On the topic of the Congestion Free Network, we frequently get asked what we would do about the roading network, and what projects we would change to go along with our proposal. We have said before that we think there is still a need for some roading projects during the same time period, and that we think there will be plenty of budget (over and above what we are spending on the CFN) to allow for the best parts of the roading network to be built. However, with this post, I want to take this further and see just what we could pare the roading aspects back to.
Our financial analysis of the Congestion Free Network notes that the CFN will cost about $10b to construct between now and 2030. However, that’s actually slightly less than 40% of the $34 billion that the Integrated Transport Programme proposes to spend on new transport projects over that same time period. Here are the projects and associated costs outlined in the ITP:
The colour coding is also important, because the ITP looks out to 2040 whereas the CFN only relates to what happens up to 2030 (for now).
We have worked through the project list outlined above to suggest what changes could be made to this package of projects to better align with the CFN. At this stage, our analysis is just at a very preliminary level for many projects. However, for a number of key projects, our analysis is based on many of the posts made on this blog in recent months and years, which have commented on the merits of different transport projects. As noted in what we’ve said previously about the CFN, our intention is to suggest a realistic alternative to what’s in the ITP, and also to ensure that we optimise all kinds of projects to ensure that they deliver value for money. For example, we’ve made some big savings from doing rapid transit to the airport differently to what’s in the ITP.
What becomes quite clear from this process is that there are extremely few occasions where we have completely removed a project from what’s in the ITP. Instead, we have often decreased the amount of money we think should be spent on that particular project – because what has been suggested is ‘overkill’ for the problem actually faced. Doing Operation Lifesaver instead of Puhoi-Wellsford is perhaps the best, but certainly not the only, example of this.
A few other important things to consider are:
- The ITP numbers appear to have made a couple of pretty massive numerical errors – in relation to the costing of AMETI and the Albany Highway upgrade. We have noted these and would love Auckland Transport to provide us with the correct figures – we’ve taken a bit of a ‘stab in the dark’ in the absence of this information.
- For “Auckland wide” projects, we’ve had to think about the extent of what’s in the ITP that would be spent before 2030. Our feeling is that a fairly large chunk of the greenfields expenditure would be post 2030 and a reasonable proportion of the “other urban arterials” would as well. For greenfield areas, this is based on the assumption that the Auckland Plan did not expect much growth in these areas until after 2020 (as there are areas like Flat Bush & Hobsonville to develop in the meanwhile and planning completely new areas does take time), plus our general belief that changing demographics and trends may mean less demand for living on the urban periphery than has been anticipated. For other urban arterials, we note that many arterial upgrades are specifically identified in the project list, so the “general” fund appear likely to come as a next phase of projects. Nevertheless, to be conservative, we’ve suggested that 65% of region-wide project expenditure will occur by 2030.
So let’s start with the roading projects:
The headline figure is that we’re able to get expenditure on roading projects down from $21.7 billion to $7 billion – a pretty massive decrease. But perhaps what surprised us the most in doing this exercise was just how easy it was. Often we really don’t even think we’re being harsh in many ways – for example:
- We still do Penlink, although only two lanes and not four lanes;
- We still do AMETI as currently planned;
- We do an even more significant version of the Lake Road upgrade (to enable high quality bus provision);
- We still do the key parts of the SH1 upgrade south of Manukau;
- We still do many of the smaller arterial road upgrade projects as planned (e.g. Pukekohe Eastern arterial, Tiverton-Wolverton, Albany Highway and many others).
The main areas where we’ve saved money come from a variety of locations, where we really think that we’re cutting out the poor value aspects of many projects yet still doing what makes sense:
- Only grade separating the SH20A Kirkbride Road interchange, and not widening all of SH20A. With a railway line to the Airport we certainly won’t need to widen the motorway – plus the Airport’s own roads seem like the choke point here. Almost $200m saved here.
- Not four-laning from the Airport to Manukau via SH20B. As per above, if we build rapid transit (we suggest a busway, costs in the PT section to come) along this route then we don’t need to widen the existing road. This saves $235m.
- Pulling the ‘East West Link’ back to being a more sensible project, rather than the community-destroying monstrosity options being looked at right now. Truck lanes on Neilson Street and a few clever tweaks to motorway access for around $150m are likely to deliver most of the benefits of a much more expensive project. This saves close to half a billion dollars.
- Doing Operation Lifesaver instead of Puhoi-Wellsford. This saves about $1.4b.
- Building rail to the North Shore instead of the stupid road crossing. This saves nearly $2b.
- Suggesting some significantly cheaper options for upgrades to Great South Road. Goodness knows why we supposedly need to spend nearly a billion dollars on three sections of this road between Penrose and Manukau. This saves nearly $800m.
- Significant savings from greenfield areas and other arterials – as described above for greenfield areas, and also because we think that based on the huge numbers for Great South Road projects the other arterial costs are also likely to be overblown.
So clearly we’ve saved a lot of money out of the future roading budget. But how much of that do we shift across to public transport and how much is just “not necessary” – and therefore can go towards closing the supposed ‘funding gap‘?
At a high level, the CFN proposes to spend just over $1 billion more on public transport before 2030 than what is proposed in the ITP. It’s just a little more on things like a SH16 busway, and a little less due to changes like a busway instead of rail between Manukau and the Airport.
Now let’s put these all together for a comparison:
So, overall, the CFN is nearly $14 billion cheaper than what’s outlined in the ITP over the same time period – and this is with North Shore Rail included. If you were to push North Shore rail out to beyond 2030, (which we’re reluctant to do but agree it’s one of the latest parts of the CFN built) then the CFN is $17 billion cheaper than what’s in the ITP. Which means the funding gap is gone.
The CFN also has more of a balance between funding public transport and roading – with a 42% roads, 58% PT funding split. This compares to the ITP proposing to spend 72% of its capital on roads and only 28% on public transport. I guess the key point is that we can actually afford a high quality PT system and it can be done without having to drastically cut against road building. Instead, the roading programme would focus on smaller network tweaks, rather than road projects which are massive in scale. It’s also worth noting that this is just one suggested approach to dealing with the problem; some of you might have different ideas and would like to see certain projects at the expense of others.