NZ Green Party
The Wellington Transport Plan

Line maintenance on Sue’s train line conspired to delay her arrival at the Greens launch of our Wellington Transport Plan.  But she got there by bus instead and announced a costed and detailed plan that would see a new light rail network linking the Hutt Valley, Porirua and the Airport.

Wellington rail network

Stage one would see light rail link Johnsonville and Courtenay Place, costing $70 million, to be completed by 2011. Next would be Lower Hutt to Wellington Hospital, $100m, by 2015 and lastly Plimmerton to the airport, $250m, by 2016.

The project would cost half that of Transmission Gully.

But as well as that, and the investment in trains that move faster than car traffic, extensive cycle and walkways (such as the Great Harbour Way)  and cheaper integrated ticketing for public transport, there is also a focus on people-friendly urban design so it is easier for people to  choose cycling, walking and public transport if they want.

32 thoughts on “The Wellington Transport Plan

  1. Don’t recall us ever being given the choice, BB.

    But why not start by extending the existing heavy rail system along the waterfront and up towards the Basin Reserve or the hospital, rather than put in a whole new system?

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  2. >>our present roading infrastructure – well-maintained – will be all we need

    And how do the Greens know that?

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  3. Because there are no tracks, Sam, and ‘light’ rail just means that they will have an easier time getting through the centre of town… I assume it will be well integrated with the current ‘heavy’ rail system, in any case.
    I am fairly sure that inhabitants of the Hutt Valley will plump for the loop line and the great harbour way (what, you mean you won’t have to cycle on the motorway any more?) over Transmission Gully by a large majority.

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  4. I have to give this public transport scheme a 2 out of 10. Why on earth are you replacing perfectly good heavy rail lines with light rail ones? If you want a light rail system, that is fine, but place it in Wellington City instead of replacing existing heavy rail lines.

    Personally, I would like to see the following happen with Wellington on top of existing GWRC proposals

    - conversion from 1500V DC to 25kV AC
    - triplication from Taita to Kaiwharawhara
    - triplication from Porirua to Takapu Road
    - duplication from Trentham to Maymorn
    - having a minimum of four tracks entering Wellington from Kaiwharawhara as opposed to the present two, and proposed three
    - additional platforms placed at Featherston, Carterton and Masterton
    - hourly rail service to Masterton, with the possibility of electrification and the purchase of suitable long distance EMUs (I am thinking something along the lines of Brisbane’s IMUs). These could also be used to replace the current carriages on the Capital Connection.
    - completion of electrification from Paraparaumu right through to Palmerston North at 25kV AC

    In the short term, I am of the view that new locomotives may be needed for the Wairarapa Connection. The DC class locomotives that currently ply that route were not able to keep to the old timetable, and as a result, the timetable was slown down. One possibility may be to run the service with two DC class locomotives in top and tail configuration (like Auckland’s SX set), although such a configuration can worsen riding quality.

    Something that I believe should also be explored is the value of rebuilding the old Hutt Valley Line on the west bank of the Hutt River (this was the route prior to 1955), and having it used as the route for freight services and Wairarapa trains. This would make it much easier to tighten up frequencies on the existing Hutt Valley Line as you would no longer be mixing up various speeds on the same line.

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  5. nik Says:
    October 22nd, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    > Because there are no tracks, Sam, and ‘light’ rail just means that they will have an easier time getting through the centre of town… I assume it will be well integrated with the current ‘heavy’ rail system, in any case.

    Yep. The map appears to show light rail tracks running parallel to heavy rail on the routes to Porirua and Lower Hutt, but I’m sure it would actually be a conversion of the existing lines so that they can take both light rail and heavy rail trains.

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  6. Light rail would be great. The current system of stopping at the edge of the CBD and then having to find a taxi or a bus to get into town or to the airport makes the service a lot less useful than it should be.

    (not to mention the run-down, irregular and unreliable nature of public transport in NZ, but that’s a whole other topic).

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  7. Despite my previous disagreements with john-ston, I agree with what he posted in his comment here, he is absolutely 100% correct.

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  8. Crickey, That’s impressive. I trust you Greens have taken out a licence with TFL for using their copyright?

    You’ll no doubt be pleased to know the Chair of TFL is none other than Boris Johnson.
    Given his politics no doubt he’ll give you a fair hearing LOL

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  9. Electric rail to the airport is something i most strongly support, now if only we could get Biodiesel New Zealand to into the planes ah! Mr Andrew Simcock.

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  10. Given there isn’t enough money for Transmission Gully either, how will this be paid for? How much additional annual subsidy is needed? Unlike roads which are paid for by those using them, public transport isn’t.

    Don’t expect me to defend Labour but the current government has funded a major upgrade of the track, electrics, signalling and new trains for Wellington so this “ageing rail system” is being replaced.

    WRC was asked to justify its light rail plans a few years ago, it couldn’t produce a business case, there was no evidence it would relieve congestion, or produce better outcomes than buses. The same is for converting the Johnsonville line to light rail, it doesn’t stack up compared to upgrading heavy rail.

    The Greens continue the nonsense of wanting to spending two third of road tax money on public transport, ignoring that 40% of transport spending now is on road maintenance. You didn’t do your sums and this policy will result in potholed and increasingly unsafe roads, not just for cars either.

    Some parts of the policy seem bizarre. How would the Greens expand online shopping? Capitalism has done a marvellous job of doing so without any politicians.

    However most disappointing is nothing on road pricing. The modelling done by WRC several times has shown you cannot get ANY mode shift in Wellington without congestion pricing. At best it will hold its own and absorb the same share of growth as cars. Congestion pricing would make an enormous difference, is perfectly viable in Wellington, would reduce congestion, emissions, make public transport walking and cycling more competitive AND could replace rates funding for local road maintenance and public transport subsidies.

    On urban form electrifying to Otaki and Masterton will do two things, dramatically increase property values in both towns and increase sprawl as a result – why should you be encouraging people to commute very long distances? How green is that?

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  11. > WRC was asked to justify its light rail plans a few years ago, it couldn’t produce a business case, there was no evidence it would relieve congestion, or produce better outcomes than buses.

    WRC’s light rail studies were seriously flawed, in that they did not acknowledge that you can run light rail trains on the existing heavy rail lines (you have to make some adaptations, like putting in lower platforms for boarding light rail trains from, but the railway lines themselves don’t have to be altered). Because they didn’t acknowledge this, their cost-to-benefit calculation was based on everyone travelling from north of the central railway station to south of it having to change trains at that point. It was inevitable that that would destroy most of the potential gains.

    Some light rail experts in Wellington believe that the GWRC staff wrote the report on that basis to sabotage it, because of an ideological objection to light rail.

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  12. “Because there are no tracks, Sam, ”

    I was suggesting building some, not trying to run the trains on the sidewalks.

    ‘Light Rail’ does seem to have become all the rage, partially just because it sounds catchy and modern.

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  13. I think there are serious advantages to light rail in urban areas too, Sam, namely that the more integration you get with roads and pedestrian areas, i.e. having stops rather than stations, the more visible you are and the easier people find it to just jump on the line… on the other hand, I am basing my assumptions on experiences overseas and I will admit to not knowing a lot about WRC’s particular plans or studies that have been done specifically for Wellington ;)

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  14. The greens should also congratulate themselves on their support of the Great Harbour Way, which looks like it has just gotten a little closer to becoming reality:
    “Greater Wellington Regional Council Transport and Access committee
    today agreed to a motion supporting a Great Harbour Way cycling and walking track on the seaward side of the railway line from Petone to Ngauranga. Wellington City Council has also supported the track, and this now means that it will almost certainly get the endorsement of the new Regional Transport Committee.

    Regional Councillor Paul Bruce said that he was delighted with this outcome, and now looked forward to the NZ Transport Agency and Ontrack collaborating with Ontrack to make this a stand along project. Mr Bruce said that lives would be saved if cyclists did not have to mix it with speeding cars and heavy trucks to get to and from our major centres.

    Mr Bruce, said that overseas experience showed that such a pathway could potentially provide large economic benefits to the region giving a sought after tourist experience, as well as fast and easy access to cycle commuters and runners.”

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  15. Good news about the Great Harbour way! That should also minimise line closures due to waves breaking over the tracks.

    The coastal half of Transmission Gully is relatively unnecessary anyway, the main benefits seem to be to Peter Dunne’s re-election campaign. If the land designated for the Pukerua Bay bypass had not been “accidentally” sold off to property developers, widening the coastal highway would have been cheap and easy, giving 4 lanes the whole way to Paraparaumu and money left over to start other more important projects. The other stage of TG looks to be more worthwhile?

    One question- would having trolley buses and light rail together be problematic in terms of overhead cabling? Perhaps it would be more effective to improve the existing trolley wires and order even more buses- build on what we have?

    I’d be happy just to see electrification/duplication to Waikanae- that’s been “about to start” for about 3 years now?

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  16. Enough.

    Move the work to the people

    Use today’s technology to eliminate the need for people to constantly travel into hubs

    If the global green movement is to achieve any real traction,it has to become far more innovative in the solutions it puts forward to the planet’s ills. Railways are an 19th century solution to a 19th century problem, yet that is how you see the future!? Roads were the 20th Century’s solution to its communications challenges. Where are the Greens 21st century solutions to 21st century challenges? The way this debate is going we’ll be back to the horse and cart soon, instead of forward to virtual reality and digital conferencing!

    Puhleeeeeze – get a grip on TODAY!

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  17. I don’t see much chance of new technology moving jobs out of town in a major way, only a small number of people do jobs that are going to be able to be done in virtual realioty or by video-conferencing.

    Lots of people still make things, or work in shops (most of us still like to talk to somebody or have a look at a product before we buy it) or are cleaners or packers, or transport workers, or builders or whatever.

    So what if railways were invented in the C 19th? The wheel was invented in the stone age – does that mean I should swap my bike for a hovercraft in the interests of modernity?

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  18. Um, one quarter of the US workforce either works from home (full or part time) or is a telecommuter.
    Telecommuting is the fastest growing form of commuting in the US.
    This change is assisted by the emergence of “remote office centres” which allow you to drive or walk or whatever to an office say a mile away from which you telecommute to your head office downtown or wherever.
    Sun Microsystems alone has 60,000 workers on its San Jose Campus of which 25,000 telecommute.
    These are small numbers?
    And in most cities the work trips from suburb to suburb exceed the work trips from suburb to downtown. The jobs have already moved out of town.
    HEre the ARC does everything it can to prevent such decentralisation.

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  19. Sam Buchanan Says:

    >I don’t see much chance of new technology moving jobs out of town in a major way, only a small number of people do jobs that are going to be able to be done in virtual reality or by video-conferencing.
    Nuts mate. There are tens of thousands at it already, millions will follow the bleeding edgers, they always do! Remember when flat screen TVs were $55,000?

    >Lots of people still make things,
    Not here in NZ they don’t

    >or work in shops (most of us still like to talk to somebody
    Luddite! If you need a social life get one without chatting to shop-girls

    >or have a look at a product before we buy it)
    How popular is TradeMe? There’s a way of looking at things!

    >or are cleaners
    Clean your own place

    >or packers,
    again, not in this country

    > or transport workers,
    don’t need so many of them if we all walk to work round the corner

    >or builders
    yep, build local for locals

    >or whatever.
    RIGHT

    > The wheel was invented in the stone age – does that mean I should swap my bike for a hovercraft in the interests of modernity?
    Absolutely not, but you do suggest I swap the wheels on my car for something you prefer!

    The big issue here is that you want to have your cake and eat it. Either transport is a bad idea and we should eliminate it from purely productive activities, or it’s not. If there is a way to eliminate buses and trains from being needed for the basis working day, we can afford to use them for leisure activities and still reduce the carbon footprint. However, I get the sense it is control you want, rather than sustainability, otherwise you would welcome innovation in pollution reduction !

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  20. A quick correction

    The light rail system would run on the same rails as the existing heavy rail where that track exists – and would be an addition to heavy rail rather than a replacement.

    The easiest way to promote on-line shopping is to require shops to provide home delivery services instead of carparks :-).

    I am always amused when people talk about subsidy as a dirty word – most essential services receive a “subsidy” – water, rubbish etc.

    New Zealand has very low productivity growth precisely because of our heavy investment in roading. Heavy investment in roading is breathakingly inefficient and probably accounts for a chunk of our relatively low productivity growth.

    The Greens are keen on telecommuting and telework but not on subsidising sprawl – so lets back both broadband and sustainable communities.

    The arguments about control seem to me to reflect a high level of addiction to the motor vehicle. By all means use your car if you want but why should your car use be prioritised over every other use of the road which is after all a public space?

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  21. All the posters may be correct in talking about light rail being able to run on heavy rail tracks (Karlsruhe type system), however, you all forgot some practical considerations

    First of all, these light rail engines would need to be designed to run off 1500V DC as well as 600V DC, and possibly be convertible to run off 25kV AC. This isn’t a major problem, however, considering the second issue, it might cause problems.

    Second of all, New Zealand uses the 3’6″ railway gauge. If you consider that 95% of light rail systems are standard (4’8.5″) gauge, then it gives us a considerable disadvantage, especially in terms of cost. IMO, if you are going to go down the light rail track (sorry about the pun), you would be better off constructing a separate system.

    However, considering the overall narrowness of Wellington roads, I don’t think that light rail is a wise idea for Wellington – back in the old days, the trams were limited to 7′ widths, and ran on a 4′ gauge due to the narrowness of Wellington streets.

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  22. jgg, I have never seen any evidence that heavy investment in roading is breathakingly inefficient. However if you are specifically referring to the recent heavy investments subsidising the tertiary sectors in Auckland and Wellington, to prevent them from relocating to less congested centres with equally good communications infrastructure, then I’ll agree with you. But the same argument is true for the recent heavy investments in commuter rail in those centres to acheive the same economicly inefficient objective.

    There is plenty of evidence that heavy investment in roading targetted at the primary and secondary sectors was breathakingly efficient. The same can also be said of railways before decisions on branch line construction became dependent on marginal electorate politicking, especially under Seddon.

    You only have to look at the reduction in traffic on the Harbour Bridge to see the benefits of developing business centres close to fast growing residential areas. Although the drop in traffic over the Harbour Bridge may have been matched by increased traffic over the upper harbour bridge the shorter commute distance between West Auckland and Albany compared with North Shore to Wiri/Mangere Airport will have resulted in a nett decrease in commuter fuel use. Replicating the Albany development in the vicinity of Massey would give the Auckland region the four work centres needed to achieve minmum aggregate commute distances. In fact Massey/Te Atatu is where the Wiri/Otara development was originally to have occured hence the Pt. Chev-Lincoln Rd section of the N’West M’way was hastily constructed as an expressway in the earlier 1950′s. At that time the MoW figured that with a sensible division of the regions development between north and south the region could double it’s population to a million with a single six lane motorway. It would only get congested on Sunday afternoons. Thus you would have had a railway and a motorway connecting the two industrial areas with the two shipping ports and the two airports. By the time the railway had been extended from Massey to Takapuna the region would have been able to afford to emulate Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and city loop developments. Alas the dominant mayor in West Auckland at that time persuaded the government that the land was too valuable for horticulture and thus began Auckland’s descent into it’s expensive transport nightmare. :?

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  23. Kevyn,

    The notion of two airports for Auckland is not a viable option. Just ask yourself which airline will locate to Whenuapai? Cant see anyone locating there nor run two half empty flights to anywhere from both airports. The volume does not warrant a second airport.

    Where would the second port be? Onehunga is severly restricted to shallow draft coastal traffic and accessable via a very shifty and dangerous bar at the entrance to the Manukau Harbour. Shipping movement is restricted to high tide. The wharf area is restricted in capacity.

    No those assets are not a via option to reduce traffic flow. The true option is the completion of SH20 to Albany. That will relieve congestion plus give an alternative North South corridor.

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  24. Ouch.

    Not a plan that this particular Green agrees with, on several counts. Not that anyone asked… I should have been watching for this.

    The first problem is that I would not give up on building the new ROUTE along Transmission Gully with the coast road sunk to within meters of the high-water mark for much of its length. Sorry folks, what happened to planning AHEAD? I would require that a bus lane be added to the route and that the buses be as capable of electrification as the trains. It there is a light rail possibility it would be here and extended through to a converted Johnsonville line.

    Second, the point to running the light rail over the heavy rail lines accomplishes what purpose? Frequency of service? I can think of no other, and yet we already manage the rush-hour with trains on 10-15 minute services. Purchase of additional heavy rail trainsets and a satellite junction to connect at Petone gives you that one. Replacing the Johnsonville track with light rail track lets you alter that one to use standard light-rail track if you must… but that is likely to be less necessary than the other stuff.

    Third, to get light rail running it will have to go in the same place as the current electrified trolley buses or it will have to run along Customhouse-Aotea Quay and then up Adelaide road to the Hospital. This is “sort of” OK, but the cost of running more electrified buses and extending the electrification to the airport would seem to me to be much less than creating an entirely NEW mode to replace them.

    Frequency of service is the single most important way to get people to take buses and trains instead of their cars. The tyranny of a schedule that makes you 20 minutes later because you missed the bus or train by a minute is unsustainable for most people at a personal level. 15 minutes is endurable but inconvenient. 10 minutes is acceptable. The Moscow subway which I hold as a sort of standard, had trains even more frequently on its ring. I do not recall ever waiting more than 5 minutes.

    In the Wellington to Whitby commute however, off-peak service in the evening costs a full hour and a half of extra travel time for missing the 2000 or 2100 train. That one-minute missed connection turning into an all-night expedition is worse at 2100 and later because the buses quit running and you can catch a cab for 5 times the nominal fare, or walk which adds 45 additional minutes for a whopping 2 and a half hours of inconvenience and exercise.

    Finally I would want more capacity to carry Bicycles on all forms of public transport. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about the bus connections.

    Thinking about it…. dogs as well.

    Sorry Frog. This one is (for me) basically a non-starter.

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  25. Gerrit, I was describing what was proposed in 1950. The second port was to have been at Traherne Island. Hence the steepness of the Harbour Bridge and the missing flyovers at Patiki and Rosebank Rds.

    The reasoning for two airports seems to have been one for amphibians and one for conventional planes. Which means TEAL would have used Whenuapia and NAC would have used Mangere.

    Just proves that predicting the future is easier with the benefit of hindsight.

    When Armstrong stepped onto the moon the RNZAF rushed the TV footage from Sydney to AKTV2 who copied it and rushed it via NAC to the other three TV centers. 30 years later we get to tourists in space live on CNN. Who is brave enough to guess what Auckland (or the world) and it’s transport and communications will be like in another 30 years?

    Go back another 30 years and think how long it would have taken to get the text and footage of Atlee’s agreement with Hitler all the way to NZ. In fact, once upon a time, before the telegraph, central government had to delegate most of it’s administrative functions to provinial councils otherwise building bridges and roads and buildings would have happened as slowly as if there was an RMA to negotiate.

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  26. When’s the Christchurch Transport Plan being released? Or is it the same as Labour’s “someone’s got to pay to get Aucklanders and Wellingtonians home in time to watch Helen on the news and Jim’s too much of a tame monkey to defend his constituents” plan.

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  27. Kevyn,

    I see your point. Cheers.

    Seems like urban planning is like waging war.

    The generals are always fighting the last war, not the next one.

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  28. Oh,
    The harbour bridge also had to be high for large ship navigation as the Navy armoury is around the corner at Kauri Point, plus the sugar works at Birkenhead.

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  29. Until very recently the WCC and WRC were considering spending well over $1.5 billion on new roads, (Transmission Gully and further expenditure on the so-called bypass, including two more tunnels and a flyover). What gets me cross about all this argument from the pro-motoring lobby is that it is always the same; vast sums of money are to be given freely by the happy tax payer to be spent extravagantly on private motoring, the most appalling inefficient, destructive and polluting form of transport ever invented by man, but when much, much smaller amounts of money could be invested in efficient and non polluting public transport every single dollar will be scrutinised and every dollar prised from the tax-payer resented.

    What you have to understand that this point of view is now no longer tenable, if it ever were. We are now at the start of a complete revolution in the way our politics, our economy and our society will work, and the internal combustion engine car will not be part of it.

    New Zealand’s pathological attachment to the private motor vehicle is one of the major causes of our continued inability to run our economy efficiently and so move up a few notches in the OECD wealth table. It is the cause of our dire urban planning and sprawling cities. We are incontinently profligate in the way we use oil and energy resources, and if we hope to have even a chance of overcoming the financial and economic storms just about to batter us, we need to take some long term strategic thinking about all our transport options. Light rail has proven itself many times over in many different countries, cities and and societies in all parts of the world as being a highly effective, efficient and popular way to allow people to get around their urban environment. It is my opinion that a fast efficient urban light rail service far from being an option is almost a pre-requisite in a forward looking and sustainable and people-friendly city.

    It is my understanding that the light rail option for this city has been on and off the drawing boards for many many years. The time to have built this would have been after the last oil shocks in the eighties when energy and raw material costs were low. We chose to ignore this warning and installing such infrastructure now will unfortunately be a lot more expensive. But not installing it will be likely to see this city seize up completely in the next few years when few people can afford to run their cars, and where even diesel fuel for buses might become unaffordable or even unobtainable.

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  30. jockmoron Says:
    October 26th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    > The time to have built this would have been after the last oil shocks in the eighties when energy and raw material costs were low. We chose to ignore this warning and installing such infrastructure now will unfortunately be a lot more expensive.

    well, happily we seem to be moving into another phase of falling energy and raw material costs now. But this one won’t last as long, so we better hurry up and build it!

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  31. jockmoron, What you have to understand is that all “government” funding for land transport is that all the money comes from motorised road used. Not one cent is given freely by the taxpayer, whether happily or unhappily. Naturally the funding providers expect every dollar diverted from it’s intended purpose to be scrutinised. Up till the end of the millineum they had expected that to happen every dollar spent on highways too, but the political expediency of buying the support of coalition partners has put an end to that.

    You also need to understand that Transmission Gully and the so-called bypass are State Highways so the WCC and WRC could not have been considering spending well over $1.5 billion on them.

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