We are increasingly concerned that Auckland is in the middle of very poor process where by far the nation’s biggest ever infrastructure project is being forced along and at ill-considered speed without anything like the level of public participation nor detailed analysis that it should have.

AWHC Sulhur Beach

NZTA are relying on a 2008 study into possible future harbour crossings to just get on with designing and designating a road only crossing. This study started with the assumption that any additional crossing would be a road lane crossing. No kind of comparative analysis of all options like the Centre City Future Access Study that was done to be certain that the City Rail Link is the right mode and route for that need has ever been undertaken.

Looking at the current options across the harbour it is clear that the highest capacity urban transport mode is what’s missing. There are 13 general traffic lanes across two bridges, and some passenger ferries, but no dedicated Rapid Transit route. We hold that it is absolutely necessary to do a proper comparative analysis between modes for the next harbour crossing before any designation or final design work is undertaken, and have been consistent in requesting it. We are not claiming to know what the outcome would be but that it is frankly irresponsible to proceed any further without such a study.

Particularly as a great deal has changed since 2007 when that report was commissioned. Aucklanders have proven that they are just like city dwellers everywhere else in the world and are very keen to use good quality Transit systems when they get the chance. Since the upgrade and electrification of the existing rail network we have been piling onto our new trains at a rate well in advance of expectations. The Northern Busway too has excelled expectations even though it has to share lanes with general traffic on the bridge and therefore is not as Rapid as a dedicated route would be. These two top tier systems are attracting riders at a rate of 20%+ year on year, and while there is relief ahead for the rail network with at last the CRL underway, there is no plan to deal with an ever rising flood of buses into the city centre with this hugely expensive project.

The line that ‘Aucklanders just love their cars’ as an excuse to not provide quality alternatives to driving has been forever proven to be the nonsense it always was. Aucklanders are the same as everyone else; we love what ever works well for our needs. So when we get options like the example below from Panmure for reliable fast travel we take it.

Pete Clarke Panmure

Furthermore it is well understood that it is the quality of the alternatives that govern the speed and reliability of the surface routes. So that in this example the car and bus speeds and reliability would be much worse without the separate Rapid Transit alternative. The same will be the case for across the harbour; a great alternative means freer roads, another driving route means more cars everywhere; more congestion See here for a discussion on this:

There’s good science to back up the commonsense view. It goes like this: public transport operates to a fixed speed, a timetable. Most people will take whichever transport option is fastest. They don’t care about the mode. If public transport is quicker they’ll catch a train or a bus, freeing up road space. If driving is quicker, they’ll jump in their car, adding to road congestion. In this way, public transport speeds determine road speeds. The upshot is that increasing public transport speeds is one of the best options available to governments and communities wanting to reduce road traffic congestion.

Additionally the commitment to this road only crossing is made before the completion of the Western Ring Route, the current multi-billion dollar bypass for cross harbour traffic. It is also being made without any kind of business case. Existing estimates are up to $6Billion dollars for a return of 30-40 cents on the dollar. This desperately needs proper and thoughtful analysis, without the ridiculous haste from politicians.

All over the world cities are kept moving by building high capacity spatially efficient Transit systems. Auckland is simply at the point where it can no longer delay adding this essentially weapon to its arsenal of movement options. From statements by NZTA they agree that a Rail crossing is required but they insist, without any analysis or study, that this must come after another road crossing.

Three road crossings, and no more spatially and energetically efficient option? We would like to see analysis of what reversing this timing could achieve. What if the next crossing is high capacity electric rail? Especially driverless low operating cost rail.

  • What are the outcomes for traffic congestion across the wider city?
  • For land use?
  • For the local environment?
  • For Carbon Emissions?

We know that the people constantly say they want extension of quality Public Transport:

AA LTP Survey - PT v Roads
Survey of Automobile Association members

The public deserve to have a say in what is being done in their name and with their money. There are so many questions. NZTA know that this project will flood the city centre with cars and that there is simply nowhere for them to go. They also quietly discuss levels of tolling on both the new crossing and the old bridge. This massive project will not only soak up huge sums of investment funding closing off opportunity to make other decisions across the city and nation, but also induce more traffic everywhere on Auckland’s roads. It is also the reverse of future proofing as it commits us all to more driving:

AWHC - Induced Demand
The road only crossing is a huge Traffic Inducement scheme, as NZTA explain in this slide.

To claim all environmental and traffic congestion concerns can be waved away because of future technology is very weak. That argument suggests that the time to build this kind of infrastructure is when we all do have electric cars, not on the prospect of their arrival some time in the future. And if driverless cars are to be that revolutionary then perhaps all this expensive additional road space will not be required? Meantime there is current electric and driverless technology that can be invested in right now.

In Vancouver the SkyTrain mass transit system shifts 117m people per year, at frequencies often down to a train every 2 minutes, running from 5am to 1:30am daily and all at an operating surplus. Driverless, Electric Light Metro. North Shore people have already shown they are not too posh to bus, they certainly won’t be reluctant to use a quicker, quieter, cleaner, more direct, 21st century movement system like this.


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  1. Won’t flying cars make the requirements for the tunnel obsolete? Rather than defaulting to technologies used since the 1880s, you’d hope that NZTA would be advocating for other options to be considered.

    1. Yes clearly flying cars and jetpacks are the disruptive technologies that are going to render this project obsolete. Roads=1880s technology? Nah – I’d go back a couple of thousand years or so: these roads represent the final phase of a game started by the Roman Empire when they built their network of concrete highways.

      NZCID’s members desperately looking for new projects to lobby for? How about houses. The Greens have got it just about right in calling for ‘Homes not Cars”. I wonder how many homes could be built for the same price as this Waitemata roading behemoth?

    2. It looks like we can’t have flying cars any time soon. But we can at least catch a flying bus at the airport. Those flying buses actually for a large part made trains obsolete.

  2. With the envisioned upgrades to the cycle network over the next few years, cycling will become a far less dangerous activity, and a cycle – ferry – cycle commute could be a very attractive option, at least during the less cold and rainy times. Investment in our public transport will obviously decrease the perceived “necessity” of the private motor vehicle, and the “need” for more shortsighted motorway projects. I can already envision the traffic jams at the new Waterview connection as I cycle or bus to work. Build it and it will clog. And I am not sure if anyone wants to be in a bottle neck under the sea, that would be a bit scary. And then there is the lack of a view, will they employ street artists to paint up the inside of the tunnel? Perhaps they can start with the boring Victoria Park tunnel, paint that up, then the Waterview, and then revisit this silly idea of an undersea tunnel. At least traffic jams would be more colourful. Another jenius idea from the djokers that reside in ivory towers with helipads.

    1. Get Kelly Tarlton to build the tunnel out of Perspex then clogged up commuters can while away the time looking at fish.

    1. It would make sense (well, not economic…) if they were tunneling under the CBD and largely bypassing it, for traffic going east and south. Otherwise, doesn’t this just replicate the existing bridge?

      I would like to think that AT are on the board judging by the NZH article today, where NZTA said they were working together with the AT – the former responsible for the road portion and the latter PT. And Bridges comments make some sense in saying that the route for PT should be included, with the mode decided later.

      But yeah, with the existing bridge, busway, skypath, ferries and WRR….seems an utter waste of money.

  3. Has NZTA given any thought as to how much disruption would potentially be caused by trying to connect the tunnel to the existing motorway network? The disruption could be mitigated if enough people switched to public transport. However we would need to upgrade the public transport capacity to enable this. The best way to do this would be to build a separated rail connection over the harbour.
    I am wondering how feasible it would be to build this road, from a traffic management point of view, without first building the rapid transit connection?

  4. The design cant possibly look anything like that drawing now we know the dotterels have primacy in NZTA’s thinking.

      1. Great post Patrick. When a bunch of interested and passionate amateurs can out-muscle the professionals with evidence based statistics and a better understanding of how successful cities work it is time for the professionals – I mean you NZTA – to go. Furthermore, you seem increasingly to not be good, prudent managers of taxpayer funds.

        And it is becoming time for Auckland to control its own transport funding by removing this privilege from Government/NZTA.

        I believe AT would be able to manage a better result for Auckland well away from NZTA involvement.

  5. That reads like a letter, but who is it for? The auditor general perhaps? Lack of process & business case, no clear definition of problem, huge amounts of public money. Right in her jurisdiction I’d have thought.

  6. I expect NZTA works to government directive otherwise this is undemocratic. This government has such disdain for PT that their view is that everyone should travel via roads in either private vehicle or bus. Never mind the accident rate, the drink driving. A large chunk of their voter base seem to like PT via the free Gold Card, maybe they should be supporting it.

  7. Thanks Patrick. Matt L did a great post yesterday about the proposed second harbour tunnel yesterday and the potential for rail in it (or not in it). What I don’t get is why AT seems to be dropping the ball so badly here. They could do a Harbour crossing equivalent of the Centre City Future Access Study considering all modes themselves, and then lobby NZTA based on the results. Surely such a study won’t be that expensive. And also has Auckland Transport done any work lately on the Gaunt Street station to the rest of the rail network link (my idea is to put the line through a cut and cover tunnel under Wellesley Street to Aotea Station (with a cross pattern, the CRL link station being N-S, the new Aotea station for the North Shore link being E-W), continuing under Wellesley Street and Albert Park to a new University Station under Alfred Street and then further eastwards to link in with the Auckland-Newmarket line just north of Parnell Station)? Or further planning to the north for rail (my idea is to ditch any station at Akoranga and instead have the line continue north under Barrys Point Reserve to a Takapuna Station under the junction of Anzac Street, Fred Thomas Drive, and Taharoto Road, and then continue through a tunnel under Taharoto Road to Smales Farm (the train station being under the junction of Taharoto and Shakespeare Road, with a large pedestrian tunnel connecting the train station to the bus station. It also looks like the NZTA are wanting Auckland Transport to provide the rail route designation. If we want a good rail solution to be included (or a rail only solution) we need Auckland Transport and the Council to lift their game. Now where are the mayoral and council candidates on this?

    1. Well AT are working on a study. But NZTA, as usual, as they did in Mangere, as they are now doing with the North Western, as they are about to do in Onehunga, are just getting on with their own thing and the moment that the city’s Rapid Transit needs are inconvenient, they just wave the magic term ‘future proofed’ and largely close it out. There is a power and wealth imbalance between these agencies and NZTA just leaving a potentially better solution to AT is already to make it a second class option, and in practice, a non starter.

      We all know we will not get two new crossings. We need to get the chance to really choose which one should be next.

      1. Thanks. Surely it shouldn’t be that difficult to build a double deck road and rail tunnel. Also if the North Shore is to get another road Harbour crossing we should push for significant amendments to the unitary plan to drastically increase the amount of intensification allowed on North Shore to make use of the new infrastructure. Telling North Shore residents if you allow this intensification you will get your second harbour crossing should help overcome the NIMBYists

        Also slightly unrelated question. How feasible would it to build a short walking and cycling tunnel from Devenport to the port land, and then a walking/cycle route from there into the CBD?

        1. Well most likely that would simply mean road tunnels with empty space in the sump. As there will be no money for a very very long time for anything on the Shore if NZTA get to build this huge wealth destructor.

          Anyway NZTA seem to be saying they won’t do that.

        2. Based on their previous track record, we can take anything said by NZTA that is not ‘roads, roads and more roads’ with a grain of salt.
          If I could, I would make them accountable for their lack of ‘future proofing’ on all their previous projects and therefore have to bear the additional cost to put these project into place before they are allocated any budget for the AWHC. I think elevated heavy rail to the airport would be a good start for them to spend a few $.
          The other alarming factor in all of this is that they haven’t provided anything that shows a business case for additional road lanes across the harbour. If this doesn’t stack up without a RTN option, then any RTN would make the justification for roads even weaker, so they may continue to try every play in their book to delay any RTN being built into this.

        3. Why would you want to walk/cycle under the harbour when you can catch a ferry?

  8. In Copenhagen, a city of about the same population as Auckland, they are currently building already their third UNDERGROUND METRO line – a circular route around the city centre. (And this in addition to their excellent overground trains and the legendary cycling network.) Is there any reason that Auckland cannot go underground? It would certainly sidestep all the routing issues of existing infrastructure and water in the way.

    Just imagine a North Shore line, starting at Britomart, calling at Devonport, Belmont, Eversleigh Road, Esmonde Road… then splitting, one branch running up through Takapuna Central and on through Milford up along the Bays to Long Bay; the other turning west to call at Akoranga Bus Station/AUT, Northcote, Birkenhead, Glenfield, and on up to Albany shops and QBE stadium. Maybe both lines could interchange at somewhere like Constellation Drive.

  9. What about a road tunnel fed from the Eastern Highway? This would be an extension of the AMETI project and offer an alternate route than State Highway 1.

  10. Check the demographics of Salt Lake City in the US of A.
    They have an Interstate, local ring road and a very successful Light rail.
    They also have an extensive bus network.

    1. Yes, and Auckland will soon have a substantial western bypass built at not inconsiderable public expense.

      Perhaps all interested parties, including NZTA and the government, should wait to observe the real-world effect of that bypass on Auckland’s traffic flows and congestion before pressing ahead with the next phase of road construction.

      If plans are being based on data gathered when no such bypass existed then I don’t see them as having any validity.

      1. And I can see the WRR, in conjunction with busway improvements on the city side, having a material effect (reduction) on SOV travel across the bridge. Making this beast redundant.

  11. 65% increase of vehicular traffic into the city?
    What’s the affect of the Carbon Emissions reduction going to do to the present predictions?

  12. Do we need to start including the cost of the upgrades to the northern and southern motorways when talking about the cost of the AWHC?

    Instead of calling it the $6 billion AWHC, should it correctly be called the $20 billion AWHC or the $30 billion AWHC?

      1. Really? Do you think the northern motorway can be double decked for less than $5b? Or how else would you feed this new cross harbour capacity?

  13. What an absolute farce NZTA are. Superb example of tunnel vision when it comes to more roads-first thinking. A rail-only option right up to Silverdale and the Whangaparoa peninsula would take so many cars off the existing motorway network in the north shore it isn’t funny. Yet these bozos plow ahead with increasing the roading capacity instead.

  14. What needs changing is that NZTA should stop thinking they have the priority for designating a road over Auckland Transport designating for rail, especially when the road is as uneconomic as this one.

    AT need to lift their game significantly to achieve that, but they are hampered by budget. According to the OIA docs, the NZTA CEO simply added $14m to the NoR budget, entirely within his delegated authority, bringing the total budget to $27m. Now they’re cracking on with the road designation to complete by the end of next year. Can’t see AT’s CEO being able to do that without running it past the AT Board first. Following due process counts against them.

    1. “NZTA should stop thinking they have the priority for designating a road over Auckland Transport designating for rail”.

      Agreed. It strikes me as odd that NZTA and AT are separate organisations. Result – of course – they fight. It would be better if transport in all its forms were considered as a whole, working out the best solution within one budget.

      1. Well in practice they are very cosy; but it is a power relationship, it is not a brotherhood of equals, and they have different masters, who are also in an unequal power relationship.

        *All a bit GoT when I write it like that!

  15. When this monument to steven joyce is completed will they at least provide bus lanes all the way from town to the busway over the existing bridge?

  16. Many kiwis will make the trip to Rio this year and a good chunk of those will venture to Copacabana. They will see a suburb that is difficult to access because it is surrounded by hills.cf the North Shore that is difficult to access because of the narrow connection point. The solution to moving the 160,000 inhabitants in and out of that suburb is three metro stations and 40 different bus routes.
    Why when many countries (including developing ones) have found solutions to mass transportation our transport Minister believes, dreams or fantasizes that electric cars might somehow be the answer? It may have escaped him that many Aucklanders barely are able to put a roof over their heads so the prospect of sufficient numbers ever owning enough of such vehicles to make a difference seems remote.

  17. When the CRL is complete there will be a surplus earth pressure balance TBM designed for the same conditions as the seabed under the harbour and of a diameter to suit our trains.
    There will be a precast yard set up to cast the right diameter tunnel segments, and contractors manned up to build as fit the tunnels out.
    This would be a low cost opportunity to bore a pair of rail only tunnels under the harbour.
    If it was started before Aotea station was complete, launching or turning around TBM’s at Aotea would also be much cheaper (makes me wonder how much it would cost to start some tunnels even if they only went as far as Vic Park, where it’d be easy to restart again in future).
    If somebody has access to the full CRL costing it would be pretty easy to come up with a tunnel cost.
    Assume the shortest practical route Aotea-Wynyard-Onewa being 4.5km as a first stage with only the destination stations built. This is also a like for like comparing to the road tunnels.
    The Onewa station would transfer to buses for Onewa Rd and busway, and be located under or around the existing interchange.
    CRL is 3.5km but has expensive stations and connection to NAL. My first guess is rail to the shore would be about $1.2B (half CRL). This is a lot cheaper than $5.3B road tunnels.

    1. Anthony is on to it – use the TBM to bore a pair of rail tunnels to the North Shore.
      The CRL will not solve the transport problem, but a rail line to Orewa would go a long way to reduce traffic volumes, and be much more cost effective.

      1. Yes, and as I suggested earlier, that rail could be an underground line for the southern section. A city the size of Auckland should be prioritising public transport over roads at every opportunity.

  18. Auckland can not really afford the CRL, lets not talk about borrowing more money to build rail to the shore.

    The AWHC should IMO be future proofed for rail and the Govt have said that is the intention. Meanwhile we do need a plan to increase road capacity between the lower NS and the City, the Western ring road does not do that.

    And for those talking about Copenhagen, they are busy building their own massive road tunnel project called the Nordhavnsvej.

      1. No I like his logic. Like Copenhagen, we can look at a big road tunnel once, like Copenhagen, we have finished building a seven line suburban rail system, a three line metro, a pedestrian city centre and the worlds most intensive cycleway network. Good plan Phil.

      2. The CRL is funded largely by Auckland rate payers and logically any extension of suburban rail would be a cost burden to AT. The AWHC is a state highway and therefore funded by central Govt. Quite a difference in affordability

        1. So your argument is that one comes out of a budget that is tight and the other comes out of a near limitless fund with little analysis of benefits, therefore it is more important. I would have thought the best value project (namely CRL) should be more important irrespective of which budget it comes out of.

    1. More of the rightwing rhetoric that has the Government paying for roads but Rail can only be paid for by local councils. I thought the New Zealand Transport Agency had TRANSPORT in its name. but maybe we should rename it the NZTAC – NZ Truck and Car!

    2. “we do need a plan to increase road capacity between the lower NS and the City, the Western ring road does not do that”

      Not directly, no, but it should divert a lot of traffic away from the city and relieve many of the bottlenecks. We need to see how that works before blundering forward with yet more roads.

      1. “we do need a plan to increase road capacity between the lower NS and the City,”

        No, no, no, no we don’t: we need to maintain efficient and effective access between all parts of the city including the Shore and the City. And access to the city, in particular is increasingly inefficient by car spatially.

  19. We need to increase road capacity. Build more roads. We need to increase road capacity again, build more roads. Lets build more roads so we can increase road capacity. How many lanes is enough? When do we actually reach this capacity? And when we do reach capacity, what should we do about it? Oh yeh, that’s right, more roads ….

    It all sounds crazy doesn’t it?

  20. There is one startling figure highlighted in large bold print in the above picture that should ring alarm bells for even the strongest proponents of an additional crossing. Trips across the harbour will increase by 65%. Where are all these vehicles to go in the city? And on the Shore? NZTA have no idea – I have asked them. And where can they go? The cost to widen existing roads will be horrendous.
    However what amazes me even more is that NZTA have not investigated the cost of rail to the Shore – again their words. And of course this is in the context of the runaway success of all other train services.
    This issue has all the hallmarks of replicating the mess that the Auckland housing market is in. A few years ago the government said, we don’t need to be involved in housing, the market will sort it out. Yeah right.
    As unattractive as this idea might be to our current government transport seems to be another area where public facilities (transport) deliver a much more effective outcome than building more roads and hoping.

    1. The reality is NZTA do not have a rational basis for this project. You don’t estimate a BCR of 0.3, or estimate that the tolls required to pay for the project would reduce the traffic to the point the crossing was pointless, and decide to build it if you are rational. So if they aren’t acting rationally then any number of technical and practical considerations such as where the traffic will actually go are going to be completely irrelevant.

  21. Does NZTA have an answer for how they see the trips from Waikato to Northland without going through Auckland or getting involved with the congestion charging. Would it be possible for the congestion charging only applying to vehicles that leave the system in the Auckland region say between 2 set points?

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