Newstalk ZB is reporting that the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) will be released today by Len Brown. This is the study that Brian Rudman got his hands on a couple of weeks back, which highlighted something akin to ‘impending doom’ for Auckland’s city centre due to growing public transport and private vehicle trips to the city centre over the next 10 years and beyond.

My understanding is that the intention of the CCFAS is to resolve the differences in opinion – at least at a technical level – between Central Government and Auckland Transport/Auckland Council over the merits of the City Rail Link project. Going by what Rudman stated in his articles a couple of weeks back that has involved the following:

  • Outlining clearly that ‘do nothing’ is not a credible option. Most bus routes to the city centre will be overloaded by 2021 and traffic speeds are modelled to halve from 16 kph to 8 kph. The growth in private vehicle traffic is a somewhat interesting finding, given that private vehicle numbers entering the CBD in the AM peak have fallen by 6,000 in the past decade, but I imagine if that trend continues then the need for CRL will only become more pressing as the PT networks are even more overwhelmed than is predicted.
  • Alternatives to the CRL that were looked at in detail, including a surface bus option and a bus tunnel option, perform significantly worse than the CRL. This is particularly the case in terms of impact of private vehicles as all the bus options clog up the streets with hundreds upon hundreds of buses, whereas CRL actually shifts those people off the road network and onto the rail network – which has the spare capacity to handle them. This means less need for street after street to become bus only.

Newstalk ZB also suggest that there may be criticism of how things like benefit cost ratio is worked out. It is after all odd that the reported best option listed to avoid traffic chaos and move people to/from the central city may only have a BCR of 0.78. As we saw last week, increasing the amount of people who can access a city centre has huge economic impacts that end up vastly outstripping the transport benefits with nothing delivering as many people as a rail line. Being underground the line would also be key in helping with the councils plans to make the city centre more pedestrian friendly and therefore more successful.

What will be most interesting though is Central Government’s response to all of this. To cut what has been a very long story short, it seems like Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have bent over backwards to do everything asked of them in response to the outcomes of last year’s business case review. If government officials have been involved in the study every step of the way then the results should come as no surprise and the argument over whether CRL is the best option should be done and dusted.

Of course there are still legitimate debates to be had around how to pay for CRL and also finalising when it is necessary. But I think the government’s response will tell us quite clearly whether or not their opposition to the project is based on the facts or purely on ideology. Hell it wouldn’t surprise me if they dreamt up a whole pile new hurdles for the council/AT jump over. To be honest, I really don’t know which way it’ll go.

This post may well be updated throughout the day as information comes to hand.


  • The documents have been released and can be viewed here.
  • The government’s response is here, and clearly highlights that they have no intention of ever supporting the project – which is incredibly disappointing as government officials have been involved throughout this process. Clearly the government has no faith at all in their officials.
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  1. Should be interesting. We all know what the report will conclude, my money is on the govt stance softening to something along the lines of “the CRL could be a good project for Auckland…but it is unaffordable in the short-to-medium term and will therefore be deferred to circa-2030”. Continued wilful ignorance of the CRL’s benefits in the face of this continued tide of evidence and popularity of the project would look too arrogant, even for this lot. So they’ll peddle the fiscal responsibility line while conceding it’s a good project.

    1. I agree Britomart was first suggested 1992 but it took another 10 years to build it. Tizard signed it off weeks before leaving the mayoralty Banks was dead against building it due to cost but took all the credit when he opened it to the public.

    2. I agree Britomart was first suggested in 1992 but it took another 10 years to build it. Tizard signed it off weeks before leaving the mayoralty Banks was dead against building it due to cost but took all the credit when he opened it to the public.

      1. It wasn’t Tizard, it was Christine Fletcher who sacrificed her mayoralty so that we could all ride the rail into the actual CBD rather than the fringes.

  2. The government will simply say it’s too expensive and use the new BCRs out of context to show how much of a waste of money it is.

    1. I think the government’s going to be busy talking about David Bain today. Maybe Len should put it off for a little bit?

    1. Accountants will love it. If the goal is to improve the competitiveness of PT then why not instead just remove the FBT part of PT tickets? Much easier and at this time I cannot imagine that the tax take from providing PT for employees is, ahh, very substantial. Then, once companies are using the PT option, tax the carparks. Oh well, still good. Can we carry on and remove the FBT off PT provided to employees?

      1. The change has nothing to do with public transport: it’s trying to improve the competitiveness of just paying employees in cash. FBT is there so employees can’t avoid income tax by having work buy stuff for them. The more stuff that’s exempted, the worse it works.

  3. First impression: the forecast is that absolutely none of the options will have vehicle speeds in the CBD above a brisk walking pace, whether or not the CRL is built. The only people getting into the CBD faster than that in 2041 will be on the trains or ferries.

  4. Could the Minister of Transport display more ignorance if he tried? Fuck. Me.

    “Case for City Rail Link No Stronger”

    Mr Brownlee says he had expected a broader review of potential transport solutions for Auckland than the relatively narrow case studies in the report released today, which include a rail tunnel (the CRL), some enhanced existing bus services, and underground bus options.

    MOT were fully involved every step of the way, from the terms of reference forward. He clearly has no knowledge of that.

    “The consultants’ own report says they were ‘commissioned to develop a robust and achievable multi-modal programme for transport into the Auckland City Centre which considers a thorough analysis of alternatives.’

    “Yet the report underplays State Highways entering the Auckland CBD from the south, both SH1 and SH16, and how improvements to these might impact central city traffic.

    No it doesn’t, these were factored in as well. Surely his advisers told him all this already. What an ignoramus.

      1. That’s the base operating pattern they defined at the start of the project. Even if there have been changes it couldn’t be included in this report. Do note that the text mentions they are looking at other service patterns too.

  5. “In the meantime the Ministry of Transport and the Government’s NZ Transport Agency will continue to work on the best and most cost effective solutions for freeing up central Auckland congestion now and into the future.”

    Like what Gerry? Please elaborate, oh wise one.

  6. Looks like they also gave lap dog Brewer a heads up as his announcement is similar

  7. Is anyone surprised at Brownlee’s reaction. You should no by now that the government cannot be reasoned with on this isssue. You can pile facts up in front of them unitl the cows come home and they wont budge, you can challenge them to come up with alternatives and they will just brush it off. It does not matter what you do there is no way under any circumstances they will spend this amount of money on a public transport project end of. They will also not let the council do it. The only way this project is getting built is with a change of government. This whole report was only asked for by Joyce as a way of fobbing off the council for another 18 months or so. As for Brewer, what a complete waste of ratepayers money that little worm is, he has no interest in what’s best for the city just his own ego.

  8. Love the BCR of the surface bus option without WEBs.


    I didn’t know it was possible to get an actual negative BCR.

      1. It’s the negative benefits thing that I’m struggling with. I could get no measurable benefit from a public transport project, but such massive negative impacts as to generate a negative BCR? Every single one of the RODS has a positive BCR.

  9. 2015 is when things will start to move forward in terms of funding for the CRL build. With property acquired by then, construction can get underway later in that year. Critical to all this, is to keep LB in the job in the 2013 mayoral election.

    1. Completely agree Rob. It would be just our luck to finally get a Labour/Greens govt willing to help pay but have someone like that little turd Cameron Brewer, or Dick Quax in power.

      1. And if Len can stay in power next year then that to me would indicate Auckland confirming the mandate to Len that he’s in the right (sorry no pun intended!) and more pressure can be brought to bear on National towards the 2014 general election. But believe me the right with Brewer are going to throw the kitchen sink at Len next year and the cost of the CRL and a refrain of it does nothing for East Auckland and the North Shore is going to be shouted from the rooftops to get the people in those areas of Auckland voting to toss Len out.

  10. The MoT was in on this at every step of the way. Every option selection, every definition, every criterion was ok’d by them. If Brownlee has a problem with the way the study came out then he has a problem with his own staff.

      1. From the appendix, note the last line:

        “The CCFAS is an independent study undertaken by SKM.
        The Study was commissioned by AT and has been
        overseen by has been overseen by the Transport
        Planning Senior Officials Group (TPSOG)
        This group includes representation from the Ministry of
        Transport, Treasury, the New Zealand Transport Agency,
        Auckland Council and Auckland Transport.
        Workshops were held throughout the study with all
        those parties.
        Key decision points required agreement from all parties
        to proceed to the next stage of the Study”

  11. Not sure why Brown decided to release the report after Parliament has recessed; strikes me as being strategically inept in every possible way. Brownlee can now spout his asinine untruths unchecked. And in a week or so there will be the usual delays on SH1 leading to Brownlee and the National media shills screaming that Puford is what the people want and it must be built because those tools of the National party, the MoT and NZTA know best. Depressing.

    1. Ah, screw that. This government was never going to fund this anyway, and the short-term effect of some holiday traffic is not going to impact public perception much.

      I am much more concerned at the ridiculous BCR. Nerds like us knows that the 0.44 on the dollar return result is about as significant as saying that health care is wasted money because people die anyway. Yet the opponents will now be able to crow about this number.

      1. I was at the launch and there is no 44 cents in the dollar number nor in fact any BCRs outside of ones to compare the three final options. ANd the CRL comes out at 3 times the value for money than the bus alternatives… even if they were actually possible- a bus every 20 seconds down Symonds St!?

        Brownlee is insulting his own officials as they were, along with Treasury and NZTA, involved in every detail of this study. So this proves that this government ignores facts and just takes positions on whim, prejudice, and vested interests.

        1. No whim or prejudice there Patrick, only vested interest…just look at the size of the bloke’s puku!

    1. Yep they evaluated a couple of elevated routes including elevated bus routes but they didn’t make the cut for various reasons. All up 46 options were initially considered.

  12. The CCFAS is not a business case. It’s a comparison of the merits of different options. I mean for crying out loud it includes the $5b Harbour Crossing project in the do minimum!!!

  13. Absolutely correct, as usual, Mr Anderson. It’s just deeply unfortunate for the proponents of intelligent transport options in Auckland that Brownlee’s political advisers have decided this is yet another opportunity to rubbish the CRL and to push the ‘let’s not go down the PT route because we don’t have to if we build our RoNPs’ scenario. The media will do the rest.

  14. “Outlining clearly that ‘do nothing’ is not a credible option. Most bus routes to the city centre will be overloaded by 2021 and traffic speeds are modelled to halve from 16 kph to 8 kph. ”

    If they havent looked at road pricing then this statement is meaningless.

    1. You completely miss the point swan. The point of this study is to work out the best way to move people into the city centre to support the expected employment growth in it. Road pricing is a means of managing a resource but it isn’t magically going to allow twice as many people to get transported by that resource. At best it would make PT more viable for many more people which will then choke the existing PT investment even sooner than predicted making the case for the CRL stronger. At worst it would prevent growth in the city and that would have severe economic impacts not just for the city centre but for the whole economy

      1. “Road pricing is a means of managing a resource but it isn’t magically going to allow twice as many people to get transported by that resource.”

        Its not magic, it is just basic logic. A vehicle with 40 people will have a much higher “willingness to pay” than a vehicle with 1. By pricing the resource it is used more efficiently.

      2. I think Swan’s point is that road pricing would reduce the number of private vehicles entering the city centre and hence reduce congestion, which in turn would make it possible to have fully dedicated bus lanes in the city centre without creating grid-lock. So road pricing would effectively remove most of the issues attributed to the bus-based options.

        And I think he’s right – except that the point is somewhat redundant because AC/AT/NZTA/MoT have (unfortunately) not expressed a commitment to road pricing. In this context (i.e. “no road pricing”) it seems that the CRL may be the best second best policy response, assuming that the eventual business case finds a BCR greater than one.

      3. Doesn’t that scenario kind of rely on hiking the price up so much that we actually reduce the number of people coming into the city centre and therefore encourage employment dispersal which undermines the agglomeration benefits that Auckland so desperately needs from its CBD?

        1. Oh and also remember that CRL’s cost-benefit ratio is only below 1 because a stupidly high discount rate and stupidly short evaluation period are used. More realistic parameters for those results in a fairly respectable BCR of 1.7.

  15. Again you are missing the point. It sounds like you agree that road pricing would push more people to PT. That for most would mean buses but the problem is that the streets won’t be able to handle the number of buses needed.

    Stu – The discussion of gridlock is perhaps distracting from the real problem which is getting enough people into town while also remembering that we are trying to make a much more walkable city. Having a couple of streets which are effectively a wall of buses doesn’t help towards that.

    1. Why wouldn’t the streets be able to handle the buses needed? The CCFAS report certainly doesn’t address this question, it is assuming no road pricing, and therefore a city centre with a large number of private vehicles with only one or two occupants. There is a lot of road space in the city centre, and most of it is currently being used by private vehicles at peak times.

      Re a more walkable city – even with the CRL all of the reports seem to agree the streets will be clogged with vehicles in the future. So it is hard to see how a road pricing scenario is any worse on this than what is being proposed.

      1. Why wouldn’t the streets be able to handle the bus options, this is from the report.

        The options best meet the needs of those travelling from the North Shore. They also improve access from the central and southern Isthmus. However, the options reach capacity very quickly. In most cases, the infrastructure investment buys only three to five years of extra capacity after the currently funded bus network improvements with most services at capacity by 2025 and nearly all by 2030. By requiring road space used by general traffic, the surface bus options also significantly degrade vehicle speeds for private motor vehicles, freight and commercial vehicles in the City Centre, making them worse than the Balanced Reference Case ( is worse for private vehicles compared to doing nothing). A significant amount of additional residential and commercial property is also required to provide the regional approach corridors for SB2 and the bus marshalling / staging areas within the City Centre.

        1. Table 3-10 has the following data on current trips to the city centre in the morning peak:

          39100 person trips by private vehicle. 23400 by bus.

          Lets assume (because I dont have time to find any actual stats) that there are 2 people per vehicle. That equates to circa 20,000 private vehicles. Lets look at a future equilibrium scenario where pricing is being used to allocate road space:

          Lets say private vehicles drop to 10000 so, 20000 fewer private vehicle commuters.
          Lets say this allows 2000 additional buses at 40 pax/bus so 80000 additional bus commuters

          Thats an additional capacity of 80k – 20k = 60k. Which is a fairly substantial increase in trips and more than that anticipated by the CRL option – and with no additional congestion unlike the CRL option which has huge increases in vehicle traffic into the CBD.

          Now I am not saying the numbers above are correct, although they look reasonable to me as a back of envelope calc. But this is what the CCFAS should have looked at – as it is one of the most OBVIOUS solutions to access issues to the city centre.

        2. Bus operational requirements are totally different to that of cars. Buses operate on corridors, with regular stops, not continuously moving like cars. So buses can not replace cars 5 to 1. Also buses will want to all pass reasonably close to the centre while a proportion of cars will stick to the fringe if thats where the jobs are.
          Of course you totally ignore what will happen to these buses outside the CBD. They will be caught in traffic congestion crawling alongside rail corridors where crush loading trains would be leaving people at platforms trying to get a quicker ride into town.
          For example the South Eastern busway would have to be extended to the CBD to get decent ride for these commuters as trains at Panmure would be full of people from Papakura and Manurewa.
          Agreed though it is strange that car traffic is proposed to increase. I thought this study was supposed to be aligned with Central City masterplan which foresees a reduction in traffic.

        3. Luke C, I realise my quick analysis does not do the topic justice. Perhaps buses really couldnt do the job even if they were given every inch of ashphalt in the city. But my point is that noone has yet actually answered this question.

          What I think is beyond dispute is that road pricing could significantly improve the efficiency of the existing road network (both within and beyond the CBD). So it is a topic that fundamentally affects the issues that the CCFAS is apparently trying to address. And yet we have instead got a very lengthy and expensive report that does not address the affects of road pricing AT ALL. So the report pretty much useless for policy in my opinion.

        4. Swan, I don’t think it’s fair to suggest the CCFAS report is “useless” because it does not “consider” road pricing. In fact, a study like this cannot, on its own, consider road pricing; it’s well beyond their scope.

          Decisions about road pricing need to be made by publicly accountable officials and identified in strategic planning documents, i.e. in the Auckland Plan. Once such a political decision is taken then it would feed into the “base case” for technical studies such as the CCFAS. Put another way, decisions on road pricing should not be made at the level of studies such as the CCFAS.

          What the CCFAS report does suggest, usefully, is that even with major capacity improvements (road/rail/bus), travel speeds in city centre look set to deteriorate in the future. This finding seems, to me, to be an ideal catalyst for re-starting the road pricing debate in Auckland. It also suggests that, within this specific context, the CRL provides the best “second-best’ intervention.

          So the CCFAS report is useful for policy purposes, because it tells us what we should do in the event that 1) we do not embrace road pricing and 2) want the city centre to keep growing. It also tells us what you and I both agree on – that at some point soon road pricing in Auckland is a no-brainer, irrespective of how much expensive infrastructure we build in the interim.

        5. Stu,

          I here what you are saying. I guess I am not blaming the bureaucrats and consults who worked on the report, as the politicians who I presume ultimately set the terms of reference for these things. They have ignored road pricing whilst going through this process.

          But yes, you are right the CCFAS makes it abundantly clear that road pricing is absolutely necessary if we want to improve the amenity of the city centre.

    2. It’s about options though really isn’t it? The CRL gives the city a transport option which doesn’t impact on the street network and means that it’s much easier to wind back on roading capacity, minimise the number of buses and also introduce a road pricing scheme.

      Places where road pricing schemes have been successfully introduced generally have extremely high PT modeshares already (central London is something like 95%) so relatively few people are affected and you don’t end up with perverse outcomes like employment decentralisation. I feel that Auckland probably needs something like CRL in place and a much higher PT modeshare (generated by CRL) before we will realistically be able to introduce road pricing.

      1. “The CRL gives the city a transport option which doesn’t impact on the street network and means that it’s much easier to wind back on roading capacity, minimise the number of buses and also introduce a road pricing scheme.”

        That might be true but it is not what the CCFAS envisages. They envisage an increase in private vehicle commuters between now and 2041 of 37% and additional bus commuters of 30% – that is WITH the CRL. You may well envisage a scenario where the city centre is a pedestrian paradise and 100k people are being pumped into the city via rail, but the CCFAS doesnt appear to suggest the CRL option will look anything like this.

        1. Traffic planners seem to be like economists; they tend to get carried away with their models, and can lose sight of the fact that they are just that, models, and therefore reflect the biases of the modlers. In this case because of the involvement of the private car obsessed government agencies [NZTA, MoT, Treasury] and the fact that the local ones [AT, AC] are desperately trying to please an even more car obsessed government with this work, the CCFAS may well turn out to be wrong about those car numbers. We’ll have to build the CRL to find out, eh?

          But then you, Swan in your comments here, are obsessed with road pricing, and it is reasonable to ask what for? Not meaning to be rude about your interest but rather to ask what is the end point you feel this will achieve? Because it seems to me that you promote it as end in itself, what, because of its theoretical purity?

          I have no particular objection to the idea in theory, but it does seem clear that Auckland is so mono-modal that to price say vehicle entry into the central city as in London, would simply be a way to tax economic activity there, and therefore to limit its vitality. Is this your aim? I guess not, but because of the absence of effective alternatives to driving that the CRL and say another line to the North Shore would bring, I don’t see what else a barrier charge could possibly achieve.

          So perhaps then you imagine a network charge say on the motorways? Well other than the same problem, a lack of fully joined up other modes [currently] I think the obvious answer to that is that that is pretty similar to what we have now. The FED and RUC is road pricing in an all-network way, kinda blunt, but nonetheless the more you drive the more you pay….. and pretty efficient too, very easy to collect….. Just that we are spending it all in such a terribly imbalanced way right now- but that’s another discussion.

        2. It’s an interesting question to ask “what are you trying to achieve with road pricing?”

          – Reduce congestion?
          – Avoid additional infrastructure spending?
          – Environmental outcomes?
          – Grow public transport patronage?
          – Economic purism?
          – Raise money for spending on extra infrastructure?

          Arguably each potential goal leads itself to a slightly different variety of possible road pricing options, so interesting to take things back to basics and have a good think about what’s the aim.

        3. Yeah the fact that the transport modelling suggests that even with CRL built there will be many more cars trying to enter the city centre at peak times than there are now, even though we’ve had a reduction of 6,000 vehicles entering the CBD in the AM peak over the past 10 years suggests that the transport modelling is bullshit.

    3. Traffic congestion isn’t neccessarily bad if you want to create a walkable city. The worst thing for walkable cities is the infrastructure historically built to handle that congestion, such as roads that are far too wide, anti pedestrian phasing, grade separation and one way systems. However having vehicles crawl around the city creates decent street environments, i.e. roads that are easier to cross. This is much better than cars racing along Nelson/Hobson etc. Of course it would be better to have less cars. Therefore I’m in favour of traffic calming methods in the city like road narrowing that will increase congestion but increase walkability. These will result in a more attractive downtown, and therefore more people.

  16. Personally I think that road pricing, bus improvements, CRL, and possible light metro will all eventually be required to accommodate Auckland’s future growth. The only question is one of timing/priority – and my preference would be for the low hanging fruit to be implemented first, e.g. road pricing and bus improvements (which like the CRL we know are required anyway).

    For all the talk of congestion we know that there are 15% fewer vehicles entering the city centre now compared to just a decade ago. So it’s not clear to me that incremental bus improvements in the city centre, e.g. Wellesley and Fanshawe/Customs Street will be as problematic as predicted by the models used in CCFAS. And road pricing would, I imagine be applied more widely than just the city centre, so would free up capacity for buses across the road network, i.e. it’s not clear to me that major bus capacity improvements outside of the city centre would be necessary.

    None of this is to detract from the CRL – I think it’s definitely needed, although would prefer we bit the bullet and went for light metro operations ;). But that’s a discussion for another day …

  17. I am a remote observer from the US. My greatest “claim to fame” is working with one of the original planners of the Washington DC Metro system on a Phase II. The incomplete results are here –

    The way to reduce tunneling costs is to use just one TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) and run it as long as needed to do the entire project (assuming that the tunnels are not lined behind the TBM, so that it cannot back up).

    One thought. Start the TBM on the western railhead and drill towards Britomart. Once the first tunnel is completed, add track (no stations yet) and have one way traffic through Britomart while the second tunnel and stations are completed. An early increase in capacity with project completion prolonged.

    Lack of local knowledge always suggestions from afar prone to faults.

    Best Hopes,

    Alan Drake

    1. I’m not sure how many TBMs AT plan to use for the CRL. I know for the Waterview tunnel they are using just one TBM. Matt probably knows.

      Otherwise I agree, if one tunnel is finished earlier start using it. The same applies for Waterview.

      Of course the CRL is partly cut and cover, so if that part isn’t done when the first tunnel is bored it could be an issue.

      1. My understanding is as follows. Britomart to Aotea, including the Aotea station will be built using cut and cover. From Aotea to just south of Newton there will be two tunnels dug by a TBM and then it will be cut and cover back out to the existing line. I believe the plan is to use use one TBM which would be driven from the southern end to Aotea where it would then be pulled back up the hill to the initial launching point where it would be started again on the other tunnel. The K Rd and Newton stations will be dug by increasing the bore of the TBM (I think) so it is big enough for the platforms but each station track would effectively only have a side platform which will be connected to each other by a connecting tunnel and a shaft to the surface. I believe it is being done this way as the ground isn’t strong enough for the platforms at K Rd and Newton to be a single cavern and the only option to do so would be to dig the whole station box out from the surface which would require a massive hole.

        There is a bit of info about some of the challenges here

        1. “Our reviewers raised a total of 32 issues some of which were very “big picture” (for example could a single track with passing loops at stations be considered?)!!!!!!!!!!!!
          Seriously, who are these people!

    2. Nice to see you commenting Here Alan, still expanding that DC system? Light Rail [in particular] seems to be blossoming all over the States, even in some of the poster cities for sprawl in the south west like Houston. Are you involved with any of them?

  18. Patrick, only in New Orleans, my home.

    A comparable to what is proposed here are the RER lines in Paris. Connect up two commuter rail lines on either side with a subway. RER #1 is the busiest rail line outside of East Asia. May I suggest including that example. Ridership is WAY over projections.

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