Govt: Case for Auckland CBD Rail Link not yet made

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The Government has done a press release on its review of the CBD rail tunnel:

The review of the Business Case for the CBD Rail Link finds that the case for funding and building the rail link has not yet been made, and that the mix of options for meeting transport needs in the CBD have not been sufficiently explored.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has today released the review which was conducted by the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury in conjunction with the NZ Transport Agency.

“In short, the review says more work needs to be done to determine the full future transport needs of central Auckland before proceeding with a project like the CBD Rail Link,” says Mr Joyce.

“However, the review suggests that in the meantime, it makes strategic sense for Auckland Council to move to protect the route, and I agree with that.”

Specifically, the review found:

• That the estimated construction costs for the CBD Rail Link are largely sound – at a total of $2.4 billion
• That the transport benefits of the project are estimated at $387 million rather than the $1,319 million assessed in the business case
• That the project would have only a modest impact on traffic volumes and likely remove up to 1,400 cars (2,000 people) of the estimated 29,000 cars (41,000 people) travelling into the CBD during the morning peak in 2041.
• That the wider economic benefits of the project as estimated in the business case ($3.3 billion) were very significantly over-stated and were in fact more like $305 million – which was still high relative to the transport benefits when compared with similar large international transport projects
• That the re-calculated BCR consistent with the NZTA Economic Evaluation Manual used for roading projects was 0.3; with the additional wider economic benefits taking it to 0.4

The review suggested that the following steps could be taken by Auckland Council to improve the future case for development of the CBD Rail Link:

• Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur
• Development of a robust multi-modal plan for future transport into the CBD, which includes a thorough analysis of all the alternatives
• Begin implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors to capitalise on the current upgrade and electrification.
• Implement additional park and ride sites and bus feeder services to drive further increases in public transport demand

The review noted that, late in the process, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport provided a new alternative policy case which provided a range of new assumptions and policy considerations to the previous business case.

Mr Joyce says officials did not assess the new policy case provided as there was insufficient time.

“It appears to contain some things that are specifically related to the CBD Rail Link, and some things that would improve transport in Auckland, regardless of any decision to build the CBD Rail Link.”

“I think the timing of the latest policy proposal underscores the need to go carefully through the spatial plan process and the various transport options; to make sure that together we make the right investments in future Auckland transport projects at the right time.

“In the meantime, we continue to invest $1.6 billion to electrify and modernise Auckland’s commuter rail network to provide for the next stage of growth in rail patronage. This Crown investment will help deliver a modern, fast and superior commuter rail experience from 2013/14.”

Hopefully we get to see the MoT’s report. It looks like the Government’s solution is 29,000 cars.

[Update] Full review here:

Submission on the Government Policy Statement 2012

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The Ministry of Transport is asking for feedback on proposed changes to the Government Policy Statement 2012, which sets out funding allocations for various activity classes.

Of primary concern is that public transport infrastructure funding is to be cut from an already measly 1.8% of the current land transport budget, to just 0.7% by 2021.

Our submission is broken into the following sub-sections:

  • Background – current transport situation and trends
  • Future transport challenges
  • Comment on the Roads of National Significance
  • Comment on local roads funding
  • Comment on public transport funding
  • Comment on the funding bands generally
  • Future expenditure targets
  • Suggestions about structure and additional information
  • Conclusion and recommendations

Generally, the CBT considers that the GPS needs to be significantly amended in order to achieve its stated goals of boosting economic growth and productivity. At the very least, the GPS needs to articulate more clearly how its investment will achieve the stated goals, while consideration of future risks facing the transport sector (particularly from rising fuel prices) should be outlined.

Our full submission is here. Feedback closes on Friday 27 May 2011, 5pm. Send yours to

When The Bus Fails to Arrive

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There is nothing more frustrating than waiting at a wet bus stop for a bus that never arrives.  That happened this morning to me with the 024.

I probably should complain to the Maxx call centre but I really can’t be bothered, because:

  • I have to wait for 10 days before I get a response
  • I can predict the answer – late running for the previous service, driver sick etc, etc.
  • There is no confirmation that the problem won’t happen again

What I really want is some kind of compensation for the inconvenience. I’m aware that bus operators are financially penalised for a late running service, but this doesn’t help the hapless commuter that is half an hour late for work. Penalties are paid to Auckland Transport – wouldn’t it be better if the actual customers were compensated?

With the advent of the Hop card and the ability to top up online, surely now there is the ability to compensate the people that are inconvenienced by the delay or no-show of a service.  I’m thinking a flat rate of $5 should just about cover it, credited to my Hop card from Auckland Transport. This will incentivise people to phone in and complain, and hopefully we can even get some stats on the number of complaints and the amount of compensation paid to customers.

In the monthly reports, bus operators and Auckland Transport and the bus operators claim 99% reliability, so let’s see them put their money where their mouth is.

Keep Going With the CBD Rail Tunnel

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It is apparent from the latest Government Policy Statement that Auckland’s proposed CBD rail tunnel is a project the Government does not want to contribute to.

However, the Government isn’t saying what the alternative is. Auckland’s population is predicted to increase by a million people over the next four decades – seventy percent of New Zealand’s population growth overall.

Without the CBD rail tunnel, growth in public transport patronage will reach a capacity limit a few years from now.

No other transport option will be able to support the expected growth in CBD travel demand. We know this because the $5m business case in support of the CBD rail tunnel established that alternative scenarios of increased use of private vehicles or buses won’t be able to cope with this demand.

Even the New Zealand Transport Agency, in a recent board paper, acknowledges that “there is confidence by NZTA that the project offers a potential option for further transport investment in the Auckland CBD, that supports the stated aims of Auckland.”

The CBD rail tunnel will connect Mt Eden directly to downtown Auckland, with stations at Symonds St, K’Rd, and Midtown. It will not be operated as a loop or circular service, but as a more direct connection from Western line stations to the CBD. A trip from Morningside to Midtown will take just 8 minutes. Fast journey times such as this will be possible for trips from all stations on the Western line.

For the other lines on the network, the major benefit of the tunnel is that Britomart will become a through station, rather than a dead end. This will at least triple the capacity of the entire rail network during the morning peak.

Even with all this in mind, though, the financial constraints on the Government are very real, and a lot of money will need to be directed into rebuilding Christchurch’s infrastructure, particularly within the next five years.

It is clear that, as part of that, transport infrastructure projects will need to be reprioritised.

But, in the face of spiralling petrol prices and the pressure this will place on public transport, it would be a huge mistake to cancel CBD rail tunnel outright.

The CBD rail tunnel has a projected completion date of 2021, with construction not starting until 2015. The next four years are set aside for securing the project’s designation, acquiring the necessary resource consents and undertaking detailed design.

This preparatory work is relatively inexpensive compared to the construction work itself, and the Auckland Council needs to lead this work if it really wants the rail tunnel to progress.

Of course, by 2015, the Auckland Council will need to make a decision about whether to progress with the actual construction of the tunnel.

By then we are likely to have a far better understanding of Christchurch’s remaining infrastructure requirements compared with the rest of the country. And by then central Government will have realised that transport projects which reduce our reliance on fossil fuels should be a priority for the economy.

New Motorway Lane

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Appearing in the letters section today of the NZ Herald:

In opening a fourth motorway lane between Newmarket and Greenlane, the New Zealand Transport Agency claims benefits of over a million dollars week to the Auckland economy, brought about by peak hour journey time savings of up to five minutes.

It is difficult to understand how this claimed economic benefit is calculated. No commuter using this section of motorway at peak times is likely to arrive at work any earlier or leave work any later – workers travel on their own time, not their employers. For a while they may enjoy an extra five minutes in bed or an extra bowl of cornflakes, but this is unlikely to add up to a million a week for Auckland’s economy.

Courier and freight companies that utilise this section of road more frequently at peak times may enjoy some cost savings, but these would hardly add up to $1m a week either.

The NZTA’s reasoning appears seriously flawed, which is a concern given the billions currently being allocated by central Government to motorway projects, while petrol prices soar to record levels.

On the otherhand, if NZTA want to use this type of economic evaluation, then the CBD rail tunnel must be worth tens of millions a week, since a single railway line can carry 10x more than a single motorway lane in an hour at peak. The CBD rail tunnel will also save more than 5 minutes at peak for Western Line passengers, who can also be productive on their mobile phones at the same time, checking emails and texts.

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