Tomorrow Steven Joyce delivers his first budget as Finance Minister. Here are a few thoughts from a transport perspective on what we know will be in it, what might be in it and what we hope will be in it.

Photo: RNZ

What we know will be in the budget

As part of statements made in the lead up to the budget, Joyce has made a number of comments about upcoming spending, including that the budget will set out up to $11 billion of new capital spend which is on top of normal spending from the likes of the National Land Transport Fund. Of course, some of that $11b was previously announced and not all of that is going to transport but I suspect a significant chunk of it will do so.

One of the few things we know that will definitely be mentioned in the budget is the government’s share of the City Rail Link. Below is part of the transcript from his interview on The Nation about a month ago.

One of the things you’ll see in the budget, of course, is the government’s expenditure on the central city rail link, which is very significant, and you’ll see one of those things in there. You’ll also see a bunch of other stuff that we’re doing over the next few years.

There’s a bit more in the transcript about it but it doesn’t add a whole lot. While we know the government are now on board with the CRL and they’d already said they would be paying 50% of it, I’m really looking forward to seeing that funding actually in the budget. It was only four years ago that the government even agreed the project was needed as prior to that they tried to stop it at every opportunity. And even after they agreed to the project, they put in place targets they thought would never be achieved but will now be reached three years early.

Outside of Auckland we know a significant chunk of money is going towards Kaikoura to help recover from the earthquake there late last year. In a pre-budget speech at the end of April he said the rail line would cost about $400 million to re-instate – most of which would be covered by insurance – and $812 million would be in the budget to help pay for the rebuilding of the road.

What might be in the budget

One project that now seems to have a greater chance of being in the budget than I had assumed even just a few weeks ago is electrification to Pukekohe. As Simon Wilson from the Spinoff reported from the National Party’s recent conference.

But then he seemed to reveal a budget item. He said he was more interested in extending the electrification of the rail line into Hunua, by which he meant the National-held Hunua electorate that stretches around the Bombay Hills. In other words, Pukekohe. Joyce doesn’t say things like that randomly. Electrification to Pukekohe is already on the government’s 10-year plan. Hot tip: watch for an early date and financial commitment in the budget on May 25.

This would be a project we would definitely welcome. If it is proposed it will be interesting to see if the government do so by extending the wires to Pukekohe – which among other things requires a motorway bridge to be replaced – or go with Auckland Transport’s suggestion of battery powered trains – which the AT are set to look at a business case for at their next board meeting.

Given the noise recently regarding access to the airport and the discussion over light rail or advanced buses, I don’t think that will be in the budget for that issue but there is a possibility of some money towards a bus solution on SH20B. This could be similar to what we’ve proposed before and we know the general idea is something that is being worked on. Still might be better in the next category.

It also almost certain we’ll see some funding for new roads announced, especially likely is some rural projects to negate the anti-Auckland sentiment in some areas.

What we hope will be in the budget

There is obviously a long list of things we could hope is in the budget but many are unrealistic. So here are a few realistic options could see:

  • A funding agreement with the Auckland Council that will address the annual $400 million shortfall identified by ATAP.
  • Funding for Kiwirail to build the third main, even if just the section from Otahuhu to Puhinui at this stage
  • Commitment and timing towards the much-needed Northwest busway
  • Funding for additional trains in Auckland to help cope with the fast-growing demand – this could potentially be tied to any Pukekohe electrification announcement
  • There is still another year to run on the Urban Cycleways Fund but we hope an extension of that is signalled

Bonus Round: What we don’t want to see in the budget

There is always lots we can wish for in the budget but there is also lots we hope doesn’t happen. The biggest concern is that Joyce goes off the ATAP script and promises something crazy like an additional road harbour crossing where ATAP pushed that out to the third decade. Given the lobbying by business groups I also worry other hugely expensive projects like Penlink get pulled forward (likely as a PPP).

Is there anything you’ve heard that I’ve missed and what do you think we’ll see from the budget for transport?

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100 comments

  1. I’d really like Joyce to surprise me and announce the electrification of the NIMT from Pukekohe to Te Rapa – and the purchase of new electric locomotives instead of diesel. That would be a joyous occasion!

      1. Yes, +1, but can’t help thinking it will be SNAFU wrt PT, at worst even a wriggle to make CRL less easy. Please surprise me Mr Joyce…

    1. Then you need to upgrade the locos to run under the Auckland OLE and upgrade the central NI OLE to allow the upgraded locos to run under it.

        1. You can not run the locos under the Auckland OLE or the EMUs under the central NI OLE. Once you have upgraded the locos to be compatible with the Auckland OLE they would no longer be compatible with the OLE south of Te Rapa so that OLE would need to also be made compatible with the Auckland OLE.

          Yes Sailor Boy both will need to be upgraded and then there is the south of Palmy issue.

          1. Hopefully the moderators will remove your comment anyway, as the existence of dual voltage locos has been explained to you on at least half a dozen threads already.

          2. Sailor Boy there is a difference between dual voltage (working on a 25KV AC and the Wellington 1.5KV DC) and operating on two completely different 25KV AC systems. There is a safety feature (I believe it works similar to plugging two different circuit breakers in together, one cancels out the other and neither work) that is built into the central NI network but in Auckland it is built into the EMUs, so if you install it in the locos to work in Auckland they can’t work in the central NI without it being removed from that network.

            So back to the original statement to have the locos work on the Auckland network and the central NI network BOTH the loco and the network need to upgraded. I’m no electrician and the network update may be straight forward once the locos are upgraded to work in Auckland but it doesn’t get away from the fact that both need to changed.

          3. My understanding is that it is simply the loco’s that have the issue as they take all the power they can so would fuse on the Auckland network. The EMUs on the other hand take what they need so could run on the NIMT OLE. The NIMT would however possibly need additional power supply if there were to be larger numbers of trains (or larger trains) using the central NI section at the same time.

          4. The EF’s, in current configuration, can’t run in Auckland. There is nothing to say the electrical systems in them cannot be upgraded. The technology is 30 years old.

    2. That would be wonderful!
      Add in Hamilton-Tauranga too and that would be a huge leap towards improving rail in this country. Would allow for inter-city rail again easily and reduced costs for rail freight. Then there are the environmental and time-saving benefits.

  2. Don’t expect a ‘lolly scramble’ like public transport, just some good old fashioned ‘common sense’ spending – more roads.

  3. Lets be quite honest about what we can REALLY expect and I base this on what National have achieved after 9 years. Motorways!.

    As pointed out they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the CRL despite all the evidence this was a very necessary project. The cynic in me suggests that is only because polling said it was a vote winner. But what else have they done for alternatives to cars? Very little, a small patch work of half arsed bike lanes is about the sum total.

    What we can definitely expect is a bunch of repackaged, recycled announcements, commitment to money already spent, vague aspirations of things that may come in 2045 but only if x = y to the power of 7. And more motorways or as National prefers after massive spend ups, the slower version called Expressways.

    You want real progress on alternatives to roads and cars, vote another government in.

    1. Not sure about voting another government in as a solution. Like many countries our governing parties tend to move towards the median voter, which means it’s not so much a change of government that is important, but a change in the median.

      This is already happening with the CRL and urban cycleways fund, both of which as you say are almost certainly poll driven. The problem with the median voter is that they often drive. If you were to sit them down in a room and go through the costs and benefits of a roading project they may well say it is a waste of money. However, if they are just a user they will likely be pleased with a new motorway even if it costs the earth to build it.

      1. You’ve hit on the key issue here – Most voters don’t care, nor are they inclined to research if the government spending is reasonable and appropriate. People don’t change their thoughts and/or behavior unless they’re challenged or inspired.

        1. Good point. If you are led to believe that gridlock and muddling along in ever worsening traffic is the best we can ever expect than yes, this government is okay. And I think this is where this government have been very successful, to lower your expectations and not look for why things are the way they are.

          EG; Shop owners being robbed are the cause of their own victimisation by selling tobacco, not the abysmal lack of Police resources and slashed citizen support services created by the very government they pay taxes into, for such services.

          It very much is over to the other party’s to inspire alright and say, no motorways are a waste of money but here is a real do-able alternative that will make this city flow and be so much more pleasant to live in than wasting your life away sitting in traffic.

          I’ll go further, that is why Len Brown did well, he gave a very inspired enthusiastic vision of what could be.

      1. Vance, your suggestions are proof that if horizons are set low enough by our government, as they have been, you only think about cutting things even further into dysfunction.

        However you could cut the dumb spending on motorways. The waste is extraordinary.

        And raise taxes to fund alternatives!

        You cannot cut what is already cut to the bone anyway.

        1. Wait till the cost of the CRL blows out to $5B – that will throw a spanner in the works of future public transport projects.

          Btw. Buses use motorways.

          1. Why would that put a spanner in the works of PT? Cost blow-outs on the East-West link don’t appear to be putting a dent on road construction. Although I think public reaction to congestion failures with the Kapiti Expressway and the Waterview tunnel certainly could.

          2. “Btw. Buses use motorways.”

            No, buses use busways. Unfortunately we’ve failed to build them as part of the SW and NW motorway upgrades.

          3. Where do buses use the motorway? I can think of a handful on the northwestern at peak times, and one that comes up the southern twice a day.

            Otherwise its all on the busway, bus lanes or local roads.

          4. The cost of the CRL shouldn’t even be considered part of the transport budget. It was promised – alongside roading projects that did actually happen – decade after decade. It’s so long overdue that it should just be put down in the budget as “Apologies, Auckland”.

    1. I would expect a four lane connection between the Waikato Expressway and Tauranga/BOP to be announced first, maybe not in this budget but at some point if National stay in power.

    1. Funny you say that. So many commentators from other boards back monorails…

      Reminds me of the Simpsons, S04E12 “Marge vs. the Monorail”:
      Sebastian Kobb: [showing Marge North Haverbrook’s monorail] This is all that’s left of one of the crappiest trains ever built.

      Having said that, I wish Mr Musk all the best with the Hyperloop concept (good on them for open sourcing the concept) and The Boring Company…

      1. I was joking of course but I do think Hyperloop will be an awesome technology that could well be useful for this route in future.
        It is far from being a mono-rail of course. Mono-rails are a joke – a tourist gimmick.

        1. An *incredibly expensive* tourist gimmick.

          I still can’t understand why something that has existed in it’s current guise since the 50’s is still considered futuristic…

          Interestingly, though folks often class maglev as it’s own tech, it is in theory just monorail.

          Talking of maglev, the geek in me loves the idea, the pragmatist in me asks why you’d bother when high speed rail is almost as fast (the commercial Shanghai Maglev Train has run at 501 km/h, China regulary runs 300 km/h trains in Beijing and the French TGV set a speed record in 2007 of 574 km/h – So two rails can definitely do the job, at lower carbon and infrastructure cost.

          1. The Chuo Shinkansen, which is a maglev being developed in Japan, is planned to operate at over 600km/h in service. Mostly in tunnel. It’s really just next generation high speed rail with a special track.

            The TGV was specially built to do that speed run, and damaged most of the overhead line and track in the process. For that sort of speed rail and steel wheel may still work in service, but maglev looks more promising to me.

            All very moot for NZ. We would do fine with some conventional high speed rail, even Queensland style tilt trains on freight lines doing 160km/h would do nicely!

          2. Maglev is quite different from monorail. Really the only similarity is that it tends to operate on an elevated rail and that at slow speeds it operates like a monorail (albeit with a much greater capacity).
            While HSR has gotten up to those speeds, it is unsafe at those speeds and can’t run at any sort of decent capacity at those speeds (the OLE needs to be temporarily boosted too). It would use a lot more power at those speeds.
            Maglev is still in its infancy. Eventually it will use less power, be cheaper, be faster still, and be more reliable.

    1. I’m still amazed (and disappointed) that the Hawkes Bay Expressway hasn’t been significantly upgraded through the RoNS programme.

      1. Are you serious?

        The section from the Flaxmere roundabout to Pakipaki reminds me of one of those expensive airports in the middle of nowhere in Spain…

        Once the Whakatu arterial is complete and the new intersection at the end of Meeanee Quay built there is not really anything else that needs doing in HB. Its a pretty good road network now. More cycle infrastructure to extend from the ‘cyclebridge to nowhere’ at Chesterhope would be nice.

          1. 100km/h in theory. In practice, when would you ever see anybody exceed 80km/h there?

            *Nobody* in HB goes over 80 unless somebody is trying to pass them!

            I know the road well, I used to live there and drive 500-1000km a week over those roads for work…

          2. “100km/h in theory. In practice, when would you ever see anybody exceed 80km/h there?”

            In most of the head on crashes that have killed people on those roads. Even at 80km/h you would expect a head on to be fatal. We need to install median barriers on about 1,000km of state highway in New Zealand, that one should be first, and should start tomorrow.

          3. Yip, agree on the need for median barriers. Start on busiest state highways and roll down from there. More important than 4 laning.

          4. The Hawke’s Bay Expressway would be a good candidate for four-laning given it’s long sweeping curves (built to spec as if it was a dual carriageway, but it’s only two-laned) which make the sight lines impossible to pass anyone safely, the vpd (24,000 in the midpoint of the expressway at Taradale), the percentage of freight heading to/from the port and the population. The twin cities were the 5th largest population centre until just recently when Tauranga overtook them and is currently ~3,000 more populous in the urban areas. Tauranga is getting a lot of central funding for motorways all over the show while there is not much investment to speak of in Hawke’s Bay.
            The current road is unsafe given the number of accidents that come through the front door of the regional hospital’s ED.

            I’m quite surprised RONS hasn’t visited town, but maybe the local pork barrel here isn’t in so much need as elsewhere?

            The cycleway initiatives have been a good start here and I’m hoping they get continued. A lot of the cycle infra currently is just painted lines and cars often just use that space, so it is pretty nascent at the moment, but could easily improve with ongoing investment. The geography is pretty flat and the weather is pretty fine so it really lends itself to cycling.

      2. How? Why? Hawkes Bay expressway is wayyyyyyy in excess of the amount of people living and working there. What would be far more useful is if they had a better public transport system so that the people there did not need to buy cars ! You try getting a bus around Napier…

        Actually – the best thing to happen to Hawkes Bay has been the Cycleways, started off by the local Lions Club, taken on by an American immigrant millionaire who promised to double every dollar the Lions raised, and then taken on by the Councils – and possibly now by central gov. But this was primarily a people power project that has brought more health and happiness to HB than a million miles of expressway.

        1. The expressway is not “wayyyyyyy” in excess of people using it. At 24,000 vpd the expressway falls into the uppermost part of the bracket that NZTAs guidelines state are suitable for roads that ought to be four laned (12,000 – 25,000vpd). The NZTA documents say that interim measures like passing lanes or 2 + 1 can be considered, but ideally should be 4-laned.

          So, the numbers stack up for extra lanes. There are no passing opportunities along the Napier to Hastings stretch apart from around roundabouts or the southbound Meeanee long merge lane, neither of which are designed (or can be safely used as) passing opportunities.

          It should have at least some three laning, but realistically that would be a short term interim measure on the way to four laning.

          1. You do realise that merge lanes and roundabouts are not designed to be used as ‘overtaking opportunities’, don’t you?

            I really don’t follow your complaint about passing opportunities on the expressway. I use this road every day and have never felt the need to overtake. Any brief period of acceleration will soon be bought to a halt by the next stream of traffic.

            This piece of road is only really busy at the peak morning and peak afternoon traffic times. The rest of the time it is not an issue.

      3. I’m disappointed that SH 2 still runs through central Napier.

        It’s time it was moved to the Hawke’s Bay Expressway instead of this SH 2B/ SH 50/SH 50A nonsense

  4. How about Christchurch getting a functional rapid transit service to match Auckland’s and Wellington’s? Has National learnt from its mistakes in Auckland? Will NZ’s second fastest growing city have to go through the same growing pains?

  5. The funding commitments we already know about are significant so I don’t think we will see too much on top of that. I don’t believe we will see an immediate commitment to electrify to Pukekohe. Perhaps a commitment to start by 2020.

    Hopefully we will see further roading improvement. The Hamilton-Taupiri Expressway has been a massive improvement and once the Huntly bypass is complete AKL-HAM time savings will be astronomical compared with the old road.

    The next big roading project should be the Southern motorway lane alignment project. The motorway should be three lanes from the CBD to the Bombays. The chopping and changing from 2 lanes to 3 lanes back to 2 lanes then 3 lanes induces large amounts of congestion.

    1. So you would widen the rail overbridge at Mt Wellington to three lanes only to push the congestion up to the South-Eastern and Ellerslie-Panmure onramps quicker? Sounds like a big waste of money to me.

      1. Studies have concludes there is no net benefit in widening the Mt Wellington Hwy overbridge. The cost to both widen the motorway and add capacity to the interchanges would be in the hundreds of millions, all for the sake of a matter of minutes less travel time.

    2. It’s intentional TRM, its called lane balancing. The idea is to create space for traffic from busy on ramps. If you made it three lanes the whole way then the likes of Mt Wellington Hwy and SH20 would create some seriously gnarly jams (as they have proven in the past).

  6. The cynic in me is expecting a pretty much all round lolly scramble (especially regarding social/health/education policy), moving yet again into Labour & Green territory but holding onto National/Act supporters. Regarding Auckland Transport things, I predict:
    1. CRL (but perhaps a bigger portion/provision than we expecting to try and please rate payers).
    2. Electrification to Pukekohe – logical as this is rural National area.
    3. No third main, but more likely EWC fast tracked.
    5. Penlink (esp considering it be done as a PPP)
    6. Motorways north of Puhoi fast tracked.
    7. I actually think something in regards to Airport Rail due to it’s popular media coverage lately, but likely the silly bus thing (from the city I mean) or for far future LRT plan.

    More hopeful list of what realistically should be done is what Matt says.

    1. I expect that all of this is going to be pretty close, but cynically expect that it’ll have a veneer of green wash that can be conveniently jettisoned by some other dead rats discretely later in the electoral cycle.

  7. We need to put aside our own selfish wishes and consider others too. What about the tunnelling contractors? What will they do after Waterview? New Ferraris don’t buy themselves. Those billion dollar roading contracts are needed, if our imported luxury car makers are not to fall on had times. The cross harbour tunnel project is practically welfare spending when you think about it. Nobody is more in need than those who want the most.

  8. My dream: high speed rail to Whangarei – starting by rolling out the commuter Auckland to Helensville. New to this blog so I expect costings with be moonshot size especially straightening the bends and getting rid of level crossings. But almost immediate benefits. Otherwise high speed electric trains from Huntley to Auckland and the airport etc. Maybe moving Auckland’s CBD would be the cheapest option and the only solution to both private and public transport.

    1. That’s great for the commuters who want to get home after finishing working in the CBD at 5 o’clock today.

        1. Yes; if the taxpayers through representatives (government) choose to allocate taxpayers’ money to the most efficient causes, instead of which ever batch of motorways they are currently planning to waste taxpayers’ money on, then AT can start building LRT sooner.

          1. I’d love to see whoever gets in, stumping up cash to start the light rail to the airport *NOW*. 🙂

    1. yoyoyo, the current government has done everything it can to stall and delay light rail to the airport. See for example it/the NZTA pushing ahead with the advanced bus study, despite there being clearly nowhere for so many buses to go in the CBD (among other failings).

      AT/Auckland Council can’t fund light rail on its own. It needs government support, but the current government has other priorities. If you want light rail to the airport, you need to vote for a change of government. Simple.

  9. Light rail to the airport seems like a wet dream for some on here.
    The Gold Coast system took 18 years from when it was first proposed till it opened.
    The cost for the second stage is estimated at $60m AUD / kilometre.
    How long would it take to build a system here and how much?
    I can’t see it happening for at least 20 years.
    On the other hand we already have the trains and a heavy rail line to Onehunga and a line to the airport could probably be open in under 5 years with funding.

    1. The issues that I can think of are:
      – The SH20 bridges won’t allow more than 1 track and even that is likely to be low speed. This reduces resiliency in the network
      – The Onehunga line suffers from too many level crossings, which is where the majority of the cos in upgrade is, in order to get the service levels required to make it competitive time wise
      – Rail to the airport isn’t so much about the airport, more the other place it joins up
      – Will the geometry actually work, now that some decisions have been made, or is it too late?

      I’m sure there are other issues, look at some older posts to see what has been said.

      Personally I think we’ll end up with multiple rail links to the airport, serving different parts of the city, with Light Rail first and Heavy Rail later, most likely linking in at Otahuhu.

    2. So you are suggesting we forget all this Light rail malarkey to the airport and instead go HR from Onehunga to Airport in 5 years?

  10. Keen Mr Bridges seems way more likely to announce a token electric car fleet purchase for govt agencies than anything to do with rail. Happy to be wrong.

  11. Considering the chaos we had last year with getting to the airport, can we afford to wait 20 years for light rail to the airport?

    In the meantime, a bus lane along Puhinui Rd should be installed ASAP. I’m not holding out any hope for it being done before Christmas.

  12. What I’d like is an annual car-free day like they do in Bogota. Imagine the thrill of riding your bike or your ripstick along those motorways… 🙂

  13. 1. CRL
    2. Express way all the way to whangarei.
    3. Rail electrification to Pukekohe (including new platforms at new stops and other works within that section of the rail corrudor).
    4. Upgraded NAL (rail) to complement a Chinese built and funded oakleigh to Marsden point railink.
    5.expressway manukau to pukekohe via papakura east(mill rd).

    In regards to use of 25kvac equipment mentioned earlier. Both work under both sections. However neither is safe. A class 30 is bound to blow up under the Auckland overhead. And the Emu is bound to get stuck on something south of te rapa. Any extension of the overhead to te rapa, in particular for freight, is most likely to result in a very expensive upgrade between te rapa and palmerston north. Unless we want to see freight trains doing 5kmph for two hours on steeply graded sections. Yes class 30s are very powerful. But they are only fed so much power. And when all the babies are feeding off the same wire, at the same time, there is only so much food to go around. No tuktuk, I’m not providing references.

  14. The third main would more likely be Homai to Westfield Jn. South of Puhinui the formation is complete to just north of Homai.

    Just a matter of laying some ballast and some rails.

    1. I would say you are right Chris. The interlocking at homai us already installed with 60kmph turnouts. As you say, the formation was done for the 3rd main at wiri during 2011/2012. The interlocking has also been installed at the north end of wiri, and also otahuhu for quite some years now. They just need to fill the gaps. The biggest being a route through the restricted corridor at Middlemore an the formation from papatotoe to middlemore. Peter Reidy announced to staff late last year that the 3rd main in this area will go ahead. I suppose we just have to see some action now don’t We!

  15. Joyce/Bridges need to give Auckland Council authority for congestion pricing, either regional fuel tax or congestion charge zones. Of course, they won’t.

    1. I don’t think they’ll allow that until Council pull some other financial levers i.e sell some assets and reduce organisational waste.

      1. Always easy to say cut organisational waste. It sounds like a good sound bite. But, not so easy to implement while maintaining service level and staff morale at acceptable levels.

        Selling assets… most people don’t agree with asset sales. National used their popularity to push through their program, but the polls weren’t supportive of the individual policy. Auckland Council tends to lean to the political left in recent times and unless a bunch of neocons got back in control like the old ACC had in the 90s and earlier, then we will never see that IMHO.

        1. There’s a lot of non-productive people at Council and AT for example. Try doing a two-lot subdivision and tell me how you go, lots of bureaucratic wheel spinning and then eventual acceptance. Could have been a rubber stamp right at the start…As for the Port, Council should sell it, I’ve always had an issue with them being both a shareholder and consenting authority. Most people’s issue with asset sales is when the assets are sold to ‘foreigners’…would selling the Port to Ngati Whatua for example be an issue though?

  16. Its only a couple of hours away, please be electric to Pukekohe, diesel shuttle to Helensville and 3rd main.

      1. With current SH16 congestion and no NW busway then perhaps a Swanson or Henderson diesel shuttle to Helensville could be viable, Capex should be just extending up platform at Swanson to enable walk off dmu – walk on to emu on same platform – almost like Papakura

      2. I suspect Huapai would be more viable. It would allow the diesels to be turned around quicker, when means they might be able to get a 30 min frequency going. This would be a lot more likely to succeed than the once a day Helensville run that was previously trialed.

  17. Apparently we’re getting $9.2 billion of state highways over four years. That doesn’t leave a lot for anything else. National continue on their same trajectory…

    1. Yes that was like WTF, such a big proportion 28% in new state highways! Nothing inspiring of note for other things (rail stuff kind of expected), where do we find the details of what makes this up?

  18. Apart from the Land Transport Fund (mainly highways) and the “Reinstatement of Southern Corridors”, the biggest infrastructure investment is in prisons.

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