Earlier in the week Mayor Phil Goff and Finance Minister Grant Robertson took a walk through the City Rail Link construction site. There was also some talk about the challenging cost pressures facing this project, with its most recent cost estimate of $3.4 billion now a few years out of date.
The total cost for Auckland’s multi-billion dollar City Rail Link is still up in the air and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Finance Minister Grant Robertson say two contracts for the project are yet to be signed.
The pair went 18m below Albert St today near the Swanson St intersection for their first joint visit to the New Zealand’s biggest rail project, saying more precise figures would be available only once tender prices came in and were evaluated.
“It’s a fast-changing, challenging environment,” Robertson said of the construction sector. “Two more contracts are to be let. We don’t know where they’re going to land yet. But the project is running on time which is good.”
Goff also pointed to the true costs being revealed from the next tender phases: “The costs will come in with the tenders. The construction price index has been going up 7 per cent to 8 per cent a year and that does create cost pressures but we won’t know for sure until we have signed the contract.”
Recent decisions have (rightly) added to the likely cost of CRL, future-proofing Karangahape Road station and also providing the Beresford Square entrance that should never have been cut in the first place.
While City Rail Link is a great project, its planning in recent years has seemed like a series of idiotic decisions. Firstly you had cutbacks to the project where Newton Station was dropped, then the silly decision to not build the Beresford Square entrance to K Road station. Meanwhile the project’s cost kept going up despite these cutbacks.
And then there’s the silly Purple Line. Bizarrely, after spending more than $3 billion on a tunnel that provides much more train capacity into the city centre, the most significant operational change that’s proposed is to immediately send a large number of trains away from the city centre, so that direct trips between the Western Line and Newmarket can be retained. This is the Purple Line:
I ran through the details of why the Purple Line is a dumb idea fairly recently. I’ll get to the cost implications in a minute, but what particularly stood out was how it doesn’t even really achieve its goal of providing a faster trip from the Western Line to Grafton and Newmarket, once you take into account the potential wait times for this train that will only come every 20 minutes:
In terms of the Purple Line’s cost, we don’t know all the details but some rough calculations suggest it could include:
- At least $54 million for the nine extra trains required to run this service.
- A few million dollars a year of operating costs for an unnecessary service.
- Infrastructure upgrade costs at each end of the service, to provide extra platform space at Otahuhu and Henderson.
- An additional platform and therefore a much larger required station at Mt Eden.
While my fingers are crossed that we don’t see much of an increase to the CRL’s cost, CRL Limited should be running a fine tooth comb over all parts of the project. From my perspective the Purple Line isn’t even a “nice to have” anymore, it’s just a silly idea that should be chopped.