No CBD Loop Before 2027


So it’s official. Construction of a CBD loop won’t start within the next decade. That’s the word from transport minister Steven Joyce.

The first summary report from the team investigating an Auckland inner-city rail loop estimated construction of the link would take 7 to ten years.

That means the very earliest we could see a loop open would be 2027.

Joyce is quoted as saying neither would construction of another Waitemata harbour crossing start for a decade- something he has made clear before.

The timeline is buried in the middle of an article in a supplement in the printed edition only of the Herald about Auckland projects.
The minister is still not ruling out the loop happening. One day. Probably.
He says the rail tunnel and harbour crossing are probably the “next cabs off the ranks” in terms of major new Auckland projects and adds that “commuter rail is an increasingly important way for Aucklanders to get to work each day,” - the same words reported from him on AKT last week.
Joyce says the Vic Park tunnel, Western link road and rail electrification are the government’s key priorities and there will be some intensification around railway lines that needs to be funded.
Last month, the minister told an infrastructure conference in Auckland he is not adverse to the idea of a CBD rail loop – although he would expect Auckland ratepayers would have to find around half the estimated $1.6 billion cost.

KiwiiRail CEO Jim Quinn is quoted elsewhere in the supplement saying the loop will be done “eventually and at the right time. It’s an enabler for Auckland but it will come down to affordability.”
He adds other plans would have to come into play to ensure Britomart did not choke.
As he indicated recently in public comments about Auckland mayoral candidates making flash promises for which funding hasn’t been specified and is unlikely for now, Joyce is less convinced about airport rail saying the need will be less pressing when the new western roading corridors are available.

The business case for the loop is due to be finished within the next fortnight.

It argues the cost benefits and future transport option benefits and, critically how to fund it including considering whether that involved Government, private partnerships or private land values.

Between now and December, there will be the preparation of the formal Notice of Requirement, and then it goes to the transport minister and Government.

The preferred option has as its three station locations:  Symonds Street / Khyber Pass Road (Newton); at Karangahape Road / Pitt Street (Karangahape Road ); and at Albert Street / Wellesley Street (Aotea).

The consultants chose that option saying it hasthe three station locations under public roads with the locations “optimising redevelopment and growth opportunities for economic productivity and patronage; the least number of curves which means lower costs for the tunnel boring machine and better operational speed for trains thus reducing operational costs.”

KiwiRail’s procurement document for the bidders of the tender to build Auckland’s electric trains say they should be suitable for a CBD tunnel.

The relevant passage in the document prescribes that “the trains will need to be designed to allow future operation through a proposed CBD tunnel, involving significant underground running and operation through underground stations.”

The electric trains arrive from 2013.

That would be at least 14 years before they would ever be used for a CBD loop.




  1. joust says:

    10 years too late.

  2. Nick R says:

    More like 40 to 70 years too late.

  3. rtc says:

    It’s comments like this that demonstrate the need for strong local leadership on transport issues, if the mayor of 1/3rd of NZ’s population is elected on a pro-rail platform it’s hard for central government to argue against Aucklander’s wishes. Starting this in 10 years would mean it wouldn’t be opening until around 2030, that’s like dooming Auckland’s CBD to stagnation for the next 20 years.

  4. Pickle says:

    Time to get rid of this stupid government, vote Labour 2011!

  5. Anthony M says:

    Screw you Steven, Honestly, like people said b4, 10 years too late.

  6. Cam says:

    Just as i thought, he’s paid lip service to the project without actually having to commit to it. If Stephen Joyce is still around in 10 years he still woulodn’t build this. It will be more than a decade if this government gets another couple of terms.

    Out of interest what are the other idea they have to ensure Britomart does not choke? Run less trains in there perhaps?

  7. Joshua says:

    Pickle - “Time to get rid of this stupid government, vote Labour 2011!” - I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, but I don’t think Labour will do it within the next 10years either. They just don’t get round to things that quickly.

    Cam - I think if joyce was to be around for another 10years he would actually do it. I haven’t seen him turn back on his word yet, we know what we get with him, even though it’s not what we always want. But lets face it, if he is around for another 10years, I can’t see him controlling transport, he would of moved on by then.

    I do actually agree that these projects, Western Ring Route and the Vic Park Tunnels, electrification and I would add, integrated ticketing are Auckland’s main priorities at the moment, however I can’t see how he can justify the Puhoi Project as having a higher priority than the CBD Loop. Noticed he conveniently didn’t mention it though. Or are Aucklanders just being to greedy with our money? Should we be giving charity projects to the rest of the country like we have been doing for the last so many years, instead of spending the money on our much needed projects?

  8. Anthony M says:

    @Cam proberly just using the strand again or something stupid as that.

  9. Kurt says:

    It will only be 10 years at least while Steven Joyce and this government are still in power.

  10. James B says:

    So by his time frame we won’t get the CBD tunnel completed for at least 15-20 years which means another generation of Aucklanders are left with a degraded public transport system. That is completely unacceptable.

  11. BD says:

    Interesting, Steven thinks an airport railway link is less pressing when the western link road is completed he’s got another thing comming. Vote these morans out in 2011 please!!!! I WANT CBD RAILWAY LOOP NOW NOT IN 20 YEARS.

    How come we can get first class stretch of motorway in less than 10 years that is expensive less efficient and less benefits and not a CBD railway loop this doesn’t make sense if you ask me.

  12. Scott says:

    @ Anthony M. He specifically stated Britomart. Short of running another pair of tracks in under Quay st or Beach road with another pair of platforms I’m not sure how this is going to be achieved.

  13. rtc says:

    Looks like we’re going to have to hope come October that we have a pro-PT mayor (i.e. not Banks) and an Auckland Transport board that is prepared to advanced this project rapidly using local funds to the extent that it’s difficult for the government to refuse to at least fund part of it.

  14. Can he say this.

    Does he have the power to say no to a CBD loop in ten years?

    Is this not up to the council? And BCRs district plans etc

  15. DanC says:

    Right - check this out. In brief, 118 k’s of rail with 16k’s of tunnel taking 7 years to build.

    Auckland CBD Rail Loop 3.5 k’s? and takes 7 years to build??? and not starting in 10 years time???

    A lot talked about funding issues which is understandable if no other projects are going ahead as this is the most urgent for NZ I think. But how many roading projects are proposed before the CBD rail loop???? and BCR rates???

    Conclusion, Stephen Joyce do something for your country and not for your roading buddies. Stop being lazy and get off your butt and be proud to do something different.

  16. Jeremy says:

    I was going to ask how 7 years compare to other places in the world.

    The construction of Honk Kong Airport is pretty amazing (you can check it out on youtube), why can’t NZ do things this quick?

  17. Cam says:

    “Cam – I think if joyce was to be around for another 10years he would actually do it. I haven’t seen him turn back on his word yet, we know what we get with him, even though it’s not what we always want. But lets face it, if he is around for another 10years, I can’t see him controlling transport, he would of moved on by then” - Except he hasn’t actually said he would build it there is no commitment here. He’s said it could be one of the next projects but if it is it wouldn’t be started for 10 years. He dosn’t want to build this never has, however paying lip service to it defuses a lot of oppostition and allows him to gradually place it on the backburner it’s smart politically. Him being moved away from transport would be a blessing, unless of course Maurice Williamson replaces him.

  18. James B says:

    I have that particular section from the paper but can’t see the particular article.

    @ Anthoyn Blomfield. Well it’s all conditional on National being in power for the next 10 years (which is unlikely). Also given that their natural coalition partner Act is slowly disintegrating it seems likely that National will either have to rely on either United Future or the Maori Party or win the election outright to remain in power.

  19. Jon C says:

    @ James C3 fourth column after mention of the CBD rail loop.
    “While rail tunnel and a third harbour crossing are probably the ‘next cabs off the ranks,’ he doubts that construction would start on either project within the next decade.

  20. Pickle says:

    @ Joshua Labour will do anything to get re elected

  21. Joshua says:

    Cam - “He’s said it could be one of the next projects but if it is it wouldn’t be started for 10 years. ” - But he did say that the rail tunnel and harbour crossings are next major projects in Auckland after Western Ring Route and Vic Park Tunnels. So either they wont be constructing anything after 10years or they will start on the loop.

    I do agree we need the loop, I also agree we need these projects just as bad (Ring Route and Vic Park), I don’t agree with spending money on other projects around New Zealand like the Puhoi Highway over this economically important project. However I don’t know how beneficial changing the current government would be, and to me it might even be a step backward, Auckland is finally getting some transport funding for a change, however we need to increase it further and redirect a big proportion of it within the next 10years. Also I don’t like the thought of sacrificing other important society functions to improve transport.

  22. James B says:

    @ Joshua Most of that funding was earmarked under Labour, National just chucked a bit more in the pool to fast track the projects. Also it may not be a case of needing to change the government, merely putting the pressure on them. John Key is nothing if not pragmatic and if he sees the polls turning against National because of this issue he is likely to arm twist Steven Joyce into finding the money. You can’t win an election on a single issue but you can lose one.

  23. Jon C says:

    @James B Good point James. Most governments seemed to get voted out rather than some party being voted in.

  24. LucyJH says:

    The increase in infrastructure funding is actually happening (as far as I’m aware) in most big cities around the country. It’s mainly because of the recession - govt is increasing spending to stimulate economy.

    I think Labour probably would have done same bc it is kind of textbook govt stuff - increase infrastructure spending to stimulate economy in recession.

  25. James B says:

    This section is now up on the Nzherald website. The article is called.
    Project Auckland: Auckland City ‘spruce up’ long overdue

  26. Kel says:

    @ Jeremy: Maybe it would be good to import the Chinese over to build it since they build extensive metros at an amazingly fast rate. Then that way costs would be lower because their wages would be lower. Some countries in Asia import Bangladeshis etc to do their construction and they camp on site. Win-win situation in a way as the country saves money and the foreigners are happy to take home higher wages than in their own country.

  27. urbanlocal says:

    Auckland Central MP Nicki Kaye has stood on a pledge to bring about the so called CBD rail loop. I wonder how she will manoeuvre her way through this policy annoucement?

  28. Rationale says:

    All Mr Joyce is saying is that he’s fine with it, as long as he doesn’t have to sign off on it. Not that he has any problem signing off on new roads!

    They could certainly keep going with the prep work and when finished start doing stages so the cost is spread out over many years. It’s ridiculous for Mr Joyce to make out like he has to find a Billion Dollars in one hit. Perhaps reduce the number of new passing lanes by one or two a year and we’re nearly there.

  29. Mark Donnelly says:

    My view on the CBD loop, is that apart from opening up more of the CBD to rail, it mainly addresses the bottleneck that is Britomart.

    So what does 17 years relly mean? Jon C - you probably have the actual figures - but I thought Britomart is basically limited to 20 trains per hour? - even when electric. ie trains in and out, and length of in bound track, and various safety times around switching (which new switch system do improve).

    So I assume limit may be 20,000 people per hour? so when does this constrain current growth? I imangine with all the other improvements eg New Lynn/Onehunga/Integrated ticketing, that by the time electrification is here, we’ll be at the max capacity?

    That should be the real issue - if you want people on PT - you invest but then have a cap for the 10 years after that? won’t exactly look good!

  30. Jon C says:

    @Mark That is the issue. The capacity of the rail system is currently limited by the constraints on that tunnel leading to the Britomart terminal. . The consequent increase in system capacity will enable trains to be operated at higher frequencies and will provide the ability to operate eventually new services to the CBD, including rail services connecting with the airport and using the Avondale-Southdown Line.
    There will be new timetables early next year with 10 minute services on the Western Line. The last thing we want is to return to the bottlenecks heading into the tunnel and subsequent timetable delays (as still happens occasionally).
    A consultants report in June last year into whether a Hamilton commuter service could run gave this interesting background about Britomart as it was even then:
    Currently the main station is limited to nine trains per hour via Newmarket. Trackwork improvements and the next Christmas signalling changes will allow 12 trains in and 12 out serving the two platforms on the city side of Britomart from Newmarket by running trains in both directions on each track in the Britomart tunnel. Kiwirail has no negotiated slots into Britomart apart from those for the Overlander. Its waterfront route slots go only to the station entrance. If the Britomart option fails, the waterfront option remains.
    Britomart is owned by the Auckland City Council and operated by the Auckland Regional Transport Network Ltd . They charge for use of Britomart – $5 a minute of dwell time. If the Hamilton train uses the station for 10 minutes a day that’s $25,000 a year.

    PS Liked the wild card comment today!

  31. Nick R says:

    I’ve posted a related analysis over on Auckland Transport Blog (

    This surmises that to meet the Auckland City Council’s projection of 54,000 extra jobs in the CBD in the next 20 years there will need to be an increase in the peak capacity of the CBD transport system by approximately 20,000 people per hour.

    While the CBD rail tunnel could handle all that growth singlehandedly, it is more or less impossible to expand CBD feeder roads or motorways to accomodate that sort of growth. It would be possible to achieve those figures with a massive expansion of bus and ferry capacity, but this would be more expensive and less inefficient than the rail option.

    The conclusion is that not building the CBD tunnel significantly sooner than 20 years from now will result in restrictions on job growth in the CBD and consequently the Auckland economy further slipping in international competitiveness.

  32. Mark Donnelly says:

    @Jon - I didn’t realise they get charged a dwell time fee-
    and I think I’d rather be “odds on” rather than a “wild card” :)

    @Nick - very good analysis. I’ve used similar figures of bus vs train re Dominion Rd expanision plans.A lot will chnage with proper integrated ticketing - but people in Mt Roskill going to CBD, should have a shuttle bus system to Onehunga or New Lynn - then move 1000 people on train.

    The other benefit about the CBD tunnel is that for a lot of people it eliminates the modal change ie getting of the train and onto a bus - although University is still a bit out of the way.

    In some ways there is also a big danger of perceptions. people will be excited to have electrification/new stations - and more people will jump on - but them they will hit the constraints. they will then start to complain about rail - and it will undermine the whole prcoess to date - and maybe put other plans at risk.

    Basically timing should be on a straight capacity constraint basis.

  33. Matt L says:

    Mark - If we were to build it so we don’t end up with a capacity issue then we need to start now as I think that ARTA have predicted Britomart will be at capacity at around 2016. Another thing that is often forgotten is the trip to town from out West would reduce dramatically as there is 3km less to travel to get to Britomart via the tunnel than via Newmarket.

  34. Jon C says:

    @Mark I’d rather they say a “cert!”

  35. Andy says:

    My 2 cents - Currently live in South Korea and have seen so many subway/electric lines open up while I’ve been here it’s bewildering. Seems there are several new ones opened every year.

    I realise the economy and labour force differences between the two countries may be quite large, but 7 - 10 years for 3 underground stations does seem a little long after seeing the speed of lines constructed here, not to mention the tunneling.

  36. Joshua says:

    Andy - there is a bit more to tunnelling in Auckland, first thing is our ground conditions, a lot of the CBD is reclaimed land which means it is water logged, not only are you dealing with water you are also dealing with rock, lots of volcanic rock. Then there is the resource consents, building consents etc. We most definitely have a larger bureaucratic system to proceed through. In Auckland we also have a lot of environmental measures we have to put in place, you can’t just go dig a hole now days you have to control sediment runoff and contamination.

    Kel - That would be the worst option a government could think of, why should we import workers, we have the skilled workers who could do this work and the last thing we want is to import employment, we need to employ our own.

    In the end I don’t think it would take 7 - 10 years to construct, I would think we could do it in 5 - 7years easily, however the government would need to help and push it through like they are the roading projects, e.g. skip a lot of the bureaucratic bs.

    Then there is the fact that we don’t tunnel on a daily basis, in South Korea you mention how many line they are opening up, we don’t do do it that often, we need to get specilist gear, and expertise in, they already have or the gear set-up and ready to go, also they got their technique down packed.

  37. Nick R says:

    It’s won’t be 7-10 years to actually construct, it would be 7-10 years to do detailed design, community engagement, consenting, tendering and construction.

    If Auckland had a metro expansion strategy like Korea it would probably take 7-10 years to get going but then they could open a new line or two a year after that.


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