So I attended the councils release of the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) today and came away pretty happy with the outcome. Within a few hours though that happiness ground away due to the governments head in the sand response to the study. This post will look at the announcement from the council and response from the government. First though a quick  recap on the history that got us to this point so far.

  • In November 2010, shortly after forming, the Council/Auckland Transport released the initial business case for the CRL which had started under the previous local body setup.
  • In May 2011 both the government and council released their own ‘independent’ reviews of the business case that had vastly different outcomes.
  • In July 2011 this was followed up with a letter from transport minister at the time Steven Joyce which started the process that led to the CCFAS. You can read that letter here.
  • In December 2011, after working with officials from various government agencies, Len sent a letter to new transport minister Gerry Brownlee outlining what had been happening with the CRL and included the scope for the CCFAS. You can read it here.
  • In February 2012, Gerry Brownlee responded to the previously mentioned letter. I will cover that in more detail soon but you can also read it here.

So lets break down Gerry’s press release

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.

“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.

“Completion of the Western Ring Route in 2017 will also draw many thousands of traffic movements away from the CBD, yet none of these major transport corridors is explored in detail.

It was made stressed time and time again at the mayors press release that this study had not only be done by the Council/Auckland Transport but that senior officials from the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury were deeply involved in agreeing on the assumptions, options and outcomes of the study. In fact SKM who completed the report say this:

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 partiesto proceed to the next stage of the Study

The Feb 2011 letter from Gerry also states quite clearly that he was comfortable with the scope of the project.

The letter even goes on to state how he is concerned that AT are trying to complete the study to quickly and that he wanted the timeline extended to ensure the it was done properly. It is very odd that he would now question the scope when both he and his officials, who were involved all the way through the process, were happy with it. As for there not being a broader review of options, how many does he want, the study investigated 46 different options as a way of providing improved access to the city centre. The options included pretty much every bus option known to man along with the wacky elevated rail option, light rail, an elevated bus options and it even looked at PRT.

The press release also talks about the benefit cost ratio:

“With a modelled benefit cost ratio of just 44 cents in the dollar, the benefits of the CRL are nowhere near the cost of building it.

“That benefit cost ratio looks decidedly questionable when you take into account the report’s assumed employment growth of 46 per cent in the Auckland city centre over the next 10 years, compared with actual growth of only 18 per cent in the previous decade.

The whole point of the study wasn’t about produces a cost benefit ratio to justify the project but to look at the range of options and assess them using the same criteria with the BCR indicating which one performs best. The results of this study are then to be fed into a comprehensive new business case to work out what the actual benefit is. He also questions the level of growth but once again, the government agencies involved agreed to this number and from memory the 46% employment growth was over the 30 year lifespan of this study but I will have to go and check this. Further we were told that the assumptions used in this study were the mid growth forecasts from Statistics NZ which is in comparison to the high growth scenario that was envisaged as part of the Auckland Plan

I am left with the feeling that this outcome means one or more of the following:

  • That the government has just completely rubbished the work of staff within their own agencies showing they don’t have a high regard for them.
  • That the government agencies have deliberately worked to sabotage the study by agreeing to assumptions and options that they knew they could challenge later
  • That the government has its head so far up its ideological backside that it can’t see daylight.

I tend to think it is the latter option.


“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.”

So what are those options Gerry. Your officials have been deeply involved with this study so unless they lied during the months of involvement they had with it, why would they come up with any different options.

I imagine that staff at the various agencies (and SKM) who have worked their arses off to produce this study will be feeling pretty deflated tonight. We will be doing some more detailed posts looking at the study over the coming days.

Note: Auckland Transport has also provided some clarification, likely in response to the governments statement, some of which is similar to what is said above.

  • The reference base case included all transport projects in the Auckland Plan including the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing, Waterview, SH16 and Puhoi to Wellsford and the Study therefore represents a best case scenario of the problems of access.
  • The Study provides a comparative assessment of options which were agreed with Central Government. The Benefit Cost Ratios (BCRs) reflect the comparative benefit of the options; they are not a business case evaluation.
  • The Study used Statistics New Zealand medium population growth projections agreed between local government and the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury.
  • The models used to inform the Study are the same as those used on a number of major projects such as Puhoi to Wellsford, Waterview and the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing.
  • The comparative BCR assessment took into account the assessment of Wider Economic Benefits (WEBs) as is common practice for large infrastructure projects. If these WEBs are excluded, the comparative BCR for the City Rail Link option would still be more than four times better than the next option of surface bus.
  • The Study considered a total of 46 options including light rail, mobility pods, ferries and multiple bus and rail options. They were refined using multi criteria analysis to reach agreement among central and local government agencies about those shortlisted.
  • The Study was designed to select the best option, not to justify funding. The next step in this process is a detailed business case in which the options will be optimised and the fundability of the project fully worked through in a considered manner.
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  1. Seems like the only option insane enough to not be included was the “roads only” option Gerry wants. Because of course it’s easy peasy to double the width of the Southern and Northwestern Motorways – the kind of capacity increase that would be needed to provide a fraction of what CRL can achieve.

    Maybe the next step is for Auckland Transport to look at a “roads only” option just for fun just to show how stupid it would be.

  2. I find the CBD jobs growth forecast fascinating. Increasing CBD jobs is very important to reduce sprawl, rather than providing low rise industrial park offices for these jobs.
    It is much cheaper infrastructure wise for these jobs to be in CBD as much cheaper and easier to provide public transport for jobs located in major nodes. Spending a few billion on CBD access is a bargain compared to spending billions on extra suburban motorways to serve the future Highbrooks. As the previous post shows Westgate is already hopeless congested, and that is supposed to be one of the next major job growth centers!
    Of course then there are the agglomeration benefits of CBD jobs, and fit much better with higher density living than fringe jobs.

  3. I forgot to add. I suspect the government asked for the CCFAS thinking it would kill the CRL but it backfired when their officials looked at it properly and realised its the only option.

  4. “The Study was designed to select the best option, not to justify funding. The next step in this process is a detailed business case in which the options will be optimised and the fundability of the project fully worked through in a considered manner.”

    Isnt the do nothing option the best option on the table though? It has a BCR of 1.

  5. “That benefit cost ratio looks decidedly questionable when you take into account the report’s assumed employment growth of 46 per cent in the Auckland city centre over the next 10 years, compared with actual growth of only 18 per cent in the previous decade”

    That same argument could be used for any of the RoNS but using traffic volumes instead of employment.

    1. So what if it is 46% in the next ten years compared to 18% in the last ten? Is growth increasing two and a half times faster in the next decade than the tardy last one such a strange prediction, when the change in trend to recentralisation is so apparent in Auckland and cities around the world?

      1. This buffoon neither understands cities nor what makes them succeed or fail economically, and he’s distracted by smashing as much of the county’s second one as he can….

        Which reminds me: Auckland is growing by 30 000 people a year now. by 2041, without anything changing it will have grown by more than the entire city of Christchurch, by more than 700 000. And that’s the middle range of estimates. Why are we spending billions on motorways and ugly flyovers in a stagnant Wellington when it is clear where the need is?

  6. Brownlie now claiming that yet to happen innovation and new stuff will save the day and make the central rail link redundant. The skill with which Brownlie, Joyce, English, Collins, Key etc live in a fact free world of complete delusion is both fascinating and frightening.

    1. Gerry should tell London all that money spent on Crossrail and the Overground upgrade could be saved as in thirty years only a few poor people that cannot afford “the internet” will commute. Which would also mean we would not need many roads? In fact, they should let nearly every large city (Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney etc) know that their public transport infrastructure spend is not required. Very scary.

    2. Internet (and jet packs of course :-)). I’ve been hearing these things since I was at school in the 70’s. While the internet has made work from home a valid choice for some, the majority still have to, or indeed choose to, go into the office.

    1. I’m not surprised in the slightest, this government is merely showing once again that they are probably the most incompetent set of fools ever to run the country.

        1. I suggest “self-deluded” – living in a bubble of self-selected facts, like the US Republicans were. You see this with John Key happily disregarding expert advice with the excuse that if you ask five experts you get six opinions. Basically these people are neoliberals, and neoliberalism disapproves of science because it suggests that there are limits to the power of “leadership” and “willpower” to get things done. So they’re basically science deniers, which is why they get on well with other science deniers like religious fundamentalists.

          Tl;dr: they think the private car SHOULD be the answer, therefore it IS in their little world.

  7. So do all of “the Ministry of Transport, Treasury, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport” have no confidence in the transport minister?

    That’s what I am reading from today’s events, and if it is true, why is he still transport minister?

    John Key please explain.

    1. Yes, it would be nice for someone to write a response to the Minister from his own officials. The funny thing is that all the CCFAS showed is that the CRL was the best option considered: It did not suggest that there was a strong business case for it, which is the next step.

      The ideological stripes of the Government were made clear from the way that have placed this project under a microscope, while signed off billions of dollars on white elephant RONS that have terrible BCRs.

      They can’t say “but the BCRs don’t matter” and then turn around and say the CRL should not be built because it has a low BCR.

    2. Yeah amusing how Gerry is so fond of saying “BCRs really don’t matter, if they did the Harbour Bridge would never have been built” then slam CRL for supposedly having a low BCR.

      Note that CCFAS says that the BCR for CRL is actually 1.7 once you use a more realistic discount rate and a 60 year (more common internationally) evaluation period. But key point is that CCFAS was never designed to “justify” CRL, but to look at the problem in more detail and analyse the merits of different ways of solving the problem. Now that CRL is clearly the winner, presumably AT/AC will get on with preparing a detailed business case for it.

      1. If only big motorway projects were subjected to this intense level of scrutiny too… especially the proposed $5billion nightmare across the harbour. Perhaps this process is just the precedent we need in order to insist on it?

        1. I’m with Patrick- execute the 3rd Waitemata Crossing Proposal, dump the corpse in front of the Road Transport Forum offices and burn the head on a disused motorway ramp.

          Then spend the $5BN on the CRL, some trams and a street party. Dammit, I’ll organise the transport funding

        2. Considering how far $5 billion would get us wit the CRL and some trams, you must be planning one hell of a party!

  8. The minister needs to read & comprehend section 7.2. The media should quote it in response to his press release, so as to provide balance.
    7.2 Increasing car capacity
    Increasing the capacity for private vehicle access to the CBD is not considered to be realistic, given that significant additional road and parking space would be required. This would be detrimental to public transport capacity and reduce the number of people that could access the CBD, which is counter to the objectives of this study.
    No headline car based option needs to be considered.

  9. “We’re sending him to the moon by the end of the decade?”

    Too much mass; he’d be taking up the space&weight and consuming the food&air of three. Unquestionably a negative BCR.

    However if it was to be a one way trip the BCR would surely improve astronomically. Funding wouldn’t be an issue; we’d all happily chip in to be rid of his ovesized ass and undersized intellect.

  10. I think I’ve figured out the option that Brownlee thought the CCFAS should have considered but didn’t: relocation of the CBD to Wellsford. All of the government’s transport planning would make sense then.

  11. I struggle to see how (Gerry:) “Completion of the Western Ring Route in 2017 will also draw many thousands of traffic movements away from the CBD,’

    It may draw some north south *through* traffic off the harbour bridge, but that will just release capacity for more traffic that wants to *enter* the CBD,

    His comment fudges this issue by using the ambiguous phrase ‘away from the CBD’

      1. I’m very sure if the future harbour crossing was included in the 2041 scenario, that the completed WRR would be included in the 2021 scenario. This is just plain incompetence, or blatantly lying. It is clear that Brownlees ministerial political staff must have done all this work discrediting the report.

  12. Time to go fishing: here is OIA I just sent.
    “I would like to request any correspondence between your office, and any other Government agency or employee (including internal office communication) regarding the CCFAS, that was made after receiving either a draft, or final version of the CCFAS study released on 14/12/12.”

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