On Monday a Stuff article by Thomas Coughlan revealed that the City Centre to Mangere light rail project seems to be tearing apart the government. It seems he Green Party and New Zealand First are extremely sceptical of the bizarre NZ  Super Fund / Canadian pension fund (CDPQ) deal that the Labour Party seems to be incredibly supportive of.

The Government is splitting three ways on plans for Auckland light rail as the saga heads to its endgame phase.

Labour Ministers are erring towards signing New Zealand up to a long and expensive public-private partnership (PPP), while the Greens are understood to favour something more modest. NZ First wants something more modest still, publicly suggesting that its caucus is likely to axe any proposal put to it.

The Beehive has gone into lockdown, with Labour Ministers allegedly not sharing full and timely briefings with their Government colleagues, Stuff understands. None of the governing parties would comment on the record for this story.

Yet the dispute has already spilled out into the open. Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones told an infrastructure conference on Friday that the issue “has not been to the NZ First caucus and it will need to before we have a position as a party.”

Jones also noted that there was no concrete commitment to building Auckland light rail in NZ First’s coalition agreement with Labour. He also said the party were “doubting Thomases” when it came to the “light rail kaupapa”.

Jones made the remarks despite other Government Ministers putting him “under strict instruction not to talk about light rail”, he said.

The article also revealed, for the first time, some key elements of the PPP deal that NZSF/CDPQ have proposed – and they seem very similar to the terrible deal CDPQ lumped Montreal with that I discussed last year.

Labour Ministers are said to be increasingly keen on the NZ Super Fund option. Stuff has been told that this is based on a PPP with NZ Infra to build and run the rail network for 50 years.

Though currently equally owned equally by the Canadian and New Zealand Funds, this does not guarantee funding or returns would be equal. Stuff has been told these could be split 70-30 split in favour of the Canadian wing.


Some in the Government have been spooked by spiralling cost estimates and the amount of money likely to be sent sent offshore. Cost estimates shared with Stuff by sources familiar with the matter are now as high as $20 billion.

It would mean New Zealanders could pay hundreds of millions — potentially close to a billion dollars — to the Canadian fund each year, likely through taxes and tickets sale over the life of the joint venture. This has raised eyebrows at a time when interest rates for Government borrowing are at near record lows.

For example, assuming a return on capital of 7 per cent — a global standard for PPPs — on a $20 billion project fully financed by NZ Infra, the consortium could enjoy returns of $1.4 billion every year for as long as the PPP lasted.

Under that scenario, if those returns were split 70-30, just under $1 billion of that income would be heading to Canada, with the rest staying with the Super Fund.

There are two separate, but related issues here to discuss:

  1. The crazily high project costs reaching up to $20 billion. I suspect this figure is likely to be wrong by a significant margin but it likely stems from indications the government are looking at a fully grade separated light metro system instead of surface level light rail – In a meeting I (and others) had with the minister recently he described it as running alongside the motorway from the airport then getting through the isthmus via a combination of elevated, trenched and tunnelled sections. While there are some obviously some advantages of a fully grade separated metro system they do cost more and the challenge will be in justifying spending even half of that figure on this one corridor when we’ve also got many others in desperate need of funding, such as the Northwest.
  2. The bizarre financing arrangements of the PPP, where the proposal seems to be to pay a massive cost premium to a Canadian pension fund instead of the government just borrowing the money much cheaper themselves. Given the government recently announced a pretty big increase in borrowing to fund a pile of transport infrastructure, because interest rates are so low, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

So the Government have got themselves in a right pickle over this and it’s difficult to see how they can move forward constructively, especially as there is so much pressure on them to show progress towards delivering light rail by the time of the election. After all, this was their flagship policy at the 2017 election.

It seems to me that the only way for the government to move forward on this project is to abandon the crazy Super Fund proposal and immediately embark on a comprehensive public consultation and engagement process to share all the detailed design work that must have been going on over the past few years. Buy out the design IP if they need to.

I’m aware of at least four designs that have been developed in detail over the last few years. This includes:

  • The original Auckland Transport design
  • The NZTA design from 2018 before the Super Fund gummed up the process
  • The designs from the two most recent bids.

Presumably there’s an enormous amount of technical detail included in each of those, such as corridor options, number of stops and their locations, advantages and disadvantages of surface running versus grade-separated metro running, and much much more. That would help show the public that work has been going on and allow for a proper debate about the merits of the various options.

An earlier design by Auckland Transport. Are those cars parked or moving?

While the blame for this latest debacle must clearly sit with the government, light-rail in some respects has been a cursed project from the start due to a lack of public engagement and consultation. It’s now over five years since it was surprisingly revealed by Auckland Transport in January 2015 – and even then the project had been worked on in secret for many months beforehand. Never in that time has proper public engagement taken place over the project’s design, what its key goals should be, what the key trade-offs might be and how they could be addressed. For every other major project in recent years there has been multiple rounds of consultation and engagement as route and design options have been refined – but with light-rail there’s been basically nothing.

The desperate need to immediately improve public and stakeholder engagement on light-rail was strongly emphasised in a joint letter that ourselves and a wide variety of other transport stakeholders sent to the Minister recently following up on one we sent late last year. You can read the latest letter in full here. It was also picked up in this Herald article. It’s a premium article but I’ve picked out the key parts below:

The lobby groups’ letter, obtained by the Herald, is signed by leading members of the Automobile Association (AA), Employers and Manufacturers Association, Greater Auckland, Generation Zero, Bike Auckland and Heart of the City, which is the central city business association.

Their letter expresses concern at “the Government’s handling of the Auckland rapid transit programme”. Rapid transit is a term that covers both light and heavy commuter rail, and rapid bus services like the Northern Busway.

The groups do not express a view on the merits of light rail. They say their worries about transparency relate to a lack of information on the project, the failure of the Government to allow for informed public debate, the lack of “engagement with stakeholders” and a perception there is not a “level playing field” for making decisions.

The letter follows a meeting the groups held with the minister last Wednesday and another letter they sent to him in mid-December. Many of the same issues were also raised by Auckland mayor Phil Goff, when he wrote to the minister on December 9.

The letter writers say: “The response we have received from you and your officials has done little to assuage our concerns.”They add that “the cumulative effect of this approach has been to alienate your stakeholders (advocacy organisations, industry and officials), and to generate a significant deficit in public trust and confidence before the project has even started”.

A comprehensive engagement and consultation process, which laid out all the designs that have been developed to date and their various advantages and disadvantages, would provide the necessary “reset” for the light-rail project and enable some of the eroded public trust to be regained. It would also allow a proper public discussion of issues such as whether the extra costs of tunnelling compared to surface running can really be justified.

I can’t see any other way forward at this point.

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  1. Twyford was impressive in opposition but once he took control and actually had to deliver he’s proven to be grossly incompetent. Dithering over everything he truly is King Midas in reverse and needs to go.

    1. You’re surprised? It’s what I expected, the guy has “pillock” written all over him.
      Go back to the 80s and Phil Goff was the same.

      1. Well, to be honest, most of us looked like a Pollock back in the 80s. Good music, bad clothes, terrible decade for good financial decisions.

  2. Emphatically agree. What hope can we have in the outcome when the process has been such a zealously-guarded shambles? What sort of lobbying has gone in the background? And why should Auckanders who have underwritten provincial largesse to buy NZ First a seat in Northland be denied crucially needed infrastructure to support its growing population?

    Tear up the Superfund proposal, start work on the AT branches immediately and then extend them as needed – North, West and East – over the next two decades. Surely for $20b we could almost build an entire regional network, which we would own outright and could borrow at historically low interest rates.

    1. ATs estimate was $6b for both the airport and northwest. So why don’t we do that and save $14b, or spend the rest on the north and east and then some!

      The things that Auckand could do with $20b to spend on public transport! Why sink it all into one line?!

      1. Exactly. It really does sound like we’re considering paying the sum cost of building an entire regional network that we would own outright in network in operating payments for one single branch line. It’s nuts.

        I suspect you could also radically transform Tamaki Drive out of the spare change as well – lift it, extend the walking and cycling areas and add in a Motat-style Light Rail corridor as well, like pretty much every other beachside suburb in major cities around the world.

        1. It’s not nuts if that line is much faster and has much lower operating costs, we need to see the details of each proposal.

        2. You’re assuming the speed is the main factor. The reality is we don’t know what the brief is or what the system is even trying to achieve. If speed to the airport is the prime concern, then maybe. But what about bus congestion on key corridors and connecting areas with limited access to PT? We don’t know because this whole process is being run in a clandestine way which is opening the whole process up to suspicions of corruption.

          Remember: The AT plans started as a means of relieving bus congestion in the CBD and along key growth corridors. It’s possible we may end up with both of those issues being ignored by whoever (not whatever, I might add) vote for and paying significantly more than initially proposed for the pleasure.

        3. No, we don’t know the details but you can be sure a grade seperated line is going to be much faster than a light rail vehicle plodding along Dominion road and no doubt having frequent stoppages/accidents when cars/people get in the way. This is Auckland after all, cars going every which way.

        4. Plenty of other places in the world manage to deal with trams and light rail perfectly fine. Given the business case process you could be forgiven for thinking Kiwis are inherently stupider than other people, but I doubt this is something people couldn’t figure out. We managed with the Give Way rules and I’m sure we’ll figure out how hook turns or not getting hit by trams works.

        5. Gee, Zippo, why is it that some of us have read the articles, clicked through to the links, seen what other places are getting, and done a bit more research ourselves… and have decided that light rail is indeed what we want. It’s nice. It makes nicer streets than what we have.

          While you and a few vocal others are still harping on about the speed? It doesn’t take much effort to learn why vehicle speed is less important than getting the service where it needs to be. The killer for me was when I realised about stop spacings… so go look that up if you don’t realise that light rail will be better. And that light rail doesn’t require staircases or lifts.

          Hopefully Twyford hasn’t been scared off by people using your sort of argument. If he has, thanks for nothing, mate.

        6. Well yes, generally when you have no bus lanes, a terrible shared path and almost no dedicated cycle lanes, PT usage will be low. Tamaki Drive should be a jewel in the crown of Auckland, it has multiple destinations and quite a lot of Iwi-owned land along it which is ripe for development for their own commercial and whanau benefit. It should be a massive priority for transformation.

          We can’t do that if it’s forever going to be a place where cyclists, buses and cares have one lane to trip over each other. The traffic issues are also a huge stumbling block in the central eastern suburbs for intensification. The sea wall in many places is not fit for purpose around King tides. And that fixing this will involve a more visionary approach that doesn’t end at Ngapipi Ave.

          St Heliers should be our St Kilda, but we don’t have the ambition or desire to really transform our central areas. The Light Rail issues are a symptom of that same reluctance to embrace the potential our city offers.

    2. Totally.

      It’s incredibly disappointing if it’s true. I’d hate to even guess what can possibly have persuaded Labour it’s a good idea.

      I’m so sorry I voted Labour. As clueless as National are in transport planning, I can’t see them warming to this kind of rort. But then, who knows.


      1. The problem is Twyford and his ilk have no technical knowledge and no experience, and they’re getting taken to the cleaners because of it.

        It’s painfully obvious to anyone with half a clue that a metro line is going to cost five times as much and be massively disruptive with tunnels and trenches and whatever.

        But they don’t get that. They’re taking advice from a) a company that lends money to governments to pay back to itself to build metro lines and b) NZTA, who wouldn’t know their arsehole from their elbow when it comes to transit.

        1. Yes, it’s such a horrendous waste.

          I’ve always liked the idea that the government has to ask permission for major infrastructure spending from an independent expert body, not just call the shots.

          I know that wouldn’t guarantee transparency or prevent external coercion, but we can’t have governments with no expertise and a 3 year interest making decisions on intergenerational investments. It seems like there are so many reasons to veto this scheme, it would have been crushed at the front door before it had a chance to knock.

        2. Its the old argument of ‘do it once, do it right’ vs ‘do as much as you can for your dollar’. I think Labour are in the do it once camp, but the problem is that they could do so much more with that money (whether it be a lump sum or a PPP).
          A low density city like Auckland is so much better off with many lower quality rapid transit options compared to one gold plated one.
          If the PPP does cost $1 billion a year, they could instead build a new section of surface level light rail every year for that money. If the original AT plan cost $3 billion and took 4 years to build, the yearly cost may be less than superfund proposal (but only for 4 years instead of indefinitely).

        3. I agree with you entirely, Auckland would get far better outcomes out of a network of three or four light rail lines, rather than one metro line, for the same time and money.

          Which one of those is actually ‘doing it right the first time’?

          It’s like saying a first home owner should take out a $10m mortgage to buy a twenty bedroom palace, so they can eventually house all their children, grand children and great grand children over the next 100 years. Insane.

          Although something like proper light rail might not even be a lower quality option. It might actually be the best fit option for the context. Like what is the bet that the metro plans skip out on all the stations because they are so expensive to build underground, leaving half a dozen neighbourhoods bypassed between town and the airport. What’s the bet the line and the stations in the CBD ends up in a weird place because they can’t build another tunnel twisting around the CRL and everything else?

        4. I agree, John D.

          I’m not sure what low-carbon scenarios Twyford and co are considering, but they should have received proper transition training! It wouldn’t appear they have. Street-running light rail is far more future-proof than harder to maintain tunnels, trenches and elevated stations.

          In PT planning, the best thing we can do right now for a low carbon future is to implement the most wide-reaching PT measures we can, to get a wholesale change in the networks and the transport habits of our population. We need bus priority and light rail to give the full city coverage.

          Not expensive metro installations on one line only. Especially not with ongoing economic burdens that prevent funds from being used for new projects, just like the Transmission Gully PPP and others are currently chewing up so much state highway funding.

          Expensive metro is not planning for 50 or 100 years away. It’s the opposite.

        5. But the “gold plated” rapid transit means people will use lower quality not very rapid at all transit to get to the very fast and direct metro line. You see that effect on the North Shore. Auckland does have a long history of going cheap and regretting it for years after.

        6. Zippo – it depends on whether the cheaper, quicker option still allows for improvements or alternatives in the future.

          I think the best bet is to build Dominion Rd LR now, then extend to to Mangere and eventually the airport. In the future when the population justifies it build the metro corridor in the vicinity of Manukau Rd and divert the airport and Mangere line to use this corridor.

        7. @Jezza
          What would be the CBR for converting Dominion road only to LRT?

          Isn’t a lot of the heavy bus traffic along Dominion Road due to Buses from beyond like Mt Roskill?

          Maybe the first step should be a busway along Dominion Road. Make that work and there’s a case for LRT.

        8. Improvements later tend to be hugely disruptive and drawn out. Build an ambitious project now and it will be set for decades. I can guarantee a proper or close to metro line will impress from day one whereas the light rail is likely to be a repeat of the Sydney experience.

        9. Daniel – I’m guessing you haven’t been down Dominion Road for a while? Can you tell me which side of the road we should bulldoze for the space a busway would require, as opposed to running in the existing corridor?

        10. Daniel – the BCR was above one when AT first released their plans for LR.

          You are right that the route 25 buses split into two separate routes south of Mt Roskill, however the majority of ridership comes from north of Mt Roskill. The routes south of Mt Roskill would likely become feeder routes.

          LR would have the advantage over a busway of requiring less drivers something that appears to be becoming an increasing problem for bus operators.

        11. Zippo – why would LR be a repeat of the Sydney experience but not the Canberra or Gold Coast experience?

        12. “The problem is Twyford and his ilk have no technical knowledge and no experience, and they’re getting taken to the cleaners because of it.”

          And not just by their departments. There are also the lobbyists try to pull in opposite directions too.

        13. Zippo, “a repeat of the Sydney experience” would be perfect. That Sydney LRT line now moves more people each day than all of Auckland’s rail lines put together!

        14. Sure, and it cost $8.7 billion dollars. Almost 300% the cost of the light rail, for 50% more passengers. Sounds like a bum deal to me.

        15. It also has vastly more capacity than light rail being capable of up to 30 trains per hour at 2 minute headways. And being fully automated, it doesn’t have the major cost of drivers.

        16. The light rail is also capable of 30 trains an hour at 2 minute headways, so it’s not vastly more capacity.

          The cost saving of drivers is nothing compared to the extra five billion dollars the spent to make it driverless. The interest on the extra $5b is $200m a year. That would pay the wages of about two thousand drivers. The new light rail line has about thirty FYI.

        17. Roughly 80% of patronage on the Sydney LR is within the CBD. The section that serves the inner-city and suburbs has quite low patronage.

          It is also likely that many of the trips are replacements of walking or existing bus trips – while not actually substantially improving access and mobility (which is meant to be the overall goal). It may even have the potential to suppress patronage by increasing journey times and waiting times (due to interchanges and low speed).

          The Metro as it stands serves entirely suburban areas – not getting closer than about 15km to the CBD, so the patronage is quite substantial for the catchment and land use out there given the cost. You would imagine a similar system connecting inner-city and CBD catchments would have very different patronage levels.

          This doesn’t mean that a Metro or LR is necessarily a better idea – but comparing the simply the cost/patronage ratio then extrapolating is not illustrative of anything relevant.

        18. Is there any possibility the extra speed from a metro line would lead to enough additional patronage to justify the extra capital cost?

        19. No, there is no way the marginal speed differential on the same corridor would result in three times the patronage to match three times the cost.

          Especially not because most of the speed difference comes from having far fewer stations because they are too expensive to build on a metro.

          It’s worth pointing out that the western line is aucklands busiest train line, and also its slowest. Both because the line has plenty of stops where people live and want to go.

        20. Riccardo – the metro also is underground and crosses the harbour. Take out those costs and it would be comparable to LRT but with a whole lot more capacity.
          Elevating rail in Auckland would be the least disruptive, quickest and overall best result without costing a fortune that tunnelling would do. It also takes up less surface space than surface LR or BRT does and provides shelter underneath.
          Nevermind the fact that it would be significantly faster and be fully automated (no driver strikes).

        21. Yes the metro is underground for the whole new part of the route under the North Shore, under the harbour, under the CBD to the Bankstown line. The only part that isn’t underground is where they are converting the existing Bankstown heavy rail line to metro. That’s where the costs are, especially in the stations. The new underground station at Martin Place is costing over a billion dollars alone, and that is only one of seven new stations. That’s literally a hundred times more expensive than each of the the LRT platforms on George St.

          Indeed, take those undergrounding costs out and it’s… a light rail. Delivering the same route, capacity and headways at a fraction of the cost, albeit with more stations and slower end to end trips.

        22. @ButtWizzard:
          Erm, I’ve said all along that Dominion Road is a tight fit.
          But if there’s not enough room for a busway: How can there be room for a light rail again?
          So instead of having a go at me: Why don’t you ask that question of all these people who want a light rail down Dominion because it can’t handle the number of bus services it has? Hmm?

  3. It seems like the enormous sums being suggested for the Superfund proposal would cover the costs of duplicating the Onehunga line and extending it to the airport as well as a local LRT line to Three Kings on Dominion Road.

    There’s literally no point to the proposal from so many angles and to press on with it will cause the government more damage than to reset or give up and putting money towards interim improvements with more spread out impact. Imagine National messaging – “Labour weighing future governments down with big payments to rich old Canadians”

  4. As far as I can tell, the main benefit of PPPs for government is that they allow them to borrow money without it showing up on the balance sheets as “debt”. They seem to essentially be accounting tricks. For debt-laden governments that want to spend on infrastructure when interest rates are high they must be very appealing. But interest rates are historically low and the government’s debt situation is so comfortable that they’re significantly increasing their “on-book” infrastructure spending… the rationale for a PPP here doesn’t seem to exist.

    1. Can someone in finance please explain to me how a contractual liability to make a fixed number of ongoing payments to a company in exchange for building infrastructure “isn’t debt”?

      1. I know, it would feel like a debt to me if it was my obligation.

        I guess it’s because there isn’t a fixed balance attached to it.

        It’s total arse.

      2. Compare also renting vs. buying. Assuming you can’t pay for it upfront, in both cases you’re using something that you can’t pay now. So you borrow it from someone and pay a regular fee in return. (call it rent, or interest). In both cases you also tend to lose the thing if you can’t keep up with payments.

        One of these shows up as debt, the other doesn’t. So another way for a government to prop up debt statistics is to sell and lease back its real estate.

  5. Just abandon the SuperFund idea, it is leading to the path of far too expensive and impractical. Stick to the original plan, forget about grade separation.

  6. Great to be focused on a constructive way forward. Can I recommend to any readers in the government wondering how engagement with the public could possible help, given the backlash that always seems to ensue, that you should come up to speed with the SUMP framework in the EU:

    “A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan focuses on people and meeting their basic mobility needs. It follows a transparent and participatory approach, which brings citizens and other stakeholders on board from the outset and throughout the plan development and implementation process.
    Participatory planning is a prerequisite for citizens and stakeholders to take ownership of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan and the policies it promotes. It
    makes public acceptance and support more likely and thus minimises risks for decision-makers and facilitates the plan implementation.”

    The story of LR in Auckland is, to date, fodder for a dystopian comedy. But this could be the point in time when things turn and it all becomes a success story. If you can make that happen, do. But it will require a deep understanding of how to do things right, and leaving behind the pursuit of shallow mirages.

    1. It has low ‘corruption’ but an incredible amount of cronyism, which I think is almost worse.
      At least with corruption you can buy yourself favours whatever your background, cronyism is based on weird fraternal mateships…

  7. Does anyone understand how this also ran project muscled its way to the top of Auckland’s transport priorities? It amazes me how some incompetence at AT can catch fire like this. Pity they didn’t focus on something that was actually necessary.

      1. I think a busway along the NW motorway to Massey, at least preparing for converting the Northern Busway to higher-capacity light rail, a third main and even the next harbour crossing are all far higher priority than this light rail to the airport.

        1. “I think a busway along the NW motorway to Massey, at least preparing for converting the Northern Busway to higher-capacity light rail, a third main and even the next harbour crossing are all far higher priority than this light rail to the airport.”

          These items are all in the AT 20 year plan. LRT “to the airport” was promised by Labour as a vote grabber.

        2. Seems like the general feeling is that the central isthmus should just miss out and the money should be spent on long distance services. Maybe because there are already reasonable bus services on the isthmus. But the buses are very very very slow. Is it fair to penalise people who choose to live near the city and spend all the money on those who don’t?

        3. Please… don’t go down the route of pitting different areas against each other. We need progress, not fighting over scraps.

        4. The NW rapid transit route was a 10 year, Decade One ATAP priority in the updated ATAP in 2018.

          Whether that was initially busway, later staged to Light Rail or Light Rail from the get-go was supposedly under investigation with NZTA.

          “The Northwest rapid transit corridor follows State Highway 16 between the city centre and Kumeu/Huapai and was identified in 2015 funding plans as a second decade project. The 2018 ATAP Package has brought this forward, to be completed within the next ten years.”

          This is already unlikely to happen in Decade One (a huge breach of ratepayer/taxpayer trust for West Aucklanders) and we are still no closer to any formal timetable for construction, let alone completion by 2028.

        5. I honestly think that beginning the works for the busway to Massey should be a top priority, before even preliminary works on this light rail to the airport, extending electrification to Pukekohe, grade-separating the Western line and all these other projects that people seem to want but which aren’t exactly essential.
          That area of Auckland is utterly deprived of Public transport and is crying out for it (and the outcomes of it).

    1. Why do you think a rail line with really good catchment is a bad option? Compared to the usual Auckland rapid transport projects which run along the motorway with almost no people living within walking distance, the Mt Roskill section seems like it would be well used. The rest of the route is a bit more dubious – that is why I think it makes sense to build the Mt Roskill section first.

    2. Probably lobbying within the Auckland Council by certain interest groups. “Interest group” could be: Some manipulative cretin’s personal pipe dream.

  8. ‘Are those cars parked or moving?’

    Those aren’t cars, those are dumpsters which are about to catch fire.

  9. While I did initially like the Light Rail idea from AT, I think it is just in the too hard basket. Labour had the chance to go ahead and build it, but they’ve cocked up.
    At this stage I think the best option for the medium term is to go back to Auckland City Council’s plan from 10 years or so ago to build a decent bus option on Dominion Road. Some of those buses could then take the motorway to the airport, the rest continue on to Blockhouse Bay. Possibly make this route an extension of the Nex – that way there wouldn’t be the need for lots of buses to turn around in the city, they would just be passing through.
    We have already lost 10 years of not having a revitalised Dominion road and a decent PT option, and I think light rail will just waste another 10 years and potentially not provide a lot of the benefits (for example how many isthmus stations would there be and will Dominion Road actually be upgraded). I get the felling the only way to get something progressing would be to vote for National at the next election!

    1. So you’re saying the anti-PT lobby has won in two ways, Jimbo:

      1/ Killing LR when we really needed it.
      2/ Creating support for the least PT friendly party when we really needed the Nats to shift in policy so that PT is no longer political.

      LR may be dead thanks to it being taken off AT in the first place but you don’t have to concede the second one.

        1. New Zealand First, and their sock puppet John Reeves who runs/is the sham Public Transport Users Association and various other made up groups.

        2. Light rail is a dagger pointed at the heart of golf on the isthmus.

          They are a well-connected lot.

      1. I think it was killed when AT changed it from a $1 billion project down Dominion Road to a $3 billion project to the airport (which is now a $20 billion project). Its very difficult to expect every NZer to fork out $4000 each (or every Auckland household to fork out more than $20,000 each) to pay for a single rail line that most wont use. Maybe in countries with higher populations these numbers are palatable.

        1. Are Dunedin taxpayers underwriting the full cost of their brand new hospital? Or are Aucklanders chipping in slightly over 30% from the consolidated fund for that too?

          Or is provincialism actually just not that productive and only useful for political miscreants who are unpalatable for the wider general electorate?

      2. I know this question might open a can of worms, but is this light rail to the airport via Dominion road REALLY “needed”?

        I think the CRL is needed and I think the Northern Busway was needed. But this?

        1. Yes it is. With the CRL and Eastern Busway under way, and the extension of the northern busway being built, the southwest and northwest are the two remaining areas without any rapid transit.

          The northwest is facing huge growth in the near future, but the southwest has already had huge growth. The corridor along dominion road through Onehunga to Mangere has a population of around 400,000 people. That’s a city the size of greater Wellington relying on buses on street.

        2. FFS; what is with the people on this website always using the term “rapip transit”?!

          Dominion road already has what you should be using instead: MASS transit, in the form of frequent bus services. As does Mangere.

          The North West’s bus services are laughable in comparison.

        3. I’m not convinced yet. I’d first like to see some projection of travel times relative to the current buses and demand projections reflecting the density along the route, with all that translated into a BCR based on the latest costs.

          If it doesn’t stack up now, it might over time with intensification. But I do think the north-western is probably more important.

        4. Rapid Transit is the term in Auckland policy documents, it is defined in the statutory plans in terms of its requirements, configuration and outcomes. By comparison mass transit doesn’t exist in any document or policy.

        5. Which one are you talking about? The only one I’ve seen is the one for the Mt Roskill to airport leg done in 2016, and the view on travel times and costs may have changed since then.

      1. Rephrase that to: There is a 24/7 service.

        It is privately run and has no subsidy from Auckland Transport.

    1. I think a good thing; at least they are talking about ‘temporary’ bus options. The central isthmus void might be waiting for another 10 years for nothing…

  10. We already have one elevated section of railway running from just below the Parnell station to the old Auckland railway station and no body takes any notice of it.

  11. Well, I know this might cop me a bit of abuse for saying it on here:
    But reading between the lines, I think Labour are pushing the PPP super fund idea because… …they’re looking for a way to drop it altogether. They don’t want to honour their election bribe promise.

    1. Well they could have just allocated a couple of hundred million per year to the project and everyone would have being happy. After all we are used to waiting look at the CRL.
      But having stuffed it up maybe your right they may well want New Zealand First to put the kibosh on it.

      1. I’m sure that Labour are planning to scapegoat NZ first (to the supporters of the project). I don’t think that Labour wanted to actually build it, at least not after actually getting into power and listening to the MoT and NZTA and Kiwirail instead of to the Auckland council.
        And don’t forget: Most of the general public doesn’t support the LRT.

        1. So your counter-evidence is an article from this very site about support from AA members, with the extrapolation that they are more likely to be pro-automobile and thus indicates support amongst the general public.
          I find that pretty week evidence. As a commentator pointed out; AA members tend to be elderly nowadays. And it’s only 57% supporting it.

          Anecdotally: I’m yet to encounter anyone who strongly supports this beyond this website. Have you got any actual opinion polls amongst the general public?

        2. Lol. Fair enough. The strong support for PT amongst the 18,000 submissions to the RLTP might mean something, given Light Rail was listed in the description.

          Good information would be needed I’d imagine before you’d take any kind of poll.

        3. So when you say “Most of the general public doesn’t support the LRT” you really mean “I’m yet to encounter anyone who strongly supports this beyond this website”. Got it.

        4. Daniel, you say “And don’t forget: Most of the general public doesn’t support the LRT.”

          Have you got any actual opinion polls amongst the general public?

        5. I can’t find the poll itself, but I don’t see any reason to doubt the following from this Mike Lee article:

          “In a Herald online poll of 13,300 readers, 82 per cent indicated they would prefer to take a train to the airport, 9 per cent preferred to drive and park while only 6 per cent opted for “light rail” (trams).”

          [the remainder of the comment has been deleted by admin for violating user guidelines]

        6. Daniel – if the question is how to get from the CBD to the airport then yes LR probably isn’t the answer, but that isn’t really the problem trying to be solved here.

          Mike’s poll just shows you can frame a question to get any answer you want.

  12. I would very much like to see light rail or even a simple tram running up Queen Street in my life time if it goes up Dominion road that is fine with me. Its looking ever more likely this won’t happen.

    1. “I would very much like to see light rail or even a simple tram running up Queen Street”

      The red CityLink bus already provides this service. They operate every 6 minutes 7 days per week.

  13. This reminds me of some of the “Think Big” projects of the 1980s. In particular the Motunui synthetic fuel plant was a great deal for Mobil because the then government guaranteed a very generous rate of return on the investment. Mobil had very skilled negotiators, it seemed the government not so much. There is the possibly urban myth that Mobil plied the government negotiators with free alcohol at a crucial meeting while keeping to orange juice themselves, It took lots of digging by investigative journalists to figure out how one sided the arrangement was. That plant opened in 1986 but was closed by 1999.

    1. More to do with the massive and unforseen decline in the oil price from the mid 80s on plus the “take or pay” agreement which meant the government was desperate to find a use for the gas.

  14. We have Kiwirail to build and maintain railways and NZTA to build and maintain highways so maybe we could have Kiwitram to build and maintain light rail. At the moment the only agency we have that has any experience would be Christchurch City Council with its network of heritage trams.Maybe we should ask them to put in a bid at least this would postpone things till after the election. I would rather them than a foreign company anyway.

    1. 🙂 Kiwitram. I like it. But it should be Kiwiroad too, not NZTA.

      Poor old kiwi, they wouldn’t like any of these things.

        1. With light rail functionally dead, it’s time to dust off some “daylighting the Waihorotiu on Queen St” plans … With some lovely plantings, that’d be a bit more to their liking… 🙂 So in addition to KiwiRoad, KiwiRail and KiwiTram we’ll need KiwiGreeningTheTransportCorridors…

    2. No thanks. Maybe I’m the only one, but I think that usage of the word “Kiwi” in anything associated with NZ along with slapping a silver fern of anything is well overdone.

  15. The 10 year NZ Government Bond rate just fell below 1.0%.

    Bernard Hickey on Twitter: “the Government seems to seriously be considering doing an Auckland Rail PPP which involves borrowing $20b over 50 years and paying Canadian pensioners 7% per annum. When it can borrow at 1% for (at least) 50 years off its own balance sheet and lock that low borrowing cost in.”

    Borrow baby borrow

  16. Cant see anything happening on the light rail until after the election, depending on how the numbers fall. obviously National will kill it off and build the east west link, NZ first probably too if they are in Parliament.

    1. Labour is already killing it. So what election result would actually be beneficial? I don’t think any party seriously supports the idea (well maybe, surprisingly, Greens but that’s about it).

  17. So much idle speculation in the discussion above.
    Agree completely on the public release of information for consultation and debate, there absolutely needs to be community and stakeholder buy-in for this to progress further, in any form.

    It seems to me that the big picture has been lost somewhat in the government process to date:
    a. What type of city do we want? Ask us!
    b. How will cater to transport demand as Auckland grows beyond 2m towards 3m in population?
    c. How do we drive the transport modeshift we need to allow for more density, connect communities and reduce emissions?
    d. How do we maintain and improve access to the city centre where space is constrained and we want to reduce space for vehicles given A4E?

    These dilemmas are not going away.
    The status quo is not going to be enough. A return the previous government’s transport priorities would be adverse. CRL + heavy rail to the airport with buses everywhere else is not going to be enough.

    There needs to be a plan for how this city builds and funds an additional mass rapid transport network by 2040 that connects the isthmus and centre with the southeast/airport, east, northwest, and over the harbour to the north – basically the CFN2 network.

    I can’t conceive of another way forward, and it is so frustrating to see the decision process go off-piste with a potentially bad PPP option given so much consideration.

  18. The nemesis of this whole fiasco is the LRT has been sold as the answer to too many problems.
    The CBD and Dom Rd are getting jammed up with too many buses. A street running LRT is a perfectly sensible solution.
    Taking PT to the airport is too slow and unreliable. A street running LRT isn’t the best solution. The grade separated superfund proposal is certainly nice but it is very expensive and largely duplicates the existing rail network + CRL. A Puhinui link would solve this at lower cost.
    Rapid PT needed for high density housing developments in Mt Roskill. Heavy rail connection to Dom Rd beside SH20 from Mt Albert Pak n Save.
    PT for Mangere. Bus connections to Onehunga (or extend branch to Mangere Bridge) and Airport-Puhinui.

    1. Agree.
      Firstly you have to identify the existing transport constraints/problems for each area, and then future constraints/problems given expected growth and area changes. Only then can you identify possible solutions to evaluate against their ability and cost effectiveness to ameliorate those previously identified constraints/problems. Instead it seems to have deteriorated to an open invitation to transport bubble salespeople to peddle their wares, including their magical financing, servicing and operating upselling options without sufficient clarity as to what problem it is intended to resolve.
      My experience was that marketers were great at selling, but should never be let near purchasing desciscions, as they invariably were vulnerable to marketing hype rather then cold hard analysis.
      Polititians to get there, are more marketers, then analysts.

    2. I’d really like to know the cost assumptions for extending heavy rail to Mangere Bridge vs the cost of the Roskill-Airport spur.

      Given what you’d give up in connectivity to a relatively poorly served area and the small numbers of end-to-end CBD to airport passengers, a heavy rail service that misses all the stops along the way and the costs of buses and priority infrastructure to connect them to a heavy rail system, I’m really struggling to believe that a heavy rail spur is the best option unless you’re obsessed with serving the airport in isolation.

    3. Disagree. Rapid transit routes only work when they do several things at the same time, serving multiple user markets and a multitude of origins and destinations.

      Doing a tram line for one street over here, a shuttle for the airport over there, another rail spur for a housing development in Mt Roskill back there, a bus shuttle from Mangere to Onehunga… you end up with four separate lines doing four separate things with a fraction of the user base each.

      One line that does all four things alone but also links the four things together, gives you sixteen times the user base as any one of the separate lines. If you want it to be successful with patronage and fares, then you have to make it answer three or four major transport issues simultaneously.

      Targeting an investment to one specific issue is a recipe for failure, this is why the ‘express to the airport super fast’ clowns are barking up the wrong tree, it will never work.

    4. LR would probably offer a quicker trip to the CBD from Mt Roskill than the HR spur would simply because it is a much shorter journey.

      Why build a rail spur that will take valuable CRL slots, likely never exceed more than 6 trains per hour to serve a single purpose with a slower trip?

    5. Yes I agree, this has always been the most common-sense way of providing rail to Mangere and the airport to me.

      The Onehunga branch’s already in close proximity, so why on earth lay down a new rail line altogether?! And residents in Mangere probably are more likely to want to go to Manukau or somewhere like Onehunga than to Dominion Road or the CBD anyway (likewise; employees at the airport are more likely to live in proximity to those areas).

      Given that it will be a mere extension of the Onehunga line; the argument that it will “take up capacity in the CRL tunnel” (which will be a long time before reaching capacity anyway) never stood up to me. They should be planning for a mainline loop that goes from an upgraded Onehunga vranch across the water to Mangere then on to the airport and then back toward Manukau. It doesn’t need to all be built at once, it can be done in stages. And it doesn’t need to follow the motorway corridor; most of that land in Mangere is either still owned by the government or of low value. It could also kick-start a general redevelopment of Mangere in general.

      1. The Onehunga line is single track with a single track junction at penrose, it’s limited to two trains an hour, and the CRL is designed for it at two trains an hour.

        Running it at a useful frequency would take away train paths that are allocated to the southern and eastern lines.

        1. Yah…
          …I said “an upgraded Onehunga branch”. So the Onehunga Branch also gets double-tracked, a degree of grade-separation and a new station for Onehunga.
          As it stands; Auckland transport plan to run 3 trains per hour along it anyway, so clearly it can take more than 2 an hour as it is.
          Or at least according to this graphic of AT’s:

        2. Yes, it’s capacity is 3tph, the current 2tph service is to do with capacity at Newmarket and Britomart, both of which are alleviated with the CRL construction.

        3. Upgrading the Onehunga line is a big project in itself. Not just the cost of land acquisition and construction, but also the large number of level crossings, at least some of which would need to be grade-separated.

          And like others have noted, it wouldn’t buy you any additional capacity in the city centre. The reality is that post-CRL capacity is almost full utilised serving the main lines. There simply aren’t many, if any, slots available to run more Onehunga services. Which means it’s largely pointless trying to serve the south-west with heavy rail unless you commit to CRL2.

          I’m personally open to latter as a way of getting HR to Wynyard and the north shore, but it’s not cheap.

        4. @Stu Donovan
          “The reality is that post-CRL capacity is almost full utilised serving the main lines. There simply aren’t many, if any, slots available to run more Onehunga services.”

          I have never believed that and I’m pretty sure I’ve shot it downon this blog before. So allow me to go over it again.
          The CRL will essentially turn the 4 existing lines into 2 lines as the Southern line can combine with the Eastern Line and the Western line can combine with the Onehunga line. Currently; three of those lines have 10-minute frequencies at peak times (which by international standards is pretty frequent), which will mean the existing lines with the same frequency will in combination only have 12 trains per hour through the tunnel. That’s equivalent to a service every 5 minutes and I’d be very surprised if the CRL isn’t designed to handle twice that frequency/amount of traffic, and thus services on each line every 5 minutes. And possibly even more frequent.
          And the fact is that if the western line has 10 minute frequencies, essentially 6 trains per hour, then so can the Onehunga branch as they’ll essentially be the same line combined.
          I’m as amazed that people have not sat down and easily analysed and seen through this bogus claim for themselves instead of buying it at face value let alone tried it on to begin with.

          “I’m personally open to latter as a way of getting HR to Wynyard and the north shore, but it’s not cheap.”
          I don’t understand. I don’t mean to be rude but why on earth would you want to waste money trying to fit the future North shore rail to mainline standards if it’s not going to being used for shifting freight?
          It’s only going to shift passengers, so why not just acquire a customised and optimised light rail system that will do the job far better and for a fraction of the cost?

        5. Daniel – you’re right, an upgraded line from Onehunga to the airport would be able to handle 6tph. I’m not sure whether this would justify the cost of upgrading and building the line, metro upgrades overseas appear to be based on running much higher frequencies than that.

        6. I’ve got two things to say to that Jezza:
          1) The corridor need not necessarily be exclusively used for services to the Auckland CBD/CRL. As the extension would be to mainline standards; EMU services could also be run into Manukau (where a lot of Mangere residents want to go). If it eventually becomes a loop; it could be a balloon loop service. And I know I might cop ridicule for saying this, but the line could also be used for freight services to the industrial zone in Mangere west.
          2) This proposed light metro will be more expensive still than this extension.

        7. I agree extending HR from Onehunga is a far better option than the proposed light metro. However, I think the LR proposed by AT is better than either option.

        8. One thing I forgot to add; if the CRL can safely take a train ever 150 seconds (of 24 per hour) then a combined Western-Onehunga line can take 12 trains per hour through the CRL.

        9. It’s designed for 18tph initially, which can be increased in the future with signalling improvements.

          The biggest challenge for 12tph on the airport/Onehunga line would be needing to grade separate the junction at Penrose. Nothing is impossible but it’s a complex junction with the Great South Rd overbridge so it wouldn’t be cheap.

        10. You could only run your West-Onehunga-Airport line at 12tph if you limited all other lines combined to 12tph also. And as Jezza notes, that 24tph is a theoretical limit, it’s not what they are building right now.

          The real limit is 18tph, which means the best you’d get out of the West-Onehunga-Airport is maybe 9tph, but again that only leaves 9tph for all other lines put together.

          This is why Auckland needs an entirely new rail corridor, it needs to add capacity, not just add lines to take away capacity on the CRL.

        11. @ John D:
          What you’re saying makes no logical sense.

          You’ve somehow tried to move the bottleneck from the CRL to the Onehunga line itself. Well, an Onehunga branch upgraded to double-track would be able to handle the same amount of traffic as the Western line that it will effectively be joined to in the future.
          18tph means 9tph on the two core lines. That’s a train every 7.5 minutes! That’s better frequency than the vast majority of equivalent networks and services around the world.
          And in any case; Auckland transport’s own documentation claims a future frequency in the CRL of 24 tph (which is about right in most passenger railway tunnels), which would mean a train every 5 (!) minutes on the four lines. I doubt Auckland will be needing that for at least 15 years.

          No matter how you try and avoid it: This argument that extending the Onehunga line will “take up CRL slots” to try and justify chucking money at a new train line altogether has always been completely bogus and inevitably falls to pieces under scrutiny. If the CRL can handle more western line services than it follows that it can handle more Onehunga line services.

        12. Ah I see the problem, you are assuming the lines will run the same headway in both directions. This isn’t the case, they need to run far more services inbound in the morning and outbound in the evening.

          If you want to run more inbound from Onehunga, you’ll have to take the peak inbound away from the eastern line to accommodate it. Vice versa in the evening peak.

          Not sure what you mean about shifting the bottleneck from the CRL, the CRL will be the bottleneck whether you upgrade Onehunga or not.

        13. Ah no John D. This entire time I was talking about PEAK frequencies.

          My point stands: They can fit 18 tph (or 24 tph according to AT ) in the CRL. Given that this tunnel will combine 4 lines into 2 lines: that means either line can have up to 9th (or 12tph).
          To repeat: 9TPH. That’s a train every 7.5 MINUTES.

          Thus the claim that upgrading and extending the Onehunga line will “use up slots in the CRL” falls to pieces. It’s using the exact same “slots” as the Western line! There will effectively be only two lines competing for “slots” in the CRL.

          I can repeat this until the cows come home because it remains a fact. So why on earth are you doubling-down this? Don’t tell me that you can’t actually follow this.

        14. Daniel is correct here. However, there is one caveat, AT’s 2045 running pattern (when it is expected to have 24tph in the CRL) has 18tph entering from the Eastern Line. I assume this is to manage the expected demand from the Eastern Busway.

          This leaves only 6tph for any airport line running as the opposite of the Western line.

        15. No Daniel is wrong, or at least working off incomplete information. I know this is complex but see the train plan here: https://i1.wp.com/www.greaterauckland.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Post-CRL-running-pattern.jpg?ssl=1

          The plan has the standard lines going back and forth, *plus* a a big boost of peak direction only trains to meet the required passenger capacity in the peak direction from the west and east. There is no spare capacity and the system is optimised to meet peak passenger demands.The western line has twice as many trains running inbound as outbound. This is because the path of the outbound western is the same direction as the inbound eastern, and Onehunga, from the other side of the system.

          If you want to put more peak onehunga/counterpeak western trains into the CRL, you will have to take away trains from the peak eastern.

          I’ll let you in on a little not-so-secret. The CRL is going to be unable to meet demand from the day it is open. Remember how they decided to spend the extra money to future proof for 9-car trains? That wasn’t for shits and giggles. It’s still just a two track tunnel taking all the services of three main lines and a branch.

          This is simple: There is no spare capacity in the CRL, so if you want to add an airport line into it you have to take trains away from one of the other lines, that are going to be overcapacity already. The CRL is just catchup on two decades of explosive growth, Auckland needs more rail capacity for the future.

        16. 18tph on the eastern line? The line alone wouldn’t justify 12tph, even 9tph would be generous. 18tph is a train every 200 seconds, so the eastern line through the leafy suburbs of East Auckland has metro frequencies?

          To be frank: There’s no caveat. No matter how anyone tries to spin it; the CRL will be an underground rail tunnel for merely TWO lines and will have ample capacity.
          And the argument that “there’s not enough slots in the CRL to accommodate hypothetical mainline services from an Onehunga line extended into Mangere, etc.” falls over rather rapidly when scrutinised (as intuition suggested).

        17. @John D
          (*laughs and shakes head*)
          Ah no. For starters; what you’ve provided is a graphic from THIS WEBSITE, mine was from Auckland Transport.

          But in any case; that green line services that goes between Henderson and Otahuhu is clearly a placeholder line that could easily be exchanged for services on the combined Western-Onehunga line.
          And let’s be honest; It’s doubtful that that western corridor’s going to be needing 15 trains per hour (equivalent to every 4 minutes) at any stage ever.

          All this stuff about 9-car platforms isn’t even relevant. You can’t avoid it: You’ve got essentially only TWO lines using the tunnel. It’s amazing that people even pretend that it’s going to be any capacity issues. Honest question for you to ask yourself: Is this just some pantomime you’re effecting?

        18. Daniel – whoever developed the proposed running patterns probably had access to more information about future demand than either you or I do.

          Panmure will become the busiest station outside of Britomart and Aotea once the Eastern Busway is fully operational. Additionally 6tph on the Eastern Line will be express services from further south.

          Do you really believe all of this would be managed with the existing 6tph?


          Incedentally, which Eastern Line service do you catch in the morning that gives you the impression that there is ample capacity with existing frequencies?

        19. That’s Auckland Transport’s train plan Daniel, taken from a board report. The image is hosted on this website.

        20. @Jezza: I never said anything about the current Eastern line services having ample capacity. I said the CRL will have ample capacity. With the early CRL capacity at 18tph; maybe the now combined Soiutehr-Eastern line could have a train every 7.5 minutes at peak times (8tph)?

          And yes I’m aware of the transformation of Panmure station (already one of the busiest on the Auckland network) and that it will be the terminus of the eastern busway. But I still just can’t see the eastern line needing a train every 5 minutes at peak times, even if a fair chunk of Botany boards at Panmure in the future.
          In any case; the services that could be switched to a future Onehunga line extended into Mangere aren’t the ones going through the eastern line. They’re the ones between Henderson and Otahuhu.

  19. The PPP reared its head when Michael Cullen became involved. The article I read at the time described it as an opportunity to do a first of its type, gold standard PPP using the Super Fund along with the capital of sovereign wealth funds newly accessible via the CPTPP trade agreement. It was seen as a model for future projects. So it has nothing to do with building an LRT, more to do with leveraging opportunities for free trade. It was sold as a guaranteed long term income for the Superfund. All of which looks great until you look at what it will cost over its lifetime vs just borrowing and building. When large capital works were discussed, most people assumed that the Super fund would simply lend its money at a reasonable return. Not provide a gold plated deal for Canadian retirees. The problem is, if it goes ahead, all that extra money that could have been used on other projects. Overseas most PPPs involve the governments involved selling out and taking on all the risk and massively increased cost. I ceased to be amazed at anything that happens in this country some time ago.

    1. Cullen’s dour provincialism already cost Auckland dearly when he resisted investing in our urban rail network for many years. Some hicks never learn.

      1. That’s very unfair, Michael Cullen was the Finance Minister who finally got the Auckland rail electrification underway, after decades of reports and plans that got buried by multiple Ministers. Look at what happened from the 1940s to the 1990s if you really want to see resistance to investing in our urban rail network.

        1. Cullen had to be dragged to that by Bob Harvey and other local body officials and leaders over years of pig-headedness. If he had hung on much longer it seems unlikely the next Joyce-run govt would have invested in urban rail over roads at all. Hastings was clearly not a good teacher about what’s possible.

  20. Seems to me we should stop working on airport line and get NW line working. This could be run by AT, funded by the Superfund (at a predetermined payback rate no matter the cost). Good investment for superfund as long term infrastructure asset, and if agreement kept simple admin would be low. Even if not a great deal for AT, long term benefit to NZers through superfund.
    Benefit of NW route is it creates an initial base track that due to the options available has far more limited choices of stop locations and routes.

    Superfund funding being made available for infrastructure assets should possibly be made more easy as benefits all NZers, even when deal may not be great for individual Project.

    1. I haven’t seen them offer this in isolation from the airport line.

      Surely we’d decide what we want, and then look at how we want to finance it, and who we want to manage and build it? And the difference between their rates and what the government can borrow still stand.

    2. The NW Line is really CRL 2 – Constellation/Upper Harbour/Westgate/SH16 into the City and then back up the North Shore Busway would be a great rapid service. Apart from the bit in the middle, there’s nothing stopping us from doing this separately/sooner if needed.

  21. Sure wish they would release some details soon so we actually know, as mentioned, what we debating. I suspect there is some NZ First issues at play here so it’s a pain we have election year already on us exasperating the issue. They are great for promoting HR for freight though.

  22. Grr. Just build it already! That is, light rail and NW busway. And all the PT projects. Force the masses out of their cars.
    I’ve been (motorbike) commuting from Hillsborough to East Tamaki and it’s absurdly apparent how badly that area is served by PT. Also what an appalling clusterf*** the SE highway is…who puts 80km/h blind corners just before traffic lights… One workmate has a 90 min PT commute from Grafton and is frequently late due to missing one of his three connections.

      1. No but for all their faults, National were guilty more of ‘doing nothing’. And ‘doing nothing’ looks a lot lot better than ‘signing us up to decades of underwriting profit on a gold-plated, over-specced single branch of light rail that could probably pay for a whole network for the benefit of foreign pensioners’.

        1. They signed us up to a couple of PPPs that we will be paying for years with Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth.

  23. I find it fascinating that highly noticeable fans of HR to the Airport are now questioning the validity of the concept.

    The case for LRT always seemed threefold.

    Originally, it was a necessary piece of infrastructure to cope with what GA sometimes calls Busgeddon, i.e. the cluttering of the CBD with busses. If anything, the scale of roadworks/construction at present highlights how critical this is. Transformation is desirable but without something better than busses everything will break down before we get anywhere there.

    (This is why talking about the well serviced isthmus bus routes as a reason for questioning Dominion Rd LRT is daft.)

    Secondly, LRT is one of those transformative changes with the capacity to reset what people see as plausible. There are two basic and compelling impetuses here. Firstly, having LRT should make people consider PT as a real option. It’s big/visible, it’s modern and it feels like Auckland’s joining the adult’s table, yeah? Electric trains were Auckland joining the late 1800s, More motorways is just more 1950s. It’s all old hat. But LRT? Cool cities are building them now. Secondly. it’s electric and global warming’s a thing, right?

    (CBAs are terrible at dealing with these kinds of benefits which are very difficult to quantify. Conversely, it also means huge costs of motorways don’t appear in CBAs… and as everyone knows our motorway projects have terrible CBA ratios without these costs.)

    Thirdly, people have finally woken up and realised that South-West Auckland is massively underserved by public transport. I know people are going on about the North West but it’s just not the same because, you know, it’s closer to the CBD and it gets attention anyway (let us not dwell on why). LRT is by far the best means of engaging the South West within Auckland’s PT network in a meaningful fashion.

    (As others have said… presenting an either/or choice will make people think it’s an either/or choice, which is pretty much just demonstrating why that transformative point is so critical.)

    At the time of the last election I characterised it by a “quote” from (of all things) Deltora Quest: “live no evil”. Between National and Labour there seemed a very clear choice between two completely and utterly awful options. Labour’s redeeming feature was its transport policy (not that I voted for them or National). Unfortunately, the kind of thinking that motivated their other policies has dominated their time in government. I mean… what were Labour and the Greens thinking when they agreed that idiotic spending pledge? Whatever morons came up with that idea are why Labour seems so deadset on a PPP.

    Labour has no interest in listening. If it did, they wouldn’t be the current Labour party. But it’s worse than that… they have, not once, shown any sign of any capacity to listen. And, again, if they did, they wouldn’t be the party they are today. It’s a shame because the Greens have demonstrated both of those qualities. Repeatedly.

    I feel like… if a positive outcome was going to happen here, we’d never have been here. Since, obviously, we are here I am not hopeful. The moment’s probably gone too as well.

    I didn’t realise AT hadn’t been very consultative either, but I really do think their ideas were/are the best for Auckland. I just don’t see this happening barring a massive swing to the Greens in the election (not happening).

    1. It’s remarkable how you somehow imagine an “uncool” city demonstrates that no cool cities are building LRT. You might as well say dogs didn’t wake me this morning because you own a cat. Exactly the same reasoning.

      1. Ahahahaha you’ve actually missed my very obvious point. I’m going to have to spell it out for you.

        We’re discussing public infrastructure projects that cost billions of dollars and which will need to serve Auckland for decades & possibly centuries to come and which will have a heavy impact on how the city functions in the future and which will effect people’s lives. And (amongst other word salad about how electric trains are somehow passe) you’re actually blathering-on some utterly cretinous wank about how Auckland should go for light rail because”cool cities” are building it?!
        What are ya?! 11 years old or something? This is exactly like the sort of thinking that stupid adolescents (and more pathetic teenagers) have of “ooh I’d better waste my money on that crappy label clothing or get that fashionable hairstyle that looks so silly on me because ‘the cool kids’ do it and I might be accepted as ‘cool’ too”. Or did you never actually advance socially past that or something?
        And that’s beyond the fact that what’s “cool” is completely subjective anyway. I’ve encountered people who hold steadfast that Palmerston North is “cool”!

        Nobody with any common-sense, mental age over 17 nor IQ over 80 would even entertain if supposed “cool cities” are building light rail or not.

        But I can tell you this: If having light rail didn’t make Newcastle or Canberra “cool” then that’s enough reason to know that it won’t make Auckland “cool” either. It will just add to the long list of things that make Auckland bloody “try-hard”.

        Now please spare the people on this forum your low-IQ, vapid and utterly puerile verbal diarrhea.

      2. >you’re actually blathering-on some utterly cretinous wank about how Auckland should go for light rail because”cool cities” are building it?!

        Okay, Daniel, if this is the way you want to play it…

        As you seem to be completely unaware, cities are, by and large, trapped in a process of competition with each other for people. This is both in terms of residents and workers, but also in being seen to be attractive places to do business. I can give you some reading material if you want, but the basic argument is that this is an inevitable result of neoliberal city leadership. It’s a very trivial exercise to point out how much emphasis Auckland’s placed on being liveable or Goff’s vapid sounding “:city where talent and enterprise can thrive.”

        It is very much an important consideration for the way globalised cities work to look like a global city. This is one of the critiques of the whole “brain drain” idea. The previous government decided that the best way to keep NZ’s graduates in NZ was to charge them interest on their student loans. Okay, seems to have worked. But wouldn’t it have been better to make them want to stay?


        >ooh I’d better waste my money on that crappy label clothing or get that fashionable hairstyle that looks so silly on me because ‘the cool kids’ do it and I might be accepted as ‘cool’ too”.

        Since you seem to have missed it… what are the consequences of these adolescents doing this? (Also, btw, this is the vast majority of people.) Pretty much nothing.

        The consequences of cities failing to provide what people like are quite severe. No-one moves to them. People leave them. Those that don’t enter into a death spiral caused by declining revenues but stagnant borders (same area, less money for services => more reason to move => more people move => even less money, same area => even more reason to move etc.). That’s a huge deal… for everyone.

        Just because the action seems the same, that doesn’t mean the stakes are. You could be playing poker for $1 or a million. Either way, you’re still playing poker.

        This is some very basic reasoning Eyre.

        Also, nice strawman. Funny how a threefold case gets reduced to a single aspect of one the three folds. No. It doesn’t work like that. Engage with the whole argument. There’s a reason there’s a whole argument.

        >And that’s beyond the fact that what’s “cool” is completely subjective anyway.

        Again, think about what you’re saying. Just because “cool” is subjective does not mean it’s not predictable. There are enormous industries predicated on this very fact.

        You really should notice this since your evidence relies on Palmerston North’s being mostly seen as uncool. That means that people cluster around certain things as cool and certain things as uncool, even if it also means not everyone agrees. Thing is, the only one saying everyone agrees is… you. That’s the problem with strawmen. You’re finding very, very weak arguments to argue with propositions you yourself have invented.

        It’s a bit like that time you tried to convince everyone there’s a agreed definition of what’s heavy rail and then provided sources that explicitly disagreed with you. Just, you know, less blatant.

        >If having light rail didn’t make Newcastle or Canberra “cool” then that’s enough reason to know that it won’t make Auckland “cool” either.

        Yes, because the claim was causal.

        > it’s modern and it feels like Auckland’s joining the adult’s table, yeah?

        No. It’s a claim that Auckland is beginning to look like a city of its ambitions ought to.

        Do try and read, Eyre. It tends to give one an advantage. I’d start with GA’s user guidelines.

    2. “Thirdly, people have finally woken up and realised that South-West Auckland is massively underserved by public transport. I know people are going on about the North West but it’s just not the same because, you know, it’s closer to the CBD and it gets attention anyway (let us not dwell on why)”

      Westgate is less than 5km from the CBD closer than Mangere is. Kumeu is pretty much the exact same distance. For all the extra ‘attention’ it’s getting, it’s sure not getting any rapid transit any quicker. Both areas are extremely isolated, the reason people keep bringing up the North West in relation to LRT is because the North West rapid transit situation is currently stuck in limbo until the South Western part of Auckland gets sorted out. There’s also tens of thousands of houses going into North West Auckland, just like the massive intensification the South West is facing. But sure, it’s racism or whatever.

  24. Maybe this whole mess just needs to be left alone until it dries out and stops smelling so bad.

    Instead how about proving light rail somewhere less controversial – maybe Airport through Puhinui to Botany? It would still attract the interest of annoying CBD-to-Airport-land-speed-record zealots, but at least they wouldn’t feel completely left out so there might be a degree of restraint to their carping.

    1. So you’re saying that Auckland should build light rail purely for the reason of… …building light rail of some sort?

  25. He does not belive in anything left nor right he likes power and money and wearing a suit. I met the wanker ..

  26. I am worried about the ridiculous costs being toted for heavy-rail stations, whether underground or not. The two proposed over-ground Drury stations illustrate this trend. We seem to have lost the art of specifying and building basic stations which are not gold-plated. Why is this? Burgeoning safety requirements which rule out a lot of what already exists as ‘non-compliant’ are one reason. Another is ‘nice-to-haves’ of one sort or another, which become enshrined as ‘best-practice’ and then mandated in any new design. So up and up goes the cost of heavy rail. Much of what we already have would likely have been unaffordable at the time it was built, if today’s specifications had applied. Yet we use it, we benefit from it, and we enjoy far greater levels of safety and amenity than if it had not been built and everything was just going by road. And note, this trend is not unique to New Zealand. It is happening over much of the developed world.

    So how much are we short-changing ourselves out of the immense benefits of rail simply because we insist on such over-the-top specs that much of what could be built never is? Light rail is perhaps seen as a way of circumventing this trend, by starting with a concept that up-to-now has been less tied up in regulatory knots. This doesn’t mean it is inherently better value, just that it hasn’t got so bogged-down by specification-creep (yet). The heavy-rail concept is overdue for some sort of reassessment/reset, to sort the wheat from the chaff in this area. How this will happen in an era where butt-protection is the prime concern of every decision-maker or risk-taker everywhere, I do not know. But if we don’t get on top of this, then expect to see the same trend emerge with light rail – like platform-screen-doors mandated at every stop out in the suburbs – and watch its costs also soar.
    Meanwhile death, destruction and mayhem will likely continue unabated on our roads – the only system seen as ‘affordable’. and ‘giving good value’. (/cynicism)

    1. David,
      A question. It seems that modern light rail seems to have spectacular emergency braking capabilities using magnetic brakes direct on the tracks.
      Ok a lower mass would work in their favour.
      But a safety disadvantage of heavy rail appears to be a more leisurely peak braking performance. This seems to have justified a lot more expensive measures instead to enhance separation.
      Are we at the limits for heavy rail braking performance and is direct on track braking an option here as well? The rails would need to be well secured to the sleepers.

  27. The bottom line here is that we can’t afford this dithering.

    The Covid-19 crisis means that we’ll likely end up with double digit unemployment. Tying this project in knots for the next several years is wasting time which we don’t have. We need projects that can launch right away.

    As far as I can tell, the NZ Super bid is little better than a pipe dream. Basically a lot of words but virtually nothing concrete. No studies, no engineering plans or business case… just a “oh we can do better than that” declaration.

    I’ve got a good idea, lets tell the politicians, no ministerial cars and no free lunches until you sort this out. We’d probably get crushed in the stampede that followed.

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