Last week the Herald ran their annual Project Auckland report which focuses primarily on the being built and talked about. I was asked to write something on what is important for the government consider in their upcoming decision on Light Rail.

Given most people are unlikely to have seen it, I thought I’d also post it here – even though they managed to spell my name wrong. For regular readers most of this should be nothing new.

We can’t risk railroading of Auckland’s transport planning

In the coming weeks, the government will make a critical decision: who it will partner with to deliver light rail in Auckland. The choice is between two competing bids, one from their own transport delivery agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) and one from NZ Infra, a joint venture between the NZ Super Fund and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), a Quebec-based pension fund.
At the highest level, the decision is twofold: what will be built and how it will be paid for.

The choice of a delivery partner currently rests on the financing aspect. But both bidders were required to submit technical solutions, which will form the basis for the more detailed discussion and planning yet to come.

According to Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, both proposals now involve metro-style driverless trains, which would run alongside the motorway from the airport, then through the isthmus via a combination of elevated, trenched and underground sections.

This is a departure from previous planning for Auckland light rail, and is similar to Vancouver’s SkyTrain and Copenhagen’s Metro – as well as a line CDPQ is currently building in Montreal.

There are numerous benefits to the new approach, but the key downside is higher costs. The $4.5 billion City Rail Link shows the cost and level of disruption caused by digging through the city centre. Is the government comfortable to repeat that, and more, when for the same money they could build 2-3 more conventional, but still high-quality, light rail lines? The latter option would bring desperately needed high-quality public transport to a wider proportion of Auckland, and sooner.

At this stage, the financing side is the focus. A key factor in the recently announced $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme is that the government is now capable of borrowing at near record low levels of less than 1.5%. The NZ Infra proposal would need to be extraordinary to appeal as an alternative to those low borrowing rates.

The minister has described the NZ Infra bid as “unique and compelling”. He has also characterised it as a “Public-Public Partnership”, saying “every time you ride a train to work, you’re effectively paying for your retirement”.

In fact, you’d be disproportionately paying for other people’s retirements.

The Montreal project mentioned earlier is the expected blueprint for NZ Infra’s Auckland bid. There, in return for providing half of the CA$6.5 billion construction costs, CDPQ gets a 70% stake in the resulting infrastructure. The local and provincial governments are on the hook for the operational costs of running services; plus a distance-based fee to cover the capital costs. CDPQ gets first bite at that fee until they achieve an 8-9% annual return, which they will enjoy for 99 years.

We understand the equivalent proposal for Auckland would run for 50 years, but CDPQ’s stake would be 70% of the upfront funding, and of the returns.

So the government is effectively deciding whether to sign up our children’s children to a 50-year deal, the profits of which would largely go into Canadian retirement funds. This doesn’t sound like a compelling investment in our future.

Even to get to this point, the process has been unusual. Best practice for developing major projects is to first identify and analyse the problems you face, then explore the best options to solve them. Only once that work is done should you consider funding models and how to engage with the market to deliver the chosen solution.

Those first two stages typically involve major engagement with stakeholders and the public, whose feedback helps shape the project to ensure the best outcomes.

Here, that process has been turned on its head. The government is leaping to consider who’ll fund and build something before working out what the something actually is.

A handy example of the risks of this approach is Melbourne’s Westgate Tunnel. After the deal was signed, the budget blew up from $5.5 to $6.7 billion – to mitigate community concerns that would normally have been discovered earlier in the process.

Similar cost escalations here would have political and economic implications, and could put the entire project at risk. Auckland’s history is already littered with grand schemes that failed for cost and political reasons, and many missed opportunities to get it right.

Australia’s experience also tells us that once large-scale infrastructure like this is privatised, the owner can start demanding greater influence over what happens in other parts of the city. In our case, this could range from dictating the location of parking and local bus routes, to preventing delivery of other large strategic projects if they’re seen as a threat to profitability.

Light rail, done well, will open up Auckland for success. We simply cannot risk transport planning in our powerhouse city being railroaded by a poorly-devised private ownership model.

After submitting the piece the NZ SuperFund confirmed in a parliament select committee that CDPQ does not have a 70% stake in NZ Infra but they also haven’t denied a rumour that they’re seeking a 7% return from the deal. I don’t have any specific information about that but the companies office registration shows NZ Super Fund and CDPQ both having a 50% stake in NZ Infra Ltd.

Now we await the government’s decision.

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  1. “According to Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, both proposals now involve metro-style driverless trains, which would run alongside the motorway from the airport, then through the isthmus via a combination of elevated, trenched and underground sections.

    This is a departure from previous planning for Auckland light rail”

    It’s looking more and more likely to me that the entire thing will be canceled.

    1. Perhaps we could turn it into the Central Motorway instead. We already have the New North Road / Dominion Road interchange built, an onramp from Hobson Street, and the Hillsborough section. All it needs is a designation somewhere between Dominion Road and Mt Eden Road. roughly where it was supposed to go in the early 1970s.

  2. Whatever happens, they aren’t planning on it happening any time soon. Chris Bishop has received an answer to a question stating that there has been no discussion of a start date for construction. For a project that was campaigned on being delivered in 2021.

    Also, is this just now going to the Economic Development Committee for a vote, or has it been through that process and going to the actual cabinet for consideration? We only have so many post-Monday cabinet press conferences between now and the end of the month.

    1. Plus, given the fact that borrowing money costs almost nothing at the moment and governments are expecting prolonged impact from Covid19, it seems like a great idea for a stimulus package would just be giving AT the money to build the three branches it was talking about before NZTA co-opted the process and laying the foundations for one out west, even if it does operate as a busway initially.

  3. National Radio has reported the government is split three ways on this. Twyford is a massive fan of the Superfund light metro concept, Adern and Robertson still favour the original light rail proposal, meanwhile NZF are using the confusion to revisit heavy rail.

    Surely it is time for the PM to accept that her Minister is out of his depth – well meaning but ineffective / incapable and put someone in place who will get things done. Light rail was a key deliverable promised by this government. We are further away from ground being broken than we were three years ago. LR down Dominion Rd was already going to face stiff opposition. Elevated metro – decades of delays.

    Someone should be held accountable for this fiasco and the Minister is the obvious choice

    1. Light rail built by not was one of the key deciding factors as to why I voted for Labour. I’m seriously considering voting against them later this year. But because I really like any of National’s policies but I would ensure we don’t go ahead with this fiasco.

    2. Plus the Greens are favouring the original AT project. It would be good to see them making a stand on this one.

      1. It would be good to see them do anything on this one. Given the furore over what they were apparently prepared to when it came to GWM, their silence here is incredibly disapppointing.

    3. What we will end up with is nothing. There is a good chance National will win the next election if they do they will can the whole project anyway. Phil Twyford is a bungler he should not be allowed anywhere near major portfolios.

    4. If Ardern and Robertson favour the original AT scheme then they should be aware that there are issues about how to allocate space for Light Rail on Dominion Road. And that the only practical way of fitting a trams, tram stop, footpath and bike lanes at commercial centers on Dominion Road is to stop through traffic. Either by lights/time -which is problematic or permanently.
      So for Ardern and Robertson choosing AR original scheme would mean publicly supporting closing Dominion Road for motor vehicles.

        1. “ closing Dominion Road for motor vehicles”

          That’s a tad dramatic don’t you think, restricting traffic for a block or two in a couple of village centres is hardly closing the street.

      1. and would mean they would publicly have a feasible plan to reduce our emissions.

        They should have been messaging the need to reduce traffic since they were in opposition.

        This is an excellent demonstration of why the sector’s refusal to follow best-practice travel demand management – and have vkt reduction as an overt goal – is impacting on major transport decisions.

        1. Yes and AT (and maybe AC politicians too) should have been clearer about what was being proposed with LR and why it was important.

          It was ‘interesting’ that the above linked Greater Auckland piece discussing how to allocate the road width space came out after the 2017 election (not blaming GA the problem was the lack of info from AT). So not exactly in keeping with the spirit of a fully informed democracy…

      2. ‘And that the only practical way of fitting a trams, tram stop, footpath and bike lanes at commercial centers on Dominion Road is to stop through traffic. Either by lights/time -which is problematic or permanently.’

        Yes exactly that’s the solution, and is a great benefit of the scheme; adding high quality transit AND reducing traffic space. Perfect.

      3. “So for Ardern and Robertson choosing AR original scheme would mean publicly supporting closing Dominion Road for *motorised through traffic*.”

        It’s an important difference. Access by motor vehicle will still be possible. Through travel will be severely limited.

      4. If you go back to historical articles on this website; you’ll see me asking serious questions about whether there’s enough space to fit a dedicated light rail and enough lanes for regular automobile traffic down Dominion Road (without demolishing the shops etc that face the footpaths). Answers were elusive. One of them was comparisons with Seattle whose successful light rail utilises the median strip of a major thoroughfare Martin Luther King Drive.
        I also asked whether there’s enough space to fit both two tracks of light rail and two possible tracks of mainline (and all their required clearances) in the corridor safeguarded for the future Southdown-Avonside link. I was told “there just is” even though satellite images suggest there isn’t.

        I think these might also be reasons why the project has suddenly become a light metro.

        1. A light metro trench isn’t going to be any less impact in dominion road, and the width of the Southdown designation won’t change by putting metro in it instead of light rail.

        2. If the trench is covered (to become a cut-and-cover tunnel); then the lanes of traffic are retained.
          And if the light metro is on a viaduct along the southdown designation; the pylons would take up less physical space.

      5. In corridor running will require a re-evaluation of how much space there is on the road available to different users, yes. This is a trade off we have to make if we don’t want to pay squillions to elevate or underground.

        Incidentally, if we accept we can shift bike traffic onto footpaths per NZTA’s proposed guidelines then that allows is to rework the entire road + footpath space for something more suitable/better. Yes, there might be less parking for me to pop into Cambridge on weekends and park outside. Should the entire street be set up so people like me can pop into Cambridge and park outside on weekends? That’s the rub.

        I vote “Probably not”, but the forum to air all these things out would have been an open and consultative process to choose a design and proposal, not picking a proposal before you know what it’s going to look like or achieve.

        1. Except that if you’re moving bikes onto the footpath, you’ll need to widen the footpath to provide space for cyclists and pedestrians to coexist. Which means narrowing the road…

      6. Or alternatively they could widen Dominion Road using the ‘Road Widening for Passenger Transport’ designation that has been in place on either side for years.

        1. Yes I think he is aware they want the tracks in the middle busdriver. His point is the road isn’t wide enough to allow that without cars and trams sharing space at stops. (Look at the second photo in the series you linked.) This means that under the AT plan a stopped tram will block traffic and even worse a queue of cars will block trams. That means we will have paid a small fortune for something that is worse than what we have now.

  4. The government is currently paralyzed over this, with clear split in views between the coalition partners.

    “…according to Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, both proposals now involve metro-style driverless trains, which would run alongside the motorway from the airport, then through the isthmus via a combination of elevated, trenched and underground sections…”

    This is utterly bizarre. It is hard to not smell the corrupt stench of an extraordinary level of special pleading and lobbying and see a minister who has been “got to” by powerful corporate interests reeking from every word of that quote.

    Shane Jones and his Provincial Growth Fund is a billion bucks that looks to have actually made a lot of reasonable investments, but for some reason that excites a corporate media that hates NZ First. This massive potential waste of billions and billions on what looks suspiciously like a corrupt, tax payer funded gold plated get rich scheme for a foreign corporation doesn’t seem to be attracting half the attention it should be.

    1. I don’t generally have much time for Winston and his party and their populist politicking.
      But I have to concede; they have done a decent job as a minor coalition partner in government. I’d far rather Shane Jones was the minister of transport than Phil Twyford.

    2. Yes, NZF doesn’t seem to be following the concept of using analysis before making decisions for the PGF. Neither does Labour – with this, and with the infrastructure announcement.

      But Gee! The amounts of money involved are different.

      1. “NZF doesn’t seem to be following the concept of using analysis before making decisions for the PGF”

        It depends on what the objective is. If it is buying votes then perhaps they have done their analysis.

        1. But wasn’t Twyford’s promise of “light rail to the airport by the America’s cup”… …an attempt at “buying votes”?

      2. There is such a thing as overplanning. They used to call it paralysis by analysis. Sometimes you need to use your instincts. The light metro rail doesn’t feel right. But then again when they decided to extend the original light rail to the airport was when they lost my support for any light rail. I now think we should just have a simple tram up Queen Street with heaps of traffic light priority so it travels much much faster than walking. Maybe then Dominion road bus passengers will be happy to transfer. If that’s a success we could look at extending it.

        1. Problem is Twyford appears to have used his instincts, problem is they are a bit different to yours or mine.

        2. He has listened to advice from the Ministry of Transport. They have other priorities and agendas.

        3. Ain’t nobody at the ministry advising Twyford to sign on to a $20b PPP. This is Twyford going with his gut and telling everyone what he wants.

        4. What on Earth are the benefits of just running a tram up Queen Street for the price? What can’t a bus lane and the City Link combined with the CRL not acheive?

        5. @Royce: I severely doubt that the MoT or NZTA or Kiwirail or the usual suspects of blame on here are in any way favouring a light metro.

        6. Depends if you’re prepared to actually consider the Light Rail proposals beyond mischaracterising them as a “tram up Queen Street”. That information is widely available, even on this very website.

        7. MOT – ok, agreed that this is probably all a Phil T push/decision at the moment. But, if you really are from MOT, could you tell us what the Ministry themselves would be keen to do?

      3. Why don’t you go to the PGF website and discover how the investment decisions are made before making ill informed comments. The PGF is a highly successful initiative making small but very useful investments around the country, it’s a real break from the deadening 80s idealogy that has stifled development and held back productivity.

        1. You seem to be confusing the PGF with NZTA, the PGF is about more than just transport projects. As far as I know, the PGF is not ‘investing’ in bus stops and isn’t likely to.

        2. I’m not confusing them; they have different roles. As we noted, the NZTA says:

          “To support regional development, as a key partner in the Provincial Growth Fund programme, we will help to assess investment opportunities and plan and deliver transport infrastructure and services that support tourism, economic growth and regional connections… We will… work with the Provincial Development Unit to advise on investment opportunities and applications and release funding for land transport projects…”

          How can the PGF decide between investing in aviation and investing in buses, when they cannot compare the return on investment for the two modes?

          And investing in aviation they are most certainly doing.

          Without evidence of effects, and without having to justify the emissions the investment will cause.

        3. “As far as I know, the PGF is not ‘investing’ in bus stops and isn’t likely to.”

          The PGF says, “Through the Provincial Growth Fund and other initiatives, the Government will support our regions so all New Zealanders, town or city, can fully participate in an economy that is sustainable, inclusive and productive.”

          So why, exactly, can’t this include investment in the bus system? Plenty of people in the provinces can’t afford to fly. Is it because Shane Jones’ mates want to fly, not take the bus? They don’t seem to be making good decisions for “all New Zealanders, town or city”, mate!

          “Why don’t you go to the PGF website and discover how the investment decisions are made before making ill informed comments.”

          Why don’t you go to the PGF website and realise just how biased they’re being before you call someone ill informed.

      1. Hmmmm…. indeed. Out of the pan…

        We should be able to expect transparent evidence-based decision-making from them all.

      2. Well… …do you think Jones is stupid enough to not see that the NZ government would be paying for the retirement of Canadians like Twyford clearly is?
        Because I don’t.

    3. Not sure I’d describe much of what the PGF has done so far as reasonable. It has mostly funnelled money into Auckland and Wellington consultancies preparing business cases.

      1. So there is analysis of the proposals before the investment is made. Good, glad we cleared that up. Now you just need to prove your assertion that the PGF has spent more on consultancies than actual investment grants.

  5. “both proposals now involve metro-style driverless trains, which would run alongside the motorway from the airport, then through the isthmus via a combination of elevated, trenched and underground sections”

    If that is the answer, what was the question?

    The minister has described the NZ Infra bid as “unique and compelling”.

    Compelling. In a procurement context that word is alarming, particularly before any commitment is made. Time to fire Mr. Twyford.

    1. Compelling as in world class rapid transit with low on going operating costs versus a light rail line which is slower than the existing bus and regularly runs into cars and pedestrians resulting in the whole thing closing down for hours. And the building of the light rail line is likely to cause just as much disruption as the elevated light metro. Just moving the services will be a nightmare.

      1. The only thing compelling about it is the compulsion to make massive ongoing payments to Canada.

        An elevated/trenches/tunneled metro will have ten times the disruption of surface light rail. You still have to relocate the services to stick a viaduct on top, cut a trench or tunnel through, and then you have to build the viaduct, dig out a trench or build a tunnel. And then the stations… look at what Aotea needs.

        FFS. People are deluding themselves that this could be anything as simple as light rail.

        1. No Riccardo, you do not. LR requires huge amounts of ripping up streets and relocating services as can be witnessed in Sydney… think what happened for the CRL but along 4x the distance. Elevated rail can be built very quickly as pylons can be installed on a small footprint (Half the size of a Prius) and the beams installed at night (as is being done with the NEX extension and previously with the Waterview interchange). From there work can be completed with next to no disruption to the street below.

        2. Installing pylons along an existing road will still be very disruptive. Also I don’t think night works along Dominion Rd will be viable with it being a residential street.

          It’s largely academic, if a flyover at the Basin Reserve can’t get consent there isn’t a hope in hell of an elevated railway the length of Dominion Rd getting consent.

        3. I don’t think there would be too much difference in disruption between the two options.

        4. “pylons can be installed on a small footprint”

          There you go, Sailor Boy. No need for foundations when a small footprint will do!

        5. Explain that to me AKLDUDE. How is it that you can’t build light rail tracks on services but you can build concrete viaduct piers con services?

          The busway extension is an excellent example, I suggest you go down there and look around in foot at what they are doing. You know they had to buy and demolish the entire Turners Car Auctions site just to fit in the elevated station.

        6. AKLDUDE, go to KL and see the massive footprint their elevated MRT line leaves.

          You lose a traffic lane, for a start, for the supports. And the cost of large elevated stations (supports, escalators, lifts, etc)….its astronomical.

        7. No surprises the comments from Riccardo, Sailorboy and MFD… :/
          I doubt that all 3 of you are really that stupid… but then again who knows…?

          Of course pylons need foundations…
          These can be built around services for the most part and where not possible it shouldn’t be hard to reroute the limited services where needed. Compare that to street running LR where ALL services that are located under the street (except very deep running ones) have to be rerouted and replaced at huge expense and disruption!

        8. I don’t think you understand the issue here. The services run along the middle of the road, and have to be relocated to the edges before you can lay a track slab or build a row of viaduct piers on top, or dig a trench or build a cut and cover tunnel. Otherwise you break you services and can never get at them to maintain or replace.

          Your idea of putting the piers were there are no services means not putting them in a road. I suppose you could divert them around every 20m where you want a footing, but that would be vastly more difficult than relocating the whole thing.

      2. “slower than the existing bus”

        You’ve clearly never caught a bus down Dominion Road if you think 25 minutes from Britomart to SH20 is slower than the existing travel time.

        1. You’ve clearly never caught a train from Papakura to Britomart which was supposed to be a shorter trip time after electrification but instead ended up taking longer. There are so many if’s and might be’s around this priority along Dominion Road and elsewhere on the planned route, I’d be suprised if the actual average speeds/trip times are anything near the 25 minutes. The light metro, OTOH, will achieve the speed/time promises. Easily.

        2. So heavy rail can’t deliver on its promised travel times, light rail can’t deliver on its promised travel times, but magically light metro can?

        3. Light rail can only deliver on its promised travel times with draconian priority measures which I don’t think would be acceptable. It will end up like Sydney, sitting at traffic lights. Heavy rail was just the ancient network cosmetically improved but still fundamentally inadequate. A light metro will be modern from top to bottom and completely seperate from road traffic.

        4. Predicted travel times should take all of these factors into account, of course they don’t because someone is usually trying to sell a concept. There is no reason this will be any different for light metro.

          Incidentally the ‘draconian’ priority measures don’t seem to be causing an issue in Canberra, where light rail has met predicted travel times.

        5. Canberra is a planned city with hugely wide boulevard type main roads and spacious central medians. The light rail was easy to install and easy to run as a result, nothing like trying to shoehorn it on to Dominion Road.

        6. And that used to have both a tram and plenty of cyclists. It’s the traffic that’s been shoe-horned in.

        7. And most of Dom Rd has a slab of concrete running down the centre were the old Tram Lines were and over the years it all has been covered in asphlate , so there should not be that many services under it .

      3. “world class rapid transit with low on going operating costs”

        So how many entities did they approach with this specific requirement?

        How many bids did they get to select the “compelling” bid from?

        When they approached the market what, specifically, did they ask for?

        The whole notion that there is “compulsion” involved in accepting an unsolicited bid (or any bid) is alarming.

      4. Never been to Vancouver then it sounds like for a bunch of you.
        Oh and the stations are considered a feature and have things like Tim Hortons, A&W etc built into them. Apartment buildings are built beside with entrances to the station.

        1. There’s nowhere in Vancouver where Sky train runs above a 20m wide suburban road from my observations. A lot of it is actually in a dedicated corridor, which is more representative of what has been built on the Pakenham line in Melbourne.

          There are very few parts of Dominion Rd where an elevated station would be considered a feature.

  6. The question is “The Canadians showed Twyford a picture of a shiny new metro, so he told NZTA he only wants to see a shiny new metro”.

    Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

  7. the moment a PPP scheme is disingenuously called a Public Public Partnership you know the concept is in trouble. PPP schemes the world over have rarely lived up to the hype and never more so at this time and place. When interest rates fall further in the near future, NZ will be locked into decades of golden returns going to a foreign pension fund. Pension funds are just like any other investment vehicle, they maximise returns for stakeholders. This would be the wrong choice at the wrong time delivering the wrong outcomes, don’t do it!

  8. Surely there is no way to justify paying Canada 7% for 100 years?
    But then in a vacuum of information, how would we know?
    This government is shambolic, leaderless and consistently under performs with little repercussion, especially from a complicit media. Twyford should have been fired many times: racism, kiwibuild, cellphone, light rail. But then the cupboard is bare, there is nobody better available.

    1. “But then the cupboard is bare, there is nobody better available”
      Labour was in opposition for 9 years. If there’s really nobody else around (within Labour) than Phil Twyford, then there’s something fundamentally wrong within the party.

      1. Their main problem is they had a very small caucus after the 2011 and 2014 elections. Some decent MPs came in after the improvement in the vote in 2017 but it’s a big call to promote them straight to cabinet within their first term.

  9. I reckon the driverless metro was a deliberate ploy by the status quo money men/national party financiers to stall Light Rail until the next change of government when they can get back to the ‘Moar Roads’ philosophy.

    1. Ah yes, the incapability of Labour to deliver a key election platform is actually National’s fault, despite them not being in government since August 2017.

    2. Nearly three years after Jacinda made this flagship promise, we have no business case, we have no costings, we have no route map, we don’t even have an identification of the objectives of why they’re doing it in the first place.
      The driverless metro and the original council LRT scheme are answers to very different sets of objectives.
      The driverless metro bid appears to have had its genesis in a January 2018 meeting between Cullen, Twyford, Robertson and Sir Brian Roche, Labour appointed chair of the NZTA.
      The ‘Moar Roads’ Labour party in January 2020 announced $3.5b of new roads in Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury and Queenstown, including four projects stalled in late 2017.
      Your statement appears accurate if you were describing Labour status quo money men/party financiers, rather than National.

  10. It kind of reminds me of that cartoon strip – what the customer wanted was a tyre swing but after going through all the different people got something a lot different and a lot more expensive.

    We wanted light rail as it was meant to replace the buses as they were reaching capacity. This was meant to serve the Dominion Rd. Somehow the airport got clipped on and now we are talking about driverless metro.

    I have liked the driverless metro when I have used them overseas but, as far as I aware, it needs to be grade separated the whole way and, therefore, the costs go up. Perhaps the costs are too much for this project.

    I have said it before but if you voted for this government then you have to be very disappointed. This government after 2 years still cannot organise themselves. And Mr. Twyford has to go as he has delivered nothing.

    1. Light Metro’s have been a success in many locations like Vancouver, Kuala Lumpur, East London, etc.

      But I can’t see there being anywhere near enough of a population catchment along Dominion Road, along the SW Motorway, Mangere and the Airport in the forseeable future to pay this off for… …ever.

      1. “But I can’t see there being anywhere near enough of a population catchment along Dominion Road”

        The population along Dominion Road will greatly increase as that area is intensified with new 5 story apartment buildings.

        The LRT is designed to be a catalyst for this redevelopment is not about an express tram to the airport!

        1. That redevelopment is de facto illegal.

          Most of that area is so-called Single Housing Zone, which is there specifically to prevent any such development.

        2. If its relying on development, then I think we will want to see a fair bit of development occur before we put in the light rail or light metro, rather than the other way round.

    2. It’s called scope creep, Adrian. It’s one of the primary reasons large capital projects go over budget and time. Successful project managers learn how to ruthlessly control scope and changes to scope.

      1. I agree MFD – but this is massive. If the costs get to $5b (probably more delivered) then it will be very hard to justify.

        1. Agreed…so if $5bn is the wrong answer then we need a different question…hence my comment above: If that is the answer, what was the question?

          In developing capital projects such as this the requirements and the bidders’ responses to those requirements need to be explicit and measurable.

  11. I think that Twyford is guilty of paying too much attention to the Ministry, Treasury, and outside lobbyists, all pushing their own barrows.

    I don’t think he is the sort of person that likes to have to make a decision like this one, or to say no to anybody

  12. 7% plus annual return is a lot.

    Since we can borrow at 1.5%, we might just fund it yourself.

    The only advantage is private investor take the risk for construction blow out and make operation more efficiency.

    For NZ, to get the best deal balanced with the risk, we may renegotiate terms in the contract to instead giving it 99 years, NZ government progressively buy the share out at the rate of 5% per year.

    So by year 20, we will fully own it, and still give CDPQ a good return over 20 years and a good incentives to do it right.

  13. We should be exceedingly cautious of signing any private public partnership deals with foreign commercial interests given the desire of many governments to couple investor protection clauses into any future free trade deals.
    Such a deal could well tie future Council and Government transport, and land development plans into expensive and time consuming negotiations and compensation if the investor thought such developments disadvantaged them in any way. In fact such deals may be an impediment to making otherwise advantageous trade agreements.

  14. There should be no ability for the developer to demand other changes etc (ie to competition etc). With the low rates of borrowing, this should be mostly funded by low interest government borrowing, if others want in then they can do so regarding building and operating it providing they do so in a way that doesn’t rip off users or ratepayers.

    1. Mayor Quimby : Order! Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.

      Homer : Get to the money!

      Mayor Quimby : In a moment. First, let’s review the minutes from our last meeting.

      Apu : Get to the money!

      Rev. Lovejoy : Get to the money!

      Grampa Simpson : Get to the moneeey!

      Mayor Quimby : Very well. We will now hear suggestions for the disbursement of the $2million.

      Lisa Simpson : Don’t you mean $3million?

      Mayor Quimby : Of course. How silly of me.

  15. Personally, ive always been in favour of turning most of Queen St into a mall & running light rail up & down it.

    Once it became profitable, you could then run it as a loop down Symonds st.

    When that became profitable, you could then run another loop down Nelson st.

    I agree that some form of rapid transit is needed down dominion Rd but I think a train line built using cut and cover would be more appropriate.

    1. Sorry Rodney Chan, but all of those suggestions are ridiculous. What are you achieving with any of those schemes? What is the object for the $millions it would cost?

      Also a heavy rail line under Dominion Road? To where

    2. Cut and cover is astronomically expensive and disruptive. All the services need relocation, and those gravity services, storm water and waste water may need considerable rerouting to maintain falls. Effectively a massively wide bridge, kilometres wide. Stations are track plus platform width for the full train length. Stations need escalators and lift access as well as considerable surface structures. With lighting and ventilation requirements incurring considerable operational expenses. Why? If the answer is to preserve existing general road capacity, then priorities are unbelievably wrong.

      1. Why? Mainly to speed up the airport line (and make it driverless). But if a fast driverless train to the airport is your goal, I’m not sure dominion road is the correct route. Why not carry on down the southwestern and somehow get to the northwestern? That way it would also be a good chunk of that route done too. And also do the original light rail plan on dominion.

        1. An express rapid transit line exclusively for Auckland international airport would be a white elephant. The airport is nowhere near busy enough to generate enough passenger patronage let alone with enough of a percentage of wanting to go to Auckland’s CBD to even cover the operating costs of such a line.

        2. Getting people occasionally, to and from the airport is minor need, compared to getting Aucklanders daily to and from their work, their educational facilities, their shopping and their recreational and social locations.


        3. @Don Robertson
          I agree. And I doubt that Auckland international airport is anywhere near busy enough to generate enough patronage to support a dedicated service.

          I’ve said it all along; the original plan of double-tracking the Onehunga branch, then extending it into Mangere, then extending that to the Airport (and it doesn’t need to use the airport corridor as most of Mangere is state housing), then connecting the Airport to the Southern Line near the connection to the Manukau line remains the best idea. It doesn’t have to happen in one go, At some stage; Onehunga’s town centre might well become developed enough to generate a demand that can justify the grade separation & double-tracking & new station anyway.

        4. Agree don, I don’t see the need for speed either. But obviously Twyford does. The extension of dominion road light rail to the airport was meant to be a cheap way of serving the airport and Mangere with a reasonable PT option. If Twyford wants to give them a faster option I don’t think dominion road is the best solution.

    3. “you could then run it as a loop down Symonds st.”

      Please do some research on the current AT Metro PT network before posting solutions, to a problem that doesn’t exist.

      Symonds Street is already a major ingress and egress route for numerous bus routes, plus you can already get from Queen Street to Symonds Street by using the OuterLink bus. This bus runs every 10-15 minutes 7 days a week.

      There is no suggestion that train, bus or LRT routes will ever run at a profit based upon the current fare box recovery.


  16. Further question for Jacinda/Twyford: Why is National MP Chris Bishop doing more for the light rail project than they are? This is quite an achievement given he is fundamentally opposed to it.

  17. Unfortunately I think the whole project as descended from selecting the route details and make of rigidly guided light rail vehicles, to being run by a totally unguided and uncoupled behemoth, with little idea where they are at let alone, where they wants to be and when. But they do seem to be discussing the fares and who will pay as a first step.

  18. There is only one question to be asked about all of this…. What does Winston think?? Because it is he, and no one else that really decides on what happens and what doesn’t…

  19. “What does Winston think??”

    Provided he can negotiate an additional ratepayer funded subsidy for the racing industry or fishing industry he will stay on the fence on the LRT project.

  20. No PPP. 7% is horrific. I really hope the grown-ups in government won’t seriously entertain what is such an obvious con-job.

  21. Call me old fashioned if you like but I believe that Kiwis should own all critical infrastructure locally.

    I can understand the governments view though. Involving private enterprise in construction is a way of delivering major projects with little upfront cost. Unfortunately, (as noted) those companies are seeking significant Return-On-Investment (ROI) for their outlay and will actively discourage anything that might threaten that.

    Personally I think the NZ Infra / NZ SuperFund bid is a distraction that we don’t need. It could take years to evaluate their proposal and from what I’ve read, its little better than a “oh, we’ve got a better idea than that” concept. Even worse it has the potential to delay a concrete solution that’s on the verge of being implemented.

    If you remember, the Harbour Bridge was tolled for years until it was paid off. The Northern Gateway through Johnsons Hill is still tolled (although we should really move to electronic tolling like Melbourne). If funding is an issue, we can do something like this.

    Ultimately, I don’t believe private enterprise should involve itself at this level.

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