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 (@firstname.lastname@example.org) (@TimFWelch) May 3, 2023
8,509 lives have been lost on NZ roads since the year 2000. pic.twitter.com/ehUMluEK6b
— Tim Welch (@email@example.com) (@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
Kiwirail management need to be fired into the sun
But only at night or they might get hurt.
I’m not sure that will help. Its hard to find anyone to do anything at the moment, I am guessing the current management are more knowledgeable and useful than whoever would be stupid enough to take over. Let them learn from this mistake and do better next time. The witch hunts aren’t going to help.
I wonder if the government will get Kiwi Rail management to explain how the major disruptions on the Auckland network happened?
Contaminated insulators under the Broadway overbridge apparently. Kiwirail is blaming the weather.
Most likely oozed through AT’s overbridge .
350 build to rent apartments in Takapuna – that’s fabulous.
Would be more fabulous if they were publicly owned and rents were set at actually affordable levels for working people.
That wouldn’t give us cheaper/better TVs if you applied it to TVs, so why do you think it would give us cheaper/better housing?
You can’t import 20,000 housed from Japan tomorrow.
Housing is a good that people must use, it has incredibly low short term elasticity and relatively low long term elasticity, therefore is is highly susceptible to price gouging. None of that is true about TVs
“That wouldn’t give us cheaper/better TVs if you applied it to TVs”
If TVs were literally necessary for life, why would that even matter?
Housing is a basic need, not some luxury. Many Aucklanders cannot afford it, or can only afford it at absolutely punishing cost (and then end up with moldy homes). State intervention into such a market failure is absolutely morally acceptable and makes sense for society (the specific way of intervention one can discuss – but not the need for it).
Nice looking building in the renders too
As per current design the building design so little to no effective shelter from rain on the pedestrian areas. If there is a move to encourage people from their vehicles more must be done to make provision for the predicted increase in wet weather. A former Council architect was absolutely useless on this and very likely reinforced the dubious move away from adequate shelter incorrectly stating that rainfall was greater in the UK than Auckland. Where are the renders showing the impact of a wet nor’easter so common in Auckland?
Not needed… The rendering programs only have blue skies and summer-clothes people.
Oh dear. People aren’t made of sugar! People are deterred from walking in Auckland for two reasons:
– They tend to risk their lives when crossing the road (or have to wait forever / go out of their way to cross safely)
– Their workplaces and shops are too far from where they live.
None of the above includes weather, or lack of shelter…
If they are owned corporately, it will be mangeable. Invest in shares, not “owning” one apartment to rent out.
These will be 70m from our front door and it will be great.
They are located about 120m from a bus stop that will enable tenants to travel in most directions and they are well located vis a vis the town centre, gyms, beach etc
I am looking forward to the vibrancy that it will bring to the area, and the contribution to the success of the amenities that we enjoy.
If only we get all the trees in the artist’s render.
No one on Kiwirail’s board has hands on experience of running a railway – see https://www.kiwirail.co.nz/who-we-are/our-leadership/governance-board/. Who appointed them and why?
Board membership seems to be about assurance, hence all the accountants and lawyers. Subject matter expertise doesn’t come into it 🙁
How to ensure Boards that say ‘no’ a lot.
Lol seems like a severe lack of expertise there for sure. And former AirNZ, Genesis and Shell executives – surely we want some train / public transport modern experience not just old fossil fuel dinosaurs
Worst take of the day so far on LinkedIn: If only we’d built more four lane roads in Auckland so people could drive easily when the trains break down.
That Takapuna development is easy on the eye.
Surely mid-rise, not high-rise?
High rise buildings in the background for comparison…
You can’t build high rise in Takapuna. It causes a recession.
Ha! I know this to be an accurate miffy observation…at least with the current land use and transport configuration.
A tunnelled metro line (or other high-capacity public transport) to Takapuna could make this kind of development stack up financially in normal times…and where would we be then? If tower cranes in Takapuna are no longer an accurate prediction of recessions, how will we do our economic forecasts?
Takapuna has good public transport that serves Anzac and Esmonde and surrounds. Why would we want metro that serves none of that area. Come and live in those catchments and then tell me why your idea is a good one.
A metro to Takapuna is a solution looking for a problem.
It is the question no one making these decisions seems to ask or answer – why does metro need to go through Takapuna?
It’s a stones-throw to the busway and to Aotea with bus priority all the way.
Even more perplexing is going via Devonport which doesn’t want any additional people living there and has a regular ferry-hop to downtown and back.
Boom-bust economy. By the time developers are ready to build their boom-planned high rise, we’re all ready for the next bust. Tall building syndrome is horribly real.
I completely agree with you. That might seem bizarre for a person who will likely be 120m from any Takapuna station, but I am convinced that frequency would be much worse (like trying to get a train to Parnell); and running metro to Takapuna will decrease the frequency for the main line service.
And how do the 300 odd apartment owners at Amaia get to Takapuna? Run buses as well?
Heh. Considering I did SEVERAL resource consents for that exact same site (back in the 2010s!) I know what you mean.
Yeah I can’t be the only one with questions about whether or not Amaia is a good location for apartments. In general? It is kind of OK, although quite far from most amenities. Compared to the build-to-rent scheme pointed out above? No.
– just over a kilometre away from Takapuna town centre. It is not a drama but why build apartments 1km from a town centre instead of right inside the town centre?
– also isolated from the shops on Barrys Point Road by Esmonde Road (and frankly, do you want to walk on Barrys Point Road anyway?).
– on a quite awkward point in the bus network, you are unlikely to ever have an easy connection to either Takapuna, Smales Farm or Akoranga bus station.
– next to Esmonde Road, so while you can enjoy the sea view, you’ll have to take the traffic noise with it.
Also, you can try to go to the amaialiving web site but the only thing you will learn is that modern web design sucks.
39 storeys and 358 apartments according to this
The new Google travel time/isochrone tool is still working fine for me. It’s unclear why it only sometimes gives the option for Walking.
Check out Mapnificent, it is a simple tool which shows travel-time areas based on travelling by foot+Public Transport services: https://www.mapnificent.net/auckland/#12/-36.9412/174.9205/2760/-37.0072/174.7884
Leaving from Mangere Bridge via Public Transport means a 309 or 309x. Fortunately I checked the app today, as all train lines were down on a Friday, so I stayed on the bus into town. We are decades of lack of investment behind on our rail network so we must learn to forgive those that are actually attempting to build back our 1940s network. It will of course be the only way we will see 2040 so vitally important that 2030 remains V day if we are to perchance save ourselves from ourselves!!!
If you want lack of media interest, try the announced delay to any improvement in rail service for the Waikato.
Did no-one else see the Wellingtonians complaining on Twitter about how Auckland “gets everything” – CRL, light rail, more motorways than you can shake a stick at – and so whining about the response to the track issue was an expression of Auckland privilege?
Gotta hand it to AT though, send out a “Have your say about PT” survey, today of all days!
Te Huia. “White elephant.” – Luxon.
Northern Busway. “White elephant.” – Wrong Side of History
So Luxon endorses Te Huia as a really worthwhile start to regional rail?
And here is another on my series about the removal of the old Pukekohe Railway Station Building ;-
Or KR could bring back this Rail Evaluation Car ;-
Nice link from Tim Welch. Nice website to do a quick check and filter stuff. I always found CAS a bit difficult to use sometimes.
Great article. Thank you so much for telling me what you know! It’s great to see that some people still work hard to keep their websites up to date. I’m sure I’ll be back soon.