It is good to see NZ Herald transport issues writer Matthew Dearnaley back on deck, as I had severely missed the Herald reporting on transport matters recently. Today’s article looks at the CBD Rail Tunnel, repeating a reasonable amount of what I posted on a couple of weeks back:

Upper Symonds St joins rail station plan

Underground station sites being considered for a $1 billion-$1.5 billion central Auckland rail tunnel have been extended to upper Symonds St.

Consultants conducting a $5 million investigation study for KiwiRail and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority for a 3.5km tunnel between Britomart and Mt Eden believe three new stations should be built to maximise patronage and rail access to the inner city.

Albert St-Mayoral Drive and Karangahape Rd have been proposed locations for some time for the other two stations, but Symonds St is identified in a progress report as a major catchment for rail passengers.

The consultants have shortlisted two almost identical sites, both reaching between the intersections of Symonds St with Khyber Pass Rd and Mt Eden Rd but at slightly different angles, depending on the eventual tunnel alignment… [rest of article here]

…The latest report from the consultants – a consortium of AECOM, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Beca – expects the tunnel will make “a critical contribution in lifting the entire region’s and country’s economic performance”.

That last paragraph is particularly interesting, as it notes the tunnel’s potential to make a huge difference to the economic performance of Auckland, and even the entire country.

What I find is also fascinating is how this project’s timing is aligning itself quite similarly with that of the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway”. The cost of the two projects is also likely to be fairly similar – at around $1.5 billion. The money is probably there for one of the projects, but is unlikely to be there for both. So I guess the challenge for public transport supporters over the next while is to help prove beyond doubt that the CBD Rail Tunnel is a far better and more sensible way to spend that $1.5 billion than a motorway up north that only carries around 15,000 vehicles a day.

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  1. In my opinion it is a better project than the Puhoi to Wellsford Rd but I don’t think the majority of the public would choose it over the road unfortunately. It is going to have to stand up on its own and convince people so I think trying to make it a this or that argument will result in it not being done.

    It is good to see coverage of it in the Herald as the more people see it the more they will want it. It would be even better if we can get TVNZ and/or TV3 to run a segment on it in their 7pm slot. I just hope that all candidates for the Super City actually campaign on it. As both support it there is a risk it won’t get much attention as the focus will be on other areas where the candidates differ and it will become easy to ignore after the election.

    On a separate note, I’m surprised you haven’t done any analysis on the different options for K Rd, to me Pitt St station would probably be easier to build however the station closer to Queen St seems like a better option for linking into Bus/future light rail routes while also having the option to have an exit near Pitt St

  2. “Transport Minister Stephen Joyce said in October that he remained far from convinced about the need for the tunnel” – I think this is the key line in that article. I really hope i’m wrong but I just cannot see this government stumping up $1.5 billion for this regardless of BCR. Plus they have so much money invested in state highways over the next decade i doubt there would be much left over to flick at this, even if they wanted to, and they don’t.

    I think both mayors will campaign on it however it looks like whoever is elected won’t have a lot of power to make it happen when they get in. I may be being cynical but i think someone wants it that way.

  3. Matt, I will have a look at the different K Road station options.

    Cam, both mayoral candidates seem big fans of this project. While attempts are certainly being made to reduce the power of the Auckland Council, through all the CCOs, fundamentally the mayor will be a very powerful person. Having personally won the mayoralty from 1.4 million voters will be a pretty powerful platform.

  4. In my view there are two ways to get the CBD rail tunnel built before 2020
    1) Hope that the Super City Council decides to fund it largely through rate increases and/or congestion charging. Most likely option but still improbable
    2) Get a citizens initiated referendum calling for the money to be spent on the Puhoi-Wellsford rd 9except the Warkworth bypass bit, which is worth building) being diverted to the CBD rail tunnell. Difficult as 1/3 of Auckland will need to sign petition and the government could ignore it like the anti-smacking one
    3) hope a labour-greens government wins the 2014 election and builds it. Possible but still unlikely at this stage. I imagine we will probably get the CBD rail tunnel 2025ish when labour-greens win in 2017/2020 when the public get tired of national. and the new government will make massive improvements to auckland transport.

  5. In regard to the K Road station: I think there is some good opportunities there once you consider the depth of the station platforms means that the street level entrances could be some distance away from the main station box.By this I mean an escalator with a 30m drop would be some 50-60m long in the horizontal plane.

    So you could two smaller concourses quite some distance from each other both servicing access to the station between them from either end. I see no reason why the K Rd station site outlined in the recent report could not have access at one end from the Queen/K Rd intersection, and at the other from somewhere near Beresford Square or the intersection of Pitt/K Rd.

    A good example of what I mean is Parliament station in Melbourne which itself is quite deep. It has two concourses and two sets of escalators, one at each end. The main entrance to the northern concourse (at the corner of Lonsdale and Spring St) is approximately 320m away from the main entrance to the southern concourse (just up from the corner of Collins and Spring St).

    In comparison Beresford Square is only 250m away from Queen and K, plus the station box will be longer to begin with (if it is to carry 8 car trains) and deeper than Melbourne (so deeper escalators must be longer also).

  6. Yes Nick, with the station so deep you could definitely have some widely spaced entrances.

    Nicholas, I think a lot depends on Auckland’s local politicians post Super-City putting enormous pressure on central government to advance this project.

  7. They need to get the BCR done ASAP! Then and only then will there be something even the business community can see the logic of! This will be the one weapon we can really use the bash the holiday highway for 6, in the eyes of the public. I’m thinking a BCR of 2 and greater will be the outcome, but it’s starting to feel like christmas. Hurry up please so we can bash national over the head with it!

  8. “I imagine we will probably get the CBD rail tunnel 2025ish when labour-greens win in 2017/2020 when the public get tired of national. and the new government will make massive improvements to auckland transport.”

    Like they did did last time over their 9yrs in power. Hmmmm.

    I’m a little more optimistic, in terms of a decision being made anyway. This one seems to refuse to die under both Labour and Joyce’s early reign. Seems to have traction.

  9. The difficulty is finding the $1.5 billion, as the government is determined that fuel tax money must only be spent on roads. That makes it damn difficult to ask “should we build this motorway or this railway project?” as they both have incredibly different funding structures.

    Finding $1.5 billion for the CBD Rail Tunnel out of general government funds is going to be damn near impossible.

  10. Will be driven through by the new mayor – whoever he/she is. The two main candidates seem to be fans, amongst others. In fact, I haven’t heard of a dissenter at a local level yet.

    I think you will see a contribution from the Supercity in some form to make the central government contribution more palatable.

  11. I disagree Jarbury, Labour stumped up $1.6 billion for electrification, this is more important long term, any future Labour government will most likely involve the Green…

    Cam is right though, unless public support goes through the roof, National ain’t building it…

  12. @KLK – the problem is that any local contribution Auckland could afford is going to pale in comparison to the amount needed to build it. We will also then have the problem if certain areas of the city complaining e.g. Everytime money is spent on rail there are people from the shore who complain they can’t benefit from it as there is no rail on the shore so why should they have to help pay for it

  13. Jeremy, I mean that it’s going to be damn difficult to get this government to stump up with $1.5 billion. Hopefully Labour will reverse the stupidity of this “national land transport funds for roads only” policy. That way there would be plenty of money for rail projects, we’d just need to cut back on unnecessary motorway projects like Puhoi-Wellsford.

  14. Matt L – yes, but any contribution might make the difference (though I agree it would have to be a decent amount). The Supercity might have to re-prioritise some things, it may have a greater access to funding from external sources. Hard to tell at this stage. But I guess if it really wants it, the parties can sit around the table and make it happen.

    And as for areas complaining, well, I understood that this was what the Supercity was all about; making decisions that are best for the region, wherever in the region that money might be spent.

    Jeremy – Labour stumped up $1.6bn for electrification? Did they really? They announced the project,sure, but its National that’s picked up that ball and ensuring its continued…and who will be paying the bill.

  15. Labour stumped up $600m for Project DART and also stumped up another $500m in the 2007 budget (I think) for infrastructure works associated with electrification. However, Labour were counting on the regional fuel tax to pay for most, if not all, of the electrification project.

  16. It’s about $1 billion for electrification all up – including the track-work and the trains themselves. From memory, under Labour’s scheme the government paid for the track work, but got paid back through the regional fuel tax, while the ARC borrowed $500 million to buy the trains and got paid back through the regional fuel tax.

  17. Seriously, i know this is not a great thought but all of us if they are pro national or not know if we are being honest that they are not going to build this in a million years. The money will not be there for it for a start and it will not be a priority for them at all even if they did. To pretend otherwise is, i think unrealistic at the very least. I think barring a miracle this is 15 to 20 years away.

  18. @CamBennett – I think it will really depend on the outcome of the BCR. As they have stated they are all about improving economic performance if this study comes back with a decent BCR then they will look stupid if they don’t fund it and the mainstream media might start to bash them over the head with it. Also with the exception of the smacking debate John Key seems to follow public opinion so if the mainstream media really run with it I think he will bow to that and tell Joyce to fund it. It all hangs on the current study really.

  19. “CamBennett – I think it will really depend on the outcome of the BCR.”

    In my view, whether we get the tunnel (started) within the coming decade depends on three things:

    #Fuel prices. If they go (and stay) up, this makes the tunnel much more likely. Likelihood: Unclear.
    #Patronage numbers: If they go up significantly due to electrification/integrated ticketing, this will create pressure both directly (constraints) and indirectly (success breeds success). Likelihood: Very high.
    #Political thinking: If those who control Auckland in the next years (not only the Mayor, also the Council in general!) are outspoken proponents of the tunnel, the realisation improves measurably, though they will still have to convince National. Likelihood: Likely on the Auckland side, but unclear on the Wellington side.

    The latter, in fact, is the worst result of the fuel tax removal. We have lost a little more of our independence to Welly.

  20. @KLK, Labour funded all the electrification, all National has done is give a loan to Kiwirail, in fact most of the 2009 Budget was Labours, all that English did was tweaked it and made future committments to mollify the credit rating agencies…

    @ingolfson, a report commissioned by the US DOE stated a big indicator of peak “cheap” oil will be price volatility so prices will not go up and not stay up, they will range from $300 a barrell to $50 a barrell and back within 12 month periods, prices will not uniformly increase… This is expected to make the problem worse as it will confuse the public as to the nature of the problem and reduce investor confidence more than uniformly increasing prices… Anyone who says they know what gas will cost in a year or two years is dreaming… As an aside the report also said peak oil is a bigger problem than WW2 and the Great Depression…

    A fuel tax is one way I see this being able to be funded, if Aucklanders start crying out for it after electrification and can convince National to introduce a hypocated fuel tax but as fuel prices inevitably rise National will want to keep prices as long as possible to make their motorway investments look less stupid…

  21. “We have lost a little more of our independence to Welly” – Which tells me one thing, that the likes of Joyce are not confident that the people of Auckland will wholeheartedly support their vision of the city and don’t want to risk them getting in the way of or holding up what they want to do.

    The National Party stated their policy on Auckland rail during the election. They said quite clearly that they would complete electrification and Project Dart and that would be it. They said then (through Maurice Williamson)if the city wanted to expand the rail network any further it would be on it’s own as central government (them) would not give any more money as rail was “hugley expensive”. As far as i can see there has been nothing to suggest this stance has changed. They have already tried to dampen expectations on the CBD loop.

    If the BCR comes our positive. They can easily spin it they think it is a project worth considering at some stage in years to come but that finishing the state highway network is priority and as there is a limited amount of transport funds available and times are tight and transport spending needs to be targeted to “reflect the reality” of Auckland this project will not be on the cards in the short to medium term. That way they can say they are not against it and and might consider it maybe at some unnamed time in the future at the same time not have to commit to it. I’d put money on it that’s how they’ll play it.

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