Last week I was taking a look around the Takapuna Library during my lunch break and stumbled across a booklet containing six articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan.
Here is the reason the articles were pulled together in a single document
The plan he was talking about was not too dissimilar to the plans we have today although I believe they did involved duplicating the rail lines using different gauge tracks so would be for passenger use only. Of course the scheme never went ahead after Muldoon’s newly elected National Government scrapped the whole thing.
Over the coming weeks I’ll publish all six articles, the first of which is below. One of the things that strikes me about them is that while some aspects have clearly dated, many of the core arguments are just as valid today as they were back over 40 years ago.
Great Financial Savings in Bus-Rail Scheme
A vastly improved bus service, served by a main railway artery, and the promise of large financial savings plus greater social benefits – this is the exciting prospect in store for Auckland when the Auckland Rapid Transport combined bus and rail scheme is inaugurated in 1981.
Naturally citizens will want to know the estimated capital and operating costs of the scheme in order to evaluate its economic and social benefits.
Costs should only be considered in relationship to identifiable benefits. It is therefore appropriate that the benefits to be expected from the scheme should be examined first. Only then will it be possible to decide whether the costs are warranted.
In a later contribution, the urgency of, and the need for, improved public transport facilities in Auckland will be fully explained. In this article it will be possible only to give a forecast of the anticipated benefits and costs.
It is proposed to construct the scheme in stages. Stage 1 will include the electrification and addition of two more railway lines from Papakura to the city and then underground to rejoin the main lines at Newmarket. It is also recommended that the eastern loop through Tamaki, Glen Innes and Mt Wellington to Westfield be constructed at the same time as Stage 1.
Further extensions to the North Shore, Henderson, Glen Eden and the western districts will be made as and when estimates of traffic demand show they will be required. The same applies to the airport and other possible extensions.
Because some concern expressed about capital and operating costs, it should be emphasised at the outset that the Government has already agreed to provide the capital, and to accept responsibility for capital service charges, that is, the repayment of loans, plus interest. Thus these capital charges will not have to be met by Auckland Ratepayers.
Agreement on two other matters has yet to be reached between the ARA and the Government:
Who will have to pay the losses (if any) on operating the system?
Is depreciation to be treated as part of the operating costs, or will it be the Government’s responsibility – as part of the undertaking to meet capital service charges?
Agreement on the above two points will affect significantly the annual financial surpluses or deficits. However, irrespective of the strictly “balance sheet” financial results, the economic savings and social benefits to the whole region will be so great as to overwhelmingly outweigh any possible annual cash deficits.
What benefits are to be expected from this scheme? –
- For the first time, it will be possible to provide a satisfactory public passenger transport service, by a balance between roading, buses and the railway. (Similar combined bus and railway systems are at present either under construction or are in advanced planning stage in over 80 cities in other parts of the world. No city anywhere is planning or constructing a wholly bus/roading system.)
- It will be possible to avoid the building of more motorways and other roading (for which there is no more room on the isthmus in any case) other than those already planned or under construction.
- The growing congestion and delays to traffic on the road system will be halted or reduced.
- The improved transport services throughout the whole region will be a direct benefit to non-motorists such as the elderly, the young, the sick, the disabled, and those who cannot afford, or do not wish to own and use private cars, about 50% of the population.
- An adequate transport system will save motorists many millions of dollars yearly, because public transport – especially rail transport – is cheaper than private transport.
- Whether it will be the increasing number of private motor vehicles on already overcrowded roads, or whether it will be the greatly increased cost of using private cars in 1981, it is inevitable there will be increased demand for more and better public transport services.
- Improved public transport will allow socially underprivileged citizens greater opportunities for movement within the region.
- Reduction of private car congestion will allow for faster and safer transport. The travel time by train, from the city to Papakura at even busiest times, will be 32 minutes.
- There will be a considerable reduction in accidents, injuries and deaths because rail and bus transport is so much safer than private transport.
- There will be considerable reduction of atmospheric pollution and noise with fewer private cars and buses on the roads.
- Operating costs per passenger mile of electrified railways are much lower than buses, and buses, in turn, are cheaper per passenger mile than cars. There will be substantial savings in travelling costs to those using the improved service.
- The cost of delays to commercial vehicle operators of wages, petrol, overheads and other transportation charges due to congestion on roads and delays at traffic lights and intersections, will be reduced very considerably.
- There will be great savings of petrol, especially at the higher prices likely in 1981, and there will also be savings of man millions of dollars of precious overseas funds through reduction in the use of petrol by private cars. (Of New Zealand’s overseas spending, 20 per cent is on importation of fuels.)
Such substantial benefits, some of which can be reckoned in financial terms, but also other social benefits which cannot be estimated in dollars and cents which are probably more important, fully justify the relatively modest costs. Overall, they show a considerable financial and social surplus.
Some of the economics which can be expected yearly from this scheme are: –
Savings in accidents and deaths in the area served by rail, $1 million.
Savings in petrol and use of private cars through diversion of their passengers to the bus/rail system $9 million.
Savings of wages, petrol and other costs as a result of reduction of congestion in the area served by rail and through more economic use of commercial vehicles (no credit has been included for saving of time of drivers of non-commercial vehicles amounting to many millions, $3.1 million.
Estimated actual yearly financial savings in area served by rail, $13.1 million.
The savings mentioned in the first two paragraphs were estimated by Dr Vautier, the economist who prepared the financial calculations in the Auckland rapid transit report recently released by the Government to members of the ARA. Dr Vautier states these estimates of savings are “very conservative.”
The next article is titled ‘All-Bus’ Scheme a Non-starter on Capital Cost