Fast-track the CBD rail loop

Keith and I launched our Fast-track the CBD Rail Loop campaign today at Britomart – we had some great speakers and  I’m stoked to be promoting such an awesome transport project. I also had a chat to Sean Plunket about the loop today on Morning Report which was great.

I’ve written a piece about the campaign for Craccum which you can read below – enjoy!

Fast-Track the CBD Rail Loop

Are you a geek like me and sometimes stare at the rail map when travelling on the train and imagine how you’d make it better? Given that in Auckland, you are often waiting a fair amount of time either for or on the train I imagine lots of you do… So, what’s the one thing you would do? Most people would probably say build rail out to the airport or North Shore. But me? Well, I’d build an underground track linking Britomart with Mt Eden, turning it from a dumb-as dead-end to a terminus station; creating inner city stations, and a true city loop like they have in other super cities like Sydney or London.

The reason why I’d do this project first is that it is an essential first step to building rail links to other places in future – I’ll explain more about why that is later. But first, this isn’t just a daydream of mine – this plan has been on the cards since the 1920s but it never quite happened.

This week Green MP Keith Locke and I are launching a campaign to fast-track the CBD Loop and I hope you will get on board. You can sign our petition online. Right now the project is stalled because the government won’t stump up with the funds. Our campaign aims to build community support so the motorway-mad Government in Wellington can’t delay and ignore this project anymore.

So, why should you sign our petition and support the loop? Firstly, rail patronage has been growing at a phenomenal rate (over 10% per year for the last 5 years), but the infrastructure is holding it back. Britomart is a dead-end terminus station which means trains have to back out of the station before other trains can share the platform, severely limiting capacity. It is a major bottle-neck.  It is only seven years old yet will soon be at capacity.

The bottle-neck at Britomart is holding us back from 5-minute or more, never-look-at-the-timetable-again services and even a commuter service to Hamilton. The CBD Rail Loop is urgently needed to transform Britomart to a ‘through’ station and meet the growth in demand.

Second, the CBD Rail loop is the key to future development of the network. Once Britomart is a through station we will be able to build many new rail links to places like the airport and North Shore. As you daydream on the train, staring at the rail map, think of the CBD Loop as step 1, step 2 being rail to the Airport, and step 3 rail to the Shore, South-East Auckland etc.

Third, I think the most exciting reason to build a CBD Loop is the chance to transform the city centre from its current boring, car-dependent, and frankly lame state to a more exciting, people-friendly, metropolitan feeling city. Unlike other global super cities, with metro subways or light rail, Auckland only has a station at the CBD edge (but a whopping great hill between the waterfront and K Rd).

The Loop would see new underground stations at Symonds St, Aotea Square, and K Rd, places where people want to stop. The Aotea station would also make it easier for students to get to Auckland University. The CBD Rail loop will transform the city, and bring over half a million Aucklanders within 30 min of the city centre, completely free of road congestion.

The main downside of course is cost. All the tunnelling, track and new stations is expensive and it is estimated to cost in the order of $1-2 billion. I don’t think this should hold us back though. The costs would be shared between the region and the central Government.

Also, the Government is quite happy to pour $1.7 billion of our cash on the Pūhoi to Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway’ even though the road has a Benefit Cost Ratio of only 0.8 which means they’re predicting it will lose the economy $280 million – in other words it is totally uneconomic. By contrast, previous estimates have shown the benefits of the CBD Rail project significantly outweigh the costs.

The difference between the two projects is that, rather than only a few Aucklanders heading north and benefiting on the ten public holiday weekends when the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway is congested, a significant proportion of Aucklanders would benefit from the CBD Loop every working day. Why? Because the CBD loop will massively increase the capacity of the whole Auckland rail network, transform the downtown, and take cars off the congested CBD roads.

These two similarly-priced projects demonstrate the transport choices available to the Government. Their preference for the mad Holiday Highway highlights their 1950s approach to transport.

The Loop has some high level support from the likes of Auckland Mayor John Banks, Manukau Mayor Len Brown, the Regional Council and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority who earlier in the year released their preferred route.

However, we can’t start it without the funding. And right now the Transport Minister is stone walling saying he can’t dedicate any funding to this project until (yet another) study of the business case for the CBD Rail Loop is completed at the end of 2010. The Loop will take between 7-10 years to design and build, and that is all the more reason to ensure that there are no more delays.

That’s why I’m launching the Fast Track the CBD Rail Loop campaign this week to send a clear urgent message to the Government: fast-track the funding! A petition is circulating and you can download a copy and get your friends to fill it out here.

I’m also making it a Super City election issue with a survey of candidates to see who supports the loop. With local body elections coming up over September and October make sure you are enrolled and vote for candidates who support the CBD Rail Loop.

The CBD Loop was almost started in the 1970s but was scrapped by the 1975 National Government in a fit of short-sighted cost-saving, similar to the decision to remove walk/cycle paths and rail lines on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. We cannot let the current Government delay for another decade or two the single most effective thing we could do to transform Auckland’s CBD and public transport system.

So the next time you are on the train daydreaming, check out the map and see how completely common-sense a CBD loop would be, and imagine how cool it would be for Auckland to have a more vibrant downtown with convenient stations, super-frequent trains, and less cars on the roads. In short, a super rail system.

43 thoughts on “Fast-track the CBD rail loop

  1. this plan has been on the cards since the 1920s but it never quite happened

    Gareth, if you actually look at the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, you will find that a through line from Auckland through to the Mount Eden/Kingsland area has been proposed since 1886. It was rejected at the time because of the cost constraints brought about by the necessary land acquisition (the 1886 proposal would have gone via Freemans Bay and Western Park).

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  2. Just a quick nit pick, but railway lines were never part of the plan for the Auckland harbour bridge. A pair of six foot wide cycle/pedestrian lanes definitely were part of the original proposal and certainly were removed as a cost cutting measure, but rail lines were never seriously considered as they would have required a bridge over twice the length to have the same clearance.

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  3. Getting local politicians to support the project seems pretty easy. What really needs to be asked is “what projects do you think should be cancelled/delayed in order to prioritise this one?” People like John Banks and Ken Baguley are just paying lip-service to this project if they still think that the Highway Holiday should be a priority.

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  4. hi Jarbury. You’re right. It is easy to say you support a project – it’s whether you prioritize it over others that is the decider. If we built every transport project that everyb ody in Auckland wants it would cost 5 gazillion dollars and we couldnt’ afford a health budget anymore.

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  5. but railway lines were never part of the plan for the Auckland harbour bridge

    Wasn’t a Circular Quay type arrangement planned for Quay Street though?

    hi Jarbury. You’re right. It is easy to say you support a project – it’s whether you prioritize it over others that is the decider. If we built every transport project that everyb ody in Auckland wants it would cost 5 gazillion dollars and we couldnt’ afford a health budget anymore.

    If we look at all the generally accepted proposals, it might cost us $15 billion to build them all. Given that it would take about twenty years to get all the construction done anyway, it would only cost around $750 million per annum to get all these projects done. We really need to get an attitude of investment instead of trying to do things on the cheap – that is why the Australians have such good infrastructure, they are pouring eye watering sums into infrastructure.

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  6. Sure john-ston, but we need to make sure that investment is cost-effective. Otherwise we might as well grab a few hundred million dollars and flush it down a big fat toilet.

    Oh, I forgot, that’s the plan with the holiday highway.

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  7. For example a CBD rail link will do nothing but destroy wealth.
    The numbers don’t stack up and does not provide a useful service.
    The Sydney Airport Rail link goes from bad to worse.
    Only ten percent of people using the airport use the rail link.
    The percentage would be even lower here and that simply is not enough to provide a frequent service.
    People will not use a train if missing the train means they miss the plane.

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  8. “Yes”, it would be nice to see Govt’s, putting our tax money into promoting & building public transport infra-structure.. not just more roads. But a change of public mentality towards ‘getting out from behind the wheel’ & onto the trains & buses needs to occur first. THEN we can move forward on this greener/less polluting option ! Kia-ora

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  9. What makes you think that rail is greener and less polluting that buses, shuttle buses and new generation cars?

    And under loaded train is about the worst transport choice available.
    They destroy wealth as well as the environment.

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  10. Owen, so how do you propose solving the capacity problem? Auckland’s Britomart Station is going to hit its trains per hour capacity in the next year, and those trains will probably be at capacity within the next five to seven years.

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  11. Owen, why do you think the trains will be under-filled? I should think that in peak times they’ll be bulging (as they are now).

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  12. One empty train does produce pollution, true.. but one full train has to be better than 100-200 cars with one person in each, blocking up the city streets & blowing out CO2 everywhere ? I maybe wrong.. but “I dont think so”

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  13. And under loaded train is about the worst transport choice available

    Second worst, after an under loaded car.
    But Auckland doesn’t have a problem with under loaded trains, it has a problem with overloaded trains… and it most certainly has a problem with underloaded cars. Despite all attempts at carpooling and the like they still fail to achieve an average occupancy greater than around 1.2 people per vehicle (around 25% of capacity).

    Auckland’s suburban trains are soon to be electric. There is the potential for the network to purchase it’s power from entirely renewable generators, which would allow them to have zero operational emissions. I can’t see how a full train with zero emissions destroys wealth or the environment.

    How can you say the numbers don’t stack up when the numbers haven’t been released yet. I can’t wait to see that sky high BCR in a couple of months.

    Wasn’t a Circular Quay type arrangement planned for Quay Street though?

    Only the motorway component, so more like the Embacardero freeway. And that was planned after the bridge was built anyway, the original plan was a local connection only.

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  14. Owen

    The principle reason for an underloaded train is that it isn’t convenient to wait for the damned thing.

    The thing about the loop arrangements is that the trains can be run near constantly and frequently on that loop. So much so that people don’t THINK about dropping down into underground to go somewhere else… because there is no time wasted on it… they just do it. It takes longer to get out of the car-park.

    Badly implemented rail-transport systems are the rule here, not the exception. I HATE seeing a major station looking (eg Britomart) like a dead-end.

    BJ

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  15. But Auckland doesn’t have a problem with under loaded trains, it has a problem with overloaded trains…

    Get a train outside of rush hour mon-fri and the problem isn’t anywhere near overloading in my experience, don’t even seem to be overloaded, full though. Same with the motorways in fact (apart from the end of a long weekend of course).

    BJ, good point about loops! Quite frustrating having to wait couple of minutes for a train to leave/enter so we can do the same too.

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  16. I HATE seeing a major station looking (eg Britomart) like a dead-end.

    There is nothing wrong with a terminus station; Wellington is a terminus station, and across the Tasman, Adelaide also has a terminus station. Even overseas in places such as London, Paris and New York, you also have major terminus stations.

    The problem comes in when you fail to design the terminus station with sufficient capacity, and because of the development that has happened in the years since, the only option left is the CBD Loop (heaven help us had Westfield been able to construct their tower). The problem is the lack of vision – the last person with vision in this country was Coates.

    The principle reason for an underloaded train is that it isn’t convenient to wait for the damned thing.

    Also it depends on the time of day. I don’t expect an 8pm departure from Papakura to have a huge number of passengers, and neither do I expect a 6am departure from Auckland to have a large number of passengers.

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  17. The Britomart capacity problem is another issue and I am not well informed.
    However, I did make a media release that given the trains and platforms were over crowded for the Springbok All Black test then there is a risk that by building Party Central nearby we could get a nasty riot and trampling event for the key games of the world cup. Here it is:

    “Rail based transit systems depend on long term, stable and predictable, supply and demand to be profitable.

    Hence it is unwise to invest in a rail system to cope with a single event. Sydney “seized the opportunity” to build a rail link from the CBD to the airport to meet the demands of the Olympic Games. The Public-Private-Partnership lost $900 million in the first year of operation after the Games.

    Also, in the United States, rail transit contributes little to delivering patrons to major stadia. Baseball games are family affairs and most games are during the day in the weekend. Hence the CBD rail terminals, which are surrounded by commercial office space, provide little patronage to deliver to the stadia in the suburbs.

    There are of course some exceptions to this general ‘rule’.

    Consequently the “trial run” for the Britomart Eden Park rail link Park for the Springboks/All Blacks test match was worth examining, and it was reasonable to predict the patronage would fall short of expectations. As it was, 7,000 of the 25,000 patrons travelled by public transport.

    If anything, this patronage was higher than expectations. The NZ Herald reported that the trains were packed to the point of discomfort. Haimish Fletcher wrote:

    Forty-seven extra trains – with 26 scheduled carriages – funnelled fans to and from Eden Park and while trains were jam-packed, passengers were moved off and on quickly.

    The photo suggests the platforms and walkways were taxed to the limit as well.

    So why did the Britomart/Eden Park rail patronage buck the normal trends? Why were so many Rugby fans prepared to detour to the CBD in order to catch a train back out to Eden Park, given that most live in the suburbs anyway?

    Auckland is unusual in that the Viaduct Basin’s “party centre” of Auckland is in walking distance of the CBD Britomart terminal.

    Consequently, patrons of the Saturday night test match found it attractive to go to the Viaduct Basin for a few pre-test drinks, then walk to Britomart to take the train to Eden Park, and then return to the Viaduct for the after-match party.

    As always real human behaviour determines such outcomes rather than basic catchment models.

    However, the success of the “test run” could point to possible problems next year.

    The Rugby World Cup presents a different scenario. The patronage at Eden Park could be 60,000 – twice as many as for the Springbok test. And the organisers hope that 45,000 of them will use public transport – that’s five times as many as for the Springbok test.

    And while the proposed Party Central on Queens Wharf is intended to be for those without tickets to Eden Park, the enhanced party centre will make the Viaduct/Queens Wharf area even more attractive for pre-test and post-test party goers, for ticket holders and non-ticket holders alike.

    Also, the loading of the trains will be highly compressed into a short time frame. Everyone will want to be at Eden Park in time for the match, and they will all leave Eden Park at the same time – and be in a hurry to get back to the party.

    Will the trains, and the platforms be able to cope? They were loaded to capacity during the “trial run” and there was some pushing and shoving at the Kingsland barricades.

    I do not know if there are plans to upgrade the tracks, and platforms, and buy more carriages to cope. But this is bad economics because this level of demand is a once in twenty year event.

    Consequently, maybe we should take careful stock of the situation and investigate the possibility of “decentralising” the party district by providing a temporary Party Central somewhere else in the City. This would limit the load on the Britomart/Eden Park rail link to what it can reasonably cope with.

    We do not want the first TV news coverage of a major World Cup event to focus on drunken fans rioting to get on a train, or even being crushed to death under foot.”

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  18. NIck,
    A car is never less than 25% loaded.
    The whole of day loading for a family car is typically around 40%.
    Whole of day loading for a bus around 15 – 20%.
    (Site and route specific so cannot be more accurate)

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  19. Some facts on the Airport link:

    The New Zealand Herald of Tuesday July 27 2010 reported the following great advance in Auckland’s transport network:

    “Mangere Bridge Opened Today.

    Motorists in Auckland are set to benefit from reduced journey times to and from the airport after the new duplicate Mangere Bridge across Manukau Harbour was officially opened today. …

    “The additional traffic and bus lanes will reduce congestion, and shorten travel times for commuters, visitors and exporters who depend on travel reliability to get to the airport.”

    “Time savings of up to 20 minutes are expected for journeys between the CBD and the airport at peak” [NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield] said.

    This is clear demonstration of what every transport engineer and urban economist knows.

    Improving the road network can, and usually does, reduce congestion, and can greatly reduce travel times. The improved traffic flows also reduce energy use and air pollution overnight.

    These mobility gains will be delivered to many thousands more Aucklanders when the Waterview connection means travelers from North Auckland can use the upper harbour crossing to drive on a motorway/ arterial route to the airport without entering the Central City area. Again, everyone will gain. And any rail link to the Airport becomes even less viable.

    The Sydney Airport rail link suffered a major loss of passengers when the Sydney road network was improved by a major new motorway link. Apart from the Airport Line’s troubles, the line as a whole also suffered a substantial loss in patronage when the M5 East Tunnel opened in 2001. The tunnel joined the Eastern Distributor and M5 South Western Motorway, shortening road travel times between the city and the south west. The line was estimated to have lost 384,450 commuters (5%) over 12 months after the tunnel opened. The airport link’s share was about 20,000 fewer passengers in that same 12 month period.

    Our rail enthusiasts seem not to have noticed that these reduced travel times mean that a rail link from the CBD to the Auckland Airport is now off the agenda, unless we are determined to invest scarce resources in another rail link that will be unable to generate the revenue needed to cover the cost of its capital.

    Back in 2003, the essay, Another Day, Another Vision, another Turkey, (attached below) showed that a rail link from the CBD to the Airport could not succeed, because of basic catchment analysis, reinforced by the proven failure of the Sydney-Airport rail link.

    The response from the rail enthusiasts back in 2003 was that things would come right in Sydney, and with Auckland.

    Well, it is now 2010, and the driving time to the Airport in peak hour has just been reduced by 20 minutes, and the Waterview Connection will deliver further gains to more Aucklanders.

    The recent experience in Sydney indicates that the viability of an Auckland Airport rail link is now even further reduced.

    In 2006, a major Booz & Company report[1] found public transport’s market share of ground access to the Sydney airport was 15%, while private road based access had increased to 84%.

    The proportion of airline passengers using public transport (rail and bus) was only 12%.

    Only about 1 in 17 of “meeters and greeters” used the train. 66% of them park their cars.

    The ticket prices for the City airport link of $30 were a major barrier to use. Two or three people sharing a cab or using the shuttle saved money on the trip.

    The rail planners of the late nineties had predicted the link would be carrying about 70,000 passengers a day by now.

    By 2009 an average of 90,000 passengers a day used Sydney International airport and about 10% of those, or only 9,000 passengers a day, used the rail link.

    The total of passengers, staff and “meters and greeters” at Sydney airport is about 100,000 a day, and rail carries only about 11,000 of those per day – only 16% of the prediction.

    This is far below the loadings required for the Sydney Airport Rail Link to pay its way.

    The Auckland figures simply make even more dismal reading for any potential investor.

    Auckland Airport moves a total of about 15 million passengers, staff and “meters and greeters” a year through its international and domestic terminals, or about 40,000 people movements a day, of which maybe 10% would take a train. That is only about 4,000 a day.

    No rail system can run efficiently or effectively on such low volumes.

    That is only 2,000 a day in each direction and over 15 hours that is only 135 passengers an hour, which means a two-carriage train would only need to run every half hour to more than carry the load. That frequency is far too low for people arriving by air and keen to get where they are going. The long wait between trains is even more serious for people departing for the airport who run the risk of missing their plane if they just miss the train.

    The dilemma facing all rail links to airports is that modern aircraft deliver passengers in large lumps with trickles in between. Consequently, small trains will be frequently overcrowded and larger trains will frequently run near empty.

    This problem is reduced at massive airports like Heathrow with very high passenger movements every minute of the day and which cater to a large percentage of day trippers with little luggage. Both Sydney and Auckland cater to a high percentage of international travelers with large amounts of luggage.

    The harsh reality is that the existing shuttle buses provide a highly efficient service for tourists. They deliver them to and from the hotel lobby, they have special trailers for all the luggage, and willing drivers load them up. Aging tourists don’t cope with loading heavy luggage onto overhead luggage racks standing on the floor of an accelerating train. The Sydney link does not use dedicated specialist trains with luggage stores and Auckland would be even less able to avoid them.

    And those shuttle buses are more energy efficient than any train – so why subsidise inefficient competition?

    Let’s spend our scarce capital where it generates real returns, and gets Auckland working again.

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  20. The Britomart capacity problem is another issue and I am not well informed.

    Fair enough; here is a brief explanation of the issue as it stands.

    When the station was built, it was designed as a terminus station with five platforms being served by two tracks. The tracks were designed with uni-directional signalling (that is one track is designed to serve trains going in, with the other track being designed to serve trains going out). This sort of arrangement has a capacity of 18 trains per hour, or a total of 36 movements per hour.

    Over the next year, the plan is to upgrade the two tracks with bi-directional signalling (that is each track can be used in both directions). This sort of arrangement will definitely increase capacity to 20 trains per hour, and it is possible that capacity could be stretched to as much as 24 trains per hour – capacity cannot be increased beyond that though, partly because Quay Park Junction (where the two main lines merge) is a level junction, which means that you are going to get conflicting movements and partly because of the scissors crossover where the two tracks go into the five platforms.

    The problem of course is that demand for rail services is presently going through the roof – there are already 14 trains per hour at the busiest hour of the morning, and Southern and Eastern Line services are at bursting point (Western Line services aren’t as busy). It has been estimated that even with electrification and lengthening the trains to their maximum possible length (135 metres for Platforms 2 and 4, ~145 metres for Platforms 1 and 5 and ~170 metres for Platform 3), the system will be at bursting point in about seven years time. At that point, you have to increase capacity in some matter to accommodate existing demand (let alone the demand that would exist should the network get expanded).

    Improving the road network can, and usually does, reduce congestion, and can greatly reduce travel times. The improved traffic flows also reduce energy use and air pollution overnight.

    In saying that though, one needs to consider induced demand (that might not be so much of a problem in this instance, as there was an existing bottleneck that the additional bridge will relieve).

    The response from the rail enthusiasts back in 2003 was that things would come right in Sydney, and with Auckland.

    I notice that you didn’t refer to Brisbane’s Airport Line which is now making a profit and carries around two million passengers per annum. There are many good reasons why the Sydney Airport Line was a failure, not least of which being the among the last stations on a busy line as well as the rolling stock not being luggage friendly.

    The rail planners of the late nineties had predicted the link would be carrying about 70,000 passengers a day by now.

    Heaven help us had those predictions been accurate – the Sydney Rail system can barely cope at the moment; try cramming in another fifty thousand passengers.

    That is only 2,000 a day in each direction and over 15 hours that is only 135 passengers an hour, which means a two-carriage train would only need to run every half hour to more than carry the load.

    And then we have the passengers that join at Mangere, and then we have the passengers that join at Onehunga, and then we have the passengers that join at Ellerslie. Papakura Station on Auckland’s Southern Line carries around three thousand passengers daily, and we have morning peak Express services leaving Papakura with all seats taken!

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  21. Owen, there are plenty of five seater large sedans and 4WDs with up to seven seats being driven around by one person. You can hardly say those are “never” less than 25% loaded.

    You should be careful using such broad and empty statements like “what *every* transport engineer and urban economist *knows*”, such absolutes give off an air of ideological credulousness. While many traffic engineers might think that way, I have studied with both transport engineers and an urban economist who believe the complete opposite.

    One point regarding the supposed time savings quoted by the NZTA CEO: those 20 mins have nothing to do with time savings currently. They are from the BCR that compares the modelled project outcome to the future delays projected if the ‘do nothing’ option had been taken… so what it is saying is that delays might not be 20 minutes worse in a decades time. However, what this fails to account for is the fact that traffic will not continue to climb in a linear fashion regardless of route capacity.

    It is interesting to note that the media are reporting “20 minutes of time savings” from the CBD to the airport due to this project, plus another fifteen minutes savings due to the Waterview connection. So that’s already 35 minutes off the trip. Much more of this and you’ll be able to get to the airport before leaving town. Now wouldn’t that be handy, the wonders of motorways never cease.

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  22. Nick R,
    The 25% loaded is to the same error term as the other figures. We do not have the data to take account of children and adults and fat and thins and baggage etc. It just makes the point that the car always has a driver and the driver is free. On the other side people talk about commuter cars with only one person in them. The average is actually about 1.15. We are talking concepts here. Also those SUVs often make a major contribution to whole of day loading because they are often full of kids going to school or footie or whatever.
    I understand the time savings quoted refer to peak hour which is currently congested timed. I know the man who writes the programme for scheduling airline staff and peak hour travel to the airport has to allow for such margins that it throws the staff (9000 for Air NZ alone) into the next rest period requirement for long haul and so those extra delays are very expensive.

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  23. Brisbane is interesting because it is more of a linear city like Wellington. Same with Perth.
    Auckland is not a linear city and its catchment is made worse by having two major harbours of zero density.

    The Sydney Airport link actually had the advantage of not being a Terminus: the line feeds a major suburban area beyond it. Auckland airport is a dead end.

    If the Sydney link does not work after all these years Auckland has little chance of pulling some rabbit out of the hat. the Auckland rail system needs the money spent where it will do the most good and that is not a rail link to the Airport which is well served by Shuttles, cabs and cars.

    I shall find my release about fears of deaths at Britomart on the World Cup finals. That is where we should be spending scarce resources.

    Before we build a rail link we would be better to build a HOT lane for HOVs and for those alone in their car who are prepared to pay a premium to catch their plane. However, it will be a long time before the traffic justified a HOT lane – if ever.

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  24. Sorry, I have already posted the release about the Britomart/Party Central potential for a crush.
    It was further up the page than I thought and so I presumed it was Blenheimers’ disease again.

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  25. Before we build a rail link we would be better to build a HOT lane for HOVs and for those alone in their car who are prepared to pay a premium to catch their plane. However, it will be a long time before the traffic justified a HOT lane – if ever.

    I am of the view that prior to constructing a rail link, we should fix up the bus situation in the Mangere/Airport area – once the Green Bay bus timetable has been fixed up, then that area will have the most confusing bus timetable in Auckland. However, this doesn’t mean that the Airport should not eventually have a railway line.

    If the Sydney link does not work after all these years Auckland has little chance of pulling some rabbit out of the hat. the Auckland rail system needs the money spent where it will do the most good and that is not a rail link to the Airport which is well served by Shuttles, cabs and cars.

    Funnily enough, I agree that the Auckland rail system has some more important priorities – the CBD Loop and a line out to Howick are both more urgent on a needs basis than the Airport Line. Unfortunately, the Auckland Regional Council have not seen the need for a railway line out to Howick, and the lobbyists have not seen the need for a railway line out to Howick either.

    The Sydney Airport link actually had the advantage of not being a Terminus: the line feeds a major suburban area beyond it. Auckland airport is a dead end.

    I disagree that the location was an advantage; if anything, it was a serious disadvantage. Almost all peak hour services on the Airport and East Hills Line are standing room only by the time they reach Wolli Creek, which makes it terribly inconvenient for passengers and their luggage to board. What should have been done was to sextuple the Sydenham to Redfern line, and then operate peak hour services via that whilst running trains to Wolli Creek via the Airport only during peak hour (obviously this would have been dependent on capacity in the City Circle). Off-peak, the current operation would not have been a problem.

    Brisbane is interesting because it is more of a linear city like Wellington. Same with Perth.
    Auckland is not a linear city and its catchment is made worse by having two major harbours of zero density.

    Actually, I don’t think that Auckland’s public transport system is disadvantaged by having two harbours – if anything, it provides an advantage as we have several choke points where we can really feed in the passengers. For instance, all North Shore to Auckland commuters are all fed into the one choke point and that helps the Northern Busway as it is a high capacity option through that choke point for your CBD and inner core bound commuter.

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  26. Owen, I understand the figures I was just questioning your use of terms like ‘never’ when using statistics.

    Also FYI the proposal for the ‘airport’ line in Auckland that was selected by ARTA as the preferred option is neither a dead end nor merely an airport connector. The proposed route is from the Auckland CBD to Manukau CBD, via Penrose, Onehunga, Mangare the Airport and Wiri. It is more of a south-western loop line that also takes in the airport terminals and their environs.

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  27. There have been two serious proposals. The ARTA loop and the Dead End from an interest group.

    The planners of the Sydney link presumed the Airport link would benefit in patronage from not being a terminal station.
    However, it proved a mixed blessing because they had to integrate with the regular lines and use regular carriages and often by the time a train got to the airport from the outer suburb the luggage space was largely taken.

    The overall conclusion I draw is that medium sized airports with a high percentage of international passengers and suburban rail links simply do not make a good match.
    The most successful rail systems serving airports seem to be the fully automated small carriage on demand systems used to link a group of separate terminals to each other and to deposit people at bus and cab depots and parking lots.
    Shuttles are doing a brilliant job of linking hotels to airports and in scenic locations these are spread all over the region rather than clustered in the CBD.

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  28. Oh Owen, your naivety and ridiculous statements never fail to entertain…

    Well written article Gareth, it covers all the perinent points very well…

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  29. Jeremy Harris
    Your contributions to civilized discourse never fail to impress.

    So erudite and so well informed.

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  30. Owen, why on earth did you start talking about an airport rail link anyway? This post is about the CBD rail tunnel linking Britomart and Mt Eden.

    What do you think of the CBD rail tunnel proposal?

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  31. jarbury

    why on earth did you start talking about an airport rail link anyway

    My guess would be that one without the other makes the whole transport system not intergrated.

    If the CBD wants to get the Airport customers to the CBD then the link is required.

    Not sure if ther CBD tunnel is viable without the potential Airport traffic.

    The Airport (after the CBD??) is also the biggest single concentrated employment location for the Auckland region. To provide a pubic transport facility there makes the rest of system viable.

    A local bus service from an Airport trainstation to service the airport plus Mangere warehousing and distribution centres makes perfect sense.

    The Airport rail loop makes more sense then the Manukau City one.

    As a frequent user of the Sydney Airport rail link, we find it a convenient and stressfree way to get to our Sydney destinations.

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  32. Gerrit, you’re right that an airport line relies on the CBD tunnel to be built. I’m not sure whether you’re correct though about the CBD tunnel requiring the airport line for it to be viable though. In January next year we will be running in and out of Britomart as many trains as the system can handle until the CBD tunnel opens. The trains can get longer, but basically that will be the only way to increase rail capacity in Auckland for the next 10 years until the tunnel opens.

    Even without the airport line I think that the tunnel is desperately needed. In terms of the airport line, I actually think other PT projects might make a bit more sense (like a Southeast Line) economically, but the airport line appears more likely to be built, probably because politicians travel to the airport a lot.

    Furthermore, an airport line would help those living in Southwest Auckland a lot, which is desperately needed.

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  33. Aaargh! Gerrit and Jarbury – you are both 100% WRONG when you claim the CBD rail line requires an airport rail line. The CBD line so far proposed links the West rail line to Britomart (where the South & East lines meet). Any airport rail line will either be an extension of the soon-to-be-opened Onehunga line, or a backwards extension of the Manukau City spur line (back from Wiri to the Airport through Puhinui). No linkage between CBD and airport lines whatsoever.

    The CBD line may be needed to ease Britomart congestion enough to let in airport trains as well, but that is a seperate debate. FWIW, I don’t think so.

    Frankly there is a desperate lack of clear-thinking on Auckland rail – far too many are just cheerleaders (or detractors), meaning mindless projects get built at vast cost (like undergrounding New Lynn station, so 2 extra roads can be opened, or shifting Avondale station 100m!@#!). This locks up capital, construction crews, and drives passengers away during construction – often for dubious or no benefits (like the new Newmarket station – very flash, but keeps the West trains reversing, despite the brand new triangle of points).

    Here’s a shocker Gareth – instead of pouring $1-2bn (in concrete) down a CBD rail tunnel hole, why not instead merge the West and East train services? This allows you to truncate the South service to a Newmarket-Westfield shuttle, which cuts Britomart traffic by a third. Yep, that’s right, a 33% cut in Britomart congestion, which allows higher frequencies and space for a future airport service. There are only 4 stations on this truncated ‘Central’ service (Remuera, Greenlane, Ellerslie and Penrose) and only Ellerslie is medium patronage. So minimal transfers required at Westfield or Newmarket.

    The bulk of Britomart-bound passengers on existing South trains simply go on the merged East-West trains to Britomart – same time taken. Passengers no longer need to transfer unless they want to get on or off at one of those 4 Central stations (because all other stations are on the merged East-West service), or if they want to get to Newmarket faster by transferring at Westfield to a Central service.

    Cost – NIL (actually no capital cost, but publicity and new timetable costs – negligible). Ya can pay me in bananas, like the other monkeys who work on Auckland’s rail ;)

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  34. Bob, what on earth are you talking about?

    I said that an airport line requires a CBD tunnel, not the vice-versa. I don’t know how you would merge eastern and western line services – as both still need to go into Britomart and out again (you do realise that Britomart was opened in 2003 right?)

    If you required every southern line user to transfer onto another train from Newmarket to get into Britomart you’d destroy patronage. Remember the problem with the old railway station – people didn’t want to have to transfer onto a bus for the last leg of their journey.

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  35. It was Gerrit who claimed “Not sure if ther CBD tunnel is viable without the potential Airport traffic”, whereas Jarbury said “I’m not sure whether you’re [Gerrit] correct though about the CBD tunnel requiring the airport line for it to be viable though.” My point is that neither CBD line nor Airport line depend on each other – something both of you claim (one way or the other).

    As for the merger proposal – think about it, preferably with a rail route map in front of you. By truncating South service to a Newmarket-Westfield shuttle, you cut 2 (South up and down trains) of the 6 regular train services from entering Britomart, which eases the congestion. What is a merged East-West service? Simply the same 2 rail services run by the one trainset and staff. That is, the West train runs into Britomart, and runs out to Glen Innes and Papakura as an East train, and vice versa. So passengers don’t have to needlessly transfer at Britomart if going from Mt Albert to Sylvia Park, say. It also cuts buffer times built into timetables in case one service is running late.

    Your concern over dropping South service pax is misplaced – count how many pax get on or off at the 4 stations exclusively on the South line (Remuera, Greenlane, Ellerslie and Penrose) – it’s a small proportion of total pax for the network. Think of it this way – if you are going from Papatoetoe to Britomart, going via Glen Innes or Newmarket makes no difference timewise, so travelling on a merged East-West train is exactly the same as before. The only people adversely affected are those 4 station passengers, and the benefits are the Britomart slots opened up, the removal of the ‘alternating services south of Westfield, etc.

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  36. Bob, you forget about Newmarket – there are a lot of Southern Line passengers who get on and off at Newmarket. If that was not the case, then your proposal would have made a reasonable amount of sense (Remuera has such low patronage that it should be closed, Greenlane has barely got enough to be viable, with Ellerslie being in the top fifteen stations).

    One way you could potentially alleviate congestion (at least in the short term) would be to run some Henderson to Penrose/Otahuhu services to grab the Grafton and Newmarket traffic – that should buy you about a train load of capacity on the Western Line.

    If you required every southern line user to transfer onto another train from Newmarket to get into Britomart you’d destroy patronage.

    Oh really now? I thought transferring was not a problem.

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  37. Maybe we should stop spending on transport infrastructure altogether in Auckland. It will either be self correcting. People and businesses will move to provincial centers which do not have the same problems with obvious work life or ecological benefits. Or Aucklanders may vote to pay for it themselves instead of expecting the rest of the country to.

    I am getting a bit tired of hearing the somewhat blinkered response to upgrading transport links to Northland. Using Marsden Point as a hub port for larger container ships (which are incidentally more fuel and emission efficient) requires upgrading Northland transport links. Marsden Point is NZ’s only natural deep water port. This would be much cheaper and more effective than the current billions ports all around the country want to spend on dredging to try and compete with each other.
    Deepening Auckland alone to allow the next generation of container ships will have initial and ongoing costs far in excess of ugrading the so called holiday highway and Northland rail links. Tauranga, Lyttelton and Dunedin all have similar plans. I don’t need to tell Greenies about the effects of intensive dredging I hope.
    Unfortunately Ports of Tauranga and Auckland bought into Northport purely so it would stay a log port and not become a competitor. A bad result for the country as a whole.
    The shipping companies may well choose port Botany as a hub port if NZ ports do not get their act together.

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  38. Kerry, the problem is that if we allow Auckland to shrink into a shell of a city, then the few remaining world class business will flee across the Tasman. I think that the biggest mistake that New Zealand made was trying to spread things out thinly; if we had taken the Australian approach (i.e. have one massive city), then Auckland would have gotten a lot of investment a lot earlier and we wouldn’t face this problem. Instead, for many years we proudly boasted that unlike the Australians, our population was more spread out across more cities and that meant having to look at infrastructure in four cities instead of just one.

    I do agree though that we should consolidate our Ports together. I would be happy for port activity in New Zealand to be concentrated on Marsden Point, Auckland, Tauranga and Lyttleton.

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  39. Maybe I was not to clear about the ports.

    The most efficient use for NZ would be to have more smaller ports for feeders and local goods and a deep water hub port for overseas ships.

    At the moment all the main ports are competing to be the hub port which means lots of wasteful duplicated effort, costs and environmental impacts. Dredging to accommodate the next generation of ships at Auckland, Tauranga or Lyttelton runs into billions and the nearest container storage for that amount at Auckland for instance is at Wiri. Marsden point is the only existing port with naturally deep water and large container stacking areas still available so it would be the best economic choice. However other ports have bought shares in Northport to prevent this development.

    It is quit probable that international shipping lines will get tired of the constraints of our ports and make us hub in Australia or Singapore.

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  40. Kerry,

    For numorous reasons outlined in plenty of previous posts, Marsden Point is just not suitable. (Not big enough turning circle for big ships to safely rotate head to the ocean – restriction on ship movement due to high winds coming down the channel – lack of wharf space, etc, etc.)

    Not to mention complete upgrade of the NAL to accomodate heavier rail traffic and the construction of an Oakliegh to Marden Point rail spur.

    To make Marsden Point a viable harbour would require dredging to increase the ship turning circle required (over 500 metres diameter and at least 14mm deep) plus a breakwater to allow safe berthage in all wind and sea conditions.

    Have a look on Google earth and see for your self the restictions in making Marsden Point a big enough deep water port.

    35°50’2.13″S
    174°29’26.05″E

    Notice the berthage of, by ship size standards, the rather small oil tanker berthage sticking out into the channel, the required room to pass a container ship past that berthage and the rapid shallowing of the current port berthage area.

    A better suggestion would be to move the Navy up to Marsden Point and free up Devonport for commercial ship movement. Make Devonport the passenger terminal and free up Auckland city harbourside for better international and coastal shipping services.

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  41. Gerrit
    Napier. 11m Ship turning circle a very restricted 450m. Dredged depth 11m. Barely accommodates 2000 TEU ships now. Would need intensive dredging and breakwater extension. Same for Port Taranaki.
    Timaru same but only 9m.
    Tauranga. 450m. 12.9m. Intensive dredging required to deepen the channel.
    Lyttelton. 11.9m. 600m. Dredging is required all the way to the entrance for 14m.
    Auckland. 12.2m currently only to Furgusen. Swing 800m at 12m depth. 14m needs extensive dredging to A bouy mostly through rock. . Continued maintainance dredging. No container storage areas anywhere near the port without more reclamation.
    Marsden point. Controlling depth for the UNDREDGED channel 14.2m on a small sand patch in the channel. Swinging circle, which we use on the tankers, between 15 and 18 600m. Minor dredging on Mair bank could increase this.
    Between Marsden point wharf and the log wharf. Where any new wharf would go the alongside depth is 17m.
    The log port is dredged, but it is further upstream.

    Having berthed ships in all these ports I would like to ask you what makes you think that there is any special problem with wind or turning vessels at Marsden point, compared to say Lyttelton, where one of our ships blew of the berth in a southerly last month. Or Onehunga where just about every Captain has left their mark on the old bridge.

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  42. Kerry,

    To have a future proof container terminal you need at least an ability to handle ships this size

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombo_Express

    If you read the Northport operational restrictions they wont berth high sided ships in winds over 20 knots.

    http://www.northport.co.nz/node/26

    Note that they have consent to build a new wharf but it is only 280 metres long. To short for larger container vessels.

    To make Marsden Point a truelly container terminal port you need the infastructure to support it. I suppose container cranes could be moved from Auckland/Tauranga but the required land for storage will eat very largly into the surrounding area. Not to mention the new rail link to Oakliegh.

    Has anyone asked the good people of One Tree Point if they would like a 24/7 container terminus in their back yard?

    Enough stink about the logging export operations up there (especially trucks) without adding the container terminal as well.

    I guess the port company will fund your proposed container terminal but the rail upgrade will be fully finded by the tax payer.

    Unless they make the NAL line upgrade a PPP and let the freight companies run their own trains on the line instead of shipping the containers by road.

    Transporting containers in the numbers you propose by road (and remember you cannot force the containers onto the rail) will greatly add to the roading problem between Puhoi and Whangarei.

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  43. You forgot this one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_M%C3%A6rsk . All the problems you say apply to Marsden Point apply in spades to other ports. Where are you going to get storage for 8000 TEU in Auckland, Tauranga or Lyttelton. Sulphur point in Tauranga works because of the Kaimai tunnel. There was no container port infrastructure there until recently. The rail link to Wiri and the tunnel allowed Tauranga’s development as a container port. .
    Upgrading the rail links to Marsden point are a hell of a lot cheaper to the country as a whole than the waste of money by competing ports and the dredging and reclamation required to upgrade any other port. Not to mention environmental effects of dredging.
    People in Auckland and Mt Muanganui are also unhappy about adjacent ports. Lyttelton yuppies move in and immediately complain about the noise from the port. One tree point is not unique.
    Balmain residents in Sydney moaned so much White Bay was closed.

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