Here’s our weekly roundup.


Budget

Many people were looking to yesterday’s budget announcement to see what projects might get the green light as part of the Government’s call for ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects. However, it seems that announcement is still some weeks away. This is not unusual as we typically haven’t had many surprises in the budget as most actual projects and policies tend to come through the Government Policy Statement and National Land Transport Programme processes.

The only thing we’ve really seen, at least in recent years, has been funding for Kiwirail and that was the case yesterday too. They’re getting $1.2 billion more being invested and this is broken down to four key areas.

Budget 2020 provides over $1.2 billion for rail, including:

  • $246 million to support investment in the track and supporting infrastructure.
  • $400 million to help replace the Interislander ferries and associated portside infrastructure.
  • $421 million for new wagons and locomotives.

Changes proposed through the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill will also provide long-term certainty for rail by allowing network investment to be channelled through the National Land Transport Fund. Budget 2020 provides $148 million to support the fund to make these investments once the Bill has been passed.

There is only really a little bit more information provided in a Kiwirail press release and like previous years, the track and infrastructure proportion will go to a wide range of maintenance projects. For the ferries they say “The two new rail-enabled ferries will be more advanced, have significantly lower emissions and last for the next 30 years“.

Electric ferries starting to become viable but I get the feeling we’re going to end up being a year or two too early for them to be a true consideration for this purchase.


Light Rail

Even prior to the budget there has been reporting that the light rail is on hold with Stuff reporting:

The Government’s flagship infrastructure project has been put “on hold” while it fights the Covid-19 pandemic, but there are some doubts it will ever get going again.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said decisions on Auckland’s light rail project “are on hold while the Government’s full focus is on fighting Covid-19”.

Following the budget this was more widely reported, such as in the herald.

Last night I had an email from the Ministry saying that this is misleading and that the minister is asking for a correction. They also said

The situation is that Ministers have not yet set a timeframe for making a decision on the preferred delivery partner for light rail, given the recent focus on the COVID 19 response. They have not, as the article states, decided to put the project indefinitely on hold.

I get the feeling it could be some time before we actually get a decision, maybe not till after the election. I only hope that by that time, they’ve come to their senses and build something more realistic and affordable than an elevated/underground metro and have us paying billions to cover Canadian pensions.


Level 2

With the country now back to level 2, AT are starting to revert to normal. Full public transport timetables are back to help provide enough capacity as the buses and trains can only carry limited numbers at a time. Normal fares are back too.

Sadly, AT have also been very quick to start pulling out some of the temporary cycleways.

I get the feeling that a number of staff have been itching to do this since before they even installed them and it hasn’t been helped by local politicians focused more on cars than on people.


Plane Train Drivers

Radio NZ reported yesterday that some of the pilots recently made redundant have already applied to become train drivers.

Hundreds of Kiwi pilots have been laid off since airlines were grounded during the global pandemic – and now a group are looking to the railways for employment.

So far, 34 pilots have applied to switch wings for the tracks and become train drivers for the city’s rail network.

Transdev operates Auckland’s commuter rail service, and employs 200 train drivers in the city.

Its managing director, Peter Lensink, said he was pleased to be able to offer employment to pilots, whose skills were ideal for driving trains.

…..

“We’ve got a great opportunity because we are growing and gearing up here in Auckland for the City Rail Link. That will double the amount of services here in four to five years time. We’re therefore able to recruit a large number of train drivers for the future.”

We certainly need more drivers so that seems like a solution. Now what else from the airline industry could we implement on our rail services, onboard drinks service, koru lounge like service at each train station, how about the handing out of lollies as you descend into the CRL?


Puhoi to Warkworth Tolling and Speed Consultation

Waka Kotahi have launched a consultation on tolling the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway.

The new Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway will extend the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) 18.5km from the Johnstones Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth. It will connect to the Northern Gateway section of SH1 south of the Johnstones Hills Tunnels, which is already tolled.

The new motorway will be separated and will vastly improve the safety, connectivity and resilience of the network between Northland and Auckland, helping to boost the economic potential of the Northland region.

Waka Kotahi contracted NX2 in a Public Private Partnership to construct the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway. While the NX2 private-sector consortium is responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the motorway for up to 25 years, the motorway will remain a public asset. Tolling revenue will pay for the construction and maintenance costs.

The proposed toll and method of payment would be consistent with the Northern Gateway toll road, which is currently $2.40 for light vehicles and $4.80 for heavy vehicles. There will be a separate toll for each section of motorway.

If the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway is tolled, people can choose to travel on the existing State Highway 1 instead which will be maintained as a free, safe alternative route.

The motorway is scheduled to open at the end of 2021, but this may be delayed by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asking people what they think about tolling the road is surely going to end up one of the most one-sided responses ever.

Unlike the existing Northern Gateway, where tolls were implemented to pay off debt used to bring construction of the project forward, the toll here will “contribute to the annual amount we need to pay the PPP over the 25 years following the opening of the motorway“. It will make only a very small contribution though. For example, the Northern Gateway Toll Road collected about $11.2 million in revenue from 7.5 million trips during the 2018/19 year. But with every transaction costing Waka Kotahi on average 73c, nearly half of that money just goes towards operating the system. We don’t know the exact figures for the project but if it’s anything like Transmission Gully, the PPP is going to be costing us over $100 million annually.

Personally I don’t have an issue with tolling it but I do wonder

  1. Why the toll will be the same as the existing one, despite the road being more than twice as long.
  2. Auckland and Tauranga are paying tolls on new roads, but why are other areas of the country, such as Wellington with Transmission Gully, not.

At the same time they’re also proposing lowering the speed limits on the existing road. This will see the speed lowered mostly to 80km/h but they’re also proposing intersection speed zones where it will drop to 60km/h if someone is turning into or out of side streets.


Shorts

Finally, a few lighter things.

Here’s a great podcast on urban mobility featuring Kent Lundberg talking about Access for Everyone that the council have approved as part of the refreshed City Centre Masterplan.

This popped up on my youtube feed the other day. It looks very touristy but just imagine trying to get that through our business case process these days

Even more bad news for Transmission Gully.

We featured an interview with Dr Paul Winton. He has a webinar this afternoon.

Have a good weekend

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76 comments

  1. The Jungfrau railway business case would be dead easy. They would carefully calculate travel time benefits of about say $975,000 and then add on $23 billion of ‘Wider Economic Benefits’. Each time the cost blows out just add another billion of WEB.

  2. Definitely a “Steady the ship until we get rid of Winston at the next election” Budget

    If they get in with just the Greens in September and don’t announce Light Rail to the North West by the end of the year, they can get straight into the sea

    1. I don’t think Winston is the light rail hold up. Even if he was I’m sure he could be negotiated around someway like he was over the prisoner voting thing. Or maybe some pork somewhere.

    2. It isn’t Winston. Light rail has been consigned the someone’s bottom draw. Like any workplace jobs in the bottom draw are left there until that person leaves and it becomes the next person’s problem to empty out the draw.

  3. PPPs make even less sense in the post-Covid-19 economic climate. Government borrowing rates are absurdly low and expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. It’s too late for the motorway projects already well underway but it’s not too late for light rail. Hopefully the government will see sense.

  4. Very cleverly played by the Minister. He told NZ public what they wanted to hear about light rail (ie it’s been canned in favour of heavy rail upgrade including new ferries) then told you what you wanted to hear. Interesting, I can’t see a public correction made anywhere in the papers today, nor have I heard anything on the radio this morning to this effect. Maybe you should post the e-mail that was sent to you – be good to see what the most transparent Government ever actually said.

  5. How much worse does the Light Rail debacle have to get before someone jumps or is pushed for it? At some point I might have accepted “taking a bit longer than we thought lads, West Auckland, we’ll build you a busway in the interim”.

    But instead our part of the region has to sit around while a decision is made about CC2M. Time for some explanations.

    1. The worst thing is that they actually said “taking a bit longer than we thought lads, West Auckland, we’ll build you a busway in the interim” and then basically refused to fund the busway lite proposal.

      1. When I worked at the Auckland city Council senior people who were pushed out were given jobs consulting on the waterfront for a few months then sacked. ‘Consulting on the waterfront’ became the euphemism for being made redundant.
        This is the third light rail project in Auckland to come to nothing. Perhaps when they don’t want to do anything at all they can just say they will build a light rail line there.

  6. I have also noticed Ponsonby road cones has been removed at L2. Hopefully they keep the queen st and quay st cycleway.

  7. The Minister states that the government “have not yet set a timeframe for making a decision” on how to pay for light rail. So there’s not even a timetable for deciding on a timetable to build anything. That sounds like indefinite hold to me.

    Twyford n. Something important promised but of which no significant part will be delivered in any foreseeable period. “Light rail could have transformed parts of Auckland, but it’s been a complete Twyford.”

    1. Labour is due a cabinet reshuffle. Not sure where they’ll find the time to do that between now and the election though.

      Twyford could pick up the portfolios for procrastination and indecision.
      Clark could pick up the portfolio for outdoor recreation.

      1. Good points. Be nice to see some competent minister of transport. Like Steven Joyce or not atleast he got stuff built

        1. How has the stuff he got built impacted the future opportunities for our children to have low carbon, accessible and safe transport?

          Sometimes nothing is better than something.

        2. +1 Heidi. I think Phil Twyford would have been a handy transport minister in the previous government.

        3. This reply is for Heidi and Jezza, who ask how has the stuff Joyce got built impacted the future opportunities for our children to have low carbon, accessible and safe transport?

          Steven Joyce as Minister for Communications and Information Technology managed to get ultra-fast broadband (UFB) going and installed in most parts of the country. Imagine what working from home would be like without that.

          Joyce achieved far more, including setting up Auckland Transport as a council-controlled organisation, than the over promising under delivering Twyford ever did.

        4. Good point about the UFB, but forcing all of Auckland into Auckland City Council control and setting up Auckland Transport as a council-controlled organisation have hardly been success stories, have they?

      2. Phil Twyford has saved New Zealand a fortune not building homes. He then saved New Zealand fortune not building light rail. Given immigration has stopped and all the AirBnB houses have become rentals maybe we didn’t actually need either expensive project. Either Twyford is an absolute genius or just very very lucky. Just a shame he wasn’t in charge when CRL and Transmission Gully got approved.

        1. Mr. Twford is completely useless. He needs not only resign as minster but leave Parliament. I don’t know how he even holds his head up?

  8. Very likely that Winston and NZFirst will be gone in this election. That is why the PM insists on not changing the election date, as she knows that she is popular due the way she’s handled COVID-19. Peters has been visibly absent throughout the crisis, with Grant Robertson being the ‘deputy’ to the PM when providing updates (when this role should be for the deputy PM). He’s tried to stay relevant by making controversial remarks about China etc but I think he’s losing popularity. National are also definitely losing popularity too (I voted National last time but I will vote Labour this year as Simon Bridges clearly has been opposing the government for the sake of opposing them – no real policy). Hopefully this means that the next government is Labour/Greens only (no NZ first) and we can get some light rail down Dominion road by 2040.

    1. What’s “controversial” about Winston’s remarks on China?

      It’s high time they’re called to account on a number of things.

      1. The risk to New Zealand’s businesses is the main reason they are controversial. We’re already heading for a depression, why risk cutting off a key trading relationship and making it a whole lot worse just to score some domestic political points?

        1. This type of attitude has let China get away with too many things – it is time countries around the world (excluding the USA) work together and exclude these two big bullies from having a stranglehold over the planet’s economy.

        2. Jaida – agree, however in the absence of countries working together it is madness to take a stance with so little upside and such a big downside risk.

        3. I guess we can continue to turn a blind eye (for the sake of a few dollars) to such things as, a million + Uyghurs being locked up in concentration camps and the South China Sea being taken over and just hope it doesn’t happen in our neighbourhood.

          It’s not about scoring cheap points. It’s about standing up for our values.

          Neville Chamberlain once thought appeasement was the best approach to a crisis. That didn’t work out too well.

          And so it is with China.

          If the current trend continues we could well find ourselves faced with the ‘Magic island maker’ appearing on our back doorstep.

          The Covid-19 crisis presents us with a perfect opportunity to look for new markets and return manufacturing to NZ.

          It will require a nationwide change of mindset as to what is best for the country.

          Do we want cheap throw away products or do we want good quality, locally made products along with the employment and skills they would attract?

          To that end I’ve been walking the talk and making more effort to buy NZ made for some time now. There’s certainly a ‘feel good’ factor in doing that.

        4. jezza, China has over a million people in “re-education” camps against their will, because they are muslim. For that alone, we should be cutting ties with China.

          I don’t give a stuff how upset China gets about it, we didn’t use to rely on them for our economy, and we don’t have to in the future either, if we make the right moves now.

        5. I agree with all of the above regarding China’s human rights abuses, however I’ve seen no evidence that Winston’s comments have anything to do with this, more to do with what he is seeing in the opinion polls.

          We could take a principled stance of human rights issues but we would have to accept a significant drop in national income and all the issues associated with that, while seeing the human rights issues continue as they are.

          Can any of you name a significant market that is ready to take our exports if we cut China off, that doesn’t also have human rights issues or support countries that do?

        6. Very rare that I agree fully with either Vance or Daphne, but we should absolutely be cutting ties with China over the genocide of their Muslim population among many, many other things. The strongly anti-CCP stance is one of the big pluses of NZ First for me. If we aren’t willing to accept a little economic impact over our values then we should stop calling them values and more accuratley refer to them as wishes.

          Even if our main trading partner weren’t a one-party disctatorship, we shpould still be endeavouring to bring production back to New Zealand purely from an environmental persepective.

        7. Assume all of you here have your own personal boycott on China, it’s exports and any other associations to products that aren’t made in China.

          Didn’t think so.

        8. We don’t have to go all the way to boycotting trade with China, but we do have to be able to speak our minds about the Chinese government, individually and as a nation, without restraining ourselves for fear of retaliation from the CCP.

          It is not just us wrestling with this issue. Lots of Asian and Western countries are in the same boat. We need to stand together. In the past the USA would have provided leadership on this, but they’re hopeless now, so this group of countries will have to work it out together. China can’t retaliate against all of us without hurting themselves more.

        9. Engagement with China hasn’t worked. They have engaged in more and more hostile behaviour. Their actions in the South China Sea are testament to this.

          Do we think they would not behave in the same way if they should establish a permanent military presence in the South Pacific? As each day passes by that is coming closer to reality with Vanuatu being a likely place for a military base.

          Their debt trap diplomacy has left many nations beholden to them.

          By not having all our eggs in the China basket we can lessen our vulnerability to economic coercion by them.

          The fact of the matter is: China is a bully.

          Bowing down a bully only encourages more bullying.

        10. Vance – agree we should be reducing our dependency on China. However, that is a very different proposition than a Foreign Minister occasionally mouthing off at China, while we maintain the same level of dependency.

        11. In response to Jezza, I would argue that no other country commits human rights abuses on the scale that they do and which also poses a military threat to us.

          Their seven newly established military bases in the South China Sea which give them the ability to launch strikes against Australia combined with their increasingly belligerent behaviour should give us cause for great concern.

          We’re certainly no longer in a “benign strategic environment” as one well known former Labour leader once said.

        12. Very good article on China in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

          Headlined:
          China can’t bully us into submission: the PM has Australians’ backing.

          “This is about what sort of country we want to leave to future generations, what sort of country we want to leave to future governments,” says one cabinet minister, not one considered to be hardline in any way. “Our policies are not for sale.”

          Well worth a read because it applies equally to NZ.

    2. That’s a bold prediction given the rate of change we’ve had recently! Four months ago the political landscape was very different to what we have now and the election is another four months away.

      I think Winston will survive but whether he has the balance of power is another question. There is also still a reasonable chance of National being in government.

  9. That intersection speed zone is not actually new. Its an existing one that was put in to manage safety at an access point they built into the motorway construction site.
    However as the speed limit on the adjacent highway is proposed to change from 100 to 80 the variable speed limits needs adjustment to change it from a 60/100 variable speed limit to a 60/80 variable speed limit.

    1. It’s heading in the right direction.

      I wonder how long it will take for Austroads and Vision Zero’s guidelines around speed to filter into actual projects.

      Where there is the possibility of a right angle collision between passenger vehicles speeds should be 50 km/hr, not 60 km/hr.

      And that assumes there’s no possibility of vulnerable road users getting hit. These rural roads need parallel pathways for horse riding, bike riding, walking, etc.

  10. I hope Hillside gets the contract to build the wagons.

    There’s been far too many contracts awarded to overseas companies when the work could be done here.

    1. Yes, and a steady programme into the future is what the industry needs to be able to increase capacity. Probably better to do this than to buy from overseas, even if it means we don’t get them quite as early.

    2. They don’t have the capability, capacity or workforce to build over 400 wagons and they can’t build locomotives.

      1. I’m not suggesting locomotives. Wagons are a different story.

        I’m sure there’s a lot of skilled people now unemployed who could help build wagons.

        After all, I’ve read today that 34 pilots have applied to become train drivers.

      2. A large number of those Chinese containor wagons that the Nats and their pals imported had to be rebuilt here inNZ so why,why can’t we build new ones here . A&G Price in Thames built a large number of different size Shunters , Hillside put a bid in to build the Passenger trains for Auckland but were turn down by the Nats , same with the container wagons by saying we didn’t have the skills and the price wasn’t right . But they had to rebuild them anyway .

        1. No mention of Wellington’s Matangis which were built by a Korean firm while Labour were in power.

  11. Interislander is currently looking at a dual diesel/biofuel and electric option. Therefore they can be hooked onto mains power supply when they are in port to prevent covering Picton and Kaiwharawhara in fumes.

    1. They are also going to be 45/50,000 ton, 230m ferries, nobody has built an electric ferry that large, we don’t want to be the beta testers for this technology.

      1. Two different things though, the full electric ferry or shore to ship power.

        Stena Line the worlds largest ferry operator has used shore to ship for the best part of a decade so thats not a new solution. Should the two harbours provide shore to ship (usually a solution bought from ABB) then its not much extra work for all the ferries to install the technique.

        For electrical ferries, that will start smaller and if Auckland waits another five years that will be perfect for Waiheke island/Hobsonville/West harbour etc

        1. I heard this from a number of fullers employees that they wanted to build an electrically powered ferry for the Devonport run but their boss in Scotland turn the idea down saying it was to expensive .

  12. Regarding tolling Puhoi to Warkworth. From a consumer (road user) viewpoint since the road will be built tolls or no tolls I don’t see any advantage in the tolls being introduced. Maybe if it went to speeding up other roading projects around Rodney or exempt North Rodney (i.e. north of Puhoi) from the 10c Auckland regional fuel tax.

    The light rail most concerns me. When Labour got in it was 2021. Now no date and still no real plan. Also why is the East West link not shovel ready now? They’ve had three years to revise the plans. We actually do have a shovel ready East West link road, maybe we should stick to that one now the crisis when we need stimulus has come across us. While the current government has done a good job in emergencies (like the COVID crisis) can’t seem to do transport or housing well. How well is the 100 000 kiwibuild homes going?

    1. Historically we only toll roads if we have borrowed to build them rather than funded out of the pay-as-you-go NLTF. This project is effectively a PPP in that we will be paying for it in the future, so tolls are well suited to this road.

      They are suited to Transmission Gully except for the small problem that is doesn’t offer a big enough improvement for people to want to pay the toll.

      1. They need to make the existing route worse, ie better for non motorist users. That could make tmg worth paying a toll for.

      2. But is there any evidence that a toll would discourage use, or growth in use? NZTA didn’t release any evidence when they decided not to toll TG. I would have thought that on Albany-Puhoi even $5 or $8 a trip would not discourage use. Private cars are heavily subsidized by up to 1/3 of their true cost, not including climate change, so anything that cracks open the door to drivers paying their way has to be a good thing.

        3 $5 sections on Albany-Warkworth, plus regular annual increments, would be a good start.

    2. East west link is a truly terrible project and should not be built in any form. A shocker that will do more harm than good. It’s the highway version of a the Avondale-Southdown Rail link: achieves nothing but looks kinda sensible on a map, and has been proposed for years so we have to do it… stupid on a stick.

  13. NZTA assess every road for tolling? Very limited opportunities in NZ for effective tolling. Tolling consultants dream. $$$.

  14. I’d like to see work beginning on the ‘third main’ and an expansion of the Auckland commuter rail network with stations at Pokeno and Tuakau.

    1. Pokeno will be better served with a bus service along the motorway direct to Papakura station. Faster, cheaper and taps into a more frequent rail timetable.

      1. It takes forever to get from the motorway to Papakura rail station on a bus. Do it properly and get a commuter rail service operating instead of always trying cheapo band aids that don’t appeal to anyone but the desperate.

        1. So bus to the new Drury rail station then. Pokeno-Drury by rail is almost twice as far as by road and will involve 3 intermediate stops if Tuakau and Paerata stations are operational and as we have seen, AT doesn’t do stops well.

  15. Did we ever get that clarification on the on Light Rail lads from Philly T, or has this Ponzi scheme of telling different people different things finally run out of new suckers to buy into it.

  16. Interesting collection of items in this post thanks. Good to see they wanting to drop speeds etc on the SH 1 to Warkworth On the existing road. Seems there is some but slow progress in this “detuning” existing roads that are bypassed with upgraded roads.

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