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.
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
This version shows the cross section.
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.
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?