Over the last week there’s been a flurry of discussion in the media about the country’s transport priorities following the publication of a letter by the government’s Business Advisory Council (BAC). There are a number of areas the BAC have concerns about with infrastructure but the key point of contention can be easily summed up by the headline Business Council’s blunt message to Government: We need more roads. The article is behind the Herald’s paywall but helpfully the key issues are in the first two paragraphs shown.

The Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council has called on the Government to proceed with the 12 roading projects presently on hold or under review and open them to private investment.

It has also called on the Government to investigate the “responsible and sustainable” use of international expertise, capital and labour (both skilled and unskilled) for both high-priority future projects of national significance and existing infrastructure projects, and, a move by the Government into “asset recycling – selling mature assets to fund new infrastructure.

Let’s look at a couple of the issues.

The 12 projects

It feels there has been a bit of confusion about just what the 12 projects are. These are shown below and all but one have had their re-evaluation completed.

In most cases, the re-evaluations have resulted in the projects being refocused on delivering urgent safety improvements, particularly as the volumes of traffic on many of these corridors simply don’t justify some of the significant upgrades that were planned.

I think there has perhaps been added confusion as a result of some people counting projects made as election promises at the last election. A couple of examples include:

  • In 2016 the former government announced a $520 million package of upgrades to the SH2 corridor between Tauranga and Waihi – although $286m of that was for the 6.2km Tauranga Northern Link motorway and another $150m for about 6km of upgrades from the TNL to Omokoroa. That left $85m to improve safety on the remaining 40km+ north to Waihi. In 2017 during the election, National then promised to turn the entire route from Tauranga through to Katikati, about 30km length, into a motorway. The project re-evaluation has resulted in the project focusing much more on fixing the urgent safety issues but some are pretending the motorway was always the plan and this is a major step back.
  • Yesterday in Stuff where Mike Yardley blames the government’s for not extending the motorway south of Christchurch some 60km from Rolleston to Ashburton. Only it wasn’t even a road to be evaluated as it was only an election promise, not a project actually on the plans.
  • Similar silly opining comes from Heather Du Plessis-Allan who effectively seems to blame these projects not proceeding for congestion between Pukekohe and central Auckland.

Perhaps the most valid of the comments I’ve seen comes from the AA yesterday, noting have having been re-evaluated to focus on quick safety outcomes, these projects still haven’t proceeded. At fault here doesn’t seem to be some ideological mode issue but simply a funding one. Other projects currently under construction are seeing cost and scope increases and that is putting pressure on the amount of funding that’s available for other projects. These funding pressures seem to be existing across the board and don’t just exist with these state highway projects.

Opening up the projects to private investment

Building more projects with private investment, also called Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) has long been a stable of business lobby groups. But PPPs aren’t the silver bullet they’re made out to be.

In the past they were sold as a way of transferring the risk of projects to the private sector but particularly following the string of high-profile failures in Australia around a decade or so ago, PPPs these days are mainly just about providing financing with the government paying the debt plus the commercial rates of interest it incurs. As such, the problem with this is perhaps summed as:

  • The government can borrow the money cheaper
  • They need a source of money from which to pay that debt back

There are two PPP underway right now with both Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth financed this way. To put the costs in perspective, when the Transmission Gully PPP was signed in 2014, it had a net present value of $850 million but because of the PPP structure, we will be paying about $125 million annually for 25 years. I can’t find what the Puhoi to Warkworth annual payments are but the Net Present value of the project in 2016 was $709.5 million.

As Phil Twyford said in response, the issue is how you find the money to repay that debt.

“It would be really bad policy to do what they’re advocating in that particular area,” he said

“If we were to do what the Business Advisory Council was saying, it would mean spending a great deal of money, more than $12 billion, on projects that have very low economic value.”

Allowing private investment into the roads didn’t make sense either, he said.

“Borrowing money is not the problem here. It’s never been cheaper to borrow money than at the moment … It’s actually having the revenue to be able to service that debt.”

That money could only come from the National Land Transport Fund, or tolling, he said.

“None of those roads have enough traffic on them to generate anything like the kind of revenue you would need to pay for them, to service the debt. It’s just not realistic.”

Perhaps the government should calculate how much fuel/road taxes would have to increase by to cover the debt needed to build these projects. I wonder how many people would still support them then?

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  1. Can someone please tell me the results of these reevaluations and current completion dates for these 12 projects?

  2. “Asset recycling “???

    Obviously the latest focus grouped soft phrase for ASSET SALES. Bit like John Keys “mixed model” when he was flogging off assets. It would be hilarious were this not so backward, myopic and sad.

    Can’t these business dinosaurs stop thinking about lining their own pockets with what is left of state assets to fritter away on, in this case, something that will allow them a quicker getaway to Omaha in the Maserati? Well that and their consumer goods in their trucks.

    Is this really the brains trust of business in this country, because if it is, we’re in trouble big time!

      1. How do you asset recycle a road. Are they proposing the government sell some of them? Presumably the only ones with any value would be the ones with high volumes and that could relatively easily be tolled. So basically the motorways then.

        1. I’m not sure, but are they talking about having to buy up lots of land for a new roading corridor, and then selling off the excess land once it is built?
          On Transmission Gully, for instance, NZTA had to buy existing farmland and effectively bought the farm. After the new road is in place, NZTA will be left with a lot of excess farmland – and the site of the former roads – and presumably could offer it all back for sale.

      2. Jezza, no we won’t run out of assets to recycle because, like KiwiRail, we buy it back so that it is potentially available for resale again.

  3. I must admit that although I always thought PPP’s” were a poor idea, the cost of transmission fully is bankrupting. A project with a value of $850 million costing $3.125 billion? Business saw the National Party coming all day long on that howler. What idiots.

    I mean just think of that money being spent on Pharmac or any number if other useful causes instead of being wasted propping up private businesses.

    Perhaps clever Judith Collins could send that steaming pile of shit deal, done by her government, off to the Auditor General while she at it with poor old Phil Twyfords Kiwibuild issues.

    Cos that baby puts Kiwibuilds problems deeply into the shade.

        1. Many of us drive these roads a few times a year and notice how much better the travel is once we hit the existing bits of motorway and expressway. The cost of them is a lot more abstract.

          I would have been one of these people a few years ago, but reading this blog has given me a much better understanding of the costs and benefits of these projects.

        2. to add to that point, while most people only drive them a couple of times a year, they tend to do so all at the same time – making demand for rural higwhays around our cities quite peaky. If your only experience with the network is the peak, you’ll naturally assume it’s underbuilt.

          Puhoi to Warworth gets very congested and slow, for about 2 weeks a year around Christmas and New Year and on the summer long weekends.

          Similarly, Wellington’s northern approaches tend to get stuffed on holiday weekends, or when there’s an accident.

          but building for those peaks would require investment beyond what even the RONS propose

        3. Its very frustrating, after transmission gully and otaki to peka peka, four lanes to the planes, the otaki to levin, cross valley link, melling interchange, petone grenada and extra lanes from Wellington to the Hutt are all politically popular yet region changing (detrimentally IMO) and expensive. The perception that makes the popular needs changing.

        4. Because in most of these places there is not now nor will there likely ever be an alternative to driving.

          We don’t spend anywhere near enough on our state highways, and look at them, they are appaling.

          3,125 billions is bugger all, there’s an 1100km road in Norway being rebuilt with bridges and tunnels replacing ferry links, by the time these improvements have been finished in 2028 the govt will have spent approx 60b NZD, this is just one roading project, there are dozens of them all over Norway where decades of neglect are being fixed, we should be doing the same in NZ.

        5. Cool, so we can copy Norway… the second we put 50 years of oil export profits into a sovereign wealth fund that achieves a trillion dollars of capital.


          Well actually we could have, Labour proposed a sovereign wealth fund from compulsory super in 1974 that would have been worth over $300b today, but National claimed it would turn us all into communists and scaremongered the public with dancing cossacks.

        6. Please explain how spending billions and billions of $ on roads is preparing for Climate Change? Like 3-4 degrees rise in temp, severe drought, flooding, loss of species…

          You keep writing everywhere how we should prepare for it, whilst advocating for BAU + more. Surely every spare cent should be spent on mitigating the absolute hell to come?

        7. There have been 3 labour govts since 1973, 2 of them multi term, they could have brought it back anytime they wanted to, besides you won’t get any arguments from me re compulsory superannuation it’s a no brainer, along with compulsory vehicle insurance, it’s ridiculous that we don’t have both.

          We should be improving our highways, its should be an ongoing process, but we fail at this.

          I also don’t think it’s going to be absolute hell until long after I’m dead, my children and grandchildren as well, at the point why should I be concerned??

        8. “I also don’t think it’s going to be absolute hell until long after I’m dead, ”

          Are you over 60 or just ignorant of how quickly the proverbial is going to hit the fan?

        9. Didn’t your mother teach you to clean up after yourself? We have a word for people who trash the place and leave their shit behind for others to pick up. Several words in fact.

        10. Masterchief or KiwiRob or whoever he is is in his 40’s, drives x2 Audis and doesn’t gives a rats about the rest of society..He lives in Norway and constantly talks about how great having oil is, so can only assume he works in that field…hence the constant desire to build more roads and hence the absolute disregard for the rest of the planet.

          When Climate Change deniers can no longer deny it as we are starting to find, they turn into Climate Change preventers…people who say we shouldn’t invest in trying to stop it, we should just carry on burning fossil fuels in the hope that science and sea walls helps us!

    1. Ssshh! Don’t mention the CRL that Len Brown said would cost $2.8 Billion is now looking like costing $5 Billion.

      Glad you didn’t mention the 17 state assets sold by Labour or the Phil Goff led council talking about selling assets to help pay for the CRL.

      No mention of the LabGreen sabotage of the Key government’s asset sale process which resulted in a loss of $1 Billion + on the price gained.

      1. The CRL diverting waste on motorways for a decent alternative to cars is an investment that will benefit the many for a very long time. Not like London regrets its underground now is it?

        But how much money has been lost in dividends to the government to date and every year from now on infinitely from Nationals economic halfwits selling these assets for a quick gain?

        I’m sure the very few well connected did very nicely, the rest of us just pay and pay.

        1. Having a few thousand to invest in shares is being “well connected”?

          How so?

          What would be more interesting to know is how many LabGreen MP’s benefited from the lower share price of the power companies as a result of their sabotage.

      2. “17 state assets sold by Labour”
        Do list them.

        “Phil Goff led council talking about selling assets”
        What makes you think Phil is particularly left wing? One of Roger’s gnomes I believe …

        1. NZ Steel
          Health Computing Service
          Post Office
          Shipping Corp
          Air NZ
          Rural Bank Finance
          Govt. Print
          National Film Unit
          Communicate NZ
          State Ins
          NZ Liquid Fuels, Maui Gas, Syngas
          Forestry Cutting Rights

          Auckland Council considering asset sales reported in Stuff article on CRL today.

        2. I’m pretty sure the Government still owns the Post Office and Landcorp.

          That Telecom sale would have to be the worst of all the asset sales, selling off the main communications just before the beginning of the internet age.

        3. Landcorp: still 100% govt owned
          Post Office only partial sale – Post bit govt owned, (Telecom & Post Bank split off & sold).
          National Film Unit: not as simple as you make out – initial “privatisation” involved “sale” to state owned broadcaster TVNZ. Finally properly sold off 1998.

          Auckland Council: aware of Phil’s ideas. Some doubt on how left he is/was though (former cabinet minister in right wing 1984 – 1990 Labour govt) .

        4. Also the asset sales you mention were under the Rogernomics Labour Government which is a long way from where any Labour policy has been for the past 20 years. Roger Douglas formed the ACT Party – ’nuff said.

        5. Exactly. All these sales were done under Vance’s preferred ideology, if not the party. How ironic.

        6. All stupid sales of the public’s assets plus a bank or two without a mandate. I see the issues with insurance in NZ nowadays is exactly why there was government owned insurance companies but Douglas etc just could not help themselves and were blind to history

        7. More like asset sales being ok when it’s Labour doing it.

          I find the attempts at deflection and hypocrisy quite amusing.

        8. It’s probably a little over your head but those who oppose asset sales oppose them regardless of party. You support them but not if its labour.

          Want a look at deflection? Try the mirror.

        9. Wrong Vance, asset sales were a shit idea then but inflicted on a very unsuspecting nation with a crock of shit sales pitch to accompany it. Virtually no one who voted Labour in 1984 had a clue this was likely.
          And the idea is still utterly stupid now. Labour were right of centre/far right of National back then so much so they turned the Remuera seat marginal. That was the breaking point for Lange’s “cup of tea” break in Douglas’s madness. Prebble even mused about privatising the police such was their unfounded belief that almost any government involvement was bad and the market would deliver!


        10. Yes and asset sales were so deeply unpopular among Labour voters that that it resulted in a breakaway party called New Labour. A Labour government may have privatised a bunch of enterprises but you can’t claim it had the support of the left wing.

      3. “Don’t mention the CRL that Len Brown said would cost $2.8 Billion is now looking like costing $5 Billion.”

        I wonder how much of that increase is attributable to the woodwork teacher from Christchurch and radio station owner from Taranaki deciding, as Minister of Transport (still doesn’t sound right) to put up every conceivable barrier to starting this and the rapid increase in construction costs in that time.

        1. Have anyone read the business case for the CRL? It’s worth a read – you would be amazed how little benefit it will bring. There is almost no reduction in car use – and the train travel time reductions are almost non- existent when you look closely. The time from the Southern Line stations to Britomart is actually 5 mins longer than at present.

        2. I guessed you missed the bit where you can run more trains through the system. The electric trains now are already speed limited. Speed isn’t as important as frequency. You run twice as many trains as now, you more than double the capacity of the train line in both directions. If a train line can carry 20,000 people an hour and a motorway lane 2000 vph, the CRL would make that 40,000 people an hour. To do the same for cars would require 10-15 more new lanes on the motorway which would cost an insane amount.

          I drive to work most days now, but the CRL is the single most important investment in transport in Auckland. You can’t spend 4.4 billion and get 10-15 more lanes on the motorway. We have no land left and have a lack of land for housing in places where people want to live.

          It’s a no-brainer and anyone who can’t see that is not thinking clearly.

        3. “There is almost no reduction in car use” – there will be relatively but not absolutely.

          Because of induced demand there are only two things that have been found to reduce traffic:

          1. Road pricing – a la Stockholm or Singapore

          2. Reducing the amount of road available. Worked everywhere it has been done.

          The frequency is the main bemnefit. But it will knock up to 20 min off travel times out west. If a roading project cut 20 mins off travel time it would be fully funded in 5 mins.

    2. The *only* saving grace with Transmission Gully is that when its not open and usable the Government doesn’t have to pay.

      This means that until it opens we have a rent holiday. But man once that rental holiday ends we pay through the nose. Twice the normal rent at least.

      If this was a commercial building lease the only conclusion you’d make is that the landlord saw you coming a mile off, and offered a token up front gimme of a short rent holiday and maybe some “fitout” expenses in exchange for a 25+ year lease at way above market rates.

      The other situation when we won’t be paying for it is when there is a major Earthquake in Wellington that takes out the route.

      Of course, that is the very event/thing the Transmission Gully route was actually sold to us as delivering in spades – natural disaster resilience.

      It would be ironic in the extreme if the expensively procured “alternative route” is out of action for a long time (or indeed, anytime) after such an event. But at least we’re not paying.

      Would be worse if the road itself was driveable after such an event but the approach roads leading to and from it were out of action. Requiring us to pay for something in the middle that we cannot use.

      But you just know in your bones that something like this will be the case in the lifetime of this PPP.

      If you ever wanted a text book case of how not to have a PPP – this one is just about that.

      1. Also the ratepayers of Kapiti have to pay for the upkeep of the old road but will probably squeal about rates rises.

      2. Transmission Gully is future proofing road access to Wellington , the current route of SH 1 between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay will not survive increasing sea levels cause by planet warming.

        1. That stretch of highway is higher above sea level than Tamaki Drive up in Auckland, which already floods at high tide / full moon with a storm surge. I’m wondering why Aucklanders are not yet doing anything about that…

          But yes – the coastal highway near Paekakariki was eaten away for about 100m in Cyclone Gita in 2018. Once NZTA stops paying for its upkeep, there may well be a case for abandoning it completely after the next big hit.

        2. That’s a pretty tenuous argument for spending $3b, it would be a lot cheaper to just four-lane and raise the coastal highway. Where is the future proofing for the Urban Motorway and the Hutt Road, they are at sea level as well?

        3. The new cycleway will protect the road and rail corridors between Petone and Wellington.

          The reality is, under the NZ2050 scenario, there might not be a cycleway, rail and road corridors between Petone and Wellington, nor Wellington Airport, Petone, Eastbourne and half of Wellington city central.

          People must understand, Planet warming is not going to stop until there is no more CO2, methane, etc is not being admitted and plenty of trees soaked up all the CO2, methane, etc that has been admitted, if humans survive that long.

        4. Four-laning, double-storey, cantilevering out, carving in: all those options were proposed, rejected by the local Pukerua Community, rejected by local iwi Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa, so the government couldn’t do anything wider than the road that is there now. Must have been dreadfully annoying for the Government at the time, but now I’m living in Pukerua too, I’m immensely proud of the locals not giving in and allowing a RONS to be railroaded through their village.

        5. I hope you submitted on the Zero Carbon Act that the Commission shouldn’t address adaptation, Kris. If Transmission Gully is an example of a road that’s being made climate-ready, it’s clear that we could spend enormous amounts of money raising our roads for adaptation when they money should be being spent on moves to actually reduce our emissions – rail, public transport, active modes.

        6. Under the NZ2050 scenario, as a country, we need to start making serious long term plans in regards to our rail, and other critical infrastructure to future proof it against sea level rises and/or damage caused by unpredictable weather patterns.

          I would say by 2050, private ownership of fossil fuel private vehicles will be out and replaced for those who could afford it, with battery, etc and for the rest if would be by bus backed up with passenger rail is the national rail network hasn’t been washed away.

          Planet warming and the resulting unpredictable weather patterns that is created, doesn’t care a damn what humans think, say or do, the message is – adapt or suffer the consequences. There is no excuses.

        7. NZ reducing its emissions isn’t going to reduce global emissions, that ship has already left, what we should be doing is preparing for the inevitable and making ourselves ready for the rise in sea levels.

          4m cars in NZ, 1b cars world wide and rising, you really think public transport initiatives in NZ will help????

      3. The mistake with Transmission Gully wasn’t building the road it was not making it a toll road. It should have been tolled.

      4. “It would be ironic in the extreme if the expensively procured “alternative route” is out of action for a long time (or indeed, anytime) after such an event. But at least we’re not paying.

        Would be worse if the road itself was driveable after such an event but the approach roads leading to and from it were out of action. Requiring us to pay for something in the middle that we cannot use.”

        In my grumpy cyclical mood I’m in tonight, that was actually quite funny to read.

  4. Agreed that PPP’s and using foreign labour aren’t in the best interests of the country.
    Safety improvements, being wire barriers and potentially roundabouts at intersections are also fine for roads with low traffic volumes. But what are the current and projected numbers for these roads?
    I’m pretty familiar with 8 out of the 12 and consider the amount of traffic to feel pretty high and find no surprise with the 4 landing proposed. If the numbers do justify it in a few years time, is making the safety improvements now just wasting money?
    This government made a big deal about safety improvements when campaigning and for a while after being elected. Lack of funding is a poor excuse for not achieving anything. A person died on the road south of whangarei on Sunday.
    What is happening with the east west link?

    1. “If the numbers do justify it in a few years time” do we have an emissions problem? What can we do to bring down the traffic volumes? Certainly not widen the road!

    2. I haven’t got my spreadsheet on me but from memory none of these roads have anywhere near the recommended threshold for four laning.

  5. I’m reasonably happy with re-evaluating these road projects. We need to improve the standard of our highways but we don’t need to over engineer them for political gain. We need safety, practicality and value for money first and foremost.
    It’s not surprising that the Business Advisory Council is chaired by Christopher Luxon, the outgoing Air NZ CEO and a protege for the National party.

    The National party promised a thriftspend of motorways in their 2017 election campaign but never indicated how much they would cost to build or maintain once built, nor did they ever explain how they would be funded. This is the same party who raised fuel taxes by 17c (in six installments) to fund the first tranche of RoNS but are strongly opposed when the Labour-led coalition does the same to cover an even biggest shortfall of funding that doesn’t even include new motorway funding.

    They also seem to be opposed to tolling the Tranmission Gully Motorway, which is inevitable given the situation with the PPP, despite adding tolls to the Tauranga Eastern Link (another economically poor project).

    1. I’ve always assumed that the reason for not tolling Transmission Gully was that it might just mean that people would keep using the existing coast road instead. To make it “fair” you would have to toll both roads then – both the old and the new (there is no third option). And to try and persuade the populace that their existing road was now going to be tolled, is a sure-fire vote loser. Hence status quo: toll neither.

    2. I would much prefer that government go back to first principles such as: what does road transport look like in a zero carbon environment? If, and there is certainly strong evidence emerging that it means way less cars, why are we building for growth?
      If there is to be no growth in vehicle traffic lets start the alternatives right now. Spend the money on light rail in Auckland; rapid rail to Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua.
      The current business as usual approach is just staggering. It’s sometimes hard to contemplate what change looks like but there are examples as close as Sydney of how a city can be transformed by PT projects. Examples exist across Europe of how longer distance travel can be done by bus and train.

      1. I’m not sure Sydney has really been transformed, it is still a car dominated urban area with some significant motorway and freeway projects having been completed in the last 10 years.

      2. The last transport project to open was on Saturday, a section of the WestConnex project that aims to build tunnels to connect the western and south western motorways. Moving the end of a (heavily tolled) motorway closer to the city isn’t quite what I think you mean.

        The previous to that was the opening of Metro NW, which is driverless trains to a part of the city poorly served by PT. When I went for a ride to the last station, we got out and all there was surrounding the station was hoardings and a fairly large commuter carpark.

        The next big PT project will be the opening of the City and SE light rail, scheduled for December. I’m expecting that this project will change a range of transport behaviors.

  6. Is it true that wire median barriers can only be used on four lane sections of roads which are effectively passing lanes. Or will we have them on two lane roads as well.

    1. Centennial Highway, just south of Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast, has a 3.5km stretch of wire median barrier put in, circa 2005, and is one lane in each direction. Before that, I recall it being one of the most fatal stretches in NZ.

    2. They can be on two lane sections of road but they need a wide shoulder to allow vehicles to still get passed in the case of a breakdown or a minor accident.

      There are some roads that already meet this standard, I believe Rolleston to Ashburton is one, while others would need widening work for a wide shoulder.

      1. Centennial Highway doesn’t have much of a wide shoulder though. Yes, nice to have, but we don’t *have* to have it to put in a median.

  7. SH1 Pukerua-Paekakariki: 1+1
    SH58 sections of 1+1 & 2+1
    SH2 River Rd ditto

    And that’s just in the Wellington Region…

  8. In Auckland I have a feeling that congestion is reducing. We are building more apartments near stations and in the CBD. The number of car imports is down. More people are using PT. We are not spending huge $$ on greenfields developments.
    So if congestion was costing us $1.5 billion a year and this is reducing by say 10% a year the $150 million saved is benefiting businesses and commuters. This governments plan is working.

    1. If we hadn’t improved PT or we just buit more roads to every corner of Auckland the congestion would be increasing and the cost might now be $2 billion a year. To remain competitive in the world we must support our businesses and workers.

    2. “In Auckland I have a feeling that congestion is reducing”

      It’s only a feeling. The ATAP report of last year admitted that Auckland wide congestion wasn’t decreasing, but that it is marginally in the city.

  9. It always has been the case between the two major party keep changing the priority over the last 20-30 years and it will carry on like this for the next 20-30 years.

    This need to stop and sort out the mess we are in.

    We need to create a bi-party agreement and create a blueprint for the next 20-30 years. Hopefully thing will be lot more smoother by then.

    1. If you follow Chlöe Swarbrick on Facebook you can see how incredibly hard it is to get any cross-party dialogue going with the opposition (on any issue). It’d be nice to see all parties coming to the table over these big issues but politics is becoming more and more about who gets the best soundbite.

      1. James Shaw and Todd Muller have had quite a lot of success, it might be more a reflection on the style of either Chloe or the people she is trying to reach out to.

        1. Part of it will be one of her main issues (drug reform) being a tough sell to be involved in for conservative MPs who are afraid to have their name anywhere near anything to do with drugs (besides saying the classic “drugs are bad mmm kay”).

          If the others are having more success that’s good to hear. Maybe there is hope for politics after all.

    2. Yes, there are certainly some issues that need to be de-politicised. Safety and climate change, for starters.

    3. Roading was pretty much de-politicised from 1984-2008, with the NZTA and it’s predecessors being basically arms length from the government. This appears to have broken down in the last 10 years, it is definitely fixable.

      1. It is deeply anti-democratic (not to mention betraying a naive faith in unelected technocrats) to suggest that somehow we “de-politicise” the spending of public money, be it on public roads or public health or anything else.

        The people who should decide how we spend our public money are our elected political representatives. If you want more public transport vote for that lot. If you want more roads, vote for the other guys. If the other guys win, then we get roads.

        The middle class neoliberal obsession with a priesthood of technocratic “Experts” (who serendipitously happen to be mostly drawn from their own professional class, thank you very much for the nice job!) providing outcomes has led public policy disaster after public policy disaster for thirty years because “Experts” come with a whole pile of their own cultural and social prejudices, and class and caste interests.

        “Politics” is how WE decide to spend OUR money, and I prefer to keep it that way.

        1. I totally agree. When people say there should be less politics they usually mean that everybody should agree with them. There was nothing apolitical about the Clarke government prior to 2008 and nor should there have been. Democracy only works when people stand for something other than just getting back in.

        2. You don’t get a very good outcome that way. It probably seems fair, but in the end it advantages corporate interests with the most money to spend on pscyhology-trained marketing experts.

          Plenty of decisions on how to spend public money and how rules are made are kept a long way from politics. Transport needs to be in that category too, as it impacts on people who don’t get a vote, and on people not yet born.

        3. I think it is a matter of degree. Nobody wants the old days when a National party member chose the engines for the railways and bought some too big for the Kaimai tunnel.
          But transport always involves large sums of public money and represents a wealth transfer so there needs to be political accountability. Instead we have moved to a system where business people get appointed to AT or NZTA and get to set the goals to suit others like themselves and the people paying get no say in the outcomes. Rules should be set by elected people. Technocrats should apply those rules.
          Nobody has a right to expect the next government to do what the previous crowd did.

        4. “Nobody wants the old days when a National party member chose the engines for the railways and bought some too big for the Kaimai tunnel.”
          Where are you getting that from? Probably from the same place that claims the US Marines wanted to build 4 land highways all over NZ.

        5. Back when Muldoon corporatised the railways department one of Muldoon’s lackeys was put in charge. He went on a trip and arranged a deal to buy locomotives that had to be cancelled when he got back as they were too big for NZ tunnels. I think Prebble also mentions it in I’ve Been Thinking. Or maybe it was Hard Labour by Mike Moore- something I read in the 80’s or 90’s.
          Back then politicians were involved in purchasing decisions when they didn’t know anything about the product. Muldoon required Air NZ to get Rolls Royce engines instead of GE because he had done a deal for market access.

        6. Or Miffy the Labour party who bought ships for the Navy which were not then and are not today up to the tasks they were purchased for. The Navy told the govt what they needed but didn’t get any say on what they got.

          Both sides make clangers, it’s just how politics works in NZ.

        7. Yes how crazy getting experts to decide policy. Better to let whoever won a popularity contest decide.

          I think we can all agree woodwork teachers seem imminently qualified to decide multi-billion dollar transport policy quite frankly.

        8. Woodwork teachers are also excellent people to put in charge of rebuilding an entire city, with useful comments on heritage buildings like “a load of old dungas that we need to get rid of.” Such an enlightened attitude from someone who was good with a spokeshave and a 2B pencil.

  10. The technocratic expert process is thoroughly corruptible by the simple expedient of shopping for a politically compliant technocratic expert to lead the “independent” agency, and then shopping for the politicaly compliant technocratic expert consultants do deliver the “independent” evaluations.
    Light handed regulation, and huge faith in market forces, are core National Party philosophies. The former head of the NZTA was selected on this basis and delivered on this basis.

  11. While I get that democracy is widely considered to be “good”, I think we need to challenge that. Democracy – as it exists throughout the western world today – empirically doesn’t work. While you individually may like the idea of having a say and you may well be informed enough yourself to justify that, at a collective level we know that the vast majority of voters do not have an understanding of policies and their causes. This is has been studied extensively all over the world with the exception of sub-saharan africa. Most voters place their votes based on subconscious and emotional influences that they cannot explain or understand. Most voters vote for parties that do not stand for what they value (due to their poor policy understanding). Most voters, when pressed on why they favour one policy over another, cannot explain the basic mechanics and pro’s and con’s of each policy in question. Effectively what we have is the blind leading the blind and politicians being hamstrung by the preferences of the uninformed masses. A politician doesn’t get into power by following the evidence or doing what they feel is right, they get in to power by appeaking to the ideology of a large segment of society. As Patrick wrote about in his transport piece in the big questions book, experts made it clear in the late 60’s that a balanced approach (roads and PT) was needed for a functioning transport system. Aucklands politicians ignored that, in no small part because it would have been political suicide to follow that advice. Why? Because to the majority of citizens in mid-late twentieth century Auckland, building more roads and giving us more options in our cars felt intuitively right. Our population density could handle it comfortably, cars were quicker, cheaper, more convenient, and the public couldn’t foresee the naivety of the roads only gamble and the problems that it would inevitably create in future. Science is increasingly showing us that the intuitive ways to create flourishing human socieities are often not the best ways. In fact, intuition, as in the case of transport planning in auckland over the past decades, is often deeply antithetical to flourishing human socieities. Democracy in this example, and in many others, proves to be a handbrake. I hear your concerns about technocrats being moulded to give the expert answers you want, but this is an issue because of democracy, not in spite of it. In a democracy we have party politiics and leaders pinning their identities to ideologies rather than commiting to follow the evidence wherever it leads. With an overworked and unengaged populace who also have little propensity for reading detailed evidence across all aspects of social planning, this is a recipe for perpetually failing to follow the evidence. In centuries gone by this maybe didn’t matter because intuition was a pretty good gauge of how to organise large human collectives. Technology, information and science have flipped this on its head and our intutiions about organising large human collectives are now well understood to be terrible. We simply have to follow the evidence more closely and democracy can never enable that in an overworked capitalist society. Sorry for the long rant everyone, just had a strong coffee and a meeting got postponed..

    1. Big rant about democracy and capitalism, but no alternatives suggested. Agreed, both democracy and capitalism have their faults but other systems have much larger faults and result in much worse outcomes. If you don’t agree with that statement provide a country that doesn’t rely on democracy and capitalism that does better. Better to just admit we actually have the best system, realise it has faults and try and work the system to achieve better outcomes.

      1. Sorry in advance this is long again but a couple of you asked about alternatives. I don’t want to go off topic here but I’ll give my two cents and try and link my thoughts to transport and urban planning to keep it semi relevant.

        To me it seems that modern technological versions of centrally co-ordinated egalitarian societies are going to most effective with the prevailing social, technological, and economic conditions of the 21st century.

        Even without critical logistical technologies such as the internet, versions of those societies have already outperformed the most efficient capitalist societies from an economic perspective. In 1917 USSR was one of the poorest countries in Europe with the majority of its people illiterate, poverty stricken, and working in agriculture. They had just lost World War 1 and endured a five year civil war which hyper inflated the currency and took them to the brink of collapse. By 1975 they were the world’s second leading superpower. China is a more modern example, in the last 20 years their rate of growth of output of goods and services, aka the productivity of the economy, has averaged over 10%. By comparison, the US average growth rate throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, which was the peak of capitalism, was around 4%. Another benchmark metric for assessing economic systems is real wages, aka the amount people can afford to buy with the average wages they get. In the US since about 1975 real wages have been flat (slightly negative with the latest data) while corporate profits have seen healthy growth. This is a 45 year period where every last drop of the increased productivity of the country has gone into the hands of capitalists and not average citizens. Over these time periods this is not cyclical. Other countries that have observed neoliberal policies, such as us, have by and large had similar trends. China on the other hand, over the past 20 years their real wages have quadrupled.

        To be clear, I’m not suggesting USSR or China are shining examples to copy. They had/have enormous problems of their own but I was just trying to highlight that capitalism is not necessarily the best system and does not actually do better by many of the benchmark economic indicators. I’m also not suggesting economic growth is what we should be aspiring to. Quite the contrary, growth is a cultural virus intwined in capitalism that’s causing many social, psychological, and environment issues.

        China’s use of public funding is more visionary than their democratic competitors because their politicians don’t have to endlessly grapple with vested interests, powerful lobbies, and the voting public when deciding how to allocate public funding. Capitalist democracies may have been able to withstand challenges from corrupt centrally planned economies but they will not withstand challenges from efficient centrally planned economies. The evolving age of information and technology will enable those economies to follow the evidence more closely and become more efficient and create more prosperity and sustainability for their people. Key word being enable, of course they’re also more than capable of evolving into corrupt dictatorships which cause far more harm than capitliasm. I’ve tried not to refer to these as communism because that often leads to a debate based on a false capitalism/communism dichotomy. There are many, many alternatives and many, many ways to organise large human collectives.

        If you don’t notice that capitalism is taking its last few swings you probably aren’t reading as deeply about macroeconomics as you are about transport. Not trying to have a go, before I started reading this blog a couple of years ago I had no idea how much I didn’t know about transport and urban planning. It’s been thrilling to learn so much reading GA and when I think about the intuitions and assumptions I had about transport back then I can see why so many people just assume capitalism and democracy=good/the best.

        Just think about things like induced demand which I think I’ve never seen referenced in the news and never heard any friend bring up in conversation. It’s so unintuitive whereas more lanes just seems like such an obvious fix I wouldn’t have stopped to think twice about it before reading GA. I can assure you there are many similar non-intuitive realities about economic systems and much like you are aware that Auckland’s future is around PT and active modes, we shouldn’t forget that a solid chunk of the population are oblivious to this and continue to demand more roading and parking and all that good stuff. China will become the world’s predominant superpower soon enough and after that I’m expecting a lot more questions to be asked about the effectiveness of capitalist democracies and also expecting a lot more attempts at versions of modern, centrally planned, technological, egalitarian societies for the remainder of this century.

        1. Interesting thoughts, Matt, including about delving into new territory of thought. Matthew, I tend to agree that democracy is limited but it’s probably the best we have and we need to work better at it.

          Democracy means, to me, a far better system than what we have. Democracy doesn’t mean those few in the population who are motivated and have time on their hands get to decide through a consultation-clothed vote about what sort of scalpel a surgeon should use for operations in the public health system, or what sort of homework children aged 6 should get, or how to divide up the public realm for different demographic needs. That’s a silly system. The public would be overwhelmed by having to submit all the time. The experts would be frustrated and barely be able to function.

          In NZ there aren’t many areas that are functioning this poorly, but transport is getting close. Change-averse voices are being allowed to overrule basic freedoms for other groups. In a good democracy the public don’t expect to micromanage experts like this.

          I think China and USSR are not shining examples, because of the human rights aspects. I would’ve thought that somewhere like Finland would be a better example: in ruin after the Winter War and the Continuation War, they collectively invested in their infrastructure and their people. Yet as with any example, there’ll be a reason why Finland, too, isn’t a good example.

          A country’s decision to use public money to make progress is interesting, to me, regardless of the political system, but knowledge of that political system makes it more interesting. So please do share examples and information in the comments!

        2. History shows us that capitalism/democracy is the least worst option. It has proven to mostly work over hundreds of years.

          You offer no proof otherwise and no viable alternative, so everything you say is just conjecture.

          USSR industrialised really quickly at the cost of millions of deaths through famine. It is easy to grow an economy where you just need to produce more iron, steel, oil and grain. When you try to manage anything more complex like consumer goods, all the wheels fall off, just like it did in the USSR.

          China is one of the more extreme examples of a state capitalist government we have ever seen. It’s a capitalist dictatorship. The leaders ARE the 1%. So it is no surprise they have leaped ahead. They are using the most ruthless form of capitalism where the leaders own everything. It is this state capitalism that has brought investment into China and brought up incomes of the average workers.

          History indicates that if China doesn’t transition out of dictatorship to some form of real democracy, it will collapse. It may or may not happen, but history indicates it probably will.

          I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea you are suggesting, I just don’t think there is yet any evidence to suggest it is even possible under anything other than a dictatorship and those never last. There is no scalable working example. Yet. And there may never be.

        3. Thank you Ari, this is a much more accurate picture of what happened in USSR and China. Matt G doesn’t understand that China’s population has risen from poverty in recent years only through the adoption of capitalism, albeit a corrupt autocratic form.
          That aside, for Matt G to suggest communist model’s as an alternative to our current democratic capitalist society tells you a lot about the idealogy of some of the contributors….

        4. Some good points too Ari but I’m not sure history shows that. History shows that the first few attempts at capitalism failed, the same happened with feudalism before that and slavery before that. We tried, we made mistakes, we learnt, we ironed out the kinks and eventually found a workable solution. Just because the planned economies didn’t become the predominant global system after the first few attempts does nothing to suggest they won’t be successful in future. The big difference is the technological conditions today enable central co-ordination to be much more efficient than democracy. Don’t judge the concept based on the failings of USSR and China. Judge it based on it’s economic merits. How we would have spent our transport funding over the past few decades if we weren’t in a democracy? If we had non-corrupt central co-ordination and used BCR’s and the like to determine the most effective use of every dollar to produce the social, economic, environmental outcomes we desire? Also, is it appropriate for joe public to be voting at elections on roads vs rail? Doesn’t this seem primitive given we know the public aren’t educated enough to be guiding which path we take in matters such as these? This shouldn’t be determined by uneducated public opinion, it should be determined following an evidence-based process, much like the conclusions reached from this blog are. I guess time will tell what type of economies will evolve in future. The debate is far more nuanced than we can cover in this comment/messaging format.

        5. I wrote a book a few years ago which details specific alternatives, going fairly deep on one alternative and how we could transition to it. It’s a moneyless system often referred to as a resource-based economy. I’m usually hesitant to name alternative systems in comment forums like this because its almost impossible to describe them in a few hundred words and it usually leads to people googling things and coming away with a surface understanding and the wrong impression. Anyone who’s read Adam Smith or Karl Marx would appreciate the crazy scale of influences involved in economic systems. THat’s why I find labeling economic systems to be counter-productive to having meaningful discussion about their merits, as kind of happened with Ari refering to China as state capitalist and me as centrally co-ordinated (neither are incorrect and both our points were salient but nobody really comes away any more informed on the topic). I didn’t start this train of converssation to self-promote but if anyone is interested in reading the book get in touch and I’ll email you a free copy in the format you need for whatever device you read on…. (I’m not sure of the commenting rules am I allowed to share my email address?) Oh and Heidi, those are good points about democracy. In the book I suggest a version of democracy more like you envisage but I don’t see any signs of voters being willing to relegate their input to the required levels in a capitalist democracies today.

        6. Matt, I was going to say go for it, but apparently since we don’t require people to register, and anyone can post as Matt G, it’s not such a good idea.

          Can you direct readers to a website or some other way like that?

        7. The point is not whether capitalism/democracy is best.

          The point is whether a laissez faire, neoliberal “modern American” form of capitalism/democracy is better for society (society, not just the economy) or whether a (relatively) high tax, high public service, “modern Northern European” model delivers a better outcome for society (again, not just the economy.

          Of course, even the US was a high tax, high public service system until the late 1970s (Robert Reich says 1978) until the wealthy got hold of the system and decided they would just take almost all the profits. Reagan was the perfect President to preside over the dismantling of that system.

          Which is why real wages havent risen since the ’80s.

          Calling any alternative to a laissez faire, neoliberal “modern American” form of capitalism/democracy “socialism” (meaning really Communism) and then pointing to former Communist regimes, is just a strawman argument. For a start, despite the official names of those states, they were not “socialist” – they were Russian dominated (or even worse, like in Romania, non-Russian dominated) dictatorships that paid lip service to any kind of equality.

          We are only discussing different flavours of capitalism/democracy. We should be able to do that without having silly strawman arguments tossed around.

  12. Matt G
    Good points. While it might have been democratic to build roads that have allowed transport carbon emissions to increase by 80% in the last few years it has been reckless. NZ has known the danger of climate change, if not the full extent of it, for much of that period and yet we have carried on as we have. Surely there must be a better way?

    1. An article on the One News website today reveals Kiribati and Tokelau are more likely to adapt to rising seas rather than disappear beneath the ocean, as previously predicted.

      And here I was thinking the science is settled.

      Seems those Auckland University researchers think otherwise.

      1. Only an idiot like yourself could ever think that science is settled, most of us learnt in 5th form that science is never settled.

        1. Tell that to the Greens and those on here who believe it is when it comes to climate change.

        2. Sea level rise is coming whether you, the Greens or anyone else believes it.

          The past tells us this. We have metres of sea level rise already baked in the system just going to slowly roll up and over all our coastlines. Courtesy of the fact that we ended an Ice Age thousands of years ago, yet the sea has not finished its thing from that event.

          We’re of course pushing it along far faster and ultimately far further up our coastlines by our antics – but thats a separate discussion.

          As for the Pacfic Islands, they will disappear beneath the waves. Its a question of when not if. Their means of Adaptation is likely moving to NZ and Aus to continue their existence.

        3. “science is settled” is not the same thing as “the evidence apopears to overwhelming indicate this cause”. That is all science will ever say.

          Yes, it oculd be wrong, absolutely. And I would guess that the 95+% of climate scientist who agree that the evidence shows man made climate change would love for them to be wrong! What a relief that would be.

          Why would any scientist (let alone the overwhelming majority) supoort an outcome if the evidence is so bad? Getting grants? Have you seen the size of grants for scientists? As opposed to a trillion dollar fossil fuel industry that stands to profit massively if there was data showing CO2 wasnt responsible.

          Until that is explained I will stick with the scientific consensus.

      2. From the article you refer to:

        “It found the highest peak of the island grew as strong waves and rising sea levels washed sand and gravel towards it. Researchers say the effects of climate change on individual islands will vary, with each one having a unique response to rising sea levels. ”

        So if they are lucky waves will concentrate the island into a peak that will still be above the waves.

        Which should be about as fun as if somebody bulldozed your house into a big mound in the middle of your section.

      3. What the science (a 1:50 scale model) showed here was that the higher parts of the island were made higher due to sand washing up from the bits that disappeared. i.e. it was not that all was going to be fine, just that much of the island(s) would disappear or change in shape etc. They would also shift laterally on the reef, so much depends on the shape of that.

        i.e. profound change will happen regardless, it might just not be that they disappear – that would depend on the structures under the atolls.

        The science that sea rise is coming is a done deal. What the consequences are in specific circumstances is harder to predict, particularly with a bunch of it being determined by storm surge etc

  13. We are still in an ice age, it is called the Quaternary glaciation or Pleistocene glaciation. You can tell because there is permanent ice Antarctica and Greenland.

    1. True, but might be heading for Permian type hothouse with all that extra carbon being taken out of long term storage. Maybe forests in Antarctica again …

  14. I agree with Phil Twyford, except:

    a) Congestion tolls in Auckland & Wellington and/or proper commuter parking strategies (pricing/levying all public /private commuter parking) should be in place (including levying private providers like Wilson’s if they are undercharging the rate needed to manage commuter demand)

    b) This would provide an additional revenue source while reducing peak demand, induce mode shift and therefore delay & spread out over time the need for urban road upgrades.

    c) The added revenue could then help fund projects like the 12 noted in this article.

    d) A lower and more sustainable immigration rate would help as well

    1. So you want to toll Aucklanders (and Wellingtonians) to pay for a bunch of rural motorways?

      Road pricing should be being implemented but at least initially should be
      a) revenue neutral to get more buy in for it
      b) if any money is raised from it, it should go back to the region on which it’s imposed to help pay for more alternatives for people to use

      1. Well, we could just severe the rural highways into and out of Auckland & Wellington 🙂

        There’s lots of “cross subsidization” in the NLTF and that’s never going away. And, its 1 NZ road network – severe any 1 main link and its either broken or the detour is horrendous.

        Even if the congestion tolls are revenue neutral (which I agree they should be) they would reduce the long term rate of road building in Auckland & Wellington (everything else being equal). Assuming its not all eaten up by increased PT works and reduced PT subsidy there should be some net revenue shift available to further fund other works (e.g. rural highways)

  15. I have just found $4B – or maybe $5B from the recent news. Don’t complete the CRL. It’s the biggest waste of money in the history of NZ transport.

    1. Please go back to your safe echo chamber on WhaleOil. This is an evidence based blog and you have none.

      The CRL will transform this city. It should have been built 50 years ago except people like you in the National Party never understood the benefits.

      “There is almost no reduction in car use” – there will be relatively but not absolutely.

      Because of induced demand there are only two things that have been found to reduce traffic:

      1. Road pricing – a la Stockholm or Singapore

      2. Reducing the amount of road available. Worked everywhere it has been done.

      The frequency is the main benefit. But it will knock up to 20 mins off travel times out west. If a roading project cut 20 mins off travel time it would be fully funded in 5 mins.

      1. Hi goosoid.
        Thanks for the response and you have a point about road pricing but I presume it’s not popular because the wealthy get the main benefit of a public asset . But with self driving cars it will obviously work as low income people can get a subsidy.

        Re the travel times for the CRL – could you do me a favour and check how they are calculated in the business case. The time from the West is actually listed at a 17 min saving – but this is a comparison of travelling to Britomart via Newmarket and also stopping at Parnell. Then it allows a time of 10-15 mins to WALK to what they call “Mid Town” – which in fact is right outside the Aotea Station (outside the council offices). Please check the Business case – you will see the little footsteps in the travel time graphic.

        A more relevant comparison is Britomart now and Britomart with the CRL. This is around 7 mins as a saving. If the train did not divert to Newmarket (remember its the Purple Line that will be needed to service Newmarket under the CRL) then the saving is around 2 mins.

        The time from Southern Line stations for Newmarket and beyond are around 5 mins slower to Britomart. Aotea will only be about 2 mins slower than the current Britomart time from the South tho. CRL have sent me information saying the travel times from Papakura to Britomart will be the same – 50 mins. But this must include other network changes which could be done without the CRL.

        I would be interested in your evidence about the 20 min saving – I havent seen that figure anywhere

        1. Your Britomart comparison isn’t really that useful either as there is higher employment density around Aotea, many train passengers get out at Britomart and walk to their offices in the vicinity of Aotea.

          This is why Aotea is used, but 17 mins is a best case scenario, the true time saving would have to be weighted for where people are travelling to and its proximity to Britomart. It would likely come out somewhere between the 7 and 17 mins. Either way it is a significant time saving.

          As goosoid mentions though the big gain is frequency, we are already at maximum frequency during peak hours without the CRL.

        2. You don’t need to complete the tunnel to increase the frequency – the trains can use it as a thru station now and change tracks in the Albert St tunnel. There is plenty of storage at The Strand yard and it has been mentioned here about storing the later peak time trains in the tunnel.

          A ped subway or a airport style travelator could get commuters to say Shortland St – and most of the employment areas would be served as well as the CRL. At a saving of a min of $4B.

          Surely since they are adding a billion dollars every few months to this project it’s time to review it. The time savings have been made to look way better than they are – and the time from the South, East and Onehunga lines are longer or at best the same.

        3. The Quay Park junction is at capacity and would need to be grade separated to allow any increase on existing frequencies. That won’t be cheap.

          Even if this happened using the Albert St tunnel will only allow a small increase in frequency, there is a limited number of trains that can be turned around at a two track terminus.

          There is no way what you suggest will get anywhere near the frequencies proposed with the CRL.

        4. The completed tunnels are surprisingly long – so could have more than one place to swap tracks. I did assume the Eastern line would have to go over the top the southbound track at Quay Park – that wouldn’t be that hard or have I missed something. It would be a tiny cost in the scheme of things

          The CRL tunnel to create the Aotea Station – and the massively deep K Rd station – just doesnt seem worth doing. The number of additional commuters is tiny – and it always can be done in the future if needed – not in the middle of a construction boom where everything seems about twice the cost it should
          Either way the business case needs to be revisited before the next stage goes ahead.

        5. It still doesn’t really get you get any more trains into or out of Britomart, and therefore no more trains into the city, and no more trains across the network (assuming they all go to the city).

          About the only think you could do is stack some trains inside the tunnel stub for interpeak stabling, saving you the need to bring them out again (but also meaning the train has to stay there until the evening peak, so its literally owning each of those train for one run per day).

          From a point clear of the platforms to the end of the tunnel you have 610m of track length. So with two tracks you might just be able to store eight 150m long trains, saving you eight throat tunnel movements across the peak in total.

          So that would allow you to bring in and send out again another four trains across the peak period above what we do today. I.e. Raising from the current 40 trains to Britomart in two hours, to 44 trains. So a 10% gain in capacity.

        6. The CRL will have 36 tph entering and exiting the CBD, with potential to expand that to 48, that is a train less than every two minutes.

          It doesn’t really matter how many cross overs you have in the Albert St tunnels, the first will be the bottleneck. It will take a driver longer than the 100 seconds available to walk the length of a nine car train, let alone the extra time needed for trains to clear the section of track.

          You haven’t overcome the simple problem of geometry. The CRL will have 36tph entering through two portals and exiting through two portals. Your proposal will have all 36tph entering through one portal and exiting through one portal.

        7. Jezza – back to the time savings – if Newmarket was bypassed or an additional platform built north of the junction (plenty of room there) then the saving from the west would only be 2 or 3 mins to Britomart – and say 5 mins to a the centre of gravity of the employment (which is NOT outside the Aotea Station like the deceptive business case places it). So combine that with the 5 mins additional time from the South (even Aotea is 2 mins longer than Britomart is at the mo) and the zero saving from the Eastern and Onehunga lines – the total time savings must be next to nothing.

          For the very few Aucklanders who will use this – and mostly from expensive areas to highly paid jobs – I just dont see how it will contribute to the transport woes of 95% of Aucklanders. There are not even that many people working in the CBD – little more than Wellington.

        8. Har har, expensive areas like Avondale, Henderson, Manukau, Otahuhu, Papakura etc etc? I’ll remember to bring that up over champagne and caviar at the Glen Eden RSA.

          You do realise that Britomart is on the waterfront right? That means it is literally at the edge of the CBD, the centroid of demand for the city centre is far further inland, about exactly where Aotea is to be located. For most users the travel time savings will be huge, not least on the western line but for anyone who can exit closer to their destination. Getting a train to somehwere on K Road would save a good 20 minutes over the current trip with a bus transfer or a couple of buses.

        9. Graeme – with the frequencies proposed post-CRL for the Western, Southern and Onehunga lines the Newmarket junction would have to be grade separated as well. This will eat into most of the space between the junction and the Cowie St bridge, not to mention pushing Newmarket Station out of the centre of Newmarket.

          The centre of gravity of employment and education might not be right at Aotea but it’s a hell of a lot closer to there than it is to Britomart and is certainly more than 2-3 minutes walk from Britomart.

        10. OK 17 mins. I stand corrected. Killer point. They should immediately scrap the project.

          Please now apply the same rigorous testing to roading projects. The ons that consistently do not deliver any of the benefits they said they would.

        11. I am glad you agree with scrapping the project. There are way cheaper ways to improve rail such as express lines on the Southern and Western lines – and removing the 26 rail crossings on the Western Line. Also fast tracking elec to Pukekohe and Helensville would be great.

        12. Express to and from where exactly? You can’t get any more trains in or out of Britomart, and there is nowhere else that would come close to having enough demand as a destination to support express trains.

        13. How embarrassing Graeme. You have just revealed you don’t understand the project. Perhaps that’s why you don’t see the value?

          So frustrating to see that people haven’t taken the time to do some basic reading, years after the project has been accepted as necessary by every expert – and even Gerry Brownlee. My old woodwork teacher is far from an expert but he accepted the need for the project eventually.

        14. Hopefully, we’ll see them using reallocated traffic lanes. It’ll be good to reclaim some of that investment we’ve spent so much money on and put it to efficient use. Too often they’re stuck in the congestion caused by space-inefficient general traffic.

          Craziest thing of all is when planning includes building completely new lanes for buses instead of reallocating existing traffic lanes. That’s a lost opportunity to reduce vkt while increasing people flow.

        15. ‘But with self driving cars it will obviously work as low income people can get a subsidy.’

          Can you explain this?

        16. Sorry Joe I should have said self driving cabs. I think this is the future of public transport and we should be preparing for it now. Or its a brave bet against Google, Apple. GM and the Chinese govt who all think they are going make trillions selling us this service.
          The compelling factor is the trips will be so cheap – and all point to point. It will undermine the frequency of station to station modes and when you have done that the model collapses.

        17. Self driving cabs are limited by the same constraint we have now, the lack of space for everyone to travel in a car.

          There will still be demand for PT as there will still be the same congestion issues, probably worse given there will be extra dead running of these cars.

        18. Here’s a thought, lets test this self driving taxi thing.

          Why don’t we spend a year with the government paying the wages of every taxi and uber driver in the country, and anyone else that wan’ts to be one, so that they are everywhere and price of taxing a taxi is half what it is today. This will be the same for the user as if they were driverless.

          Then we can clearly see if driverless taxis will fix transport and get rid of congestion.

        19. And that’s a small low-density town of 40,000. For Auckland, with space restraints, all driverless cars or uber provide is congestion, lack of access, and a waste of transport investment in an inefficient mode.

          The space requirements of cars mean their only future is as the luxury or special needs niche of transport, in Auckland. There’s no way around that.

        20. Heidi did you read the article. They said it was incredibly popular and that was the problem. Point to point PT will trump station to station any time of course.

          Poorer people can get terrific mobility – the same as the wealthy. You have no idea what impact this will have. Its a horse and cart vs automobile moment.

        21. Graeme, I read the article:

          … with ridership increasing each year, costs will only rise… If you operate a regular bus system, you have a much better idea of what those costs will look like five or 10 years from now… the town has taken the extraordinary step of deterring people from using Uber too much, capping the number of rides a resident can take per month. For mall worker Arrega, who has been “working like crazy”, that often means exceeding the limit midway through the month… when people start using it in any numbers, it devours the the entire budget… As for the environmental impact, there is even less doubt about the negative impact…

          Which bit about cars being space inefficient do you not understand?

        22. This line here looks like the most important one to me.

          ‘The city has now spent more on Uber than the traditional transit option it was considering, and has dramatically increased the number of cars on its roads’.

          I’m not sure how increasing costs on ratepayers and cluttering up the roads for existing users could be considered a good thing.

          Incidentally Innisfil is about the size of Whanganui, this form of mobility is going to be much harder to pull off in a bigger city.

        23. I’m not sure, but I think Graeme’s just enjoying wasting our time. But really, he’s simply giving us the opportunity to be prepared for some odd things things people might say if they haven’t thought something through.

        24. Point to point will of course trump station to station. But it is also more expensive. Horses for courses.

          The article strongly implies the town cannot afford the subsidy needed to allow everyone to use this service. At some point that subsidy will have to go down. The poor will be no better off than before. If anything, worse, because now their cheaper bus option is gone.

          The impact is clearly stated in the article. If ‘everyone’ tries to use that service the plan will collapse.

        25. Self-driving cars are massively overhyped. It’s an incredibly difficult problem technologically, and there are also many difficult legal and social issues blocking it. Waymo is quite far ahead of everyone else but even they are far away from handling the full range of conditions you need for a general-purpose autonomous taxi fleet.

          More than 20 years ago I was at CMU when their autonomous driving group did “No Hands Across America”. What we have now isn’t that much more advanced then what they had then. We will see incremental deployments in limited situations over the coming decades but forget about general replacement of human drivers in the next 20 years.

        26. Maybe we’re in for another round of lobbying for legislation asking other people / things to stay out of the way. If you get hit it is your own fault for getting in the way. Maybe we can invent a term for it. What about ‘jaywalking’?

          Ever seen the ‘levels of automation’?


          Sounds all good, until you realize that levels 1 and 2 do not exist. Level 2: hands off but “be prepared to intervene immediately at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly”. In other words, you’re very much still doing the same job as drivers today — concentrate on the road, keep an eye on other traffic and hazards, etc. Actually moving the steering wheel left and right is only a tiny part of the job.

    2. I really hope you are just a troll. It would be really sad if someone was still beaing this dead horse.

      Leave that poor horse alone. It is dead!

  16. Same old argument for people who refuse to change or get out their car…despite hundreds of Cities, including some of the biggest and most successful in the world currently building or planning massive Public Transport projects.

    Don’t get me wrong, there will be a market for driverless Uber, but I’d like to see 100,000 driverless cars try to enter the CBD at 9am on a Monday morning…you thought a couple 1000 Limes lying around taking up space were bad!

      1. Is that the same rail corridor you are suggesting we use to run trains into Britomart with them turning around in the Albert St tunnels?

        If you are going to contradict yourself I’d at least recommend doing it in separate posts so it’s not as obvious.

        1. Albert tunnel turnaround now first then driverless cabs later of course. I think they are coming but prob not as soon as Google etc think they will.
          Its just the CRL cost blowouts have got to be a joke – they are talking $5.4B now – for about 1-2000 cars taken off the roads. It is complete madness and totally unfair on the poorer members of our community

        2. The CRL won’t take any cars off the road. It’s not a road project, and not about cars.

  17. Thanks Nick R – confirmation of what I had figured out

    So if a Mayor was selling the project by saying this…. (on the CRL website)

    “Every person sitting in a seat on the train is one less single occupant car on our motorway so it helps free up some of the congestion that Auckland faces as a growing city”

    ….you would say he was seriously misleading people.

    The project has been sold to Aucklanders and NZers as reducing train travel times and reducing road congestion. It does neither. It wasn’t good value at $2.2B.. or $2.8B…or $3.4B or $4.4B. And now they are saying that there is a 50% chance it will be $5.4B surely it time to call time on it.

    1. There’s no serious misleading going on at all. The CRL is part of the transport network, and will allow many more journeys to be completed each day by rail, including with improved journey times.

      As a bonus, it’s good for drivers. Without it, congestion would get worse, as there’d be no extra space on the rail network for the growing population; they’d have to drive.

      That certainly “helps free up some of the congestion that Auckland faces as a growing city” as the quote you give says.

      What it doesn’t do is lower congestion from current levels… nor does the quote you give say it will.

      Places which have invested properly in public transport and active modes provide a superior driving experience for those who do drive, because far fewer people are forced to drive.

      You could be enthusiastic about this, Graeme, if you’re keen on driving. Begrudging money spent on public transport is rather short-sighted, as public transport will benefit us all, drivers included. Do you prefer to see everyone suffer just to ensure people with different needs don’t get anything?

      1. HI Heidi – sorry about the late reply.

        I think my point was the enormous (and rising) cost of this tunnel is just worth any possible benefit. And the benefit is confined to wealthy people avoiding the traffic congestion. So its a transfer of wealth.

        My interest is in mobiltiy and housing for the less wealthy – I know that’s not what this blog deals with but they matter too. Auckland isn’t only for urban liberals you must appreciate. Why should the 90% of Auckland who never goes near the CBD be made to subsidise the inner city dwellers transport – at around $7000 a household?

        Also re the Wellington bus CO2 emissions we were discussing a few months back. I finally got an answer re the total carbon emissions. They were indeed for the whole year $17000 tonnes but the NIS km were way more than I estimated – they said use 20% of the total km traveled. So the numbers worked out as 141g/km – worse than I had estimated. So probably more than people travelling in cars in Wgtn.

        1. You do know that the CRL will allow more trains to Manukau and Henderson? The train lines don’t strat and stop in the CBD.

          Quite seriously, do you understand the project and what it will do? I have to say I don’t think you do.

          Have you ever lived outside of NZ in a city that has a proper metro system? The city really works a lot better with one. Without one we will never really be a city.

  18. No Graeme both of those points are true, and consistent with each other.

    They mayor is talking about the congestion Auckland faces, he’s talking about the future and specifically how much money we might have to spend on roads if we didn’t build the CRL, and how much traffic, emissions and community impact that would create, not to mention cost. If you you think $4b to add capacity for 18,000 passengers an hour to the rail system is expensive, wait until you work out the cost of adding 18,000 vehicles per hour to the road network. That’s equivalent to three entirely new motorways.

    But will the CRL remove cars off the road, no. There will be just as much traffic with the CRL as there is today, we’ll always have as much peak traffic as we build road capacity for. The difference is tens of thousands of extra peak trips that people can take without going anywhere near traffic or the roads in the first place.

    The point of public transport isn’t to reduce traffic, it’s to avoid traffic entirely. If you want to reduce traffic, you need to charge for road use or take away traffic or parking capacity.

  19. Graeme, getting the urban liberals who go into the CBD out of their cars, frees this road space up for that percentage of Aucklanders who never venture into the CBD to make their journeys less time consuming. Therefore it is sensible to concentrate the expenditure to provide more people carrying capacity on the most patronised routes. These patronage of these routes, works out to be roughly in proportion to the distance from the CBD. On these routes, facilitating the movement of high capacity road vehicles, buses, and off road alternatives, trains, on high density routes, is simply more cost effective then adding more roadway. Every 80 seat full bus frees up several hundred metres of road space even for the others not venturing into the CBD. Much cheaper then providing the equivalent car use capacity by widening the roads.

    1. “Every 80 seat full bus frees up several hundred metres of road space even for the others not venturing into the CBD”
      That’s a nice idea but in practice it will never happen. Traffic is like a gas – it will expand to fill the space you give it.

      Congestion can be reduced by:
      1. Road pricing
      2. Reducing road space to cars.

      And completely destroying the fabric of the city and driving everyone out of it. A la Detroit. But as hard as Auckland has tried to destroy itself over the years with entrenched car dependency, we are not quite there yet.

      1. I don’t think the two things are mutually exclusive. Sure the roadway effectively vacated by the bus passengers will be filled up, but the point was that this roadway, which otherwise would not be available, would now become available to those 90% of non urban liberals, that never visit the CBD. Those low income people that Graeme is intent on championing for, even though I strongly suspect he is not one of.

        1. Sure. You may change the people who are in the cars in that space. But you will not reduce the cars.

        2. Roadway congestion is self limiting. Instead of concentrating on reducing congestion the target must be to provide the transport infrastructure be able to move the most people and goods as efficiently as possible within the inherently constrained city environment. This means we must increase our provision of non roading solutions, rail, and as well reallocate our road space towards the most specially efficient vehicles, buses. People in SOVs will still choose to compete for the remaining carriageway space, as always, and the number doing so will determine their transit time. Reducing congestion is the wrong target. Reducing journey times, emissions and injury, at the macro level is the correct target.

        3. I agree 100%.

          And yes if journey times were calculated over all modes, I am sure we would be seeing a downward trend. people on PT at peak times or on a bike would be enjoying shorter travel times for sure.

  20. Dan you might want to look at the business case – you will see the number of cars removed by the CRL is almost non existent. I figure on the Southern Motorway the number will be around 100.

    Any sort of analysis of this project shows what a waste of money it is. I have no idea how anyone thought it was it a good thing to do?

    1. The *net reduction from 2013* in vehicle traffic might be 100 cars a day on the Southern Motorway. However, total trips are set to increase by about 10,000 per day. That’s about 2.5 hours worth of total motorway capacity at Mt Wellington. Would you have those trips on the motorway or stop them happening?

      1. In the business case the biggest % of of the 10,000 increase comes from buses. So not all the people in the train would otherwise go by car. But overall the numbers are small compared to people moving around Auckland. A small congestion charge would do much more.

        Auckland is a tiny city and the number of people working in the CBD is small even for a city of this size. The lack of motorways has been the problem – most cities like Amsterdam and and all European cities have great systems. Have you been around them?

        1. So you think we should bulldoze through people’s houses to create more motorways? I assume you would want this to be other people’s houses not yours.

          You won’t get far building a motorway in an existing urban area with the $5 billion you plan to save from not building the CRL.

        2. “Auckland is a tiny city and the number of people working in the CBD is small even for a city of this size. ”
          I have never heard that before. Do you have numbers to back that up?

          Auckland may be “tiny” but there are cities of the same population or ven much less that have much better public transport infrastructure that is highly effective at moving people around. Just like our metro system after the CRL is finished.

    2. “I have no idea how anyone thought it was it a good thing to do?”

      Because they have actually done the analysis and know what they are talking about.

      But hey, driverless cars will save us anyway.

    3. Graeme, you have a lot more faith in a historic business case then I do.
      The last government went shopping for business cases when it didn’t like some of them and obtained from tame government officials, train passenger projections that are now proved to be monstrously understated.
      How about looking out of the window of your car at the packed trains travelling alongside the southern motorway inbound in the morning.
      Six carriages, each with about 80 people, 12 minutes later another train.
      Now imagine those people all in their cars in front of you on the motorway. How far further would you be in your queue?

      1. Then why isnt the business case updated when they are asking for another $1B – and a 50% chance of another $1B. Don’t you think the public of Auckland and NZ deserve this? But then the travel time deception would probably be exposed.

        Next time I am sitting in traffic in the Southern Motorway looking at an empty rail line I would imagine it with 4 lanes of motorway on it – or maybe a continual stream of buses. The corridor is a chain wide – over 20m. So easily side enough for 4 lanes.

        1. Where would all the cars or buses go once the got to the city end of the rail corridor?

        2. Why don’t you show us some calculations, Graeme? How many people does the rail corridor move at peak hour? How much space would they take up in individual cars? In what way, shape or form could carriages filled with people standing be more effectively replaced by those people in cars, each of which each takes up many square metres?

          Your persistence is admirable. Your logic is missing.

  21. Yes its great for those who use it – but it doesn’t reduce traffic congestion for those who don’t.

    So it should be funded by fares – I have no issue if it was. But you might not want to work out the fare!

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