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.
Inevitably the NZ Herald will at some point run a “how many submissions were for or against the project” even though submissions are never an accurate gauge of public support for something. (The grumpiest opponents are always the most likely to go to the trouble of making a submission).
Some submissions are likely to oppose the project and potentially even appeal a final decision (should the designation be approved) to the Environment Court. Submitting now means that you’ll be able to stay involved in the process and ensure that Auckland Transport don’t make any dumb compromises in order to satisfy opponents.
So what to say? Well below I’ve outlined some key points that you might want to make in support of the project:
General support of the project (assuming you share our support). This is really important to highlight that anything else in the submission is subservient to the general support. While other elements of the submission may arguably further improve the project fundamentally what is proposed is sound and should be granted the necessary consents. It may be worth mentioning that the Auckland Plan highlights the CRL as Auckland’s number one priority transport project.
Support the decision to retain the East Facing Connection rather than the Inner West Interchange. The EFC will allow a direct link between Newton and Grafton – ensuring the capacity of the CRL is fully utilised and also that Grafton Station will continue to play a meaningful role in the rail network.
Support the general alignment of the route and the location of the three stations. Aotea at the heart of midtown, K Road serving an area furtherest from the existing rail network and Newton station acting as a catalyst for the growth of an area with enormous development potential. There is an interesting argument to be had around whether construction of the some of the stations should be staged but this consenting process is all about protecting the footprint so issues about sequencing are irrelevant here.
As suggested in this previous post, there are some potential improvements, though relatively minor, that could be made to the proposed designation footprint:
Designate an area across the site at the corner of Elliott and Victoria Streets to ensure future access between the corner of Darby & Elliott streets and the entrance to Aotea Station. This will enable a level entrance to the station from Queen Street along Darby – rather than unnecessarily forcing people to climb up Victoria or Wellesley streets to then go down again to the platforms.
Require further information about how Albert Street will be rebuilt after it’s dug up between Wellesley and Customs streets. If possible we should try to remove the slip lane between Wellesley and Victoria streets and also improve the quality of footpaths along all of Albert Street from their current embarrassing state.
Provision of a second station entrance at Newton station on the eastern side of Symonds Street – to relieve pressure on what would otherwise be just the one entrance to this station in a not particularly pedestrian friendly part of Auckland.
Submissions are pretty easy to make – just fill in the online submission form here and make sure you note that the submission applies to all the notices of requirement.
Transport infrastructure is just one of small group of vital core systems that the entire edifice of the city depends upon. This group; the water, wastewater, electricity, telecommunications, and transport structures of a city are critical to its wellbeing and success. These allow all the other social systems of a city; commerce, education, health, social and living processes to function at all. Such is the success of the city model that we have become able to expect these services to be operating all the time and without interruption more or less invisibly: To always be able to drink the water, to have electricity at the flick of a switch, to be able to physically access all of the city efficiently.
Cities are so dependent on these networks that they may even face existential crisis if one or more of them fail for any length of time. But of course they all require expensive physical infrastructure and ongoing organisation to maintain them. And because of the enormous economies of scale in the whole city solving these practical problems together some sort of central planning structure and mechanism for funding their construction and operation is also need. There are always debates around the need or otherwise for investment in these systems. In particular there always seem to be those who never want to invest in anything at all, or at least resist changing the current way of doing things.
“New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!” — Sir Arthur C. Clark
For a city of its size and wealth Auckland has a relatively poor record in a number these areas recently. It seems we are in the habit of skimping on vital spending in some areas, building a bare minimum and just hoping for the best. We got badly found out with our electricity supply systems in 1998 with a major outage caused by the failure of equipment for which we had no backup or alternative route.
And until recently almost every summer we ran into water supply problems as we gambled with the weather to cooperate with the growing demands of an expanding city. But not this year, despite a record lack of rain and a record population. And there’s a good reason why as outlined in this article from Fairfax:
The Waikato pipeline has saved Auckland from a full-blown water shortage, mayor Len Brown says.
The pipeline, developed in the mid-1990s, now provides 20 per cent of the city’s water supply.
“The lakes are presently sitting at 70 per cent. That’s really only because we’re able to tap into the Waikato supply,” Mr Brown says.
“We’ve had basically drought conditions for the last six weeks.”
A $48 million upgrade completed last year increased the amount of water the pipeline is able to be supply from 75 million litres to 125 million litres .
“Aucklanders’ reliance on other supplies is being hugely tested.
“But those people in urban Auckland wouldn’t know that at all. It’s an endless beautiful summer and they’re lapping it up.”
Mr Brown describes the pipeline as a “massive investment” which the former leaders of Auckland had the foresight to commission.
A further pipeline upgrade would be possible in the future as demand increases with population growth.
Sixty per cent of Auckland’s water comes from dams in the Hunua Ranges, 17 per cent from dams in the Waitakere Ranges, 20 per cent from the pipeline and 3 per cent from a freshwater spring in Onehunga.
So Auckland is only able to still function because of this ‘“massive investment” which the former leaders of Auckland had the foresight to commission’. And it is expandable for future ‘demand increases with population growth.’
It is worth noting that the pipeline achieves this by only supplying 20% of our water needs. So it has been able to stabilise our existing water demand by meeting one fifth of the need. It has smoothed the peaks in the demand across the year.
But of course like all really successful infrastructure investments we tend to forget about it now it is working smoothly and just expect it to be there doing its job. What a great luxury. It’s only when things break down or show that they are becoming inadequate that we start to get really interested in them. In Auckland now there is really only one of these vital functions that is attracting that much interest: our transport systems. That the city comes to a total halt when there are problems on the motorway network shows that we are overly reliant on this one system, as we were when we only had local dams suppling our water.
Margritte, This is not a Pipe
It is not hard to see a metaphor here. It is very odd that some still claim that the best way to improve the quality of our transport systems in Auckland is to keep putting more eggs into one basket: To keep building more motorways. Yet as we had the wisdom to diversify our water supply it is clearly time to do the same in the transport sector. To be successful this diversification does not at all mean abandoning or downgrading our current assets, it is just a question of adding the option of a much more viable alternative to compliment them. And in the City Rail Link and associated work on the rail and bus networks we have a project that is analogous to the Waikato pipeline: it is the project to keep our current dominant asset running better.
And this is a matter of some urgency because of the time it will take construct this new high capacity ‘pipeline’ it is unwise to delay unless we are prepared to put up with increasingly frequent gridlock events. Not that any alternative to driving will ‘solve’ congestion or prevent accidents or all delays but a really high quality complimentary network will certainly provide that critical core percentage of movement that will remain untroubled by events elsewhere. And the CRL is the very core of the new bus/rail RTN backbone of that complimentary system.
But this is a new idea for Auckland [see Arthur C Clark above], and most people here have become used to the idea that you have to drive to get anywhere, so can it work, will people use it?
Well at every turn this century as we have improved the RTN network; Rail and the Northern Busway, these investments have been met with higher than projected patronage. And as the CRL and associated works will allow a frequency, capacity, and convenience that will make the entire network so much more attractive for so many people on so many occasions there is no reason to believe that this trend won’t just continue but accelerate. To contend otherwise cannot be supported by evidence. Or at least I have never seen any argument more advanced than simply the stating of an opinion as to why we shouldn’t confidently expect rapid growth in ridership after these investments.
We can also reasonably also look to the single most relevant example for a guide. Below is the Perth patronage data. Perth began a series of improvements to its rail network when its system was carrying around the same number as ours is now. The improvements are remarkably similar, electrification, an underground inner city connecting line, bus integration. Perth has a similar culture and population to Auckland, it is in fact a more spread out city, with fewer geographic constraints and a higher average income than Auckland. These facts make it an almost ideal, if conservative, model for Auckland’s plans.
Electrification with its every 10 minutes turn-up-and-go frequencies will certainly address our current capacity problems. But then once you add the more attractive and reliable trains, extension of services through the day and into weekends, coordination with the new bus network through fare integration as well as station and stop linking, it will also clearly grow demand beyond the constraints of the network. And, it is important to note, all of that at a considerably lower cost per service and per user.
So it is clear that well before the end of this decade the all-terminating-at-Britomart system is going to be groaning at the seams and a sorry waste of the potential carrying capacity of the wider network. While the coming improvements will wring more use out of what is the biggest waste of existing capacity in Auckland it will still be only lifting a fraction of the load it could be. What it could be with the CRL.
There seems to be growing interest rail to the North Shore, perhaps mainly driven by the fact that one of the project’s biggest benefits would be putting off spending $5 billion on the stupidest transport project ever, another motorway crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. However there still seems to be relatively little discussion and agreement over how it might link in with the rest of the rail network. The Integrated Transport Programme costed the rail crossing at around $1 billion, but seemed to show it finishing tantalisingly close to the rail network at Wynyard, but not actually linking in (suggesting that NZTA and Auckland Transport have included it for show more than serious consideration) or perhaps it’s just hidden behind the words “city centre”.The Auckland Plan was a bit more definitive, showing that North Shore rail should link into the rail system at Aotea Station:Presumably Aotea Station’s is being future-proofed for a connection to a future North Shore Line in its design (something to submit on in regards to the City Rail Link notice of requirement). Previous options of connecting in at Britomart seem to have been abandoned – most probably because Aotea is more central and it’s not possible anyway to hook the North Shore line into the CRL as you’d end up with far too many conflicting train movements. Patrick outlined in a post a few months back how an extended Aotea Station might work to serve both the CRL and the North Shore Line. A further station would obviously be provided at Wynyard Quarter.
But what next? Should the railway line just be an independent line (maybe Vancouver Skytrain style light-metro to keep Peter M happy?) or could it link through to the Southern or Eastern Lines? Exploring each option further highlights advantages and disadvantages for every option, and perhaps not a particularly obvious preferred candidate.
Starting off with linking it through to the Southern Line, which would most easily be done by continuing the tunnel under Wellesley Street, probably bridging over Grafton Gully and then linking in with the Southern Line just north of Parnell. Something like this:The line could then extend to either the Airport or to the Southern Line, or conceivably both (especially if on the North Shore you had one service pattern commencing at Takapuna and another commencing at Albany). The end result of this approach is probably something similar to what Matt and Patrick developed last year – known as “the cross”:Advantages of this approach include the creation of a pretty legible and easily understood network – basically a north-south line and an east-west line, with a few variations and branches further out. You get a direct link from the North Shore to the Airport, you provide a heap of capacity to the city centre by running the two lines completely independent of each other and you remove the need to use that slow bit of the rail network around Vector Arena. Disadvantages perhaps include the enormous strain on Aotea Station as the transfer station between the two main lines, the requirement that North Shore rail be built to heavy rail standard (rather than the likely much cheaper Light Metro). It also effectively requires the construction of a second CRL – this time in an east-west direction. As we’re struggling to find the funding for the first CRL it does appear slightly premature to be planning what’s effectively a second, somewhat similar, tunnel.
The next option is to look at linking the North Shore Line up with the Eastern Line, via a route that takes a little bit of imagination but isn’t too impossible – leading to something like this:
Once again this option appears to have a number of advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include perhaps a slightly shorter and simpler link with the rail network that doesn’t involve bridging Grafton Gully and perhaps utilises some of the trackwork at the old Auckland Railway Station area to link into the Eastern Line. Trains heading further east could travel on to either Manukau via the existing Eastern Line or to Botany (or beyond?) via a new southeast line (as previously discussed here). Splitting the trains across two destinations in the east would balance well with trains originating at Takapuna and Albany on the North Shore – creating something like this:
Albany-Manukau via City Centre, Panmure and Otahuhu
Takapuna-Manukau via City Centre, Glen Innes and Highland Park
Swanson to Papakura/Pukekohe via CRL, Newmarket and Southern Line
Mt Roskill to Airport via CRL, Newmarket and Penrose
Mapped it looks something like this:Now before you go and yell at me for being too city centre focused I’m not necessarily suggesting that what’s shown above is Auckland’s ideal future rail network, but rather that it’s one way of showing how a North Shore Line could be “linked in” with Auckland’s existing rail network.
The big flaw with both “the cross” option and the one shown above is that they leave no role for Grafton Station, other than potentially on some sort of shuttle between Newmarket and Kingsland (would have to be Kingland now the Inner West Interchange station is gone). Both options also require significant expense east of Aotea Station to “link” the tracks coming into the city from the west with either the Southern or Eastern lines at Parnell or a bit north of that at the old railway station. Both options also seem to relegate the role of the City Rail Link by pulling either Southern Line or Eastern Line trains out of the tunnel and effectively giving both lines only one city centre station (plus Wynyard). Finally, both options also require the North Shore Line to be built as heavy rail, which is likely to be quite a bit more expensive than a light-metro option – although still barely half the cost of a road crossing of the Harbour.
The final option is to just terminate the trains at Aotea Station – running trains from both Albany and Takapuna to Aotea and then back again. This option is completely independent of the existing rail network:Advantages include relatively low cost (compared to other options), the potential to do driverless light-metro and the fact that the rest of the rail network’s balance isn’t stuffed up in the ways that caused problems with the other options (such as it being difficult to serve Grafton Station). Disadvantages include quite a lot more transfers, creating another independent system and the challenges with where you’d maintain the train fleet.
As I noted at the start of my post, there’s no clear winner when it comes to options to connect North Shore Rail into the existing system – but there sure are a whole heap of interesting options. Which is your favourite? Why? Have I missed another option or two that might work even better?
Last week Michael Barnett and Kim Campbell of the Chamber of Commerce and Employers and Manufacturers Association co-wrote a good opinion piece supporting the City Rail Link. We know that the CRL is popular with the general public, however we are now starting to see a number of businesses and business groups also come out in support of it. With that in mind, I thought it would be good to create a list of those businesses/organisations or prominent individuals that support the project, and those that don’t. I will also added this information as a page under CRL topic in the drop down menus above.
Organisations that Support the CRL
Campaign for Better Transport
Chamber of Commerce – Herald opinion piece – “Without extending the rail lines through Britomart into a complete rail loop the station is largely a white elephant. It can never run at more than 30 per cent of its potential capacity.”
Employers and Manufacturers Association – Same as Chamber of commerce, also appeared in this video about the project.
Kiwi Income Property Trust – RLTP and RPTP submissions – “Continued recognition of the need for the City Rail Link”
Grey Power – RPTP submission – “the inner core requires a commitment to the rail loop”
NZ Bus – RPTP submission - “NZ Bus continues to support the City Rail Loop”
These are just ones I have found quickly found and they represent a fairly wide cross section of society. I know that there will be lots more out so if I have missed any, or you want your business/organisation listed then let me know and I will add it in. I would also like to know of which businesses/organisations or prominent individuals oppose the CRL as currently the list stands at:
While we are on the topic of the CRL, why does Auckland Transport not do anything to address the complete lack on understanding about the project that exists among many members of the general public. This lack of understanding shows up in many ways and often relates to some of the finer, but key details. The first example is from the op-ed piece mentioned above. In it they said:
The whole of the CBD would come within a 10-minute walk of a railway station. Britomart would then become much more than a dead-end as another train came by every 10 minutes.
We will get a train every 10 minutes on each of the main lines just from electrification. The original business case for the project suggested a that theoretically we could pump up to 30 trains per hour in each direction through the tunnel. Due to the various junctions that exist across the network a more realistic figure is 24 trains per hour per direction but what does that mean in real life? Well depending on the the service pattern we use, some lines could be as high as a train every 5 minutes per direction, combining to a train every 2.5 minutes in each direction through Britomart and the CRL. That is a far sight better than what is being suggested above but if I had to guess, I would say that AT are too scared to commit to details like frequencies.
The next example comes from a letter to the editor, obviously in response to the op-ed.
There are a number of issues with the writers assumptions but the key one is the suggestion that the CRL would only generate an additional 4 million trips per year. Firstly it ignores the impact that electrification has on rail patronage, something known as the “Sparks Effect”. This was clearly demonstrated in Perth when they electrified their network and it is also expected to occur in Auckland. By 2016 Auckland Transport are estimating that there will be over 17 million journeys on the rail network and the original CRL business case suggests this will rise to ~20 million by 2021. Without the CRL patronage on the rail network will peak a few years later in the vicinity of 22-25 million. By comparison with the CRL patronage is expected to rise rapidly reaching ~48 million trips per year by 2041.
Once again though we seem to have a case where Auckland Transport is too scared to say these numbers. The projections above weren’t even released in to the public as part of the original business case but had to be obtained via an OIA request. Yet this is exactly the kind of thing that AT should be shouting from the rooftops so people understand just how much different the network will be once the project is built. Its might even be worth them pointing out that previous projections have tended to underestimate patronage.
In my view, Auckland Transport need to become more proactive in addressing this issue. Holding open days is good but a lot more could easily be done that would help their cause.
Posters have recently popped up on trains and about town advertising City Rail Link information days. I can’t find the actual poster online, but the image below is front and centre on these public service announcements:
There are a couple of things going wrong here, and I have to ask how AT could release such an image when they should be marketing the CRL in a positive light.
I have a couple of questions. Why would AT release an image in public that included:
A single tiny tram down the far end of the platform. Not a pair of our new extra long electric commuter trains filling the station up, one little tram. A tram FFS! This is no doubt going to confuse some people about what vehicles would actually run in the tunnel (“oh, they’ve gone back to that old light rail plan again I see”), leading to questions of why trams need a multi billion dollar tunnel to make their way down Albert St. It also suggests that the station is being built far too big for what it needs to support. This picture shows a wasteful extravagance, not an efficient piece of critical transport infrastructure.
A station with a few ghostly passengers in it, and a street above with a scattering of pedestrians and more than a few cars. Is this the empty lifeless CBD that demands an underground railway, or is this ghostown the result of station construction perhaps? Why are we building this tunnel in the first place? He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
A grey and lifeless tint to the city. Sure overcast skies have little to do with rail stations, but it makes it all look quite dreary. Shouldn’t we be getting the public excited and enthusiastic instead?
A station that appears to have only one track. I realise that is just a combination of the perspective and the lack of a train on the other side, but it still looks like a single track station.
Buildings with for lease signs all over them. Ok this is a little hard to see, but it goes completely against the value of the CRL. If that station is sitting under the CBD there bloody well shouldn’t be any empty buildings right next door. They missed a trick here by not photoshopping a “LEASED” banner across the top of that signage.
A cityscape with a roadworks sign in it. Yes the CRL will cause plenty of roadworks and disruption. No we don’t want to advertise the fact!
My only conclusion is that no one is really thinking about image and marketing at all. Sure this render probably came from the architects doing the station interior, but it’s pretty slack to just slap it up in the public domain without any thought or improvement. Maybe I’m being too harsh here, but I think they really need to shape up on how the CRL is presented to the public if we ever want it to get good support.
An interesting article in the NZ Herald on Tuesday, noting some comments made by Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Auckland Council head planner Roger Blakeley, in relation to the City Rail Link project. Starting with Brownlee:
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee told a transport summit in Wellington yesterday that the case for the $2.86 billion rail link would be stronger in 2030 than the council’s target.
This is quite a shift from what Brownlee seemed to be saying in his immediate response to the release of the City Centre Future Access Study, where I think his key quote was this:
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Sinclair Knight Merz report “City Centre Future Access Study” released this afternoon by Auckland Mayor Len Brown is a useful addition to the debate on long term transport management in central Auckland.
“It also falls some way short of convincing the Government it should provide financial support to any fast tracking of the proposed City Rail Link (CRL),” Mr Brownlee says.
“In a nutshell the report says the case for building the CRL is weak now, improves somewhat if it’s built closer to 2030 – based on some extremely optimistic assumptions about employment growth in the Auckland CBD – and even then would only provide about 20 per cent of the additional transport capacity needed to deal with increased congestion.”
My understanding is that the purpose of CCFAS wasn’t to justify when the project should be constructed but rather to look at the impact the CRL and other transport options would have on providing for continued access to the city centre in the medium to long term. Fully understanding when the project should happen is the task of a detailed business case – which seems to be the next step for the CRL to take.
Dr Blakeley noted in the same article that waiting until 2030 for the project was “untenable”:
Speaking at the summit today, Auckland Council chief planning officer Roger Blakeley responded that such a delay would be “untenable”.
He said further delays to the rail link would limit employment, growth and economic benefits.
“I’m aware that the Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee said yesterday that, in his view, the case for the city rail link is stronger at 2030 rather than 2020.
“The council and Auckland Transport’s view is that it should be implemented by 2021 … We think that it’s untenable to have New Zealand’s only international-sized city with traffic at speeds at peak in the morning reduced to around 7km/h.”
From a pure “can we find a way to provide sufficient transport capacity to meet demands up to 2030″ perspective we probably could delay construction of the CRL to that point. We can turn most streets in the CBD over to bus-only operation, we can run more trains directly between the west and the south, we can make all trains (aside from Onehunga services presumably) six cars long at peak times and so forth. We might get through.
Of course the down-side of that approach is missing all the transformational benefits of the City Rail Link, not just for the city centre but for the whole of Auckland. Stations along the western line simply won’t be “close enough” (in terms of travel time) to the city centre to stimulate intensification. We’ll probably see the employment targets for the city centre (where the most productive jobs are located) missed and lose out on the agglomeration benefits for all of Auckland and New Zealand that increased employment density would provide. We’ll lose the opportunity to reallocate street space in the city centre to pedestrians, thereby making it a less attractive environment. We’ll lose the improved connectivity between major regional centres on the rail network and the increased frequencies throughout the rail network that the City Rail Link enables. We’ll see further extensions to the rail network like a line to the airport and the Mt Roskill spur line pushed back another decade, and so forth.
In essence, I feel that building the City Rail Link by 2021 reflects the project’s key role in transforming Auckland into the world’s most liveable city and significantly boosting our economic performance. Finding a way to “get by” until 2030 simply views the project from a narrow transport perspective and really only in terms of it providing increased capacity to the city centre. Let’s just hope that the detailed business case looks at these wider issues when finding an answer to the question of “when”.
On the bright side, I think it’s a step in the right direction to even have Brownlee focused on the “when” question rather than the “if” question.
Following on from years of investigation and initial design, Auckland Transport are currently going through the process to get the City Rail Link designated. Over the last few years the project has been discussed not only on this blog but also in other forms of media. I tend to find that attitudes to the project generally fall into one of three general categories – those that oppose it, those that support it and those that support it with changes. It is the last of those groups that I want to look at with this post, in particular the suggestions that the route the CRL takes is wrong, or at least not ideal. While he is by no means the only person doing so, one of the common people to push this idea is Michael Barnett with his most recent mention of it coming just before Christmas.
It is very clear that the principle of turning the end-of-the-line Britomart rail station into a through stop on a loop line, so doubling the number trains that can travel on the rail network, has been sold to the Auckland public and has strong support as part of the city’s transport solution.
Whether the extended rail line should go closer to Auckland University or Auckland City Hospital to maximise the number of passengers the rail service will attract is important detail for transport experts to sort out.
Other common destinations frequently mentioned include Wynyard Quarter and the North Shore. It’s pretty easy to understand why each of these locations are on the list:
The Hospital area has thousands of staff who are coming and going at different hours and on top of that there are huge numbers of people visiting family members. Across the road there is also the med school which would house quite a number of students.
The two Universities have tens of thousands of students between them and as we know, students are large users of PT
Wynyard Quarter is a large area where the is expected to be a lot of development, both residential and commercial in coming years
The North Shore is the largest area in Auckland that doesn’t currently have access to a rail service.
I’ll come back to look at the stations again shortly but first I want to see if there is actually a route that could take all of these locations into effect. I think there is a potential route that takes these all into account and it is shown in red below with some potential station locations in yellow. For comparison purposes I have shown the existing rail network in black and the CRL in blue.
As you can see it takes in all of the major destinations listed above and would allow for a future connection to the North Shore, all of which is great, but what are the downsides?
First of all from where the Grafton stations is, down to where Wellesley St crosses the motorway is a change in elevation of around 50m, way too steep for a rail line which means any tunnel would have to start back towards Mt Eden and Newmarket respectively. That would make such a tunnel, even just to Wynyard quite a bit longer than the CRL and therefore more expensive. It would have to provide a lot more advantages above that delivered by the CRL to justify changing the route.
The next bit is perhaps the key problem with such a route, how do you run services. One of the beauties of the currently planned CRL route is that it allows us to join together the routes on our existing network creating a handful of more efficient through routes, like shown below.
When we look at the red route however, things aren’t as easy. At Wynyard we don’t want to be building a terminus station Terminus station like we have with Britomart and even when such a line is extended across the harbour, there is unlikely to be enough demand to extend all services across there. The most logical solution in my head would be to send Western line and Onehunga line trains down the red route. With capacity at Britomart freed up, additional services from the Southern and Eastern lines could be sent there. This of course raises questions about how people would use the overall network. Would someone from the Eastern line have to travel into Britomart transfer to a service going out to Britomart, then onto a third service to get across the harbour. Alternatively would they have to walk or bus up Queen St to transfer? Neither of these options sounds appealing, even to someone like me who supports PT, and the transfer concept strongly. Trains from the Western line would also not get the same level of time saving benefits they will get with the CRL.
The third key area where such a proposal falls over is with the station catchments. The hospital is already less than 500m away from the Grafton station and it is fairly easy to walk between the two. The same applies for the universities with the Aotea St station. With integrated ticketing and fares it will be even easier for those that don’t want to walk to jump on one of the many that will travel along either Wellesley St, Symonds St or Park Rd. In fact both the Hospital and Universties are easy to access from two directions, as shown below.
Also as Patrick pointed out in this post, depending on where the final entrances and exits to the Aotea station end up being, the walk could be reduced further. One thing the CRL station would do is likely provide a bit better access to the western side of the CBD. We also miss out on having stations that will help revitalise both the Karangahape Rd and Newton areas.
All of this doesn’t mean I think there aren’t some good parts to this alternate route. The proposed Aotea station is said to already include provision for platforms under Wellesley St for a future connection to the North Shore. As part of that the Wynyard station would be built and would have a lot more development around it to be used. From Aotea the line could extend along the route shown in red or go somewhere else entirely different, perhaps something like the future network I suggested a while ago.
Instead of arguing about the route, something that has been looked at a number of times, lets focus on getting the proposed CRL under way first. Even so it wouldn’t half surprise me if the government use a route like suggested as a way to support the idea of a CRL without having to agree with completely with the council.