With 2019 drawing to a close I thought I’d pull together a quick post wrapping up the most important things that happened during the year.

Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog and supported us in making Auckland greater

City Rail Link

The country’s biggest transport project got a billion dollars bigger this year as a result future-proofing for 9-car trains ($250m), increased contingency costs ($310m), increased construction costs ($327m) and other increases, such as property purchases ($152m).

Work on the project has continued through the year and the early works tunnels, from Britomart to Wyndham St, are now complete with works now focusing on reinstating Albert St and lower Queen St. In November some members of the public got their first glimpse of those tunnels with a public walk through.

The contract for the main works which will see new stations and the bored tunnels built from Mt Eden to Aotea was awarded in July and works have now started with demolition around Mt Eden and Karangahape. Works for the project will become much more visible in the new year as the project ramps up.

Light Rail

Light rail has been probably the biggest disappointment of the year. The project was picked up by the government as a flagship policy during their election campaign in 2017 but by the end of 2019 we seem no closer to it being even started. Much of this appears to be due to a bizarre process the government have undertaken following a proposal from the NZ Superfund and their Canadian counterparts (CDPQ). It appears the Superfund have proposed building something more like an automated light metro system, which while likely good, is also likely to be very expensive and effectively require a second CRL. We don’t know the details of the proposal but based on what CDPQ have done in the past, such as in Montreal, it would not be great for taxpayers.

This process, which is now claimed to only be choosing a delivery partner and not a project but as mentioned, this is a bizarre way of doing it. The government will make that delivery partner decision in February but regardless of what happens, it has likely delayed light rail by years.

Eastern Busway

The long awaited Eastern Busway that will link Panmure with Pakuranga and eventually Botany finally got underway this year. The Panmure to Pakuranga section is expected to open in 2021.

Puhinui Interchange / Airport to Botany

The first stage of the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit route, an impressive $60 million upgrade of the Puhinui Station, also started construction this year. Once complete the station will allow for an easy transfer between trains and a high-frequency bus that will initially run from the Airport to Manukau. There are other early improvements being made such as priority lanes along SH20B, on which construction will be started early in the new year. The station is expected to open in early 2021.

That bus will eventually extend all the way to Botany and possibly beyond as part of a busway along the route. Those future stages will see a bus only bridge span the rail line and hooked directly into the Puhinui Station.

Fares

Public Transport fares were an important discussion early in the year following the last round of fare increases by Auckland Transport. Those changes spurred our friends at Generation Zero to launch a campaign to freeze fares. We’ll likely hear about more fare changes for 2020 in January but the action did spur some changes with more targeted action such as making PT free for children on weekends.

Ridership

Public transport ridership grew strongly over 2019 following the main completion of the rollout of the new bus network during 2018. The increase saw us break through the 100 million trips milestone in May as ridership rose from 96 million to 103 million throughout the year – approximately an 8% increase. It looks like it will be hard to maintain this level of growth through 2020.

Downtown Works

Throughout 2019 the downtown area has been a sea of cones with a large number of projects underway to upgrade the area into a more people friendly waterfront. This also ties in with the City Rail Link works and the Commercial Bay development and represents a huge transformation for the waterfront area. These works have included the strengthening of the Quay St seawall, the upgrade of Quay St, the new ferry berths along Queens Wharf and more recently works to upgrade Lower Albert St.

One project that was announced but then put on hold was a replacement for the Te Wero bridge connecting the Viaduct with Wynyard.

Scooters

Electric scooter hire was kicked off in late 2018 when Lime launched in October and since then there has been a media frenzy about them. At the beginning of the year Lime was temporarily banned after they had technical issues which saw wheels sometimes lock up. They came back though and had their licence extended along with a few other companies, Wave and Flamingo, to also launch their scooters. These also came with ridiculous speed limits for some areas. Both Lime and Wave were then kicked out but with a few new companies allowed to launch their scooters which will happen in the new year.

Safety

In February Auckland Transport launched consultation to change the speed limits on 700km of roads around Auckland as part of a drive to improve road safety.. Most were rural but the majority of attention focused on the city centre where it was proposed to reduce speed limits to 30km/h.

The outcome of the consultation was delayed till after the election when the board approved the changes with the biggest change being that some of  the more dangerous city centre streets, Fanshawe, Hobson and Nelson streets were only dropped to 40km/h. These changes will be implemented in 2020.

While on the topic of safety, there have been improvements in the number of deaths on our roads during 2019. As at 26-December there have been 347 deaths on our roads this year compared with 371 as at the same time in 2018. However, this December has been horrific on the roads and is likely to be the deadliest December since 2008.

CCMP Refresh

The council consulted this year on a refresh of the City Centre Masterplan. The current version has been instrumental in pushing for a more people focused city and key spawned projects like the Victoria St Linear Park. There were two big changes/additions to the CCMP

Access for Everyone – a fundamental change to how people will get around and through the city centre, making it much more pedestrian friendly

Grafton Gully Multiway Boulevard – a plan to make Grafton Gully a much more people friendly area and allow for significant redevelopment that could be home to thousands more residents and workers.

Cycling

For much of 2019 it was disappointingly quiet for cycling projects despite all of the political alignment supporting them. However that did start to turn around near the end of the year with construction starting on a number of projects. Towards the end of the year we’ve had the following projects start construction:

  • Northcote bridges – two new bridges alongside the Northcote motorway interchange for walking and cycling.
  • Karangahape Rd streetscape upgrade, which includes a cycleway.
  • New Lynn to Avondale path – this includes an underpass under the rail line being built during the Christmas/New Year shutdown.
  • Victoria St Cycleway
The rail underpass being built as part of the New Lynn to Avondale Cycleway

We also had the big news on Skypath Auckland Harbour Bridge Path with the NZTA taking over the project and announcing a significantly beefed up design. My guess is we’ll hear more about it early in the new year.

Local Body Elections

Local body elections in Auckland saw a lot of heat emerging from Phil Goff’s main challenger, John Tamihere, but not a lot of light. Transport has featured strongly in all the elections since amalgamation and this time was no different with Tamihere proposing a bunch of wacky ideas, such as double decking the harbour bridge. It didn’t amount to much though and Phil Goff ended  up winning with a massive margin.

There were a number of other changes at the council table too, including long term councillor Mike Lee losing his seat to Pippa Coom.

Things that haven’t happened

Disappointingly there have been a number of high profile projects that seem to have had little progress this year. These include

  • The third main between Otahuhu and Wiri
  • Electrification to Pukekohe
  • Rapid Transit to the Northwest
  • ATs Connected Communities programme

I think that’s enough for this post, there is plenty more that could be included in here so let me know in the comments if there’s anything major I’ve missed.

Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing our work.

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53 comments

  1. Thanks Matt, great list. There’s more underway than not, even if the delayed projects are biggies.

    I think we can say 2020 will be a year of delivering, with 2021 being the payoff time. Northern Busway extension (did you mention that?), Eastern Busway, Puhinui and service, a bunch of key bike ways, downtown and city centre civility (at last!).

    And all the time CRL main works cranking up!

    If we can finally get some start-up bus system on the NW, 3rd main and electrification to Pukekohe, more cycleways, connected communities, and SkyPath! That’ll make for a huge year, especially if something good comes of the baffling light rail diversion.

    And who knows, the council might finally wake up and kick the rat runners out of Queen St, if for no other reason to keep the stinky diesel buses diverted there actually moving…

  2. Congratulations to Greater Auckland for a successful 2019, much more successful than AT. Disappointments this year include the extremely slow process of adjusting the Outer Link route and the slashing of frequent bus services.

  3. Thanks, Matt. Also, LOTS of consultation happened.

    And from what I see, the GPS principles are slowly being translated into KPI’s for NZTA’s work. This might actually make a difference, though there are many other changes still required.

    Oh, and the Devonport Rideshare Trial! Which created modeshift the wrong way, so I think they’re going to extend it to other areas, too.

    1. The Devonport Rideshare Trial. Otherwise known as Publicly funded Ubers for Rich Suburbs.
      The gentle folk of South Auckland have to battle their way on foot through the winter rain and wind to their train station / bus stop. But perhaps they get contentment contemplating that their rates are allowing a heavily subsidised Uber to provide door to ferry terminal service to the good folk of Devonport.

  4. Apart from Westgate to Lincoln Road motorway finally being finished in 2019, finally, I am struggling to think of anything else that has assisted Aucklanders in transport. And that example will only be a sugar high!

    It was “The year of delivery” or so said the PM. But someone forgot to include or tell the Minister of Transport in that meme, you know, do a finger painting reminder/sock puppet show for him type of thing.

    Climate change is the nuclear-free moment for my generation………well no so much, nah, not really

    In fact, it was a year that proved life can go on without a Transport Minister albeit we are all getting ever so slowly more jammed up in traffic every day and our carbon footprint from internal combustion engines carries on as if it were 1960 whilst the alternatives remain as spectacularly unenticing as ever and let’s be fair, so second half 20th Century!

    But let’s look at the 2019 Ministerial Antichrist/non-achiever of the year award, this year pretty much like 2018 going to……………………. Phil Twyford; (slow hand clap)

    Light rail Wynyard to Mt Roskill. Fail
    Light rail to North West. Cancelled.
    Light rail anywhere? Don’t make me laugh. Think Motat or Melbourne or Sydney. Actually, be comforted by the fact the budget for it ended up in Palmerston North of all places, to fix their landslide-prone highway for another year. (Phil was most especially pleased about that one!)
    Skypath Mk6. Please. Not one single rivet closer to construction
    Electrification of the NIMT starting with Pukekohe to Papakura. Nope.
    3rd main Auckland. Afraid not
    Bus priority lanes in West Auckland. Don’t be ridiculous. But he made some belated announcement about them on the North-Western motorway. But he did that too with light rail and Skypath and Kiwibuild and …………you know the drill.

    2019 was the year that convinced me that the current collection of political parties are a waste of space. They all firmly represent the status quo, the wealthy elite who really pull the strings behind the scenes. The PM’s credibility tanked by keeping possibly the most useless minister in any portfolio ever in the history of this country (or civilisation) in his Transport role so come the 2020 election it’s going to be tough as to who to vote for or why one would bother.

    1. Haha. Clearly you love being miserable, nothing is ever good enough for you. Therefore vote for the other lot, so things are even worse, then you can step up your moaning game to a new level in 2021!

      smiley-face.

      1. I’m with Waspman on this one. By my workings, I spent 200 hours in traffic on the North Western motorway, probably less than some others, just trying to get home from work. More than a week of sitting in a car, while the much vaunted alternatives to driving for our district bounced between ministers and Government departments with no sense of urgency whatsoever. Collectively, across all of North West Auckland, that is a significant form of taxation on the one thing none of us can make more of: our time.

        The worst part is that until relatively recently, there has almost no media scrutiny of this huge failure – GA, Interest.co.nz and now Newsroom are the only ones who even talk about it. But plenty of other outlets will breathlessly report every other ‘well-being’ initiative the Government can come up with while people lose vital family or productive time in an endless grind that gets worse with each passing day.

      2. No Urbanista, I love politicians who at least try to honour their promises even if it’s starting on such promises in a real and material way and enjoy being able to get around without basking in the glory of gridlock, because I have to. You know, the sort of promises that could have improved things for all.

        But if nothing, which is almost precisely what has been delivered, is good enough for you then well done you. Without your sort guys like Twyford could never thrive!

    2. Mrs mfwic and I were discussing Twyford over breakfast this morning. I have started to wonder if he isn’t totally inept but has been asked to delay major projects so they don’t have to find the money. Perhaps he is really effective as a Minister, it’s just that his objective is to not let things happen. Mrs mfwic is firmly in the ‘he is totally useless’ camp.

  5. The southern motorway widenimg from Manurrwa and Papakura is still not finished.
    It was supposed to be finished a
    year ago, what’s happened.

    1. Just final quality resurfacing (lasts about 4 times longer, less road spray and noise for residence), lane marking and shared path work etc to do as far as I know.

      Oh and more the Takanini, great south Rd interchange kind of work to do now all the motorway lanes are open.

  6. Given the campaigning on:
    -Dom Rd light rail to be completed by 2021
    -NW light rail to follow
    -skypath becoming a government project
    -An alternative to the east-west link
    -Akl-Ham-Tga trains
    -Fair Pay Agreements for occupations like bus drivers
    -Electric government vehicles
    -Electrification to Pukekohe
    -etc.,
    and zero progress, it’s little wonder swing voters will be switching to National who at least got the CRL underway, built cycleways nationwide, upgraded a lot of state highway, also promised pukekohe electrification, etc.

    1. Any credit for getting CRL underway belongs to Len Brown and the Council at the time surely? It was their leadership that mattered. National ministers – Bridges, Brownlee, Joyce etc did their very best to get the project canned.

    2. Anthony the only thing on your list that isn’t underway is LR. All the others have begun their sadly tortured path through the system (except perhaps bus driver pay, I don’t know where that’s at). All the others, and more, are funded and will happen. It certainly is frustrating how hard it is to get our institutions to alter course, no matter how obvious and urgent the need is…

  7. To be fair to the CoL, they have delivered nearly 280 working groups and reviews at a cost of around $300m.

    Now, about that Year of Delivery.

  8. The year of delivery ? As a retired person who depends on term deposits for extra
    funds, all they have delivered me is a lower income.

  9. Really not sure why the 3rd (or indeed 4th) main haven’t been given the go-ahead considering they are a relatively easy project that isn’t too expensive and which has clear and calculable benefits. It is “shovel ready” so hopefully with this renewed infrastructure focus we’ll see it built… and no mucking about with 3rd just build it with the 4th from the get go.

    1. It may seem odd that W2W 3rd and 4th mains see zero progress considering the 3rd looks relatively shovel ready with just the Middlemore station an issue.
      I was told by a rail link to airport supporter (at least via Puhinui) that delaying third main was essential in the argument that there is insufficient service paths for an airport spur hence a major reason to NOT consider heavy rail to airport.
      Build the W2W 3rd main then that argument goes away, as there would be plenty room to insert an Airport to Britomart regular express or normal all stopping service.
      That’s why urgency to get Puhinui rail-bus interchange station built quickest to keep HR out of airport and leave possibility of LR to airport.

      1. You conspiracy nut jobs are unbelievable. You identify a problem with your bad idea and conclude the problem is evidence of subterfuge, not evidence that it’s a bad idea!

        FYI a third main to Westfield gives the freights a path through to the freight yards branch off at Westfield junction. It doesn’t give you paths for a new suburban line through to Britomart, the CRL or elsewhere. How would an extra track south of Westfield give you more paths to the north?

        Can you please explain why you think people want to secretly keep HR out of the airport? What is the motivation for this smoke and mirrors coverup?

        1. I hadn’t heard that one, it is plausible for sure but I doubt it.

          As for Kiwifails question about paths to the north, the main impediment is W2W. North of that there is spare capacity on both the Southern and Eastern Lines (or more correctly there will be with CRL between them there’s your quad track). An airport service could (and probably should) be split between those lines ie 3TPH eastern, 3TPH Southern.

        2. How is an extra 6tph each way at Quay park junction and through the CRL supposed to work? Didn’t they just lengthen the platforms for nine cars because the CRL slots are already accounted for and they need more capacity?

        3. @kiwifail, this ‘conspiracy’ I only heard about after chatting to a ‘rails to airport’ supporter oft quoted in the Herald. It certainly offered a new twist as the W2W 3rd would appear to answer naysayers who claim not sufficient rail paths for an airport to Britomart service.
          He also answered the quay park junction to CRL issue in that we have no idea what limits there be to CRL in future. Something about ETCS upgrades to allow 30tph per direction. I leave it to others to explain this as I don’t know what it means except I was reassured it will resolve problems

        4. Those supporters you speak of have resorted to making up conspiracies about a whole bunch of stuff, including plenty about us, all because they can’t justify their modal fetishes through any objective analysis.
          I’d recommend steering clear of conspiracy theories, that shit rots your brain if you take it seriously. It’s also not a very successful way to win friends and influence people.

        5. Christine – having 30tph through the CRL would require a significant and expensive signal upgrade to the whole network. This upgrade may well happen one day as a result of capacity issues in existing lines.

          However, if it was done solely to add an airport line then you would have to include this cost in the cost of an airport line. This would start to make a single station line to the airport look extremely expensive.

        6. CRL designed for 18TPH (each direction) now with a relatively easy upgrade to 24TPH. Beyond that would require considerable expense. 24TPH gives you 5 minute frequencies on all current lines. Of course without an upgrade you’ll never get the Onehunga line running beyond 3TPH (so there’s 3 of your slots). The other 3 can be taken off wherever (probably Eastern) as the train would still cover all stations on that line barring Manukau (easy to switch over to a Southern for that). Pretty simple really and that’s with 5 minute frequencies…(which would only be considered during peak times. With 9TPH you have 6 spare CRL slots.

        7. AKLDUDE – the upgrade to signalling to allow trains to run at 24tph will be a significant cost. It will probably happen one day but it will be the last step to boosting capacity.

          Melbourne’s City Rail Loop has been open for 35 years and still runs at 20tph, they’re building a second CBD tunnel before improving signalling across the existing network to increase capacity in the Loop.

      2. Hanlon’s Razor applies here

        Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity

        If what you said had a shred of reality to it then organisations like AT who don’t support heavy rail to the airport wouldn’t be the ones wanting to see this happen asap. The issue is that it’s been stuck in the NZTAs bureaucratic quagmire.
        I’ve also heard suggestions it’s tied to NZTA requirements to get the existing network up to scratch before they’ll release investment for needed improvements such as the third main and Pukekohe electrification. The announcement below was part of that piece of work.
        https://www.nzta.govt.nz/media-releases/safety-at-centre-of-auckland-metro-rail-network-improvements/

        1. Clearly, or so I thought, the government had a policy agenda that included improvement to Auckland metro rail, electrification and additional line capacity. So why is it the representatives of the people who were voted in, given ministerial warrants and possess the ability to change the law are stopped dead by this bloody government agency at every turn, now into their third year?

          It appears there is no need for Her Majesties Opposition in NZ because we have the NZTA who do what they want when they want how they want with taxpayers money!

          One would have thought by now this government either exercised their mandate and authority over this rogue outfit or created a new entity and bypassed all together! That’s if this government has its shit together.

    2. AKLDUDE, there are obviously significant transport projects that deserve to go ahead before the 3rd main. Here’s just one:
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/118134211/mixed-feelings-over-10m-spend-on-sealing-forgotten-world-highway
      If you go down into the body of the article the real benefits pop out:
      i) an extra 15% traffic, so more carbon emissions
      ii) an extra 3.56 (bloody near four) vehicles per day

      And here’s an article that supposedly explains the rationale for it.
      https://www.stratford.govt.nz/council/news/media-releases/1169-sealing-sh43-a-step-towards-economic-and-tourism-growth
      If the benefit is only going to be an extra 4 cars per day then surely there is a case for asking the local politicians to stay at home and watch Netflix on the night of Council meetings and the whole country would be better off?

      Those who have driven the Forgotten Highway will realise that just sealing 12km will not fix this road beset with falling rock and washouts. I am not arguing that it should be fixed.

      Here’s what Harriet (on GA) wrote in 2018 about instead re-opening the rail way line in the area: “Costs to reopen the line are expected to be much higher than the initial estimate due to the need to catch up on deferred maintenance along the line. In 2010 a cost of $7 to $10 million was quoted to cover essential maintenance over the next 3 years.” There is a significant obstacle to this because the line has been leased by KiwiRail to a private operator for 30 years.

      As others have said above NZ’s transport plan seems either shambolic, or non existent. I don’t entirely blame Phil Twyford because he is trying to work with a party whose purpose seems only to secure election votes (although arguably his government is driven predominantly with this perspective in mind.)

      Footnote: there is significant forestry being planted around the Forgotten Highway as overseas investors take advantage of the carbon credits in doing so. What is the plan to remove timber when it is milled?

      I guess the Forgotten Highway re-sealing is shovel ready?

      1. A Rail plan with long term objectives was announced just before Xmas. Phil Twyford is trying to get a coherent long term plan in place but it doesn’t happen overnight, especially after decades of each project being treated as a one-off. Getting the bureacracy on side is a monumental task.

        1. That is just rearranging the deck chairs. Twyford the idiot is got himself bogged down in structure and process. These things don’t matter its carrying through with his promises which will get the Government reelected. They need to be more hands on.

        2. Somehow Zippo, after decades of neglect, the Clark government simply got on with double tracking the western line, reviving the Onehunga line, creating the Manukau branch, and generally upgrading Aucklands aged rail infrastructure, with the assistance of the ARC of course.

          Twyford on the other hand has proven he is incapable of progressing past announcements and as Royce said, has become hopelessly lost in processes, which he just cannot see will be no use to him when his government is kicked out because they have failed to deliver on their promises.

  10. I did hear a story that wires to Pukekohe has been delayed whilst the plans for the third main Papakura-Pukekohe are completed.

    That is in addition to the problems of the motorway bridge at Drury, however hopefully the fiasco that was Orams Rd-Papakura could be avoided by having the Drury ended started first.

    1. If there is a valid reason for delays why doesn’t someone in this most transparent government ever tell us. Do they they think we are mind readers or perhaps they think they can get some sort of political gain by reannouncing old promises before the elections. But they are just pissing me off. Why are we being held in suspence wouldn’t it be better if they looked like they had some kind of a plan and there was an orderly process taking place.

        1. Then it’s up to Twyford to explain what’s happening rather than appearing to be a total idiot with his silence. I understand that Kiwirail has its own priority and commercial Considerations. But if someone looks as though they have some kind of a plan then both the government and Kiwirail have some kind of a chance. After all a national government is very unlikely to finance Kiwirail at the level that the coalition is. And where does double tracking the swamp come into there plans.

        2. Royce, it’s an awful lot like the governments policy directing spending away from Nationals RONS announced by Twyford in the early days of its existence, one assumed to alternatives, only to be met with no alternatives whatsoever apart from some flowery talk about improving safety, then nothing, then deafening silence. The opportunity to show what the alternatives were never materialized, they like every other policy project that never eventuated, got Twyford’ed!

          Now Grant Robertson has bypassed Twyford and announced massive spending on roads again.

        3. I am down the line at Wairoa and I can report from my journey that significant stretches of wire barriers are appearing so some progress. Also the log yard at the Wairoa Station is all but completed so we can expect some log trains there in the new year. No signs of any work at Kawerau on the proposed container yard. I think they are waiting to see if the water bottling goes ahead. I see that it has being approved by the envioroment Court but some locals are going to appeal to the high Court. We wonder why things take so long in this cou try.

        4. Do Kiwirail have the resources/staff to do multiple projects simultaneously after the lost decades from the late eighties? Maybe the plan is to start on the third/fourth main after the Otahuhu 3rd platform project is finished. Plus fixing up the rickety track in Auckland/Northland. The NZ Rail industry was run into the ground so it’s a bit rich to not expect that to have on going ramifications in terms of actual capability.

        5. If the plan is to start the third main and the Pukekohe electrification after the third platform is finished at Otahuhu then why doesnt somebody tell us. With this level of official silence the Govt and Kiwirail has no chance at the next election. The same promises made just before the election as we’re made before the last election prove that the Government is incapable of achieving its agenda. And Twyford the idiot will be to blame.

      1. At 50-60kph while the billion dollar road parallel road upgrade allows a continuous 100-110kph. Time to drag the swamp out of the 1870s.

  11. Yes I remember reading that too. Great idea except that the excavated material is to be trucked to the swamp because it’s too complicated to arrange moving it via rail.

    1. Where are you going to load it on rail and find the path to get it to the swamp and then delay trains whilst you dump it??

  12. All tunnel excavate is coming out at mt Eden. Plenty of room there for a temporary loading siding or two at least 200m long. At swamp an offloading siding that can be moved to suit offload location.
    Or is that too complicTed?

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