If your interested in history then a useful resource is Papers past which is part of the National Libraries. They describe it as;
Papers Past contains more than two million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1945 and includes 77 publications from all regions of New Zealand.
Because all of the resources are fully searchable it makes extremely useful and is where I was able find this newspaper page. This week they added the editions of the NZ Herald from 1885 to 1924. While having a very quick look search through I came across what appears to have been a letter to the editor from 1924.
The Morningside Deviation that is referred to is what is now known as the City Rail Link. What I found interesting is that while some of the terminology and language used highlights that this is old, many of the arguments are the same we hear today. In particular the suggestions that we don’t need rail as buses can do the job and that we should instead focus on a harbour crossing.
Many of those that oppose the CRL like to use very similar arguments to what was presented here in 1924. It seems some things never change, we instead need to just get on with the task and finally get this project built.
Note: the first reference to the Morningside Deviation in the Herald appears to have been in 1918. That means that even if we get the CRL opened to the timetable that the council is hoping for (2021) it would have over 100 years since the project was first proposed.
There’s seemingly a lot of confusion around about the impacts of the City Rail Link project – heck the transport minister still thinks that it’s a loop going around in circles under the CBD (surely the ultimate indictment of Auckland Transport’s CRL communications?) In this post I’m going to try to explain – area by area – how the CRL may benefit different bits of Auckland. Of course there are a number of benefits that will come out of the CRL which aren’t area specific, but relate to the whole of Auckland – and even the whole of New Zealand. Let’s tackle those first.
Benefits for all of Auckland (and New Zealand):
We generally don’t invest in transport just for a transport outcome, but because we want an improved transport situation to lead to other, wider, benefits – in particular economic growth and productivity. The CRL will enable the Auckland City Centre to grow much larger than would be feasibly possible without it – the City Centre Future Access Study highlighted the massive transport issues that we’ll face in the not too distant future unless we build the link.
Enabling a larger and more vibrant city centre (amenity of the place isn’t going to be great with thousands upon thousands of buses trawling through it) is shown internationally to significantly boost economic productivity – as city centre workers are generally more productive than those elsewhere. This chart is from the 2010 business case:
There are two distinct elements which make up this difference:
Some particularly productive jobs tend to exclusively or near exclusively locate in the CBD
The same job done in the CBD is generally able to be performed more productively than elsewhere
Ultimately a more productive and successful economy should benefit everyone, through an increased standard of living, an increased tax take that can be spend on social services etc. Compared to cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Auckland has a relatively small city centre as a proportion of total employment – which the economic research above tends to indicate could well be a reason behind Auckland’s relatively poor economic performance.
The other main ‘region wide’ benefit is how having a vastly improved rail system will take pressure off Auckland’s already stressed roading network as the population grows. The price of planned motorway upgrades (e.g. $5 billion Harbour Crossing) highlights that expanding the motorway network to match population growth is just impossible – whereas the rail system has huge unused capacity that the CRL will enable. It also tends to be the car trips which can easily be replaced by rail (longer peak time trips to the city centre) which create the most significant congestion for everyone else – so getting those people off the road could well help your commute, no matter where you live and where you’re heading to.
Benefits for the North
Although the rail system in Auckland does not (yet) extend to the North Shore there are ways in which the CRL still benefits those on the North Shore. Let’s just run through a few:
The CRL means that fewer buses need to be run into the city centre from the south, west and east – which frees up space in the city centre for buses from the North Shore.
A future North Shore railway line would link up to the existing rail network at Aotea Station, therefore the CRL is essential to enable that future line to connect up to the rest of the rail network. A North Shore connection at the existing Britomart Station would place too much pressure on the Quay Park junction and basically negate the ability to ever build CRL.
A large number of buses from the North Shore in the future will travel along Wellesley Street, meaning that Aotea Station will be really handy if passengers from the North Shore wish to transfer onto a train to travel elsewhere in Auckland.
Benefits for the West
For people outside the realistic catchment of the Western Railway Line, the benefits are quite similar to people living on the North Shore. The northwest’s future busway along State Highway 16 will inevitably feed a lot of buses into a city from a corridor that’s not likely to be replaced with rail – and those buses will need to go somewhere and will operate much better if they’re not competing with buses from rail served areas for streetspace.
For those within the Western Line catchment, you are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the CRL as you trips will be significantly quicker if you’re travelling to the CBD, but also you’ll be able to enjoy significantly more trains as a result of CRL unlocking the capacity of the whole rail system – creating a huge benefit even if you’re not travelling into the city centre. Here’s a useful before and after in terms of travel time from key stations to the city centre – note the vastly quicker times from the West:Benefits for the Isthmus Area:
As detailed earlier, areas in the isthmus along the Western Line will benefit hugely from the CRL in terms of travel time and also increased frequency. The city centre will benefit enormously from improved access – meaning that most places will be within a short walk of the rail network – rather than just a few areas around Britomart.In other parts of the isthmus, areas near the inner southern line and the eastern line will benefit from faster trips to a greater proportion of the city centre and also increased train frequencies (meaning shorter waits at stations). Areas outside the existing rail network will enjoy similar benefits to the North Shore in terms of their buses not getting stuck in as much bus congestion in the city centre. But also the CRL enables other extensions to the rail system, such as the Mt Roskill branch line – which would be pretty cheap to build and extends the rail network into a part of Auckland with heaps of development potential, along with taking some pressure off Dominion and Sandringham Road buses.
Benefits for the South:
The new bus network in the south revolves around better bus routes for cross-town journeys and feeding a lot more buses into the rail network at key locations like Panmure and Manukau. The City Rail Link will enable higher frequencies along the rail network, meaning less overcrowding on services and shorter waits for trains. It also means faster trips from the south to parts of the city centre beyond the immediate surrounds of Britomart.
The CRL is also a prerequisite for rail to the airport, as without CRL it’s not possible to run trains on the Airport Line at a frequency of greater than half-hourly (and you wouldn’t spend $700m or more on a line that can only run half-hourly). The Airport Line potentially has massive benefits for the south – improving access to the airport itself for employees, acting as a catalyst for the redevelopment of areas around new stations at Mangere Bridge, Mangere Town Centre (and perhaps elsewhere?) and providing a rapid transit quality link between Manukau and the Airport. But none of that can happen until CRL happens.
Benefits for the Southeast:
As part of the AMETI project, a busway will be built between Botany and Panmure. This will provide a really high quality public transport option for a part of Auckland that has historically been incredibly neglected when it comes to public transport. However for trips between Panmure and the city centre, the rail network will still be the rapid transit option and the CRL provides both the additional capacity of extra trains along what will become a very busy section of the rail network, as well as direct trains from Panmure to not only Britomart but also onto Aotea, K Road and Newton stations – providing far better access from the southeast to the wider city centre and its surrounds.
As you can see the CRL benefits all different parts of Auckland – whether they’re on the rail network or not. I think the two areas that will benefit the most are the city centre itself and the west: due to the improvements in coverage of the rail network and the “cutting the corner” between Mt Eden and the city centre respectively. However parts of Auckland which aren’t even on the rail network will benefit: either through the CRL making possible future expansion of the network (i.e. Airport Rail, North Shore rail and the Mt Roskill Branch) or CRL removing many buses from the network and therefore allowing the bus system to operate more effectively – such as for the North Shore and the Northwest.
In addition to these specific benefits the economic growth and the significant capacity expansion of Auckland’s transport network that the CRL will provide have the potential to benefit the whole city, and in fact the entire country.
Campbell Live has been running a lot of stories on Auckland issues recently which has been nice to see and has obviously also provided us with a heap of material to talk about. Last night the entire episode was devoted to transport in Auckland. There were three parts to the show, the first was the kind of story done by news organisations from time to time where various staff members try to reach a specific location using various transport methods.The second section was the most interesting as involved Gerry Brownlee actually giving an interview on Auckland transport issues while the third section was about a lady who was having trouble topping up her daughters Snapper Hop (SNOP) card. I’m not going to look at the third section primarily because the SNOP card will hopefully be phased out soon although you can watch it here if you are interested. Here is the first two sections.
The First Section
If you haven’t watched the video, a bunch of staff were tasked with reaching their office in Eden Terrace by 9am using only public transport and it it seems the first mistake they made was by using the Maxx website to plan their journeys. To be fair there isn’t a lot of other options, yes there is Google and some apps but MAXX is what Auckland Transport provide. However the planner seems so woeful and doesn’t seem to ever have improved, AT really needs to put the thing out of its misery and replace it with something more modern. That said the results were not unexpected but also show how vital it is to communicate the benefits of the high frequency new bus network and that a lot of effort is made to make transfers easy. Further not all of the journeys were practical to take by PT, Lachlan Forsyth’s trip for example shows the benefits of commuting by bike and it would be better to encourage more people to do that where appropriate.
The Second Section
This was of course the most interesting and the part where I at times felt like pulling my hair out. To cover this I’m just going to go through bullet point my thoughts.
At least Brownlee admits that Auckland is growing and that the transport problems will only get worse. It also seems that he has now read the report, something he hadn’t done before ruling out some of the options in the funding proposals a few days ago..
Brownlee repeats quite a few times that Auckland is getting $1billion in transport spending annually. The emphasis he places on it makes it sound like Auckland is gobbling up the spending but in reality, it is less than 1/3 of the total transport spend in the country. It would have been good for Campbell to ask him how much Auckland provided in fuel taxes annually.
I actually agree with Brownlee when he questions whether the suite of projects in the Auckland Plan are the appropriate ones and if they are timed right. However I don’t think that we would agree on what projects should be dropped or having their timing changed.
Brownlee is asked his thoughts on the CRL and he is either trying to be deliberately misleading or has been badly informed. He suggests the project is about a short little loop that goes around in circles. This is exactly the kind of reason why it is so important that Auckland Transport actually publicly state the routing pattern that trains will use so that people can see it is about opening up the entire rail network. To put it another way it will have the same impact on the rail network that the Central Motorway Junction does for the motorway network.
Brownlee talks about how the cost of the project is $3 billion which of course is an inflated and then rounded up figure. He also repeats the lie that Steven Joyce loved to use, that the government is spending $1.6 billion on the rail network. The reality is $600m was approved and budget for from before this government came into office while half of the remaining amount is a loan that Auckland is having to pay back.
I’m really glad that Campbell actually asked him where he would spend $3 billion differently, as I pointed out yesterday, it is really important that people who oppose what is being planned actually say what they would do differently (not that Brownlee did). It was almost comical that Brownlee then went on to list a whole suite of road projects the government has already built or is building.
Brownlee’s comment that “Aucklanders like roads” really does take the cake. For 60 years this city only ever invested in roads at the expense of almost everything else, it isn’t surprising then that most people drive when that has been made the easiest thing to do. The recent and comparatively modest investment in realistic alternatives has had a big impact and stronger investment in them is likely to see big changes in behaviour. As Stu pointed out yesterday, on a per capita basis people are already driving less.
Brownlee is correct that we do need to sort out our bus routes and information systems. The good news is that is under way with the new bus network and should be completed by 2016, well before the CRL is suggested to be opened.
The comments from Simon Lambourne are very rational and in line with what I feel. The big question of course is how many would still chose to drive if some good quality alternatives were in place.
Brownlee is also correct when he states that the documents released on Monday about funding transport are really just the start of the discussion. This was actually something mentioned quite a few times by the CBG themselves. They suggest that a decision doesn’t actually need to be made on how to fund transport till 2015.
Once again Gerry sidesteps the question of what the government are actually going to do to improve transport issues in the city.
After the video from Len Brown, Brownlee goes on to talk about tolling new roads. The reality is that there aren’t that many new roads proposed that could be tolled. We have the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway, Penlink, An additional Harbour Crossing and The East West Link. Effectively every other roading project is an upgrade of an existing road, adding a lane here or there and under the criteria, they couldn’t be tolled.
Brownlee talks about how they have had to put up fuel excise taxes due to falling revenues and gives a couple of reasons but misses the biggest one that vehicle use is dropping, both in real and per capita terms.
All up most of the comments Gerry made were a bit frustrating but not all that surprising given his previous statements. The more I think about it though, the more it seems as though that he let slip that the government is looking at reviving the Eastern Motorway proposals.
What were your thoughts on the video. Did I miss anything?
Last week I wrote a post about how we need to stop underselling major PT projects like the CRL. I was – and still am – frustrated at the lack of useful information being put out by Auckland Transport that can be used to clearly show the benefits of them.
One thing that really frustrates me about public transport projects is the tendency of both our official agencies and many supporters to completely undersell the benefits of them. Auckland Transport is a frequent offender of this and I think that the main problem is that they are a bit gun shy. They are too scared to talk about specific benefits of the project, in particular the parts that really matter to the general public. It is seemingly out of fear that they might not meet those objectives at some point in the distant future, or that plans may change. But by taking this approach they often lose out on much of the impact that they could otherwise achieve.
To make matters worse, even those that support the project often don’t seem to grasp the transformational nature of the project and also undersell it. My post last week was aimed at statements from both the Greens and Labour in support of the CRL which has helped reignite the debate in the public. But without good information in the public domain, it is very easy for wrong or misleading information to spread, especially when it is pushed in the mainstream media. I’m guessing that the Greens Reconnect Auckland campaign is what has triggered off the latest bout of CRL related news stories.
On Friday Campbell Live ran a story about the CRL. I will start by saying it was actually a lot better than most that we get however there were still some glaring mistakes. I’m just going to list my comments about both the good and the bad parts. Click on the image to view the video.
The old man at 1:40 makes some very good points worth remembering in this debate, that we need to be thinking about the future and the primary one being that Auckland is a growing city. Even using Statistics NZ most recent projections, under the medium growth scenario there will be roughly another 500,000 people living in the region by 2031 bringing the total up to roughly 2 million people. Those extra people are going to place a lot of pressure on our existing transport infrastructure.
I really had to laugh at the young guy at 1:50 who says he never uses PT, partly because it costs money so he prefers to drive a car. I wonder how much he paid to park his car in the city, let along the costs of running it?
At 3:00, why does Len continue to use the future inflation adjusted price instead of what it costs today? Also remember that the $2.86 billion figure includes a whole raft of other projects like duplicating the Onehunga Line, extra trains and grade separating some level crossings. It does seem that he is about to say something else that might have been cut though.
At 3:15, the Puhoi to Wellsford road is currently budgeted at $1.7 billion but from memory that is in 2009 dollars. Comparing the 2009 cost of that road – for which the shorter and easier section alone is now costing $1 billion – with the 2021 cost of the CRL is hardly a fair comparison.
At 4:00, perhaps the most shocking error on the entire report. It is suggested that there are only 4 trains per hour on the network and that the CRL will increase that to 7. Where the hell does that information even come from. As pointed out in my post last week, the CRL enables us to run a train on each line every 5 minutes, that’s 12 per hour per direction and totals 48 trains per hour heading through the CRL, one in each direction every couple of minutes.
At 6:00, Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett talks about how he wants the Wellington to region to receive a share of funding equal to its population. What he is obviously not aware of is that historically Wellington on a per capita basis has had a much greater share than Auckland. Auckland has historically, and continues to receive less funding that it provides in taxes. He also raises the point that Wellington has been waiting decades for Transmission Gully. If he thinks projects should be funded based on how long they have been proposed then the CRL still wins as it was first mooted in the 1920s and was the reason the main train station was moved out of the CBD in the first place. Further if we were to base transport spending on the expected percentage of growth over the next 20 years, for Wellington to get Transmission Gully, Auckland would need to get around $18 billion to receive a similar level of investment.
Then there was yesterday’s opinion piece by Rodney Hide on the CRL. I’m not going to cover it again as I did that yesterday but am going to talk about some of the comments in response to it. Unfortunately reading comments on Herald opinion pieces is often a hair pulling exercise but can be useful to see what misinformation exists out in the general public. So here is a selection.
Waterfront (West Auckland) 08:59 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
It’s like the inner city rail link.
What a complete waste of money. How do people get to and leave mt Eden for this proposed train line. There is no parking planned at mt Eden so how do people get there from outer suburbs? Walk?
More buses before trains.
h m 09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Trains going round and round the CBD doesn’t help me nor anyone I know get to work.
I was working in Albany and living in Henderson.
Or, try going from Henderson to Carbine Rd.
Or, Waiuku to Henderson – like my son.
edd 12:50 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Who benifits from inner city rail. Not the suburban rate payers; it’s the inner city rate payers that get all the goodies, that contribute most to all the grid lock. Why not wack up comercial rates on the CBD to fund the project. The nat’s have their corporate taxes so low right now that they can well afford it
Clearly these people have the impression that the project is just about building a line that goes around in circles around the CBD, not a link that will improve the entire existing rail network and allow for it to be expanded. AT really need to get a map out showing how the rail network will operate after the CRL including how the lines will through route allowing for a range of trips.
MikeyB (New Zealand) 09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
And the rail lopp will only allow three more trains in per hour.
I wouldnt be surprised if those at AT were getting back handers from the involved construction companies
The first part of this comment obviously came straight from the Campbell Live piece and highlights how important it is that AT gets information out about how many trains we will actually have on the lines.
Silver Fox (East Tamaki) 09:07 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Very good points Rodney. The rail enthusiasts are dreamers, mostly without common sense. Let them pay the real cost of transporting them by rail. As for transporting goods by rail, another dream. Do they ever consider how the goods are to get to and from the rail head and the heaps of vehicles sitting there for hours on end to pick goods up, that is after the paperwork to actually find the goods. NZ rail eventually put articulated trucks on the road in the 50′s to speed up goods cartage.
Ahh, the old chestnut of making train users pay for the upgrades themselves. Why is it that people continue to think that roads magically cover all of their costs? The reality is they don’t and huge amounts of money spent on them every year comes from sources other than fuel taxes.
Colin126 12:37 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Rather than plowing even more money into public transport there should be money spent promoting the benefits of telecommuting. That is having more people working from home.
If more people did this then this would go along way toward reducing the need for people to travel into work at peak traffic times. Choosing instead to either travel to work only when they have meetings that cannot be conducted online or stay at home and conduct their work affairs from there.
If more and more business adopted telecommuting as an option I am sure that over time the pressure on our transport system would ease quite significantly.
Many businesses now allow staff to work from home yet it makes very little impact. One of the huge benefits to working in an office with other staff is the ability to bounce ideas around much quicker and easier than is possible if everyone is in remote locations. This can have huge benefits for businesses.
Therecanbeonlyone (Auckland Region) 12:38 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
(in response to the first comment talked about)
Kind of agree will you on this, trains in Auckland have a limited operational area. There are no train tracks over the shore, or out east. Buses are the only option for these areas. Maybe the money would be better spend on dedicated bus lanes (like over the shore) or dedicated bus roads (like Crafton bridge).
How I believe there is a place for trains in the public transport plan, where they are integrated with buses. Apart from the Papakura, Manuwera & Homai stations, I have not seen many other train stations that have a regular bus service near them. Perhaps the buses could transport commuters to the nearest train station and the trains could carry them from there
Yes trains have a limited area of coverage and that is being expanded on by the RPTP which was adopted by Auckland Transport. While AT has stated this as part of the RPTP, perhaps they need to mention this in any material relating to the CRL as well.
phil lindsay (Queensland) 12:41 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Developing effective rail in Auckland requires lane acquisition of land for tracks and parking. Auckland is not laid out for rail, more so because rail has not been developed over the years.
However extensive work has been done to develop its road net work. Therefore it is logical, and has been for decades, to develop of comprehensive bus network linking suburbs to each other and to the city.
This would require land for stations only. An intelligent city will work to its strengths, it does not mindlessly follow other cities. I have never understood why Auckland did away with its central station when it did, poor money into Britomart, and for decades has failed to develop the obvious.
If you build it they will come. If there is an effective bus service linking suburbs and the city it will be used, but it has to be put in place first.
This seems to ignore the issue that there is only so much space on the roads to handle buses, especially in the central city which is why the CCFAS found the CRL was the best long term option. It also ignores that the rail network had/has been sitting as a vastly underutilised resource. The CRL is about maximising that resource rather than having it sitting around just for a few freight trains.
And I will end on this one.
DBD (Dannemora) 02:56 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Will never bother with the trains and can’t be bothered with buses either.
My plan is to wait till a lot of other people do, they the roads I drive on should be less clogged which is better for those of us that need our cars to get around for convenience and comfort.
At the end of the day, a lot of people will still drive and that is completely fine as people shouldn’t be forced to use trains or buses. As this person notes, their drive will likely be made easier thanks to the investment.
What all of these comments really confirm to me is that Auckland Transport need to be working to get some good, clear information out about the project so that people can properly understand it.
It’s not obvious to me that a heavy train having to stop and start and be confined to tracks is the best way to ferry people around Auckland. Buses along roads strike me intuitively as a cheaper and more flexible form of public transport.
Many more people live closer to a bus stop than a train station. That’s because buses go along roads that people live on. Buses can also pass one another. Trains can’t do that.
Because of the flexibility and convenience, more people travel into the city centre by bus than train. That will stay true even if Auckland spends billions on trains at the expense of better roads and better bus services.
Nonetheless, Auckland Transport has produced the Auckland CBD Rail Link Business Case (2010) and the City Centre Future Access Study (2012), both saying rail is more cost-effective.
So it seems Rodney admits he has a mode bias simply because he doesn’t understand how trains work, hell you could almost take from his argument that he thinks we are the first city in the world to think about moving people by rail. He then goes on to talk about trying to get more information on the two reports.
My research led me to Wellingtonian Tony Randle, who spent months trying to get the analysis underpinning the 2010 Rail Business Case, succeeding only after a complaint to the Ombudsman.
Once Tony got hold of the analysis he found:
1. Basic spreadsheet errors. The spreadsheet fails to calculate the running costs of the second purchase of 26 trains. That ignores $689 million on the train option.
2. Incorrect exclusion of costs from the rail option. The study excludes the necessary funding to extend the Northern Busway into the city centre. Building this access is a necessary part of the rail option.
3. Addition of a second bus tunnel without explanation, adding hundreds of millions to the bus option.
4. Unreasonable assumptions, including a prediction that under the rail option, present bus capacity into the city centre will carry another 20,000 passengers a day without any new bus lanes or busways.
The errors and poor assumptions total $1.5 billion. The bias is systematic; each and every mistake favours rail over buses. Correcting for the errors reverses the study’s conclusions and shows the CBD bus tunnel more cost-effective than the City Rail Link.
As soon as Tony Randle’s name popped up I knew that a derailment was imminent. We have looked at Tony’s report in the past and it is full of misinformation and his personal opinion on issues. For example why is extending the Northern Busway required for the CRL? it was required for the bus tunnel option because of the number of buses that would have been fed through the bus tunnel and over the shore. With the CRL, we only need to feed buses to the shore that actually need to go there. There are similar issues with the additional of the second bus tunnel. Tony seems to think we can get away with only one lane each way, however it simply wouldn’t have been enough for the number of buses that would have needed to be fed through the tunnel. It also creates the same issue that Rodney raised at the start as no buses would have been able to pass each other. It’s also worth pointing out that Tony is, or at least has at some point been a member of the Bus and Coach Association, the organisation that among other things lists this as one of their objectives “Promote the use of road passenger transport as a valuable resource.”
In saying this, there were definitely a number of errors in the original business case which is what lead to the CCFAS and that is what Rodney looked at next.
Last December, Auckland Transport released a second report. City Centre Future Access Study also concludes that the city rail link beats the two bus options considered, but now for different reasons to the first report. And, once again, Auckland Transport published the study without the underpinning analysis.
I followed Randle’s lead and requested the spreadsheets and the relevant model output reports. Auckland Transport has refused to supply them to me.
Its latest is a lawyer’s letter explaining that Auckland Transport will provide what I want but only if I pay them $3850.
Oh, and they won’t send me the spreadsheets.
What Rodney either fails to realise, or at least fails to explain is that it wasn’t just Auckland Transport who worked on the CCFAS but also the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury. Further all agreed that the CRL was the best option as surface bus improvements alone were not viable over the long term due to the sheer number of buses that would be needed which also had the effect of making things really bad for cars. A bus tunnel, like Tony prefers was found to have cost more and move less people than the other options. As many of you will know, some route already seem to have decent amounts of bus congestion even when bus lanes are in place.
What’s more we have since learnt that there are significant problems with the modelling that even the MoT admit, are likely to overestimate car trips and underestimate the number of trips via PT. I do agree that where possible AT should be releasing the information behind the numbers however we also need to be aware that most of the figures coming out of the modelling are likely to need a lot of explanation as otherwise they could be very open to interpretation.
Once again we now have the various agencies involved agreeing that that the CRL is the best long term option, where they disagree now is on the timing. Auckland Transport are now working on a new business case that will hopefully address the issues raised in the two earlier reports. This also shouldn’t be a mode discussion. There isn’t one silver bullet that will solve Auckland’s Transport issues, we need a combination of improved road, bus and rail to really make this city work and arguing of the merits of one specific project for one mode has the potential to keep us locked into the same cycle that has gotten us into the mess we are in.
One of the most frustrating things about the process the CRL has gone through is not that the government is forcing it to go though extremely rigid analysis, but that it doesn’t require other projects to do the same. Bill English was questioned on this today by Julie Anne Genter but never seemed to be able to directly answer the question. I will say one thing though, he at least wasn’t dismissive of the project.
Also in the news about politics and the RoNS. National’s Northland MP, Mike Sabin has come out yesterday extolling the virtues of Puhoi to Wellsford. Yet at the same time he has confirmed some of the voodoo economics that seems to surround this, and many of the RoNS projects. He claims:
“The Greens would scrap this project in favour of Auckland’s rail loop, because they see it has better cost benefits than the Puhoi to Wellsford project, yet NZTA estimates this RoNS will benefit Northland’s economy in order of $35-$45 million a year, giving a cost benefit ratio of 2 to 1.”
Well let’s just look at that a bit closer. $35-$45 million a year seems fairly significant but in the context of this road is nothing. Being generous let’s say that the benefits start coming in as soon as the project starts and we use the normal 30 year assessment period, ‘et’s also ignore any of the benefits being discounted. That would give us benefits in the range of $1.05 billion to $1.35 billion over a 30 year period. Yet the road is expected to cost around $1.6 billion and that was before the recent announcement that the shorter and easier Puhoi to Warkworth section will cost around $1 billion. I don’t know how on earth you can get a BCR of 2 to 1 when the benefits achieved are less than the construction costs but that is why they are called voodoo economics.
The group pushing for an overhead version of the CRL have cropped up again. Yesterday they published a letter and presentation that they have sent to both Len Brown and Gerry Brownlee and a few others with their alternative. They are now calling their proposal eLtrack.
eLtrack – an elevated alternative for the CRL Tunnel.
We are a group of Auckland-based infrastructure consultants. Over the last year we have prepared a contemporary and affordable alternative for the proposed CRL Tunnel.
Our proposal, which we’ve called eLtrack, is a mostly elevated train route above existing transport routes. It provides a range of benefits for the city when compared to the tunnel proposal, not least of which is a significantly lower cost.
The eLtrack route is double-tracked and meets the specifications for the new EMUs. We have completed an assessment for the route and taken account of relevant transport, engineering, urban design, and planning matters. An ‘order of magnitude’ cost estimate is also available.
The project is explained in the attached brochure. The Light Rail Transit component along Queen Street and Karangahape Road is essential to the idea, and is included in the estimated cost.
eLtrack was presented to the Office of the Mayor, NZTA senior staff and senior personnel of the CRL team early last year, and was mentioned in the City Centre Future Access Study (November 2012). We are disappointed that it was not seriously considered in that report, and we believe its casual dismissal as a viable option was a mistake.
The advantages of eLtrack over the tunnel, additional to its savings of around $750M, are outlined in the brochure.
We have met with the MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye who suggested we write to you with copies to key decision makers. We consider eLtrack needs a serious evaluation as an alternative to the tunnel. We recognise the extent of work that has already been done on the latter, and that an evaluation may still favour that option.
The group fully supports the concept of a City Rail Link, and does not seek to slow progress toward that end. However, given the scale of the project and the Government’s reluctance to contribute to its cost, we consider it prudent to have a viable and lower cost alternative for all parties to consider and compare.
We are prepared to meet with an evaluation team and table the information we have prepared. This includes track alignment diagrams, sketch cross-sections and the cost estimate.
We would appreciate the opportunity to present eLtrack to you personally, and to arrange a meeting with your evaluation team.
We have looked at this before here and here but it is probably worth addressing it once again as there is quite a bit wrong with this proposal. Here is what they are suggesting.
I don’t think that the image quite shows just how much impact they are proposing. The very reason the NZTA ended up building the Victoria Park Tunnel was because the local residents strongly fought to prevent another viaduct being built. Perhaps by proposing an even higher viaduct they think they the residents will be so shocked it would give them all coronary and therefore they won’t fight the proposal. In reality the visual impact is likely to be immense. From what I can tell, it appears the track would be approximately 10-15m above Fanshawe St, 10m above the Wellington St bridge and 10-15m above the Newton Rd bridge. As a comparison the Newmarket viaduct is up around 20m high.
But the visual impact isn’t the only issue with this proposal. By far the biggest issue is simply the catchment. The CRL travels right through the heart of the densest area of employment in the entire country. There are something like 80,000 jobs and 60,000 students within range of the CRL stations yet the focus of this proposal seems to be on getting a station at Wynyard, an area that is predicted to have somewhere in the range of 10,000-20,000 jobs. Why you would try and avoid the area that would provide the most benefit is a mystery. Here is a map showing a 400m walking catchment of the CRL stations (red) verses this proposal (blue).
Wynyard will also eventually be connected with a rail station when a line to the North Shore is built further diminishing this proposal compared to what is being planned.
Other issues include that the route is roughly 700m (20%) longer than that taken by the CRL, reducing the amount of benefit we would receive from faster journeys. They suggest that at $2.14 billion their proposal is $700m cheaper than the CRL however that seems to be comparing their propsal to the inflation adjusted price for the CRL. The actual price for the CRL is now down around $1.8b and could drop further as the project progresses. In a bid to save even more money they suggest building the eLtrack as only a single line initially. For some reason the proponents also seem to want to prevent any buses from actually getting into the CBD and have indicated that all bus routes will terminate at the outskirts of the CBD and transfer to either the rail network or an at grade, tram line that runs from K Rd to Britomart.
All up the scheme seems to fail on almost every single level, it doesn’t save any money, it doesn’t save any time, it doesn’t go where most people want to go forcing a lot more transfers and it would have significant visual impacts to a large area of central Auckland. I can’t think of one redeeming aspect about it. As mentioned in the letter, it was even included as an option in the CCFAS but was dismissed for many of these reasons. I will leave the last word to this mention of it from the report.
The elevated rail was assessed to have some benefit with regards to City Centre access and is much cheaper than a light rail network. However, it is the worst performing option overall with significant implementation, environmental and amenity dis-benefits.
One thing that really frustrates me about public transport projects is the tendency of both our official agencies and many supporters to completely undersell the benefits of them. Auckland Transport is a frequent offender of this and I think that the main problem is that they are a bit gun shy. They are too scared to talk about specific benefits of the project, in particular the parts that really matter to the general public. It is seemingly out of fear that they might not meet those objectives at some point in the distant future, or that plans may change. But by taking this approach they often lose out on much of the impact that they could otherwise achieve. The City Rail Link is perhaps the prime example of this. Below is a list of the benefits from that AT provided at their CRL open days that were held recently to support the consenting process:
The City Rail Link (CRL) will improve the entire Auckland rail network – allowing more trains, more often, more direct and more reliably to more places.
The CRL will allow more frequent services on key routes with double the number of trains able to run on the network
Britomart will become a through station and not the end of the line, unblocking the network and eliminating the need to travel via Newmarket
More direct travel to the city and improved access to the city centre and major employment areas with three new stations near Aotea Square, Karangahape Road and Newton
The number of people within 30 minutes train travel of a city station will double
More people on trains will reduce the pressure on roads to keep traffic moving
Bus and train services will be better integrated
It is really the first two of the bullet points that I really have a problem with. Let’s have a look at them more closely.
The CRL will allow more frequent services on key routes with double the number of trains able to run on the network
Doubling the number of trains on the network is a good thing but most people wouldn’t have a clue just how many trains are on the network now. Even less would know how many trains are expected to be on the network following the completion of electrification. I would suspect that most people, the ones that don’t currently use trains but who we may want to in the future, probably think that trains only come once every half hour or worse. For them doubling a “crappy” service doesn’t mean it will suddenly become useful. My thinking on this was largely confirmed by the release of a Horizon Research poll released late last year that said 6% of respondents indicated that if the City Rail Link had the effect of increasing train frequency to every 15 minutes in peak hours, they would switch to using rail to travel to work.
The reality of it is that our main lines already have at least 15 minute, or better, services during the peak hours. With electrification and the new PT network, this is expected to increase to a train on the main lines every 10 minutes, not just at peak but all day. The CRL doubles that again meaning we could have a service on every line every 5 minutes combining to a train in each direction through the CRL every 2½ minutes. To me saying either of those two figures is far more powerful than just doubling the number of trains on the network. I think part of the reason why there has been a reluctance to give any specific details regarding frequencies is partly related to the second point.
Britomart will become a through station and not the end of the line, unblocking the network and eliminating the need to travel via Newmarket
Along with the reluctance to talk about frequencies, there has also been reluctance to talking about just how trains will be routed around the network. Currently everything travels from Britomart to the west or south and back again. Any journey from one part of the network to another requires a transfer. The CRL gives the opportunity to change that by through routing services meaning services that come from the west could potentially head south or east after passing through the central city. It is just where they will head that seems to be the problem. Decisions on routing seem to be way down the priority list so not a lot of detailed thought seems to have gone into it. In a double whammy, without knowing the routing proposed it is then hard to say just how many trains will run on the network which causes the issues found in the first point.
But it is these two points that would do far more to sell the project to the general public than pretty much anything else. How different would that Horizon Research poll have been if they had of quizzed people about 5 minute frequencies instead of 15 minute ones? So if Auckland transport won’t promote the project in a way that will get through to the general public, it becomes even more vital that advocates, like this blog, get the message out and that brings me to what caused me to write this post in the first place.
Yesterday the Green party launched their Reconnect Auckland campaign under which the building of the CRL is seen as a critical project. The launch brought with it media attention, the perfect time to really sell just how transformational the project will be. Unfortunately in my opinion they really wasted the opportunity by underselling it. Co-Leader Russell Norman appeared on TV twice about the issue and both times said it would only allow for trains every 10 minutes at peak, half of what will be possible. The first time was on TVNZs Q and A programme (click to go through to the video)
And let’s not even go into failing to dismiss the notion that trains will be going around the city in a loop. The panel also discussed it briefly (need to skip past the GCSB stuff). The second time was later in the day in an interview for the 6pm news.
Mr Twyford said the City Rail Link would double the number of trains on the network, unlocking much needed capacity and opening up the potential for trains every ten minutes on the western and southern lines at peak times.
Of course compare that with the way that roads are promoted, all sorts of benefits get mentioned even if they are not true. A great example of this is Puhoi to Wellsford where even in parliamentary questions, spurious claims have been made. For example last year Gerry Brownlee claimed time savings that in reality would require vehicles travelling up to 250kph. Of course I’m not suggesting that PT advocates should put out false information but at least stop underselling these projects.
There are many similarities between the Waterview motorway project the City Rail Link. Both are extremely large projects involving considerable amounts of tunnelling but the comparisons don’t stop there. While there are very clearly a lot of other motorway and rail projects being bandied about, both projects effectively complete their respective networks allowing us to get the most out of our existing investments in them. With Waterview now well under way, I thought it might be a good idea to see if there was anything we can learn from it to help with the CRL.
The first area where Waterview could provide some useful benefits is in the area of tunnelling. While the massive TBM that is being used on Waterview is way too big for the CRL, my guess is that the engineering and construction knowledge gained by local agencies and companies will be invaluable when it comes time to build the CRL. This is especially the case as the two projects almost perfectly dovetail into each other. Waterview is under construction now with the tunnelling itself expected to start around October of this year and completed in 2016. If the CRL sticks to its current schedule of being operational in 2020, construction on the project is likely to start in 2015 but really ramping up in the 2016-2019 period as shown in the graph below from the original business case.
When it comes to promoting the project, the cost is perhaps another area that we could learn a lot from. Back in 2008, when the previous Labour government were starting to get serious about Waterview, the cost of the project was reported at $1.89 billion for a pair of twin lane tunnels. To build it wide enough for three lanes, as was being pushed by the roading lobbies was projected to cost $2.14 billion.
Also interesting to note that back then then National Party spokesperson, Maurice Williamson, said he doubted we could afford $1.9b on a single project through traditional financing methods as it would deprive the rest of the country of investment yet less than a year later the party embarked on the RoNS programme, which included Waterview and that it is set to cost the country ~$10 billion over a decade.
“I don’t think the Government could ever fund a $1.9 billion road from just straight land transport funding,” Mr Williamson said. “That would mean the rest of the country would get nothing for nearly three years, so you have go to find an alternative source of funding.”
Back to Waterview, six months later in early 2009, following more work done on the project by treasury and the MoT the cost had ballooned to $2.77 billion for the two lane option and $3.16 billion for the three lane option. This caused then transport minister Steven Joyce to send the NZTA back to the drawing board and look at other options. Also worth noting that he quite clearly stated that he wanted to see the tunnels with three lanes each.
Serious doubt has engulfed Auckland’s Waterview motorway tunnels project – the vital last link in the western ring route – after a cost blowout to between $2.77 billion and $3.16 billion.
The Government has ordered an urgent review of route options after the Treasury and Ministry of Transport added financing costs of more than $500 million and an upgrade of the nearby Northwestern Motorway for $240 million to the main project.
Previous estimates of $1.89 billion for two-lane tunnels each way along the 4.5km Waterview route or $2.14 billion for three-lane links – as sought by the Automobile Association and business groups – did not include any of those costs. The new estimates are $2.77 billion for a 3.2km pair of two-lane tunnels and $3.16 billion for three lanes in each direction.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced yesterday that he had given officials until April to review all options for a connection of State Highway 20 to the Northwestern at Waterview, including a potentially disruptive surface route through Mt Albert and previously discarded “cut and cover” proposals.
Going from a proposal of two lane tunnels at $1.9 billion to three lane tunnels at a cost of $3.2 billion represents an absolutely massive price increase. By late 2010, despite being a three lane tunnel option, the cost of the project was back down below $2 billion at $1.75 billion. Fast forward to today and the project is being built $1.4 billion with the causeway project coming in at an extra $220 million. That means that all up both the Waterview project, and the causeway are costing ~$1.6 billion, almost $300 million less than just what the two lane tunnels were expected to cost roughly 5 years ago.
Why have the costs come down so much being almost half of what they were at their peak? I believe much of it relates to how we estimate these types of projects. As a project moves through the stages of investigation, costs tend to increase as all of the potential issues/risks start to get thought through and these start to get factored in to the cost of the project. As the knowledge of the project improves, many of the risks can be addressed and this can give some certainty about how much the project will ultimately cost. Such a big project should hopefully also cause construction companies to be extremely competitive in the tendering process.
So how does this relate to the CRL? Well it’s going through exactly the same process. Back in 2009 it was estimated to cost $1-$1.5 billion. The November 2010 business case, came in well over that figure at $2.4 billion, as seen in the construction cost summary. Most interesting is that the construction costs alone come in at less than $1 billion but the rest of the $2.4 billion is made up of contractor costs, design and planning costs as well as factoring for various risks. The cost of the project was the one area that both Auckland Transport and the Government agreed on when the latter reviewed the business case in 2011.
For planning documents Auckland Transport then inflation adjusted the price out to when it would be built which saw the cost increase further to $2.86 billion. However critically it also emerged that Auckland Transport had already managed to find over $150 million in savings off the base cost as shown below.
Why is all of this so important? Well based on what we saw with Waterview, it is likely that the actual cost of the project will end up coming in much less than the $2.86 billion that opponents (and AT) like to throw around. A figure somewhere in the $1.5 – $2 billion mark is perhaps much more likely and would have an absolutely massive impact on the viability of the project. In fact it seems that despite the governments continued opposition to the project, we may have missed an extremely important milestone. Subtly the conversation has actually shifted from “if” to “when” with the government and MoT now seemingly focusing on the timing of when it should happen rather than if it should happen at all. If costs continue to come down, like they did with Waterview then it only help to further justify the project.
Here’s Auckland Transport’s latest video about the City Rail Link project:
This is useful for showing the route, but I still think some further visual material is necessary to get across some key messages which still seem to be regularly misinterpreted:
The CRL is the “missing piece” in the whole rail network
The CRL will not operate anything like a “loop”
The CRL significantly benefits the whole of Auckland, not just the CBD
I think the best way to show this would be for Auckland Transport to actually come up with some future route options – it seems like they must have advanced from what was in the City City Future Access Study (shown below) because the notice of requirement doesn’t include the Inner West Interchange and does include the East Facing Link. While progress is being made on the consenting process, I can’t recall what was going to happen in terms of next steps around preparing a detailed business case for the project. Gerry Brownlee seemed to suggest the other day in parliament that central government officials were still analysing the results of CCFAS.