Rail Electrification Delayed As PPP Investigated

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The Herald reports on the news that the Government is now investigating the possibility of a public private partnership for electric trains.

The electrification of Auckland’s rail network could be delayed further after the Government announced it was investigating a different funding option to buy new trains, warns the head of Auckland Regional Council.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday that he was considering using a public private partnership (PPP) model to buy new rolling stock. Mr Joyce has just returned from Australia and he said PPPs had been used there on a number of occasions to fund passenger rail stock, including an agreement to secure 78 new commuter cars worth A$2 billion ($2.55 billion) for Sydney.

ARC chairman Mike Lee said he suspected the announcement was an ominous sign for the rail network before today’s Budget.

“I would say this is a signal … of a lack of electrification funding in the Budget.”

Mr Lee warned that such a plan was discarding an expensive and time-consuming plan which was already under way, and would delay electrification further.

“The international tender process for 140 electric rail cars that [Auckland Regional Transport Authority] launched last December and was due to go into its final stage early in May would in effect be torpedoed.” … more

A PPP would be extremely difficult to get right.  The successful partner would have to figure out how to stable and maintain the rolling stock at Kiwirail depots, or build their own facilities.  I just can’t see this working on a number of levels, cost of capital being expensive for private operators being the main one.

Economic Benefits of “Roads Of National Significance” Unknown

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Official Information Act Request Reveals Economic Assessment “Several Months” Away

It was revealed today that the Government’s “Roads of National Significance”, which includes the latest Waterview motorway option along with six other motorway plans around the country, have yet to pass any economic assessment.

In March of this year the Government announced the seven roading projects were “essential routes that required priority treatment” and would “support economic growth”, however the Campaign for Better Transport has received confirmation from the New Zealand Transport Agency that “corridor benefit cost ratios” for each route will take “several months to complete for all seven of the Roads of National Significance.”

Campaign For Better Transport spokesperson Cameron Pitches said this raises serious questions about the decision last week by Minister of Transport Steven Joyce to commit an additional $1bn to state highway projects over the next three years, bringing total funding to around $3bn.

The funding boost has been achieved by deep cuts to public transport, walking and cycling, demand management, local roading and project monitoring budgets.

“On the one hand the Minister of Transport is on record saying that he ‘supports transport infrastructure projects that make at least some sort of economic sense’, and on the other he has advanced billions of dollars to new state highway projects without knowing any of the costs or benefits. He can’t have it both ways,” said Mr Pitches. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Bridge

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What a fantastic day for Auckland! After 50 years of having the Auckland Harbour Bridge locked off to all those not in cars, today Aucklanders took back Our Bridge. I was right there at the front of the rally – impressed by the speeches (particularly that of Christine Rose) and heckling abuse at Wayne McDonald of NZTA. There were certainly a LOT of people there, perhaps more than the 2000 quoted by most newspapers.

For a while I thought we weren’t going to get across, as Wayne said “no” as we asked him nicely. But then we shifted down to the Curran Street onramp, found our way through the trees and onto the onramp itself. The police were there but didn’t really try to stop us – the crowd was just too great. First NZTA blocked off the clip-on lanes and then, perhaps because they were afraid of having so many people on the clip-ons, they blocked traffic off from the centre lanes too. So we had the entire northbound side of the bridge to ourselves. Everyone was jumping and yelling, absolutely exhilirated in what we’d achieved. It was a huge egg on Mr McDonald’s face in the end, as I’m sure traffic was absolutely screwed throughout the city. If NZTA had avoided being such idiots they could have easily managed it, but in the end it was their stupidity that led to the entire northbound side of the bridge having to be closed.

Leila and I walked across and back, seeing heaps of people of all ages, with kid, dogs and push-chairs. It was a day when we all celebrated being Aucklanders and celebrated the bridge as linking the city, not dividing it. This is just the start of things to come I hope – a day when the tide turned against our automobile-centric thinking.

As Christine Rose from the ARC said: “Let’s burn fat, not oil!”

What a fantastic day weather-wise for us, and also thanks to all the Aucklanders who turned up to celebrate Our Bridge. And to NZTA, shame on you for being such narrow-minded fools, it is your fault that the whole motorway got shut off, you could have organised this to run smoothly. Shame on you.

Photos here: http://transportblog.co.nz/2009/05/24/our-bridge/

Security On Bridge Ramped Up For Protest

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The Herald reports:

Walkers and cyclists planning a protest crossing of Auckland Harbour Bridge on Sunday morning will find it defended by a new security fence as well as by police.

The Transport Agency, which has put up the 1.8m fence this week along the Curran St on-ramp, is also concerned that schools have been among recipients of a mass email invitation by the Getacross Campaign to “a public walk/cycle” over the Waitemata.

The agency said yesterday that it had emailed almost 50 schools believed to have received the invitation, to warn them off on safety grounds… [more]

I would urge people to turn up to Pt Erin at 9:00am Sunday 24th May regardless. Even if we don’t get to walk across the bridge, a strong turnout will demonstrate to the NZTA that the issue of equality for pedestrians and cyclists is one that needs to be addressed.

$87,000 bus stop debate rumbles on

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From the Herald:

The question of where buses should stop in a North Shore town centre has taken five years of study and cost ratepayers more than $87,000.

And it looks like the site for the Browns Bay bus stops won’t be settled for some time yet following a row between East Coast Community Board and North Shore City Council’s infrastructure and environment committee.

Board chairman Robert Cooper told councillors he was “shocked and fuming” over the committee’s decision to lengthen the existing stop in Clyde Rd so it could take two buses at a time.

“The community board and the Browns Bay Business Association are totally opposed to Clyde Rd becoming a bus station,” he said.

“But the committee has disregarded that view and also disregarded the council’s 2005 Strategic Transport Study in choosing to endorse officers’ plans based on questionable assumptions.

“It sounds like a case of, ‘we know what’s best for you’ … we prefer a purpose-built station 20m off the road.” … more

This is the first time I’ve heard of this issue – does anyone out there have more info on this?

Brian Rudman: Singing The Bus Stop Blues

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Brian Rudman at the Herald:

Each time I write in praise of public transport, I end up having to eat my words. On Monday I was lauding the increased patronage figures in Auckland but by 8.15 on Wednesday night, I didn’t care whether I ever saw another commuter bus in my life. Mainly because, for the past hour, I hadn’t…

The electronic helper kept reassuring me 005 was DLY until just before 7.30 when it just disappeared. The next Link was now 28 minutes away – so much for the 15-minute gap – and the rain had taken a break, so I started walking, muttering like a crazy man about lying real-time indicator boards.

This has been my experience of late with this service as well.  I actually went as far as phoning the Maxx complaint number – 3666 400, but the operator convinced me that I had merely just missed my bus. There is nothing, I repeat nothing, more frustrating than waiting at a bus stop for a bus that never turns up.

It will be great if ARTA could respond to 1) why there was a delay and 2) what the plan is for the dodgy indicator boards.

“Action Stations” Over Auckland Public Transport Projects

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The Campaign for Better Transport today launched a campaign to highlight uncertainty surrounding the future of public transport projects in Auckland.

Join the campaign here.

Launched today at the Mt Albert railway station, the aim of the “Action Stations” campaign is to gain assurance from central Government that funding for a range of public transport initiatives such as integrated ticketing, new stations, ferry terminals, Onehunga rail and electric trains will proceed as originally intended before the withdrawal of the regional fuel tax.

The Auckland Regional Transport Agency (ARTA), which oversees public transport improvements in Auckland, has now been forced by central Government to apply for funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency for the funding of railway stations for Onehunga and other projects.

Campaign organiser Dr. Francis Reid encouraged the public to participate in the Action Stations campaign by sending key transport decision makers a postcard, which can be downloaded from the bettertransport.org.nz website.

“These projects need to be completed. The Government appointed Auckland council transition agency is threatening to delay all of these projects even further,” says Dr Reid.

Ancient tracks on the Onehunga branch line have now been replaced, but the location of passenger rail stations and how they are to be funded has yet to be determined.

“The withdrawal of $200m worth of funding through the regional fuel tax has left a gaping hole in Auckland public transport funding”, said Campaign for Better Transport Convenor Cameron Pitches.

“The ridiculous thing is the Government said they did so out of concern about rising petrol prices hurting people the pocket, but in the meantime petrol companies have increased the price by 5c a litre anyhow.”

Mr Pitches also spoke of the “deeply depressing” news that the Government had confirmed that it will slash up to $250m from public transport infrastructure spending over the next three years in order to boost expenditure on new state highways.

Total expenditure on new state highways is now set to be 22 times that of public transport infrastructure over the next three years, a multiple that Mr Pitches describes as “astonishing underinvestment, given the record 20% growth in Auckland’s public transport we have consistently seen year on year.”

“The Government is putting all of its eggs into one basket. Putting $3bn dollars into new highways which have not been assessed yet for their costs and benefits is extremely risky. If the price of oil increases again, it will look like an incredibly foolish strategy.”

“Central Government just doesn’t get it”, concludes Mr Pitches. “Aucklanders want more investment in public transport in Auckland, not more and more roads that only encourage more and more single occupant cars.”

Government Funding Comparison

Government Confirms $1bn Motorway Spend

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The Government has jumped the gun and confirmed the reallocation of $1bn in spending to motorways.  The widely opposed change to transport funding over the next three years means that money will be taken from every other category and put on new and improved state highways.  We’ll have a statement on this soon.

The Government has confirmed plans to increase spending on motorways by $1 billion over three years.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the confirmation came with the release of the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding.

Mr Joyce had previously said the money would come from a mix of new money, increases in fuel taxes and reallocating spending within the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

Critics of the move targeted the $420 million reallocation as it took money from public transport and other initiatives…more

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