Auckland could be about to get a late Christmas present. It’s appearing more and more likely that the government will agree to start to the City Rail Link in 2018, two years earlier than the 2020 date they set back in 2013 when they first agreed to the project. To go with the what, we also know the where and when, Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key is expected to announce the Government will help fund Auckland’s $2.5 billion inner city rail link two years earlier than originally promised.

It’s understood the PM will make the commitment in a speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce on January 27.


Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett confirmed Key would address its membership on the issue of infrastructure funding for the city.

It would be similar to his announcement in 2013 in that he would outline the government’s future commitment to the city “and I think give some clarity and certainty to some of the investment in infrastructure that needs to be made”.

Asked if that would include a statement on the timing of the CRL funding, Barnett replied: “If they put a stake in the ground and then there’s clarity, then everyone can work around that.”

The Chamber of Commerce supported a 2018 start for the rail project, he said.

CRL - Early Works Jan-16 2
Early works are underway but are we about to get a Go for the rest of the project?

As I pointed out in my year ahead post last week we’ve been hearing noises that an agreement between the council and government is close for a while so it hasn’t come as a surprise that something may be about to happen. In fact I think the main thing stopping it from having been made earlier has been the Christmas/New Year holidays and lead up to them putting a dampener on the level of political credit the government will want to bask in.

Pressure has been mounting on the government to do something for months and one reason has been the stellar patronage growth that we’ve been witnessing. It has risen an impressive 23% over the last year Auckland is on track to reach the 20 million target by 2o20 around three years early.

2015-11 - Rail vs Govt Target

As I also mentioned in my year ahead post, the announcement be the council funding their share from 2018 with the government still not committing any cash till 2020. If this occurs perhaps they’ll off some sort of deal.

Making the announcement to the Chamber of Commerce is significant for a few reasons.

As I understand it, Auckland’s various business lobbies have been quite active behind the scene, pushing the government to commit to an earlier start date. They see the value in the project and also the value in minimising disruption. Waiting till 2020 leaves roughly a two year gap during which many businesses in the city – but particularly those along the route – will be in a state of limbo. Delaying the project also affects more than just the rail network as it also delays other projects to improve Auckland that are dependent on the CRL being completed, one example is the proposed Victoria St linear park but there are a heap of others.

It was to the Chamber of Commerce back in 2013 that the government first announced it would support the CRL after years of bitter opposition to it. Again back then the business lobbies were also a key factor in getting the government to change their position on the project. Of course as part of the same announcement the government also launched their accelerated Motorways package that fast tracked projects such as the Kirkbride Rd grade separation, southern motorway widening and the big package of works planned for the area around where SH18 joins SH1.

It raises the question of whether John Key will announce support for the CRL alongside any other projects. As we know the Reserve Bank of NZ has already said the government should consider accelerating infrastructure projects in Auckland. As such it’s entirely possible any announcement could also contain funding for other projects too (including non-transport projects). The concern would be if the announcement also included a number of projects designed to encourage significant growth on the urban fringe at the expense of enabling greater housing supply closer to the city.

Lastly an announcement would be a significant win for Mayor Len Brown. When he first became mayor the project was in its infancy and he has pushed it as the number one project for the city since that time with the backing of the council. To Len, if the government support the project starting sooner, then thank you.

CRL - Early Works Jan-16

I’ve already been counting the days till January 27 to see just what is announced.

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  1. Removing the CRL as a defining issue between political blocs could have some impact on the 2016 local body elections……perhaps.

    1. The cynic in me definitely sees any announcement as a ploy to level the mayoral playing field when it comes to the CRL.

      Multiple polls/surveys have shown Aucklanders want the CRL built, but right wing councillors like Cameron Brewer seem determined to run on an anti-CRL platform.

      1. I’m not so cynical as I doubt they think they’re smart enough to see that at this stage it looks like Goff will romp home regardless of any CRL position. I also know they’ve been working on a deal with the council for months and think it’s more about that the patronage growth was starting to make their stance look silly and their mates in the business community were getting annoyed at it being ignored.

      2. The real motivation is that they could never ever cave on the CRL while Len Brown was in power. They hate that guy so very, very much, for wrecking their plans to privatise every damn thing in the SuperCity. He’s gone so he can’t do anything with the credit. Good on Len for falling on his sword, then.

        1. This has been in the works since well before Len announced he wasn’t standing.
          I think there are a couple of things at play:
          1. I think there’s an element of the government being more mature over the whole thing and wanting to get things working. While that doesn’t mean agreeing to all of Auckland’s demands there is a greater recognition they can’t continue to be seen as a road block. The ATAP process is a good example of this.
          2. Key is a pragmatist, two years earlier on funding (or as I’ve suggested maybe even just allowing council to start earlier) isn’t all that much but gets them a lot of good publicity.
          3. Since Simon Bridges has been Minister of Transport there’s been a notable change in how the government and council deal with transport which is helping. There have already been moves on a number of areas AT were pushing for such as making it easier to get double deckers and deal with fare evasion. This is a stark difference to the opposition stance Joyce and Brownlee took. Bridges will also be the one making recommendations to Key and cabinet.
          4. They’ve probably realised there’s less likely to be a massive political change in direction in Auckland and they’re getting told to get on with it from senior people in their own agencies and from the business community. Basically they had become the odd ones out.

          1. What has really changed has two parts:

            1. The government now accepts that Auckland’s economic performance is vital to the nation’s economic performance [ie is not just a pimple on the arse of the ‘real’ economy in the countryside]
            2. That Auckland’s economy actually does need different infrastructure to the rest of the nation [ie not just motorways; is a city and needs urban kit].

            The second part is the new move [they really always knew #1] and represents the victory of the more modern wing of the party over the provincialists. But would not have happened without the strong lead of AC and AT and the mayor in particular. Additionally their polling of course told them that the public have long been way ahead of them on this and not just in Auckland. This is a pragmatic decision, not least of which because it will be paid out of some future government’s budget: No impact on the hunt for great white surplus!

    2. I agree. It is a smart,shrewd move by National. Remove the matter from the political debate. One less thing to differentiate the candidates.

  2. It would be interesting if the announcement included a statement of what is the preferred government option for the Auckland airport link and when it will be built. The airport has indicated it need to know so it can plan, so the government must give some direction soon.

    1. No, I would much rather government ministers did not go around picking projects; that’s how we got many of the RoNS. Government’s role should be to set the general direction [ie invest in AKL infra or not] and make sure the processes are robust that lead to project selection, not choosing modes or routes…

  3. When we see the country going into red by $27 mil a day one has to start to wonder why they are spending this amount on to this white elephant .I like John Key but for the first time since he become the head of the country .I am in sock he would spent this amount on something that is a hope and dream to sort out docklands transport problems .Then you have to also think about where this is going to run the stations are we as tax payers wanting to help people gamble and drink as it looks to me that what we are been asked to do John Key has just lost my vote

        1. Docklands Area in Melbourne is served by Trams so he can’t be talking about that. Maybe it’s another Docklands we don’t know about.

    1. Good on you for exercising your right to express your opinion. But it is an inaccurate, nonsensical rant and hard to read because of bad grammar. Did you even read it before posting?

      1. John Key, if you’re reading, Mike thinks the CRL is a socking white elephant which is just a hope and a dream (he doesn’t need to provide evidence or facts, its obvious that the sole purpose of the project is to get people to the casino and provide stations for them to get drunk).
        So John you don’t want to support the CRL or Mike might change his vote (I’m not sure who to as almost all other parties support the CRL).

    2. Commenters who clearly haven’t done any homework on an issue make for tiresome reading. An opinion is one thing. Being plain wrong is something else. Even THIS government has accepted the CRL must be built so people can flow around and across Auckland easily without cars.

      Catch up, Mike.

  4. I’m concerned that this is also a AWHC and EWC announcement (the latter seems virtually certain). Remember, this government’s idea of “infrastructure” is primarily roads for moving trucks around.

    1. The East West Link I would be worried about to given NZTA have started the designations processes.
      If the EW does happen it basically eliminates out ANY form of rail from Onehunga and kicks it to Otahuhu if we want to take the path of least resistance (and cost)

      1. Did you watch that video yesterday? It clearly demonstrates the coexistence of the EW Connection and both forms of rail to Mangere. The AT and NZTA info pages on it expressly state that the EWC does not preclude rail across the inlet. It’s bad for other reasons, but not that one.

        1. I saw the video and have no reason to trust either AT or NZTA after the Kirkbridge Road situation further along.

          I saw the video and have no reason to trust NZTA after they said the Mangere Bridge duplication was future proofed for rail to the Airport when sure it was – for a single track restricting the train to 25km/h

          I saw the video and certainly dont trust AT with their methodology and apparent differences between heavy and light rail via Onehunga.

          So excuse me while I am cynical here given history.

          1. I can understand your views. The “future-proofing” of Mangere bridge for a single track rail line of a 25kph speed was a joke. But if the video is correct the East-West link and rail to the Airport via Onehunga are compatible. And the issue with Kirkbridge Road is not just the width of the area provided for rail, but also that the motorway trench is too steep for heavy rail. I think real pressure needs to be applied to get rail to Mangere Bridge included as part of the East-West link

          2. Perhaps

            41 Minutes from Aotea Station for both heavy and light rail to the Airport seems extremely slow and optimistic for LRT.

            I drew this up yesterday (it is a suggestion on route not frequencies) looking at via Otahuhu on a limited stop service.

            Given it takes from Britomart to Otahuhu 30 minutes stopping at all stops I wonder what it might be stopping at limited stops? 20 mins?
            Then another 10 minutes to the airport from Otahuhu giving a total time of around 30 mins trip time. I dunno, Ive asked AT for the methodology into their findings and sent a letter to the Ministers on Airport Rail.

            If nothing else least it was tried.

            As for Mangere to Onehunga and the western Isthmus via SH20? Buses might still be better feeding into Onehunga and Dominion Road stations.

    2. I don’t think they’ll be an east-west announcement. AT and the NZTA have already stated they’re going for consent so there’s not much the government can do above what they’ve already done to speed that up. AWHC is a possibility but last I heard it was included in the ATAP process – much to the annoyance of one section of the NZTA who just want to build big stuff. It’s possible they’ve been lobbying the govt in official capacity but again they’re currently in the process of route protection so I doubt there’s much the govt could do.

      If anything else is announced much more likely will be funding for road and water upgrades to service greenfield land – all in the name of creating more housing.

      1. I hope that the announcement does include more than just the City Rail Link. I think the government should help pay for extra infrastructure for Auckland’s urban growth in greenfields to speed up development, given the issue of Aucklands housing unaffordability is a national one (and also more allowance for intensification and brownfield development is needed). Also I have thought that the East West Link should be added to the RONS to replace the two complete ones (namely the Victoria Park Tunnel, and Tauranga Eastern Motorway) and govt money committed to it. And an earlier start to the CRL would be absolutely great

        1. The concept that the RONS would continue past the current round or even that those projects that are under consideration given the changes in observed preference for driving and the flat lining of VKT seems like an idea grounded in ideology rather than need or sound evidence based decision making.

          A better outcone would the announcement of NZTA becoming responsible for rail funding.

          1. The government did identify four potential new RoNS in the 2012-2015 Government Policy Statement. They all quietly disappeared and haven’t been mentioned since.

  5. As someone who this provides no direct utility* at all, I welcome this** and look forward to it’s completion!***

    *I will barely ever leave the CBD when I move back home in March
    A bus to Albany every now and then for family jank
    Major disruption, noise etc

    ** More commuting by trains = more ability to reduce road size in my ‘neighbourhood’ and surrounding city and clean up the filthy, non-WHO-safe levels of air I have to breath. Yay!

    *** For personal reasons, much more excited about Light Rail down Dominion Road

    1. Same on both accounts – I welcome the CRL even though I will hardly ever use it, and dominion road light rail is going to be amazing!
      And even though I would use the east west link a lot and it would probably save me a lot of time, I’d prefer them to spend that money on PT.

    2. But tens of millions of others will use it and the rest of the now so much more useful rail network and the city-wide productivity gain that these movements represent will lift the economic performance and vitality the entire city; you will experience all of that whether you ride a train or not. Other groups of non train users who benefit directly are bus, car, and truck users; who will benefit by the all those other people who do ride it because of its increased utility and appeal thereby no longer clogging up the roads so much.

    3. As Patrick said, you don’t have to use something in PT to benefit from its existence.

      I for one never go to Albany, so the existence of the NEX bus helps me not one jot as I don’t use it.

      But I know it helps a lot of other people who do, and a lot of folks who don’t who also benefit from the reduced motorway traffic it enables.
      And thats good enough for me to encourage its expansion north. As whatever it costs, it will be peanuts compared with the alternatives.

      1. I clearly listed it’s benefits to me! I think you’re all getting triggered by ‘I won’t use it much’ and ‘North Shore’, which is understandable considering the level of discourse from that part of the world. Everything I said was positive! (besides the fact that grumpy car drives will probably kill me on Queen street due to traffic difficulties)

      1. It’s amazing where you can end up when you decide to just not use your car. I’ve used almost every part of Auckland’s public transport system since I made not using my car the priority. Absolutely the car wins in the late evening and very early morning and for inter-city trips……but getting from Greenlane to Albany is just fine on the NEX and the train. It’s faster at peak times and slower off-peak. But at all times it’s just……relaxing and less stressful and the walking built in is very good for me. 🙂

    1. Yes, in a truly great outcome, we’d see:

      The Government would push ahead with CRL funding ASAP, so that the tunnelling can start at the southern end sooner, to tie up with the enabling works underway now.
      Reconfiguring of the AWHC into a rail only crossing, following on from CRL, with the Aotea station becoming the major station on the network.

      To handle that Aotea station is being built as both North Shore rail terminus and CRL station at the same time – to avoid disruption to Albert St with ongoing construction works if the Aotea station is staged.

      And AT announce that because of the savings in interest costs that the Government funding brings, they can now afford to reinstate the Beresford St entranceway to K’Rd CRL station when its built as well.

      The Government also announces that the AWHC project rail only tunnels will begin tunnelling once the CRL tunnelling completes.
      To expedite the process they will order TWO TBMs, one for the CRL, one for the AWHC tunnels, because the tunnel diameter for both projects is the same, they have also determined that they will be able to use the AWHC TBM to tunnel the second CRL tunnel from South to North while the CRL TBM is building the first tunnel also from South to North. This will save at least 12 months off the CRL project timeframes, reducing the CRL costs.
      Once the AWHC TBM finishes the second CRL tunnel, it can then be easily be refurbished and reconfigured to tunnel the two AWHC tunnels immediately afterwards. Starting from a tunnel portal on the North Shore heading South towards Aotea.
      All the combine AHWC and CRL join TBM approach shaves years of the two projects, and will enable (light) rail to the North Shore by 2025.

      More likely:

      We’ll get: a bunch of expensive accelerated roading packages (East/West plus now with an $1B additional extension and river crossing to link it directly to Highbrook, AWHC accelerated by 10 years, with rail option sometime after 2040), with a side order of “PT wash” with Government CRL funding – but only some time *after* the 2017 election, and before 2021 election, dependent on government finances.

      1. First scenario sounds great except for the LR… If they are building a proper tunnel the same as CRL then why wouldn’t you make it HR?
        Only issue with HR that I can see is how would you get EMU’s from the North Shore line onto one of the other lines for things like maintenance?

        1. The issue with HR is what you do with it once you get to the shore. The busway hasn’t been designed for it so to put it there you would have to completely rebuild it which would take years and cause massive disruption to PT users. Light rail should be able to be laid within the existing corridor and handle the curve and grades so could be done much quicker and cheaper. It also allows for branches to Takapuna and possibly up Onewa Rd.

          1. It was supposed to be built to handle HR and my understanding is that it is…it’s just that some of the gradients are an issue…. Dig a trench/tunnel through Sunset Ridge and Albany Hill pretty much does that so not too hard.
            That said LR does have a place and that could be to places like Glenfield etc linking in to the HR.
            Initially the HR would only go to Akoranga and a spur to Takapuna. This gives the capacity and resilience across the Harbour whilst still being faster even with a transfer than the existing busway.

  6. This is great news. I’m still concerned with the stations and whether we are now only getting one decent new station with the crl:Aotea? K’Road appears to be marginalised and Newton’s gone. A lot of the appeal to me was the access it would provide to areas of the inner city to increase commercial/community activity, not just a quicker ride on the western line. I’m concerned that for the expense and disruption, the benefits may be diminished.

    1. Yes, and the loss of the Beresford Square entrance is a real tragedy. But fortunately there is still light rail, which I hope can do a great job connecting the CBD up.

    2. K Rd is still a decent station with only the Mercury Lane entrance. The Beresford Square would be a better option, but it’s not that far away in the grand scheme of things. Newmarket has suffered from its half-arsed entrance, but it’s still a very popular station.

      The loss of Newton is sad, but the tradeoff is that the junction with the Western Line can be grade-separated. Otherwise we’d be permanently stuck with a flat junction. Also, while at present, Newton is a better location, in the long run the area around Mount Eden station has more development potential.

      Some parts of the CRL project have been lost to value engineering, and that’s sad – more rolling stock, Beresford Square – but those can be added later, and all the critical elements that will last indefinitely are there: the two CBD stations, the eastern (Grafton) link, and a reasonably direct route.

      1. Yes, but it costs money.
        Let me explain: bus stop 5 minutes walk away
        Train 25 minutes walk away

        If there were a free park and ride, the time savings from the train in 2020 would make driving to New Lynn and taking the train the optimum solution.

          1. Hi Patrick
            I seriously don’t think you understand just how much time is wasted. Even at 10 minute bus intervals, it’d still be completely inefficient to bus to New Lynn (at 5:30am? will they even be offering a bus that way?)

            And Matt, don’t you want people using the train? I can stick to using the bus but I’d have thought we should be incentivising as many people as possible to switch modes.

            What a lot of you don’t realise is that transfers are only usable if frequency is amazing (like 3 minutes).

            Also, bike? So bike to the train, take bike to work for no reason? Or leave bike at train station? I don’t bike and can’t bike as I gym before work and can’t pre-exhaust legs before squats or deadlifts.

            Basically: build a park and ride, and you get a customer at new lynn train station. It’s not rocket science. or I can bus or drive into the CBD. which is better?

          2. Build at park and ride and you get a customer. Ok, so to buy land and and build a parking structure at New Lynn will cost in the order of $50,000 per space in that urban environment. Experience from the North Shore park n rides show us that about half the users are new users, the other half are people that shift from walk, cycle or bus to driving to the station. So each new customer costs two parking spaces, and some unknown loss of bus fare revenue.

            So winning you as a customer will cost about a hundred grand. That’s what you call a Pyrric victory: keep gaining customers like that and you go bankrupt!

            Sorry but if you will only drive but don’t want to pay for parking at the station then it is far better off for everyone to not have you on the train at all.

  7. The proposed timetable for the CRL is interesting as it means the project will hit top gear
    as the other two majors – Waterview and Kirkbride – no “g” despite what my spellchecker is trying to tell me – wind down. This should enable a seamless transfer of personnel, especially management and top staff between the projects, which should bode well to get the project finished on time and on budget.

    1. This is it, I got 300 words, I didn’t write the headline; I do not think Auckland is at all broken. In need of a much better infrastructure investment balance in transport and housing, but hardly broken. It’s not Homs.

      I will add that we have a new car because we have decided we can now go down to one car between us, thus running one much nicer and more economical vehicle [Euro VI] than two older less efficient ones, and save a fortune on fixed costs. We looked long and hard at EVs but none stack up for our situation yet. Ironically perhaps in part because we now both drive so much less than we used to. The saving from cheaper fuel couldn’t make up for the higher capital cost because of our much lower VKT, as we use Transit, walking and biking , and importantly delivery to substitute for driving so much now; because they’re better. Food shopping in our household is either delivered or quaxed, enabled by the proximity of the shops. So we only drive when we choose to, when it is by far the best option; especially for getting out of the city or at night and other times when the roads are clear and destination not well served by the alternatives. We drive so little it’s almost a treat!

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