herald article, the council haven’t actually had that in writing yet.

        As for electrification. This was in the 2007 budget.

        From this post http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/05/04/the-governments-annoying-funding-myth/#comments

        • Martin W

          Nothing fix yet according to this days Herald, government will even review and decide in 2017, clever push for the next two election years.

          • Waspman

            Well not clever, just typically cynical. WIth all those fish hooks, those near impossible hoops and hurdles Key placed in the way its highly unlikely to go ahead full stop. Key only agreed (mega conditionally) last year as it was a popular cause during the mayoral elections by a then popular mayor and Len ain’t popular anymore so Key can now thumb his nose at the project.

            The point is what are they going to do with all those electric units? The much vaunted increase in peak/off peak schedules without the CRL means they cannot all fit in to the current Britomart, or Newmarket or even Papakura for that matter, not unless AT start running them as 6 sets just to get some use our of them.

          • I read it the same as Martin – they’ve left themselves with a trump card to play in future years.

          • Ha! Yes 2017, clearly for Key the CRL is carrot to keep dangling in front of Auckland every three years, rather than something he really understands the value of. Still, we now have City Hall putting what pressure it can back onto the current occupants of the Beehive. Highlighting the clear separation between the opposition and the government on this issue in an election year, the very gap that Key set out to narrow last year after polling identified it as a major vulnerability for them.

          • Greg N

            Lets walk before we run or start calling Opera over, ‘cos the fat lady ain’t sung yet, Waspman,
            For a start the full electrification hasn’t finished yet but will this year.

            The last of the 57 EMUS doesn’t arrive for about 2 years (we only have about 7 so far, with 50 or so to come). But we will enough to start services on Southern and Eastern lines.

            We won’t be oversupplied anytime soon with EMUs. And in any case, there will be plenty of options to use what EMUS we have in the short and medium term and we won’t have too many spare EMUs lying around to make up too many 6 car sets for a year or so – and that assumes that once the improved services start patronage doesn’t improve. In fact, as Perth experience shows, once the masses get a taste for it, they tend to use it, so there is a good chance that 57 may prove to be not enough in the medium term.

            But even if Key told the AC to go ahead with the CRL to Aotea tomorrow, that doesn’t increase throughput of Britomart until the TBMs tunnel through from Mt Eden and the track is laid & electrified.

            That part alone – even if the Aotea part started today – would not be complete much before 2020, once you allow tendering and build/lead times on a TBM – and AC/AT don’t have consent to tunnel under anything yet.

            Also I sincerely doubt that Key or too many of his peers will be in power by the time 2017 comes around – for many reasons, but for a start a 4th term National Government, would break almost all records for a governments longevity.

            And in any case, Key is testing the wind with Auckland voters – if their internal polling shows that its costing them any votes in Auckland they will about face instantly and support it tomorrow, knowing they’ll have 3 years if they win in 2014 before they’re called on it again and a lot can happen in 3 years.

            I think though that Brown has done a master-stroke in putting the CRL firmly in the spotlight given its an election year. He may not be around to see if happen (or even start).
            But at least it will be an election issue this year either way.

          • Martin W.

            Well, in terms of pressure that was probably the only Len could do. He know if he really wants to run a third term, he needs some success stories, not just being the least worst option of all others. So I would not call it a master stroke.

            The master stroke is now up to the opposition or the government by making clear who plans what with the CRL. Governments position is quite obvious, not to mess up with Aucklanders and put the carrot in front of them, but making ridiculous targets. It is like saying: Yes, you will get more Chickens, but first produce more eggs. In the meantime we breed some more foxes (roads) which will threat your chickens. So if National keeps in government after 2014 and 2017 i am pretty sure there will be no start before 2030. And with a right leaning mayor after 2016 the CRL is anyways off the table.

            On the other hand, Labour does not fully commit as they know the CRL would bring 2 or 3% in Auckland, but is highly unpopular in the rest of the country. The Greens do not play that card surprisingly either. So we are looking forward to an interesting election campaign.

          • Martin you’re a bit wobbly with your facts at the end there. 1. Labour and the Greens, and even NZF, are is committed to the Council’s programme for the CRL, with 50% funding. 2. The rest of the country actually do support the CRL in opinion polls. This is Key’s problem; it’s actually a widely popular programme. So he has come up with a tricky way of pretending to be backing it with all the loop holes you mention, hoping to at least diffuse the advantage the opposition have on this issue.

          • Waspman

            Greg N, all I know is they want the electric units taking over the diesels as fast as humanly possible and this means in the not too distant future say by the end of 2014 they will out number the diesels (as they start withdrawing those units) and then fully replace them all quickly thereafter. Similarly they want to implement far more frequent timetables with the new units and of course Britomart being the blind alley it is, is not going to manage the load.

            I believe the overhead wiring is supposed to be completed by 2015 at the absolute latest but I think it will probably be this year. At least with Len Browns early start it gives them some wriggle room to put every second or third train up the tunnel to a station that has been completed by then and then return. Not ideal but any flexibility helps.

            Brown is absolutely correct on this issue by the way and good on him although I see George Wood is starting to drag the chain which isn’t helpful to Auckland.

          • Martin W.

            Patrick, you might be right that in their programs Labour and Greens are committed, but that is not largely communicated. They identified other issues as more important and that is definitely a result of internal polls. I agree that Key has a problem there and National responded in an applicable way, not scaring potentially National voters in Auckland off but keep more than enough backdoors open to kill the project.

            For the nationwide support, maybe you got better numbers than I do, I could not find many though. I did a quick research: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/poll-result-should-govt-back-aucklands-city-rail-link-nk-p-142325. About 45% oppose that government should fund the CRL, thus about 55% nationwide support it. Considering that about a third of the country are Aucklanders and assuming equal readership of the NBR (what I believe is read by more urban population so probably even more Aucklanders) 33% in that poll would have about 65% support for the CRL (according to the Horizon poll 2012). So to get down to the 55% overall nationwide support, the rest are just around 50% or below. It would equate like this 55=(0.33*65)+(0.67*x) makes approx. x=50%. So not as dramatic as i might have written, but also not overwhelmingly supportive.

          • George D

            In reply to Martin W: Julie-Anne Genter released on this yesterday, but in her words it ‘didn’t get much pick up’. https://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/govt-leaves-auckland-waiting-train

            (https://twitter.com/JulieAnneGenter/status/432996314880561152)

            The news agenda only loosely resembles real-life, which is why Twitter is such a good medium – people are able to speak in their own words, unfiltered.

          • Martin W.

            Yes George, and that is exactly the problem, why Len Brown cannot put a lot of pressure with that move on the government, because simply it is not an over popular topic atm. The question is, can Labour or better the Greens, as it is one of their core ideologies, use the CRL as a strong argument to win more Auckland seats, probably most likely via the list seats.

          • conan

            “because simply it is not an over popular topic atm”

            Or ever, thoughtful discussion on important issues is not something you’d expect our main media to cover eh?

            This is front page news today in the Herald

            “http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11200293″

            The comments attached to their editorial yesterday showed the widespread lack of understanding around the CRL with their readers, and given their flaky coverage of it, that is no surprise.

  • Sanctuary

    The MO of this government is crony capitalism, where the right people are allowed to siphon of as much money from the public purse as they like. Why would they want to fund a PT project?

    The answer is they don’t. National has never had any intention of funding the CRL. They agreed to it’s contruction whilst not funding it as an act of supreme political cynicism, designed not to further PT in Auckland but to neuter the CRL as a damaging political issue for National until hopefully after the next election. They are buying time for their time in government to coincide with the election of a right wing mayor, who will can the CRL and give National’s core funders of the roading lobby and sprawl developers all they want with the blessing of of central government.

  • Jeff H

    General Election year so Len may as well push the case to all who’ll listen.

    As one of only six passengers arriving off a train to a crowded shopping mall on Waitangi Day I did wonder how much quantifiable ‘overwhelming support’ there is for rail beyond Council surveys.

    The Government rightly wants to see the numbers before if commits. People need to get out of their cars – put your HOP card where your mouth is – and start using what is already a very good system.

    AT could do a lot more to encourage the transformational change in habits – start with discounting weekend and off peak services to get the numbers up ahead of electrification.

    • I drove on the motorway on Waitangi Day, it was almost empty…

    • Greg N

      Considering it was a “Sunday Service” You’re lucky on two counts:

      1. There were trains turning up at all
      2. The network wasn’t shutdown as it was last weekend and the long weekend before that.

    • PS1

      Yep Agreed Jeff. And private business needs to see the benefit too and get behind it. I went to a holiday programme with my kids on Carlton Gore Rd and the woman said to me, The entrance is on carlton gore road, but if you go round the back our parking is right across from the new Grafton train station you can park in there. (i hadn’t asked about parking) And i said. “oh you’re next to the train station, well i could take the train. ” she was completely taken off guard. Imagine? The train – how fascinating?! What a quaint and charming idea. When my car is fixed in Greenlane and their were no courtesy cars i had to ask “Are we anywhere near a train station”, actually it’s one block over. Come on, businesses. Surely this is a benefit you should advertise in your literature and websites. Especially for a kids programme and for people dropping of their cars a clear advantage and a chance to convert some non-pt users.

      • JohnP

        Well in that lady’s defence she had probably never met anyone who used the trains before. As for recommending train use to customers for most people it might come across as daft as the old Maxx travel planner use to when it suggested I walk 3hr 16min to Ranui from the North Shore as one of my viable options. They seem to have got rid of that now.

        • The journey planner initially went crazy suggesting multiple connections, but some years ago they seemed to have switched the algorithm to avoid transfers entirely. It never tells me to take the feeder to the busway for a 27 min trip into town, but is happy to send me off on a 1h05m direct bus.

          That needs to change now Hop is deployed, or perhaps it already has with the new website.

      • I agree completely. Our office (law firm) is actually on top of the Britomart train station – it couldn’t be more convenient for trains or buses.

        NONE of our marketing material or information on our website or to clients even mentions the train station – only the valet parking that we subsidise and must cost us a fortune.

        I have only once had a client actually say they arrived by train. That was actually a farming couple from Clevedon who were in their 80s at least. They had driven to the train station and then taken the train in. The wife in particular loved it as she really liked coming into the city.

        I am a senior lawyer in the firm and the fact that I choose to cycle to work and sometimes go to client meetings by train/bus is viewed as the height of eccentricity. But I have seen senior partners in international law firms in cities like London and Prague take the Metro/tram to work or meetings all the time – Auckland really is stuck in a 1950s time warp when it comes to transport.

        Most NZers still think cars are what rich people drive (regardless of how inconvenient and stressful it may be) with all this status attached. Instead of just being one of the options on how to get somewhere. I see that as a very backward, developing world attitude.

        • I understand TV reporters are pretty bad. Even fit and healthy ones will drive less than 1km for a meeting within the CBD, even when their not lugging around gear

          • Greg N

            I suspect they think like fire-fighters do – they might be called out to a more urgent (“important”) story at any time so got to be prepared!

            My wife asked the same thing the other day about the Fire fighters doing hydrant checking along Shore Road – she asked why they send out fully clad fire-fighters with an engine just to check the hydrants work.

            I made the comment that I expect that they have to be ready to respond to a more urgent call (like an actual fire somehwere) so go out fully kitted with an engine “just in case” (something better/more exciting comes along).

          • PS1

            Don’t want to ruin the hair-do maybe.

        • Greg N

          I have a client in the same building as you, I usually catch the train from Newmarket to Britomart when ever I have a meeting there. Even if its first thing – I go to work then train from there.
          None of their material mentions the train station either.

          My colleagues look at me with the same suspicion when I tell them what I’m doing e.g. “take the train to XXXX?” with the subtext of “why bother when the company pays for me to drive there and park somewhere (not conveniently) close by”.

          They would agree that parking down there is a nightmare and that the walk to Newmarket train station is invariably shorter than their walk from the car-park building to the client at Britomart -after they drive there through traffic of course. The time saved by driving is minimal and the cost for parking alone is 10 times the train fare at least. But they only see the $$s “not earned” when not driving.
          I find the time on the train is good as give you time to prepare and time to review the meeting and prepare action plans in your head. I’m sure you find it the same.

          And in any case, time spend on the train is never wasted – better than being out the back having a quick fag like others I see doing around most offices these days.

          • I once turned up to a meeting with an accountant in a large firm at their office by Victoria Park by bicycle. It took about 5mins to get there, much faster than walking or taking a car.

            When I told the receptionist that I had parked in their garage but parked my bike (rather than a car) the look on her face was priceless. I think she actually started to press the panic button under the desk as she thought I was an escaped lunatic. Cycling in a suit! What next? Human sacrifice obviously. :-)

            To be fair – most other professionals under 35 who know I cycle/PT to our meetings think it is actually pretty cool and would like to do it themselves. I really believe one of the big things holding back PT/cycling for the inner city is all the free parking – it is like requiring someone to drive to work.

        • Patrick R

          Ben have you had a go at changing your firm’s communications to include other transport options? I have noticed a serious uplift in name checking stations and other modes in real estate ads over the last couple of years. And that used to never be the case….ch-ch-changes….

          • Yeah I should raise it and I will. But I am already considered the “hippy, greenie” of the office – not a good thing in the legal industry where nothing but money matters.

            If I rode a bike in lycra in the morning as a sport and then drove to work that would be OK – but actually commutting by bike – madness.

          • PS1

            We can also make the change as consumers by simply saying – Hi,is your business near the train? Do you validate hop cards or just car? or Oh you should advertise the train i had no idea you were so close”, or “Where can i park my bike?” or “I chose your law firm as it was so convenient to get to by train.” Council needs to use all it’s options too: they give away lots of money for community events and community groups, on their smarty grants website – they should have the question – will you be advertising public transport options for your activity/event?

          • Bryce P

            Imagine also a simple app to enable people to quickly find bike parking?

          • Greg N

            I suspect that they probably consider you a “temporary citizen/employee” so you’re seen as a liability not an asset.
            You could after all, get run over by a bus tomorrow and there where will they be?

            As I pointed out to my boss when he expressed reservations about me cycling to work last year.
            – I agreed that yes, I could get run over by bus, but I also pointed out that I could drop dead at my desk tomorrow from a heart attack
            – neither of which is a good outcome for me (or the company).

            On the whole I’d rather control my destiny either way so I choose cycling

          • Greg N – Ha, you may be right!

            Ironically all the partners ski, something that has recently been found to be more dangerous than cycling. Though of course no compulsory safety equipment for skiers (or horse riders – the other group more at risk than cyclists).

  • Does this cut and cover plan include future proofing Aotea for a Northern line across the harbour?

    • Luke C

      Yeh I have read somewhere that it has been designed with the intention for North Shore line to pass under the Aotea station tunnel box at Wellesley Street (?).

  • BD

    I really hope national doesn’t win a 4th term because they want to see the rail link to start by 2024 if we are lucky. This is only because the rail budget is swallowed up by Nationals state highway construction even despite fallung volumes. National hate public transport and that’s why they don’t want it built!

  • Jeremy

    It will probably be 3 months before Len Brown will get a response to a simple question.

  • JohnP

    Rail projects are really popular with voters provided they are not asked to pay for them. So the political trick is to be seen to be in favour in principle but against it actually going ahead any time soon. National has pulled that one off quite well. They have agreed to the project but oppose it starting while they are still in office- without actually saying that.

    • Greg N

      You mean, gasp, its an **aspirational** goal not a real one? Like income parity with Australia or Equal rights for Ex-Pat NZ’ers in Oz?

      All good ideas, but there is no actual intention of doing the hard yards to make it so?

  • Graeme

    From the NZ Herald today, “Mayor’s proposal to kick-start billion-dollar City Rail Link four years early fails to impress Prime Minister”
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11199627

    • Ross Clark

      Related to Graeme’s comment, I suspect that the MoT’s thinking is going as follows:

      * Britomart is currently about half full at the peak; it has capacity for 16,000 or so incoming passengers per peak (20tph * 400 pax/train * 2 hours).

      * If the Auckland CBD grew by 50 percent, to around 120,000 jobs, the various CFNs could cope with it, rail included, if at a pinch.

      * A extension to Aotea would allow two more platforms, so a little more capacity (based on my Wellington rail experience; two roads supporting 7 platforms allowing 5m or so peak passengers per year. (The other road at Wellington supports the two J’ville platforms). Past 120K jobs, the CRL would be essential.

      But: the CBD’s employment isn’t growing, as far as I can tell – and I’m not sure when it is going to start growing. Any views?

      • Well it is growing. MoT use a very small definition of the CBD, a slightly wider one, including the catchments of the CRL + Parnell stations and it’s grown at 4% not 2.1% the figure they use. 4% compounding makes for a 25% increase in the fifth year, so even if we started building today that target would be reached before the opens at that rate.

        Additionally vacancy rates in the CBD are reported today at an incredibly tight 1.6%. And this is the point: it’s about building the CRL so the next round of development can happen. 1. in an efficient order getting the disruption of the cut and cover section out the way early and enabling the Downtown site and tower to proceed directly and 2. so that the CRL will be functioning in a timely manner for the demand it will enable, not afterwards. Don’t we want to facilitate growth? Not stifle its opportunities to occur? Or would we really rather it was pushed out somewhere else, somewhere less efficient?

        And this programme is much less about providing two more platforms, it is not even clear if that’s the plan at all here, to open Aotea before the rest of the tunnel, but rather about sorting the disruption at street level so that development and streetlife can be facilitated above.

        But also central city recorded a 46.5% jump in residents in last’s year’s census. We are on another apartment boom, people are increasingly living and working in the city and living and working out of the city. Travelling against the flow. I was surprised at just how many people were with me on a outbound Britomart service <9am last week.

        The CRL has never been mainly about meeting current demand, it has always been about extending the reach of the whole systems through the richest concentrations of people in the entire country and 'busting through the terminus', creating a Metro, not just making a higher capacity commuter network. It is about creating demand by radically improving the utility of the services that can use it; where those services go and how frequently and thereby unlocking the currently out of reach latent capacity on the existing rail network. This is a transformational project not an incremental one.

        I have spoken to the author of this MoT report previously and he just does not understand these characteristics of this project. Perhaps the only model they have for a rail system is the terminating Wellington one, but also it seems they have no concept that what they build shapes demand. They shape demand every day with their road projects but don't believe they are? Is that credible? Or maybe their models just can't handle transformative projects, too linear, and too filled with assumptions about driving preference for the kind of place Auckland used to be but is increasingly no more.

        Here is the line from the MoT doc that really gives away their lack of open mindedness towards the project. They are just terrified of it:

      • Luke C

        CRL isn’t just about capacity. It gives lots of extra capacity, but also hugely increases catchment, and slashes time of journeys from the West.
        If CRL was open now it would be successful.
        CRL about attracting lots more people onto rail, and then also driving development of land in the inner urban area. That is why it should be built now, rather than waiting another 11 years until it is open.

        • conan

          “slashes time of journeys from the West”

          Given the cost benefits of the Puhoi- Warkworth highway are mainly around time savings of 8mins per journey for 12,000 journeys a day, and a similar number use the Western Line each day and can expect much higher time travel savings, we must be looking at hundreds of millions of potential benefits here.

          • Sailor Boy

            And time saving averaging over 20 minutes at the city end and probably a few minutes due to frequency at the Western End.

  • Err pardonez moi but lets get the cart behind the horse. AC debt projections including the CRL are not even close to sustainable. Add to this the ratepayer funded burden of subsidies ad infinitem on a rail link that will benefit very few all adds up to a project that in financial terms should be is dead in the water (if wise councel prevails).

    • John Polkinghorne

      Good of you to mention financial sustainability, Larry. Perhaps you should have a look at our Congestion Free Network proposals… http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/10/21/how-the-cfn-fixes-councils-budget-problems/

    • Loraxus

      A project that benefits about 60% of the city’s population by providing them with either better public transport OR less competing cars on the roads if they still chose to drive, that and enables rail to the shore and to the airport on top of that – that you think “benefits very few”?

      Well, then we can simply scrap pretty much ALL projects across Auckland, because under that definition, preyty much nothing ever benefits us.

      • pete

        The 60% figure is a total farce, even if you live next to train station in Auckland, it is often totally useless because it does not go anywhere near where you need to go. Three lines does not make a London or Shanghai metro system. It’s a very basic start, but along way from finished, and will it ever have enough lines to be useful to 60% of the city population?

        • So you must be vehemently opposed to the Holiday Highway. That wont help any of our traffic problems in Auckland. In fact it will only increase them as more people decide to commute from further out. Sprawl and road widening have never made transport systems work better.

          Also, you are looking at the CRL as only something that will help the current Auckland wokr better. But this is a transformational project, just like the motorways were in the 1950s. The CRL will change the way Auckland works as more and more retail, employment and housing cluster around train stations. This is what has happened in other cities.

        • The rail network, plus the busways, would be just four lines on the region wide transit system as outlined in the Regional Piblic Transport Plan, albeit very high capacity, fast and direct radial routes. You don’t need to live next to a train station to use rail for part of your journey, same way you don’t have to live next door to a motorway on ramp to drive on the motorway. So yes with about 45 main lines planned by AT we will have enough for it to work.

          People in London and Shanghai don’t simply use one metro line, they connect around all manner of transit lines, of which the metros tend to do the heavy lifting. More people in London catch a bus to the tube station than walk. We can do the same here. There are actually quite suburbs in Auckland that are more than ten minutes bus trip from a rail or busway station, and with something like the CFN it would be more or less zero.

          And really, does not go anywhere you need to go? It may not go *everywhere* but it would shure go to a heap of useful places: downtown, midtown, k Rd, Newton, Grafton/hospital/domain, Newmarket, Parnell, Ellerslie, Henderson, New Lynn, Mt Albert and Unitec, Manukau and MIT, Papatoetoe, Papakura, Onehunga, Middlemore hospita, university of Auckland, AUT, Silvia Park, Panmure etc etc.

          • Sailor Boy

            You can add the AUT Northern Campus to that list, as well as the Smales Farm Office Park, and Albany; rapid transit rather than rail.

    • Larry: Au contraire, we can’t afford not to. The other option is to spend like sailors [as we are now] on more and bigger roads that just fill up uselessly with vehicles going nowhere. Investing in the missing complementary transit and active networks is the more fiscally conservative option, see:

      http://transportblog.co.nz/2014/01/23/affording-the-cfn-each-and-every-year/

  • Greg N

    And so it begins….
    More commercial pressure mounts on Key from the big end of town:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11200722

    A new tower near Aotea station on a vacant site – and another hundreds of millions more reasons to start CRL to Aotea sooner.

  • robin johnson

    I have always been sceptical about the need for a rail loop and the latest proposal to build the stage to Aotea station makes me more convinced than ever that terminating the line at that station makes more sense than constructing the loop.
    There seems to be a perception that dead ending a line means severely reduced capacity –the Hong Kong east rail system (like Auckland formerly a freight and passenger mixed system) runs at three minute intervals using only four platforms so once we get new signalling systems and electrification Auckland should be aiming for that sort of frequency with perhaps 6 minutes on the leg to Aotea. (Hong Kong has two platform dead ends that work fine.)
    Thirdly Auckland should look at simplifying the system – Onehunga trains should be a shuttle service to the southern line with ideally cross platform transfers.
    Auckland could also look to cut costs by changing the seat / standing ratio (Hong Kong is about 15% seated)

    • The Auckland Rail network is very different from the Hong Kong east line. For starters the Hong Kong East line is effectively a single line terminating at a single station. Yes you can get decent frequency with that but in Auckland we have to split that frequency up across the 3.5 different lines we have. That means we will never be able to have more than 10 minute frequencies on the Southern, Eastern and Western lines. That also does nothing to improve travel times for those out west or for those from the other lines wanting to go anywhere but around Britomart. Further no new lines would be able to be constructed due to the capacity constraints so no line to the airport or the North Shore.

    • Robin, simple is good when it means efficient, but not if it means suboptimal. And as it is now rail network is suboptimal because it offers so much more capacity than we can currently access, it is just too limited in its reach.

      The most valuable feature of the CRL is the connection of the existing 2.5 lines together to from a Metro with through routing instead of terminating services. In fact with the CRL at its core our CFN system is extremely clear and simple, instantly legible, and enabling frequencies that mean no need to consult a timetable. Simple in the best possible sense.

      Auckland is heading for a great Rapid Transit system at its heart; and this will be transformational for the economic performance as well as the liveability of the city.

  • TheBigWheel

    Try this.. if we had the CRL now, would anyone seriosuly consider closing it for a one-off $ 2.86 bn?

  • Holiday Highway NOT!. Northland’s economic well-being is hanging on it. Wellsford will become the consoldating railhead and roadway pivot point for Northland/Auckland logistics. And please address the subject …instead of just resorting to infantile “so there” argument.

    Face it … The CSL woofs, scratches and poops like a … (fill in space). That makes it a … (fill in space).

    • Dearest Larry, the Holiday Highway is in the Auckland countryside, it will do little or nothing for Northland, you want to invest in Northland’s infrastructure to improve that place’s viability then that money would be far better spent on actual links actually in Northland. This is just for blasting up from AK to Omaha. Have a read here: http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/09/03/can-these-rons-make-a-right/ And in many other posts on this site.

      Not sure what a CSL is, but are you clear about who is being ‘infantile’?

      • OK Patrick try this then. SH1 Traffic counts particularly at weekends, dangerous sections (Schedwys, Pohuehue, Dome and the Warkworth intersections),plus Northland logistics all add up to nothing to do with “holidays”.

        Its a done deal anyhoo … so stop all the crying in your claret.

        Make that … the CRL OK?

        • Yes that road is dangerous, and with the HH it will still be dangerous and killing its users [locals mainly]. Without the huge diversion of resources of the HH the dangerous sections would be fixed by now [as planned] and Warkworth bypassed. Furthermore, the old road will be handed over to Auckland Transport from NZTA once the later has its new toy to play with and funding for any work on it will evaporate and become a burden for Auckland ratepayers. Duplicating highways comes with many hidden costs especially where completely unnecessary.

          The traffic counts are laughable; any number of arterials in Auckland have way high counts; this is a project without any basis in fact and we will keep pointing this out.

        • Luke C

          Schedwys was programmed by NZTA to be bypassed about now. However because of motorway that was scrapped, so that dangerous section will exist until at least 2020, and then half the traffic will still use old highway anyway.

      • pete

        It has 100% to do with Northland and the Auckland port

        Not many Aucklanders actually like Omaha anyway, It is mostly a retirement place, not a holiday place. Aucklanders go to the Coromandel area

    • pete

      They could just bypass SH1 through the small towns along the way to Whangarei, and then double track the train, but with the tunnels etc, that will be a couple of billion too! Either way the sooner the Auckland port can shut down the better

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