At the 2014 Election Transport Debate organised by the Campaign for Better Transport I was charged with summarising our Congestion Free Network as an introduction to the candidate’s speeches. Here is that short speech:

What is the CFN?

The CFN is a deeply considered answer to the question of how Auckland, our only city of scale, can best compete at all levels this century.

It is a world class Rapid Transit Network to go with our world class Highway Network.

1. It is designed for maximum economic efficiency; evaluating capital costs, operating costs, and long term value. It is a fully integrated top tier network; using busways where they are best option and extending the existing rail network where that adds more value, and ferries where they offer their particular advantage.

2. It builds on what we already have; it extends and complements our existing systems. It is the key to getting the highest value from earlier investments, especially our widespread road and highway networks. And it unlocks hidden capacity in the existing legacy rail network, and enhances its operational efficiency. It is about working our physical infrastructure harder and smarter as the city grows.

3. It facilitates better quality of urban form and supports higher quality of life and therefore the international competitiveness of the city, the nation’s gateway. It also complements the growth in Active travel; cycling and walking.

4. It greatly strengthens the city’s resilience through diversifying movement options in ways that are consistent with changes in technology and social trends and helps protect the city’s functionality against shocks in price or supply of imported fuels.

5. It greatly enhances freedom and choice for businesses, residents, and visitors alike. It supports the entire city, not just inner areas, including future growth areas on the urban fringe. It will make the choice to not partake in congestion in Auckland a truly viable one for more people, at more times, and for more trips.

It essentially is the answer to the question of what is needed next?

And it is not just a ‘nice to have’ but rather a carefully costed and highest value complement to the last sixty years of investment in motorways. It will unlock the motorway system for higher value users, in particular freeing it up for its vital role in the freight supply chain. In short to gain the next level of value from the urban state highways we need to invest away from them to keep them flowing efficiently. It also is what is needed to gain the agglomeration economies that flow from city shaped development.

And wonderfully It does not require anything other than a reprioritising of projects already identified for Auckland, and is achievable well within existing budgets. It takes no money away from other parts of the country’s transport share nor is it dependent on novel sources of revenue. It does however require an understanding that Auckland is at a new stage of development. One that requires more than just the single mode of movement and therefore while maintaining the existing road systems, investment in new infrastructure must be strongly directed to completing and optimising the missing modes. And this programme shows just how within reach this is.

In short it’s genius.

But because of how we control our transport spending it does need government to be willing to partner the city in investing differently than we have been. Nothing short of the success of our biggest city and the level of its contribution to the whole nation is at stake.

5.CFN v ITP cost

Starting with where Auckland’s nascent Rapid Transit network will be once the current upgrade of the legacy rail network is complete, the following maps show, in broad terms, how we can efficiently leverage off this resource to build a world quality and right sized extremely efficient Rapid Transit Network for Auckland over 15 years. Please note this only shows the top tier, separate right of way and high frequency Rapid Network. It is supported by and integrated with the New Bus Network, and other services. And of course it is designed to complement and operate separately from our widespread driving systems. Freeing them up for more efficient use.

CFN 2015

CFN 2020

CFN 2025

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

For more detail on each route see under Our Proposals above.

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  1. If a transport programme (CFN) can save $ 9 billion of taxpayer money and achieve a better outcome than the ITP, any government would be absolutely bonkers not to look very carefully at the detail. Potential savings of that magnitude should make a rapid reassessment absolutely mandatory and a scandal if the reassessment is not undertaken very promptly. It is not acceptable for Gerry Brownlee to bat away the penetrating questions I have heard Julie Anne Genter very legitimately ask in Parliament. He has to do better in Parliament and was certainly not impressive at the recent Transport Debate at the Ellen Melville Hall.

  2. “In short it’s genius.”

    C’mon guys. This isn’t genius, it’s actually pretty mundane, logical and straightforward. It might appear genius relative to the status quo, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that dumping billions on urban motorways isn’t going to achieve much but more congestion.

  3. Two points:

    1) I see the Avondale – Onehunga line is missed out all completely(apart from the short line to Mt Roskill), even though it has been on the plans since the 1930’s for Auckland. It would serve passengers and freight (from Northland). Any reason why?

    2) I see the simple, low cost and simple to implement extension to the services to Kumeu/Huapai/Waimauku is missing still.

    Overall, it’s a great concept and one that needs to be fully investigated, if Auckland residents want it. I hope like myself, they do!

    1. In both cases a freight route doesn’t necessarily make for a good passenger route. Also we’ve taken into account what’s actually possible to build over that time e.g. we don’t think it’s practical to build rail access to the airport from both Onehunga and Manukau over that time – or at least that money is better used elsewhere.

      In the SAL the section from Dominion Rd to Onehunga is going to be either really expensive and/or really disruptive to the local community (regardless of the designation existing. That section can happen later if needed. Also the designation goes north of Onehunga so not easy to make it useful. Passenger volumes not likely to make it with the cost in the timeframe we’ve set.

      For Kumeu there isn’t enough demand for trips to Henderson or New Lynn only. Most trips are better off using services that would use the NW busway which is needed for other areas anyway

    2. The existence of a designation doesn’t prove the utility of a route. After all there is still a designation for a highway from Panmure to the city…!

      I for one am not clear of what passenger running pattern would be served by linking Onehunga to Mt Roskill, sure there are a few but none that I can see that justify the enormous cost required to climb the elevation.

      However the addition of a branch line from the western at low cost would 1. Help balance the network north/south and enable the addition of services to the inner western line. 2. Offer much of the value of this designation at a fraction of the capital cost. 3. Relieve bus services from the area and especially down Dom Rd. 4. Take cars off the road by expanding the reach of the network efficiently.

      Remember ours is not a rail only programme but an integrated mode blind network. High capital cost rail extensions are only included where they offer particular advantages over alternatives, especially where they can be expected to increase operating efficiency of the whole network. Our analysis shows that we expect the resulting tight two track Auckland Metro to operate at world class cost recovery for a driver operated system. Lean as.

      I assume that electrification will eventually extend north of Swanson at some later date but only if the proposed population increases in that direction materialise. Or even the possibility of running hybrid battery/catenary units may work out even better? More urgent in our view is the construction of a NW busway to these areas.

    3. There is an Avondale-Onehunga line, and a Kumeu line. They are bus lines on the New Network.

      The question is what is the value of upgrading them to rail lines, and is that a good use of scarce budget? Or are there much bigger fish to fry first?

  4. Support the CFN in principal but I’m wondering if anyone from your team could expand on how you priced your projects? The website is a bit vague when it comes to the costing but it seems like that’s what the hat is being hung on.

    1. All costs come either from official documents like the ITP or in the very few cases where they don’t exist in there they are based on the costs of similar recent projects

    1. It’s the Integrated Transport Plan. The sum of all the previous council’s plans, plus a whole lot of other stuff lobbied for by the likes of Chamber of Commerce (east west project) and others.

      The current official plan.

      1. That’s the thing that perhaps disappoints me the most about how we’ve developed over the last 50 years, that even though we saw other cities turning away from auto-centric planning we didn’t even bother to reserve right of ways which would have made implementation much easier.
        As an example look at this from Calgary where you can easily see the ROW accounted for when future greenfield development happens

  5. I really love this idea and it’s awesome to see it gaining political traction with the hope of funding to follow. As you point out, it’s cheaper, smarter and the spinoff benefits compared to the status quo are huge!

  6. Having been to Sydney last week I’ve got all sorts of idea’s to share so watch out over the next couple of weeks!

    I can’t help but think the viability of our whole system is extremely limited by the narrowness of our rail corridor. Having one line in each direction means no express trains (unless you leave a gap in the schedule prior to sending one) and leaves the whole system vulnerable to breakdowns and incidents, especially with so many level crossings.

    Whilst I back the CRL and a new line to the Shore the vulnerability of a two line system have me concerned about the overall system.

    Despite the magnificent Sydney system there is still a large amount of traffic congestion throughout the city. The same will apply to Auckland in 2030 regardless of whether this system is implemented. Calling this plan the “Congestion Free Network” is nothing more than marketing puff. When the system is built and Auckland still experiences congestion it will give the naysayers plenty of firepower to halt further progress. I suggest changing the name to something more realistic like “efficient transport system”.

    1. ‘Congestion free’ refers to the people who would use the system: a network for getting around Auckland free of congestion. It doesn’t claim to do anything for traffic, just gives an alternative to traffic in the first place.

      Sydney’s system isn’t exactly magnificent, it’s a bit lumbering and inefficient to be honest. Auckland’s could be much better with the CRL.

      Two tracks is fine, most metro systems in the world run with just two tracks.

    2. Population of wider Sydney region 4.7mil, Auckland 1.5mil -ish. Two track network will do us well for quite a while yet. Except where there’s the rising freight pressure too, so on the the NIMT: Up the guts of the Southern and then on the Eastern to the port. Gonna need three/four there.

      Expresses can be run on two track systems but it requires better operations than we’re used to these days in Auckland, but anyway, just getting the frequency up to real turn-up-and-go will radically improve everyone’s real journey time as well as lift capacity. So let’s focus on that first plus later hours of operation…

      It will be a lean and efficient little system once the CRL is in and even more so with Onehunga line extended through Mangere + Mt Roskill branch.

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