An article in Friday’s NZ Herald noted that someone called Tony Randle had taken a detailed look at the business case for the City Rail Link, and by re-analysing the numbers has come to the conclusion that a bus tunnel option (which was looked at in the business case)

Tony Randle believes a business case for Auckland’s $2.4 billion central city rail tunnel proposal under-cooked the costs to make it look more attractive than an underground bus system serving more people.

He said presumed costs of a bus tunnel considered in the business case were exaggerated…

…The $5 million business case, commissioned by KiwiRail and the former Auckland Regional Transport Authority, said a 3.5km rail tunnel from western Britomart to Mt Eden could be built for 60 per cent of the cost of a 3km bus version.

But Mr Randle said that was largely because of the “unjustified and undocumented” inclusion of a duplicate bus tunnel and nine extra busways, and a failure to provide for extra bus passengers to complement the rail project.

This assessment is pretty unusually detailed – you can read the whole thing here – so it’s worth looking at in a bit more detail. Here’s some more from the Herald article:

Mr Randle has prepared an 89-page critique of the rail project in his spare time assisted with data which he said he received from Auckland Transport only after the Ombudsman intervened.

He said the net present cost of a rail tunnel, estimated in the business case at $1.52 billion, worked out at $2.24 billion if a realistic level of bus infrastructure was added and operating cost errors rectified.

The net cost of a bus tunnel would be $1.85 billion, compared with the business case estimate of $2.64 billion.

Mr Randle said the rail tunnel had been assessed in isolation, without assuming investment for a doubling of bus passengers needed even if the trains carried a capacity of 24,900 people through it a day.

Bus patronage into central Auckland was predicted to grow from 23,180 passengers a day to 42,814 by 2041 even if a rail tunnel is built.

A more realistic bus tunnel option would be much fairer in providing a rapid transit service to more commuters across more of Auckland than any rail system.

As I said above, a bus tunnel option was looked at in the initial business case. The rough location for the tunnel is shown below: linking the Northern Busway with a pile of bus routes at its southern end: The bus tunnel’s operation was described in the Business Case’s alternatives assessment as follows:

A two-lane CBD bus tunnel would have ample capacity to accommodate the expected up to 534 bus movements per hour (two directions) assuming no crashes or breakdowns. The capacity constraint for the bus tunnel would be the operation of the bus stations as well as the level of traffic congestion on the shared road corridors beyond the tunnel. Efficient operation of the bus stations would be critical and would require active management of bus and pedestrian movements. Bus stations of this type are proven technology in New Zealand, though operating costs are high.

However a bus tunnel of this length would require safe exits in the case of fire, necessitating fire-proof separation. Each separate direction would then need to allow passing in the case of breakdowns, so would probably need to be two lanes, implying two by two-lane tunnels.

Extensive bus tunnels on the other hand are not used to date in New Zealand. In contrast to surface streets where options may exist for buses to bypass congestion, crashes or broken down buses, this may not be possible in a two-lane tunnel, so the efficient operation of the underground facilities would be susceptible to breakdowns and other incidents. In Seattle for example, a single bus breakdown has blocked southbound bus operations for 40 minutes during peak times.

One of the big issues raised in Mr Randle’s report was that he couldn’t understand why the bus tunnel had been costed at the price of two two-lane tunnels. The paragraphs above explain the reason for this pretty well I think. The real issue with a bus tunnel is what you do at the southern end of it with all those 500-odd buses an hour (things are handled fairly well at the northern end with the Northern Busway). The Business Case says that the following would be necessary: When I first read through the Business Case the bus tunnel idea had me quite intrigued – that was until I saw the map above. Constructing a full blown busway along New North Road all the way out to Mt Albert and down Great South Road all the way to the Harp of Erin, just past Greenlane. That includes a full busway through Newmarket, which seems a bit hard to envisage. Not only would these busways be incredibly expensive, their urban impacts would be pretty severe. It’s also pretty dumb to duplicate the existing rapid transit corridors to the west and south (those being the railway lines).

Along with the cost of the bus tunnel, the other main point raised by Mr Randle is the issue of what extra bus infrastructure will be needed if the rail tunnel is built. He argues that the business case says very little about how an additional 19,000 bus users will get into town at peak times above current numbers, even if the rail tunnel is built: I actually agree that the business case has a problem here. If the number of bus travellers into the city centre is going to more than double by 2041 – even with the City Rail Link – then that’s not going to work without significant extra bus infrastructure. However, I don’t necessarily think the answer is building more bus infrastructure – especially to the south and west – but rather to reconsider how we operate our bus services from these areas. After all, if we’re going to invest around $2 billion in our rail network then we’d be stupid to continue to undermine this investment by running a huge number of buses the duplicate our rail services – so obviously we’d turn many of those route (especially the long-haul ones) into feeder routes, where people would transfer onto the rail network.

So ultimately I don’t think that we would necessarily see another 19,000 bus passengers by 2041 with the City Rail Link in place. It seems to me that most additional patronage would come from the North Shore (potentially highlighting the need for North Shore rail if the city can’t cope with that many buses) and from inner parts of the isthmus, which may require routes like Dominion Road to be upgraded to light-rail if it can’t cope with the additional buses. What we don’t need are busways duplicating the inner parts of the southern and western lines – which is what Mr Randle’s document suggests: While Mr Randle’s assessment points out a flaw in the project’s business case, that it says we’re going to have nearly 20,000 more bus passengers into the CBD without highlighting how we’re going to deal with those passengers, I think ultimately his analysis falls into the same trap as the Ministry of Transport’s review of the project – they assume that bus numbers can and will increase without constraints. The Ministry of Transport preferred the surface bus option, without realising that the city’s streets don’t actually have unlimited capacity to cope with buses (or to question whether we might want 1000 buses an hour grinding along Fanshawe, Albert & Symonds Street). Mr Randle’s point is a little smarter, but once again misses the point (though so did the original business case) that the number of people on buses isn’t just a natural outcome, but something we can influence. If we want to cap the number of buses entering the city centre at peak times then we can, shifting more to feeder buses.

Ultimately a bus tunnel isn’t a sensible option because it puts more traffic onto our roads, particularly those arterials to the south of the tunnel, rather than the rail tunnel which eases pressure on the roads. A rail tunnel can unlock latent capacity throughout the entire network, enabling all that existing infrastructure to be used much more efficiently – rather than something which requires us to duplicate huge chunks of our rapid transit system.

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    1. The ability to understand is inversely proportional to the ability to understand that a busway across the harbour bridge has reduced traffic on said bridge. 😉

      1. MFD there is no busway or even bus lane on the Harbour Bridge. The Harbour Bridge is and always has been a suboptimal [and ugly] bit of kit. Please compare to Sydney Harbour Bridge: Mass transit, even humans under their propulsion are provided for there, so it has always been more effective.

        There is a highly successful busway up to the bridge. Then of course the buses join general traffic lanes over the bridge and in the city. The city is already choked with buses, we need investments that offer real quality alternatives to road based ones, ones that reduce all traffic including buses. Even extending the busway to the city doesn’t address this problem. In the same way that increasing motorway lanes makes the motorway flow better for a while but increases strain on local roads throughout the region. The smart solution is too look at the whole city and not just parts of it.

  1. I don’t see how a bus tunnel makes any sense at all unless you’ve made a strategic decision to rip up your rail system and replace it totally with busways. I think this may have been a worthwhile discussion ten years ago, and it might also have been worthwhile at that time discussing whether you wanted to redevelop the whole system in light or medium rail rather than a format that is dictated by its freight origins. But, that point is long since passed and the current system has years worth of investment behind it now that no one is going to scrap.

    The only thing that I found interesting is him pointing out that the tunnel business case was prepared for Kiwirail as one of the people paying for it. I hadn’t noticed that previously, and that has pretty much discredited the business case. What were they thinking?

    1. So KR paying for the business case discredits it? What does that do to the NZTA business case, since that’s “paid for” by the Minister?
      Of course a potential owner of the infrastructure is going to contribute to the costs of a business case. It’s the natural way of things in the business world, that an investigation into the cost feasibility of doing something is paid for by those who will end up operating whatever’s built. And who else would pay for the business case, if not KR? The Council? They paid too. The NZTA? They don’t see the need for the tunnel, so why would they pay? The Ministry directly? Same situation as NZTA and, in any case, they don’t do that for anything.

      The only way the business case was ever going to be done was by ARTA and KR getting together and paying for it, since they’ll be the parties involved in the operations. It’s completely normal, and only a really weird personality finds it discrediting that such parties contribute to the funding of the business case.

      1. “So KR paying for the business case discredits it? What does that do to the NZTA business case, since that’s “paid for” by the Minister?”

        Kiwirail would profit if the project went ahead. It is just the same as Microsoft paying for a business case for government that said Microsoft software was cheaper and better than open source software. Or Fulton Hogan paying for a Puhoi to Wellsford business case that recommended building a motorway. On the other hand, none of the Minister, NZTA, or the Council have a financial interest in the outcome and are the natural customers for a business case. This is all completely obvious, and I’m really surprised that you think having a vested interest evaluate competing options is a normal practice in NZ.

        Who else? The Council should have paid for the whole thing.

        1. NZTA produce the business cases and BCRs for the motorway projects they fund, so I would expect Kiwirail to be at least consulted on this one. I recall that $5m was spent on the original CBDRL business case, and it also included Beca or one of the other civil engineering firms.

        2. KR’s profit will be bugger-all, because they won’t be operating trains through the tunnel. They’ll get track access fees, from which they must maintain the tunnel, but the trains will not be owned or operated by KR.

          LTNZ would have prepared the business case for the Puhoi toll tunnel, and they make a profit from that. How does that fit into your strange little world?

        3. KiwiRail’s announcement on Friday that they’re splitting into two parts – the track ownership part and the freight part – makes the whole conflict of interest irrelevant. It was already irrelevant as NZTA prepare their own business cases for funding (and in fact they fund themselves now that Transit NZ and LTNZ have merged). Councils requesting funding for any type of roading project prepare their own business cases and so forth.

        4. The council paid for the whole thing (with some financial assistance from the NZTA I think) as Kiwirail simply doesn’t have the money to be throwing into studies like this for Auckland. Kiwirail were involved because the purpose of it was to produce a business case for a rail tunnel and that tunnel would connect to the national rail network which is owned by Kiwirail. Also at the time they were the requiring authority so would have to prove the merits of the case, that has since changed as the council has received legal opinion that they can designate the tunnel on their own which is what they are doing.

          I don’t see how any of that discredits the business case

        5. The CBD Rail Link Study including the business case for designating the route and station locations was jointly funded by KiwiRail and ARTA. At the time that the study was commissioned, the legal view was that only KiwiRail was able to designate rail corridors. Therefore following the resource consent issued to Westfield by Auckland City Council to redevelop the Downtown shopping centre opposite Britomart, the previous Labour government instructed KiwiRail to work with ARTA to protect the route if a business case showed that it was likely that the project would need to be built in future.

          It is important to note that the business casw was never about justifying that the project should be constructed, only about whether teh route should be protected.

    2. @obi: “The only thing that I found interesting is him pointing out that the tunnel business case was prepared for Kiwirail as one of the people paying for it. I hadn’t noticed that previously, and that has pretty much discredited the business case. What were they thinking?

      You are, of course, correct. The involvment of Kiwirail throughout the process total compromises the main point of the Business Case which is, of course, to recommend the CBD Rail Tunnel over other alternative options (including both “doing nothing” and the bus tunnel). It is clearly “an interested party” with a purpose to promote rail that will receive major direct and indirect commercial benefits from this decision. IMO this business case is as unacceptable as any business case from NZ Bus to build the bus tunnel.

      Others may dispute this position (especially because Kiwirail is government owned) but it is important to anyone who is submitting in support or against the CBD Rail tunnel that they understand the close involvement of Kiwirail in the “assisting” the final recommendation for a rail tunnel.

      1. Would this be Kiwirail who’re strapped for cash and who want out of the passenger business to concentrate on freight then Tony?

  2. Just had a quick skim through that report. His arguments seem to be basically:

    a) We can build a cheap bus tunnel of one lane each way instead of the proposed two lane, and that can carry 500 buses an hour just fine through basic stations and breakdowns won’t be an issue.

    b) We don’t need the series of busways and bus lanes proposed in the business case, rather two little stretches of busway to Sandringham Rd and Broadway will be sufficient to carry 500 buses an hour through the top of Symonds St and onto existing arterials.

    c) If just dumping those 500 buses onto every main street in the ithsmus doesn’t work, we can convert the western rail line to a busway instead (!)

    1. And freight trains would use which track once the Western line was converted? I think he should stay in Wellington and worry about his local issues.

      1. No please Bryce, we don’t want him in Wellington either. Not so long ago this same genius tried to lobby to get the Johnsonville line converted to a dedicated busway. Yep, we were going to have buses crawling up and braking down that incline every day. And isolated in that corridor if any broke down!
        I think planet Mars would be a good place for Mr. Randle.

        1. I’m thinking that Ricardo might be the alter ego for Mr Randle. I can’t think of any other reason for such obdurate adherence to the religion of tearing up Auckland’s existing rail infrastructure and replacing it with BRT.

  3. Hmmm.

    According to the map the Purple “Quality Bus Line” appears at Pitt St, follows GNR to Pt Chev and disappears again.

    Little confused about this

    1. That’s quality bus *lane* Geoff, i.e. where they would need to establish permanent, continuous bus lanes and intersection priority. The individual *lines* would presumably continue along in general traffic to their eventual destinations much as they do now.

      That brings up another point about this idea, it really isn’t rapid transit at all. Sure there are some good bus lanes for the inner 4-5km of each route, but they’ll still be subject to intersections and traffic pressures, and beyond the pale they’ll still be tootling along in mixed traffic until they reach Henderson or Botany or wherever. That doesn’t do much for travel time or time-reliability.

      An example I used on the CBT forum was New Lynn. Current bus transit time to Albert St is timetabled at 40-50 minutes depending on the specific route and time of day. With the city rail tunnel train transit time from New Lynn to Albert St is projected to be 24 minutes. Now how much would we have to spend to get the New Lynn bus trip from 40-50 mins down to 24? A brand new offline busway from New Lynn to town feeding into the proposed bus tunnel might do it, but at what cost?

      1. And those lanes are still not as good at ensuring travel time reliability as rail lines, because they’re still subject to suburban speed limits and to being locked up by those cocks who aren’t familiar with the intersection blocking rule; something that causes immense problems at GSR/Main Highway/Campbell Rd.

        Short version: if it ain’t grade-separated and subject to a higher speed limit than the suburban roads besides which it travels, it ain’t rapid transit and it ain’t beating rail.

  4. This Mr. Randle’s opinions were picked up and vigorously pushed by the National party shill David Farrar to do little more than muddy the waters during the election campaign. National is intransigently opposed to Len Brown; A central rail tunnel was the centre piece of Brown’s election campaign. Accordingly, National and it’s shills like Farrar are hardly likely to promote or allow anything that makes Len Brown look good.

  5. There are a couple of other issues with this proposal that haven’t been mentioned so far, first is that the indicative route is mostly under private property which would cost a fortune to buy substrata rights to and may not even if they did it may require a large amount of demolition just to make it happen.

    Another problem would be something we already face with calls for it to be used as transit lanes, this would be especially the case if it was two lanes each way like suggested to provide for breakdowns so any unused capacity would be seen as open game by many roading groups.

    Just to bring it up again, I wonder if we could have something like I suggested in this post in May

  6. Tony Randle makes a lot of sense….yes Auckland is a big city, but an expensive rail system is not suitable as our city is too sprawling and doesn’t have the population…seriously, most trains you see are more empty than full.

    The best option would be a BRT Auckland wide..let’s replicate the North Shore bus lane over our entire city, and they all feed into an underground bus loop in the CBD. Awesome. Cost effective & buses have better route flexibility.

    Many critics of BRT say “but all the buses will clog the CBD”…well Mr Randle has come up with a solution – let’s go underground in the CBD.

    Once our city gets the population mass to justify integrated rail…then convert the BRT to rail.

    Also, hope we can cancel the order for the new electric stock…with an Auckland wide BRT, they won’t be needed.

    1. Oh goodness, where to start:

      1) Auckland’s not too low density. We have a higher density than Vancouver, Sydney, Brisbane & Perth – all cities with high quality rail systems.
      2) Auckland does have the population – heck we’re nearly four times the size of Wellington and they have a functioning rail system. We’re also growing quickly – with another million people added to the population by 2051.
      3) What’s the point of replicating the rail system we’ve spent a huge amount of money on, and are continuing to do so? Cancelling the electric trains would be daft, as we’re about halfway through the process of spending $500m upgrading the network for electrification, on top of the $600m project DART.
      4) Rail has a higher capacity than bus, so why rip up rail to build a busway only to then rip the busway up in the future to convert back to rail?

    2. ricardo you are as wrong as Randle,

      1. Ak is not uniquely sprawling
      2. BRT will be no cheaper, in fact cost more to spread as far and wide as rail already does. And could only be cheaper if you don’t build it’s own ROW.
      3. Rail is already over much of the city and it needs less width to add where needed
      4. Enormous untapped capacity on existing rail network, therefor rail wins on bang for buck
      5. Rail soon to be electric, so preferable for air quality, cost of fuel, and local generation [currently 80% renewable] means security of supply and much much better in tunnels. And not subject to uncertain forex costs.
      6. 1.4 million people more than justifies rapid transit rail
      7. The people want it, growing at over 20% per year, year on year.
      8. Why do you, or the Johnsonville genius, want a crappier system that will not cost less either to build or run?

      1. OK guys…I don’t think 1.4 million does justify a multi billion Rail system…all those cities you’ve sighted, I wonder how many of them have rail systems based on historic reasons? Meaning that the system already existed from early in 20th century – so they are making use of it…a question for these cities (particularly Brisbane & Perth as similar population to AKL) would be – Would you prefer a city wide BRT with undergound CBD bus tunnel?

        I think they would say Yes.

        Another question – how much did North Shore bus lane cost? Answer: Not much.

        1. Vancouver didn’t have a rail system in 1980.

          The Northern Busway cost around $400 million, but crucially it misses out key sections like across the bridge, between the bridge and Fanshawe Street and betwee Constellation and Albany. So while it’s great, it’s really only a half-solution at the moment. Filling those gaps is extremely expensive and difficult.

        2. The Perth system was almost shut down and has since be expanded with most noticeably new lines build to the north and the south with the later only only finished about 5 years ago. In the case of the Mandurah line they actually replaced part of a busway and are now carrying a huge amount more passengers than the buses ever did.

          As admin pointed out the busway cost about $400m but that is only for 6km and 5 stations. By comparison DART cost $600m gave us around 25km of new track including about 1km of it in a trench at New Lynn, it also includes the new Newmarket station and junction, Onehunga line and the new Manukau Branch (which also has the station in a trench). Overall when you actually look at it the cost for constructing a busway is at least on par with building a rail line and buses only become cheaper if you don’t have the dedicated right of way in which case you end up with buses caught in the congestion anyway

        3. Dan, once we’ve got electric trains running, it’ll be very, very favourable. Track access costs, unlike access to the NBW, so there’s an unfair and invisible subsidy to the buses that’s worth quite a lot. If one looks strictly at a cost-per-passenger-kilometre metric for running a train vs running a bus, the train wins hands-down. A driver plus three on-train staff to cater for 500 passengers, vs a driver for 10 buses, and with HOP it’ll be cheaper again for the trains because there’ll be much fewer on-train staff required. Toss in the cost of diesel for 10 buses compared to the cost of electricity for a single train, and there absolutely no contest.

        4. Erm Ricardo, Auckland does have a “rail system based on historic reasons. Meaning that the system already existed from early in 20th century – so [we] are making use of it…”. We already have rapid transit rail lines stretching to the city limits south and west, plus branch lines to the inner east, Onehunga and Manukau. So indeed why not make use of the existing rapid transit line instead of trying to build a series of busways right next to them?!

          The only difference between Auckland and Brisbane/Perth is that Auckland is about two decades behind the times. Brisbane electrified it’s trains, built it’s city link and started on new suburban lines in the late seventies and into the eighties. Perth electrified and built two new lines including city tunnels since the early nineties. If Auckland is lucky we might have the same by the end of the twenty-tens.

          Dan Carter, we can compare this pretty easily. The rail tunnel add will about 30 trains per hour to the system comfortably, the bus alternative will require about 500 extra buses an hour to move the same amount of people. That’s about ten times the driver staffing costs alone, even accounting for the fact train drivers are more expensive due to higher training requirements. Next let’s consider the fuel costs, five hundred buses burning diesel at about 40L/100km vs thirty trains powered by electricity with regenerative braking?

        5. Just did some quick figures:

          Based on fuel consumption of 40l/100km and an average speed of 30km/h, a bus would consume 12 litres of diesel an hour. 500 buses would therefore consume 6,000l per hour. At the current diesel price of $1.48/l our bus solution would cost $8,880 an hour in fuel alone.

          Based on electricity consumption of 306kwh/100km and an averge speed of 30km/h, a train would consume 92kwh an hour. 30 trains would therefore consume 2,760kwh/h. At the current electricity price of 23c per kwh our train solution would cost $634 an hour in fuel.

          Now the drivers. Assuming bus drivers cost $30 an hour to operate, our 500 buses cost $15,000 an hour to staff with drivers. Assuming train drivers cost $90 an hour to operate, our 30 trains cost $2,700 an hour to operate.

          Across just the four peak hours a day the bus solution would be $32,980 a day more expensive to fuel and 49,200 more expensive to staff. Across all services all week we are looking at about fifty million a year more expensive to move the same amount of people by bus. It really doesn’t make sense to use an enormous fleet of buses for our core rapid transit links. How many extra local buses, trains or ferries could we operate with the fifty million a year saved?

        6. ROFL. Bus drivers at $30/hr. Including all the management overhead they’ll be pushing it to be $20/hr. Bus drivers are not at all well-paid. Train drivers are probably more expensive, but definitely not three times as expensive. I’d be saying $20 and $30, if I were you, just to get it closer to the truth.

          Still a worthy point, though. Buses are much, much more expensive for lower maximum capacity.

        7. In each case I had doubled the drivers personal pay (based on about $15/h for bus drivers and $45/h for train drivers, I wouldn’t underestimate what train drivers get paid!) to account for the full costs of operating those staff. Not very scientific, just based on a comment from a friend in HR that said staff cost a company roughly double what they get paid themselves.

          Anyway, regardless of the specifics the economics of 500 drivers vs 30 to move the same amount of people are still going to be a whole order of magnitude different.

        8. In response to your figures below…I understand that trains require less drivers and fuel…but rail has a much higher capex (approx 2.5 times than BRT)…so for example if a BRT cost $100 mill and rail $250 mill – the cost of capital savings for bus are considerable ($7.5 mill at a 5% interest rate).

          Also, reticulated buses would make a bus option more efficient.

          The management costs of BRT are lower – as for rail you need Veolia to manage.

          Also, to properly compare rail & bus – we need a BCR that compares them on a mutually exclusive basis…BRT with tunnel vs integrated rail with tunnel…I think you’ll find that bus will win with our 1.5 mill…but in 40 years time perhaps rail would make sense.

          To have bus & rail competing is silly…as a tunnel won’t be fully utilised.

        9. Damn, I should become a train driver!
          Also, that cost overhead doesn’t apply so much to public transport drivers because there’s no office infrastructure required. 100% overhead for office workers is certainly pretty accurate, once you account for the need for space, computers, office supplies…

        10. Again Ricardo you are missing the obvious. The options are a rail tunnel using the existing rail network, or a bus tunnel and replicating the rail network with a new BRT network. Just building a bus tunnel to take buses running along local streets isn’t going to achieve anything without the BRT lines to back it up.

          At the cost of the northern busway (about $60 million per kilometre) building a BRT system of equivalent reach as the existing rail network would cost about $4.5 billion dollars. So we would have to spend around six billion dollars to get a bus system and tunnel that performs to the same level as our existing rail network with a new two billion dollar tunnel.

          BRT is probably the best option for some new routes like along the Northwestern, but not for the central rapid transit link because we already have the rail rapid transit lines in place!

        11. Nick, it would cost a hell of a lot more than $60m/km for a BRT network that equalled the existing rail network, because the NBW was built largely without having to acquire high-value property because it was on the borders of the existing motorway corridor. The same will be impossible if one needs to duplicate the rail network without being able to use its corridor, and a lot of the property through with a BRT network would run would be very high-value because it’s well-connected to existing transport networks and is an already-built environment. $100m/km would be a more-realistic cost for a surface-only fully-separated BRT network, I suspect, and even that could be out on the low side.

        12. Nick R…I think $6 bill for BRT with tunnel is overstated…to get BRT out east, west on SH16, replace New Lynn rail with BRT…what would that cost?? Compared to train solution it would be OK. Because existing corridors are being converted..the land acquisition costs would be considerably lower.

          So we’d then have BRT North, West & East – great. Just need a southern solution and tunnel. Done.

          And we’d have no nasty capex until BRT gets converted to rail in 50 years time.

          Also, keep in mind that your train ideas need a fleet of buses to feed them…so these need to be taken into account.

        13. Ricardo – How would you get BRT from town out east, you either have to replace the rail network (which won’t happen as it is used for freight) or have to build it through existing suburbs demolishing a lot of buildings along the way which means again it is never going to happen.
          Same with replacing the rail line to New Lynn, you can’t use the rail corridor because it is used for freight so you have to build and entirely new one. Also what would you do once you get past New Lynn? By replacing the exising rail network with buses you are just thowing billions of investment down the drain for no gain what so ever

          Once again propert BRT infrastructe like the Northern busway actually has the same construction costs as rail does and also has a fleet of buses serving the stations where people transfer.

  7. OK guys…I don’t think 1.4 million does justify a multi billion Rail system…all those cities you’ve sighted, I wonder how many of them have rail systems based on historic reasons? Meaning that the system already existed from early in 20th century – so they are making use of it…a question for these cities (particularly Brisbane & Perth as similar population to AKL) would be – Would you prefer a city wide BRT with undergound CBD bus tunnel?

    I think they would say Yes.

    Another question – how much did North Shore bus lane cost? Answer: Not much.

    Also, if BRT is so bad, why are you supporting a bus lane for SH16?

    1. I’m not saying BRT is bad. Horses for courses – in some cases BRT is fantastic: like along SH16 and better bus lanes along a lot of key arterials. It doesn’t have to be buses or trains, you can have both.

      1. Exactly. There doesn’t have to be a ‘one or the other’ debate. Busways are relatively quick to build and don’t generally require much investment in new stock. If the busway works as anticipated then at some stage Light Rail may be installed as the budget allows.

    2. Perth has sunk many billions of dollars into massive public transport projects over the last 20 years. They don’t have a legacy network, they have one that’s nearly brand-new. Auckland’s got a legacy rail network, but pretty much no bus network beyond the Northern Bus-way.
      How much do you think building equivalent rights-of-way for buses to ensure proper grade separation from traffic would cost in order to get the same capacity and coverage as rail? It’d certainly make the CRL look like a complete bargain.

    3. ricardo, you ‘don’t think’ 1.4 million is enough people to justify quality rapid transit. What is your magic number? What is your argument? Auckland is already restricted by total reliance on one choking mode, and it isn’t simply about being able to move quickly it’s about the impacts on the quality of place and life all through the city. Hundreds of additional buses are a poor way forward. The Northern Busway is a good thing but of course it is a partial measure, until there is a true RTN from the southern end of the Busway into, and importantly, through the city the NB will still not be comparable in performance to a true RTN. This is not an argument against the NB, but rather a way to understand what needs to happen next, and what the costs of the busway are truly comparable to.

      Perhaps you are concerned about transit to the Shore, a true upgrade for that is important too and will occur, but the CRL must happen first. I’m sure you’ve seen posts on this site about plans for that. However the most cost effective thing would be a true buslane on the Bridge, like on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Talking of population, if Sydney can spare one the eight traffic lanes on that bridge for buses then how come we, with our much lower population can’t [and yes I do know know about the four lane tunnel]? But then also think about what an eventual rail crossing could mean for the Shore? A fast and immediate link not just to the CBD, but way beyond it, including to the airport…..

      1. I’d say once we are the size of Melbourne or Sydney, then a BRT could be replaced with rail…to really get a PT system working brilliantly, we need some sort of underground tunnel for the CBD…it can’t be rail and bus, it can only be one…what I’m saying is, instead of having an OK rail network and an alright bus network – let’s focus our resources on a world-class BRT Auckland wide that hooks into an underground bus tunnel…once our population is larger this could be converted to rail…

        Also, one main criticism I’m hearing is that a BRT system is expensive..mainly because we are doubling up on rail infrastructure…but the same could be said about rail.

        1. How would using our existing rail infrastructure be doubling up?!

          Why does it have to be an either or thing? Can’t we have our existing three main rail lines and two branches feeding into a city rail tunnel, and our existing Busway and perhaps some new ones to the Northwest and Southeast feeding into central bus priorities too?

          Why would everything have to be based on buses? Why not a mix of trains, busways, street buses, ferries and even trams or other new modes?

        2. Your question: Why does everything have to be based on buses?
          Answer: Because for a city our size, it doesn’t make sense to have buses and trains competing against each other. It we are going to spend billions on a tunnel, let’s unlock it’s full potential by focussing on one form of PT that is top notch.

          For a city our size with a limited budget – buses are the best option.

          The points in favour of Auckland wide BRT with bus tunnel are:
          – Less upfront cap ex
          – Reticulated buses will reduce opex
          – North Shore has been a great success
          – Better route flexiblity & coverage
          – Buses as dominant PT will reduce transfers if you have both train & bus
          – Can be upgraded to rail later

          Any criticism stating that BRT Auckland wide is too expensive doesn’t wash with me. Because any idea for rail is far more expensive. Rail is a solution for decades ahead – not quite yet.

        3. You’re right that it makes no sense to have them competing against each other, but replacing rail with buses is not a solution. The solution is to use buses and trains for their strengths: buses for flexibility, rapid redeployment; rail for speed, capacity, journey time reliability.
          Use the buses to feed rail, instead of having buses and trains running roughly analogous routes. It’s a total nonsense of free market bollocksing-up of our transport network that we have trains running from Papakura and Henderson to the CBD and also have buses doing the same run. It makes far more sense to have local buses feeding train stations, leveraging the strengths of both modes.

          Also, what do you do with the need for a rail freight corridor? Ripping up the rail corridor and replacing it with a bus-way is a total non-starter, because we must have railways to carry freight. So you have no choice but to duplicate entirely the rail corridor with a rapid-bus corridor, and that’s a horrendous waste of money.

        4. And why would trains and buses be competing against each other? The city rail link proposal is to have rail on the trunk rapid transit routes and to have buses feeding into rapid transit, and buses operating quality transit routes between the rapid transit. That is complemetary, not competition.

          Again it is about having one integrated system with each mode operating where it is most efficient. Using buses to do everything is not particularly efficient, particularly on the core rapid transit routes.

          With an entirely bus based system you will still need to make transfers to have any reasonable coverage. The Northern Busway is based around transfers, very few people are within walking distance of a station and the NEX bus only services the stations. Why would any of your new busways be any different?

          Apart from the Northern Busway, where else in Auckland are buses “top notch’?! Nowhere really, we’d need a lot of investment to make that the truth.

          The North Shore has been a great success, but so have the Western, Eastern and Southern rail lines and the Onehunga branch. Why ignore the massive gains on the four rail routes because one bus route is also good?

          The Northern Busway does not have better route flexibility or coverage than any rail line. The busway has zero route flexibility, it is built out of concrete and steel just like the rail lines. Likewise the coverage is the same, limited to the individual stations. Flexibility and coverage primarily from buses connecting to these stations, that is the same whether you have a bus station or a train station.

          I disagree it is less upfront capex. Perhaps a budget design bus tunnel might be a bit cheaper to build in the city (I’m not convinced myself), but the capex required to build the busway system to feed it would be enormous. You seem to be missing the main point. We already have an extensive rail rapid transit system, it’s just lacking the central tunnel. We don’t have an extensive bus rapid transit system, so as well as building the central tunnel we would have to build a wide reaching busway and buslane network. That would cost billions to replicate what *we already have* with rail.

        5. Ricardo, with respect, you don’t have an argument, merely your unsupported opinions, repeated, that 1. Ak doesn’t have the population. and 2. That a BRT system is cheaper.

          1. Sydney built its metro during the depression and when it had a much smaller population. There are more than enough people just a currently incomplete and recovering system. And the population is growing and intensifying, we need the CRL now and will need it even more when it is built. Other cities support metro systems will half AK’s population. Perth is way more spread out, your claim in unsupportable.

          2. Building a separate ROW busway has similar costs to rail, we already have a newly refurbished half rail network, it will be cheaper and better to complete that, with complimentary bus systems, like on the NW, and especially to feeder stations, than to build a whole new BRT system. That would be doubling up. Bus systems are only cheaper if you are not really comparing true ROW systems. Ie if you are running them on the existing roads. That is not comparing apple with apples.

          Buses in tunnels, a second grade technology, fumey and expensive to run compared to electric powered trains, that we are already getting.

          We’ll get to the Shore, the rail boom has only just begun in AK and it will transform the quality of life across the city.

        6. To answer a few of your points:
          “- Less upfront cap ex”
          If you actually compare the construction costs of the busway to that of the rail upgrades you will see they are actually about the same. Buses are only cheaper if you if you don’t go for the dedicated right of way option but in doing that you put buses on local streets and therefore you lose the rapid transit aspect of it.

          “- Reticulated buses will reduce opex”
          Trains already cost lest to run per passenger km than the buses do and that will trains will only get better once we get the electrics running around in a few years time. As mentioned by others the busway largely operates exactly like a rail line in that buses drop people off at the stations.

          “- North Shore has been a great success”
          And so have the rail lines, in fact over the last year about 2m trips have been taken on the NEX, by comparison the Western line has had over 3m trips and is currently growing at a faster rate

          “- Better route flexiblity & coverage”
          Yes buses can go to places the trains can’t but look at bus maps of the city and you will see that the major routes are pretty much the same today as they were when they were run by trams.

          “- Buses as dominant PT will reduce transfers if you have both train & bus”
          We have focused on avoiding transfers for decades and it has left us with a bus network that in many places can only justify hourly services. This is because the route tends to go through a maze of backstreets then into town so while it provides a one seat trip the service is so long and slow that not many people use it. By turning the buses into feeder services to a high capacity RTN means we can turn those existing buses around at stations to provide more services.

        7. If we were starting from scratch, you might have a point. But we have existing rail infrastructure and it covers a fair whack of Auckland, whereas we have no rapid bus infrastructure outside the NBW. So we’d be having to build something that doesn’t already exist, and to build a bus-way network that has equivalent reach and capacity to our existing rail network would be far, far more expensive than building the rail network to reach most of Auckland that it doesn’t already touch.

          To turn away from our existing heavy rail infrastructure because buses are cheaper up-front is a serious folly, given that ultimately the bus infrastructure would have to be either seriously upgraded to give it sufficient capacity, or replaced with heavy rail. Why spend twice, the first time on an inadequate solution, when you can spend more now but ultimately spend less. It never gets cheaper to build this stuff, and putting in heavy rail in 20 or 30 years’ time will cost far, far more than it’ll cost to do it now.

        8. That’s another hole in the train has lower opex argument…you still need a massive fleet of buses to feed the trains…this needs to be taken into account….whereas the opposite isn’t true – if you had BRT with tunnel, you don’t need trains at all…only for freight to port.

          One good idea to put this discussion to bed…we need mutually exclusive BCR for trains vs BRT….so an Auckland BRT & tunnel (no trains) vs integrated rail with tunnel (no bus network)…I’m positive BRT would win with 1.5 mill.

        9. We already have a massive fleet of buses (and that’s without the buses needed to run full BRT), and if we had a bunch of short-run feeder services to train stations the bus requirements would be lower than that required to have buses traipsing on a three-hour return trip from Papakura to the CBD.

          Also, if you take buses from local roads onto the BRT network, you still need enough buses to do the entire loop at the programmed frequencies. If it takes two hours to do the Redhill-CBD-Redhill return trip through the BRT (and that’s being pretty bloody optimistic), and you want a service frequency of 15 minutes, that’s eight buses to do that one service. Eight buses, with a maximum capacity of about 640 passengers for the entire run. Compared with running trains every 15 minutes for a 70 minute return trip, maximum capacity of a three-car train about the same as those eight buses, that’s a lot more buses, a much slower overall trip for the passengers (compared with maybe a 15 minute run from the back of Redhill to Papakura train station, plus a 35 minute train trip, that’s 10 minutes shorter).
          Alternatively you do as is done with the NBW, where local buses feed the BRT system. So you need enough buses to run frequent BRT services plus the local buses to carry out the feeder services. Why bother with the BRT when we’ve got a rail network that has much more capacity, is already paid for, is much quicker than a BRT system will be, and would be fed by those same local feeder buses.

          Why are you so determined that we should build for now, rather than for the future? We already have a rapid transit network for the future, and it’s called heavy rail. Why regress it to a less-capable network just so that we can upgrade it again in 40 years when the BRT system is creaking at the seams?

        10. Ricardo, you also haven’t answered the issue of the need to retain the existing rail network for freight purposes, thus necessitating a complete duplication of the rail network in order to have BRT with merely equivalent coverage to the current rail network.

  8. Having read the article on my review and the comments, I would make the following comments:
    1) I raised 7 specific issues with the Alternatives Analysis but there is no comment on most of them including
    * the major calculation errors in the spreadsheet around the operating costs in both the rail and bus tunnel options
    * the exclusion of the $300M North Shore Bus connection from the CBD Rail Link option
    * the inclusion of the Dominion Road Busway into the bus tunnel but excluding it from the CBD Rail Link option
    * the excessive $9m/year operating costs attributed for the bus tunnel when a lower alternative ($2M/year) is also outlined.
    Can I assume your silence on these mean you accept these are errors and the consequential cost adjustments are justified ?

    2) You say the requirement for costing TWO 2-Lane Bus tunnels is justified by comments in the business case but, as outlined in detail in my report, neither Brisbane or Seattle have outlined any need for such a design. There are bus tunnels all over the world . . . can you find even one that is 4-lanes (two each way) as apparently required for Auckland ?

    And yes, I will mention the other obvious point known to all Aucklanders, rail too is subject to catastrophic service failure in its proposed design.

    3) It is the Auckland Transport Consultants that outlined that the CBD Rail Link would have bus passengers increase from 23K to 43K while rail increases from 5K to 25K. You say more bus passengers could transfer to trains but of the 20K rail passenger increase by 2041, only 11K are from car . . . the rest are ex-bus passengers (the numbers to 2026 are even more dismal). You are, of course, arguing that the design developed by the KiwiRail/Auckland Transport Consultants is wrong after they spent $5M apparently exploring all these options. (And even assuming you are correct and you could have even more bus passengers transfer outside the CBD to trains. The issue is then the cost of buying even more trains to carry bus passengers . . . a very expensive approach and even this will only work for some bus routes.)

    4) You don’t clearly accept or reject the proposition that the CBD Rail Link must include a major investment in busways if it is to enable an additional 20K bus passengers to enter the CBD on a reliable PT service. I think I have been generous in assuming the CBD Rail Option would only need half the investment of a Bus Tunnel because, of course, a bus tunnel carries many more commuters than a rail tunnel and so the current number of buses on CBD surface roads would remain about the same as now. With the CBD Rail Tunnel, not only does the number of buses entering the CBD double, all these extra buses must be able to travel through the CBD on current surface roads. With the rail tunnel, the CBD will be awash with buses !

    This issue is covered in Section 7.3 of my review but I think the table outlining what is planned best summarises the unbalanced investment approach of the CBD Rail Link. (I will do this in 3 sections):

    Current State # Passengers
    Access to CBD on bus 23,180
    Access to CBD on rail 4,918
    Through CBD via Tunnel 0
    Through CBD via surface bus 23,180

    CDB Rail Link option # Passengers Est. Cost ($M) Cost/Passenger
    Access to CBD on bus 42,814 $442* $10K
    Access to CBD on rail 24,900 $0 $0
    Through CBD via Tunnel 24,900 $2,702 $109K
    Through CBD via surface bus 42,814 0 $0
    * This is the cost of the Link to the North Shore Busway that the BC actually excluded.

    Central Bus Tunnel option # Passengers Est. Cost ($M) Cost/Passenger
    Access to CBD on bus 67,714 $2,140 $32K
    Access to CBD on rail 7,300 $0 $0
    Through CBD via Tunnel 47,400 $1,902 $40K
    Through CBD via surface bus 20,314 0 $0

    As you can see, it is simply not credible for the rail tunnel to double bus patronage into and through the CBD for only $442M while assuming that to triple bus patronage requires nearly 10 times this amount ! Any anyway, if you can get 20K more PT commuters in for $442M on buses, why spent $2,702M to get the same capacity increase with rail ?

    The I suggest a more reasonable approach to all this but the bottom line is, is you add half the cost of the CBD busway access costs to the CBD Rail Link option, the bus tunnel option comes in cheaper.

    Finally, I put this information out to Aucklanders so they can understand the deficiencies I found in the justification for a rail tunnel (and against a bus tunnel). At the very least, Bus Rapid Transit options should continue to be considered in more detail along side the passenger rail options and no firm commitment to rail based rapid transit be made until it is clear which option will deliver the fairest and more effective public transport services to Aucklanders.

    Any further thoughts ?

    1. Yeah I’ve got a further though;
      And I don’t normally insult people out of the blue like that. Your whole case is built on looking at your basic costings and the bottom line, and yet your experience in transportation is clearly nowhere near enough to make accurate costings in the first place.
      Here’s something immediately obvious that you seem to have overlooked; what about Diesel fumes? I can only guess that your experience of public transport is in Wellington NZ where the busy bus routes are trolleybuses. You only have to go to busy Diesel bus terminals in places more humid to breath the problem, let alone go to any enclosed space like a covered train terminal or underground train or bus station where diesel vehicles are in use. Already the Britomart terminus has expensive and intrusive extraction fans and even then you sometimes get the nauseating fumes. So you’d need a long line of extractor fans lining the length of the tunnel and acquiring real estate on the surface, did you include that in your costings?
      And as you did with you half-baked idea for the Johnsonville line you seem to ignore the incline.

      Stick to your job at IRD and leave it to the people a bit more knowledgeable on transport matters.

    2. I forgot to mention; the bus tunnels in Seattle and Brisbane don’t have steep inclines do they? so they’re just cut-and-cover jobs. Any tunnel under Auckland will have to be bored due to the topology. Did you include that in your costings?

      1. How often do I have to repeat it. This is NOT my costings and NOT my design ! These are the costings and designs from the Auckland Transport consultants that include highly experienced transport consulting firms such as outlined on their web site:
        “KiwiRail and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority commissioned APB&B, a group of consultants comprising of AECOM, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Beca and Hassell, to prepare the CBD Rail Link Business Case (now called the City Centre Rail Link), which was released on 24 November 2010.”

        While I obviously do have very specific issues with some cost calculations and the designs elements of both the rail and bus tunnel option outlined in the Business Case and detailed in the Alternatives Paper, I do respect the effort and applied expertise of the consultants behind this large analysis. I am happy to defend my views of the seven key issues I have raised but no-one has specifically critiqued most of them.

        Anyone with issues with the actual design, ventilation, overall operating costs, capacities or patronage predictions outside of my seven issues should take them up with Auckland Transport. The consultants believe both rail and bus tunnels can deliver to Auckland. As stated in the Alternatives Paper conclusion (Section 3.3):
        “The Alternatives Paper in Appendix D did not seek to quantify the benefits of either the CBD Rail Link or the Central Area Bus Tunnel. However, both alternatives are broadly equally effective at delivering the required extra capacity into the CBD”

        1. Still doesn’t address how a bus tunnel helps the rest of the city. A city which has an existing investment in metro rail, with hundreds-of-millions more being spent over the next two years to buy upgraded trains and complete a significant programme of upgrade works.
          Auckland has precisely one BRT route, and that’s the Northern Bus Way. Everywhere else we have, at best, at-grade bus lanes with no traffic light priority. Duplicating the rail network to afford equivalent speed and journey reliability to buses will be horrendously expensive, and we can’t just tear up the rail network and use the corridors because, well, we also use railways for freight.

        2. Thats a strange comment considering the proportion of people who travel by bus compared with rail in Auckland. About 5 to 1, DESPITE the relative lack of investment.

        3. What’s strange about it? It’s entirely accurate. The tunnel he proposes wouldn’t do a damned thing for bus users who aren’t going to/from the CBD. Won’t allow any extra bus services. Won’t put in grade-separated BRT routes anywhere, so the buses will still be susceptible to being stuck in traffic, or at traffic lights, or held up by a collision.

        4. Oh my apologies Tony, so you bogarted the costings from someone else? seems strange that you’d come out of the woodwork and advocate the bus tunnel then, especially considering the people from whom you claim to have done the costings didn’t think it’s a good idea.

          At the end of the day it seems your sole justification for this is to save cash, the same mistake NZ has made time and time again. Taking the cheapest option and then not getting the best and ending up having to spend more money later.

        5. Still it beggars belief what on earth you think you are achieving here Tony. Are you simply naive? All you have done with your half backed concept is give food to the very considerable forces that want to ensure that as close to 100% of all of our transport investment money go on yet more road infrastructure. Genius. You sit in Johnsonville and fill your clearly empty days by trying to trip up the momentum we have in Auckland for a clearly vital, forward looking, transformational, and decades overdue project. Why? What crazed self-importance drives you? We, in Auckland, finally have been allowed the chance to speak with one voice against the powers in your city that control us and yet you appoint yourself to try to shout us down with your backward looking and clearly daft scheme that simply muddies the water.

          Listen. We do not want 500 more buses on or under our streets. Even if your math made sense. We are not ripping up tracks we have just put down. We are wisely investing in NZ renewably generated electric propulsion. There is nothing desirable or ideal about buses, and especially diesel buses in tunnels. Furthermore, even if the CRL cost more than some comparable bus scheme, and I simply do not accept that as you clearly fail to understand the value already in the network that will be unlocked with this project, this is a project that has so many other fantastic qualities that make it so much better than any bus system. And frankly, Auckland, 1/3 of the population simply deserves it after decades of both poor and under investment here. So stick to organising bus stops in J-Ville., and leave us to choose own own future for once.

      2. Why are you hating on this guy? He is apparently interested in PT and making sure we get the best bang for our buck.

        If you want to believe the council was in no way partial in comparing the bus and rail options, despite a) The mayor campaigning specifically on rail as virtually the centrepiece to his Mayoralty (as opposed to PT in general), and b) The report being a cost/benefit report FOR the rail link, NOT an options study, then good for you. Some people have a word starting with N for that.

        You do realise Tony is not doing his own costings he is basing everything on the report.

        What is your obsession with diesel fumes? Don’t you think you might be blowing that one thing a little out of proportion? Are you talking about exhaust emmisions, because I am sure the diesel tanks on modern busses are well sealed.

        Not that it is at all relevant (as Tony has based his costs on the council report) but topography (not topology) is a reason that the rail tunnel needs to be bored, but bus tunnels on the other hand can get up quite steep hills.

        1. Have you read that given current growth, effective February, Britomart will not be able to cope with any increased demand. This means no additional trains from the South, East or West and no improvement in frequencies.
          The CRL is required to get trains through Britomart, rather than backing out, and let other trains in. How does a bus tunnel instead of the CRL improve this?

        2. Bryce,

          The question then becomes – why did we spend $400m on Britomart less than 10 years ago? The lack of capacity of one piece of infrastructure does not justify spending on another – particularly not when the other is 6 times the price.

        3. Swan, why spend more on a bus tunnel? We just spent hundreds-of-millions on the NBW, and it’s got quite a few years of capacity left in it. The proposed bus tunnel in the CBD won’t do a thing for increasing the capacity of the rail network, and we’ve been spending hundreds-of-millions on upgrading the rail network. Hundreds-of-millions of dollars that you want us to just throw away because you don’t see the need to invest in rail right now, rather than investing in rail in a few decades after first squandering billions to replicate a lesser version of what we’ve already got. You still haven’t explained why we’d do that, given that we can’t remove the rail network because it’s used for, like, freight.

        4. Oh yes swan, so with the troubles with Britomart due to it being done on the cheap, you want to repeat the same mistake?
          Excellent one.

        5. No, he’s advocating what he THINKS will be the best bang for buck and he’s wrong. It may (and stress that MAY) be cheaper but it will be considerably crappier. And it won’t sort out the forthcoming dilemmas with Britomart reaching capacity. And those problems are more important than anything with buses.

          And yes I believe the council is impartial (note the correct word). These studies were conducted before the super-city merger. There’s no conspiracy, they know a rail tunnel is what’s needed.

          And I was talking about Diesel exhaust fumes, you do realise they’re highly toxic right? have you ever been out of NZ and gone anywhere with a high concentration of them? not pleasant.

          If he’s sensitive to a grilling then why has he put himself in the spotlight like this?

        6. swan- That “one little thing” kills 400 Aucklanders prematurely a year.

          It’s only a little thing if it’s not you dying…

    3. And another thing; the increase in buses that will probably result from building the CBD tunnel will not be adding much congestion to the CBD, most of those buses will be used as feeders to the already existing stations as more people will be attracted to take the train to the CBD. Bit of a no-brainer there.

  9. The expensive thing is tunnelling is actually the stations. So, suppose you built a tunnel in which you went in one way and the traffic was dispersed at the other end, so no stations along the way. If so, what you would end up with, could be a useful complement to the CRL investment we are talking about. There’s no way I would ever suggest trying to offload 500 buses/hour into the central city at one point; but offloading 80 or so of the Northern buses/hour up to about where the Town Hall is, could complement the current arrangements well.

    In Wellington, there is a 400-metre single-drection tunnel between Hataitai and Mt Victoria, dating back to the trams, which is still in use today by the local buses.

    So, what we might be looking at here, is a tunnel of around 1200 metres in length, between Fanshawe St and Grays Ave. Here is an example of a 2-km bus (and now LRT) tunnel:

  10. The ongoing costs of running the bus tunnel would have to be higher. For a rail tunnel the trains will be electric, which means you’re venting for people consuming oxygen. For a bus tunnel you also need to be venting to control vehicle fumes, this is a large ongoing cost.
    There is no question that a twin tunnel system (or a system with exits every 100m) is required to meet the fire/life safety requirements. This is international practice and one that no-one at NZTA or Auckland City is going to go against, because in the event of a fire and multiple (mass?) deaths the inquest would be very bad for them.

    1. It’s not even really necessary to have active ventilation within the tunnels for normal operations, because the movement of trains creates a vacuum that draws air through the system. Emergency ventilation fans are necessary, in the event of a fire, but they don’t have to be anywhere near as powerful as is required for a constant-use system to evacuate diesel exhaust fumes.
      Looking at the systems for the Puhoi tunnel is instructive as to the costs that would be involved in designing a bus tunnel beneath the CBD, with two cross-passage shelters, massive deluge sprinkler systems, huge fans even for a short tunnel through which one can see and could run in a couple of minutes… That’s entirely the consequence of having vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, because dangerous goods vehicles are banned from the tunnel.

  11. I think it is clear that a full options study hasn’t been undertaken. Are 2 two lane tunnels really the only answer to the engineering problems raised? Is the proposed bus tunnel alignment appropriate (what options study developed this route?) Does it need to be bored or could cut and cover with more surface running be the best option?

    The fact is the CBDRL report was a cost benefit analysis of the rail option, with the bus tunnel option tacked on. Nothing wrong with that, but shouldn’t there have been a true options study undertaken first?

    Obi, you mention decisions taken 10 years ago on rail funding. Was there an options study for a masterplan undertaken then or are we just making it up as we go? Was everyone aware that to make the britomart, dart, and electrification investments worthwhile we would need to spend billions on a rail tunnel? At the moment it sounds like this is a case of throwing good money after bad.

    1. Prior to Britomart there was a very serious and detailed look at converting Auckland’s rail lines to busways, the basic outcome was that it would cost a heap to convert, would cost more to operate and would provide less capacity.

      Let’s not discount the idea of a bus tunnel to carry busway traffic entirely. But surely we should focus on the central link for the existing 3/4 of the rapid transit system that is hitting capacity at the core first (i.e. the existing rail network), then look at options for the existing 1/4 that is not hitting capacity (i.e. the busway) and any new busways we might build.

      There is plenty of capacity yet to increase bus movements at street level. Right now the city only has one full set of proper bus priority (the Central Connector on Symonds St), even the busway link along Fanshawe St stops half a kilometre short of downtown. Within the city only Albert St has bus lanes (albeit fairly compromised ones). Lots of potential to increase bus priority cheaply and quickly.

      The same can’t be said for the rail system, no feasible opportunity to expand at surface level and it is more or less at the wall until a tunnel is built.

    2. How do you cut-and-cover a tunnel that runs beneath an already-built CBD? What cost for surface running?
      As soon as you determine that a tunnel is the only feasible option, because real estate values through the area are so high that surface routes are cost-prohibitive, you are left needing a minimum of two lanes for each direction of travel. Diesel buses are dirty, so the ventilation systems must be very powerful, and of redundant design. Carbon monoxide means the requirement to be able to perform several complete air changes per hour, constantly, and that requires ventilation stacks. Where do those get put in an already-built CBD environment?

      The bus tunnel concept may be cheaper than a rail tunnel for constructing the carriage surface, but it’s a lot more expensive for health-and-safety requirements if you’re comparing it to electric trains that have no constant environmental requirements. Toss in the need for two lanes per direction of travel, and the costs go up further for the bus tunnel.

    3. It cannot be a cut-and-cover tunnel due to Auckland’s topology. Think about it; what is Queen Street actually like again? it’s on a steep unsteady incline that actually dips in a couple of places. Buses have a hard time on Queen Street on the surface.

      1. Are you talking about topography or topology? Actually Aucklands topology supports bus based rather than rail based transit, but then most topologies would.

        With regards topography, yes buses can get up Queen St. So why couldn’t they get up if in a tunnel? And even if they couldn’t, it doesnt mean you would need to bore the whole way, you could develop a portal in mid town somewhere.

        1. Oh wow I said topology instead of topography (even though topography is derived from the mathematical study of topology).

          You said partial instead of impartial didn’t you?

          Buses crawl up Queen street as it is and emit nasty amounts of fumes. You want to put them in a tunnel? and if the southern exit point of this tunnel will be below the summit of Auckland at Karangahape road then what’s the point in making the buses crawl up the hill and then down again? I’d be very surprised if this busway was costed as a cut-and-cover tunnel.

        2. Yes I said partial – thats what I meant.

          “I’d be very surprised if this busway was costed as a cut-and-cover tunnel.”

          Try to understand what I am saying – has a rigorous options study for BRT in the CBD been undertaken? Or did they just come up with a single bus tunnel option for comparison. I have no problem with the consultants doing this, as it was likely in their brief, but it is not the same as an options study. I don’t care much about cut and cover or bored tunnels, all I care about is has the design been optimised at all? Have all the route options been looked at? Trust me for a billion dollar project that no one has done any work on, there will be a lot of potential for optimisation.

        3. Swan the main point has been missed by you and this Tony Randle.

          The main purpose of the CBD rail tunnel isn’t just to have some nice underground stations in the Auckland CBD, but to allow Britomart and the network more capacity by making Britomart a through station instead of only a terminus. Because rail patronage is growing in Auckland and unless they build the CBD tunnel it won’t be able to keep up with demand. Building this dumb bus tunnel wont solve that problem, it will just make things nice for some bus commuters coming from other areas who don’t yet need any improvements to their network anyway.
          This Randle clown is not offering a cheaper alternative to the CBD rail tunnel like he claims he is, he’s offering a different tunnel for a different purpose that’s not needed.

          And you can rule out a cut-and-cover bus tunnel for Auckland’s CBD full stop, the topography is too varying.

          This Randle is a sleazebag anyway, he drummed up some fake poll to try and push some other dumb scheme to make the J’ville line a busway. And he’s part of some organisation called Johnsonville progressives, who are anything but progressive. One thing they did is stop any high rise flats in J’ville using outdated and ignorant images of ghetto’s, about the opposite of progressive.

        4. I understand what the qualitative issues are Been, the question is, is it worth the enormous sum of money? If it was going to cost $10b would you support the rail tunnel?

        5. Well it’s not going to cost 10 billion, it’s been estimated at 2.24 billion by this Randle which is much more than the $1.52 billion the business case presented. So there’s no point in asking me such a principled question.

          Now I know you’re going to question how trustworthy the business case is with the implication that Brown or Kiwirail have cooked the figures, but will you also ask this of Mr. Randle’s estimates? a man with no actual experience in transportation nor engineering? Considering the benefits; 2.24 billion is still fine by me.

          I don’t see how 1.85 billion for a poxy bus tunnel that will NOT solve any immediate problems, is in any way a preferred option. It’s either the rail tunnel, or no tunnel and Auckland continues to suffer from inadequate commuter rail and auto dependency in the face of peak oil. Auckland would actually be better off with no tunnel than wasting money on this absurd busway that would take far longer if ever to pay-off in benefits.

          Considering the long-term benefits both economic and social I think 2.24 billion is a worthy investment anyway. And considering this Randle included purchasing new buses in this total (which are handled by private companies anyway) I’m pretty confident that his calculations are heavily flawed.

        6. You’ve called a $1b+ PT infrastructure project both poxy and crappy (!) You seem to have an idealogical hatred of buses. The idea we should choose between the tunnels or any tunnel because of peak oil is enough to show you care not about basic economics, but pure ideology. My estimates are that by the time the rail tunnel is complete subsidies will be in the order of $10-$20 per trip. That is other people paying for rail users. That is what needs to be justified. I’m glad you think it is worth it though.

        7. Well haven’t you suddenly changed your tune? could it be because your feeling uncomfortable? now you’re lashing out with wild allegations and to be honest it’s quiet SAD.

          I’m not anti-bus, this tunnel would be poxy because (despite what Randle thinks) it will NOT be able to deliver as many passengers, hence the 4 tunnels needed. Nor will it in any address the looming problem with capacity at Britomart.
          In a proper PT system you can’t have rail without feeder buses, so obviously I can’t be anti-bus. Although as studies have shown time and time again passengers do prefer rail over bus for comfort.
          If there was a problem with getting buses from the North shore and/or the inner western suburbs to the CBD (and no problems with Britomart) I’d be supporting the bus tunnel (despite probably being more expensive).

          And peak oil is NOT ideology, it is REAL and it is about economics. If it hasn’t dawned on you that oil will become more pricey and that it will have wider macroeconomic effects then your authorative tone you adopted before seems ridiculous now. The costs of running a bus tunnel and automobile dependency will burden the entire NZ economy. Think about it.

          As for subsidies, you might want to read up on how roading gets funded in NZ. And while you’re at it see how much Auckland;s fancy new motorways set NZ back. Then the CBD tunnel might not seem like such a dumb idea.

        8. As I have said previously here, let’s actually address road subsidies, rather than simply use them as an excuse for rail subsidies. Also unfortunately the scale of the subsidy matters.

          I guess if you would be kind enough you could always pay for the rail tunnel yourself when you cash in your oil futures in a few years time. You have got all your money in oil futures havent you?

        9. Hey Swan if you want to get rid of road subsidies and make all NZ roads turnpikes don’t expect too many people to take you seriously.

          But in such a world believe me the CBD tunnel would have no problem funding itself. You might not want to live in such a country though.

        10. Isn’t it ironic after that comment that the next blog post on this blog is on road pricing, with people apparently taking it seriously.

          You still haven’t told me which options study the bus tunnel came from, or why double digit per passenger subsidies are justifiable.

  12. Another thing is;
    This bus tunnel doesn’t actually solve any problems. I would benefit bus commuters from the North shore and the Newton and Mt. Eden areas. Do they need much improvement?

    The problems for rail commuters coming in from Waitakarei and South Auckland would continue with the limited capacity at Britomart. Does this Tony Randle actually know about this?

  13. Screw any more studies. The whole reason Britomart can’t cope now is because there were too many doubters 10 years ago. How many people out there thought there would be the kind of growth in rail patronage that has taken place. The CRL will not only benefit CBD commuters but also the many people who get off prior to the city by more frequent services. I am certain that more frequent services will actually serve to increase the number of people who will want to use PT. This will be especially so if there are good feeder buses to frequent rail services (including weekends).

  14. There are some serious flaws in Randall’s analysis, some of which were also in the AT analysis.

    1. The capacity of a busway is seriously over-rated.

    At peak hour on Brisbane’s SE busway there are often long queues of buses at the Cultural Centre stop. It can barely cope with its current 3 buses per minute, and it’s not even a major loading point. Each bus has an average of 40 passengers, making a total capacity of 7200 passengers per hour in each direction, or about half that of a rail system (1 x 6-car train every 3 minutes, carrying up to 700 passengers). Dwell times at Brisbane’s Cultural Centre stop are short, whereas at the major CBD loading points there are much longer dwell times, and a lot more loading points (underground bus bays) are required. This needs big dollars. A figure is quoted of about $300m for constructing an 8-stop underground bus stop. This is fancifully low. An underground bus stop needs a double lane in each direction so moving buses can pass those stopped for passengers. This would need a tunnel diameter of at least 15 m (5 m for each bus lane plus 5 m for the platform) in each direction. None of Brisbane’s busway stations were bored. Their only 2 underground stations were cut-and-cover, whereas Auckland’s would need to be bored.

    2. The busway assessed doesn’t take passengers to the main CBD hub of Brittomart, so many passengers would instead need to transfer to the local services. A better comparison would be a busway that goes through the areas of main demand (as Brisbane’s does), but this would increase the costs of the bus tunnel option.

    3. The analysis doesn’t account for the “rail preference factor”, in which patronage for a rail option is typically 30% more than a bus option. When Perth’s Mandurah line was completed patronage increase 2.5 times over the busway/freeway bus service that operated previously.

    1. Of course the rail tunnel will have greater passenger capacity! the trains can carry more people and embark/disembark them quicker. That’s probably why the original plan had 4 bus tunnels.

      I know Brisbane’s busway tunnel was a success but there’s no reason to think that something similar will work for Auckland better than a rail tunnel that’s worked in so many more of the world’s cities.

  15. Tony, the big flaw in your argument is that you’re unnecessarily adding a huge pile of cost onto the cost of the rail tunnel – I don’t know the details of how much it costs to build a bus tunnel so I won’t really focus on that matter, although it does seem to have been looked at in some detail in the original business case.

    Neither a bus tunnel nor a rail tunnel is a ‘complete solution’ for Auckland’s transport issues so I don’t understand why you’re proposing to add huge cost onto the rail tunnel for bus improvements on the North Shore and to the south/west. Even if we need to undertake other PT projects in the future those are separate projects that will be looked at separately. Nobody adds in the cost every roading project under the sun to assess the merits of one particular project.

    The CRL won’t improve things for the North Shore, we know that, it’s not meant to (aside from free up space in the city centre for more North Shore buses). But then the bus tunnel also won’t improve things for a lot people either: particularly from the south and west.

    Ultimately, I want to know how it’s possibly sensible to duplicate the western line with a busway all the way out to Mt Albert and to duplicate the southern line down to Harp of Erin? Why on earth would we spend hundreds of millions on these rapid transit corridors when we already have rail corridors?

    1. Admin,
      To answer your question: Using figures based on some recent research from Australia, the going rate per km of tunnelled busway (including stations) is A$92M per km (2010 dollars), based pretty much exclusively on Brisbane’s experience of the inner busways. Not much cheaper from the A$100M per km to build the fully tunnelled Airport Line in Sydney, but still cheaper than the A$190-oddM for Epping-Chatswood.

      I would say that the real performance measure for the merits of a given transport technology is number of passengers moved per hour on a given corridor. You would have to say that unless you used Curitiba-style triple articulated buses, a busway won’t get within a bull’s roar of a heavy rail line.

  16. There is a very important and valid debate to be had about this (and I’m no advocate of an inner city bus tunnel), but it is telling that Tony Randle’s debates are met by some here by abuse and villification, including the most childish parochialism that someone who doesn’t live in Auckland has nothing useful to add.

    Let me be clear that I don’t believe the author of this blog can be accused of that approach, as he always handles criticism and comment by playing the ball not the man.

    Some wonder when I claim that part of the enthusiasm for rail transport in Auckland is quasi-religious. The sort of language in this thread, in a debate about something as anodyne as transport economics, indicates those who utter it are closer to religious fundamentalists (their belief in trains is being questioned, and no argument can ever get in the way) and does absolutely nothing for their “cause”. Present counter arguments and people call you names, say you’re not qualified and don’t argue the points themselves, preferring abuse. I’ve seen it from a few in the Green Party (and a few at my end of the political spectrum as well to be fair), and it simply renders those who use it as seeming at best childish, and at worst unhinged.

    1. Oh yes Libertyscott, and the fact that all you’ve done is defend this Tony turd was such a useful addition.

      I’ve come up with solid reasons why this is dumb idea. So where are yours for why it’s a good idea? I see some accusations of quasi-religious beliefs but nothing actually on topic.

      1. I never said it was a good idea, I said it is a valid debate. In part because of the points on cost. Transport agencies seeking funding from other agencies typically do need due diligence over their claims. Mr Randle has done part of that, and more credit to him for trying.

        I think the validity of your contribution is apparent from you calling him a sleazebag and a turd. Do you not have enough school friends to share such language with? Given you’ve attacked his veracity, would you care to explain what your background is so others can judge the validity of your contribution?

        1. Well as I’m not questioning the economists, planners and engineers who’ve spent time on these recommendations and reports nor coming up with any hare-brained alternatives there is no point in me declaring any credentials. Is there?

          I hardly see how it’s a valid debate considering he’s not actually offering a valid alternative, but another tunnel altogether that would serve a different (and unneeded) purpose. Obviously like him you’ve focused far to much on cost (which from him are dubious at best) without actually looking at the project itself.

          And as far as I’m concerned anyone who actually conducted a bogus poll and attempted to present it to politicians is fair game for mockery. Not only that, but he tried to push for the conversion of that J’ville line without any consultation to the line’s owners which made his cause impossible from the beginning.

          Now are you actually going to debate the merits of his alternative plan? because if you’re not then you can jog on, because I’m not interested in defending myself to someone called “libertyscott” (how pretentious).

    2. I’ve been less able to keep track of comments today than usual otherwise I would have probably stopped many of the comments from ricardo which were bordering on trolling. I think that wound everyone up quite a lot.

      In general I have found people are much more likely to listen to you if you’re reasonable. Tony raises some valid criticisms of the business case, but the solution is some fine-tuning, which was subsequently done by AT/AC. Not throwing out the project and proposing a bus tunnel – with the prime justification being that the rail tunnel is way more expensive (because you’ve added a whole pile of things to its costs).

      1. What!! Healthy debate is what creates interest in this website…if everyone agreed with each other, then you wouldn’t have the 100+ comments, more like the half dozen that you normally have…

        My comments were from a logical standpoint…but I guess they aren’t the same as yours so they are “unreasonable”…and yet it’s OK for Been Benuane to call someone an imbecile…hilarious.

      2. There’s a distinction between healthy debate and trolling. I’m not saying all your comments were trolling but it certainly seemed on many occasions you were completely ignoring the points that others were making whilst being deliberately provocative. Which, as I said, was bordering on trolling.

      3. Have to speak in Ricardo’s defence here – I read through all his comments from start to finish and even if I disagree with him on many points I found the tone of his comments to be reasonably disarming.

        But there is a lot of heat in this topic. It seems to me that Tony Randle has highlighted some potential issues with the way the costs for the bus tunnel option were calculated. That’s not to say the bus tunnel is the right option, just that the costs may not be as high as suggested in the business case.

        People who can’t confront these potential issues (and debate them openly and respectfully) are letting their passion for the City Rail Link blind their judgement. Of course the same scrutiny should be applied to, say, the Puhoi-Wellsford Road of No Significance – but two wrongs do not make one right; the CRL business case should stand on its own two feet.

    1. Yes where is a similar dismantlement of the Holiday Highway BCR? He claims to be a PT supporter, so why not conduct a close reading of the arguments behind where the money is actually going?

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