This week is shaping up to be an important one for the future of transport in Auckland with updates expected on both the government’s funding of the City Rail Link and the final Auckland Transport Alignment Project report due to be publicly released. Both issues are understood to have been discussed in the government’s Cabinet meeting yesterday. Tomorrow the council will hold a special meeting of the governing body behind closed doors to get updates on the decisions made so a public response can be made when the information is released, expected to be Thursday.

This meeting has been called to consider progress with central government on the City Rail Link and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project.

The above reports were not available at the time of going to print as the content is contingent on cabinet consideration that has yet to take place. The reason for urgency is to enable the council to respond quickly following that cabinet consideration.

While we wait for the Thursday, here are a few questions and thoughts I’ve had and will be keeping an eye on when the announcement happens.

City Rail Link

  • Will the government fund 50% of the project?
  • As we know the council are already funding ~$250 million for the early works on the project which will see cut and cover tunnels dug from Britomart to south of Wyndham St. This was needed in part so developments like Commercial Bay on the old Downtown mall site could proceed. Will any government funding commitment cover the entire project including a share of the early works or will it only apply to the rest of the project?
  • If a formal funding announcement isn’t made, does that leave it up to the next council to agree on the outcome. Does that create a risk that if enough incoming Councillors are hostile to the project we could see delays?
  • Will any funding be announced for other improvements to the rail network to enable the CRL to operate better, for example for more trains, more cross-overs, signalling enhancements, the much needed third main or a number of other potential upgrades.

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

Auckland Transport Alignment Project

The Foundation and Interim reports have given us a good idea of the kinds of things ATAP is looking at so I’m not expecting anything too radical to appear but you never fully know.

  • Focus on the first decade – ATAP breaks future projects down by the approximate decade they will be needed. Given how rapidly things can change, the modelling gets more inaccurate the longer in the future something is so any project more than a decade out might as well be ignored. An exercise like ATAP is probably needed ever 5-10 years to ensure we’re on the right track and those projects can be reviewed and re-prioritised then.
  • Road Pricing – Prior to ATAP, discussions around road pricing have existed solely as a way to try and raise additional revenue. Yet it can also be used to encourage people not to drive at certain times which can in turn have a big impact on congestion. The results in the interim report were very positive and as a result we saw the first signs the government were softening on the issue – Newshub reports this softening has continued. I don’t expect we will see specific details about any road pricing scheme but an indication of when one may be needed is likely. I also expect this will be the area most focused on by the media.
  • Future Technology – whether it be the likes of Uber or autonomous vehicles, almost daily there is talk of role technology could have in changing transport in the future. ATAP has been looking at the potential impacts and the Interim Report noted there are potentially quite positive impacts, but the big uncertainty will be how much and when those impacts might be seen. I don’t expect this report to answer that question and again why this exercise is probably needed on a set basis.
  • Government Funding the plan – Funding the CRL is one thing but with both the council and government finally expected to be on the same page around Auckland’s transport priorities, attention is going to have to turn to how we fund it. ATAP should give a better indication of both the quantum and timing of the funding needed. I hope we’ll see an initial response from the government at the same time as the report is released.
  • Mayoral candidate response – The Mayoral hopefuls are out promising projects to voters. How will Vic Crone respond if ATAP says an additional harbour crossing isn’t anywhere near a priority or what about Phil Goff if light rail is in the same boat? Whoever is elected mayor is likely going to need to come up with additional funding to help pay for the projects needed. How will this sit with candidates promising to cap or cut rates?

What are the things you’ll be looking for with both the CRL and ATAP are made public?

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  1. If any upgrade is added to CRL hope it is Quay Park flying junction will make running smooth and getting out of the way means don’t have to disturb post CRL network later.

    1. +1. This would remove a significant constraint to operability. Also, grade-separation at Westfield Junction which has to handle Port freight shunts as well.

        1. Eh? What upgrade is planned for Westfield Junction that *doesn’t* include grade separation? That’s the whole point of the upgrade surely.

        2. Not sure if a third main with a potential fourth track south of Westfield fixes the issue which is the trains crossing each other slowing them up.

          A flying junction is like a grade separated motorway compared to a expressway with intersection allows quicker speeds due to train never crossing only merging.

        3. Harriet – if after the 3rd main is built (hopefully soon) you then 4 track from Westfield to Wiri, this means all Manukau trains and ports of Auckland trains from port to inland port at Wiri have their own dedicated pair of tracks which do not need to cross any others to get to these destinations if these trains all go via Sylvia Park. That leave the other 2 tracks for Papakura/Pukekohe services via Penrose and freight going south. When separated like this there is loads of capacity on each pair of tracks and no conflicts (except occasional port shunt to Southdown, which can wait for a gap to cross). Also the cost of 4 tracking is very close to building a huge flying junction at Westfield but has its own advantages of adding extra capacity for this whole length of track. It’s a smart idea in my opinion (not mine I must admit!).

        4. Harriet a big expensive fly over achieves nothing when everything (with the exception of the few port shunts) has is stopping at Otahuhu, taking away any advantage of having a motorway flyover style intersection.

        5. Yes, clearly both and eastern freight line and a western one would solve many conflicts and allow the projected increase of PoAL-Wiri [east] inland port and PoT-Metroprt [west] rail traffic to occur efficiently. A function of geography really; separate the Tauranga and Auckland freight and AT passenger movements horizontally largely fits well with the arrangement of the depots and lines.

        6. Most of the Tauranga and Palmy/South bound freights are shunted and made up in the Westfield yard and move out (or in) on the small part of the third main that is built between Otahuhu and Middlemore, showing that Middlemore station is a bigger problem than the Westfield junction. Westfield will have the pressure removed with the ‘Westfield lite’ formation.

        7. Except the issue with that is freight plus any potential expresses/Waikato trains you may want to run in future are still stuck behind all stop services

          I think there is merit in your suggestion as it does become a cost benefit trade off

          BigTed I’m not going to respond to you anymore because you are always overally negative and rude about everything be constructive

        8. Potential express trains have bigger worries than Westfield but would be easier with the third main, any future intercity trains would use the third main (around the port shunts) provided for with the ‘Westfield lite’ formation.

        9. Yes, I see now that 4-tracking southwards from Westfield removes the need (or at least removes any current urgency) for grade-separating the junction. I didn’t realise there was any sort of near-term plan to do this. Good to hear that it is being looked at.

  2. Level crossing removals would be another on the wish list of potential upgrades, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

    1. Don’t be so sure the level crossings removal has a big advantage going for it we don’t have for other pt projects that is they really annoy car users to 🙂

      1. Level-crossing removal is more about improved road-safety than improved train-performance. Where rail operating rules, ETCS, or other restrictions affect train-operation at specific level crossings, then yes, their removal would benefit rail. But normally, rail has automatic right-of-way at level crossings so their presence should not affect operations.

        That said, any accident that occurs will inevitably bring the rail service to a halt for hours, even if not rail’s fault.

    2. Level crossings. Then platform side doors. Then automation.

      10 minute frequencies all day. That would make my year.

      Also it would be nice if they could fix the dwell problems with the trains. Should be feasible to hit 50km/h average on the southern line. 57km/h being the feasible maximum on a line with 2km between stations, 30s linger, 110 km/h max speed and 1 m/s/s of acceleration.

      Would be pretty cool if taking the train was actually time competitive with driving at peak time :).

      1. “Would be pretty cool if taking the train was actually time competitive with driving at peak time”

        Imagine how much we’d have to slow the train down to achieve that!!

      2. There is not sufficient demand for 10 minute intervals all day, 20 minutes is more than sufficient.
        How do you envisage ‘fixing’ the dwell times? It takes about 40 seconds for the doors to do a full cycle (including the ramps on the T car door) without anyone getting on or off, the train will not allow the driver to move before it has done its door checks of about 5 more seconds.
        It is easier said than done increasing the average speed, there are only two points on the southern line (and only for less than a minute) where the 110 kph max speed is possible. You need to keep acceleration and deceleration within limits that allow passengers to remain sanding or in their seats (the trains are dialed down limiting these for customer safety and comfort). There are speed limitations on take off from the platform until reaching the signal (and balise) slowing the average even more.
        If you can get from Papakura to being parked in the CBD in under 54 minutes in peak time you would be having a pretty good run and you would not be able to do it consistently.

        1. What is “sufficient demand” when you’re running automated trains that have much lower running costs? If you can justify 20 minutes with drivers, then surely you can justify 10 without.

          20 minutes is pretty pathetic frequency really, just 3 trains per hour.

          I mean fixing the reason the train takes that long to cycle its doors. Other countries do busy-ish stops in much less time. Clearly the technology exists. We’ve paid 100s of millions to get these trains and upgrade tracks and signalling. Surely we should be able to get are money’s worth? Same goes for signalling limitations. Fix the limitations. It’s been done elsewhere, it can be done here.

          It’s incredibly stupid to spend billions on expensive infrastructure if you refuse to spend small amounts on electronics and operations upgrades that could provide comparable upgrades.

        2. Running trains capable of carrying hundreds of people with 50-60 shows insufficient demand.

          AT opted for the cheap CAF option when buying the trains now you have to put up with the cheap electronics that are installed in them.

        3. “20 minutes is more than sufficient” *cough* bullshit *cough*
          Classic ops thinking with no regard for customers or what AT’s official plans say. AT’s rail team operate in huge silos though and they struggle to get this.

          Fixing dwell times, stop it taking 40 seconds to open and close doors. Most systems can do it in half that if not better, here are a few compared to Auckland

        4. Most systems but not the cheap option that AT has bought.

          Passenger numbers show that 20 minute intervals are sufficient, if they weren’t the trains would be fuller interpeak.

        5. I don’t think you get how PT services work, yes demand is a factor but also you have to have a level of service that is actually useful for people. With services only every 20 minutes it too long for most people to rely on, needs to be a minimum of every 15 if not every 10 on rapid transit. Far too long we’ve focused on on the operational side and not enough on the customer side. That’s one of the things the new network is trying to address but will only work if AT’s rail teams understand what it means. If they think running trains every 20 minutes is sufficient they should be looking for a new job.

        6. Brian frequency would be better if there were passenger numbers to warrant it.

          Matt I used the train to go to and from Middlemore interpeak, waiting 19 minutes for the next train is still easier (and cheaper) than driving. Running empty trains at 10 minute intervals wastefully increases maintenance costs as they are charged by CAF per KM.

        7. Stu so we go from the current 3 TPH to 4 TPH and not for two years and at the rate of increase in patronage there would be adequate demand by then, the question will be with that same increase in patronage where are all the peak passengers going to fit?

        8. I’m not sure I understand whether you’re asking a question or making a statement, or both. Hope this helps:
          – Yes, by 2018 AT will deliver 4TPH all day on main rail lines
          – The rate of increase in patronage between now and then is not relevant; the RPTP is a statutory committment to service levels.
          – Peak patronage is a somewhat distinct issue. I suspect that a combination of off-peak fare discounts and improved shoulder frequencies will spread peak.

        9. By all day they mean 7-7 that doesn’t even include the current peak, peak frequency currently runs 05:50-09:00 and 15:50-1910.

        10. Ted you seem to have no grasp on the relationship between frequency and ridership. It ‘s a two way street; better service in any mode induces use, and in PT services frequency is well understood as a key determinant of quality and utility. And for true ‘turn up and go’ Rapid Transit standard that is generally considered to be a minimum of 10 minute frequencies and long spans, ie all day.

          As the saying goes, you don’t build a bridge across a body of water only when a bridge load of people are swimming across; you build a bridge to enable the connection.

        11. BigTeddy – A service guarantee of at least 4TPH 7-7 doesn’t mean they can’t run extra service outside of these times. It’s simply a committment to maintaining a minimum level of service; as and when demand exists then AT can always run more service if needed.

        12. Not sure you could call CAF cheap but maybe you are an Alstom man the dwells can be fixed and there is a program to fix them

          They need to run 4tph 7-7 m-s because the new bus network is based on a trunk and feeder model you can have people getting to otahuhu then having to wait 20-30 min for train.

          Transdev told me when I asked them they planned to do this next year but tbh I can’t see it happening without a massive fight with Kiwirail without a 3rd on west-wiri section as that will be at 8tph due to shared making freight movement tough basically all day.

        13. Ted that is exactly right: Induced demand applies for every mode, so FFS invest to induce what we want to see more of!

          We only built roads, optimised everything for private vehicles, ran down the rail and bus services, and guess what; one of the highest levels of private vehicle mode share in the world. No-one can choose to catch a train that isn’t there. And for many reasons this is a poor result, for economic performance, for road freight getting through, efficient utilisation of both space and infrastructure, for quality of place and quality of life outcomes, for environmental externalities, and for poor use of planet-cooking expensive imported liquid fuels. So we have finally started to supply the alternatives, and guess what; people choose them because, in general, people are rational. But it would be a disaster to stop improving them just as we’ve got started by reverting back to old was of thinking. So, decide what’s best; and provide it. Don’t extrapolate out from a poor situation and build yet more of that.

        14. Auckland’s acceleration limit of 1.0m/s² is over-conservative for passenger-comfort and safety. Other metro systems permit significantly higher acceleration and braking rates without problem (for instance the Mexico City rubber-tyred metro that Nick R wrote about the other day ).
          What upsets passengers is high rate-of-change-in-acceleration (i.e. sudden jerks and lurches). High-accelerations per-se can be tolerated if their onset and decline is gentle and anticipatable.

          That said, an increase in the acceleration-limit would likely only make a difference between 0 and about 40Km/h, because beyond that the power-rating of the traction system becomes the natural limit and the acceleration falls away from the maximum anyway. More could be gained by applying higher braking-rates at higher speeds, but even then, this would require drivers to utilise the capability by driving more aggressively, and to be of any value, this would then have to be incorporated into the timetable. Aggressive driving increases the risk of over-running stop-points and even with the protection afforded by ETCS, no driver wants to get caught out.

          Best gains are to be had by whittling away those dwell times to something more along the lines of what the Matangis in Wellington can achieve.

        15. ETCS Level 2 doesn’t stop SPADs either!

          It does more than mitigate the risk, it removes in all cases except where you plonk a pedestrian crossing 2m past the red signal. This is very hard to protect using a fail safe system, if you want the train to be able to drive right up to the signal.

        16. 1.0m/s/s is not an unusual figure for an EMU, though. It could be higher and I think it should be slightly higher, but the higher it is, the more and more often other issues start to come into play – like grip. Even when limited to 1.0, the AMs lose grip in traction and braking in both predictable and unpredictable places. Uphill from Middlemore to Otahuhu and from Fruitvale to Glen Eden can be so slippery on winter mornings that the train takes an extra minute to judder and lurch its way to speed. Some spots like the Orakei basin causeway and Westfield-Otahuhu down main, the EMU will momentarily spin its wheel at speed pretty much every time. Downhill into Middlemore and a few other places the EMUs can unexpectedly lock up under moderate braking on cold mornings (even in dry conditions) with the computer struggling to regain grip for several hundred metres. We could reprogram and re-timetable to take advantage of higher acceleration/deceleration, but it would only be useable in perfect conditions and any compromise to grip like a cold or wet day would mean lateness and/or overruns. Better to run a system that works the same regardless of conditions.

          The obvious question then is why are these machines so poor for grip? I haven’t heard any good answers to that one. Keen for enlightenment.

  3. ETCS2
    More crossovers
    Third main
    Pukekohe electrification and associated new stations
    Close all flat crossings
    Rebuild timetables for fewer conflicts and faster running

  4. How do you define when road pricing is “needed”? You will get massive benefits anytime it’s implemented if done right. I can’t see how you could get an answer that it will only be needed x years from now. We already have congestion!

    1. Agreed.
      This would help get low-value/discretionary/unnecessary car-trips off the road at congested times.

      I know there is an argument that PT must be improved first, but this assumes that journeys deterred from roads at peak times by road-pricing must still be made at peak times.

      Here-and-now there is likely to be a proportion of traffic that simply doesn’t need to be there at that time. A small charge would be unlikely to displace necessary journeys, but it may well flush out those which seriously don’t need to be made at that time.

      Same as peak/off-peak fares help reduce peak crowding on PT.

    2. Road pricing timing? As soon as politically possible. When is that? As soon as those in charge design a reasonable model, and offer to run it for a year, then revert, then people can decide whether they want it. This is how they got it through in Stockholm. You’ll never get a majority for a new tax, even a revenue neutral one that improves the problem significantly, before they’ve experienced it; people will be not unreasonably cynical about the promised benefits.

      But once experienced, a clear majority will not want to go back, I’m sure. So long as it is a well designed programme. Which, incidentally, excludes it from being either a m’way network charge or just a CBD cordon charge.

  5. So if running trains at customer friendly 10min frequencies shouldn’t have happen because of lack of demand how come we build motorways that are bigger than required for most hours of most days? BigTed please explain…. 50 words or less 5marks

    1. Motorways don’t require extra maintenance when empty, empty trains run up Ks more Ks means more maintenance for less of a return.

        1. That’s exactly the point Jonty, and it’s also true for buses and ferries. People should be able to turn up to use public transport without a second thought, without worrying about waiting for too long, being charged too much, and being able to get back home.

        2. If 19 minutes is too long you should have planned better. I have waited 19 minutes at Middlemore, it is not that long really.

        3. Ah yes, the old ‘poor plebs on trains just can’t plan’.

          We are trying to divert people from private cars to public transport to use our public money better.
          We know that more frequent services are more attractive to more people.
          We should run more frequent train services.

          I am unsure whether you disagree with the premises or the logic because, as usual, you simply repeat your statement ad nauseum without any supporting comment.

        4. Sailor Boy I just saying 19 minutes is not that long, it makes more sense (to me anyway) to provide for demand to save unnecessary costs so the limited PT funds available can be spend wisely rather than on different peoples fantasy projects. We all have ideas where PT money should go and if money was not an issue there would be plenty of frequency, capacity and there would be service from everywhere to everywhere but there is not unlimited money so it is a matter of wisely spending in areas of greatest need.

        5. One of the chief advantages of driving is exactly that you don’t need to plan around those timetables.

          There’s so many things in daily life that may mean you’ll leave a few minutes later than planned:
          → Someone has to go to the toilet first
          → Oops I forgot something inside
          → Add kids to the mix, and you can forget about leaving exactly on time. They may refuse to get their jacket on. They may spill something which requires cleaning up first.
          and so on.

          If you’re driving, then no problem, we’ll just leave a few minutes later

          But oh dear if you’re taking PT — you’ll end up missing the bus, and maybe the next one only comes in half an hour, or maybe some connection is only hourly, or maybe you won’t make it at all. It’s an entire new layer of stress and anxiety which is just not there if you drive.

        6. Ted a small number of people have a naturally ordered temperament that means it suits them to run their lives to schedule. Most actually don’t. Sadly the first group also seem naturally drawn to working in roles like railway operations. This can lead to a structural culture mismatch. It is an enormous mistake to assume that people do, or worse should, run their lives to tidy little patterns that fit perfectly to fixed schedules like train timetables. A lot of people struggle to get to big important things like airports and exams on time, let alone everyday boring stuff like their train to work. So what experience of running city wide transport networks have taught us, worldwide, is that turn-up-and-go systems are the answer to suit all people. Those who want regularity and order, can still find it, and the rest of us will still be able to get to work/class/meetings/dates/gym whatever, not too late by getting that next train that’s coming along in a few minutes.

          Also, the first rule of customer focussed businesses; change your offer to suit the customer, don’t harangue your customer ‘improve’ themselves to suit your operations. The former business grows, the later not so much. Sadly railways operations seems to be full of men who don’t really seem to approve of their customers’ priorities….

        1. Motorways are empty for a very short time in the middle of the night, that is why they are closed and maintained at night.

  6. I see the government has signed up to 50% of the CRL costs, even if the final figure is still not known.

    I also see the Herald today reporting the budget blow out again, does anyone know if this is just them again adding the $1B of extra works required onto the $2.5B for the tunnel itself or if the budget has actually increased?

  7. I was hoping to find more information about the agreement and what the potential costs for the project. It seems that Len has got a good deal from the Government. I would like to see a clearer cost breakdown. What does $3.5 billion get us?

        1. The granny herald editors hate the CRL and take every opportunity to denigrate it. Just like they did with the “white elephants” of Britomart and the Northern Expressway…

  8. Does anyone have the numbers on the expectedthroughput of the Waterview Connection Tunnel vs CRL or why the huge cost differential?

    1. Well just on capacity; Waterview is only half the size of the CRL [while being more than twice as big]: It takes at least 12 traffic lanes to move the same number of people as two rail lines typically do, Waterview has six.

      But otherwise they aren’t apples and apples, ie they are not directly comparable; not in type of location [inner city v suburban], nor in geology [CRL passes through much more varied dirt than Waterview], and obviously not in in transport technology.

  9. Part of this is a real difference in price: the City Rail Link is a harder job. Much of it is highly complex cut and cover underneath Britomart and Albert Street in confined CBD conditions, being paranoid about disturbing buildings, and keeping access for vehicles and pedestrians the whole time. The City Rail Link also includes two fairly expensive underground stations which are cut and cover and mined.

    Waterview by contrast was all done with one TBM in some mostly wide open grassy parks that could be completely closed to the public for years on end.

    On the other hand, partly the supposed cost differential is people being tricky and not comparing apples with apples. The figure for the CRL does include a lot of other related works that are necessary but not physically attached to the tunnel project – level crossing removal, extra crossovers, extra platforms at Otahuhu and Henderson, possibly some extra trains, and so on.

    Whereas the figure for Waterview does not include any of the costs associated with widening vast stretches of the Northwestern Motorway, or the rebuilt interchanges at places like St Lukes and Te Atatu.

  10. So if you have 6 full trains per hour (in one direction) that is what..2000 pax max? Vs at a guess 1 car per lane every 5 secs equals 2160 per hour, and that’s at only 1 person per vehicle. What are projections for peak durations on Rail vs Road? I travelled the Onehunga line often and apart from morning & evening commuters you’d be lucky to have 40 pax on the whole unit.

    1. A single 6-car train can easily hold up to 750 people and frequencies enabled by the CRL are much more than 6 trains an hour. You’re roughly right on a car lane capacity. The modelling I’ve seen suggests peak volumes in the tunnel during the height of the peak and in the peak direction of maybe up to 4-5k. That means in both directions you’re looking at maybe 8k per hour. CRL on opening will be able to move up to 27k people if we had the trains for it and up to 36k per hour with additional development.

      As a quick comparison, Britomart which has only one track in and out currently has about 10.2k arriving in the am peak. The motorways at Nelson St feed about 6k over that same time.

    2. On opening the CRL will have 15 trains per hour each way at peak, and at peak main line trains are often full 15 x 750 = 11,250 pax. Over time that will rise to 24 tph [trains per hour]. 18,000 pax. Each way.
      AKL m’ways usually average around 1800 Vehicles per hour per lane at an average occupancy of 1.2 people 3 x 1800 = 5400 x 1.2 = 6480.
      That’s why cities build railways; high capacity in a very space efficient way, consider the difference in width between one rail line and three traffic lanes…
      Then consider the space and cost of parking and circulating all those cars in the city, compared to trains that pass through underneath it enabling all that activity above without congesting it at all.

  11. OK, thanks for the numbers. Be interesting to see the reality of the numbers when everything is finished. The train driver’s union will be salivating already I guess – and I hope the reliability of the network improves.

    1. Mark while those figures are based on capacity and those units will only run near full capacity for a few hours per day this is still one of the best options for our transport dollar. The more people on these trains are more people off the roads freeing up space for those essential and freight services along with everyone else that needs to be there.

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