Last week we had two important announcements with the Government finally confirming they’ll pay for half of the City Rail Link (CRL) and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) finally seeing the council and government aligned on the future of transport in Auckland, including agreeing on the need in the future for a number of big PT investments. Also last week I was looking on Auckland Transport’s website and came across a lot of new images and drawings, one of which I used in the CRL post.
These three things got me thinking about one of the big disappointments about the CRL, the decision to not build the Beresford Square entrance for the K Rd station, having only an entrance at Mercury Lane. It originally seemed to stem from AT value engineering the station to try and cut costs but in the process engineering out much of the value – to the point that at one time there were rumors they were looking to not build the station at all. After the decision to go only with Mercury Lane, AT released a board paper in which they claimed:
- It would save $30-40 million – a tiny amount compared to the overall cost of the project.
- A single entrance would be enough to cope with the demand out to 2046 – but given how frequently transport models are wrong, this seems completely bogus.
- They only ever intended to build one entrance at first – despite having always shown the station as having two entrances prior to this point.
- It would be more difficult to dig the Mercury Lane entrance later compared to the Beresford Square one and the Mercury Lane entrance had more future development potential.
That last point is what I want to focus on because as the technical images show, they’re actually doing most of the work needed for the entrance but then leaving off the useful bit. The extent of the works is shown in some of the images below and on others on the AT website. As you can see the plans show an approximately seven storey building to be built under Pitt St to service the CRL but it skips the planned connection to the central concourse area and also across to Beresford Square. Here is the longitudinal section
This version shows the cross section.
With the government now on board with the project and obviously wanting it to be as successful as possible, it’s time to stop the penny pinching and build the station properly, especially as it will undoubtedly be much harder and more complex to build the connections at a later date.
As a reminder, this is what the entrance may look like if built.
Moving on to ATAP, while some were disappointed by more PT projects not being prioritised sooner, one of the key outcomes is the government has signed up to Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network (RTN) including new busways and their new favorite term ‘mass transit’. ATAP lists a ‘mass transit upgrade’ to the busway in the 3rd decade but at this stage we don’t even know what mode it might be or where it might go. Depending on the mode chosen, some options could see a line from the North Shore built under Wellesley St to connect perpendicularly to the Aotea Station the and then possibly travel elsewhere.
In the past Auckland Transport have said that they’re designing the Aotea Station for just this possibility, once such example is this from the CRL resource consent hearings where AT’s expert said this:
The Aotea Station concept design has been future proofed for potential platform level interchange between CRL and the potential North Shore Line (see table 1-2 of the CDR) by identifying space within the station box for the provision of two heavy duty metro style escalators and one 26 person lift, connecting passageways and additional structural works that would provide this connection.
Yet in recent times I’ve been hearing suggestions that the value engineering has gone a bit overboard again and at this time it may make future plans more difficult. While I don’t expect a North Shore line to be built quickly, designing and building the Aotea station to enable that kind of change is the future just makes sense.
My take on both of these issues is challenged by Finance Minister Bill English though, One such example is a few days ago on Paul Henry’s show where he talked about funding the project. Most concerning was this part.
“The big number that’s come out should pour a bit of cold water on some of the other dreams that have been expressed about what might happen in Auckland, because this is a large contribution from everyone outside Auckland to a critical piece of infrastructure there,” Mr English told Paul Henry on Monday.
Because the Government has essentially written a blank cheque, with the final cost still a mystery, Mr English says it’ll be taking a big role in the decision-making process from here. This he expects will ensure it comes under budget.
“In recent years our large roading projects have actually come in a bit under budget.”
Traffic in Auckland has gotten progressively worse in the past decade. More than 40,000 new cars hit the road every year, and the average rush-hour journey from Papakura to the CBD has gone from 46 minutes in 2013 to 67 now.
“We’re getting a more realistic view of how to deal with congestion and the need for more roading projects in Auckland,” says Mr English.
“They might just have to pull back on some of the big ambitions for [the CRL].”
This suggests even more cost cutting is on the blocks and therefore more key features of the project shelved. In a addition English says he expects the project to come in under the government’s revised budget of $2.8-3.4 billion – yet Len still says it will cost $2.5 billion +/- 20%, This makes me wonder if the government have deliberately inflated the cost of the project so that they can later claim they saved money.
Perhaps I’m just reading into it a bit much, what do you think?
While looking at Auckland Transport’s website I found they’d uploaded a number of plans relating to the City Rail Link (the same place I saw the K Rd image from this morning’s post). One of the documents showed the plans for Albert St after the CRL has been completed. The image below shows the section between Victoria St and Wellesley St and highlights what I think is a major issue, the pedestrian environment.
As you can see the future NDG development like the existing Crowne Plaza next to it have large Porte Cochere’s sucking vehicles off the street potentially at speed and all in an area where there is likely to be a lot of pedestrians following the opening of the CRL. The NDG one is made worse by also being the access to the service lane that currently exists. It appears the pedestrians who are in the area might be restricted to some narrow footpaths.
It probably would have been better just to have required that both porte cochere’s be joined up and made into a lane with some activation between that and the street rather than what has been proposed.
If you can’t remember, this is what the NDG building is meant to look like
And here’s a close up of the vehicle entrance – although I guess the people who made the rendering weren’t so focused on the detail of things like the traffic direction
We haven’t heard anything about what’s happening on the NDG development so as much as I want to see that parking crater filled in, in some ways I hope it doesn’t go ahead and the next plan for the site can improve this situation.
Another milestone was reached on the City Rail Link (CRL) yesterday with the government and the council signing their first official agreement to work together and jointly fund the project. The Heads of Agreement (HoA) sets out how the two parties will work together to come up with a more detailed ‘sponsors’ agreement which is likely to be signed off next year. It also gives some broad details on how the council and government will fund and oversee the project. One good thing is that Auckland Transport now seem to be filming events like this so you can watch the announcement below
The good news on funding is that the government has agreed to pay for 50% of the cost of the CRL including the work already underway – although given Auckland contributes an estimated 36% to the economy it actually means Auckland picks up about 68% of the overall cost. There is a small caveat that the crown doesn’t have to fund any financing costs including interest that are incurred before July this year but I suspect that’s not going to be major in the grand scheme of things. Although it does sound like it means that cost of the hundreds million+ of property purchases for the project will be fully borne by Auckland rather than shared by both parties.
The outcome is far better than some feared which would have seen the government only pay for 50% of the remaining costs after the early works or as indicated in January, they might allow the project to proceed but only provide funding from 2020 onwards. Much was made in the media yesterday about the cost of the project with most reporting it had blown out to $3.4 billion but as is often the case in these situations it is a bit alarmist. The government has stated they think it will cost somewhere in the range of $2.8-3.4 billion and reflects more detailed design work that has taken place. Len Brown’s comments were to remind that the project cost of $2.5 billion was always +/-20%. The cost the government and council will ultimately target to pay is something that will be worked out as part of the more detailed sponsors agreement. Of course a lot will depend on how the tender contracts go.
Below is the project scope showing what is expected from the project – being the CRL and stations in the city plus a few other small upgrades elsewhere on the network.
To oversee the project, they will separate out the CRL team from Auckland Transport and form a company called City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL) which will manage and deliver the project. The HoA states the government will have a 51% shareholding in the company vs 49% for the council and is very clear to point out that it won’t be a council controlled organisation. That makes me wonder if there was some legal or governance reason for the shareholding split.
The structure also means that both parties will benefit from ‘opportunities arising from the project’. As we know both the Wellesley St and Mercury Lane entrances have been designed for buildings to be built above the station entrances so those are likely to be some of the currently unbudgeted opportunities.
The signing of the agreement took place on on Victoria St where a 18m deep hole is being dug so a small tunneling machine can be launched as part of the task of moving the services. The hole is currently 13m deep so still has a little way to go. The photo below is from EmergingAuckland and there are more in the galleries – plus of many other projects.
While on the topic of the CRL, I came across this image from Auckland Transport showing the layout of Karangahape Rd Station
And in another piece of CRL news, Auckland Transport announced yesterday that the Albert St tunnels contract had won a sustainability award
The City Rail Link (CRL) has been awarded a ‘Leading’ Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) Design rating by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), the highest possible achievement in the IS scheme.
The rating to Auckland Transport is for the design and construction planning (with Connectus) of Contract 2 – Albert Street tunnels and a stormwater diversion.
To award a rating, ISCA considers project performance across six themes: Management & Governance; Using Resources; Emissions, Pollution & Waste; Ecology; People & Place; and Innovation. The process the CRL has undertaken to engage and partner with Mana Whenua to embed cultural values into an industry recognised sustainability framework has been acknowledged as a ‘world first’ innovation.
The demolition of the Downtown Centre for the start of the CRL and the replacement of this 1960s structure by Precinct Properties’ Commercial Bay office and retail development is an important moment for Auckland on many levels.
Along with the obvious boon of the actual beginning of the CRL there is also something deeply symbolic here. The entire conception of the previous building was anti-urban, it was a suburban mall stuck right in the heart of the city. I have always been struck by the semiotics of this backwards invasion; instead of the usual order of things, where a smaller centre tries to present its developments as a new sophistication by reference to a bigger more glamorous centre, this whole building seemed to represent an inversion of this idea; determinedly aiming to be nothing more than a little bit of Lynn Mall in the city.
But then it comes from that peculiar age in the history of city making; the second half of the 20thC, when, uniquely, dispersal and edge took over from concentration and centre as the formula for commercial success. See here for a fascinatingly detailed history of this development by architect Malcolm Smith, it is clear from this that it was extremely hard in those times to make such a location work, the city centre had just lost its mojo. To see how this came to be so in what now is so obviously such a valuable location, it is important to understand the historical context in which this development took place. This is well summarised on Auckland’s Wikipedia page (source).
The relocation of industries to outlying suburbs became especially pronounced in the 1950s, partly due to incentives made by council planners to create industrial areas in Penrose and Rosebank Road (amongst others) and thus rid the inner city area of noise, pollution and heavy traffic. This was mirrored by the development of suburban shopping malls (the first being LynnMall in 1963)which enticed retailers to vacate the inner city as well. Attempts by the council to halt this pattern by constructing numerous public car parking buildings met with varying success. The rise of suburban supermarket and mall shopping that was created in places such as Pakuranga from 1965 onwards has been added to by the appearance of Big Box retailers in places such as Botany and the North Shore.
It really is a perfect example of this zeitgeist, from its introverted retail pattern [blank walls to the street; its formation it actually consumed a city street], car parking orientation [Downtown parking building and airbridge], clunky sub-modernist massing, right down to the hideous 70s baby-kaka colour scheme.
And now, it is my contention, its demise is also a perfect expression of the new zeitgeist; the return of the city. The inversion of the pattern in play at the time of its creation.
Which, as the name suggests, is simply a return to the timeless urban pattern of the preeminence of proximity and concentration: Where the centre is by definition the busiest and most valuable retail and commercial precinct. A pattern that would be recognisable to city inhabitants throughout all ages and nations, and is only worth emphasising here because everybody adult today has grown up under the opposite, and anomalous, pattern. So what is in fact abnormal and inverted in the long history of urban settlement is strangely conventional and may even seem natural.
This explains the confused incomprehension of people like Herald writer John Roughan, a deeply committed 20th Century dweller who just can’t get to grips with this return to the natural urban order of things this century in Auckland, with the city reshaping itself again on urban terms, building proper city kit like underground rail and the volume of pedestrians pushing out the car from city streets. As opposed to the suburban auto-privileging order he is comfortable with. This is the pattern of the mid-late 20th century in Auckland; the good old days of auto-dominated yet unpeopled city streets, a commuter city completely unlived in, and dead at nights and on weekends; everyone having fled to the haven of the suburbs. So he confuses the vibrancy of crowded city pavements and new construction with some sort of disorder:
Meanwhile, the heart of Auckland looks like a body in the first phase of drastic surgery. It lies stunned, wan, with opened wounds and heavy bandaging.
Whereas to city lovers the scale and ubiquity of construction currently underway in the city is exhilarating and full of promise*. Auckland now has something of the energy of early 20th century North American cities; alive with commerce, construction, and crowds. Rather than the plodding predictability of the old provincial town that Roughan seems to be yearning for.
This kind of confusion and conflict is to be expected in times of significant change that it is clear that Auckland and many other cities are experiencing now. The bewilderment and anger of some older people at the [largely misunderstood] Unitary Plan is another sign of this: people tend to react fearfully when much of what they always assumed would be permanent and unchallenged starts to melt away. Views formed decades ago can calcify and to see their concrete expression demolished can provoke emotional reaction.
So we can expect more lashing out and confused editorials by those unable or unwilling to move with the times, because I am pretty certain this is a powerful and irresistible trend, as shown by the scale of work, over $10 billion of new construction underway or about to be in Auckland City along the CRL route. As powerful in fact as the last time our city conformed to international trends and profoundly altered its form and movement systems: yup that’s right, when we went all in for motorways, suburban living, and dispersed shopping malls.
Auckland Star April 1973
We are just changing horses again, and this time back to a normal urban pattern based on a hierarchy of concentration, but as with all evolutions or even revolutions, they still take place in the context of what went before. So Roughan’s sacred suburbia, with its rituals of weekend car washing, lawn mowing, and BBQs, will still exist, and in fact can still be the enveloping context for many people’s entire Auckland experience if they so desire. The wheel turns, but also rolls forward, building on the old, as well as replacing it. Just as buildings of earlier phases of Auckland’s history, particularly from its most urban period in the first half of the 20th Century, can (thankfully) still be seen in these photographs, so will the monuments of the second half of last century persist, the motorways, the malls, the parking buildings, the stubby towers, but the new emphasis is increasingly now elsewhere.
Only I would contend that this time we are being much less destructive than before; we are not dismantling the motorway system, or even running it down, although we will stop adding to it; importantly this is unlike what happened to the tram network and passenger rail during the motorway/sprawl era.
This change may be a shock to people like Roughan, but it really is more evolutionary than revolutionary, additional not substitutive.
All palaces are temporary.
*= which isn’t to say that every change is ideal, see here for a critique of the public space issues at Commercial Bay: Are we getting the Public Space…
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.
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
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.
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.
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 platform
On to the details about the stations themselves, this is laid out in the the table below
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.
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
If you’re interested in how the stations will be built, the info below gives some idea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The diagram below can take a bit to understand but shows roughly where, when and how construction will take place across the entire project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
For those economist types, the report breaks down all of the various components of the benefits that have been calculated.
The table below shows the capital costs of the CRL inflated to the expected dollars of the day.
This shows the costs 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.
Overall I thought there was some fascinating additional information within the business case.
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.
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 $.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*
Following the CRL ground breaking event last week one quote from the press releases caught my eye – and it’s something I highlighted in my post on Friday.
“Auckland Transport is forecasting in the first year of operation an 88% increase in rail passengers travelling to the city centre and a 40% increase in rail patronage across the network in the morning peak.
I fully expect the CRL is going to see huge numbers of people start using the train to get to town but an 88% increase in a single year is pretty impressive. I was interested in just what the predictions were so asked AT for some details.
They said the modelling was based on the year 2026 which is actually 2-3 years after the expect the CRL to be open (2023-24). Without the CRL they estimated there would be 13,200 trips to the city centre by rail during the two hour AM peak. With the CRL the number of people arriving at the Britomart, Aotea, K Rd stations in the AM peak is expected to be 24,100. That’s an increase of 10,900 or 83%, so not quite the 88% in the quote but fairly close (perhaps someone read the details wrong)
In addition, they said across the entire network without the CRL in 2026 there will be 24,600 trips in the AM peak but with the CRL that number will rise to 34,500 with the CRL.
What surprised me the most about these results was the modelling for 2026 without the CRL of just 13,200 trips a decade from now. To put things in perspective, recently AT told me that Britomart currently sees 10,200 people arriving in the AM peak. We know how that’s changed over time thanks to the former Screenline Survey that the ARC used to conduct – it isn’t done any more but the HOP data is able to give the information needed.
As you can see things have really taken off in the last few years thanks in large part to electrification. If current trends continue – and with all of the changes coming I expect them to for a little while yet – we could see Britomart surpassing that 13,200 figure within just a few years. If that happens it would once again highlight once again how much our transport models continue to underestimate the use of rail Auckland and could also suggest that the predictions for the CRL are undercooked too. That in turn could suggest that the benefits of the CRL are potentially much higher too.
While on the topic of trips to the city in the AM peak. It’s also worth pointing out just how significant the current numbers are. As a quick comparison Nelson St is the busiest road for traffic entering the city centre as is fed by two motorways yet despite this only around 6,000 people pass along here in the morning peak.
Overall in the city centre AT have said that now more people are arriving via PT in the AM peak than by private vehicles. That’s definitely changed a lot over the last 15 years as vehicle numbers have remained fairly constant while the usage of PT has soared.