We’ve been incredibly concerned for some time with what is happening with light rail. From a project that was almost ready to start construction, at least on an early works package, it is now mired in delay and uncertainty.

I had initially written this post as a more general outline of my frustration at these delays. However, an article in the Sunday Star Times yesterday dropped a bombshell of information, highlighting what an absolute mess the light-rail project has become due to the Government’s quite bizarre approach of upending the whole process to favour a highly undeveloped proposal from the NZ Super Fund and their Canadian Partners CDPQ.

Another flagship Labour policy, Auckland’s light rail, is in crisis as deep divisions are revealed over a potential cost blowout of billions of dollars amid delays.

Firms involved in the project say the problems have cost them millions of dollars and are wrecking New Zealand’s business reputation.

Much of the finger pointing is being directed at six power point slides submitted by the New Zealand Superannuation fund and which sources say effectively stopped the project in its tracks, and undid nearly a year of work

….

In the long letter interim board chairman Nick Rogers wrote to his fellow board members, obtained by Stuff, the NZTA lashed the Government for dithering over whether to seriously look at the NZ Super Fund bid, which it made as NZ Infra, formed of the fund and another large Canadian fund.

According to another piece of correspondence from Rogers, the letter was written after a fractious meeting with Twyford where it’s understood he blamed the agency for light rail delays. The letter was written to outline the board’s position, after what was seen as an unfair smear.

Most observers had assumed the NZ Infra bid was something quite incredible, given it had made the Government rethink its own plans to let NZTA build the project. But the letter claims NZ Infra’s proposal was ” little more than an idea set out on 6 pages of a powerpoint presentation”. It also claimed that the “details of the project were vague”.

Light-rail (along with KiwiBuild) was one of the Labour Party’s flagship policies ahead of the 2017 election – the very first major policy announced after Jacinda Ardern took over as the leader. Yet it’s now around two years since this Government took office and:

  • We don’t even have a confirmed route
  • There still hasn’t been any public engagement or consultation on the project’s details leading to a lot of FUD.
  • There hasn’t been a final business case yet completed (contrary to some claims, there were earlier business cases completed by Auckland Transport)
  • We don’t even know who will be delivering the project
  • It seems like little has been done to progress design work or consenting

Back in August Transport Minister Phil Twyford had to concede that the project wouldn’t commence construction in 2020 – like he had previously said and was in the government’s agreement with the Greens.

“This process will take up to six months and will mean we won’t have spades in the ground in 2020. But it will provide us with the certainty we need to progress a multi-billion dollar project which will transform Auckland.”

Yesterday’s Stuff article highlights how damaging this “new process” has been to making progress on light-rail – as well as rocking the confidence of potential partners in the project’s development more generally.

This didn’t just slow down the light rail, but it hurt many of the businesses who for ten months had been gearing up to work on the NZTA project, who were now unsure they’d get work.

The problem for NZTA is it had already gone to market looking for firms to build its rail line. Unsurprisingly, many of those firms are furious at money potentially wasted bidding for a project that may never be built.

Paul Evans, the chief executive of the Association of Consulting Engineers, representing engineering firms, wrote to Twyford in July. He complained that “at every step [engineering firms] have answered the Government’s call, invested heavily in building light rail expertise within their firms,” and spent considerable amounts of money bidding for work.

But Evans said work had now “ground to a halt”, and engineers had “a distinct lack of clarity around, if and when [light rail] will proceed”.

He said firms had spent “many millions of dollars” putting bids together – money that could be wasted if the Government backs down and goes with NZ Infra.

Now maybe (and it is a stretch) this process might have made sense if NZ Infra (the partnership between the Super Fund and CDPQ) had a really strong track record and had put together a detailed and compelling proposal. However, as I pointed out recently, a quick Google of CDPQ’s track record should have sent the Government running a million miles away from them. And it now seems there was only a six slide powerpoint presentation that made up their initial bid.

Combined with CDPQ’s dodgy financial schemes, earlier this year there were suggestions the NZ Infra proposal was an entirely underground and/or elevated design similar to their projects in Canada and something that will likely be completely unaffordable and/or unconsentable. The letter from the NZTA board suggests that as well as these issues, NZ Infra’s plan also ignores any of the original objectives of the project and that it seems the NZTA are being made to match this.

In his letter to the NZTA board, Rogers says that the goals of the initial light rail plan appear to have gone by the wayside in the NZ Infra proposal.

Instead of densification, the NZ Infra plan wants to get people to the airport as quickly as possible, meaning fewer stops and less intensification.

But it says this essentially doubles-up on another transport project to improve the connection between the existing rail line, ending at Puhinui station, to the airport.

In future, this will be the fastest way to travel between the CBD and the airport. The letter says building fast light rail, essentially creates a double-up: two fast ways to get to the airport, but no light rail line to help increase density in Auckland.

…….

NZTA fears the game is already up. Rogers’ letter says despite the fact that work is already quite advanced on the NZTA proposal, it appears the NZ Infra plan is now “the benchmark against which the NZTA proposal will be considered”.

The letter airs NZTA’s concerns that the Government’s indecision over whether it wanted fast or slow rail has meant it “no longer understands what the project objectives are”.

I think it’s a little unfair to characteristic the original light rail proposal as slow. Even with it running at 30km/h in the city centre and at 50km/h along Dominion Rd, it still would have only taken just 40 minutes to get from the middle of the city to the airport – faster than the Western Line achieves on average. The real benefit of the original light rail proposal was in connecting all the various and varied communities along the route to the city, the airport and to each other.

A focus on just serving the airport as fast as possible is classic case of what I like to call Airport Derangement Syndrome, where people over-estimate the value of the importance of city to airport trips. It also means we’d still need to be running buses on Dominion Rd and that we wouldn’t have done much to address bus congestion issues in the city centre.

If speed is the most important aspect, there are other ways to achieve that, for example if we implement intercity services properly they could run express from Britomart to Puhinui in 15-20 minutes with a shuttle from there to the airport for a total trip time of 25-30 minutes – potentially a great way to use up any spare capacity on, and help pay for, those services.

However, no matter who takes the project forward we will have lost at least two and a half years in terms of delivery timeframes from what would have been possible if NZTA has simply picked up the design that Auckland Transport had been working on since around 2014/15 and taken it forward. As well as the lost time, there’s also the millions of dollars that have already gone into that design that will be lost.

Furthermore, what’s the point in comparing two near identical designs and funding models. Surely the NZTA would be better here to be the voice of reason by presenting a practical plan that is actually possible to deliver.

I do believe that the Government – especially Phil Twyford, Julie Anne Genter and Jacinda Ardern – are serious about wanting to see light-rail become a reality. However, it does sound like the government and possibly some key officials have been won over by what is essentially a glossy brochure and lobbying from NZ Infra. They’ve fallen for the claims that light rail, as originally planned was slow, created congestion (it would replace the existing bus lanes on Dominion Rd), that serving the airport as fast as possible was the only thing that mattered and that NZ Infra could deliver the project without the government having to borrow money.

Yesterdays article makes it clear that MOT and Treasury were keen to thoroughly investigate the NZ Infra proposal:

NZTA was asked to do an assessment of the NZ Infra proposal using a standard Treasury methodology, essentially to see whether it was up to the standard expected of bids for Government contracts.

The assessment was scathing, comparing the NZ Infra bid to a similar unsolicited proposal made by a Chinese company to build the Penlink road.

“Neither unsolicited bid had sufficient merit to warrant taking them to the next stage,” said Rogers in the letter.

Despite NZTA’s objections, Twyford still claims that the Ministry of Transport (separate from NZTA) and Treasury “both advised that the NZ Infra proposal was sufficiently unique and worth investigating thoroughly”.

Government agencies have treated this project in the past similar to how they treated the City Rail Link and other PT and rail projects – with much disdain and acrimony. Many of the same people inside the Ministry of Transport, Treasury and even NZTA are likely still involved. So it’s not too much of a leap to think that there has been some concerted effort to make as little progress as possible, perhaps in the hope that the Government will change at next year’s election. Or at least make the project so expensive and difficult it never happens. It’s unfortunate that the politicians don’t seem to have seen through this.

At this rate, we’ll be lucky to see a spade in the ground within the next decade.

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231 comments

  1. Every drag on the chain of the airport route is effectively adding years to the prospect of the North West ever seeing Light Rail.

    There isn’t even a business case underway for the North West route. It’s time for some leadership, some resignations and someone who actually wants to do something to pick this up and run with it.

    1. I gave twyford the benefit of the doubt with housing, since that is a tricky portfolio. But he needs to go and someone with better leadership skills to replace him for this, at least to give more confidence to the whole process.

      1. I am afraid that i agree with you on Twyford. he got kicked out of the housing portfolio and now it appears he has made a hash of light rail.

        Twyford seems to be constantly blindsided by an actively hostile, heavily neoliberal bureaucracy. He should have known would seize on any opportunity to ankle tap light rail. His naivety in the face of institutional obstructionism was perhaps excusable in housing. But he should have understood the politics of it all by now.

        Time for him to be shuffled sideways into the ministry of administrative affairs?

        1. I do worry though that Twyford’s thinking is just as outdated and neoliberal as the National ministers that preceded him.

        2. I think the Wellington bureaucracy, local government and Thorndon circle of politicians have been resistant to change. It is mind blowingly stupid to let the housing crisis move down to Wellington considering what a big issue it was going into the 2017. But there resistance to championing innovative new policy initiatives has led to that.
          I wrote about this for Interest.co.nz here https://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/102192/brendon-harre-asks-if-wellington-perpetually-stuck-being-sleepy-government-town

        3. Regarding Light Rail in Auckland. Phil Twyford, Julie-Anne Genter and Jacinda Ardern have faced another level of opposition as well. You should all know that New Zealand First has run a campaign opposing Light Rail. It is organised by

          Jon Reeves -Account Manager NZME and Transport Advocate (here is his description of himself).

          Advertising guru, entrepreneur, lobbyist for better transport/public transport, political junkie, global traveler.

          I have a broad background in international business & media including managing and presenting radio shows in Geneva, Bern and Basel, Switzerland. I was a co-founder/owner of a Swiss media company from 2003 – 2014.

          I am a lobbyist for better transport infrastructure in New Zealand and co-founded the Public Transport Users Association NZ (I am the National Coordinator of the PTUA).

          I have stood in two general elections for New Zealand First and co-authored the Rail Reinvestment Programme and Railways of National Importance policy.

        4. You have to wonder how much damage NZ First and Shane Jones opposition to light rail has done behind the scenes?

          Neither Winston Peters or Shane Jones will publicly support light rail today in the media. Shane Jones is the Associate Transport Minister. Has he obstructed the project? And then when light rail was delayed has he leaked selected information to cast the project in a bad light?

          What really is going on here?

        5. Shane Jones said the commitment to build the troubled project was between Labour and the Greens, not NZ First and any commitment to build it would have to be discussed at his party’s caucus.
          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/116729718/no-guarantees-for-light-rail-after-2020-election

          So is NZ First pulling support from a key Jacinda Ardern promise?

          If it does what will be the consequences be?

          Does Jacinda strip away some of Shane’s portfolio responsibilities, does Northport die in a ditch, how about a special auditing team be created to monitor Provincial Growth Funding spending?

        6. Reeves used to talk about his marketing for oil and gas industries on his LinkedIn profile, but looks like he’s quietly deleted that.

        7. Brendon Harre why the personal attacks on Jon Reeves? Isn’t it Labour’s Twyford who allowed the stuff up by allowing the superfund bid?

          Pretty sure Jon Reeves is not in Government (I just checked and he’s not there). Though I’ve seen elsewhere in the past where his group and that other one START?? saying the superfund bid was very bad.

        8. Yeah, I just had a look, seems Jon Reeves is from Hunua electorate for New Zealand First. Perhaps because he’s down there he sees the reasoning for a direct train service from Waikato / Pukekohe to the airport?? Still doubt Reeves would be the reason Labours light rail is becoming hugely unpopular with voters in Auckland.

          NZTA must be worried that light rail is a fail rail idea.

      2. Twyford is no John A Lee that is for sure. He is probably a very nice man, but he isn’t going to get anything done. Megan Woods and Andrew Little seem to be the only two effective Ministers. The rest are on par with the type of people National appoints, people who are happy to occupy the position and do bugger all.

        1. Twyford is so deeply out of his depth in terms of capability. Oh my God, the damage this bumbling idiot is doing to his government.

          He behaves both like a man who thinks he is in government for as long as he likes (aka in a country where no one gets to vote) and a minister who has been in government so long he has got out completely of touch. Not a minister in a democracy whose been in 2 years and that I hope is staring down the barrel of a forced career change next year.

          But for fun facts, his MO is quite set and very predictable now;

          Makes a grand announcement, max publicity
          Goes away and nothing happens
          Goes silent (deafening) and vanishes from the public eye
          When so many questions start being asked he either deflects questions to officials and otherwise cant be reached for comment
          When cornered tells us an announcement is due and is due and is due
          Sometime late in a week will make an announcement to say how the project is game-changing or some such crap and as such needs more time and sets about deferring it for some time in the next decade.

          Not only has he done this to Auckland, but this delusionary fool did this to Wellington, putting off projects until the end of the 2020s like he will have any say in Labour policy then and as if he will be still around politically by then.

          All the meanwhile abandoning any other project for the same issue whilst his announced alternative withers and dies.

          He is just so out of control and so inept, he needs to be stopped.

          And where the hell is the Prime Minister?

        2. It is interesting that Phil Twyford gets the blame whenever something goes wrong.
          Under the last government would we have blamed Simon Bridges the Transport Minister or Nick Smith the Housing Minister for failures in transport and housing? A little bit. But heavy weights like Key, English and Joyce also got criticised. In fact they took most of the flack.
          Under the government before that. Who remembers who the Transport or Housing Ministers were? I don’t. People rightly hold Clark and Cullen to account.
          Treasury should have been able to say yah or nay to the SuperFund proposal. Who is responsible for Treasury? Grant Robertson. Where is he on all this?
          Why are Grant and Jacinda ok with their Ministerial colleague taking all the hits?

        3. I agree, Brendon. I have issues with Phil Twyford’s stance on some things, but I cannot be so cruel as to ignore the many obstacles he must face.

          We don’t need people put under personal attack when it must be clear to everyone that there are many faults that have led to this situation.

        4. Spare me the excuses, they do not build light rail. And I for one did not make bold promises of light rail from Wynyard to Mt Roskill in 4 years.

          Regardless, what are his achievements to date? Answer, none.

          Most anything that is happening was planned for well before him in the housing redevelopment phase at least.

          And let’s not forget Skypath or whatever its Mk 6 iteration its called, not exactly happening now is it? Gone very quiet. Stalled over some debate over stairs when I last heard but of course, that will be one of many road blocks.

          You can defend him all you like but light rail is a one off chance and the survival of it depends very much on the survival of this government. The person leading this had to be cold and focused on its outcomes and well versed in how to achieve it. I am seeing no evidence of that or a stitch of political aptitude here.

          Labour will be badly damaged if they cannot deliver on at least some of these big promises, possibly fatally because they are looking increasingly incompetent and that perceived reputation will be very hard to overcome years from now.

        5. What difference did replacing Phil Twyford with Megan Woods make? Not much except cement in the narrative that housing was a failure for the government.
          It has been a negative for the government’s reputation.
          The same would happen in transport.
          The solution is that the big beasts in the Labour party. Jacinda and Grant need to step up and ensure stuff gets done.

        6. National Ministers tend to get a free pass as they usually don’t actually do much. John Key’s first government did nothing at all and his second government sold off some public assets to his wealthy mates but pretty much nothing else. National people don’t stand because they want to make changes, they stand to get social status. they don’t care about anything. Labour people all want to make changes and if they announce changes but don’t actually do them they get judged. this is why successful Labour governments are all run by a bully, Peter Fraser, Norm Kirk, David Lange, Helen Clarke. They have to be to control the message and demand action. Nice people don’t make very good Labour leaders. National on the other hand only stand for staying in power and pandering to the rich so they do better with a generic baffoon as leader.

        7. Brendan, Kiwibuild was sunk before Woods got there. I’ve said it many times, Twyford was the brains behind it for 6 years in opposition. Unless he made it abundantly clear the policy was unworkable, and there has never been a suggestion he thought this, then he was the person who should have known every detail of it to make it work. As we now know, he had no idea, no plan and it imploded. The only mitigation for him is the PM knowing full well how bad housing was, should not have loaded him with Transport as well.

          Otherwise I agree and as I have said below, where was and is the PM?

        8. Miffy, the one glorious achievement National had was controlling the narrative. Tons of support in the media and a epic amount of bullshit sold by used car salesmen plus a locked down OIA system kept their many non achievements away from the public eye.

          Labour are not in the same universe.

        9. What NZ needs and what the public wants with housing is not that complicated. It is affordable housing built integrated with rapid transit. Only that combination ticks the necessary boxes for addressing inequality, productivity and the environment.
          Jacinda needs to find her inner ‘Helen’ and ensure that this gets done.
          She needs to bang heads -Grant needs to provide the money, Megan the houses, Phil and Julie-Anne the rapid transit. Shane and NZ First need to be told to bugger off back to the regions.

        10. Brendon – what the public wants with housing is quite complicated. They want housing to be more affordable for their children but for the paper value of their houses to stay high. They want more rapid transit but still be able to drive to kids soccer on Saturday. They want to be able to live close to work and rapid transit but have not too many others living close to them.

    2. With Light rail to the North West not looking too hopeful and little prospect of a dedicated busway on SH16, should we be looking at extending the existing metro rail service out to Huapai?

        1. Ok, good point. We should just get on with higher bcr projects like the proposed Kumeu road bypass and gyratory

        2. “We should just get on with higher bcr projects like the proposed Kumeu road bypass and gyratory”
          Yes please. The queue to the Riverhead Tavern on Saturday was appalling.

        3. Ben, how could using DMUs which we already have, on rail which is already in place possibly in any universe have a BCT of 0.003?! I call BS on that.

        4. Don’t forget the cost of daylighting the Waitakere tunnel, as current EMUs (or DMUs) can’t run through it due to inability to evacuate in case of fire.

        5. @Barry and @Pshem. No and no.
          No need to electrify – DMU to Henderson (or even Swanson) is fine for the next decade.
          No, the DMU are fine in the tunnel, it’s the EMUs that can’t operate there due to only having side exits.
          In any case the tunnel will be getting upgraded soon as part of the NAL works to allow containers to use it.

          So where are the costs again? Minimal.

      1. It doesn’t solve the serious congestion issues in the North-west with traffic originating from Te Atatu, Lincoln Rd, Massey, Westgate and Hobsonville.

        If NW LR is gone then it is time to get on with a busway.

        1. Just build the bloody stations and use the shoulder lanes. That would be an enormous improvement over the existing and cheap as chips.

        2. The ‘bloody stations’ are hundreds of millions of dollars each – you’re incurring the bulk of the LRT cost with none of the additional benefits that you would get from a marginally higher spend. There’s a good GA post about the NW busway costings somewhere, I’ll see if I can dig it up.

        3. How on earth do the stations cost ‘hundreds of millions each’? The Rosedale Station, which is being built on a bridge is costing $70 million and is at the more expensive end of station building.

        4. You’d hope they’d at least have done enough work by now on LR to be able to design stations that would work with either LR or a busway, for conversion in the future.

        5. Sorry, confusion on my part – the Lincoln to Westgate leg was costed at $624m – that’s the total cost, including stations.

          The estimated costs were here:
          https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/06/06/staging-the-northwestern/

          The problem with starting a busway now is that you’ll have almost ten thousand more houses to serve in Westgate alone by the time it is finished. The real cost of Light Rail is the marginal cost over and above the busway cost, which I suspect probably is very little if you start with the intent of doing LRT while interest rates are low and money is cheap.

        6. The counter to that is that the busway can be built in stages, thus the most critical bits can be built first. LR really has to built all the way to Westgate in one go to start realising the benefits.

        7. What’s NZ’s track record for doing things in stages? You run the risk of penny pinching leaving you in a position where you commit to a half-measure now with a vague hope of upgrading later, but what you actually end up with has no roadmap – see AMETI; which was sold in bus-spec form on the basis of “we can upgrade it to Light Rail at a later date”. My understanding is that is now no longer the case without totally rebuilding the link over the Tamaki river because of later design changes.

          Or, alternatively, how’s that North Shore busway light rail coming along?

        8. NZ has a reasonable record with doing things in stages. The Waikato Expressway was staged with the best BCR sections being built first meaning if it was stopped by a change of government at some point the most critical sections would have been built.

          More to the point what history does NZ have of building an entire route in one go, it’s not that common anywhere in the western world.

          The Northern Busway is the perfect example of pragmatic staging. If it were built from scratch as LR there still wouldn’t be any rapid transit on the North Shore as we would still be debating whether a PT crossing was worthwhile. Instead we’ve had a busway for the last 11 years at a fraction of the cost.

        9. Jezza: Flashpoint with the Northern Busway is coming. There’s no timeline around upgrading it, or even consensus on what it’s going to be replaced with and how it’s going to connect to the city. THIS is the problem with doing things in stages. It’s a band-aid solution that kicks the can down the road. We’ll probably still be arguing about NW light rail in a few years time when North Shore residents will be screaming about being left stranded at NEX stations. Such is the predictable and foreseeable life of an Aucklander.

        10. BW – I agree that is a problem, but it is not a problem caused by staging it is a problem caused by limited funding and will to build PT projects. This problem also applies to building whole routes.

          Even with improved funding and a greater will staging may well still be beneficial, as there is never infinite funding and the more expensive something is the greater the chance of it being kicked down the road.

    3. I reckon proponents of light rail to the northwest should cut their losses, ditch light rail and start really pushing for BRT along that route instead. Not as good obviously but probably much more likely to eventually get done.
      We’ve learned from Thomas Coughlan in Stuff this morning that NZFirst have baulked at the 6 billion price tag for light rail across the isthmus. Though apparently they don’t mind the prospect of spending up to 10 billion to move POAL up to Northport.

        1. …unlike any other infrastructure project, which are always on time and under budget.

          If LRT has to meet a bar that no other infrastructure project in history has managed to meet then we might as well give up now.

        2. I never said anything about it being a bar that had to be met, it was just a comment about realistic costs.

    4. As I was cycling today along SH16 I was wondering how many of those people stuck due to lack of alternatives (I understand that not everyone can cycle) actually voted for Twyford based on the promise of him doing something with the transport in NW Auckland. By now any hopes evaporated and next year will be the time of reckoning for him.

      1. I agree but the alternative is this…

        National’s Transport Spokesperson Chris Bishop said the news was “another nail in the coffin for light rail”.

        “We’ve always been very sceptical about advancing light rail and frankly the ongoing debacle with the NZ Infra deal gives us even more pause for thought about it,” Bishop said.

        1. You can vote out Twyford from the west without voting out Labour or the Greens. That’s fairly unlikely to happen and even if it does I’m sure he will have a high enough list placing that he will still make it into parliament and I don’t think him losing his seat will be enough to lose his Ministry, but still…..

  2. And in the news this morning, Shane Jones has said that NZ First isn’t committed to light rail if it goes into a coalition with National.

    The government is wasting the opportunity to score some political points by actually having spades in the ground prior to next year’s election, and reinforcing the image that they are good on promises, poor on delivery. Plus if you actually start building it, the project becomes much harder for a different government to stop.

    1. If NZ First is opposed to Light Rail how does the government implement it? NZ First is part of the government!
      It seems if Auckland wants Light Rail it needs to vote for the Green Party or Labour.

  3. The super fund has an office just next to britomart. They are some of the highest paid execs in govt and are looking to build an efficient way for them to get to the airport – like they used to when they worked in big funds in the UK. It is literally the rich feathering their nest to get better outcomes for themselves. this whole process has been driven by egos.
    Whether the superfund or twyford, the government has been implicit in dragging a process out for for the sakes of hubris.

    Surprised Labour aren’t more worried at this point. The holes in the last three years have only gotten bigger.

  4. Surely I can’t be the only person who thinks this is funny? They came up with a reasonably plan for a light rail link down Dominion Road to replace buses and to allow for growth in that corridor. Then some dick adds on a link to the airport and claimed it could be both a high speed link and a distributor at the same time. Now they are being hoisted on their own petard as rivals point out it wasn’t ever going to be quick and it doesn’t even fit in the existing corridor (unless you allow sections where track and cars share the same space).
    So now the airport link has gone from being the bonus selling point to being the end goal and the whole scheme appears f****d.
    Add in Phil the Ditherer as Minister and it is all over Rover.

    1. Did anyone ever claim it would be a high speed link though? That seems to be an assumption of the public, perhaps, but I never saw it advertised that way.

    2. Have to remember that Council haven’t allowed for growth along the majority of the corridor. They have actively put in place controls which discourage/ prevent growth in the form of the largest concentrations of single house/ special character along half the route.

      1. Doesn’t that apply to almost all corridors that pass through the isthmus including the southern and western train lines?
        There is plenty of growth that will occur in Mt Roskill, Onehunga, Mangere and Airport Precinct.

    3. I think it is hilarious, partially for the reasons Miffy espouses and partially for other reasons which are probably best kept to myself.

      1. I despise the cynicism that sees politics as a game and allows people to find disaster hilarious provided the wrong side caused it. Phil Twyford / Labour’s ineptitude has put Auckland back a decade, slowed our response to the climate emergency and means hundreds of thousands of wasted hours for Aucklanders stuck in traffic because they have no other option. Not funny at all.

        1. You are over-stating it. It is hardly a disaster that a light rail project is delayed on a corridor currently well served by buses. It is funny when people over-state what they will achieve and then bumble along and less gets achieved than if they had simply stayed out of it. Hubris is a great source of humour. It is natural for people to want to be important but funny when they don’t realise they are the problem not the solution.

        2. You are right about the NW Heidi, that will be a disaster. But I think it was already dead before this. The whole Light rail to the airport is a repeat of the bullshit light rail scheme of the early 1990’s that almost killed passenger rail completely. Funny how these things repeat. Back then a poorly thought through light rail scheme was going to be all things to all people but only ended up delaying real improvements until finally it was killed off.

        3. I definitely agree when it comes to the NW corridor. More and more houses are being built along it and all the residents have no option but to drive. And since that’s the only option it becomes default for all types of trips. A complete disaster.
          Sadly, the other political option is even worse here, so it looks like the seas will have to come knocking at some Minister doors, before anything happens.

  5. It’s another example of the current government failing to deliver.

    I happily voted Labour two years ago in the expectation of a transformational change in transport with a greater focus on public and active transport modes.

    The urban cycleway program has gone absolutely nowhere, spades in the ground for light rail looks doomed.

    We’ve had two years of them and not enough has been done

    Really, I’m being to wonder what the point of them is anymore

    1. “…Really, I’m being to wonder what the point of them is anymore…”

      Have you read anything from National lately? Judith Collins is full blown climate change denier, Chris Bishop – their transport spokesperson – hate public transport and Simon Bridges spends his whole time trying to troll up a culture war.

      Labour definitely underestimated the crippling damage Bill English’s years of mindless cost cutting had on key government agencies and how heavily colonised the senior “civil” service is now by neoliberal ideology that is reflexively opposed to public spending. How about giving the nine years Key got and see where we are? Because whatever the PT question is, National isn’t the answer.

      1. Of course. Any criticism of the current Government is instantly invalidated by using the ‘phrase nine long years’, ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘John Keys’. How stupid of us to expect Labour to follow through any of their campaign promises, we should have known it was actually National’s fault all along.

        The last National Government did relatively little compared to previous bogeyman administrations and the public service is grotesquely lazy about matters that don’t affect them directly or Wellington at large. If a project in Auckland is delayed, are there any consequences? No, of course not. You just keep getting your above-national-average salary, all the time off you can eat and life goes on. After all, it’s not your problem.

      2. ‘how heavily colonised the senior “civil” service is now by neoliberal ideology that is reflexively opposed to public spending’.

        That’s been the case for over 30 years now, it’s a pretty spectacular failure by Labour not to have been aware of this. They have been in government twice since neo-liberalism began, hell they even started it!

      3. and who said it is? Did you even read the comment you’re replied to? It states there is no point of Labour anymore. Their most attractive (if not only) attractive policy to serve people was transport. In terms of public transport nothing have changed except people paying ridiculous petrol taxes that seemed to be a scam all along. If nothing changes till the election I honestly would not understand who and why would vote Labour.

        1. RFT is funding ATAP.

          Problem is LRT is not being controlled by AT.

          Next RLTP will need to reflect the right projects at the front of the queue.

    2. To be fair to the government, issues with the urban cycleway roll-out appear to be more to due with councils than anything central government is responsible for.

      1. Not convinced this is true, NZTA is involved in a lot of it. GI to Tamaki is classic example. The project got iced when Labour came to office, 2 years later it’s not even had a funding decision. It’s going to be years late, if it’s ever build at all. In the meantime cyclists are getting injured and dying.

        But hey, look at this massive surplus we have.

    3. Don’t forget the urban cycleways programme was instigated under John Key’s government.

      https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/100-million-urban-cycleways

      Like you, I happily voted for a Labour-led government – but two years on I’m left wondering if more would have been achieved in active/public transport if there hadn’t been a change of government.

      Yes the CRL was decades late, but it was a National government that finally (begrudgingly) funded it. Meanwhile the building of cycleways, at least round Auckland, has come to a stop but for Westgate and Takanini.

      Hell, in Wellington National even campaigned on rail upgrades including double tracking Trentham to Upper Hutt in 2017. Might have been done by now if they’d got in.

  6. Earlier this year we stepped away from bidding for a business on Dominion Road on the assumption that construction would be noisy and disruptive, that everything would take three times as long as proposed (look at Franklin Rd), that ignoring the reward in heaven, the impact on local business would be profound (look at Albert St) and there wouldn’t be a dumpling house left standing. Our nascent Chinatown would be gone.
    Just as important as the cost to constructors awaiting a start is the depressing impact on the zones through which this project will pass. The timeframe needs to be agreed and set, with a strong local support campaign, or the project will swiftly become an albatross around the government’s neck.
    Yesterday’s article seemed to highlight a number of weird points, including that NZTA were asked to evaluate a proposal in direct competition with their own. Doesn’t seem like a great piece of consensus engineering. Let’s not do this, at least not like this. Get on with it by all means, but having it stall because something comes out of left field that turns everything upside down?

  7. The problem is, whats the alternative vote? More RoNs? The only way I can see any of this changing is Greens taking a huge chunk of the share in the next election, which I can’t see happening this time round. Sad times here for Transport in NZ.

      1. Wouldn’t be a very good lobbyist if I was saying they don’t have much chance of grabbing a large slice of the vote next election, would I now?

        Also, how does saying that if a party that massively backs CFN2.0 gets a bigger share of MMP allowing Labour to govern without NZ First is inconceivable? Triggered much?

  8. At a 6 billion dollar price tag, it’s absolutely the right call to put a stop to this project. We just don’t get value for money here with all the duplication. It’s not just duplicating the Puhinui route to the airport, it’s also duplicating Queen St (already covered by CRL), Mt Eden (same), and Onehunga (has rail already which could be improved) so we’re really only getting Mt Roskill and Mangere for this massive expense. Not only that, but Mt Roskill already has far better public transport frequency than most of Auckland, so it’s also hardly a priority area.

    I’m glad to see a rethink on this. Surely we can get a broader improvement in public transport across Auckland for this amount of money?

    1. Incorrect. $6bn was for across the entire region including the North West. Why do people feel the urge to just make things up when it comes to Light Rail?

      1. Indeed, if we can get light rail across the whole region for $6B then that’s a different proposition entirely, but that’s not how I read the Stuff article.

        1. That’s probably more a reflection on the state of journalism at Stuff than anything else. Shane Jones would have been quite happy to leave people thinking it was $6b for the isthmus, it’s up to the journalists to do the fact checking.

        2. Equal parts lazy journalism, journalism that doesn’t care about West Auckland past Grey Lynn and a total void of comms from NZTA.

      2. $6b for two new rail lines and two dozen new rail stations sounds like good value. Why don’t they just go back to that plan?

  9. Good intentions are not the same as good policies. I think Mr. Twyford is truly incompetent and needs to go asap.
    Also, stating that this government is incompetent does not say anything about the last government. It must be very frustrating to Labour and Green voters, but it is time they speak up and start calling this government out. No point coming from me as I would never ever vote for them.

    1. Any criticism of the government is instantly met with “whataboutery”.

      I voted for this government but I think it’s absolutely correct to call them on failure to deliver, blaming the civil service doesn’t work for me; a minister sets policy direction and if they’re no capable of bringing their department to heel, that’s their failing. I’m angry about this.

      If they can’t deliver what they promise, I may as well take Mr Bridges tax cuts……

      1. “If they can’t deliver what they promise, I may as well take Mr Bridges tax cuts……” – I think this is exactly what will happen at the next election.

    1. I love people wanting to smear Briges with that brush while ignoring Shane Jones and his ‘Put New Zealand First Again’ hat during the last campaign.

      But sure, National = Trump or whatever.

  10. This Super fund proposal has really been annoying. I think the term “Rapid Transit” is generally misunderstood by politicians, the media and the general public which adds to the confusion and politics of it all. It doesn’t mean high speed end to end journey times necessarily but high frequency & generally have its own right of way as I understand it. This is where you save your time, in the waiting. People that don’t use public transport don’t easily understand this.

    1. It’s not just the speed, the passenger experience in modern light rail vehicles is vastly superior to buses. I don’t think this point has been emphasised enough.

      1. It’s a step up from both buses and from heavy rail. I realised recently that I prefer buses in Auckland to rail – I know! Not everyone does, and it took me a while to realise it. It’s because the buses let me off on streets, not in isolated stations with no amenities and few people around. Light Rail will have the best of both these aspects.

    2. The three key desirable aspects of rapid transit are -fast (especially faster than the motor vehicle alternative), frequent and reliable (little variable in journey time, in particular, not affected by peak hour motor vehicle traffic).

      If rapid transit or mass transit has these three features there will be a big transport mode shift.

      The Stuff article was all over the place. For instance, ‘fast’ is a desirable goal whether the traveler is commuting to a new housing area along the Dominion Road/Airport route or going to the end at the airport.

  11. As soon as the Wellington bureaucracy gets involved, everything slows to a crawl, time and money is wasted investigating various rabbit holes and we get what we’ve got now. If only Mr Twyford had let AT get on with the project, things would be happening by now. He doesn’t seem to understand the political damage this dithering is doing, at least get something underway asap. I suggest Kumeu-Westgate.

    1. Now that you mention it, a Keumu/Westgate/Hobsonville Point loop that connected with the ferry and the North West mall area would be an interesting junction to build first. It would capture the bulk of the housing development straight away, and additional ferry services could provide an interim stepping stone while the SH16 bit is built. A lot of it is green space at the moment.

      It would also be a chance to have the conversation about how we connect SH16 with Constellation Station as that would also be an important part of what the SH16 terminus looks like – whether that happens at say Squadron Drive or from Westgate all the way along SH18 is worth getting sorted now.

  12. What a drama,forget it light rail won’t happen. Get to the airport via train and bus preferably trackless tram type bus from Puhinui. Install trackless trams or bi articulated trolley buses on a Right of way up Queen st Dominion rd to the airport and out to the North west job done and at a fraction of cost and without digging up acres of road and putting businesses along the route in jeopardy.

  13. As predicted really.

    2 things:
    1) Dump the SF proposal now and just get on with it as originally planned.
    2) As NW is now also going to be even further delayed and has no real prospect of being completed within the next 10 years, get on with extending Western Line services to Kumeu etc now using the DMUs. Shame on you GA if you further oppose this.

    1. Extending the DMUs to Kumeu works great for Kumeu. Not so great for Westgate, Massey, Hobsonville, etc. It’s not really a solution for anyone except a very small catchment that is taking on a relatively small part of the intensification compared to the catchment of an SH16 aligned rapid transit system.

      1. Actually it still works for those places by taking a Buttload (pun intended) of cars off the road making their journey on the Northwestern motorway a lot easier.
        Note this is just an interim option to cover the next decade or so before they actually get around to start building LRT. Once it’s actually completed then they can reassess and see whether or not to retain HR (the like of Huapai and Helensville would also be helped btw).
        Quite simply the outcomes for NW Auckland right now are dismal and are causing more car dependency. Buses are no use as they sit in the same traffic, and BRT might as well be LRT for the cost.

        1. The problem is it wont take a buttload of cars off the road. There are not enough people who live in Kumeu and surrounds that are travelling to destinations along the rail network to make it viable.

        2. Have you visited the area recently at all Jezza? The area has been growing rapidly for years now and has a large auto-dependent community. SH16 i has some of the worst congestion in Auckland and has a terrible accident record.
          Where do you think all those drivers are going? Most are heading to the city and if not there then places like Henderson, New Lynn, Newmarket etc…. which just happen to be on the HR network!
          I’m not suggesting this will be the best outcome… it is a meandering service rather than direct, but at least it is a service that doesn’t involve using dangerous blocked up roads and is inexpensive to set up due to existing infrastructure which is ready to go rather than LRT/BRT both of which would take a decade (once built reassess of course but it’s still a decade!)
          Furthermore with Lord of the Rings etc about to start filming near Kumeu having a PT option would help.

        3. Have a look at the census journey to work data, most are not going anywhere near the HR network.

          I agree the area is growing but it’s population is still small compared to most suburbs.

        4. For example, Onehunga will go from 20,000 to 40,000 under the AUP. Then add Mangere and Roskill.

          Let’s say 100-150k people in the nexus around Mangere/Onehunga/Roskill.

          Then add the mix of SH20 and “EWL” with no alternatives but single occupancy vehicles.

          The Onehunga train is good for journeys into the city. But Mangere is not well connected to this. Plus a lot of traffic is from the residential zones south of Avondale/New Lynn over to East Tamiki and the airport.

    2. You are right AKLDUDE.

      Its second prize but LR is never going to happen and it’s absolutely achievable and better than the traffic horror alternative which is all they have now.

        1. I’d really like to see that work as a plan, W-man. But I think B-wizard is right. Do they even have capacity in the trains on the western line to take busloads of commuters from Massey? And if they do get feeder buses to work for someone commuting, as slightly better than driving, what about local people doing other trips at other times of day?

          For young people getting to hobbies wouldn’t a rapid route on the motorway, with places to hop off and take another bus, seem more logical?

      1. Was Shane Jones and New Zealand First involved? Because today they have come out opposing light rail. Is that a coincidence?

    1. Apart from some of the commentary Geoff, none if this is a revelation, now is it and can hardly be called a leak.

      Nothing in this policy has been achieved and they have nothing to show. Twyford hasn’t even committed to a timeframe nowadays.

      What does surprise me is this took this long to surface in the media.

  14. Besides allowing the Superfund propsal to delay the light rail project the other big failure of this government has been its inability to talk up the benefits of light rail. While maybe media bias and the lack of a concrete plan is partially to blame for the effectiveness of the National’s attacks on this project the lack of counter messaging from Phil Twyford has also been equally damaging.

    I think if Labour and the Greens want to avoid light rail being even more of a negative talking point in the the lead up to the next election it needs a real champion for it like Len Brown was for the CRL. And in particular I think this champion needs to highlight the Northwestern line and the North Shore lines more because I think the medias ‘Airport’ focus isn’t hasn’t been good for Light Rail’s image.

    1. Labour and the Greens need to talk about integrating housing with rapid transit. That is the core problem that the public want solved. Labour and the Greens need to talk about the benefits this will bring for inequality, productivity and the environment.
      They need a clear consistent message, with a detailed description of what that means on the ground in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch etc.
      If they don’t do that in a coordinated way amongst Cabinet Ministers, the civil service, supportive local government and other stakeholders then the likes of NZ First and National will fill the vacuum….

  15. Matt, 40 minutes?

    43 minutes was the original official estimate, later revised to 45 minutes, then revised again to 47 minutes.

    The Super Fund proposal isn’t underground or elevated, it’s underground in the CBD, then runs in a dedicated corridor along Dom Rd, employing North American-style light rail design practice (think Charlotte NC, Calgary BC). They propose 70kph along Dom Rd, which is enabled by this design.

    1. Those official times were from Britomart, I mention the middle of town which is where there’s a wider catchment. Also from a suspicion there will be a refinement in design that might speed things up e.g. instead of both a station at New North Rd and View Rd, a well placed one could cover both.

      What’s your source for your claims SF proposal is 70km/h street running

  16. Another point Matt, the need to speed up the service isn’t about making it as fast to get to/from the airport. It’s about making Mangere viable.

    The current train from Onehunga only takes 14 minutes to get to Newmarket. If Onehunga trains were routed direct into the CRL, it would be 20 minutes Onehunga-Aotea.

    So, Mangere residents would be better served by extending rail to Mangere, or a bus connection to Onehunga, or light rail connection to Onehunga. In fact IMO the best option would be 1067mm light rail to Onehunga, then run tram-trains from the airport.

    In any case, Mangere residents are not given a better service than the existing rail line from Onehunga with light rail via Dom Rd. It’s slower than taking a train, and for a multi-billion project that’s a huge concern. Which is why the Super Fund project has been taken seriously – their point on speed is well founded.

    1. To respond to your points
      – Even if you sent Onehunga trains down the CRL, it would be about 22 minutes to get to Britomart – 14 minutes to Newmarket as you say (and that is expressing past two stops), 2 minutes to get to Grafton, Likely another 3 to Karangahape Rd and a further 3 to Aotea. However, my guess is it’s unlikely we’ll see Onehunga trains in the CRL as there seems to be a focus on keeping those spots for the higher capacity/demand lines.
      – Light rail from Aotea to Onehunga would be about 24 minutes, so yes a little slower but not much and made up for by being more frequent and opening up the network to a wider variety of trips. Of course if delivered right someone could always transfer from LR to an Onehunga train.
      – It’s the network benefits that so many seem to not realise. Sure you can get faster point to point trips with some options but they might only add one or two stations to the network. Light rail will deliver more than a dozen new stations. One way to think about it is sure, we can go for the highest quality, fastest trip but we won’t get much of that for our money or we can go for an option which gives 95% of the benefits for a huge amount more people. Then if in a few decades we need to go back and add a new, faster route, we can do that too.

      1. That’s a bit rich Matt L, it won’t “deliver a dozen new stations”. All along Dom Road they already have something called “bus stops”. All your light rail is taking those “bus stops” and reducing the number of them on Dom Road. There is absolutely no “dozen new stations”.

        My prediction – your light rail to Waimauku or Kumeu(whatever you sold as an idea to Labour). Light rail to the airport has turned into a white elephant. Most likely, now delayed, a railway will be built to the airport and this saga will go down in history as “silly ideas stalled Auckland’s railway network”.

        1. Jon it will deliver dozens of new stations to the rapid transit network, which is a step above in quality and therefore attractiveness from what exists currently. Even on the Dominion Rd sections I wouldn’t be surprised if it doubled or more the usage of PT. It will certainly deliver more PT usage than adding a single station and branch line to the airport.
          With Puhinui already under construction and building of bus priority starting soon, it’s hard to see any government suddenly funding a heavy rail line there as it will be both too expensive (last cost we heard was about $1.4 billion), and won’t add much, if any over what’s being done now.
          My prediction is that once we get rid of this silly Superfund bid then one day we will build light rail as originally planned and it will be an outstanding success and people won’t remember the silly heavy rail/light rail debates. But hey, who knows, perhaps it becomes such a success that one day will build a third connection to the airport.

        2. What a weird argument. All parts of Auckland have bus stops. By your definition no rail lines to the airport, or kumeu or anywhere else, would count as that’s just replacing bus stop with train stations. I guess the city rail link doesn’t count either cos there’s a bus stop on albert street too.

        3. Using sock puppet accounts again Reeves I see.
          We know you drunk the kool aid and are pulling strings in NZF to stink both CC2M and A2B (thankfully the latter is well under way)

          Just like NW Heavy Passenger rail never flew is the same reason Heavy rail to the airport will never fly, the economics never stacked up.

      2. Those dozen stations are replacing dozens of bus stops. Attractiveness of service goes up, but are the gains worth the $4b+ price tag? I think not.

        Stantec have pointed out the ideal station spacing for intensive TOD along the route is about 400m (current bus stops are every 150-200m). The plan to space them at 800-1000m is not ideal for TOD, and is downright worse for existing Dom Rd users.

        I note the NZ Infra proposal, despite having higher speeds than the NZTA proposal, appears to have 59 minutes for CBD-Airport. I’ve always said the route won’t come in at anything under 60 minutes. It’s the first realistic time we’ve seen in this process. So, forget the timings you mention. CBD-Onehunga is highly unlikely to be under 40 minutes, much slower than existing trains.

        The ideal outcome here is that the line gets built to Mt Roskill, with 400m station spacings, and look to alternative means of providing Mangere with better PT access, with particular attention to provision of bus priority to Onehunga, Otahuhu and Puhinui interchanges.

        1. ~800m is not too bad – as I covered in this post, most people will still be within easy walking distance but any extra time walking is made up for by faster, higher quality services.

          The NZ Infra proposal is not 59 minutes, that’s the time they quote for Huapai to the Airport. The time from city to airport is 30 minutes

    2. 1. The high station heights on the HRT network would conflict with the street running ability of LRT.

      2. Roskill also needs coverage.

      Good networks are designed with transfers. We need to stop thinking PT will only work with single seat to the city center.

  17. The question now is where is Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of this government?

    Your minister is losing you the next election through his sheer incompetence, something you may have noticed with this thing called Kiwibuild. And you cannot pretend you didn’t know this latest meltdown was on the cards for months and is now happening.

    Light Rail, Wynyard to Mt Roskill in 4 years was your promise and yet you have zero to show for that promise. Nothing!

    Another major broken promise stares you in the eye and they are starting to back up, these broken promises, just like daily gridlock in Auckland. And youve got less than 12 months now to do something to show us, the voting public, that this promise is, if not delivered, then underway.

    So Prime Minister, what are your going to do about it? Dumping Phil Twyford should be top of the list, like yesterday!

    1. This failure to deliver was on the cards as soon as Ardern picked up GA ideas holus bolus and ran with them as part of her election campaign. Because Ardern had said that she never lies, many believed her without thinking of the practicalities of it all. Remember rapid rail to Tauranga was also included, where is that?
      $60 billion? With around 540000 dwellings in Auckland, that’s over $100,000 from each. For what? A rail line that will service Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill, Onehunga, Mangere, and not a lot else.
      Even though this is Arderns self declared year of delivery, I for one am not surprised that this is being dispatched to the too hard basket.
      I wonder if Sir Bob Jones will rewrite his 1974 book “The first twelve months : a study of the achievements of the third Labour government in 1973” to cover this latest bunch.

        1. Oops, you’re right. I guess my eyes watered over and I put in 1 too many zero’s. So only $10,000 per household.
          Perhaps now I know why why I’m an infrequent contributor. And perhaps I should take up Labours offer of free university entry and learn to read, write, and do maths.

  18. Oh Dear looks like the 1972 to 1975 Labour government all over again except this time they haven’t got the first oils shock to blame and Jacinda is still with us. So its worse really.

  19. This government is absolutely hopeless at delivery. Of anything. So this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The last government did deliver on projects, albeit predominantly road upgrades. Though they did finally approve the CRL which is pretty transformative.

    Essentially someone’s going to have to admit on this site, with all its leftist leanings, that this government just isn’t very good. And if you think the Greens are any better, brace yourselves for the backlash in Wellington following that little debacle. It’s just one thing after another.

    1. 100% agree Hamish. I always liked this site because it was apolitical – just wanting to advance good transport based on the evidence available. I know I have been persuaded on a number of issues (including Light Rail) after reading the posts and comments here. However, GA can not run interference for this government. This government is incompetent and just has to be acknowledged. I don’t really like National’s transport policy as it stands but I think we could actually convince them like we did with CRL. RIght now this government might agree with us but won’t actually get it done. What’s better?

      1. But you know Adrian, with National climate change ain’t happening and there is no traffic problem that cannot be fixed by adding another lane to a motorway.

        That’s the retarded alternative we face!

        1. Heidi – as I noted above and below the charge that Collins is a “denier” is not true. However, that term gets thrown around if anyone, myself included, dares to question the planned actions on climate change.

          I don’t expect opposition parties merely to “get on board” with whatever the government does because it is in the name of “fighting climate change”. The question has to be actually answered; will “this” policy address the issues or not? I am not fully convinced that this government’s policies will.

        2. The <1.5C pathway requires 50% reduction (from today) in emissions by 2030.

          That's 60,000 cars converted from FF per year and ALL new cars – about 25,000 per year – to be not FF.

          That's just for Auckland. Those are the numbers.

          Farmers need to make as much of the hard choices as those in urban areas.

        3. And that’s for a 50% chance at staying below 1.5 degrees. As Greta says:

          “Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.”

        4. Maybe they don’t buy into all the climate change hysteria.

          Those majority of those declaring a ‘climate emergency’ aren’t doing anything that reflects an ’emergency’.

          They’re still breeding.

          They’re still buying coastal property.

          They’re still taking overseas trips.

          They’re still using fossil fuels.

          Emergency? Yeah right.

      2. It’s worth remembering that any National government will likely also be in coalition with NZ First. They will face the same impediments that Labour face.

        1. They are both regional focused parties. Without a decent multi-modal transport policy anything offered to urban voters is just fake policy.

          PS: Yes, roads in cities are fake policy.

        2. National isn’t a regional party, they get the bulk of their votes from urban areas. The regional cities were often the swing seats in the old FPP days and still tend to be split between National and Labour.

          They are the party of choice in rural areas but this is a relatively small proportion of the population and National have generally taken them for granted. In the last term they took money from rural roads and channeled it towards urban RoNS. The districts to suffer most from this were in some of the blueist electorates in the country.

    2. What? Just like the backlash in the local government elections? All the old candidates with views like yours won didn’t they…or maybe not so much?

      What is it with the delusion that the world isn’t moving on from last century’s certainties, how can you remain so blind to such obvious change everywhere?

    3. I would agree mostly with your first point, this government hasn’t been great with delivery. Helen Clark used to say under promise and over deliver and I think we see why.

      However it’s annoying when people assume being pro public transport makes you automatically leftist. The Liberal government in Australia has been outwardly quite pro public transport and they’re not called leftist.
      Also National actually did with Transmission Gully what the Superfund wants to do with light rail and they’ve never been called out by the media for it and itll be costing us for generations.

      1. The Boris Johnson government in the UK is to the left of Labour in NZ on public transport and climate change (the Tories have supported Climate Change legislation since 2008 I believe).
        Public transport, cycling etc are not left/right issues in the UK.

        1. They very much are at a local level. The difference between Tory held and labour held council’s position on PT/Cycling and car provision couldn’t be more stark (at least in London anyway).

        2. and how exactly can you be to the left or right on public transport? It has nothing to do with left or right so you’re thorough analysis is useless in this case. Europeans care for public transport and NZ locals mostly don’t unfortunately. Looking at governments failures in this department it’s not surprising. They’ve been relying on car for their whole lives and cannot see any other option. They would rather see 2 cent drop in petrol price rather than a tram that would benefit a whole city but also may take decades and reveal new scandals, cost blowout etc. along the way. For Europeans that would be a comedy to debate 2 years on building a one (!) tram line. in the city of this size. And now at the same they have a great idea to reduce speed in the CBD. Maybe another petrol tax in the future and the only viable option will be to walk or ride a horse. At least greens will be happy.

        3. “NZ locals mostly don’t unfortunately” – How do you figure that? How were NZers supposed to use a system that didnt exist because some old white men in the 1950s decided NZers didnt need it.

          The main issue with PT in Auckland is lack of supply, not lack of demand.

        4. Makes sense if you think about what is in the collective memory over here. Not many people alive anymore who remember that system. I’m actually curious about how many people never — not literally once a year — go past their front fence without a car.

          It thought that would be fairly obvious to anyone living near Lake Road.

      2. Tim – 100% agree. I am no leftist by any stretch of the word and I want more PT because it makes economic sense in a city.

    4. “And if you think the Greens are any better, brace yourselves for the backlash in Wellington following that little debacle”

      Perhaps you don’t have your eyes open to what is happening in the environmental space. The farmers are screaming because they are being required to clean up their waterways; plastic bags have been restricted; and a container deposit refund scheme is on the way. For Auckland alone this will (conservatively) produce a surplus of $185 million over ten years and halve container tipping to landfill.

      Memory says that all National’s conservation minister was able to conserve in 9 years was the plastic bag.

  20. Educated guess is that a Coalition negotiation is going on: NZF want the port moved; Labour – Class A driverless Light Metro from Airport to Albany; and Greens – a tram in Wellington. Remember NZF only had a STUDY funded. Labour $2 – $3b on a $8b scheme. Greens only a promise of public transport before roads in Wellington.

    Talking publicly weakens your negotiating position with the other coalition partners so negotiations will be secret for the next four months with announcements in the new year. Lots of leaks for leverage. Don’t panic -take a chill pill or maybe a look at the “other” light rail in Sydney opened this year.

    1. There’s no negotiations going on, the business of this government is pretty much done as we move into election year.

      It’s not like they are going to run on a unified platform, what we’ll see now is the parties starting to diverge as they position for polling day.

      It hasn’t achieved at all, objectively it’s hard to make a case for it to be returned to power, the best anyone is saying is it’s less bad than the other guys. It’s entirely unsatisfactory.

  21. Whilst having light rail from the city to the airport is a nice idea, in reality it wont happen, unless Auckland plans for a decent 5-6 routes light rail network to supplement the existing heavy rail metro network.

    Matt is correct with his comment – “Government agencies have treated this project in the past similar to how they treated the City Rail Link and other PT and rail projects – with much disdain and acrimony. Many of the same people inside the Ministry of Transport, Treasury and even NZTA are likely still involved.” These bureaucrats only think 3 years ahead and take the most convenient and/or cheaper option/s to advise on incoming governments. This type of 3 yearly political cycle of planning has lead to quick fix, cheap urban and transport planning that makes Auckland and some other locations in NZ the basket cases they are.

    Unfortunately long term and outside of the square planning is not in kiwis DNA.

    Both InterCity Coachlines, Skybus and AT Metro have the city to airport travel market covered, so why are people beating gums about the benefits of having a 1, 2 or possibly 3 route light light rail system.

    InterCity airport services takes 25 to 35 minutes depending on traffic conditions with a non-stop services and Skybus operates 24/7 limited stop services that are integrated into AT Hop using purposely designed buses on two routes – Dominion Road and Mt Eden plus their North Shore services.

    Why not re-examine the Puhinui to Airport heavy rail branch line, that can offer frequent, limited stop city/airport train services on a loop system once the CRL is operational. That would make more sense and cheaper, as the rolling stock and most of the heavy rail infrastructure is already in place than building a light rail system from scratch.

    1. ‘Why not re-examine the Puhinui to Airport heavy rail branch line?’

      ‘Both InterCity Coachlines, Skybus and AT Metro have the city to airport travel market covered’.

      I think you might have answered your own question.

      1. Jezza – That is my point, InterCity, Skybus and AT Metro already have the city to airport routes including the mediate suburbs in between, covered, so why keep pushing light rail as the savior of Auckland’s public transport woes like a scratched CD.

        Some of the proposed money being spent on Auckland light rail system could be spent on setting up a dedicated public transport Agency in the Ministry of Transport to set up, maintain and operate an integrated urban, semi rural, rural, intra and inter-regional bus, ferry and rail public transport network that includes a nation wide ‘tap n travel’ payment/ticketing system.

        1. As a regular on the 380 bus my unscientific poll shows more Airport passengers traveling to the Manukau bus station to interchange with Intercity buses than passengers transferring and from trains. Just taking this on passengers carrying luggage. There are also direct Intercity buses as well. I can’t see the point in the light rail going to the Airport or Onehunga for that matter as it already has rail. I was astounded in 2017 when Twyford and Jacinda came out with promise surely the would have realised how divisive it would be. And what about the promises on the 3rd rail and the Pukekohe electrification and the half arsed Waikato train is only half of what they promised.

        2. Rapid transit via LRT was for Mangere and Roskill. Not the airport.

          BRT via extending A2B to Onehunga could work to give MRT to Mangere. At this stage it might be the only option.

        3. Nicholas Lee – Whilst the LR route was rebranded ‘City to Mangere’ it was still going to terminate at the airport.

        4. The Western Line terminates at Swanson, that doesn’t mean it’s the only destination on the route.

        5. Kris – what’s wrong with a Mangere LR line running to the airport? It would be bafflingly stupid to build a line to Mangere and not extend it the last few kms to the airport. Means everyone along the line can access a significant destination.

        6. Jezza – The LR route was seemed to be renamed ‘City to Mangere’ after the anti LR groups got on the band wagon about transporting people from the City to Airport. Regards the line is called ‘City to Mangere’ or ‘City to Airport’, the line will still terminate at the airport.

    2. Your “out of the box thinking” seems to totally ignore the connectivity Light Rail gave to Mangere and West Auckland and is totally focused on the airport and CBD as the be-all and end-all.

      The answer is in fact to use Light Rail to connect places that don’t have access to heavy rail, rather than pretending the limited ability for heavy rail to connect to community centres isn’t a huge stumbling block. Unless you’re planning on paving Mangere or SH16 to run a surface HR line that can’t cope with gradient unless you’re going to tunnel huge parts of it at a mega-premium to the Light Rail cost, then it’s not really a credible alternative to what was being proposed.

      1. Buttwizard – Mangere and West Auckland already have bus connectivity. All it needs is BRT connectivity which would be more cost effective that building a light rail system from scratched.

        1. Would it? What are you going to do with those buses when they hit the city and get stuck with all the other buses that Light Rail was going to take off the road? What sort of physics wizardry do you have access to that lets multiple buses occupy the same space at once? Because unless we can crack that, you’re looking at three times as many buses needed to move the same number of people as one Light Rail service.

          There are actual reasons that LRT was chosen as the way forward in Auckland. They didn’t just fling darts at a board and until it spelled ‘TRAMS’. Yet, BRT might be cheaper, but will it involve doing 80% of the work and the inconvenience that comes with it to gain 30% of the capacity? That’s a poor outcome. We can’t grow around a bus network unless you want buses coming down arterials so often that they can’t stop to let people on or off. That’s the choice we have.

        2. Buttwizard – Auckland lost its ability for a good light rail network when the old tram infrastructure was destroyed by the car based urban sprawl which is now biting Auckland in the bum. The problem with Auckland, public transport was never seen to be a priority when it came to urban and transport planning which has been based in 3 yearly cheap quick fix planning despite various reports for better public transport networks for Auckland.

          The major issues is NZTA when designing Auckland motorway network never factored in dedicated busways for BRT, Britomart never includes the proposed bus/terminal transfer terminal, new suburban developments never factored in separate bus/rail corridors and the list goes on.

          Based on Melbourne’s experience, unless a light rail system has its own dedication ‘light rail’ only especially in densely populated suburbs and/or dedicate right of way, it is not going to be resolve the transport issues.

          Despite all the efforts in Melbourne by the PTV (Public Transport Victoria) and Vicroads giving the tram network more priority by giving the inner city routes dedicate tram ‘only’ lanes, the tram network is still plagued by delays due to the car interference and this will happen to Auckland if the light rail system ever gets off the ground.

          With a properly designed BRT with a good central city based bus transfer terminal, using the new generation of 3 axle extra long wheel base 2 to 3 door double decker buses that can carry up 139 passengers operating on frequent ‘through’ routes like Henderson to Botany township, Auckland Airport to Albany, etc would better then building a light rail network from scratch.

        3. Nicholas Lee – There is a lot less inner city non-essential vehicle traffic in European cities compared to Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, etc, due to strict regulations.

        4. Kris – you say that Auckland lost its opportunity for quality LR by removing it’s tram network yet Melbourne who kept it proves that we can’t have decent on street LR . This is completely contradictory.

          Also looking at your BRT plan, wouldn’t run into the same issues of conflict cars on the inner city sections?

        5. Sydney also destroyed the old tram infrastructure by car based urban sprawl but is now introducing a brand new light rail system. Buses weren’t working in Sydney and the same drawbacks are very apparent in Auckland. It’s simply a matter of political will and adequate funding. During the 25 years or so that Auckland has been talking about light rail, Australia has planned, constructed and opened 4 new systems and made significant improvements to the pre-existing two networks.

  22. So the fuel tax so fiercely supported is funding some imaginary project that is still decades from even being started. Yet we still pay and will pay for years for the incompetence and stupidity. Good job Labour, good job Goff . Hopefully good bye next year

      1. how is that avoiding fuel tax? it applies to all the fuel that is sold. If you drive less you are still paying it. Seems like you have some trouble with understanding what the word ‘tax’ means

    1. Except the fuel tax wasn’t to fund LR. You know there are other radio stations than ZB, maybe listen to some music, cheer you up a bit.

  23. As a young reporter covering the political scene from the late 1960s through to 1981, during three major changes of government, the minsters etc were almost always accompanied by the same group of bureaucrats. Chatting to them, after one of the changes of government, we usually got around to asking how they were coping with their new bosses. The reply was always the same “We are gradually changing him around to our way of thinking.” Nothing has changed.

  24. Perhaps it would help to build the NW line ahead of the Mangere / “airport” line. This would then take the ”airport” politics out of the equation. I suspect with the newly added traffic from out that way we would be better off. Less buses in the CBD as per dominion road but Dominion Rd already has bus lanes whereas out west it’s hopeless and there’s not much incentive to use the bus from that way, on the other hand it helps the north west cycleway with the status quo.

    1. That would be my approach as well after all this mess. Feels like an easier route to deliver, would be well used like the Busway and would give Aucklanders tangible evidence that LR could be used on other routes. Would want to see them kick off the huge Unitec Kiwibuild project they talked about and run the LR through to Pt Chev then onto the Motorway.

    2. of course it would be better. There is no reason at all to halt that project. But of course they will. Likely they will also say that first the airport connection will have to be tested to see if light rail works and then build next ones. So for that alone it will be probably at least 10 years wait. In addition if they choose the stupid option they will conclude that all light rail everywhere by definition will be bad and they will stop improving public transport in general.That’s NZ politics for you.

  25. Maybe the total cost of the light rail project, no matter how it is provided, has spooked them; quite apart from where the debt for the work should lie. That is certainly a factor in Wellington.

    1. Imagine if they had asked for the funding for the entire western ring motorway including Waterview tunnels in one $4b package? The mandarins would have batted their eyelids at any pension fund a-courting.

    1. A Minister that does nothing is better than Ministers that do the wrong thing.
      Or have you forgotten what Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlie did?
      I’ll remind you. They poured a decade’s worth of transport funding into a few extravagant motorways and neglected everything else.
      Give me Minister Twyford any day.
      Wait to see what he has achieved after 6 years in office before you judge him. That is the time it took Joyce to get some of his pet projects underway.

  26. Another day, another leak. This time the underground/elevated renderings – i.e. the stupidest possible implementation on CC2M. This is definitely being done deliberately to scupper the credibility of the project as a whole.

      1. Also worth noting: the renderings show a single light rail carriage on an elevated causeway. I am at a loss to as to how this even meets the stated aims of the project. The causeway could be a useful tool for the SH16 section but one of the key messages about Light Rail is that it moves up to three times as many people as buses. These renderings might as well be an HO scale trainset.

      1. Of note the article says a couple of times that the leak is an out of date design:

        “It’s important to note that what has been leaked is outdated and that both NZTA and NZ Infra are now responding to a requirements document by developing new Proposals. The requirements document sets out the outcomes the Government wants to achieve from the Auckland Light Rail project. NZTA and NZ Infra’s new Proposals will set out how they plan to meet these outcomes and may be significantly different to what we have seen from them before,” he said.

        1. Sorry should of commented under Sacha’s other link:
          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/116758191/aucklands-light-rail-under-queen-st-and-over-mt-eden-the-super-funds-tunneling-or-flying-tram

          @Mum-of-two, seems they not for the public yet – I suspect they are comparing the more original AT design vrs a more grade separated Metro system but to the degree that those leaked documents suggest. We could be surprised and it will just be the funding model that will be the main difference? Seems not through with Arden saying in the Herald linked article below “I’ve always described the NZ Infra proposal as being substantively different both in terms of the financing of it, but also some of the detail of the operation side.”

  27. “…Another day, another leak. This time the underground/elevated renderings – i.e. the stupidest possible implementation on CC2M. This is definitely being done deliberately to scupper the credibility of the project as a whole…”

    Same conclusion I came to.

    Twyford probably deserves to fired mainly for his bugling of the political management of this project. he should have realised that firing most of the board of the NZTA in order to clear out the previous National governments toadies would lead to a politically driven retaliation designed to cause maximum damage to the coalition government by stuffing one of it’s flagship projects.

  28. Phil ‘100K’ Twyford, lost again. I’m afraid that before he goes, he’ll create on extra messy failure, probably SkyPath, he’ll derail it so that the Auckland super village looks ok for the Americas cup, without the visual smog of bridge under construction. Appearance is more important than substance for this government.

  29. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12278535

    “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that the NZ Transport Agency dropped the ball over Auckland’s light rail plans and caused the current delay.

    And it appears that the two city-to-airport proposals currently being considered are now light rail versus heavy rail, though Ardern would not be drawn on any details, saying they are commercially sensitive.”

    Oh my god, it’s worse than we thought. They’re back to ‘heavy rail vs light rail’. We’ve gone nowhere in two years. We’ve lost billions of dollars in foregone progress and congestion costs and all the social issues that come with it, for nothing.

  30. Airport Derangement Syndrome?

    The airport is not just about planes as I’m sure you well know.

    There are a significant number of businesses in the wider airport area.

    The ability to transport freight and passengers (metro and regional) can only be served by heavy rail.

    1. …and those businesses are currently operating *without* heavy rail. So does the marginal benefit of any additional activity you *might* get from having heavy rail outweigh the almost total loss of additional commuter connectivity a light rail branch from the CBD to the airport via Mangere and the business parks, including the additional costs to match the gradient with the airport and THEN with the businesses who [i]might[/i] make use of heavy freight?

    2. Not really, air freight is light weight, often fast moving consumer products or high value. Anyway you look at it, a rail freight line to the airport is not needed.

    1. Wow $10B now, to provide 4-minute frequencies for a super-privileged catchment while so much of Auckland has to wait for half an hour for their bus to arrive. No way! We have a new council now, and to me it’s a wonderful time to start afresh with both ambition and equity.

  31. I have read several of the comments here… From the looks, nobody can agree on what Aucklands needs. I’m fairly sure the original light rail conversation began on trying to reduce the number of buses using dominion road. But as evidenced looking through the comments, even Greater Auckland can’t agree what that actually looks like. You have some that are looking for a “Melbourne’esque” type service, where essentially LRV’s will replace buses for heavy traffic type service, Some that are advocating more along the lines of Singapore’s MRT network and some that want a “gold coast” bob each way type system.

    Obviously the Government are having the same issue, and leaving Twyford in charge of it means that its a natural disaster, with everything that he touched turning to custard.

    So if you wan’t to alleviate the immediate issues, then don’t advocate for LR to the airport. Then Light Rail as per the original concept can go ahead. Any other option requires land to be acquired for stations… Don’t see that happening. Find ways of increasing capacity on the heavy rail network – More lines, quadrupling mains, etc to achieve those goals of Hubs to town. Anything else and you are going to be bogged down like it is now.

        1. Construction of the New Old Mangere Bridge has started. Getting a third crossing over the Manukau will take a while.

          In the short term I think BRT is maybe the best option for Mangere. As this allows running over the existing SH20 bridge. Combined with route protection, this can be upgraded to LRT in decade two.

          Puhinui station is already future ready for either BRT or LRT. If the other stations in Mangere are built in the same way. Then it does allow for a staged deliver. Planning is a bit more complicated, but workable.

          Same could be done for the NW.

        2. Nicholas Lee – I agree with you. Auckland be more suited to a BRT network than the current LR network currently proposed. It is up to NZTA to start include dedicated bus lanes and busways in their thinking, planning and execution of roading projects in Auckland region.

        3. Big downside is not so much PAX uptake & higher running costs. By the time we build anything in Auckland lately will be time to upgrade….and I’ll bet it won’t be “fully” easily upgradeable. I guess with the Convention Ctr up in smoke, Auckland/NZ might need a bit more $ put aside so can’t max out on full LRT soon anyway??

  32. This is just embarrassing for the government.
    And sorry Labour / Twyford apologists, he needs to go. He’s a guy who gets swayed by fanciful urban development projects, and ideology, but he doesn’t have the intellectual capacity nor the urban development knowledge and experience to sift through the crap.
    He’s also arrogant, and doesn’t listen. I know of several pieces of advice and also approaches that have just been swotted away, because the advice or ideas didn’t fit within his narrow world view. He has often listened to people based on their ideological world view (that fit with his own) rather than based on experience in real world urban planning and development.
    It’s sad, because he’s so enthusiastic and the *outcomes* he wants to realise are great. But he’s only got himself to blame for his arrogance. If he had listened a bit more (to the *right* people), then he would have started getting runs on the board by now…

  33. why you people think the fuel tax is funding light rail, it isn’t, never was, and was never proposed to. It’s funding bus priority, more electric trains, park and rides, ferry development, Penlink and Mill Road.

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