Auckland Transport have released some new photos of the first of our new electric trains being built in Spain. Here is the press release:
The countdown is on for new electric trains to commence passenger service in Auckland.
The first train is about to roll off the production line at Construcciones y Auxillair Ferrocarriles (CAF) in Spain. CAF is building a fleet of 57 three-car high-speed train sets to carry passengers on the Auckland suburban rail network. These new state of the art trains have been designed to meet the specific needs of Aucklanders and feature the latest in terms of safety, comfort and reliability.
The first train is expected to leave Spain in June, arriving here in early September. Between September and April the new trains will be thoroughly tested and used for driver training before going into operation once there is a sufficient number to run a commercial service.
And for the first time we can reveal the seating layout for the trains. This comes after Auckland Transport consulted with user groups (including the mobility impaired and cyclists) on what they need from the trains.
Auckland Transport Chief Executive David Warburton says, “The input of various interest groups has helped with the final layout. These trains are designed specifically for the needs of Aucklanders.
The three-car trains carry up to 375 passengers, around 100 more than the current trains or an increase of over 35 per cent.
All cars will have a variety of seating arrangements. The longitudinal seating will be Priority Seating for people with mobility issues, seniors and parents with children as well as those travelling with large items like bikes and cases. There will be four sets of flip up Priority Seats inside the middle (or trailer) car where bicycles and wheelchairs can be secured for travel.
Dr Warburton says, “Passengers will be able to walk the full length of a three car train via the connection between the motor cars and central trailer car, making it easier to find a seat and meaning increased safety.”
And here are the images. The first shows what appears to be an almost completed motor car (there are two in each three car set)
While the second image shows the interior which is still being fitted out however is already looking very nice
I can’t wait till these are on the tracks and carrying passengers.
While the integrated ticketing project seems to have been an ongoing saga for some time now, it might not be the only public transport project that is running into trouble at the moment. Lately I have been hearing from a wide range of people about another high project that could be in trouble, electrification. Just to ensure there is no confusion it is probably worth reminding everyone that the electrification project I am referring to relates to the physical infrastructure being installed, this part of the project is being managed by Kiwirail. As far as I am aware, the electric trains and depot, which are managed by Auckland Transport, are on track with the first unit well into the construction phase and due to arrive most likely in September.
The electrification project itself has consisted of a number of smaller projects:
- Signalling – The overhead wires had the potential to interfere with the existing signals we had so the entire network needed to be re signalled to prevent that from happening. Regardless Auckland’s previous signalling system was fairly ancient so needed replacing anyway. I believe that with the completion of track works at Papakura this is now completed.
- Clearances – Many of the bridges that crossed the rail network didn’t have enough height to allow the wires to run under them. This has been resolved by either lowering the tracks or replacing the bridges. This has now been completed although work is still going on for the new Ellerslie Panmure Highway bridge as part of AMETI.
- Traction – This is the actual masts and wires.
Completed wires out near Swanson (thanks Geoff)
As mentioned the signalling and clearance works have been completed or are very close to being so, the problem is with the traction side of things. The traction contract was signed in mid January 2010 just before the new Newmarket station opened however even in the announcement I can’t find any information as to just when it was due to be completed. It has actually been surprisingly hard to find out exactly when the project was due to be completed but these.
Mr Quinn gave an assurance that with the news today of the consortium winning the tender, the work will be completed in 2013 in time for the first delivery of new electric trains
- This was from just over a month after the traction contract was signed.
”The infrastructure has to be completed before the rolling stock arrives in 2013,” he says.
The last section to be electrified will be the eastern line with all the infrastructure completed by the end of 2013
How long will it take to electrify the entire network?
KiwiRail is working to a deadline of 2013 to complete the infrastructure for electrification. The first masts started appearing on the Western Line in 2011, and the work is being completed in phases.
- There was also this slide in a presentation to the councils Transport Committee in October last year confirming that the wires would be completed by August. Note they also state that the section of Newmarket to Swanson would be energised in March yet currently there are no wires between Newmarket and Mt Albert
KiwiRail is using its last big summer shutdown of the region’s rail network to rearrange tracks at Britomart and two other locations before spinning the final segments of an electrical web which by August will cover about 85km of lines from central Auckland to Papakura in the south and Swanson in the northwest.
Basically everything I can find points to the wires being completed later this year but unfortunately that doesn’t match what I have been hearing recently so I went directly to Kiwirail to find out what they say. Here is their response:
The project is on course for completion in first quarter 2014. As you may know the sections of overheads on the Onehunga branch and the NAL between Penrose and Newmarket have been commissioned. The next section to be commissioned will be Penrose to the Wiri EMU depot, which will be in the third quarter of this year. Beyond that we are working closely with Auckland Transport to ensure we align commissioning further of sections of OLE with their programme for delivery and commissioning of EMUs.
It’s obviously quite clear right from the get go that the project won’t be completed this year and first quarter 2014 could mean the wires aren’t finished till almost April, up to 7 months late. Reading between the lines there is more concerning news with revelation that by the time the first train arrives, it is likely that the only section of wires fully completed and commissioned will be the section between the Wiri depot and Newmarket. I also suspect it means we are unlikely to see any wires up in Britomart until next year. That means it is unlikely that there will any electric train services till later in 2014 as there would still be quite a bit of time needed for testing and driver training, after all we don’t want our drivers misjudging things and ploughing into the end of the platforms.
Here is Kiwirail’s latest update from the 18th of March. Since that time I believe that the work has primarily focused on the section around the Westfield Junction.
All up this is very disappointing and given the current slow progress, I fear that even the completion date of first quarter 2014 could slip further. Further motorway projects these days always seem to come in both ahead of time and within budget, why is it we can’t do the same for PT projects?
Over the last few weeks there has been a renewed media focus on Auckland’s transport issues. This has been spurred on by two main events the first was the Green Party launching their Reconnect Auckland campaign and the second was the announcement of alternative funding options to help pay for future transport projects. Along with that it has seen a resurgence of an annoying myth that members of the government like to perpetrate. In an effort to try and make their transport policy sound more balanced than it actually is they love to state that the government has invested $1.6 billion into the rail network. Government MPs talk about it on social networks or at meetings, Gerry Brownlee mentioned it in his recent interview on Campbell live and Steven Joyce, repeated it this morning on The Nation (on TV3).
Now $1.6 billion certainly sounds like a lot of money and of course it is. It is also true that it the amount of money that central government has, or will be spend on rail up until the electrification project has been completed. The issue I have is that a decent proportion of the money was approved or spent before the current government even came into office. So let’s look at the figure a bit more closely, the $1.6 billion can be boiled down into three key areas:
- $600 million for Project DART
- $500 million for the electrification infrastructure
- $500 million for the new electric trains
As the government are using the total figure to suggest that they are investing in a more balanced transport system, the question becomes whether the money was invested by the current government or not, so lets have a look.
Amongst other improvements it included double tracking the western line, various station upgrades, the Newmarket Station and changes to the junction, the New Lynn trench and station, reinstating the Onehunga Line, building the Manukau branch line. Kiwirails page on the project also states:
The 2006 Budget included funding of up to $600 million for rail infrastructure improvements to speed development of the Auckland network.
So yes this was paid for by central government but as you can see, funding started before the current government came to power which was late in 2008. Of course not all funding is spent in one year and as Brownlee said the other day, they didn’t cancel it. But even if they wanted to, how much could they have cancelled anyway? Well probably not much.
Interestingly the funding for this project was kept out of the normal transport budget and instead is listed under the finance budget. The government’s budget documents for the 2006/2007 financial year shows that the money was to be spent over a four year period and it was only the fourth year that National had any control over the budget. By then pretty much all of the various aspects to the project were either already completed or well under way meaning it was probably impossible to cancel anyway.
To me there is no way that the current government can claim the $600 million spent on Project DART as their spending or that they had anything to with it.
This includes new signalling, modifying existing infrastructure like bridges and of course the wires themselves. Funding for electrification was initially included in the 2007 budget and was separate to the funding allocated for Project DART.
Now from memory the government intended to pay for the Auckland work via a regional fuel tax which would work in conjunction with one the region would also impose to fund other projects, including new trains. When National came to power they stopped the regional fuel tax and put a hold on the electrification project. They eventually agreed to let it go ahead and paid for it out of the nationwide fuel tax increase. It is however quite clear that funding for the project was initiated in 2007, over a year before National came to power.
There is obviously not much point in paying $500 million for electrification without trains to run under the wires. As mentioned, the original electrification proposal was to see Auckland pay for the trains out of a regional fuel tax imposed by the regional council. The national governments cancelling of that fuel tax took that funding option off the table. When they finally agreed to let the project go ahead it was announced that the trains would be paid for by way of a loan that Auckland would have to pay back (without the extra source of funding). Worse still was that even after paying back the loan the proposal meant that Auckland still wouldn’t own the trains, Kiwirail would, however this has now changed and Auckland will own the trains directly.
Since then there has been some positive news, it was announced that Auckland would end up getting more electric trains that first proposed, that was partly possible due to better than originally expected exchange rates along with the government kicking in an extra $90 million. The NZTA are also going to contribute to the loan payments in the same way they provide money for PT operating costs however oddly it turns out that the government appears to be clipping the ticket on the loan by charging a margin on top of their cost of funding.
The first EMU will be here in a few months time
So when the government states that they have invested $1.6 billion in to rail in Auckland, it is frankly untrue. In fact the only new funding they seem to have provided is the extra $90 million they provided to buy extra EMUs and the 50% share of funding for loan repayments. Other than that all of the funding is the same as what was agreed to before they came to office.
Data visualisation specialist Jonathan Callahan has produced by far the most interesting response to the death of Margaret Thatcher I’ve yet to see, originally posted as a comment on The Oil Drum and reproduced below. Using his Energy Data Browser he has linked significant points of Thatcher’s career to the North Sea Oil boom. This connection is useful to further unpack issues around the vulnerabilities of nations [and governments] more generally to oil dependancy.
Before having a look it is worth noting a couple of things. The Data Browser turns the figures from the annual BP Statistical Review into visualisations of where regions and nations sit on the Energy Import/Export seesaw. As such it depends on BP’s policies and accuracy. For instance the oil category is an ‘all liquids’ measure not crude oil only [the best stuff], so biofuels, lease condensate, bitumen and all sorts of products with different energy content and utility are all included. The key issue, however, is illustrated very clearly: North Sea Oil gave the UK some 25 years as a net exporter of liquid fuels. And that’s now over. Thatcher’s achievements, whatever your view of them need to be seen in the context of this temporary boom, as do Blair’s. For example; it is easier to close down one energy industry [coal mining] when you happen to have a new one just coming on stream [North Sea Oil].
UK Liquid Fuels and Thatcher. J Callahan
This approach should also be extended to include the Prime Ministers that followed Thatcher: Major and Blair both also had the good fortune to preside over the North Sea oil bubble. And Blair, like Thatcher, took his country to war and failed to plan for the decline of this energy windfall. Neither of these following PMs deviated from Thatcher’s line; taking the short term opportunity offered by this finite resource with no attempt to either husband it nor use it to invest in its replacement [unlike the other beneficiaries of the North Sea resource; The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway, all of whom have been more circumspect with their shares]. Also the focus through this period in the transport sector was all on privatisation, PPPs, and other financial rearrangements but nothing on core issues like energy security [part of what is meant by the term sustainability] just gaming the market. In the UK the North Sea hydrocarbon riches have been used by both Parties to pursue social agendas and to fund foreign adventures.
This energy-centred analysis can also be extrapolated to the present which is looking increasingly like a direct continuation of the difficult economic crises of the 1970s in Britain [energy supply costs as cause of economic and social problems]. It’s almost as if the North Sea bounty never happened. Much harder for Cameron to continue Thatcher’s social confrontations without the happy boon of both the oil and its excise revenue. With North Sea production now increasingly in the rear view mirror, it looks very much like a wasted opportunity, most of it sold, after all, at around $10-15 a barrel. Nothing like an unrestrained free market to efficiently strip a resource as quickly as possible [again; compare and contrast to the more controlled exploitation by the other beneficiaries of this same resource]. So whenever I read praise of Thatcher’s or Blair and Brown’s financial management with no mention of the North Sea largess I find it hard to take seriously.
Given the example of Thatcher’s long hold on power and the lasting changes her government was able to make to British society it is easy to see why our current government is so keen on the idea that there must be oil under our land or seas somewhere; bending over backwards with sweetheart deals and law changes to try to entice oil companies to look for it. The search for oil has been going on for many decades here yet New Zealand has always been a net oil importer and the gap between production and consumption [see below] has widened considerably over the last 20 years. Our entire economy is extremely vulnerable to either restrictions in supply or rises in price of this commodity [two sides of the same coin].
NZ OIL 1974-2011
Therefore I would argue, and the example of the UK North Sea resource supports this, that the far better direction for any government is to work on reducing our dependancy on this very hard to replace input. With urgency. To work towards a situation where the quantities we are either producing or importing are used in the most value-added and vital parts of the economy and not simply squandered on more inefficient and wasteful uses.
Oil can be replaced by other energy sources in many applications [like electricity generation, which largely happened after the 1970s oil shock] but this is most difficult in the transport sector, oil is by far the best and most efficient source of liquid fuels: Oil issues are transport issues and visa-versa.
Because the vast majority of the use [and waste] of oil products is in the Transport sector this is the area that desperately needs new thinking and leadership from all levels of government. This is not easy but there are significant things that can be done now, changes that do not require currently unavailable or unaffordable technologies. For example the provision of much more effective urban public transport and in the electrification of as much of freight and passenger transport systems as is possible. As well as much more imaginative management of alternatives systems like our legacy rail network that are almost certain to become part of the answer to this problem.
The more we can bring that pink line in the chart above down, and in a structural way, the better. Consumption has plateaued since around 2004 but it will take a great deal more effort than just hoping people will buy smaller/hybrid/EV cars or spending enormous sums [virtually the entire transport budget] to straighten out some State Highways to get it meaningfully lower. This is true whether someone gets lucky and finds significant new oil or not; the less we are wasting the more beneficial any find would be [as well, of course, helping to reduce the production of the negative externalities that comes with burning all these fossil fuels]. The key metric for every country is the net figure; imports minus exports and the closer consumption is to zero the better this this sum will always be.
We are, unlike the UK, in a very much better position with regards to electricity generation, and there is still a great deal that can be done to improve from the current 80% renewable figure. 100% renewable generation is an important task; it certainly would be better to not be burning gas and coal to make electricity. [Although they are making some good moves in the UK now too].
Unfortunately I guess our extremely short election cycle is one thing that works against longer term views, but then the UK’s five year cycle didn’t help them plan better for the future either. So the lack of any vision simply beyond trying to maintain ‘business as usual’ for a just little bit longer is really the problem. Shame.
And there is less excuse now with the very clear example above.
We all know that public transport in Auckland leaves a lot be be desired. The majority of existing and forecast trips happen on the bus and train network. Yet we have a bus network whose routes resemble spaghetti that has been thrown against a map and a train system being run using clapped out, 50 year old, noisy and smelly diesel trains. To top it all off we have a mix of ticketing systems that don’t work with each other making it difficult for casual users to make spontaneous trips.
The positive side however is that we are actually doing something to address it. The proposed new bus network seems to have received a lot of support from the general public, even through the submission stage and is set to roll out over the next few years. Electrification of the rail network is well under way and the first of our new electric trains are under construction and should start arriving from August onwards. Lastly while it appears to be going extremely slowly, integrated ticketing has started rolling out and integrated fares are a key part in making the new PT network work.
Assuming everything sticks to plan, within three years the PT system we have won’t resemble anything that we have today. There is probably not a city in the world that is undergoing so much transformational change to so much of its PT systems all at once. This has led Patrick to call the process we going through, “The Great Upgrade”.
But as with any major change, it invariably causes disruptions to everyday users. The rail network is a prime example where increasingly levels of disruptions, from both electrification and our outdated rolling stock are putting passengers off using services. This is perhaps the biggest challenge that Auckland Transport faces right now, not just addressing falling public transport patronage, but working out how to bring customers “along for the ride” while so much change happens.
I suspect that one of the keys areas that they will need to address is how to clearly articulate the changes. Explaining not just that change is happening but why it is happening, how it will happen and most importantly what it will mean for users.
A great example of the kind of level of detail that AT really need to be putting out comes from Melbourne with their rail development plan. The video that accompanies the plan is clear, even giving what the future routing options will be something AT won’t even talk about with the CRL and a much smaller rail network.
While the video is talking primarily about Melbourne’s rail network, something similar for Auckland, to cover all of the changes planned across all modes is desperately needed. I suspect that only by really bringing the general public “along for the ride”, showing that the changes will lead to a much better PT system, will AT manage to retain patronage through this difficult period.
We get a lot of conversations in our comments that boil down to expressions of preference for particular Transit modes depending on people’s experiences and values. Those who are most concerned about the cost of infrastructure tend to favour buses, and those who value the qualities that rail offers feel the generally higher capital costs are justified. Often these exchanges do little to shift people from their starting positions because it’s a matter of two different issues talking passed each other; it’s all: ‘but look at the savings’ versus ‘but look at the quality’.
And as it is generally agreed that Auckland needs to upgrade its Transit capabilities substantially I thought it might be a good time to pull back from the ‘mode wars’ with a little cool headed analysis. Because, as we shall see, it really isn’t that simple. It is possible to achieve almost all of what rail fans value with a bus, but only if you are willing to spend a rail-sized amount on building the route. Or alternatively you can build a system that has many of the disadvantages of buses in traffic but with a vehicle that runs on rails.
It’s all about the corridor. Let’s see how….
Above is a chart from chapter 8 of Jarret Walker’s book Human Transit and illustrates Professor Vukan Vuchic’s classification of Transit ‘Running Ways’ or Right Of Way [ROW].
Class A ROW means that the vehicles are separate from any interruptions in their movement so are only delayed when stopping at their own stations as part of their service. In Auckland this is type of infrastructure is classified as the Rapid Transit Network [RTN], and currently is only available to the rail system plus the Northern Busway. So the speed of this service is only limited by the spacing and number of the stops, the dwell time at each stop, and the performance capabilities of the vehicle and system [especially acceleration].
Class B is a system where the vehicle is not strictly on its own ROW but does have forms of privilege compared to the other traffic, such as special lanes and priority at signals. Buses in buslanes are our local example. AT are currently building an ambitious city wide Class B network called the Frequent Transit Network FTN.
Class C is just any Transit vehicle in general traffic. In Auckland that means most buses and the Wynyard Quarter Tram. The buses on the Local Transit Network LTN are our Class C service.
And of course in terms of cost to build these classes it also goes bottom to top; lower to higher cost. And in general it costs more to lay track and buy trains than not, so also left to right, lower to higher. There can be an exception to these rules as with regard to Class A, especially if tunnels and bridges are required as rail uses a narrower corridor and require less ventilation than buses in these environments. Also it should be noted that a bigger electric vehicles on high volume routes are cheaper to operate too, so rail at higher volumes can be cheaper to run than buses over time because of lower fuel costs and fewer staff.
There are also subtleties within these classifications, some of the things that slow down Class C services provide advantages that the greater speed of Class A design doesn’t. Class C typically offers more coverage, stopping more frequently taking riders right to the front door of their destinations. Class B often tries to achieve something in between the convenience of C while still getting closer to the speed of A. Sometimes however, especially if the priority is intermittent or the route planning poor, Class B can simply achieve the worst of both worlds!
There are other considerations too, frequency is really a great asset to a service, as is provides real flexibility and freedom for the customer to arrange their affairs without ever having to fit in with the Transit provider’s plans. And as a rule the closer the classification is to the beginning of the alphabet the higher the frequency should be. Essentially a service isn’t really Class A if it doesn’t have a high frequency.
Then there are other issues of comfort, design, and culture as expressed in the vehicles but also in the whole network that are not insignificant, although will generally do little to make up for poor service design no mater how high these values may be. And these can be fairly subjective too. For example I have a preference for museum pieces to be in, well, museums, but there are plenty of others who like their trams for example to be 50 years old. Design anyway is a holistic discipline, it is not just about appearance; a brilliantly efficient and well performing system is a beautiful thing.
Other concerns include environmental factors, especially emissions and propulsion systems. On these counts currently in Auckland the trains and the buses are generally as bad as each other, both being largely old and worn out carcinogen producing diesel units. This is the one point that the little heritage tourist tram at Wynyard is a head of the pack. The newer buses are an improvement, I’m sure this fact has much to do with the success of the Link services, despite them remaining fairly poor Class C services.
We are only getting new Double Deckers because better corridors for existing buses grew the demand
So in summary the extent to which a Transit service is free from other traffic has a huge influence on its appeal whatever the kit. A highly separated service is likely to be faster than alternatives, is more able to keep to its schedule reliably, and offer a smoother ride. These factors in turn lead to higher demand so the route will be able able to justify higher frequency, upgraded stations, newer vehicles and so on. This one factor, all else being equal, will lead to positive feedbacks for the service and network as a whole.
Currently Auckland has a core RTN service of the Rail Network and the Northern Busway forming our only Class A services. So how do they stack up? The trains only run at RTN frequency on the week day peaks, and even then aspects of the route, especially on the Western Line undermine this classification. The Newmarket deviation and the closeness of the stations out West make this route a very dubious candidate for Class A. At least like all rail services is doesn’t ever give way to other traffic. The Onehunga line needs doubling or at least a passing section to improve frequencies.
Unlike the Northern Busway services, which are as we know only on Class A ROW 41% of the time. So while the frequency is much better on the busway than the trains they drop right down to Class C on the bridge and in the city.
Of course over the next couple of years the trains are going to improve in an enormous leap and importantly not just in appearance, comfort, noise and fumes [plus lower running cost], but importantly in frequency and reliability. A real Class A service pattern of 10 min frequencies all day all week is planned [except the O-Line].
Hand won improvements to the network and service were built on the back of the brave plan to run second hand old trains on the existing network and have led directly to AK getting these beauties soon.
But how about the rest of the RTN; the Northern Busway? Shouldn’t it be a matter of urgency to extend Class A properties to the rest of this already highly successful service?
-permanent buslanes on Fanshaw and Customs Streets- this is being worked on I believe
-permanent buslanes on the bridge- NZTA won’t consider this
-extend the busway north with new stations- that’s planned.
-improve the vehicles in order to up the capacity, appeal, and efficiency- that’s happening too with double deckers.
I will turn to looking at where we can most effectively expand the Class A RTN network to in a following post.
But now I just want to return briefly to look at what these classifications help us understand about other things we may want for our city. Below is an image produced by the Council of a possible future for Queen St. Much reaction to this image, positive and negative, has been focussed on the vehicle in the middle. The Tram, or Light Rail Transit. Beautiful thing or frightening cost; either way the improvement to the place is not dependant on this bit of kit.
My view is that we should focus on the corridor instead, work towards making Queen St work first as a dedicated Transit and pedestrian place with our existing technology, buses, which will then build the need, or desirability, of upgrading the machines to something better. Why? because it is the quality of the corridor that provides the greater movement benefit, and with that benefit banked we will then have the demand to focus more urgently on other choices for this route. Furthermore, because of the significantly higher cost of adding a new transit system by postponing that option we able be able to get the first part done sooner or at all.
And because we are now getting auto-dependency proponents claiming to support more investment in buses [yes Cameron Brewer* that's you] we have an opportunity to call their bluff and get funding for some great Transit corridors by using their disingenuous mode focus. And thereby greatly improve the city.
So it is best that we don’t focus so much on the number of humps on the beast, but rather on the route it will use. The flasher animal will follow.
* These types don’t really support buses at all; they just pretend to support buses because when they say bus they mean road and when they mean road they mean car. How can we know this? Because they attack bus priority measures. But it is very encouraging that they now find themselves having to even pretend to see the need for Transit in Auckland. This is new.
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.
Auckland needs that new pipe!
Ceci n’est pas un Autoportrait!
Something to reflect on.
[thanks to Veronica]
Yesterday Patrick and I had an opportunity to have a look around the progress at the EMU depot at Wiri. This was my first look around here but the second for Patrick who first got a look a few months ago and since that time a lot has changed, for starter the building now has a roof and most of its walls in place. Here is the depot and some of the stabling yard that will eventually have space for 28 EMUs. One thing that I learnt is that the automatic gates that control entry and exit to the depot will be linked into the system that controls the points within the depot and the gates won’t open until everything is lined up and a train is ready to depart.
Inside the depot building many of the various work spaces are starting to become fairly defined. In the next photo the platform on the upper left will give maintenance workers access to the roof of the trains while the fence on the upper right is designed to prevent people from falling off the other side of the roof. Just to the right of the shot is a fairly large pit that will house the wheel lathe.
This area is what will be known as the heavy lift road and will include lifting jacks capable of lifting an entire EMU and an overhead crane.
This circle will eventually become a bogie turntable. Bogies will be taken off the train and spun around to be taken to a little room just to the left of the picture. There they will be able to be given a deep clean up before being reattached to the EMU.
And looking south back down the depot at where we were earlier.
And here is the Northern side of the depot (the side that can be seen from SH20).
Lastly a view out the window at the vast Wiri quary which is where a lot of the excavated material from Waterview is likely to end up.
All up I found it really interesting and it was great to see so much progress.
This year the first of our new electric trains will arrive and one of big benefits of them will be that they have faster acceleration than the clunky diesel trains we have now but the question is just how much faster they will be. For some reason it is something that Auckland Transport have been pretty reluctant to actually talk much about which I am guessing is due to them not wanting to get peoples expectations up. We however are not AT and are free to talk and speculate all we like so with that in mind, some time ago I built a model to try and work things out. I actually blogged about it back then but at the time I had only showed the western line, with this post I thought I would look at the whole network. Before I go into the results, for those that are interested, here is an explanation as to how I have worked the times out:
First I have worked out the distance between each station and for each leg of the journey I have assigned a maximum speed that the trains can travel and I have kept most of the network at 80kph with the inner sections at 60kph. When the EMUs were announced AT said that they would be able accelerate and brake at 1m/s². Based on that I then worked out how long, both in time and distance it would take to reach the top speed and slow back down again for each section of track. For those interested it takes 22 seconds and 247 metres to reach, or slow down from 80kph based on that acceleration of 1m/s². The next step was to work out how long the train would travel at top speed. To do that I subtracted the acceleration and braking distance off the distance between stations and worked long it would take. For each station I then added in a dwell time to represent how long it would spend on the platform. To be conservative i generally used 45 second however for busier stations I used 1 minute. I then added the time spent accelerating, braking, at top speed and the dwell time together. Lastly to try and be conservative I added in a multiplier of an extra 20% to account for things like slow drivers, corners and junctions which that then gave me an overall result for each station.
Here are the results verses the current times for each line, I have left out Te Mahia and Westfield as based on the draft RPTP they are likely to close, I have however added in the Parnell station. For the Western line I have added in the time allocated for the driver to change ends at Newmarket together with the travel time. You may also notice some of the times look longer than current. That is because AT obviously round the times up or down to get to an exact minute.
As for how much time is saved, well the western line ends up being 3-4 minutes quicker for a trip to Swanson, the Southern a massive 7 minutes quicker out to Papakura, its 3-4 minutes quicker to both Manukau and Onehunga. The big reason the western line doesn’t gain much compared to the other lines is that it has a lot of really closely spaced stops which continue to slow things down, there also aren’t any plans to drop any stations along the route like is expected to happen down south.
Edit: Here is an image I was working on to show the cumulative time from Britomart which also highlights just how close many of the inner western line stations are to each other
With the release of the station boarding data in the post yesterday by Mr Anderson, and the recent sluggish patronage growth, its perhaps worthwhile looking at how things are going compared to projections. Again we can look at the supporting report for a lot of information as AT/AC attempted to answer one part of Steven Joyce’s question relating to evidence of patronage growth, particularly in the morning peak.
First of all, anyone who has followed this blog for long enough will know about how rail patronage has increased. In 2003 before Britomart opened rail patronage was sitting at about very low base of 2.5 million trips per annum, since that time it has shot up to over 10 million trips per annum now. While it is off a low base, it has easily outstripped population growth and the report says it has seen per capita usage jump from 2.2 trips per person to 7.3. over the same time morning peak patronage has increased very strongly going from 1,012 people arriving at Britomart during the two hour peak to 6055 in 2012. What the report notes is interesting however is that the percentage of off peak patronage growth, particularly in recent years has outstripped the level seen during the peak which is useful for showing that the improvements aren’t just about getting more peak users but that there are benefits off peak too.
It is pretty clear that that there has been some pretty big increases but the next question is if the increases were a result of a cannibalising of bus patronage. So the reported looked at the AM peak numbers and compared those with private vehicle numbers over time and from that we can see that both rail and buses have increased there share when it comes to accessing the city centre although for some reason ferry patronage wasn’t included which would explain why private vehicle usage is at 56% when the 2012 numbers were 50:50 between PT and car.
But what about those projections, well each of the projects over the years have had some form of projections attached to them. In 2001 when the council of the time was putting its case together for Britomart the report notes that the current transport model used was still being developed however it was working enough to get some basic results. There appear to have been two years that were modelled forecasting 10 and 20 years out (2011 and 2021) and the numbers are below:
So with the exception of outbound passengers in the morning peak, the actual numbers are considerably higher than even the 2021 projections (40% higher than 2011 prediction and 15% higher than 2021). In fact the change in daily patronage out of the station just between 2010 and 2011 was greater than what was predicted to occur between 2011 and 2021. What’s more the author of the report notes that the projections included the network and frequencies being in a similar state to what they are in now and included electrification.
The next set of projections come from the 2006 rail development plan which is what really kicked off project DART and electrification. While it appears we are tracking at less than what was forecast, there are some fairly important reasons for that. The forecast was based on by now there being more frequent services and importantly was based on electrification being started almost straight away and completed in 2011. It was however delayed by both the previous and current governments and we are now not expecting all the trains to roll out to the network till 2015/16. The report notes that the 2016 forecast patronage has now been revised up higher from 15.7 million trips to 17.3 million.
Electrification had been forecast to be completed in 2011
We also have projections for Onehunga, which ended up opening later than expected (from memory it was initially said that it would open in 2009 but didn’t open till late 2010. Even so AM actual numbers seem to be a little bit ahead of projections while the all day numbers are not far off.
This post is starting to get a little long so tomorrow I will look at some of the reasons that have been identified as being responsible for the increase in patronage but it is pretty clear from reading through the report so far that we seem to constantly underestimate rail patronage. As the same modelling is being used, that means it is quite likely that projections in the CCFAS and the original business case have also been underestimated and that could have significant impact on the outcome of the economic analysis.