Barely 24 hours after I discussed the need to fix up two problems with the City Rail Link, it seems that our wishes are to be granted.

Mr Goff said the council was considering plans to widen the rail tunnel and lengthen the platforms at two stations – Aotea and Karangahape – and put in a second entrance to the latter at Beresford Square.

Present plans already included a provision for a future entranceway there.

Mr Goff would only give RNZ a rough figure on the cost of the expansion as he did not want to prejudice the tendering process, but he said this was the biggest single contract of the overall project.

“If we did the minimum work that needed to be done, you may be talking about double figure millions, maybe just edging into triple figures. If you’re talking about the full fit out, then you’re talking a bit more than that.”

His preference was to do all the work now, because he said the rail line was forecast to reach capacity within a decade.

Doing so would lift the capacity of the rail line from 36,000 passengers per hour – which was the estimate in the original plan – to a peak hour capacity of 54,000.

As I discussed on Monday, the key driver of this future-proofing has been higher than expected growth in rail ridership and the real risk that the CRL would be “full” not long after it opens. This left three options:

  1. Continue with the current plans. This would make it extremely difficult to lengthen K Road station in the future because it’s more than 30 metres underground. Not only does this sound very expensive, Goff has even said that it would require shutting down the CRL for two years to do the work.
  2. Do some basic future-proofing. Goff is saying that this would costdouble figure millions, maybe edging into triple figures“. In other words, this seems to be about $100 million. This sounds like it’s enough to enable longer trains in the future but that there’d still be extra costs in the future to fit out the tunnels. I assume this also means the Beresford Square entrance happening at some point in the future.
  3. Do it all now. This sounds like it would do the future proofing above but then also fit it out, in other words instead of just creating a station box long enough, would also build the extra length of platforms and the Beresford Square entrance for potential use from day one. There’s no specific information on how much this option costs with Goff saying it will be a bit more than $100 million.

This creates a really interesting situation. Future proofing for 9-car trains is something we will see a long-term benefit from it doesn’t help much in the short term. For example, before it can be used it will require other platforms around the network to be lengthened and some of those stations are likely to be easier to lengthen than others. But at the same time, there’s likely a lot of value in building the Beresford Square entrance upfront and it would fix up one of the huge mistakes Auckland Transport made back when they were leading the project.

It always seemed strange to me that this entrance was cut, given it’s in a much more prominent location than the other entrance down Mercury Lane.

Furthermore, the Mercury Lane entrance is down a rather steep street, steep enough that CRLL were/are going to have rest points included in it to meet mobility requirements. The issue was also highlighted in Simon Wilson’s infamous interview with former CRL Project Director Chris Meale when he was at The Spinoff:

I asked him, why will Karangahape Station have only one entrance? (It’s going to be south of K Road, down Mercury Lane, just by where the Mercury Plaza is now.)

He said the EOI requires allowance be made for a second entrance on Beresford Square, if it’s needed in the future. Yes, I said, but why not build it now?

Meale doesn’t think it will ever be built. “We’ve modelled the demand. Everything we’ve looked at suggests we won’t need a second entrance.”

Given that these days every prediction for public transport use in Auckland is quickly exceeded, this seemed bold.

You don’t think it will ever be needed?

“No.”

As for Mercury Lane, passengers will have quite a steep walk up the street to K Road. I asked why there won’t be escalators rising to Karangahape Rd itself.

“That’s not a difficult walk,” he said. “It’s good for you.”

Not difficult for him or me, perhaps, but moderately fit adults are not exactly the benchmark for ease of use.

He and Carol Greensmith both talked about how because of space and heritage issues it was relatively easy to build on Mercury Lane but not on Beresford Square. In the end, Meale said, “We took the line of least resistance.”

We’re getting what’s easier, and it isn’t the same as what’s better.

Assuming everyone supports the changes (and who wants to go down in history for being the short-sighted person/s to knobble CRL for the sake of a tiny proportion of its overall budget) this is a huge step towards ensuring CRL is a huge and long-term success. One that can continue to be an effective core of Auckland’s rail network for 30, 50 and 100 years into the future. Is there anywhere in the world that would turn down the opportunity for a 50% increase in the capacity of their rail network for a few hundred million dollars?

It appears that council will vote on whether to approve the scope change tomorrow and the government will vote on it next week.

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71 comments

  1. What else in the design was modeled using the same methodology or inputs they used to model demand that showed the second entrance wasn’t required? Are we getting staircases that are wide enough? Are we getting enough internal lifts? Are there adequate evac routes? Are the platforms wide enough?

    We have now an admission that the project isn’t going to meet the expected demand. Fine, OK. But the previously expected demand would have driven other design considerations and we need to know about them and fix them now.

    1. Yes this decision will have positive implications for all pedestrian amenity too as all entrances etc will have to be able to safely handle higher volumes. Specifically this means both entrances at K Rd, and probably wider ones in Victoria St. Lucky we fought for fewer traffic lanes there, another example of successful futureproofing…

  2. It seems the ever constant Phil McDermott (who finds his most supportive audience on a certain wingnut libertarian site frequented by aging 1990s ACT MPs) was the only critic Jim Mora (who can generally be relied on to give any number of fringe merchants an audience) could find yesterday. And while I thought his answer to the simple question from panelist Simon Pound – “…how often are you catching the trains..?” exposed him as a fraud, It is useful to recount his recycling of the usual farrago of FUD (fear , uncertainty and doubt) arguments as a fig leaf for a crazy ideological opposition to PT.

    First, he admitted he was proven wrong the first time round on passenger growth but is still convinced he is right this time round.

    Then we got the usual zombie facts –

    The business case was bad, The numbers don’t stack up, the growth of employment in the CBD doesn’t justify it (I assume he is still using a dishonest defintion of the “CBD” to justify this), hundreds of millions for 18,000 extra passengers an hour is a waste. We are throwing good money after bad (without saying exactly where the bad money was spent, I assume he means all PT spending in general).

    Other stations may see a downturn in capacity, so somehow this makes the CRL expansion a waste of money.

    Then some more FUD – It is high risk, costs will over run, maintainence will send us broke, driverless cars, disruptive technology, we should spend the money on a drains (???????) yadda yadda yada.

    Then a bit of a shill for some funding from the roading lobby – We need to spend more on roads as they becoming more efficient (yes, he actually said that).

    He ended on a high note by playing the identity politics card – the CRL will only serve privileged CBD working, middle class people who live near train stations. WILL ONLY RIGHT WING PUNDITS EVER THINK OF THE POOR?

    1. Yeah heard that, even claimed the original business case would have seen CRL building office towers to generate demand but that they’re scaled it back. This is a complete fiction to fit hoh narrative.

      Good thing Simon Pound was on there to call him out

      1. Building offices to generate demand is a bad thing? But building houses in Karaka to generate demand on the motorway is just fine…

    2. None of his claims is founded in fact, at least not in fact from this century. AKL City Centre is booming, specifically along the CRL route, there is a well in excess of a $10b private sector investment currently underway. Now. He is literally describing the city in the motorway age last century, when it was bled dry! It’s extraordinary that he hasnt managed a single new observation in over 20 years… where has he been? Not in this city, or indeed any other 21st century city.

      Anti-urbanist as city expert; a very peculiar specialisation. Kind of like being a vegan beef and lamb consultant….

  3. This is fantastic news hope the vote passes. Maybe some political/media backlash on cost blow outs but I don’t think will be that bad as it’s easily justified.

        1. Completely disagree with your comments about Chris Meale – he was an excellent and pragmatic project director. I expect that if some of the hard choices that are now being criticised hadn’t been made then the CRL would not have been funded. Having said that it is great that the political landscape has now moved to allow the future proofing changes to be made

      1. More nastiness from the usual suspects. Is that a lefty thing to get abusive towards people who don’t share your point of view?

        I certainly didn’t describe Len Brown and MCC in those terms even though they were responsible for the Manukau Station disaster.

        1. Nice insinuation.

          I seem to recall someone called John Key who covertly used connections to a certain blogger to smear and attack people that didn’t share his point of view. Ever heard of this guy?

          So not just a lefty thing and went right to the top in the last government, which you presumably supported …

  4. Looking at the Beresford concept again, the tower in the foreground appears to be for ventilation. I’d wonder if these could be built out of the way through the back of surrounding buildings or through the middle and out the top of the entrances?
    I think it unnecessarily interrupts sight lines for both drivers who will pass each side of it, and security at night. It will needlessly cast shadows and potentially get in the way of surface activities, e.g. I assume this is a route for oversize loads?

    Assume the yellow areas are skylights for the station below. They won’t be much to look at for those on the surface. How about turning them into fountain pools or glass pyramids similar to the new louvre entrance.

    Where is the cycleway? Is there no room due to the above?

    1. I think The Pitt Street part of that design is way out of date now. I think they changed it to remove the raised median and move the emergency access / vent shaft to the north side (though that clashed a bit with the church). The bikeway is intended to be a two-way on the western side (station side).

      Though all those elements may now see a re-think too, what with the possibility of this station happening soon too.

  5. By wider tunnels, does he just mean that they are wider because the station box is longer? Or do they actually mean it’s going to be wider in the stations to allow for wider platforms?
    Have always thought they looked quite narrow (especially Aotea which could be an interchange station in future).

      1. +1, worst thing about the tube.

        Heidi, I’ve been meaning to ask, do you have facebook? I’d like to discuss passive homes with you.

        1. No, still enjoying this experiment of how far I can survive without facebook, twitter (etc) or a mobile phone. You can contact me on [email protected] – not my usual email address, but one I set up for making contact easily here.

        1. Platform edge doors are an issue that is way more complicated than just HVAC, the blog went into it in some depth on a previous discussion.

        2. Surely you can’t build platform screen doors until you decide the number and location of the doors on the train cars. I understand there is a desire to increase the number of doors compared to the current cars for a more metro-style service.

          1. No the current AM fleet will be the fleet for the foreseeable future, and will set the standard for ever more or less.

            So we know how many doors and where the are already.

      2. To be fair, narrow platforms aren’t uncommon overseas. Admittedly, many stations also have platform screen doors.

        Also to be fair I guess, we don’t exactly have the same culture as some of the places I was thinking of (Hong Kong, Japan)…

        1. Those places tend to have higher frequency services (less people waiting), they also tend to have multiple lines with lots of stations (we will have 1 line and 3 stations in the CBD).

  6. Don’t sell yourselves short: you’ve been banging this drum for years, so its great that we’re finally seeing some action on what would otherwise have been seen in retrospect, particularly with our history as a nation, as a monumental blunder.

    1. I agree – GA is becoming a really effective lobby group. Need to make hay while there’s a sympathetic government – though the decisions being taken now will be difficult to reverse.

  7. it had to be as cheap as possible to get it over the line with the previous government. Oddly enough a crl that ran out of capacity quickly might have brought the need for crl 2.0 along quicker.

  8. This may be a stupid question but is it too late to future proof for double decker train carriages – maybe eventually these could be rolled out around the network too.

    1. Not a stupid question, but the answer is still no – our tunnels in NZ, and our narrow gauge track, likely mean that we will never have any double-decker trains.

    2. It would be a lot of money for something that is unlikely to happen. Sydney is one of the few cities in the world that operates double decker trains in an underground metro type operation.

      They have big issues with dwell times as they take so long to load and unload, to the point they are building a new metro system with single decker trains.

      1. Really? I travelled on them on my last visit to Sydney last year and I didn’t notice any extra long dwell times. However, coming from Auckland maybe I was just used to the Auckland dwell times!

        1. They can get up well over a minute during peak hour, which is just too slow at the busy city circle stations, with trains coming every couple of minutes.

      2. In Sydney at peak time, Town Hall station is the biggest issue, primarily because the platforms, stairs and escalators aren’t particularly wide, there are lots of people and they’re currently replacing the wooden platform escalators.

        Realistically it is the transfer on/off the northern line is pretty chaotic, but as long as people don’t try and get on, while others are getting off and people spread long the platform, rather than get near the exit point they’re going to use, it seems to work.

        1. I thought they had finished the wooden escalators. Agree about town hall being a problem the platforms arent big enough for the amount of people they need to handle. But the truth is because alot of trips on Sydney train journeys go easily over an hour thats with skipping stations having a minute or two at town hall doesnt seem too bad better than standing the whole way on the metro style trains they are installing.

          1. The new single deck units are for the new Metro Northwest line only, they aren’t replacing the regular suburban trains.

            No trip on Metro Northwest will be more than an hour, even when stage two is open Rouse Hill to the city will be under an hour.

          2. You’ve missed the point. The problem with the minute or two dwell time on the City Circle is there is usually another train following close behind, and these dwell times reduce the capacity of the City Circle.

          3. The minute or two dwell time is really only town hall. The choke point on the city circle is actually Circular quay, St James, museum because these stations only have two platforms while Wynyard and town hall have at least 4. Also i think they did a trial that showed that they could get the dwell time down to a minute by getting platform marshals to speed people along. The real issue is people don’t have a sense of urgency or respect on the rail network so the dwell time ends up being two minutes

          4. The same two lines that run through Cicular Quay also run through Town Hall, there is no splitting of the track so an issue at one affects the whole city circle. The extra platforms at Town Hall are for a completely separate line, the North Shore line that goes over the Harbour Bridge.

            You are correct, passengers don’t always show urgency, but this is not unique to Sydney. What is unique to Sydney is running double decker trains with two doors per carriage at metro like frequencies.

          5. Good point. But I do find the lack of urgency in Sydney particularly bad, when I was there last I was getting off at town hall and people getting on just stand in front of the door blocking the exit so takes forever to get off the train. This sounds silly but maybe people need to be trained to stand to the left side of the door until everyone has finished disembarking I think if people did that it would easily shave a minute off the dwell time. (that and people need to move down or up into the carriges instead of just standing in the door)

          6. @Auckland trains I have seen the same here on most of the trains heading south but the worst is when arriving at Britomart when you try to get off you have a mob trying to get on because they think they won’t get a seat

    3. NZ clearance is not high enough. Way too late, and would require building lots of bridges, underpasses etc across the network too – unless the upper floor in the double deckers was basically built so low only small people and children could get on that level.

      1. 🙂 I gave myself a real doozey of a whack on a double decker bus recently, not realising how low the ceiling was downstairs at the back, and wearing a hat that was reducing my peripheral vision. Stepped up into the four seater area and couldn’t believe the force I was obviously using to do so… took a couple of weeks to come right.

  9. Closing down the tunnels for two years to retrofit for longer platforms will likely not be feasible given how central this will become to the public transport network. The disruption would simply be too much to bear. Therefore, I see it as a case of doing it as part of construction or not at all.

    1. I agree with the plan to lengthen platforms now,

      But I think there has been a fair bit of scare mongering around the other options in to ensure that lengthening now is the chosen option

      I mean “Closed for 2 years” strikes me as a selling point with little actual evidence….
      The London tube has lengthened plenty of platforms without closing the entire line….

      Have they never heard of night work….. also once you installed sufficient turnouts, you could isolate one platform during non peak times to extend the work window into the late evening lulls

      1. Greenwelly – I used to work in London as an architect for the Underground, and had to go on many night work inspections of station upgrades. Hugely inefficient way of working. No one could start until the last train had departed – so we started about midnight each night. The men would be carrying equipment down escalators that were turned off – occasionally we would get a goods train down the line that was delivering materials, but mostly it was just hours of hard graft. By 5am it all had to be packed up again – there is little storage down there (except in the ventilation shafts) and so effectively they got about 3 hours working time per night. Two years was not an unusual amount of time to replace all 3 escalators into a station – could only close down one at a time – taking about 6 months night work on each, and then another few months to replace the ceiling over the top.

        By contrast, in Lewisham, Network Rail pushed through an entire underpass in one weekend – they had built it next door on vacant land, then got a line closure for the entire line for 48 hours, and jacked it into place by the Sunday afternoon, and track revelling on Sunday night, ready for work trains on the Monday. Complete closures are much better way to go than night work – but it is no use building a CRL for 2 years, then closing it down for some time to extend it. Once it is up and going, you want to keep it going. It is a comparatively really simple thing to build a longer tunnel now – and the extension part can be kept empty for years, until it is needed for platform.

  10. They need to do it now before any future National government gets back into power and reverses any decision on future-proofing.

    1. This contract will be locked in well before 2020, and I’d be quite surprised if we see a National government before 2023 anyway.

  11. Where does this great decision leave Britomart?
    Does it have room for 9 car trains?
    At a 6 car platform, if the front car of a 9 car set is ahead of the platform how many doors of the front and rear sets are accessible to the platform?
    Are the “unusable doors” able to remain closed?

    1. The platforms at Britomart will effectively be longer once the CRL opens as they continue through the station rather than being a dead end. Should add at least 1 carriage length so it would depend how long the rest of the platform is (needing to fit 2 more carriages in).

      1. It happened at minor stations until the introduction of the SW carriages. Matarawa station didn’t even have a platform before that, just a shelter.

  12. Well we criticise leaders for not listening so I think we have to compliment Goff for listening on this occaision.

    1. Well, the Jubilee Line was extended, and the route changed to go through Waterloo, which of course had to remain open the entire time, but I know that’s not quite what you mean.

      What about the Angel station at Islington? Northern line kept running through for 2 years while they created a new running shaft? There are probably a few more, but I agree with you – it is not something you ever voluntarily would want to do.

  13. Quote of the month:

    “Is there anywhere in the world that would turn down the opportunity for a 50% increase in the capacity of their rail network for a few hundred million dollars?”. . . .Matt L

    While it is not true that this development is all that is needed to convert the entire network to 9-car capability, what is true is that if the commitment of a few hundred million is not made now while the chance is there, the opportunity to expand the network to 9-car capacity when-needed is seriously jeopardised.

    I suspect the time for increasing to 9-cars will come soon. Closing-off this option now will go down in history as another of those short-sighted blunders.

  14. Matt L, I think you should be commended for your role in getting the right decision made here. OK it helps having a Labour Government and Council now in control but without some real expertise and publicity lobbying against a pretty significant lack of foresight, the right decision would never have happened. I think you and your fellow contributors have saved the ratepayers and taxpayers many, many millions of dollars and long term commuter angst here.

  15. To be fair, the best way to future proof the CRL project is to have the tunnels stacked so there are a total of four lines, two tracks each way much the same as the Sydney City Circle. Having the future proofing for 9 car trains is a good start and quite commendable. However will we be under whelmed with capacity when the CRL is running? Auckland rail has been a victim of its runaway success.

    1. While that would be nice, it can’t be justified even if patronage doubled. The next step as far as CBD rails goes would be to build a CRL perpendicular to the current CRL running underneath it at Aotea station (as has been allowed for in the design) this would serve a North Shore Line. If a CRL3 were needed it would likely be built perpendicular to CRL again to service Ponsonby etc. Once such a line is needed you can build it pretty much anywhere with TBM rather than cut n cover as is half of CRL.

  16. I was thinking about this possibility today, however I came to the conclusion that the planned 2 track CRL will be sufficient UNLESS further heavy rail lines are constructed. For example North Shore, Dominion Road, Airport, or North West lines. Considering that these routes are going to be served with light rail rather than heavy rail, 4 heavy rail tracks through the CRL is unnecessary.

    What I think could have been valuable would be if the CRL had been designed as you describe, but with 2 of the tracks being light rail. K Road and Aotea could have been stacked stations, and the light rail tracks would head towards Wynyard Quarter north of Aotea. This would have significantly added to the cost of the CRL, however it would have been much cheaper than the CRL2 that will probably be required when the Queen St light rail corridor reaches capacity.

    1. Two comments:
      1. I believe a capacity of 30 trains/hr per-direction represents an achievable longer-term goal for the CRL and whichever lines end up feeding it. In combination with 9-car capability, this would represent a massive increase in the capacity currently envisaged.

      2. Further heavy rail lines if deemed necessary, would most probably involve a second CRL route. Many cities which install successful metro operations go on to develop multi-line systems. The basic formula is proven to work and can be successfully replicated as the city’s transport-needs grow. Both Melbourne and Sydney are demonstrating this now.

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