One of the big complaints about the CRL is the cost and at over $2b it is understandable that people balk at it. The project is actually likely to come down in price as a result of the refinement that is going on behind the scenes and things like staging some of the stations as has been mentioned will also help and may even get the cost down below $2b which should help its image enormously. But how does a project like the CRL compare to something like the Western Ring Route (WRR) that is being built. There have been numerous parts completed for it over the last few years but one thing that has happened is that the costs have been spread out over various projects and so the general public doesn’t really seem to have had as much objection to it. Here is a map of the entire WRR:

Thinking about it a bit further I decided to add up all of the costs for the WRR to see just how much had been spent and how much is predicted to be spent in the next few years. After a bit of searching I managed to find the costs for all the projects bar the Royal Rd interchange which is the NZTA haven’t listed yet.

So all up just over $3b will have been spent on the route over a period of roughly 10 years. That is a huge amount of money and I can only imagine what would have been said if the NZTA or its predecessor had tried to build the whole thing in one go. At $2b over the next 10 or so years, the CRL starts to actually sound a bit more reasonable but then of course is the issue of how much each of these projects would be used. Its pretty hard to directly compare the two as there are so many different variables so I decided just to do a really rough calculation. The best numbers I have for the CRL come from an OIA request our former admin did over a year ago.

That shows that in about 30 years that with the CRL the rail network would have 47.6m trips per year or about 130k per day, this is compared 22.2m per year without the CRL or just under 61k per day. From that we can say that the CRL provides for an additional 69k trips per day. A few quick calculations show that for us to be getting the same number of additional trips, the improvements to the WRR would need to generate roughly an extra 80,000 vehicle movements per day on top of what was using SH16 and SH20 before these improvements were started (accounting for an occupancy of 1.3 people).  To put that in perspective, that is only just a little less than the number of vehicles that cross the causeway today.

I guess the one big thing with the CRL is that with the exception of perhaps a few of the stations, there is not much chance to stage things and everything else will have to be be built in one go.

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  1. I think it is the ability to bite off chunks of roading projects one at a time which makes them easier to fund. And that’s fine – we should only build what we need when we need it. Interesting how Puhoi to Warkworth avoids being staged even though building the Warkworth bypass first is such a no brainer.

  2. I’ve got an idea of how the CRL could be staged through 5 phases where each adds some incremental value and leaves the CRL as a functional piece of infrastructure. There are two main phases that add capacity and three that add accessibility. I’m a little afraid to post it because anytime I bring up staging, people come back with the argument that the first stage would be built, the capacity gains realized, and the rest mothballed indefinitely.

      1. Ok here goes:

        Stage 1: Construct a 1400m long cut and cover tunnel under Quay St, to a pair of new ‘metro’ platforms in a small station under Quay St immediately adjacent to Britomart. This tunnel starts at a pair of flying ramps from the Eastern line just west of The Strand over bridge. All Eastern Line trains use the new tunnel and platforms, other lines continue use Britomart as now. System capacity is boosted by whatever is run on the Eastern, i.e. 6 or 8 trains an hour now use the new tunnel, so a further 6-8 more can be run in the old tunnel in their place.

        Stage 2: Construct the proposed cut-and-cover section of the CRL to Aotea station as proposed, only difference is it starts at the new stage 1 platforms under Quay St rather than at Britomart (this might actually be cheaper that tunnelling under the CPO). The Quay Park end of the new tunnel is extended with a second pair of ramps linking to the southern line tracks, i.e. Quay Park now has flying junction links to the new tunnel from both sides. Eastern and Southern lines are routed through the new tunnel to terminate at Aotea, Western and Onehunga continue to use Britomart. Train capacity is roughly double what we have now, plus access is increased with Aotea Station.

        Stage 3A: Tunnel is extended from Aotea to Mt Eden portal by tunnel boring machine, as per existing CRL plans. Grade separate link in both directions at Mt Eden. No new stations at this stage. Western line runs via tunnel to join either the Eastern or Southern, the remaining two lines can likewise be paired together. Britomart remains as a terminus for peak expresses, short runners, the Overlander and any diesel trains that might run (e.g. Hamilton, Tauranga). Train capacity becomes roughly triple what we have now (or quadruple with advanced signalling in the tunnel).

        Stage 3B: A pair of flyovers and a section of triple track is constructed north and south of Newmarket station to allow Parnell bound southern line trains to call at platform 4 without crossing the path of any other trains. This stage can be phased in at the point where Newmarket becomes the bottleneck, allowing the full capacity of stage 3A to be utilised.

        Stage 4: K Rd station is built in conjunction with a K Rd precinct upgrade and development plan. No capacity gain, just additional accessibility.

        Stage 5: Newton station is built in conjunction with a Newton precinct upgrade and development plan. No capacity gain, just additional accessibility.

        I figure stage 1 would be perhaps $200-$250 million, the remaining stages would be about $1.7 billion divided into four or five chunks. Matt L had the figures on the various stages of the CRL, so could give an idea of how the cost would be divided up between these stages.

        1. Damn fine idea Nick. I’ll have a read later on with a map next to it so I can get a better visualisation but I like it so far in that politically it will be easier.

        2. politically it will be easier

          You’re saying that about this: “Construct a 1400m long cut and cover tunnel under Quay St” ?!?!?!?!?!

          That’s a non-starter, for zero points. bzzzt, thanks for playing.

          Seriously, digging up Quay Street yet again will fly like a lead balloon, especially since doing that length of tunnel will take years. Look how long VPT took, and it’s only 400 metres.

          I think the idea has merit, but I just don’t see any possible way within the next decade that we could sell digging up pretty much the entirety of Quay Street.

        3. I disagree Matt.

          Just to clarify, only about 900m of the tunnel is actually under Quay St, the rest is in the rail corridor. Furthermore only the first 150m would be particularly problematic (i.e. the bit before reaching Tangihua St). Another thing to consider is that the Quay St corridor is approximately 30m wide, so the construction site would only need around half of this at any one time.

          More importantly, the council has plans to close Quay St to traffic for the “North-South Stitch”. That’s closed as in totally and permanently, except for a tram or bus link. Assuming this closure starts at Tangihua St (for general traffic )then most of the construction site for this tunnel is programmed to be free of traffic soon anyway. For the remaining 150m I’m sure they can manage with a temporary reduction in width to four narrow lanes.

          VPT was a nasty build in and around a live motorway. A duplicate Britomart tunnel would be miles easier, especially once the road is closed and made a pedestrain promenade.

        4. @Matt.
          Politically as in financially.
          As for digging up Quay St – no worries. As Nick points out it would only require half of the street. Heck, if it was really deemed necessary, land could be leased from the port for the period to ‘move’ the road temporarily.

        5. Hi Nick. I’ve had a chance to look at a map now and think your plan has a lot of merit. As an aside, why couldn’t the CRL be routed up Queen St if using Quay St?

        6. My main concern is that one about delaying the rest of the project indefinitely. If we were to do stage it as you suggest then at the very least I think we should do stage one and two at the same time so that we the benefit of the newer station, even if the trains that use the station are limited to just one line initially. A few other issues, even if you did this you wouldn’t really gain much benefit on the Western and Southern lines due to issues with Newmakret which is already pretty much at capacity so we might not be able to get those extra trains through there.

          I am also concerned that once your stage 3 had been completed and all trains using the tunnel were using the new Quay St station that the existing Britomart would become largely a ghost town for large parts of the day only serving a few trains. Express services would only be used in the peak and without a major intervention from probably a central government, we won’t be seeing conditions appropriate for regional trains anytime in the next few decades. For that to happen I feel that for any regional trains to work we need the third main completed all the way to town which is 10-20 years off. I also think that we would also really need to get the tracks between Auckland and Hamilton up to a standard capable of allowing for trains to travel at at speeds of 120-160kph to make them really viable and we would need trains capable of doing that sort of performance. It would be a massive gamble at this stage to make that call and it would play right into the hands of the government who used the potential for a lot of additional costs as a reason not to support the current plan.

        7. Yeah the biggest downside I can see is that Britomart basically becomes just a terminus, while all the CRL trains use the new CRL platforms… cue the chants of “white elephant”. Having said that do we really want to run everything through Britomart just to keep up appearances, even if it is cheaper and more effective to run them elsewhere?

          The simple fact is a single island twin-track station custom designed to operate EMUs at high frequency would be more effective than a retrofitted Britomart to service downtown.

          Here’s a zany thought… what if we built a CRL station downtown alongside Britomart to run the CRL trains, then converted some or all of Britomart to a bus interchange? Think about that for a second, it’s long and volumous with a big floor area, it’s already set up for diesel fume extraction and has fire control systems, and it even has the unbuilt light rail ramps and places which could be used as bus access. It would certainly be easier to build bus ramps down to platform level than to build a train tunnel out of it.

        8. That’s going to be a huge problem in all cases. To get maximum value out of the CRL we are going to want to send as many trains as possible through it, which means that platforms 2,3 and 4 are going to be extremely under-utilised. In fact, I wonder whether a redesign of Britomart’s layout might be a good idea. One fewer platform, but make the outer platforms much wider.

        9. Yes I think that making the two outer platforms for the CRL tracks wider would be a good idea. It may be possible to do so without taking out those other platforms by reconfiguring the walls a bit (there is some space behind the coloured walls). If that isn’t possible leaving the station with the two CRL tracks and two terminating platforms would probably be ok

        10. If 900m of extra tunnel were to be added, I’d rather it be under Beach Rd etc, to connect with the Newmarket line, leaving the existing tunnel for the eastern line. This would eliminate the tight turn around vector arena.

        11. Best option for Britomart (if it is to carry the CRL) would be to give the two tunnel tracks separate boarding and alighting platforms. That would be pretty simple by building the new set in the space behind the coloured walls.

          Easier but less effective would be dropping the terminal tracks down to one finger platform with a track either side, and having two big platforms at the sides for one tunnel track each.

          Anthony, due to the grades involved a tunnel under Beach Rd would have to start around where the Parnell tunnel is and would be about 2.2km long. Furthermore the CRL couldn’t get from the Customs St side of Britomart to the Albert St corridor, it would be way too tight. One benefit of Quay St platforms is the curve up to Albert would be less tight than the proposed curve out of Britomart.

  3. Rather than pull apart the CRL itself, just take off the external projects like Onehunga double tracking, which has nothing to do with the CRL. You’ll get the price tag back toward the $1b mark if you take off such things.

  4. Doesn’t the original CLR case include some extra EMU’s ? This was appropriate for a Labour government, but if the key is getting down the headline cost then it’s better to put them up as a separate project later. The CRL will increase the utilisation of the EMU fleet by knocking off ~20 minutes from the Western line service, and eliminate the time all services spend turning around at Brittomart. These savings could be the equivalent of about a 30% increase in fleet size, which would easily compensate for the anticipated increase in patronage. It would be worthwhile doing more detailed modelling of this. Perth would be a good comparison, where by through-running of services their annual patronage per carriage is over 3 times than in Auckland (see calculations and references below)

    As a fallback, the SA cars could be used on the Southern line as 6-car trains for peak hour services terminating at Brittomart.

    The K Road and Newton stations could initially be built with the minimum amount of tunnelling – a single vertical access shaft and tunnel sections wide enough to later build platforms. All other pedestrian access tunnels, escalators and finishing could be done as subsequent projects, and this finishing off is probably well over half the cost of an underground cavern station.

    The eastern access tunnels for the Southern and Onehunga lines are the third most important parts of the project, because they allow through running, which increases fleet utilisation. It also reduces the constraint of the Newmarket junction.

    How many annual boardings per carriage ?

    In 2003/04 Perth had 31m boardings and only 96 carriages, or 0.32m boardings per carriage.
    In 2010/11 Perth had 59m boardings and 234 carriages, or 0.25m boardings per carriage. (The decline relative to 2003/04 is because with the opening of the Mandurah line, there were more longer journeys)
    In the 12 months to March 2012, Auckland had 10.8m boardings onto about 147 carriages, or only 0.073m boardings per carriage.

    Since operating costs are strongly related to the number of carriages in service, it is little wonder that the Auckland train network has high costs per passenger. The reduced operating costs of a through-routed system need to be a central part of the business case for the CRL. It also helps underpin the concept of bus routes as feeders to a rail system where there are much lower marginal costs per passenger.

    1. The business case indicates that we will need between 4 and ~20 extra EMUs, on top of what we are already getting depending on the operating pattern that is used and the contract with actually has options for roughly 30 additional EMUs should we wish to get more. The CRL will drop about 5-10 minutes off trips from the Western line. I would also be wary about comparing patronage to the number of carriages available as they will be used in different ways and at different frequencies.

  5. Nick R I like this idea, stage 1. But what year could this be done by.
    Stage 2a. I would look at lifting LOS between Port of Auckland to/from Southdown/Wiri. with this making allowing/planning for Airport Link.
    Stage 2b. I would also start CRL from west looking for early opening of K rd station.(without stopping ongoing tunneling) and use K rd station as dead end station(till rest of CRL is finished)
    K rd station being at top of CBD could work for inbound people as the walk is mostly down hill.
    Existing train time between Mount Eden station to Britomart is about 16 minutes. walking time between proposed K rd Station and Britomart is about 20 minutes all down hill.
    I would think out bound trains from Britomart heading west would not stop at K rd station.
    But what would Nick R idea look like in 2021 across whole of Transport network, compared to having the CRL completed.

    1. I’d say three years would be realistic for stage 1.

      I wouldn’t run K Rd as a terminus myself, you’d totally separate the western line from the rest of the network, including Newmarket, Britomart etc. Fine if you’re going to K Rd, terrible if you’re going anywhere else (especially outside the CBD).

      At the end of the day it’s almost identical outcomes to the proposed CRL, but with greater capacity at Britomart.

  6. Well what this idea does is ignor the importance of building a real network. Solving the problem of access to Britomart alone does nothing to solve the critical limitation of the current focus on that one place; Britomart. The key thing that the CRL achieves, at a perfectly reasonable cost in proportion to its benefit, is in one move to suddenly give Ak an actual joined up metro style network. A real complement to the road system. On its own ROW, and for the first time not just in and out of one point, but through a significant amount of the wider city.

    Don’t buy in to this idea that it is unaffordable; it is always important to weigh cost against value and this is the one project with the ability to fully transform Ak by unlocking the currently out of reach capacity in the existing rail ROW but only if it actually joins up the network. It must link up the lines, not just provide new platforms. Compared to motorway spending it is affordable and vital. In fact urgent.

    1. Ah, if I have read Nick’s idea correctly, the Quay St part of the station becomes the ‘new’ Britomart ‘through’ station.

      1. Yes but when? Won’t this plan simply further delay a proper whole network solution by relieving pressure at Britomart? While at the same time reinforcing the suboptimal Britomart focused system. Money ill spent in my view, I would rather any such funds went towards the real answer, linking the whole network together.

        Build the tunnel and Aotea first, then add the other stations and extensions over time to spread the cost as the motorway planners do. Yes the first stage is the expensive bit but look at what it achieves. It is the Killer App for Auckland.

        1. It the first stage Patrick, not the last. It’s all well and good saying we need two billion bucks and eight years to build the full tunnel and nothing else will do, but the whole point of this post was staging in cheaper sections over shorter time frames.

          And at the end of the day you have a CRL entirely designed for metro style operation (not three new metro style stations and a new metro tunnel connecting to a bunged up terminus with a funny layout and narrow platforms), plus this also means a metro rail system that can run at 30 trains an hour per direction through the tunnel, independent of the Britomart terminus and it’s inherent capacity constraints.

  7. The only thing I thought of Patrick is, if Quay St was used, would it remove the expensive requirement to tunnel under buildings? Would the radius from Quay into Albert be ok without going under buildings?

    1. Bruce one of the happy outcomes of building the CRL is the need to demolish the vile Downtown Centre then redeveloped the site. Yay. And that is an investment not a just a cost. There is the footprint for a new tower on the site as well as improved public and retail space.

      Nick, Still think its doing everything arse about face, as we don’t need 30 an hour immediately. The CRL is the key to building that demand, yes eventually more capacity will need to be added, but that shouldn’t be at downtown. And as the demand grows that will change the economic arguments considerably. Britomart doesn’t need more people funnelled down there, too much is focused there as it is, a big reason why the CRL must be the priority. IMHO.

      Also is there not space to add platforms to the outer tracks in existing cavities? Furthermore I don’t believe that the current cutbacks to intercity services will continue in the near future but rather will be reversed as resource depletion bites and we have a less myopic government. Which is to say that those central platforms will get new uses.

      1. It doesn’t give 30 an hour immediately, that’s the final capacity. It allows that capacity to be phased in over several stages… aren’t you the one arguing that we need the full capacity full tunnel in one go?

        Also it’s not about providing extra capacity downtown, it’s about maintaining the capacity downtown so that the full capacity of the CRL can be utilised through midtown and uptown. Under the current proposal terminal capacity at Britomart must be subtracted from the capacity of the CRL.

        There’s a couple of things to consider with connecting the CRL to Britomart. Firstly none of the proposed CRL changes anything with the Britomart throat tunnel, that tunnel will always have it’s current capacity limitations of a bit over twenty trains an hour each way. That is unless absolutely everything is run through and nothing terminates. Connect the CRL to that existing tunnel and you extend the same capacity constraints across the whole of the new tunnel section.

        Indeed I do see a future for intercity services, which is why I want to retain Britomart as a terminus to operate them from. If we build the CRL from Britomart you can say goodbye to any significant terminal capacity there. Consider this, say it’s the year 2025, the CRL extension from Britomart is open and we’re trying to run a five minute suburban service across four paired lines. We’ll need 24 trains an hour each way through the CRL, which also means 24 trains an hour each way through Britomart and the existing throat tunnel. That’s about the absolute maximum that arrangement can allow. There won’t be any real opportunity to bring diesel trains in through the throat tunnel, across the flat switches, into those central platforms and out again across the flat switches to another track, not without slashing frequency on the suburban routes trying to use those same two tracks to access the CRL.

        Every train you bring in and out of the middle platforms at Britomart is two you can’t run through the rest of the CRL (actually more like three to four if you consider the delays involved around the flat switch at the head of the platforms). Britomart can be a stop on the CRL for a frequent suburban service with no track switching, or it can be a functional terminus for regional and intercity trains with lots of track switching, but it can’t be both… not as long as everything still has to use that same two track throat tunnel.

        If the CRL is built as an extension of Britomart, the outcome under a mature network is Britomart becomes a two track metro station with an empty middle and a new terminus has to be built outside the CBD. I’d rather just build the small custom designed metro station and leave the terminus to do what it was built for.

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