Auckland’s city rail link may be accelerated

Written By: - Date published: 7:18 am, April 6th, 2014 - 32 comments
Categories: john key, len brown - Tags: ,

Auckland electric train

There has existed a major policy difference between Labour and the Greens on the one hand and National on the other hand about when Auckland’s city rail link should be built.

The Greens are solidly in support of it.  Last election Labour pledged to cancel the holiday highway and use the funds to help fund the city rail link’s immediate construction.

The logic behind the project is inescapable. At some stage in the future because Britomart is a station with only one entrance the Auckland Rail System  will reach capacity. It is at the range of 24 million trips a year that the system maxes out. You cannot get enough trains to enter and leave the station to get any more passengers through.  And by constructing the link you will make the rail system able to be more frequent, more relevant and for all passengers much quicker, especially those out from west.

If Britomart is made a through station so trains can pass through then its capacity will double. But this requires a rather expensive tunnel to be built. And so you can get a sense of how important the city rail link is and what a big project it is.

Len Brown and Auckland Council have campaigned for the CRL for a significant period of time.  Apart from a few right wing councillors who cannot get past the cost there is solid support from within Council.

Len managed to gain what I thought was an outstanding concession from the Government and that was to agree to construct the project starting in 2020 although Len’s preference is to start construction in 2016.

The Government’s initial response to the project was very cold.  But in June 2013 John Key said:

[T]he Government is committing to a joint business plan for the City Rail Link with Auckland Council in 2017 and providing its share of funding for a construction start in 2020.

And we will be prepared to consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.

Our current thinking is that an earlier business plan could be triggered if two conditions are met.

The first is if Auckland city centre employment increases by 25 per cent over current levels – that is half the increase predicted in the Future Access Study.

And the second is that annual rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips well before 2020.

But that is something we will discuss with Auckland Council.

The situation is subject to six monthly reviews.  The first review suggested that job growth was only 2,000 for the first six months.  Annual growth of 5,000 will be required.  This review also noted that rail patronage was static.

However the patronage figures to the end of March have shown significant growth.  As noted by Patrick Reynolds at Transport Blog the figure hit 11 million and if this figure was extrapolated out then the 2020 target should be met.

The imminent introduction of the new electric train engines and the reorganisation of the bus service routes should result in significant patronage growth starting soon.  And in a world where petroleum is going to become increasingly expensive you would think that the Government would make a high priority improvement of the electricity fuelled transport system in the country’s biggest city.

There is I believe a strong rationale for National to review its decision.  National has an anti train belligerence that is hard to understand.  But National will find that the introduction of sleek state of the art trains into the Auckland system will make the inner city loop that much more attractive to Auckland voters.

What is the bet that if and when National’s lead in the polls wanes serious consideration will be given by them to announce that the inner city loop’s construction can start now?

32 comments on “Auckland’s city rail link may be accelerated”

  1. karol 1

    Auckland’s public transport system definitely needs speeding up and other improvements. I want to use public transport more. It’s pretty good for travelling between West Auckland and Auckland’s CBD in the day time. It was really easy going to and from those demos a couple of Saturdays ago.

    Getting across Auckland just takes way too much time. See for instance Matt L at the Transport Blog on travelling between Takapuna and Henderson. And I think going from the west via Britomart to Takapuna would be just as time consuming because the trip into Britomart can take 45 minutes once factoring in walking to a station or waiting for bus connections.

    • Sacha 1.1

      Let’s all be clear – finishing the City Rail Link project by 2020 is not ‘accelerating’ it or ‘bringing it forward’. I’m tired of seeing this lie regurgitated.

      All the earlier scoping work proposed starting in time to meet that delivery target. Brownlee, Joyce and their luddite chums pulled later dates from their rears. Only this government has been stupid enough to delay the project until after the need has become critical. Aucklanders will recall the many years of frustration on our motorway network before the equivalent central links were added to it, again late.

      The CRL allows double the rail trips across the whole region, taking pressure off our roads as Auckland’s population soars. A train every 5-10 minutes and properly integrated feeder buses finally make public transit a reliable choice like other first-world cities offer.

      The CRL project costs less the earlier we get started, and managing the impact of some major commercial building developments along the route will also be cheaper if they are done at the same time. This government need to be called out for wasting our money and making it harder to attract and keep the smart young businesses and workers who we need more of.

      • mickysavage 1.1.1

        I agree Sacha that the project should be started now.

        I use the phrase “accelerated” only in the sense that it is not programmed to start for a while.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    There’s a third consideration: it’s an election year and the National Party’s clients will be getting anxious that they’ve only bought themselves an opposition rather than a government.

  3. Ad 3

    There’s no extra money available from central government for the project to be brought forward to match the Council’s timetable of construction starting in 2015 – at least not from the National Land Transport Fund, which is skint. Also, Christchurch sucks the big non-transport CAPEX items for a good while.

    In terms of meeting its patronage targets, one of the best things they could do is lower the ticket prices. Auckland Transport Chair lester levy floated this recently. To do that, Auckland’s Council would need to vote more funding. This is currently highly unlikely.

    Mickey the (hopefully) good thing about the new fleet launching on the 28th is simply higher public consciousness that there’s something new and shiny arriving, and some more people try an alternative to the car.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      Agreed Ad about fares. The current fare recovery policy is very conservative.

      Agreed also that the NLTF is skint. Far too many roads of National Stupidity have been or are being built. Of course debt funding is still an option …

      • Ad 3.1.1

        I guess that was my point about Christchurch – it’s where government debt will be going for some time.

        It also bugs me that Council has not yet figured out how it will pay for its own half. I can only wonder what would happen to Aucklanders’ rates bills if Mayor Brown’s request to the government to get started on an early works package had succeeded. Council seriously needs a financial plan for this, and I can’t see one.

      • BM 3.1.2

        Will a Cunliffe led Left block can the rons program or at the very least pare it right back?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          That would certainly be in the national interest.

          • BM

            So you think Cunliffe would do that, complete whatever projects have been started and then can the rest?

            • felix

              The rest of what? The whole “rons” thing is just a National party slogan. It’s a brand name. A marketing campaign.

              There’s nothing intrinsically significant about that particular list of projects.

              And there’s no reason that the next govt is bound to complete any National Party policy.

              • BM

                Pretty popular with a lot of voters though.

                Be good to know which way Cunliffe wants to go with the rons program, I’m sure most voters would like to know as well.

                Could become a hot election issue.

                • Lanthanide

                  A hot election issue: Holiday Highway (used a couple of times a year by some Aucklanders) vs Central Rail Loop (used a couple of times a day by many Aucklanders).

                  Tough choice.

                  • Kevin Welsh

                    It is not a ‘loop’ Lanth. There will be no trains going around in circles.

                • Ad

                  New motorways particularly the Waikato Expressway are very important to the freight industry, and the massive Te Rapa freight hub owned by Tainui will help shunt Fonterra’s bulk freight further away from Auckland and into Tauranga.

                  But the bulk of votes are with CRL. Traffic is the most important issue with the whole of local government voters in Auckland, straight in front of rates.

                  • BM

                    But the bulk of votes are with CRL. Traffic is the most important issue with the whole of local government voters in Auckland, straight in front of rates.

                    Why, Is the current train system failing to cope with demand at the moment.

                    I thought this inner city loop was to cope with future demand?

            • tc

              Its common sense to invest for a return, rons is burning money with cbr’s less than 1.

              The facts are compelling, rons is pure political payback to trucking and big civil concerns like fletchers and FH.

              If we had an impartial MSM with minimal financial literacy they would be hammering the govt over this asking why.

            • Ad

              I do.

    • Lanthanide 3.2

      It’s the government’s stupid choice to foist a big convention centre on Christchurch. At the same time also backing big convention centres in Auckland and Queenstown. It’s nonsensical.

      Scale back the convention centre. Dump the new covered stadium that we don’t need. Can the Roads of Notional Significance.

      • Tracey 3.2.1

        If we thought of NZ as one big city, say, the population of melbourne, exactly how many stadiums and convention centres etc would we need? We are crippling ourselves due to our strangulating regionalism.s

      • framu 3.2.2

        “It’s the government’s stupid choice to foist a big convention centre on Christchurch”

        its not just stupid – its utterly irresponsible when their own documentation states that the market isnt big enough for a center in more than one location

        that was some of the rationale for the auckland center going ahead

  4. Philj 4

    National only spends billions on roads. As per instructions from Ken Shirley , trucking lobby. There is a huge financial pressure from the trukkies. At the expense of our trains snd coastal shipping.

  5. Weepu's beard 5

    If John Banks had his way, our brand new silent trains would never have existed. Once these vehicles come online I expect the trips to rise significantly. People will come to know what a joy it is to ride to work on a decent train.

  6. dpalenski 6

    Micky you should really use EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) rather than electric train engines which I’m sure pretty don’t exist because I think you can only have electric motors not engines.

  7. MikeG 7

    There is money available for those CRL if some roading projects are re-prioritised. Have a look at:

  8. millsy 8

    The CEL should be pushed back.

    Not because I have an anti-rail position (the opposite in fact), but because the buses and ferries need some attention paid to them, and they need to be brought back into public ownership, which is the only way the bus system (the meat and spuds of the PT network) can ensure a decent level of service.

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