Britomart’s new entrance now underway

If you’ve been though Britomart in recent days, you’ll have noticed the rear entrance has been closed off. This is related to the works on the CRL kicking up a gear as AT build a new entrance to the station while the CPO is closed for strengthening so tunnels can be built under it, something we talked about a few weeks ago.

Britomart Temporary Entrance

Here’s AT’s recent press release about it.

Commuters using Britomart Transport Centre will notice a few changes from this Sunday (24 July) as the City Rail Link takes another step forward.

After years of planning, the first phase of work will begin at Britomart next week with the closure of the Commerce Street entrance for six months. The station will stay open and will be accessible from Tyler, Galway and Lower Queen Street, as well as the eastern entrance at Takutai Square.

A new entrance facility will be built in Commerce Street to replicate the facilities in the historic Chief Post Office (CPO) building which will be closed early next year to allow the CRL tunnels to be built beneath.

CRL project director Chris Meale says it’s an exciting next step for the project with construction on two fronts; Britomart and Albert Street, making the project very real for Aucklanders. “We’re beginning construction on the busiest public transport centre in New Zealand which will continue to function throughout the work.”

Hoardings will be in place throughout construction with wayfinding and signage to guide commuters to the nearest entrance/exit. During this phase, bus shelters and the drop off/pickup area will be removed with alternative drop off and mobility parking on Galway Street. Two delivery and service vehicle spaces will also be available on Tyler Street.

Dale Burtenshaw, Project Director for the constructors leading the Britomart construction says: “It is fantastic that Downer Soletanche Bachy JV can now start the works with Auckland Transport for the first construction package to the City Rail Link. Given our history with the Chief Post Office and construction of the Britomart Transport Centre, we are excited to work together to on this very important project.”

The temporary station entrance will be completed in early 2017 and will house the ticketing office, retail units and will function as the main entrance to the station. Phase two will begin once the temporary station entrance is complete and is expected to finish in 2020.

And here’s a shot of the inside

Britomart Temporary Entrance inside

While on the topic of the CRL, if you’ve been past Britomart recently it’s hard to miss that heavy construction work is well underway in QE2 Square with piling work going on. I had a meeting in the HSBC building yesterday evening so took the opportunity for a quick photo before showing the work.

2016-07-26 - QE2 Square CRL Construction

While James replied to a tweet about it with this image showing work going on and a sizeable hole at Victoria St to deal with services before the actual tunnel can be constructed.

 

June-2016 Patronage

When it comes to public transport patronage, June is always important as it represents the end of the financial year and so also gives up the official annual results for the year. The June results are now available and the result was fairly similar to what we’ve been seeing for a few months now, continued strong growth on the rail network, decent growth on the ferries but with bus numbers relatively stagnant, even after some fairly great growth on the busway services.

All up patronage grew by 4.6% to 82.9 million and I’ve heard that only one other region in NZ experienced growth over the 2015/16 year, which I assume to be Wellington based on the numbers up to May. That’s the highest patronage has been since 1956 – although we obviously had a much lower population then.

1920-2016 Auckland Patronage

The breakdown of the June results is shown below. A couple of things that stand out in particular include:

  • The busway continues to show great growth, good thing we have all of those double deckers on it but perhaps more will be needed soon.
  • Other buses are performing poorly, some more details of which are below.
  • Rail is still performing strongly and the western line is clearly benefiting from the increased peak frequency.

2016-06 - Patronage Table

For a bit more detail, here are some comments from AT’s business paper on the results

Bus 

Bus patronage has grown by a modest +0.7% which is contrary to the general downward trends experienced across New Zealand where Auckland is only one of two systems (18 in total) that have experienced growth. The comparison found after allowing for population changes, the total New Zealand boardings /capita in 2015 declined by 3.2%. This may be compared with increases in 2013 (+1.0%) and in 2014 (+0.4%). The main reasons cited for the 3.2% decline include a real reduction in fuel prices impacting boardings by (-1.5%) and car ownership increase as a result of real price reduction in cars of (-0.8% reduction in boardings). Specifically in Auckland fare elasticity on a single service resulted in (-1.1%) reduction in boardings. In addition there were some unique events affecting Auckland, including disruptions as a result of CRL works and a bus strike earlier in the financial year

2016-06 - Bus Patronage

Rail

Train services totalled 16.8 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +20.6% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 1.5 million, an increase of +17.3% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 15.5% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Rail patronage during FY16 has continued to grow in line with extra capacity provided by way of a homogenous EMU fleet, improving passenger comfort, punctuality and reliability. An increase in western line peak frequency in May 2016 with timetable improvements in February 2017 should see continued growth in this mode.

2016-06 - Rail Patronage

Ferry

Ferry services totalled 5.9 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +6.2% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 0.41 million, an increase of +9.6% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 9.6% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Ferry patronage growth of +6.2% has been strong, with Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Pine Harbour showing strong growth in line with increased residential development in these areas. Additional sailings by two competing companies on the Waiheke route also saw strong growth both in terms of service trips and patronage. Continued expansion of capacity and further development in these areas

2016-06 - Ferry Patronage

It will be a few months before we see any results but it is going to be fascinating to see just what impact the introduction of Simplified Fares will have on the numbers. Also likely to be having an impact soon will be the introduction of the New Network to South Auckland, due on 30 October.

The recent changes to SuperGold is likely driving some of the changes with HOP usage, as of the end of June AT say 78.2% of all trips used HOP while I understand some days are now seeing well over 80% HOP usage which puts it on par with systems like Brisbane which has had integrated ticketing and fares for about a decade.

2016-06 - HOP Uptake

One area AT have been doing particularly well on has been farebox recovery which has now stormed above 51% to the end of May (it is always two months behind). This is a great result considering that the NZTA require AT to reach a 50% farebox recovery by the end of June 2018, so the recent results should have given them a bit of breathing space. One of the biggest factors has been the significant improvement in the rail result thanks to electrification lowering costs and encouraging more people to use the system. In the coming year a number of things will be impacting this including:

  • Simplified Fares which will see a lot of trips get cheaper, the question is just how much impact it will have, perhaps it will drive enough additional people to use the system to offset some of the costs.
  • The New Network in South Auckland which will considerably improve services while seeing AT also save around $3 million a year in costs.
  • Additional rail service improvements, likely to come early next year should see better off peak and weekend services to tie in with the new network.

2016-06 - Farebox

With a lot of the improvements on the way it’s going to be another interesting year ahead.

 

Auckland PT fares to get a whole lot better

The next revolution of public transport in Auckland now has a date, August 14. That’s the day that the city will finally shed its clumsy and expensive fare system with Auckland Transport finally implementing what they call Simplified Fares, also known as integrated fares, which will be smarter and in many cases cheaper.

Currently Auckland has a stage based system where you pay for every bus, train you use based on how many stages you pass, with only a small transfer discount for those that use multiple services. With Simplified Fares it will shift to paying one fare for your total trip based on how many zones you travel within and that includes using up to five services to get to your destination over a four-hour period. Even better is the cost for most trips is set to get significantly cheaper for a lot of people thanks to the new fare structure.

The confirmed fare map is below and AT say this about it.

Zone overlap areas (grey coloured areas on the new fare zones map) at some zone boundaries allow for travelling to the edge of the zone borders without crossing into another zone.

The zone overlaps are much more defined than they were in the consultation which is good and there are a few new/bigger ones too, such as at Westgate and Otahuhu

Simplified Fares Map

And here is the fare table

With an AT HOP card, you will pay for one entire journey from A to B, instead of paying the fare on each bus or train separately.

During your journey:

  • You can use up to 5 buses or trains within 4 hours, just ensure you transfer between each trip within a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Tag on and off each bus and train as you do now and simply count the number of zones you travel through to find out your fare.

Simplified Fares - Fare Table

As mentioned for many fares will get cheaper or at least not get more expensive, in fact AT advised me that they calculated 99% of all trips taken will fall into that category which is great news. As an example of just how much cheaper this makes trips, here are a few personal examples. They don’t entirely reflect the costs I pay as I usually use a monthly pass simply due to how expensive it can be but that also makes it a good example.

I live not far from the Sturges Rd train station and travel to Takapuna. This usually involves me catching a train to town and since the bus changes for the CRL transferring to up to two buses, a Northern Express to get me to the Victoria St bus stop where I transfer again to a bus going direct to Takapuna (as an alternative I sometimes catch the NEX to Akoranga and transfer to a local bus or walk). If I was to use normal HOP fares that would be:

  • 5-stage train to Britomart = $6.00
  • 1-stage bus to Victoria Park = $1.30 ($1.80-50c transfer discount) – I could reduce this to $0 if I used the City Link or walked up to Wellesley St but both are less convenient.
  • 2-stage bus to Takapuna = $2.60 ($3.10-50c transfer discount)
  • Total = $9.90

Instead with Simplified Fares I would pay for 4-zones, Waitakere, Isthmus, City and Lower North Shore and all up that would be $6.00. That’s a saving of $3.90. Even if I was just going to the city, for 3-zones I would be paying $4.90, a saving of $1.10 over the current HOP price.

If you don’t use HOP – why wouldn’t you and now over 80% of trips are by HOP – cash fares are changing too. The fares have been rounded to a dollar amount which should help make it easier for drivers needing to give change. See AT’s website for those details.

In addition to the zonal fares, AT have introduced a new child weekend fare which looks good with a maximum trip cost of 99c for using HOP with a child concession.

A new AT HOP child weekend fare will be the most you pay for weekend and public holiday bus and train journeys when paying with an AT HOP card with a child concession applied (excluding SkyBus services).

You can take up to 5 bus or train trips over a 4 hour period with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip and pay a maximum 1 zone fare (99 cents from 14 August 2016) regardless of how many zones you cross.

Like the monthly pass, AT are also moving to a single Daily Pass which will cover all zones. It also comes with a price change and will be $18 as opposed to the two passes it replaces being $16 and $22. I can’t imagine too many would buy this. AT have said in the past, and reconfirmed to me recently that they want to eventually move to having daily and weekly fare caps which would solve this issue.

At this stage the new fares only cover buses and trains. I’m aware that AT plan to integrate ferries into the mix although that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fare parity. We’ll have to wait to hear more about this from AT.

Overall this is going to be great for Auckland and I can’t wait for it to be implemented.

An electric network, one year on

It seems like only yesterday and at the same time forever ago that Auckland finally rolled out electric trains across the region (except for Pukekohe). Yesterday marked one full year since electric trains rolled out to all lines. Electrification was the result of a strategy a decade in the making but the originated in dreams and discussion going back to at least the 1920’s.

Coming to the western line soon

Since going all electric the results have been fantastic and the constant increases in train use have been both impressive and staggering. In the last year alone patronage has gone up by 2.9 million trips and AT say that over the last 12 months just under 17 million trips have been made, an increase of over 20%. The sparks effect in action. The growth has been so strong that we’ve surpassed usage predictions originally set a decade earlier despite implementation occurring two years after initially planned. Those predictions expected us to hit about 15.7 million by the end of the June 2016 (rounded up to 16m). Instead we surpassed that mark in April and as of 30 June hit 16.8 million trips in one year.

2016-06 - Rail Patronage

Shortly after all services went electric, the final of the 57 trains we ordered arrived in the country but it definitely won’t be the last. With growth exceeding expectations and a lot more expected, even before the CRL is complete, we’ll soon need some more.

AT are also keen to having electric trains run all the way to Pukekohe but doing isn’t cheap and estimated at over $100 million just for the infrastructure. As such, AT have been working with supplier of the trains to investigate the option of battery powered versions. As I understand it they would be exactly the same trains as we have with about 10 fewer seats in the middle/trailer car which is where the four-tonne battery along with associated equipment would go. By being otherwise identical it means that in the future if we ever did install wires the batteries could be removed and the trains would be identical to what we already have. As the services would go all the way through to the city, buying a batch of them would then free up some of the current trains to add capacity to services. One of the biggest issues is that even if the government approved funding for the trains tomorrow they would take at least two years to get here.

Below are some figures from AT.

  • Patronage has risen by 2.9 million trips
  • Trains have travelled 3.8 million kilometres over the last year
  • There are now 158,000 rail services operated a year
  • The busiest time on the network is between 7.30 and 8 on weekday mornings
  • Britomart is the busiest station and at peak in the morning there are 6,500 passengers using the station an hour
  • Punctuality for services has improved from 82 to 96 percent – although some of that is due to lengthened timetables
  • For the year to April (the last data available at the time of writing), farebox recovery has increased from 30.4% to 37.7%. The cost per passenger km travelled has decreased 27% from $0.469 to $0.343.

But while there has been some great news as a result of the move to electrification, we still haven’t yet seen much in the way of speed improvements and the train timetables are slower today than they were with diesel trains. This has been due to a combination of factors including dwell times, line speeds, signalling issues etc. Last year Auckland Transport started working on a big list of initiatives to improve the trains including making them faster and more reliable. Some of those tasks have been completed and are contributing to the improved performance figures but others, such as improving dwell times remain a distant dream.

I understand the next timetable change, which is likely to be in February, will finally incorporate the benefits from some of the initiatives into improving performance. Whether that will include any changes to dwell times remains to be seen.

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 1 - Jun - Sep

Overall the improvements to rail services and the network have been considerable and very welcome. AT’s target for this year is for rail patronage to hit 19.5 million trips. With the growth we’re seeing and what can be expected in the next few years following integrated fares and the new network we should see that mark easily reached.

CRL Station Features

When going through the City Rail Link business case for yesterday’s post, I left out one aspect I thought readers might be quite interested in, details about the stations being added or upgraded as part of the project. They say

Station entrances have been designed to address the needs of each station in terms of function, performance and personality, as well as the needs of the particular urban context into which they are to be inserted. Effort has been made in placing and configuring the above-ground components of the station entries and other station components to maximise local benefits. This included consideration of:

  • potential for architectural treatments and materiality
  • scale, massing and form
  • activation of street frontages
  • preserving important heritage structures
  • transit oriented developments
  • potential to explore inclusion of Iwi cultural landscape and design themes.
Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

Aotea Station platform

On to the details about the stations themselves, this is laid out in the the table below

 

CRL Business Case - Station information

Britomart will get three additional escalators but also lose one entrance. With a reduction to four platforms post-CRL I’m guessing some of the new escalators could relate to improving access at the eastern end of the station. As for losing an entrance, AT have said the gateline will be moved from the platform level up to the CPO so this might suggest the entrance out the back of the CPO could close.

 

Aotea will have a lot of escalators including about four sets to/from the platform. It’s also good to see them stating that the station is future proofed for a future North Shore line – which would be under Wellesley St. The only concern is that the platform is quite narrow at only 9.6m for what will be the busiest station on the network but I guess the various escalators will help somewhat in moving people.

Aotea Station Design Exploded View

The Karangahape Rd station platforms are a little narrower but the station isn’t expected to be quite as busy. In the post yesterday I highlighted how they expect up to 34,000 during the AM peak. The report suggests about 20% of that will go to K Rd while Aotea and Britomart get around 40% each. As a rough guess that seems about the same width as some of stations in other parts of the network. It’s worth pointing out that side platform aren’t really on the outside like other stations but more like two halves to an island platform with cross passages  directly between them.

Of course it’s a shame that they’re not building the Beresford St entrance as that would make the station more useful.

Karangahape Station Platform View

Karangahape Station Platform

If you’re interested in how the stations will be built, the info below gives some idea.

Aotea Station

Construction for Aotea Station will be staged so that only one of Victoria Street, Wellesley Street and Custom Street West is closed at any one time. As Aotea Station is on the critical path, early enabling works to divert the stormwater culvert in Albert Street are planned to reduce the overall construction programme.

Components of the Station construction include:

  • southern construction yard and shaft
  • Wellesley Street West intersection structural works covering relocation of the street furniture and utilities, constructing the roof slab and reinstating the Albert Street/Wellesley Street intersection for public use, constructing the station box to platform level, the structures for the station entrance, ventilation, and mechanical and electrical equipment. The base slab at platform level will be designed to span the tunnel works for the future North Shore Line. This section of the station is on the critical path as it must be completed to receive the TBM from the first tunnel bore.
  • Victoria Street intersection structural works covering the street furniture, utilities relocation, constructing the roof slab and reinstating the Albert Street/Victoria Street intersection for public use, construction of the station box to platform level from the adjacent section and the structures for thestation escape passage and entrance
  • Durham Street intersection structural works including carefully removing the heritage bluestone wall (for reinstatement on completion), construction of the roof slab and reinstatement of the Albert Street/ Durham Street intersection for public use, and construction of the station box to platform level. This section of Aotea Station is on the critical path, as it must be completed before the rail track installation works can proceed to Britomart Station.

After completion of the tunnelling and structural works, the station will be accessible for fit-out.

Karangahape Station

The construction sequence for Karangahape station needs site preparation, service protection/diversion, and demolition of existing buildings followed by construction of the main entrance shafts, excavation of the sloped entrance escalator shafts, and construction of the permanent works after the mined tunnels have been completed. The Mercury Lane shaft must be completed before the down main TBM reaches this location. After completion of the tunnelling and structural works, the stations will be accessible for fit-out.

The Full CRL Business Case

Back in April Auckland Transport released a summary of a business case they’d produced for internal use to help with their planning and procurement for the project. The new business case took into account all of the changes to the project that have been made over the years as well as AT’s improved understanding of the project and other changes within Auckland. The business case found the project has a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.6-1.7 thanks to $2.96 – $3.2 billion in benefits coming from the project.

CRL Benefits graphic

Last week the herald triumphantly announced that the cost of the CRL had blown out by a cool $500 million up to $3 billion but as I wrote following that article, the actual cost was $2.5 billion +/-20%. So it could be that when tendered the project comes in lower than currently expected. The cost blowout was overblown. While looking at some details for that article, I found that Auckland Transport had actually published the full business case online (8MB), not just the summary like they had earlier.

While the summary was useful, the full business case contains a lot of information and so with this post I thought I’d have a look at some of it.

The first thing that I noticed is the report pulls a lot of history and previous reports together as part of explaining why the project so important. Perhaps one day I’ll do a post in more detail about this info but if not, I’m sure it will be a useful resource for students and studies in the future.

Construction

The diagram below can take a bit to understand but shows roughly where, when and how construction will take place across the entire project.

CRL Business Case - Construction Time Diagram

Related to construction, this comment caught my eye as part of talk of altering some designations (page 50).

Changes to provide for the relocation of ventilation equipment at Aotea Station to Kingston Street and the associated relocation of the Bluestone Wall (approximately 3m to east)

I’m guessing in part this is about providing better footpaths along this part of Albert St.

This diagram shows the cross section for the bored tunnels. They say it needs an indicative internal tunnel diameter of 6.24m.

CRL Business Case - Tunnel Diameter

CRL Capacity

The report gives an indication as to the capacity the rail network will have once the CRL is built.

Once the principal constraint has been addressed, with the CRL turning Britomart into a through station, it will be possible to run up to 24 services per hour, each way, through the Link, with initial plans for 18 services per hour in the peaks. Ultimately, advanced systems and further investment might see that figure rise to 30 services per hour.

Currently Britomart is limited to 20 trains arriving per hour so we go from that to 36 an hour with the CRL initially and up to 24 in the future while we might eventually get up to 30 an hour. They say that whilst the actual operating plan will be confirmed closer to the opening date, the running pattern below is what they used for planning and modelling purposes.

Post CRL running pattern at start

They’ve say the planning is based modelled demand and capacity needed for each line. The western line is used as an example:

Figure 13 below shows as an example how train capacity was matched against predicted demand by decade by line, in this case the Western Line for 2023. The capacity line represents 6 tph x 3 car service starting from Swanson, 3 tph x 3 car service starting from Henderson and a 3 tph x 3 car peak overlay starting from Henderson. Similar analysis was carried out for other lines and decades.

and

Over time, as demand increases, as the fleet size is increased, an increasing number of trains can be lengthened to 6 car operation, and the span of operation of the peak overlay can increase from 1 hour to 3.

CRL Business Case - Western Line Demand and Capacity

This suggests the plans are to only run 3-car trains at the opening of the CRL. As covered later, I think they’re underestimating just how popular the CRL will be and given we already have 6tph, some of which are 6-cars in length, and on some services they’re getting full I think AT will need to revisit this. I’m also personally unhappy that despite the CRL there is no service improvement past Henderson (or at Manukau).

One last interesting comment on this, they say “until sufficient level crossings are addressed on the western line, a Henderson – Otahuhu service has no capacity to operate”.

Patronage Modelling

There has been a lot of modelling on patronage – although like most previous predictions we’ve seen I think they’re on the low side. The CRL will be transformational and change like that is hard to correctly predict when using models that are based on current habits.

The table below shows the current and predicted AM peak trips to the city (CRL includes the three CBD stations).

CRL Business Case - AM Peak Rail Arrivals in City

It is expected that about 40% of that growth (green) comes from people otherwise using buses (but they may still use a bus to get to a station), the remainder is from new trips or those who would otherwise have driven. I’m a bit sceptical about just how much impact the CRL will have for buses as from memory Britomart was meant to decimate bus usage but it has grown too. Also the table below shows where patronage is expected to change. It seems unlikely that some of those routes will see any impact at all, for example on Richmond Rd.

CRL Business Case - Patronage Change

As part of the modelling, the future patronage projections were updated to reflect the surge in usage we’ve been seeing in the last few years – but only for the short term and so they decided to leave the long term predictions unchanged. They say that “it is clear that this is highly conservative” and my gut feeling is that after opening we’ll quickly see usage rise to hit 45 million rail trips a decade or more sooner than they suggest. The biggest limiting factor is likely to be that we won’t have enough trains due to the wrong modelling saying they aren’t needed yet.

CRL Business Case - Overall Rail Patronage

Development

The summary document talked about how just within the CRL footprint there was 4.9ha of developable land with a potential floor space of 210,000m² to 250,000m² and which has an estimated value of $1.2-$1.4 billion. The business case also looks wider development across the city enabled by the CRL. They say modelling suggests the CRL will increase the feasibility for new dwellings within rail station catchments by 41% from about 40,000 to around 57,000. It’s also worth noting that the Mt Eden figure excludes the land counted earlier as part of the CRL footprint.

CRL Business Case - Resi development feasibility by rail station

Economics

As mentioned the CRL has a BCR of 1.6-1.7 depending on the growth scenario and using the standard NZTA evaluation manual. That BCR stacks up even under higher discount rates and cost sensitivity testing.

CRL Business Case - BCRs

CRL Business Case - BCR range

For those economist types, the report breaks down all of the various components of the benefits that have been calculated.

Costs

The table below shows the capital costs of the CRL inflated to the expected dollars of the day.

CRL Business Case - CAPEX

This shows the costs by year

CRL Business Case - CAPEX by year

Operating costs are estimated at around $50m per annum when the project opens rising to nearly $80 million by 2046. As a comparison, last I saw we spend around $100 million on running trains in Auckland and the report suggests that due to the CRL providing shorter routes there will be savings on the running costs outside of the tunnel. The estimate that in the first year there will be around $20 million in additional fares from the CRL but that will also be related to the anaemic growth they expect.

CRL Business Case - OPEX

 

Overall I thought there was some fascinating additional information within the business case.

CRL Cost Blowout Overblown

On Saturday the Herald proclaimed that the cost of the City Rail Link had blown out by $500 million which came on the heels of Prime Minister John Key saying that the project will “almost certainly cost more than they thought

The cost of Auckland’s most expensive project – the $2.5 billion City Rail Link (CRL) – has jumped to more than $3b.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton says the project needs more money in the rail network that could easily take the “combined project cost” above $3b.

He understood that Prime Minister John Key was referring to additional investment in the rail network when he claimed last month the CRL will “almost certainly cost more than they thought”.

The article also quotes some unnamed sources, presumably from the government, claims extra work is needed for the CRL

A second source said that a “bit more rigour and discipline” since the Government had agreed to bring forward a business plan had identified work that should have been costed in the first place.

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

Of course it didn’t take long for the three councillors who have consistently opposed improvements to the city to jump on board and claim they predicted doom and gloom all along.

Confirmation by Auckland Transport that the cost of the City Rail Link will undoubtedly rise to over $3 billion does not surprise three Auckland councillors who recently wrote to the Auditor-General outlining their concerns about the project and urging the Office of the Auditor-General to ensure a close oversight. The trio now wonder what the ‘no go’ point is with the CRL.

It equally didn’t take long for Auckland Transport to (unusually) get in touch and tell me that the article was wrong and that they’d be making a formal complaint about it. They later provided me with the information David Warburton sent Orsman who seems to have confused and conflated a couple of issues.

Firstly, AT say the estimated price of the project remains $2.5 billion but the crucial aspect is that they say it has always been the centre of a range that could be +/- 20% – in other words they say it will cost between $2 billion and $3 billion depending on how tendering goes. It seems that Orsman and the herald have only taken the upper limit of this range to fit their narrative. They also say that “recent tenders for large civil works contracts in NZ have come in at 10% to 15% under the initial QS estimate“. They won’t actually give any examples of these projects though, saying their “pricing analysis is to assist in competitive indexing“. They also claim that the only people to benefit from claiming the prices have gone up are the those tendering for the work “creating an environment of high price expectation“. The CRL business case estimated the impact of the cost increasing by 20% and shows that even if that happens, the BCR drops from around 1.6 to 1.3, conversely if costs dropped by 20% the BCR rises to 1.9. This is shown below with the figures in 2015 $.

CRL Business Case - BCR range

Secondly, the CRL will unlock a lot of potential capacity across the entire rail network, that is after all the purpose of it. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing that’s needed and it was already known that over time other improvements are needed. This includes things such as signalling upgrades, removal of level crossings, additional cross overs, the third main south of Westfield and many other improvements. Many of these were detailed in this presentation Kiwirail gave to the council’s infrastructure committee last year. Not all of these other improvements are likely to be needed on day one of the CRL and many will be things that can progressively be done over the years following the completion of the CRL to increase capacity of the rail network to its full potential. It seems that deciding which of these projects should or shouldn’t as part of the costs of the CRL is still being decided. On this, Warburton said

My understanding is the PM was referring CRL as part of the wider rail investment and there will be additional investment in the network to optimize the CRL work. One can easily discuss this as a combined project cost over the life of the project being above $3b. It simply depends on scope, pricing and how projects are related to CRL. That’s not equivalent to what I understood you/your informant were implying.

KR - Infrastructure Committee - Spending Needed

Of course splitting up projects into smaller chunks, some of which are completed later is nothing new and it happens all the time in other areas. One such example is the Waterview Connection and the Western Ring Route. The Waterview Connection project only covers the extension of SH20 from Maioro Rd, the tunnels and the Waterview interchange and is costed at $1.4 billion. Not included in that is the cost widening (and raising) of the SH16 causeway to handle the traffic or any of the other projects along SH16 to cope with the expected traffic demand. Those projects bring the total to over $2.4 billion and if you include the other projects from recent years needed to complete the Western Ring Route, that raises the cost to $4 billion. The image below is something I put together a few years ago so some figures will be out of date.

WRR Costs

So it seems this news by the Herald is the result of a number of factors but the actual situation hasn’t actually changed. The cost remains $2.5 billion as it has been for some time and as there were before, there are a number of other rail upgrades that will be needed over time.

But I also think that AT really haven’t helped themselves in how they’ve handled this issue. Given just the political posturing they should have known this would have come up but especially so since the Prime Ministers comments. Instead they seem to have deemed it all a non-story and so have let it run with not much done to challenge it. The responses to the Herald suggest a lack of cohesive and clear messaging which only adds to the confusion. It is also very difficult to find much, if any useful information about the project on the on the AT website, most of what is there is useless fluff or out of date. AT would help themselves if they were more open about the project and if the website was more useful.

A deadline for PT improvement

Auckland is in the midst of the most transformational change to public transport the city has seen since the trams were ripped out in the 1950’s – and I’m not even talking about the City Rail Link. Much of the change is the result of strategies set a decade or more ago but which have only really started to be implemented in the last few years. Once complete they represent the laying of foundations upon which we can build public transport to a level Aucklanders expect and can start to be proud of and with this, projects like the CRL will never be as successful as they could be. The changes are both public facing and behind the scenes with some of the main ones being:

  • Integrated Ticketing
  • Integrated Fares
  • Rail network improvements
    • Double tracking the western line
    • Reopening the Onehunga Line
    • Building the Manukau line
    • Station upgrades
    • Electrification
  • New contracting model (PTOM)
  • New Bus Network

Some of these are already completed while others are due to start rolling out soon, for example integrated ticketing first started rolling out in 2011 while integrated fares are due to go live on 31 July. The results from the initiatives that have rolled out so far have been impressive. Overall, annual patronage in the last decade has increased by nearly 32 million trips a year from around 51 million in 2006 to nearly 83 million as of the end of May. Despite rapid population growth, per capita usage has increased by around 14 trips per person per year up to nearly 52 – although that is still low by international standards.

2016-05 - Total Patronage

The biggest aspect yet to be implemented is the new network with the first part in the South due to roll out in October. The West was tendered for recently and AT are currently evaluating the responses at the moment but the other parts of the network aren’t due to roll out till next year or even early 2018. The timings below come from AT’s latest Board Report.

Oct 2015: Hibiscus Coast bus service design implemented

Oct-2016: South bus service design implemented

May-2017: West bus service design implemented

Aug-2017 to Feb-18: North, Central and East bus service design implemented

Getting to the point of the post, I feel Auckland Transport need to impose upon themselves a deadline of around 14 months to get all of these changes implemented.

There are few reasons for this. First and foremost, the sooner we get the new network rolled out, the sooner we can start to reap the benefits from it but there’s now another reason too. Last week the government announced the date for the next census as Tuesday 06 March 2018.

The census is important as the results are used heavily in many analyses’ for projects and policies as it’s the only to get detailed journey and mode data across the entire (working) population. With Auckland in particular changing so rapidly, being able to show that through the census results is important. As one example, the last census in 2013 revealed that as a change in modal share, PT and active modes in Auckland were all improving and given the results we’ve seen I’d expect that to continue from the 2018 results.

modeshare-change-percent

The data has also been used to create interactive results like the commuter view, allowing you to click on an area unit and and see where people are coming from or going to for work.

Census Journey to Work - Auckland Central West and East

Maximising the outcome for PT and active modes represents a great opportunity for AT to show how the city is changing and it’s one I think they should be looking to take which is why I think they need to set a deadline to get as many PT improvements in place prior to that time.

But why only allow 14 months, that only takes us to about September 2017. The main reason for choosing that date is that it’s about 6 months prior to census day. Having everything implemented by then would therefore allow users to adjust and get used to the changes and new ones to start to take advantage of them. We know from overseas that these types network changes often result in an initial reduction in patronage but they achieve stronger growth over time as new users try the changes and adapt to them. Conversely, holding off changes till after the census is also not a great idea as it will mean the network isn’t operating as well as it should be and patronage growth wouldn’t be as strong as a result. AT need to find the goldilocks zone.

On top of just rolling out the new network by that point there are a couple of other things they need to have sorted by then.

The census takes place in March which we know is traditionally the busiest month of the year for the transport system. In the last few years we’ve seen repeated issues with buses being overcrowded resulting in people sometimes needing to wait for up to 12 to go past before one with enough space turns up. While the new network will address some of that, on top of setting that up they’ll need to be working with operators to have extra capacity provided during that time. Unfortunately given the lead in times it will be too late to do anything to get extra trains in so there are likely to be some busy trains by that point.

AT will also need to get moving on getting more physical infrastructure rolled out to support the new network, this includes upgraded bus lanes or other bus priority, improved stops and signage etc. In essence they need work on ensuring there are significant improvements to the customer experience.

For one more reason why it’s important, previously the census has only asked about journey to work which excluded a lot of trips, especially PT trips by students. Following consultation it’s appears quite likely that Stats NZ will add to the census a question about journey to education which should give a much more relevant picture of transport use.

What do you think, is it time for AT to put some harder deadlines in place in advance of the census?

A new entrance for Britomart on the way

If you’re anywhere near Britomart or Albert St it’s getting pretty hard to miss the works associated with the City Rail Link. The area has become a hive of activity and orange barriers as works ramp up towards actually digging the tunnel – the works on Albert St are associated with moving services before the tunnel can be built and will be for the next year or so.

One change that will be starting later this month is the construction of new entrance to Britomart on top of little carpark out the back. This is needed while work goes on to underpin the old Chief Post Office and dig the tunnels through it. AT say it will take about six months to build and will open for use in early 2017. Here’s an image of what the temporary entrance expected to look like.

Britomart Temporary Entrance

For people heading west of Britomart, like those transferring between trains and the Northern Express, this is going to be a little bit of added frustration for a few years but is obviously one of those necessary evils while we build such an important project. Here’s an older image that AT provided us some time ago.

3D view of temporary Briotmart station CRL2

One concern I do have with it is just how that footpath looks. The front of the building appears to line with the ventilation stacks either side and they don’t leave enough space for the thousands of people per hour that enter and exit the building during the peaks. It does appear that there might be some entrances on the sides to help spread the passenger volumes which will be crucial.

Once this part of the CRL is finished the main entrance will return old Chief Post Office and out to a redeveloped and QE2 Square.

Britomart Station QE2 Square

 

While on the CRL it’s also worth mentioning this article the other day in the herald with the three councillors who have consistently opposed and tried to stop the project giving it another go following comments from John Key that he thinks the costs will go up.

Auckland councillors want the Auditor-General to investigate the -City Rail Link’s billion-dollar costs with the Government and Auckland Transport admitting the original $2.5 billion estimate is almost certain to change.

A letter co-signed by councillors Cameron Brewer, Dick Quax and George Wood has been filed with Auditor-General Lyn Provost, requesting independent scrutiny of the country’s most expensive infrastructure project and what they say are “a number of red flags” for Auckland ratepayers.

Concerned that work on the huge underground project has begun before the final cost and agreement on how the bill will be split between ratepayers and Government have been finalised, the council trio have also cited Prime Minister John Key’s claim that the CRL will “almost certainly cost more than they thought”.

I asked AT if there was anything indications of the impacts. They provided me with the responses they also provided the herald and while they don’t give any particular detail away, they do hint at a few things.

From the answers they confirm the project is still currently expected to cost $2.53 billion and that hasn’t increased but the do say “it is almost certain to change because the design detail has yet to be completed”. That reads to me that any number of changes could happen, perhaps and in some situations the prices could also come down. While they won’t give any more details on the cost out yet, they do say it isn’t going to double like some of its opponents have been claiming, saying they were “surprised by this assumption”.

As for the Auditor General (AG), the only reason she’s been involved in the past is that the council wanted to include in their long term plan an earlier start date along with and assumption around the government’s share would eventually be approved. At the moment the government and council are meant to be deciding who pays for which parts but my guess is it will end up close to 50/50.

As I’ve said in the past, it would be nice if some other projects were subject to the same scrutiny as the CRL has by officials *looking at you East-West Link*

 

May-16 Patronage

The public transport results for May are now available and once again there are some very impressive results on the Rapid Transit network with busway and rail network combined up 25% compared to May last year – although an extra business day in the month helped too. Ferries have also continued a good run with the only disappointment continuing to be buses (other than those on the busway) which were only up 0.1% and would’ve been down were it not for the extra day.

2016-05 - Patronage Table

During May Auckland Transport finally increased the peak frequency on the Western Line and early indications are promising. It will be good to see how things go over the coming months. Also important is AT say that punctuality remains high which is good as one of the fears I’d heard was that the additional services would make the network less reliable.

It turns out that May now holds the record for the highest single month for rail after eclipsing even the March result thanks to the impact of Easter. March is shown with the orange bars. That’s seen the 12 month rolling result now surpasses 16.5 million.

2016-05 - Rail monthly Patronage

While the new trains and service improvements have undoubtedly played a key role in the improvements, so too have punctuality and reliability. We now start to regularly see more than 95% of trains arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which is up dramatically from about 74% about a year ago. From memory, prior to electrification we peaked at just over 90% – but then the current timetable has been padded out in part to deal with the terribly slow dwell times we currently have.

That stellar rise in rail usage has also seen another milestone eclipsed. Now 20% of all public transport trips are by train which is up from just 5% when Britomart opened and with the speed that usage of trains is increasing, that figure could hit 25% before the City Rail Link even opens. The busway currently accounts for around 5% of all trips. To me that’s important as it highlights that rapid transit is doing an increasing share of the heavy lifting – and we’d expect that given the investment.

As I’ve liked to highlight in recent months, the farebox recovery results continue to improve. These results are always an extra month behind with the latest results being to the end of April, so on the rail network we might see a bit of a reversal once the impact of the extra western line services is felt. Still it’s worth celebrating that farebox recovery has passed the NZTA’s 2018 target of 50% and is the highest it’s been in more than a decade. It really shows just how important it has been to have electrification to simultaneously drive up patronage and reduce operational costs.

2016-05 - Farebox

I was concerned at the results last month that HOP use was a little stagnant. I spoke a little too soon as May has recorded the highest result yet. In the business report, AT say that HOP use has risen and on 23 May it passed 85% for the first time. With all of the SuperGold card holders now having swapped or hopefully in the process of swapping to HOP, that result is likely to go higher still. As AT point out, the results are similar to Brisbane and South Australia who have had similar systems for much longer

South Queensland Go Card has 86% trip penetration after 10 years and the Adelaide Metro Card 87% after 4 years.

2016-05 - HOP Uptake

While talking about HOP, the business paper also says this. As yet I’ve had no indication of what this new monthly pass is.

Development of a product transition plan will result in the new monthly pass being marketed in June 2016 for 1 July 2016 launch. A discounted introduction price will be available during July.

Hopefully we’ll find out soon.