The Herald on Sunday has run a story in its print edition, based on this post on TransportBlog As Matt points out, it’s obviously quite clear 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.
Back in 2009 the CBT lobbied for a light rail connection to the new Wynyard Quarter. A planning objective for the precinct was, and still is, that 70% of all trips in and out of the area should be via modes other than the private car.
Due to the politics of getting the former Auckland City Council on-side, we had to settle for the current heritage tram circuit. This was largely driven through the efforts of ARC Chair Mike Lee.
The intention was, and has always been, that the current circuit should be extended to Britomart, and that modern light rail vehicles be used on the track. However the Waterfront Plan is vague on this –
“Expansion of the bridge to accommodate more people and some form of low-impact, frequent, high-volume transit service is being explored. In the short term, business suppliers, customers and visitors will need to access the waterfront using private vehicles, and parking will therefore have to be addressed.”
So while it is still possible, efforts to extend the track towards Britomart (via a new bridge parallel to the existing pedestrian-only bridge, or a replacement bridge) appear to have stalled.
Even worse, the existing heritage circuit is under threat from Waterfront Auckland. Despite hundreds of people about to take up jobs at the new ASB centre on Jellicoe Street, and tram operator Dockline Trams offering $1 fares to workers to capitalise on this, Waterfront Auckland is not willing to underwrite tram operations for another year, “especially in light of the imminent disruption to services while the upgrades of Daldy and Halsey Streets are undertaken.”
Even so, a light rail connection will be an important piece of infrastructure for the Wynyard Quarter, in the same way the footpaths, pavements, sewerage, electricity and roads are. If the tracks are ripped up, even “temporarily”, there is the strong possibility that they will never return, and the Wynyard Quarter will be the poorer for it.
The CBT has already asked Bob Harvey, Chairman of Waterfront Auckland, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and to follow through with the original vision of a light rail connection to Britomart. Over time this will be even more important as the land north of Jellicoe Street is developed, which is some distance away from downtown Auckland.
The current situation is confusing. Waterfront Auckland told us the heritage tram will pause from Easter, and for health and safety reasons it will not be possible for it to operate during the reconstruction of Daldy and Halsey Streets. In the meantime the operators of the Dockline tram tell us they are still taking group bookings right through to mid-May.
You can help send a message about the importance of a light rail connection for the Wynyard Quarter.
- Check out “Save the Auckland Dockline Tram” on Facebook.
- Write to the Board of Waterfront Auckland and ask them to follow through on what was promised. Send an email to the Chairman of the Board Bob Harvey – – and let him know what you think.
- Ride the tram to demonstrate to Waterfront Auckland your support for the concept.
Over at the Auckand Transport Blog I’ve covered the story about how the Government is using misleading figures to imply that it is spending a lot on public transport in Auckland.
A Herald article last month highlighted strong support for more Government spending on public transport improvements in Auckland. It included the following quote:
But a spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said that with $890 million budgeted for public transport in Auckland over three years “it would be grossly unfair to suggest the Government hasn’t given this mode of transport the priority it deserves”.
The story was analysed in a bit more detail in this post, but the question of where the $890m figure came from remained unresolved.
A total of $3.4 billion is being invested in the Auckland region’s transport system between 2012/15 through the National Land Transport Programme alone, including $1.6 billion for state highways, $968 million for local roads and $890 million for public transport.
In the above context it looks like NZTA is investing $890m in public transport in Auckland, funded through fuel excise and road user charges. I sought clarification from Gerry Brownlee’s office on how the $890m figure was arrived at. My request was referred to the NZTA, who responded earlier this week:
For clarification, the $890 million is the combined committed expenditure from the National Land Transport Fund (administered by the NZTA) and funding from Auckland Council for Auckland public transport services and infrastructure, between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2015.
The NZTA’s share of the $890 million is $488 million. This is made up of $449 million for public transport services and $39 million for public transport infrastructure.
So almost half of the $890m figure actually comes from Auckland Council ratepayers, and the remainder also includes public transport service operating costs as well. (From memory I think the transport services figure includes repayment of the EMU loan). Very few people would know that the National Land Transport Programme includes local council contributions.
This leaves an actual public transport infrastructure spend of $39m from fuel taxes and road user charges over the next three years in Auckland. This really is a pitiful amount compared to the hundreds of millions being spent on new roading projects. It would seem more than fair to suggest that central Government hasn’t given public transport the priority it deserves.
Stephen Selwood, commenting in a recent Herald opinion piece, had this to say on the Gisborne rail closure:
Although repairs are estimated to cost what seems a small amount ($4 million) in relation to the parent company’s $700 million annual turnover, the corridor generated only about $1 million in revenue the year before services stopped in March 2012.
Even if this rises to an expected $2.5 million a year by 2022, KiwiRail estimates the line will still lose between $4 million and $8 million each year.
The rest of the article is worth a read, but the gist of it is that it isn’t going to be commercially viable to reopen the line based on Kiwirail’s freight forecast.
In response, this highlights the contradiction where the Gisborne rail line must recover all costs and return a profit, while road freight on State Highway 2 is subsidised by all road users around New Zealand on a “tax and spend” basis.
Mr Selwood points out that overcoming a $4m – $8m deficit each year on a rail service that attracts only $1-3m in revenue seems unlikely.
However, NZTA expenditure on the Napier- Gisborne highway over the past nine years is recorded as $102 million. In the past four years, the spend has been just under $60 million, or $14.8 million per year. NZTA is not required to return a profit on this expenditure, nor does it charge the users of SH2 for wear and tear of the road.
The BERL report points out that the number of logging trucks on SH2 can be expected to increase by 33% by 2020 as forests in the area mature. Without a rail option, every road user in New Zealand will subsidise logging trucks and freight on SH2 for the foreseeable future.
As long as this cross- subsidy exists, KiwiRail will always have an uphill battle competing against road freight.
Interestingly, back in 2005 the MOT did a case study on the Gisborne rail line as part of their Surface Transportation and Transport Costs- but the results are pretty hard to interpret, and based on predicted road maintenance costs of $7.6m to handle a forecast load of 225,000 additional tonnes of specialised log or processed wood being transported. Annual maintenance costs are twice that now. The study predicted:
- 43 additional trucks a day
- a marginal accident cost associated with additional truck movement of 29.2 cents/truck kilometre
- in the longer term (years 6-25), while marginal costs of additional road freight fall slightly to 12.6¢/tkm, the marginal cost of additional rail freight is substantially lower at 7.4¢/tkm
It would be useful if there was a repeat of this study using current fuel prices and costs.
Media Release: Letter sent to Len Brown contradicts media statements
The Campaign for Better Transport today labelled Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee’s response to an 18 month study of transport options for Auckland as “cynical and arrogant.”
Mr Brownlee yesterday dismissed a report prepared jointly by SKM, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Treasury and the Ministry of Transport that concluded that the City Rail Link was essential to keep Auckland moving in the decades ahead.
Mr Brownlee said that he had expected a broader review of potential solutions for Auckland, and said that motorway projects currently underway will have an impact on central city traffic.
However, Campaign for Better Transport spokesperson Cameron Pitches said the transportblog.co.nz website had uncovered a letter sent by Mr Brownlee to Mayor Len Brown in February of this year, which confirmed that Mr Brownlee was comfortable with the proposed scope of the study, and that Mr Brownlee was “pleased to hear of the close engagement of government officials in developing the scope and support this continuing throughout the project”.
“Mr Brownlee’s media response to the study is cynical and arrogant. He has known all along about the scope of the report through the involvement of his own officials. His claim that he expected the report to be a broader review of transport solutions is simply not credible, in light of his letter to Mayor Len Brown,” said Mr Pitches.
“Mr Brownlee is also fully aware that the study already has projects such as the Western Ring route factored into calculations. Even with these projects the City Rail Link is still needed. It is cynical of him to now pretend that he doesn’t know this, and it diminishes the hard work that officials have done in the last 18 months.”
The study did consider simply increasing the size of the motorway network, but concluded that this was “not considered to be realistic, given that significant additional road and parking space would be required. This would be detrimental to public transport capacity and reduce the number of people that could access the CBD, which is counter to the objectives of this study.”
Mr Pitches suspects that central Government has treated the study as an expensive delaying tactic, and has been caught out now that the study has found to be in favour of the City Rail Link.
“You have to wonder where he gets his advice from. He ignores the wishes of the majority of Aucklanders and he ignores the advice of his own officials. I think he seriously believes that the solution to Auckland’s growing transport and liveability problems is the construction of yet more motorway lanes. “
In the last year, The Campaign for Better Transport has twice requested to meet with Mr Brownlee to discuss Auckland transport issues, and has twice been turned down due to “heavy diary scheduling”.
In place of our usual Committee meeting, the Campaign for Better Transport will be hosting a Christmas function on 11 December, 7:30 pm at our usual venue of the Epsom Community Centre, 202 Gillies Ave. All members are welcome – but even if you aren’t a member and want to learn more about the CBT, please come along. It will be a great opportunity to meet informally and catch up with fellow advocates for better transport.
CBT will provide some food and refreshment, feel free to BYO.
This will be an informal gathering, but for catering purposes please RSVP via EventBrite
Brian Rudman at the Herald has obtained a copy of the report that forms the City Centre Future Access Study. This is the report that central Government asked Auckland Council to produce to identify what other options there were to a rail tunnel.
The draft also warns that by as early as 2021 growing congestion would “limit Auckland’s potential growth” by increasing travel times for city centre workers and reducing efficiency for freight and commercial road users using the port, moving around the city centre, or passing through.
The growing congestion would also push employment out of the centre, reducing productivity and resulting in a less competitive economy.
By 2041, the report said, traffic jams would be keeping 15,200 employees and students out of the city centre and would reduce speeds for commuter, freight and commercial vehicles by 75 per cent.
Several city streets were carrying 80 to 100 buses an hour, resulting in “unstable flow and queuing”.
Ultimately, main bus routes could have be be two-laned in both directions.
The report concluded underground rail was the only option with any capacity after 2041.
The report weighs up the different options as:
- 78c return for every $1 spent on the rail tunnel project – higher than other options.
- A bus tunnel was not practical because too much land would have to be taken for it, it would reach its limits between 2025 and 2030 and it would cost up to $2.34 billion. It would have a return of 28c to 36c for every dollar spent on it.
- A surface bus solution was cheaper at $1.13 billion with a 34c to 50c return but had similar short-comings to the bus tunnel solution.
The ball is now in the Government’s court. It will be interesting to see the response of central Government and also the MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye in the coming days.