Last week we had two important announcements with the Government finally confirming they’ll pay for half of the City Rail Link (CRL) and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) finally seeing the council and government aligned on the future of transport in Auckland, including agreeing on the need in the future for a number of big PT investments. Also last week I was looking on Auckland Transport’s website and came across a lot of new images and drawings, one of which I used in the CRL post.

k-rd-axonometric-west

These three things got me thinking about one of the big disappointments about the CRL, the decision to not build the Beresford Square entrance for the K Rd station, having only an entrance at Mercury Lane. It originally seemed to stem from AT value engineering the station to try and cut costs but in the process engineering out much of the value – to the point that at one time there were rumors they were looking to not build the station at all. After the decision to go only with Mercury Lane, AT released a board paper in which they claimed:

  • It would save $30-40 million – a tiny amount compared to the overall cost of the project.
  • A single entrance would be enough to cope with the demand out to 2046 – but given how frequently transport models are wrong, this seems completely bogus.
  • They only ever intended to build one entrance at first – despite having always shown the station as having two entrances prior to this point.
  • It would be more difficult to dig the Mercury Lane entrance later compared to the Beresford Square one and the Mercury Lane entrance had more future development potential.

That last point is what I want to focus on because as the technical images show, they’re actually doing most of the work needed for the entrance but then leaving off the useful bit. The extent of the works is shown in some of the images below and on others on the AT website. As you can see the plans show an approximately seven storey building to be built under Pitt St to service the CRL but it skips the planned connection to the central concourse area and also across to Beresford Square. Here is the longitudinal section

k-rd-longitudinal-section-pitt-st

This version shows the cross section.

k-rd-cross-section-pitt-st

With the government now on board with the project and obviously wanting it to be as successful as possible, it’s time to stop the penny pinching and build the station properly, especially as it will undoubtedly be much harder and more complex to build the connections at a later date.

As a reminder, this is what the entrance may look like if built.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance K Rd station Beresford Daylighting

Moving on to ATAP, while some were disappointed by more PT projects not being prioritised sooner, one of the key outcomes is the government has signed up to Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network (RTN) including new busways and their new favorite term ‘mass transit’. ATAP lists a ‘mass transit upgrade’ to the busway in the 3rd decade but at this stage we don’t even know what mode it might be or where it might go. Depending on the mode chosen, some options could see a line from the North Shore built under Wellesley St to connect perpendicularly to the Aotea Station the and then possibly travel elsewhere.

In the past Auckland Transport have said that they’re designing the Aotea Station for just this possibility, once such example is this from the CRL resource consent hearings where AT’s expert said this:

The Aotea Station concept design has been future proofed for potential platform level interchange between CRL and the potential North Shore Line (see table 1-2 of the CDR) by identifying space within the station box for the provision of two heavy duty metro style escalators and one 26 person lift, connecting passageways and additional structural works that would provide this connection.

Yet in recent times I’ve been hearing suggestions that the value engineering has gone a bit overboard again and at this time it may make future plans more difficult. While I don’t expect a North Shore line to be built quickly, designing and building the Aotea station to enable that kind of change is the future just makes sense.

My take on both of these issues is challenged by Finance Minister Bill English though, One such example is a few days ago on Paul Henry’s show where he talked about funding the project. Most concerning was this part.

“The big number that’s come out should pour a bit of cold water on some of the other dreams that have been expressed about what might happen in Auckland, because this is a large contribution from everyone outside Auckland to a critical piece of infrastructure there,” Mr English told Paul Henry on Monday.

Because the Government has essentially written a blank cheque, with the final cost still a mystery, Mr English says it’ll be taking a big role in the decision-making process from here. This he expects will ensure it comes under budget.

“In recent years our large roading projects have actually come in a bit under budget.”

Traffic in Auckland has gotten progressively worse in the past decade. More than 40,000 new cars hit the road every year, and the average rush-hour journey from Papakura to the CBD has gone from 46 minutes in 2013 to 67 now.

“We’re getting a more realistic view of how to deal with congestion and the need for more roading projects in Auckland,” says Mr English.

“They might just have to pull back on some of the big ambitions for [the CRL].”

This suggests even more cost cutting is on the blocks and therefore more key features of the project shelved. In a addition English says he expects the project to come in under the government’s revised budget of $2.8-3.4 billion – yet Len still says it will cost $2.5 billion +/- 20%, This makes me wonder if the government have deliberately inflated the cost of the project so that they can later claim they saved money.

Perhaps I’m just reading into it a bit much, what do you think?

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35 comments

  1. Gosh, walking back the “we can’t build our way out of ckngestion” statement already? Like with climate change -sign big global agreement, bask in praise, two days later declare that they aren’t going to do anything.

  2. What the minisyer is simply saying is that there is only so much money to go around and that some pipeline projects may be impacted by the open ended cheque required for the CRL. Anyone with any knowledge of historical infrastructure projects knows that the starting price is rarely the end price. I would realistically expect the price of the CRL to double over time. Not a negative, but a sensible view. There are only so many ratepayers and taxpayers to squueze to pay for projects.

    1. Ho Ho Ho; what nonsense. Name one comparably scaled recent infrastructure project that has doubled in price? Waterview? Er No, VPT? Er No.

      Or put it another way, your ‘sensible view’ means that the Additional Harbour Crossing will actually be $12 billion not $6? Realism man; or are only PT projects subject to your ‘sensible’ rule of doubling?

    2. So, at 30 million completing K Rd Station is 1% of the budget…. and what is the value?

      One thing that puzzles me is talking to a building owner on Beresford Square, he bragged to me that ‘he’ was able to stop the station there, [he would also like to be able to brag that he stopped the whole project as he is politically opposed to ‘Len’s Trains Set’]. I tried to suggest that he hasn’t been so clever as now his tenants will have pretty much all of the disruption of the build there but with much less of the reward; the thousands of passengers arriving at the station will all be walking passed shops on the other side of K Rd away from his properties. Whatever hit his rental values may take from the building disruption there will surely be much less of an uplift from enhanced foot traffic afterwards. Still, alpha male types love to feel they’ve won.

      1. I think that is a trap that we need to avoid, both for roads and public transport. 30 million might be a small percentage of this project, but it is still a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere.

        1. Complete lunacy. The Beresford Street entrance will pour thousands of people into that area of K Road and increase the values of property immensely. The foot traffic alone would be mouth-watering. However, typical only in NZ stupid buggery kills off the value of projects all to save a few pennies. They need to build it right the first time round.

          1. Typical NZ approach to key infrastructure, or as one person once described it to me: “only spend half a dollar, and half a day late”

  3. Why are they so blinkered?
    “Making Auckland attractive means more motorways” is just bone-headed climate chaos denial.

    Fleeing Auckland is looking like a much better option for low income workers. Local Government better get ready to clean their own toilets, and take their own rubbish to the tip, because those essential services are not paying high enough wages for anyone to continue living in congested, property-bubble-loving Auckland.

  4. Many of the latest major roading projects (such as the Tauranga Eastern Link and Cambridge Section of the Waikato Expressway) were completed under budget and opened earlier than anticipated. National have always come across as pro-road over rail and have a very good way of manipulating the results to suit a favoured transport preference. We will no doubt see this upon completion of the Waterview Connection (despite all associated works costing well in excess of the $1.4b pricetag).

    What is to bet the CRL will be delivered on time and well within the ballpark of $2.5b +-25% (realistically less than $3b).

  5. Traffic in Auckland has gotten progressively worse in the past decade. More than 40,000 new cars hit the road every year, and the average rush-hour journey from Papakura to the CBD has gone from 46 minutes in 2013 to 67 now.

    So we have been building massive motorways furiously since Bill English has been Minister of Finance and traffic congestion is getting worse. That’s right, and that’s what all sophisticated commentators on the subject predicted. So how on earth does the next sentence make any sense whatsoever?:

    “We’re getting a more realistic view of how to deal with congestion and the need for more roading projects in Auckland,” says Mr English.’

    Also this is not what ATAP concluded at all. This is just saying to their people what they think they want to hear. Still it is irresponsible and lazy.

    1. I surprisingly liked English’s views on housing – I thought maybe he was becoming a bit more progressive (or even just more sensible). But obviously not…

    2. We haven’t been building motorways furiously as suggested. Especially in the southern part of Auckland were the only addition has been the South Western motorway which at the moment is the motorway to nowhere. What we have been doing is furiously upgrading the public transport system. We now have double tracking throughout the Auckland isthmus, a busway on the north shore, countless bus lanes, millions of dollars in cycle lanes etc. The result of this investment is that it takes most people in South Auckland 20 minutes longer each way to get to and from work. Yay for public transport!!

      The Southern motorway is crying out for upgrades to align the number of lanes. It’s all the chopping and changing that creates unnecessary congestion. Hopefully this project will be addressed as a matter of urgency following the completion of the Waterview tunnel.

      1. Ah, push off with your anti-stuff. With all the cycleway money that has been spent in the last couple years AND the next 2 years together, we can build about one large motorway interchange – and we are in fact, currently building or preparing to build/upgrade 5 of them. Plus some that were recently built.

        And stuff like East West that people haven’t even realised is coming and is literally an order of magnitude larger.

        Cry me a sodding river with your “we don’t invest enough in cars” claptrap. Read the actual budgets.

        1. You live in South Auckland?
          No?
          Then you probably have no idea what he’s talking about.
          From the perspective down here, he’s pretty much right.
          South of Manukau RIGHT NOW (not soon we hope, but for the last couple of years)
          The buses are less, the train’s are less frequent (but larger), and the south bound motorway queue at the Hill Road narrowing is now back to Redoubt road from about 2pm every day, including weekends because of the road works.
          We EXPECT it to improve, but right now, yes, South Auckland is suffering, just the way the CBD is starting to.

      2. The countless bus lanes are probably because they don’t seem to be consistent or continuous, which creates the chopping and changing that causes congestion.

        So are you suggesting that we remove parking on arterial roads and join up the bus lanes and reduce congestion?

      3. So: No such thing as the RoNS doctrine, Joyce just made that up and didn’t fund or build any motorways in 8 years, cash piling up in the NLTF, and projects like the VPT, SH18, SH20 connections, Waterview, super sizing of SH16, Waikato Expressway, Papakura interchange, widening of SH1 everywhere either done (Ellerslie, Newmarket viaduct, Shore), underway (Takanini), or planned and funded (accelerated motorway package) are all imaginary….?

        Nothing but bike lanes and trains that no one uses, those 60,000 daily trips on the rail network are not journeys that would otherwise be on our roads so they don’t exist either….or something?

        As is well known by anyone after 5 minutes of study that in cities; more roads = more traffic. RoNS is a multi billion dollar real time proof of this fact. Nothing else; it’s simply a case of what we feed, grows. This is also what ATAP says specifically about Auckland, in careful technocrat-ese.

      4. Seriously? The SH1 Ellerslie Widening project was completed this year ($12m), and the Southern Corridor Improvements project is underway between Manukau and Papakura ($268m).

        1. Oberburgermeister is a great title. But the German word that really works is Rathaus. Just sums up nicely where our Council staff work.

  6. Imagine how good Vic Crone will look when she applies her magic efficiency dust on the project after becoming Mayor and the price drops from $3.4bn to $2.5bn. People will say “Len Brown could never have run the council like that”

  7. Bill English’s comments have to be understood in the context of the Government feeling the need to justify themselves to the majority of voters who live outside Auckland in spending a very large amount of taxpayer dollars in one region – but ignores the fact that as our region has one third of the population and slightly greater share of the economy it is not unreasonable to have about that share of the capital investment go back into our region. I repeat my concern that with a 51% share in the new company to build the CRL, the government will be able via its proxy directors to in effect choose the Chairman of the Board and the Chief Executive Officer – and to win any argument over scaling back aspects of the project (large and small). One thing I have tried very hard to get (so far without success) is where the new price range came from. Did it originate in Wellington (presumably from MoT who have never been particular fans of CRL) or from the CRL team of AT? My theory is that it came from Wellington, but Len is so keen to get the Government signed up to paying 50% of the cost that he has been forced to “swallow a dead rat” and not contradict Simon Bridges.

  8. The conspiracy theorist in me is thinking National politicians are going to be doing the following;

    ‘Lets keep hacking little bits here n there off this project … Then once it opens, it’ll be a failure, finally proving that rail is no good.’

  9. Save 30m over 3billion project is like 1%,
    Where we get two new stations of 3 exits instrad of 4.

    So save 1% to cut the value by 25%. What a shortsighted decision.

    1. Yes, and to continue the sayings, its knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

      The reverse being true for roading projects, of course.

  10. I’ve only just noticed that the Beresford shaft is not under Beresford St / square, but under Pitt St. This will cause unnecessary traffic chaos during the year(s) of construction. Unlike the lower Albert St area where there are parallel roads and alternate routes, Pitt St is isolated by Myers park and the motorway. Why?
    The plan view shows future escalators for Beresford. These look like more digging would be required. The whole centre escalator arrangement looks expensive. Surely they could be built within the shafts for cheaper cost, and therefore both entrances could be built now?

  11. Need to get a disability lobby group onto the Mercury Lane entrance. From Google Streetview it seems to be a 1 in 10 slope. According to disability guidelines, the steepest slope for a ramp is 1 in 14, and this needs handrails and landing areas. The steepest for a walkway without handrails is 1 in 20. The footpaths appear to be about 2 m in width, but cluttered with street furniture. The disability guidelines are that there be width for someone in a wheelchair or walking frame to pass someone else.

    Here are the Australian guidelines, and New Zealand are no doubt similar. If this were a new build, it would probably not pass Auckland Council’s building code.

    http://ddadesign.com.au/welcome/Accessible-Stairs-ramps-and-lifts.pdf

    http://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/access-guidelines-and-information

  12. A further problem with the Mercury Lane entrance is that the narrow footpaths would have insufficient capacity for the rate of passenger discharge from the station. An escalator has a capacity of about 100 passengers per minute, and this capacity would likely be achieved shortly after passengers alight from a train. A footpath 2 m wide would normally have a capacity of 66-98 pedestrians per minute at level of service C, but this is without street furniture intruding on the 2 m, and without the 1 in 10 slope that would tend to separate the fit and the unfit. It also doesn’t allow for fit pedestrians to get around mobility devices such as wheelchairs. There is also the contra-flow of pedestrians whose destination is the station, and who would be “bunched” by the green man signal lights when crossing K Road. In practice, the fitter pedestrians would spill out of the narrow footpath onto the roadway. Does AT have plans to widen the footpaths on Mercury Lane to provide adequate pedestrian capacity, or better still close it to vehicles so in the middle there can be a disability-compliant zig-zag ramp complete with handrails, landings and 1 in 14 slope ?

    For anyone who doesn’t believe there can be pedestrian overcrowding near train stations, there are such hot spots that were identified in a study for the City of Melbourne. These were at entrances to Flagstaff Station, Southern Cross Station and Flinders St Station, all of which have footpath widths much greater than 2 m.

    https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/~/media/files/technicaldocumentchapters/standards-and-supplements/vicroadssupplementtoagrdpart6apedestriancyclistspaths.pdf?la=en

    1. I think we can assume a street rebuild here along with the station, plenty of opportunity for wider footpaths- they will be digging a rather large hole there. But yes the Beresford Square station and environs would be easier to tackle in a wheelchair.

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