This is the second in a series of six posts looking at a collection of articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan. They come from a booklet I stumbled across while in the Takapuna Library one day. The first post is here.
This was published in the NZ Herald on 24 June 1975
‘All-Bus’ Scheme a Non-starter on Capital Cost
Despite gloomy prophesies of unbearable capital costs and ruinous operating costs, the philistines were confounded when the costs of an all roading-bus transport plan were compared with the proposed bus and rail plan.
First of all, we should get straight what we are talking about. When De Leuw Cather & Co. reported on the suitability of an all-bus, or a bus and rail transport plan for Auckland in 1965, after nearly two years of study, they strongly a bus system fed by a main railway artery.
This recommendation has supported by all Government departments and officials who have examined it, and by the ARA and the Government itself.
Simply stated, the plan is to widen to four lines the existing railway from Papakura to the city near the present railway station, and in a loop underground connecting up again with Main Trunk Railway at Newmarket.
The lines would be electrified and modern electric three-coach trains, controlled by the most modern electronic controls and signals, provide a service every 10 minutes during off-peak hours, and every seven a half minutes at busy periods.
There would four underground stations in the city:
At Beach Rd (“Railway”) near the present station.
Under Customs St (“Downtown”) adjacent to present bus station.
Near the junction of Queen St and Wellesley St West (“Civic”).
Under Karangahape Rd (“Karangahape”) near the top of Upper Queen St.
Another station is planned in the Grafton area, when estimates of passenger demand require it.
Ten other stations would be located at the suburban stations on the main line between the city and Papakura.
Provision would be made for large scale car parking and bus/rail transfer facilities at the suburban stations. The reorganised bus system would provide feeder services to and from the railway stations, providing for a fully integrated bus and rail service that would be fast, clean, silent, cheap, safe and comfortable. More important still, it would be reliable and not be affected by road congestion or other conditions. This would result from the reduction of private vehicles on the roads, thus allowing freer and speedier travel for the buses.
Various proposals have been made to construct the line and stations in phases, but there are disadvantages of rising costs and delays in getting the maximum benefits, if this “phasing” plan is adopted.
The Government has stipulated that results of operation of the first stage – Papakura – City – Newmarket – must be studied before, later, undertaking one or all of the three recommended main extensions, which are:
- Eastern loop through Tamaki, Glen Innes and Mt. Wellington to Westfield.
- Northern extension under the harbour to the North Shore.
- Western line to Henderson and Glen Eden.
However, because of the high revenue-earning potential of the eastern loop in comparison with its capital and operating costs, strong pressure is likely to be brought to bear to persuade the Government to construct the eastern loop simultaneously with the Papakura-Newmarket stage 1.
The Government has agreed to provide the capital costs and to replay loans and interest, therefore, Auckland ratepayers will not have to bear any part of the capital costs. Nevertheless.
as rateplayers, they will be interested in the financial aspects of the scheme.
Based on 1974 prices, the estimated capital costs are as follows:—
Stage 1. Papakura-City-Newmarket, $125,254,000
Rolling stock, electronic equipment, signals, controls, buses, etc., $29,300,000.
Eastern loop, Tamaki-Glen Innes-Mt. Wellington-Westfield, $16,162,000.
Total cost stage 1, eastern loop, rolling stock. buses, etc., $170,716,000.
Now a very important factor must be considered. If, for any reason, the railway part of the plan were rejected, it would be necessary, in the area covered by this scheme, to provide additional motorways, bridges and parking facilities to cost a calculated $110 million.
Therefore the difference in cost between stage 1 plus the eastern loop, which would provide the backbone of a first-class transport system, as against the cost of perpetuating the un-satisfactory, bus-only present system, is $60 million.
To take the plan to completion, we have the following estimates:
Stage 1: Plus Eastern loop, rolling stock, electrification, etc., $170 million.
Now add in the later provision of the western line to Henderson and Glen Eden, estimated at $20 million.
Also, the harbour crossing to the North Shore estimated at $50 million.
Provide for additional rolling stock, signals and other contingencies $60 million.
The estimated cost, at 1974 prices, of the ultimate completion of the whole plan, $300 million.
This is where the financial advantages of this scheme begin to show up very clearly.
On the other hand, if the underground rail loop were not available, Auckland would be compelled to accept another bridge across the harbour with its inevitable disturbance of housing and other properties to provide more motorway approach roads.
The city would be on the horns of a dilemma, because the city council has already made it perfectly clear that under no circumstances will it agree to another harbour bridge that would further destroy the appearance of harbour and which would encourage the disgorgement on to already overcrowded city streets daily of more thousands of motor vehicles.
Summing up. the capital costs two alternatives, we have:—
Cost of new and upgraded motorways and roading, new buses, etc., in 25-30 years. at least $600 million.
Alternatively: Cost of providing electrified railway services, Papakura-City-Newmarket, including eastern loop to Westfield, western loop to Henderson and Glen Eden, and tunnel under harbour and connection to North Shore with rolling stock, etc., estimated at $300 million.
On this basis. the estimates show the capital costs of an all-bus system would be at least twice as great as the proposed bus/rail system
The reason for this great difference is simple: The need to provide more, and upgrade present roading systems to carry the immense additional load of traffic, if some means has not been provided to divert some of it off the roads.
The map below shows how the tunnel then proposed would have fed through the city centre.
As for the costs, running them quickly through the RBNZ’s inflation calculator gives us the following results:
- Total cost of initial project, $1.8 billion
- Eastern line, $174 million.
- Rolling stock, signals, buses etc., $315 million.
- Stage 1. Papakura-City-Newmarket, $1.3 billion
- Western Line, $215 million
- North Shore line, $538 million.
- Additional rolling stock etc., $645 million.
- Cost for the completion of the whole plan, $3.2 billion
And for the roads
- Eastern Motorway if rail not built $1.2 billion
- Total motorway package $6.5 billion
The next is titled Question of who pays the operating costs