The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of Auckland Council’s governing body contains a very interesting item on the City Rail Link project (page 27 onwards). It would seem as though Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have become somewhat sick and tired of the government’s tactics in relation to the project – and are looking to effectively “go it alone” in terms of advancing to the next stage of making the project a reality: designating the route and acquiring all the necessary consents.

This is interesting because the one piece of good news that came out of the government’s review of the project’s business case was the recommendation that it ‘made good sense’ to designate the route – and the government would allow KiwiRail to be the agency that did the designation (with Auckland Council picking up the tab). Therefore, it’s not like Auckland Transport has to be the agency undertaking the designation – they have made the choice to do so. This is what the agenda item says on the issue: Given the government’s attitude towards this project so far, I quite like the idea of not having to deal with an agency like KiwiRail for now. I imagine that eventually the tracks may fall into KiwiRail’s ownership (although if Council pays for the full cost of the project, I don’t see why they wouldn’t retain ownership) post completion, but my understanding of the RMA is similar to that of the legal opinion obtained by Auckland Transport – if they have the financial responsibility for the project and are legally designated as a requiring authority then I can’t see why they wouldn’t be able to designate the route themselves.

The Council is also requested to pass a number of recommendations, which hopefully will go through: I am particularly fond of recommendation (b).

I like the point that Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have got to now. There seems to be a realisation that while they need to continue to discuss funding with the government and come to some agreement on outstanding differences with the project’s business case should central government be requested to provide a contribution to the project’s cost, the work that’s needed to be done over the next year or two does not require central government input – and in fact the involvement of central government so far has done little but delay thing by about 6 months.

It’s hard to understand exactly what happened in the preparation of the project’s original business case, but it would seem that at some point it morphed from being a general overview of whether the project provided value for money to support the important first step of getting the route designated, to something that tried to achieve the impossible of getting a government that’s generally sceptical of rail to stump up with over a billion dollars in funding for a project that wasn’t their idea. Yet because this transition happened partway through the preparation of the business case, it wasn’t put together in the exact way that would have ticked all the government’s boxes. The subsequent review, while an interesting exercise in helping us realise exactly how myopic the Ministry of Transport is, really achieved little more than wasting six months that should have been spent finalising documentation to support the designation process.

Let’s hope that all the recommendations go through tomorrow and that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport can just get on with sorting out the background work that’s necessary to protect the project’s route and gain all the necessary consents. While they’re doing this, one also hopes that a greater level of analysis can be undertaken into the project’s benefits, that all alternatives can be more fully explored (even if the inevitable outcome is to highlight that there really are no decent alternatives) and that perhaps the Ministry of Transport might wake up and realise it’s not the 1960s anymore.

In short, we can talk funding later – we’ve got a lot to sort out before then. Finally, it would seem that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport understand this.

Share this


  1. Some things I had read and heard indicated that the council/AT started looking into the option of doing the designation themselves incase the government prevented kiwirail from doing it.

    Into that case its interesting they are still pursuing it, perhaps reflects a lack of confidence in kiwirail. Not surprising given how they appearing to be dragging the chain on our new trains (the intial timeline said they should have signed the contract already)

    1. Good point Matt. If the EMU procurement is anything to go by I reckon excluding KiwiRail as much as possible is a good thing if we want the project designated any time in the next few years.

      1. I do notice that the EMU specs are on the AT closed agenda so I assume they now have a preferred supplier

        1. I’m pretty sure both the last two potential suppliers are exploring in quite a lot of detail the final technical issues of what’s required. So I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that a preferred supplier has been chosen yet.

        2. Based on the comments in the CE report from AT I would say my assumptions are correct, it indicates he has been heavily involved in EMU negotiations which indicates they know the technical side of the proposals pretty well and probably have a preference and are now trying to get the best price. I also note that the Kiwirail CEO has been visiting the factories of both of the remaining companies so I think they might be getting pretty close to a decision. Hopefully this can be signed off before September (from memory that was when Kiwirail said it would be done by)

  2. It’s good to see that New Zealand is looking ahead with eagerness to the change of government.

    Get out of the way Joycee-Baby. The grown ups want to do some real work now.

  3. This is great news. But I disagree that a) the council can pay for the CBD rail loop alone. I mean yes, they probably can but it will come at the cost of either a PPP (which could be ok or could be disastrous depending how it is structured) or much higher rates or much less expenditure on other impt things. b) I also don’t think they SHOULD have to pay for it alone – we are sloshing money into the RoNS. Why is it so crazy to think the govt might shift some of that money over? c) I think that if transport advocates ran a really concerted and agressive campaign they might get the funding by 2014. But if they don’t – if they just say “Oh let’s leave that for now and worry about it later: they probably won’t….

    It is easy to look at government positions which seem unchangeable and despair and say “This will never happen – let’s give up.” But, for example, a year ago it seemed like it was almost inevitable the govt would mine our national parks. And they changed their minds because of public opposition. Similarly, a long time ago now (7 years) it seemed very likely the govt would allow a new coal power station to re-open in Whangarei for energy generation. Today it is just so unlikely either National or Labour would consider that (although lignite for diesel is a different story).

    1. a) I don’t know if anyone meant the council should pay for the rail loop on their own, just that the costs of getting on with the designation are small and so should just be done while the pollys quibble over how to fund it.

      b) I think it’s 5 years too early for campaigning. Many elements of the design remain to be worked through – not the least of which is: What the hell are we going to do with buses/pedestrian priority in the CBD first?

      I think b) is particularly important, because if AT/AC can get as many people on buses and walking/cycling, then that will drive development in the CBD and create additional demand for rail.

      One important (but frequently overlooked) reality about economic assessment is that the benefits to new users are factored down by one half (rule of half), whereas benefits to existing users count 100%. So the more people we can get onto rail now, through whatever means, the more “existing” users there will be to support the business case.

      It’ll be built by 2020-2030, no worries.

      1. Too late. Auckland will be well squeezed and therefor underperforming by 2020, and a real danger is that the next oil price induced global contraction will mean that the largess in the NLTF will all but gone to other priorities. Ideally we’ed be digging by 2014, but I guess that’s unlikely, as energies will be still going into the long drawn out electrification. Another reason to be pleased that KR is not the designating party for the CRL.

        Agree with working hard on buses, as well as on encouraging transfers for longer commutes with integrated ticketing.

        1. Also it is clear that the current minister’s strategy here is to delay any major capital spending on PT until he can bully together a case for a harbour crossing [road bridge!] that will further suck the oxygen away from other projects… ‘see we are already spending too much in Auckland…’ on more stuff we don’t need. Hopefully the time periods involved are long enough for the public to come to its senses….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *