This is the fourth 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, the second here and the third here.
This was published in the NZ Herald on 26 June 1975
Millions Vehicles Strong Argument for Rail
As far back as 1927, it was realised that making greater use of suburban railway service, with a short part of it underground, was essential if Auckland were to have a satisfactory public transport service.
In 1927 the British consultants Merz and McLennan, employed by the New Zealand Government, urged immediate planning of extended suburban railway services for Auckland.
Nothing further was done until 1949, when the Government asked another British firm, Sir William Halcrow and Partners, to report on the best way of overcoming the traffic congestion already becoming evident, and how to prevent its getting worse in future.
They recommended what is known as the Morningside tunnel railway deviation scheme.
This scheme was adopted by the then Labour Government in 1950, and borings and other preliminary work were under way by August, 1954.
Then a question of railway or motorway priorities arose. Mr (later Sir) Stanley Gooseman, the then Minister of Works, publicly stated that Auckland must give priority for a time to planning and constructing a number of motorways to connect up, through the isthmus, the motorways that were being constructed and which were approaching the outer periphery of the metropolitan boundaries.
In 1954 the then Auckland Regional Planning Authority (not the ARA, which was not established until 1963) asked its technical advisory committee to report on the matter.
After 10 months of concentrated effort, a 26-man team of local body and Government department engineers, planners and other experts s produced, in 1955, the Master Transportation Plan for Metropolitan Auckland.
The report recommended connecting motorways should have immediate priority over railway extensions because no provision had been made to join up the motorways already under construction.
The report also recommended that rail access from the city (Victoria St) to the present railway station be provided as soon as possible. It also said that planning for a more comprehensive suburban railway system should be resumed when the recommended motorways were under construction.
These recommendations were adopted by all the local bodies in Auckland and by the Government.
After haggling over the sharing of a small proportion of local body costs, because of the seriousness of the congestion in Auckland, the Rt Hon. Hugh Watt, chairman of the National Roads Board in 1960 offered special grants to the city, Mt Eden and Mt Albert to get the motorway project started.
It was expected to be completed by 1970, but as a result of shortage of National Roads Board finance, work slowed down and the whole plan is not now expected to be completed until the year 2010 — at least 40 years behind schedule.
In the meantime, by 1964, it had become obvious that, even when completed, the isthmus motorway and roading system would never be able to cope with the increasing number of motor vehicles expected in Auckland in the next few and later years.
The American consultants, De Leuw Cather and Co. (one of the most experienced in the world) were engaged by the newly formed Auckland Regional Authority in 1964 to advise on roading and transport requirements in the region.
In their 1965 Report on a Transport System for Auckland, after full examination of an all-bus system, and a combination of buses with railway arteries, the consultants recommended a bus/rail plan.
This plan, subject to satisfactory financial agreements and other details between the ARA and the Government was approved by all the local bodies in Auckland and the Government itself.
Before the last general election, the Labour Party promised, if it became the Government, it would provide the capital repayment of loans and interest on the capital for the railway part of the De Leuw Cather bus/rail rapid transit plan.
Since then. the Labour Government has several times unequivocably repeated this solemn election promise to the people of Auckland.
This is the situation today: In July, 1973. Mr Watt, then Minister of Works, explained the Government’s proposals to the members of the ARA. The authority, after long consideration, agreed to accept the Government’s offer and to join with it in a detailed examination of costs, revenues, number of passengers expected, and all other aspects of the plan.
The purpose was to prepare firm estimates of capital and operating costs, revenues and routes, as a basis of final negotiations with the ARA regarding responsibility for capital costs of the new buses, depreciation on the bus and railway parts of the plan, and operating losses (if any).
At the time of writing, these discussions between representatives of the Government and the ARA had been arranged for June 20, and by the time this article is published, both parties should be well on the toward final agreement in principle which would have to be finally ratified the Government and the ARA.
The above brief historical resume of the situation reveals important facts:
- Because the city and eight boroughs are situated on an isthmus – almost an island – all traffic north, south, east or west of the isthmus must pass through the central part of it, thus throwing very heavy demands on it for extra and more expensive roading.
- As far back as 1927, it was realised that the isthmus could not physically provide the motorways and roading that would be required for the volume of tratT1c expected by the end of the century, if all, or most of the it, used private cars. Much greater use of public passenger transport by buses served by suburban railways would be required.
- In 1955 it was expected that an all-roading system would be sufficient to meet the needs of the million population expected in 1986. Yet within nine years, in 1964, it was realised:
- The million population mark would be reached earlier than 1986 about 1982.
- The number of motor vehicles in Auckland was increasing at about twice the expected rate, and
- Urgent action would have to be taken to avoid congestion on the inner area roads and possible traffic paralysis at peak morning and evening hours within the next few years.
Let us have a look at some of today’s facts really to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
In 1974, there were about 427,000 motor vehicles registered in Auckland; this was an increase of more than 27,000 over the previous year.
If this rate is continued there will be over 600,000 motor vehicles for a population of about one million in greater Auckland in 1981-82.
At that rate, by 1995, there will be over a million vehicles in the Auckland metropolitan area.
The sheer weight and volume of such a traffic load, using the motorways, roading and street system of the isthmus will greatly increase roading maintenance costs and cause hopeless congestion, pollution, accidents and delays throughout the metropolitan area.
The Master Transportation Report already referred to predicted that the cost of congestion on the roads would be between $10 million and $20 million yearly between 1960 and 1970.
Allowing for the same rate of increase of motor vehicles and congestion up to 1981 (the year the bus/ rail plan should come into the cost Of operation), congestion to private motorists, ARA transport division, and commercial operations in the urban area will be between $90 million and $180 million yearly.
This is a cost to the community which directly increases the cost of living to everyone in the region.
Probably the greatest obstacle to be overcome now is the opposition of some people who possibly have never seen or ridden in a modern electric railway coach.
What they do not know is that over 80 cities in other parts of the world with populations from as low as 100,000 up to 13 million are building new, or extending existing, suburban railway services. Also that in the United States, the Federal Government has almost brought to a halt grants for motorway construction, while make large grants to public authorities of billions of dollars yearly for modern rapid transit facilities.
It is useless thinking of the “good old days” when motorised traffic had almost free use of uncongested, little-used roads. Everyone concerned must think about the congestion in the years from 1980 onward — at least to 1995.
Motorways and roading alone trying to cater for an all-roading transport system will be hopelessly inadequate to serve satisfactorily the one and a quarter million people, and up to one million motor vehicles, present indications show may be in Auckland by that time.
Only a modern bus network served by the immense carrying capacity of suburban high speed railways in the main corridors. north, south, east and west of the urban area, will satisfy the transport needs of the near and further distant future.
It’s both interesting and sad that so many of the issues raised 40 years ago are the same ones we’re still taking about today. How different would Auckland be today if a full rapid transit network like this had been built?
The next is titled Rapid-Rail Helps City Development