Government U turn on inner city rail link

Written By: - Date published: 12:49 pm, January 27th, 2016 - 40 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, climate change, Economy, Environment, local government, public transport, sustainability, transport - Tags:

city rail link

As had been widely anticipated the Government has performed a U turn on Auckland’s inner city rail link and has agreed to bring forward funding.  Instead of it starting in 2020 it will now start in 2018 and match Auckland Council’s planned start date.

Can I praise the Government for having the intelligence to do this.  At the same time can I criticise the Government for taking so long to do so.

The rail link has been mooted for many years.  The Green Party for a long time has been a supporter.  Labour’s policy in 2011 was to cancel the holiday highway and build the inner city rail link instead.

The need for the link became clear shortly after the opening of Britomart.  Having a major train station where trains had only one way in and out placed a limitation on its use.  The rail link doubles the capacity of Britomart and future proofs it against future growth for many years.

Without it the Auckland Rail System  will reach capacity in the near future. It is at the range of 24 million trips a year that the system maxes out. You will not be able to get enough trains to enter and leave the station to get any more passengers through.  And by constructing the link the rail system will be able to deliver more frequent, more relevant and for all passengers much quicker, especially those out from west.

The Government’s initial response to the project was very muted although the rhetoric was negative.  Steve Joyce essentially described the project as being crazy.  There was some movement in June 2013 when 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.

I struggled to understand the first requirement.  It seems to me to be totally irrelevant the reasons for people using public transport.  Whether they are travelling to work or to their place of education the effect on congestion is the same.

The second, that rail patronage be on track to hit 20 million trips well before 2020 is very likely to be met.  The introduction of more comfortable and faster and quieter electric rail carriages has seen a surge in train usage as is shown by this Transportblog graphic.


At the current rate of increase the 20 million target should be reached some time in 2017.

The problem is especially evident when you consider that peak time the network is already approaching capacity.  Talk of Auckland Council hiring additional security guards for Britomart shows how urgent the situation is.  The work should have been started years ago so that future pressures could have been handled adequately.  Instead of this we are in the situation where the rail system will be placed under intense pressure and this will only be alleviated when the inner city rail link is opened.

The news is not all good for sustainability.  National has also announced the Onehunga Mount Wellington motorway which is frankly a piece of vandalism.  I have not seen the detail of the speech but other roading projects are mooted to be announced.

So at least as far as the inner city rail link goes congratulations to National for agreeing to do its part.  It is a shame that it did not do so years ago.

40 comments on “Government U turn on inner city rail link”

  1. shorts 1

    kinda surprised they didn’t go for an earlier date to have it as a central part of their next election campaign – hough I guess they still can

    as an auckland commuter and PT user the sooner the better, for the system is bursting as it is

    • No surprise.
      This is the govt that smashed up Hillside.

      Whether or not rail is the most efficent way of moving people and goods is irrelevant.
      National hate rail with a passion that borders on hysterical.

      • Ad 1.1.1

        Theyre no fans of Kiwi rail, but other than the Anoraks, who is?

        National has committed and spent billions on commuter rail in Auckland.

        And hundreds of millions on urban cycling.

    • It is being used right now as part of their election campaign. Laying down the tracks as it were.

  2. Ad 2

    As the excellent Auckland transport advocate Sudhvir Singh said today:

    First they ignore you (Williamson)
    then they laugh at you (Joyce)
    then they fight you (Brownlee)
    then you win.

    A big shoutout to everyone involved in the advocacy to turn the entire Cabinet, all of MoT Auckland, Treasury, and the rest around to agreement.

  3. Brendon Harre -Left wing Liberal 3

    As a Cantabrian I have to say I am disappointed with John Key’s State of the Nation speech. John put his best ‘I am a financial expert’ voice on, which he uses to mask his policies are a confusing mis-mash.

    Just a few minutes of thought about what he said reveals that John and the Nats are not policy experts.

    From my point of view their biggest lie is National supports growth. If that was the case Canterbury as New Zealand’s second fastest growing region, containing New Zealand’s second biggest city would be getting the pro-rata equivalent to Auckland’s mega -infrastructure projects, so that Christchurch doesn’t make the same mistake as 1970-2000 Auckland of underinvesting in infrastructure.

    Where is the fast rapid transit system for Canterbury? Passenger rail? Light rail? Express busways? Also why do you have to travel through Christchurch to go between the two of the fastest growing districts in New Zealand -Selwyn and Waimakiriri? Because no new bridges have been constructed for 50 years in Canterbury to provide more direct routes?

    Instead National prefers to bypass cost benefit procedures and randomly fling infrastructure projects (pork) around the regions -probably to maximise vote buying. In many ways John Key is just Muldoon with a modern corporate makeover.

    The National party have not changed its spots -it doesn’t honestly acknowledge the mistakes of the past and systematically try to fix them.

    Moving quicker on Auckland’s CRL is good but at best it is only a half hearted acknowledgement of the infrastructure challenges of Auckland and other fast growing parts of New Zealand, such as Canterbury.

    • shorts 3.1

      I’d suggest this is entirely a response and acknowledgement of polling – key and his cronies don’t want to play with trains, they hate trains… but they do like power and the people want the CRL as it makes economic sense and therefore they weakly cave in to the masses

      • Sacha 3.1.1

        It’s more a response to lobbying by large companies and developers preparing to invest billions between them in buildings along the CRL route. The delay was only ever part of the trickery around ‘surplus’ anyway.

      • Brendon Harre -Left wing Liberal 3.1.2

        I think you are right. John Key is just responding to pressure in a knee-jerk fashion. He hasn’t done a fair assessment of the infrastructure deficit and its solutions.

    • Lanthanide 3.2

      “Also why do you have to travel through Christchurch to go between the two of the fastest growing districts in New Zealand -Selwyn and Waimakiriri?”

      Do you have any evidence that people are trying to drive between these two districts?

      I would have thought that both of those districts were the fastest growing because of their proximity to Christchurch; that is everyone wants to live in the country and work in the city.

      • Brendon Harre -Left wing Liberal 3.2.1

        They are not country areas. The combined population total of Waimakariri and Selwyn is nearly 100,000 people. That is more than the Nelson, Richmond and Motueka corridor. Yet the only practical route between these two neighbouring areas is through the 50 year old State highway 1 motorway bridge that means traveling through congested Christchurch roads.

        There is plenty of reasons for more direct routes. For example, both have industrial parks -but it is difficult for those industries to do business with each other. Selwyn has an inland port for freight but it is difficult to access it from Waimakairiri and so on.

        • Lanthanide

          So you don’t have any evidence, then.


          Note that the route via the airport doesn’t require you to go through congested Christchurch city roads, and at the moment is being upgraded to 2 lanes each way.

          • Brendon Harre -Left wing Liberal

            Gosh you are quite snarky Lanthanide and this is moving away from my general point that John Key hasn’t learnt the lesson from Auckland of underfunding growing regions creates infrastructure deficits that creates difficult long term problems, such as Auckland’s housing crisis (getting worse in Auckland and better in Canterbury) and traffic woes (some improvement in Auckland and getting worse in Canterbury).

            Note the route you mention isn’t all being upgraded to 2 lanes. There is still one laned sections though the Hornby section or the country roads behind the airport (it is these sort of roads that have had some nasty crashes/deaths lately as they are not designed for the speeds/volume of use).

            As for your evidence question -there is this known canyon effect in transport planning where it is difficult to assess the amount of traffic between two neighbouring regions that requires a bridge (or tunnel) to connect. In New Zealand this was clearly seen by the Auckland Harbour Bridge which completely under estimated traffic volumes requiring the expensive ‘clip-on’ solution. The Sydney Harbour Bridge which right from the start had passenger rail integrated into the design was much better planned.

          • Craig H

            It’s not 2 lanes in both directions – one of the upgraded sections is only 1 lane for part of it, and it creates a huge bottleneck (I worked out there for a year, and drove along it every day). Besides which, that road is hugely congested at rush hour, 4 lanes or not, because tens of thousands of people live outside Christchurch in Waimakariri and Hurunui districts, but work in Christchurch, and because there is only one bridge north to most of it, and all the traffic merges at Belfast (Main North Rd aka SH1) on the way out.

            Rolleston to those districts is important because a lot of the major distribution centres are now in Rolleston or Hornby, and there is plenty of traffic in that general direction from those.

            • Lanthanide

              You know that they’re still upgrading it to 2 lanes now, right?

              • Brendon Harre -Left wing Liberal

                Lanthanide -do you live in Canterbury? Do you travel that route? I do regularly and this is a road upgrade from one to two lanes for part of the route -the Hornby end connection will still be one-laned and even when it is upgraded in no way is this motorway quality infrastructure.

                Canterbury needs something better. In rush hour travel it takes an hour+ to get from Rangiora to Christchurch when a hundred years ago with steam age technology you could do it in half that time. Rolleston is not much better.

                I am not promoting one particular project -Canterbury needs a modern integrated transport system. What we are getting is inadequate.

              • Craig H

                Yes, further along the route between Harewood and Sawyers Arms Roads. The single lane section I’m talking about is a piece between Avonhead Road and Memorial Avenue, all of which was upgraded 3 years ago as part of the this upgrade, and is finished.

    • Macro 3.3

      National does do policy it just does what it likes.

  4. “has agreed to bring forward funding”

    Has reverted to the original planned date.

    • mickysavage 4.1

      Yep I must avoid the Government framing. I am amazed that the Herald is using the word “kickstart” when all that has happened is that the Government has been dragged kicking and screaming into making the right decision.

      • Sacha 4.1.1

        Big business pestering Joyce finally paid off for the rest of us. And yes, the Nat party newsletter for Epsom faithfully reguritates whatever lines they’re fed from the beehive.

      • Macro 4.1.2

        “kickstart” is a good description – National needed a good kicking to get it started.

  5. esoteric pineapples 5

    Thanks Green Party for having a positive impact on New Zealand without New Zealanders yet allowing it to be part of a government.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    Can I praise the Government for having the intelligence to do this. At the same time can I criticise the Government for taking so long to do so.

    Yep, should have been started in 1920s.

    The rail link doubles the capacity of Britomart and future proofs it against future growth for many years.

    You do realise that it will be pretty much at capacity within a year or three don’t you?

  7. upnorth 7

    My calculation this is going cost NZers an additional 6.5 cents in the $ in taxes and 60% will come from outside Auckland – brilliant Greens Labour and Len.

    Labour will need to increase tax by 4% – I hope that is in Grants new labour policies.

    I would be far more economically long term to invest in the Northland proposal

  8. AmaKiwi 8

    and Phil Goff immediately shoots himself in the foot.

    TV3 (online) leads with, “Auckland residents could face a congestion charge if Phil Goff becomes mayor.”

    Cunliffe did the same in the 2014, CHC debate. Key held up 5 fingers and said Labour is going to impose 5 new taxes.

    The surest way to lose an election is to say you will raise taxes.

    Why couldn’t Phil STFU and say, “It’s the council’s responsibility to figure out how to fund the rail link. It would be a lot less expensive if National had not spent 5 years blocking this rail link.”

    Labour, you deserve to be known as the “tax and spend” party. Key increased lots of taxes, but he never whispered a word about his tax increase plans until after he got elected.

    Political Studies 101 – Never, ever say you are going to increase taxes. Labour, wake up!

  9. Ad 9

    Key has now removed transport from politics, at both local and central level, for 2016 and 2017 elections.

    ing’s still god political fire in it. Labour and Greens need to recalibrate fast as Key just stole more centrist territory right off them.

    This is real stuff. Greens; the best they can come up with

    • Ad 9.1

      …is a Treasury ‘form a committee’.

      Key says 4 terms.

      • Brendon Harre -Left wing Liberal 9.1.1

        BS John Key and National are incredibly weak on urban issues. This administration has tried to tart up the status quo and avoid new infrastructure initiatives such as CRL for as long as possible. The result is our cities are in crisis -the most obvious being Auckland’s housing crisis.

        Policy wise this government is useless. There only strengths is avoiding debate/analysis and when forced to confront problems, wheeling out smooth talking John Key to soothe and distract the public.

        Four terms of Key would be a disaster for NZ.

  10. instauration 10

    Um – the CBD concept is like so 50’s
    Can someone please advise which Auckland CBD employers are Bulls ?
    Well – we have Bears Vodafone, and Spark and Fonterra (aglommerate but downside makes them a Bear ) and the AU Banks and the UK Houses and the US Houses.
    Shit – just WhoIs sustaining that occupancy premium.
    $2 shop heaven in the CBD.
    Goodman Heaven in the Suburbs – that’s what they anticipate
    The Auckland CBD is imminently irrelevant.

  11. instauration 11

    Can someone please advise which Auckland CBD employers are Bulls ?

  12. Neil 12

    The only reason I can see for Key to do is because of the election next year & is marking the start of his election campaign. No doubt soon after next years election & if Key gets back he will no doubt come out with oh sorry we wont be able to afford it till 2020

    • Ad 12.1

      It’s already started construction.
      If you get to the middle of Auckland at some point, check out what is being done on Albert Street and lower Queen Street.

      There’s no turning it back now.

  13. stephen bradley 13

    I’m convinced National’s inner circle was dragging the chain on the city rail link only until they got the nod from sufficient of their investor mates that purchases of strategic properties en route had been completed. Now the fat cats can sit back and enjoy the benefits of tax-free capital gains created by yours and my taxes and rates. Collectivise the costs and privatise the benefits is just another version of the National party mantra on behalf of their billionaire mates: Make the Poor Pay.

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