One of our goals in designing the Congestion Free Network has been to keep spending at the same level, or less, than is currently planned. The level of spending has been based on what is contained within the Integrated Transport Programme (ITP), which was also used to inform the debate around alternative funding.

The ITP doesn’t give specific dates for projects, but it does break down spending by decade. The ITP indicates that over the 30 year period of the programme, Auckland will spend approximately $34 billion on new or improved transport infrastructure, broken down as follows:

CFN Capex 1

We have broken down the funding to match each of the timeframes we propose for building the Congestion Free Network, giving:

CFN Capex

The table below is taken from the ITP, but we have added some colours to it to show the decade that each of the major projects falls into:

ITP Major Projects

With the information above, as well as a few other studies, we can start to put together a picture of how much our Congestion Free Network might cost. As for our maps, we’re going to break down the spending into the time periods ending 2020, 2025 and 2030.


City Rail Link – The ITP lists this as $2.6 billion, but we also know that the figure includes other items such as more electric trains – something also included in EMU line item. The most recent cost figures we have seen suggest that the actual cost is more like $2.2 billion including the extras, and even that is likely to come down further, especially after the announcement that part of the CRL will be started early as part of the Downtown Shopping Centre redevelopment. We have used a figure of $2.2 billion.

Electrification to Pukekohe – This is another project that seems to have an overestimated cost in the ITP (there are quite a few of them). The recent business case suggests that this project will cost $102 million.

Mt Roskill Branch – This one is hard for us to put a definitive price on, as it isn’t on any plans and as far as we’re aware, no study has yet been done. However, the project does have a number of things in its favour. The main one is that the corridor is already designated and Kiwirail already owns much of the land. Further, as part of their motorway works in recent years, the NZTA has already built many of the bridges with spans ready for the rail line to be placed underneath. Perhaps the best example for us to use for estimating the cost is the new spur to Manukau. That was in a similar position, as much of the work was done along with the associated motorway construction. It ended up costing approximately $50 million to do around 1.5km of track and a station in a trench. A spur from Avondale to Dominion Rd would be approximately 3.6km in length but wouldn’t need a trenched station. Accounting also for grade separation of New North Rd, we think that a total cost of ~$150 million would be about right.

Electric trains – The ITP lists the cost of trains and the depot at $980 million. We know that the current batch of trains is costing us around $540 million while the depot is another $100 million. The difference between these two figures and the $980 million quoted in the ITP would allow for around 37 more trains, which is enough to run additional services needed for the CRL and proposed extensions, so we will leave the cost as it is.

Northern Busway Extensions – This comes in two parts. At the Northern end we are proposing the busway be extended to Albany. A recent OIA request by one of our readers put the cost of that at $250 million. At the city end, there is definitely a need to improve bus access through the central city, and the ITP lists another $250 million for this.

North-Western Busway – Fairly extensive bus lanes already exist between the city and Waterview, so little would be needed in this area. Between Waterview and Te Atatu, much improved bus lanes are being added to SH16 as part of the motorway upgrade already underway. However, we are suggesting a proper busway between Te Atatu and Westgate, like what exists on the North Shore. The ITP lists a busway from Constellation to Westgate to Waterview at $450 million. As for the Northern Busway extension, we will use a figure of $250 million for the section from Te Atatu to Westgate.

Upper Harbour Busway – As per above, the ITP lists a busway from Constellation to Westgate to Waterview at $450 million while we have estimated the Te Atatu to Westgate section at $250 million. That leaves us with the Westgate to Constellation section costing $200 million. Note that this is most likely to be bus lanes, not a full busway.

AMETI/South Eastern Busway – This is a massive road and public transport project. All up it is expected to cost about $2.6 billion, of which the busway from Panmure to Botany is estimated at $650 million. The section from Botany to Manukau, which would run down the massive available road reserve on Ti Irirangi Drive, is estimated at just over $20 million. We have doubled that figure to give a total for this section of $700 million.

There are a number of roading projects that are needed to support some parts of this network, particularly AMETI and the works on the Western Ring Route.


Airport Rail from North – We feel that for the timeframe we have set, only one rail connection to the airport will be possible and actually warranted. Of the two possibilities, a connection from the north provides much greater benefits, since it also passes by Mangere Bridge, and Mangere, as well as the employment areas to the north of the Airport. Interestingly, the ITP lists it as the cheaper of the two options; however, we suspect that this cost excludes the required extra crossing of the Manukau harbour. For that reason, we are going to budget $700 million for this connection.

Manukau to Airport Bus from East – As per above, we feel that extending the bus route from the East down to the airport would provide the best option, as opposed to the more costly rail alternative. The route from Manukau to the Airport is primarily along SH20B, and the ITP suggests that widening that to four lanes would cost $235 million. We will use that as the basis for our bus connection.

Pakuranga to Howick – Much of the rest of this route will have been given priority in earlier stages, but the section from Pakuranga to Howick will need priority. This is one of the hardest projects for us to put a cost on, as it hasn’t been referenced in other plans or documents. To try and be conservative, we will budget $150 million for this section.

North-Western extension to Kumeu – The ITP suggests it will cost $150 million widen SH16 to four lanes all the way from Brigham Creek to Waimauku. We have used this figure for the bus extension.

Northern Busway extension to Silverdale – The figure for this project also comes from the report on the Northern Busway extensions mentioned earlier. This suggests that the section will cost another $300 million.

Improved Ferries – The ferry routes will need additional investment in wharf infrastructure, and we have budgeted $30 million for this. The boats themselves would be paid for through the service contracts with the operators, in the same way we do for buses today.


Rail CBD to Albany – This would involve a rail-only tunnel to the North Shore, conversion of the Northern Busway to rail, and a spur to Takapuna. The most recent business case for an additional harbour crossing suggested that a rail tunnel on its own would cost $1.6 billion; however, a 2012 report presented to the council suggested that rail to Albany from the city centre could be done for $2.5 billion. We have added the spur to Takapuna and want to be conservative, so we’re using a figure of $3 billion for the whole thing.

Queen St/Dominion Rd Light Rail – Dominion Rd is one of our busiest bus corridors, so upgrading it to light rail is likely to be necessary for both capacity and place making reasons. The route from Britomart to Mt Roskill – where this would terminate – is approximately 8km, and being a former tram route, it would be very easy to install light rail on. We note that the 1.5km loop around the Wynyard Quarter cost about $8m to install, which suggests a cost of just over $5 million per kilometre of track. That means double tracked light rail from Britomart to Mt Roskill would be approximately $90m. Add in the cost of the vehicles themselves, and maintenance, and we are looking at a total of approx $140 million.

So where does this leave us? In total, we expect that the Congestion Free Network could be built for less than $10 billion and that money would be spread over 17 years. That may sound expensive, but it’s surprisingly cheap in context. By comparison, an additional road-based harbour crossing is expected to cost $5 billion.

CFN Costs

By comparison, over the same time period as the Congestion Free Network, the ITP calls for spending of over $24 billion on transport capital expenditure. The proposals we have shown in the Congestion Free Network represent just over 40% of the total predicted spending, simply by re-prioritising the current projects on the list. That means that some will happen later or some not at all. What is also worth mentioning is that the bill for the list of projects that the government announced support for in 2013 totalled $12 billion.

Govt Transport Plan 1

While some of the projects announced include parts of what we are suggesting, many are further motorway upgrades that will just shift the problem further down the road. But the motorways are only part of the problem; a massive spend up on local roads is also being suggested. Projects like the Mill Rd corridor are hundreds of millions of dollars, while the ITP lists the cost to upgrade Gt South Rd (I didn’t even know it needed upgrading) at over $800 million. So one of the questions we need to ask ourselves is if we want a few more upgraded motorways and local roads like our current plans push for?

Govt Transport Projects
The projects announced last week that the Government is supporting

Or do we want an Congestion Free Network that will transform the entire city?

Auckland Map with Type size same

I know what I’d rather choose.