Welcome to Friday. Here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
A busy week of coverage at our end:
- On Monday, Matt covered a few items of news about Wellington’s rail network.
- On Tuesday, Matt looked at Mayor Wayne Brown’s consultation on future transport projects.
- On Wednesday, Matt covered the government’s announcement that it would toll Penlink.
- Yesterday, Matt looked at changes to how Waka Kotahi values travel time savings and lives saved.
Wellington’s Rail Week
Wellington’s rail network issues have received significant coverage this week, and even on Monday it was noticeable just how much extra attention it was getting compared to the considerably worse disruption Auckland has right now, and has been suffering through for years. We’ll likely be covering this topic more, but here are a few highlights.
On Monday the government announced a rapid review into the Kiwirail disruptions – with a focus on the Wellington situation.
Kiwirail admitted that while there was an issue with the Track Evaluation Car, it was never scheduled to have reviewed the tracks in time – and has launched their own enquiry separate from the government’s one.
KiwiRail’s and the separate Government review, announced yesterday, will look into this in detail. However, we currently understand:
- The Track Evaluation Car (TEC) needed repair work for it to operate, which was scheduled in early May. This was after the compliance period ended for the Kāpiti Line on 30 April.
- TEC’s operating schedule, going back at least to mid-March, had it scheduled to assess the Wellington metro network in May – also outside of the Kāpiti Line compliance period. The fact that the implications of this were not recognised in March appears to be a critical systems failure, which will be a focus of our review.
- The issue with the TEC not being available to assess the Kāpiti Line within the compliance period was only raised with KiwiRail’s senior managers on Wednesday evening (26 April).
- After our engineers looked at options to stay within our safe operating licence (imposing a 70km/h speed restriction), we contacted Metlink/Transdev Wellington on Thursday (27 April) about the situation.
KiwiRail has gone to market for a replacement TEC, given the current one is 41 years old, and expect to enter a contract later this year. The new TEC will require less maintenance, have less downtime, and will therefore achieve higher productivity rates. Given this, KiwiRail has concluded one new TEC will be able to meet work requirements on rail lines across New Zealand – allied with good schedule management.
The Kapiti Line has already been cleared to have speed restrictions lifted and it’s possible the rest of the Wellington network will be cleared, if not by today, then probably tomorrow.
All of this has raised the question of whether Auckland Transport and local politicians are effective advocates for Aucklanders at the national level. The politicians tend to leave it to AT to deal with, but AT has typically been very shy to publicly criticise or advocate for the city with central government.
Speaking of Auckland, reader Anthony Cross send in these images of the Rail Network Rebuild work on the Eastern Line. To us, these don’t look to be much of a hive of activity or a case of having all hands on deck to minimise disruption.
The need to invest in rail
The rail news has also resulted in a couple of great pieces this week about why we need to invest in rail.
The incomparable John Campbell has written a fantastic piece that’s a must-read:
Wellington’s disruptions. The Wairarapa’s slow buses. Ferry disasters. No commuter trains, at all, in the South Island. Auckland’s bewilderingly long and impactful rebuild. The one, ageing Track Evaluation Car going clunk.
Rail deserves better.
We all do.
This isn’t about a love of trains. But a knowledge of what they can do.
When they work, they take cars off the road, they reduce emissions, they make traveling calmer and simpler, and they become habit forming because the habit is good.
To not achieve that, now, is a failure we shouldn’t accept.
Meanwhile, historian André Brett has written over on The Spinoff:
Our railways are so emaciated that nobody in New Zealand has experience in running a modern, growing network. Moreover, we are so hostile to enabling transport without four rubber tyres that we struggle to attract talent: when Wayne Brown, a man with a car-shaped brain, won the Auckland mayoralty, an international appointee for CEO of Auckland Transport said “yeah nah”. Our railways need to be run by people with experience expanding network scope and usage.
It is time to ask if KiwiRail should be broken up. A non-profit public body could maintain the network and allocate train paths, with local/national authorities operating urban and regional passenger rail collaboratively for public benefit. KiwiRail can remain a state-owned enterprise seeking profits from tourist trains and goods but compete with any private operator willing to have a go. Unlike the existing state of affairs, which lacks accountability or ambition, this structure would foster innovation and not discriminate against passengers in favour of goods.
There’s a heap of growth happening in Avondale right now, with thousands of apartments in the pipeline. And it’s a great location, with the City Rail Link meaning a train trip to town will be less than 20 minutes. But it seems there’s a funding shortfall for the planned community centre and town square that is meant to help tie the community together.
The regeneration of a West Auckland suburb is at risk with a possible council funding cut to community space in its heart.
The Whau Local Board says Auckland Council has reaped $49 million from the sale of blocks of residential land in Avondale.
However, funding for a community centre and square may fall $12m short – and the business case for the centre has not yet been signed off.
Consultant KPMG says the regeneration, being led by council agency Eke Panuku, is at “significant risk” if the public elements don’t go ahead.
Speaking of apartments, Takapuna is to get another 350, and all will be rentals:
A new development in central Takapuna in Auckland will see around 350 new apartments built just for renters.
The joint project between council-owned Eke Panuku, Cedar Pacific and McConnell Property will be the North Shore’s first major build-to-rent scheme, located on a vacant lot on Huron St.
The high-rise building will include 350 one, two and three-bedroom apartments with parking and cycling facilities, a pool and a rooftop area for residents. The ground level will include a cafe and retail space.
There’s a bit more information about it here.
Auckland Council has shown that it can actually reject big sprawl developments, rather than rubber-stamping them like in the past.
Auckland councillors have rejected a request to rezone an area of north-west Auckland for homes due to the affected land being on a floodplain.
The request is to rezone 80.5 hectares of land at Riverhead to enable between 1500 and 1800 homes to be built.
But, mayor Wayne Brown said the timing was wrong and proposed rejecting the request, with one of his key concerns flooding on part of the land.
Councillors and Independent Māori Statutory Board members of the council’s planning, environment and parks committee heard on Thursday that 8ha of the proposed area for development is identified as being a floodplain.
Tweets and threads of the week
No one uses public transport post-Covid, eh? Of course this isn’t helped when so many buses are cancelled…
Tough to answer when we cannot even use our current capacity pic.twitter.com/firpSlmmx3
— TopherHenk (@TopherHenk) May 2, 2023
Road crashes and deaths visualised (note, the data covers 23 years, not 2023 years).
I'm on a mission to make urban data more accessible!
I've created an application to display, filter, and better understand crash data.
Here is 2023 years worth of crashes:https://t.co/MF5Jmt7m4I pic.twitter.com/LPtlVv5UDK
— Tim Welch (@email@example.com) (@TimFWelch) May 3, 2023
8,509 lives have been lost on NZ roads since the year 2000. pic.twitter.com/ehUMluEK6b
— Tim Welch (@firstname.lastname@example.org) (@TimFWelch) May 3, 2023
Differnt technology, but this sounds familiar:
This is obviously dumb, but it’s really symptomatic of a larger problem — which is that a lot of governance is just elected officials responding to the sales pitches of people who have access to them, and not following through on any sort of long-range planning. https://t.co/ph13ttcjYD
— Ray Delahanty (@Nerd4Cities) May 3, 2023
There’s bound to be someone who thinks this is a good idea.
The Onion is basically the foremost urbanist newspaper in America at this pointhttps://t.co/vjjkJQmeXe
— Daniel Knowles (@dlknowles) May 3, 2023
An important point to remember.
I wonder if Google has turned this off for Auckland now? It was working the other day, but only in some places and generally only for cars – perhaps just an accurate reflection of our transport system.
New function in Google Maps. Allows you to see the area covered in a 15-minute walk, assigning a point of origin. You can also select a time of 30 minutes and a car as a mode of transport. Interesting input.
(HT & PIC @je_aristizabal) pic.twitter.com/KhncRtd0b3
— Carlos Moreno | IAE-Paris Sorbonne (@CarlosMorenoFr) April 30, 2023