Joyce Unconvinced By CBD Rail


The Government-ordered review of the Business Case for the CBD Rail Link concluded that the case for funding and building the rail link has not yet been made.
And the mix of options for meeting transport needs in the CBD have not been sufficiently explored.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce has today released the review which was conducted by the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury in conjunction with the NZ Transport Agency.
Report can be read here
“In short, the review says more work needs to be done to determine the full future transport needs of central Auckland before proceeding with a project like the CBD Rail Link,“ says Mr Joyce.

“However, the review suggests that in the meantime, it makes strategic sense for Auckland Council to move to protect the route, and I agree with that.“

Specifically, the review found:

* That the estimated construction costs for the CBD Rail Link are largely sound – at a total of $2.4 billion
* That the transport benefits of the project are estimated at $387 million rather than the $1,319 million assessed in the business case
* That the project would have only a modest impact on traffic volumes and likely remove up to 1,400 cars (2,000 people) of the estimated 29,000 cars (41,000 people) travelling into the CBD during the morning peak in 2041.
* That the wider economic benefits of the project as estimated in the business case ($3.3 billion) were very significantly over-stated and were in fact more like $305 million – which was still high relative to the transport benefits when compared with similar large international transport projects
* That the re-calculated BCR consistent with the NZTA Economic Evaluation Manual used for roading projects was 0.3; with the additional wider economic benefits taking it to 0.4

The review suggested that the following steps could be taken by Auckland Council to improve the future case for development of the CBD Rail Link:
* Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur
* Development of a robust multi-modal plan for future transport into the CBD, which includes a thorough analysis of all the alternatives
* Begin implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors to capitalise on the current upgrade and electrification.
* Implement additional park and ride sites and bus feeder services to drive further increases in public transport demand

The review noted that, late in the process, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport provided a new alternative policy case which provided a range of new assumptions and policy considerations to the previous business case.

Mr Joyce says officials did not assess the new policy case provided as there was insufficient time.

“It appears to contain some things that are specifically related to the CBD Rail Link, and some things that would improve transport in Auckland, regardless of any decision to build the CBD Rail Link.“

“I think the timing of the latest policy proposal underscores the need to go carefully through the spatial plan process and the various transport options; to make sure that together we make the right investments in future Auckland transport projects at the right time.

“In the meantime, we continue to invest $1.6 billion to electrify and modernise Auckland’s commuter rail network to provide for the next stage of growth in rail patronage. This Crown investment will help deliver a modern, fast and superior commuter rail experience from 2013/14.“

Meanwhile Auckland Mayor Len Brown has issued a statement after an independent review of the business case for the project by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport concluded it would have transformative benefits to the region.

The review has been carried out in conjunction with a number of independent internationally recognised consultants and finds that the project would deliver overall benefits exceeding overall costs with the benefit cost ratio ranging from 1.1 to 2.3 (including wider economic benefits).

Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and our independent advisors are strongly of the view that the overall evaluation numbers are sufficiently robust to justify the immediate commencement of the designation process for the route.

The process needs to commence as soon as possible to minimise the potential for any cost increases or project delays.

In addition to progressing the designations, the Auckland Council needs to immediately commence the process to secure and protect the route of the Rail Link. This work is being funded in the 2011/2012 Annual Plan.

The Mayor says he will be proposing funding to commence the acquisition of properties necessary to make this project a reality in the draft Long Term Plan.

”The need for the tunnel is now urgent,” says Len Brown “Within two years most of the useable train paths in and out of Britomart will be in use, providing virtually no room to add future services at a time when public transport patronage is going through the roof.”

“The rail tunnel will unlock unused capacity across the whole rail network,” says Len Brown. “It will double the number of trains that can go through Britomart, let Aucklanders and freight more move around the region more easily, and reduce congestion on our roads.

The rail tunnel would include three stations at key locations to ensure most of the inner city is no further than 500 metres from any station and would mean more and faster services out to west and south Auckland. The potential urban redevelopment and additional growth derived from investment in this infrastructure would make the project transformational not just for Auckland, but for New Zealand as a whole.”
The review was prepared with the assistance of the following international experts:

* PricewaterhouseCoopers
* Parsons Brinkerhoff
* John Bolland Consulting
* M.E Market Economics
* Beca
* Ascari
* UC Berkeley Transportation Centre

Greens response

The independent review of the CBD rail loop released by Auckland Council is well-informed by a number of internationally credible transport experts, but clearly the Government is only interested in transport projects supported by big donors like the Road Transport Forum, said the Green Party today.

Today the Government and the Auckland Council simultaneously released reviews of the original business case for the most important rail project in Auckland. However, the reports had opposite conclusions.

Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and their independent advisors are strongly of the view that the business case for the CBD rail loop is robust, while the Ministry of Transport, Treasury and the New Zealand Transport Agency have questioned the benefits.

“It’s obvious that the Government’s bias towards new motorways and against passenger rail is at work in their review,” said Green Party Transport spokesperson Gareth Hughes.

“Most of the Government’s new billion dollar motorways were announced before business cases were even completed, and they are continuing with the projects even though their own analysis has shown the Holiday Highway and Transmission Gully to have lower benefits than their costs.

“The CBD Rail loop has a strong business case that has been reviewed by a number of internationally respected independent experts, including the UC Berkeley Transportation Centre and Pricewaterhouse Coopers,” said Mr Hughes.

“Motorways don’t solve congestion, and they won’t reduce transport costs when oil prices are sky high.

“Aucklanders have been flocking to trains with growth well over 10% a year, and as oil prices have hit record highs, traffic volumes on state highways are down.

“We need the CBD rail loop as soon as possible, and we support the Auckland Council’s decision to go ahead with the designation.

“New Zealanders may need a well-funded lobby group to persuade the Government to make intelligent transport funding decisions, because all the independent analysis in the world isn’t likely to change Minister of Transport Steven Joyce’s mind,” said Mr Hughes.

Full coverage

Ministry of Transport and Treasury report

Ministry of Transport explain their decision

Full commissioned Auckland Council Auckland Transport report

Auckland must fight on: More reaction

Mike Lee says decision major setback

The correspondence between the Govt agencies and the Minister




  1. rtc says:

    blah blah Joyce can huff and puff all we wants, Brown will continue to push this project forward and in the meantime National will come to the realisation that if they want to win a 3rd term (the upcoming election appears to be a one-horse race) they’ll be having to get real about transport in NZ.

  2. Chris says:

    Will Britomart station reach full peak capacity in 2013 or not? If the answer is yes (and I have not seen this disputed by anyone), then the tunnel must be built or the existing tunnel entrance widened to allow for future rail service growth. This is especially critical given the electrification and new trains that are coming which will futher spur growth.

    This is a no-brainer, except for numpties like Joyce.

  3. Andrew says:

    I like their attitude. Bugger PricewaterhouseCoopers, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Beca, GHD, Ascari, AECOM, UC Berkeley, and all those airy-fairy “experts”, and bugger examples of irrelevant far-off cities like Washington, London, Paris and Melbourne, we in our little Wellington office actually know what we’re talking about.

    “In short, the review says more work needs to be done to determine the full future transport needs of central Auckland before proceeding with a project like the CBD Rail Link,” says Mr Joyce.

    Translation: Come back to us when you’ve turned it into a road. We dig roads.

  4. Ingolfson says:

    It’s hilarious how they cut back the benefits on this one, but inflate it for any motorway they are pushing!

    However, we always knew (even if some were kidding themselves, hope springs eternal) that National was not going to fund the tunnel.

    So the key words in his response are that he will not obstruct protection / designation for the route. Good. One can work with that.

  5. Patrick R says:

    Multi-modal is code for roads at Joyce’s MoT

  6. William M says:

    Andrew: you forgot to add “literally”.

    Political suicide is not far off, if you ask me. If I were Joyce, I’d be raising the barrel to my temple - at least 60% of Auckland chose a Mayor with a vision to see this project happen. That 60% of Auckland isn’t going to take kindly to Wellington rubbishing the opinions of worldwide expertise. 900,000 Aucklanders. That could put a dent in the vote - if Labour/Green get their arses into gear and campaign properly!

  7. rtc says:

    You mean 1.3 million Aucklanders don’t you?

  8. William M says:

    rtc: I’m talking about the proportion of Aucklanders that voted for Brown. I should have clarified, sorry!

  9. Giel says:

    Someone needs to get a hold of the new review of the project by NZTA, MoT and Treasury, scrutinise it and point by point and hit back with why the conclusions are wrong. Consultants often come up with the answers the payer of the consultant wants and this would have probably prejudiced Treasury’s and MoT’s view of the Beca/AECOM report from the beginning. They probably take “great joy” in determining that and sending that conclusion through to the Minister.

    I suspect the truth is somewhere between the two “extreme” positions. I always considered, having read the Beca/AECOM report cover to cover that the broader benefits were somewhat overstated. This was because the economic multipliers they used seemed very high for growth stimulus etc. It was a view not a fact and obviously others have taken a different view. However, at first reading, it now sounds like the other view (NZ Govt) has benefits way more understated than the first report were overstated.

    The truth I believe is as Len Brown says the project is transformational in city style and liveability - I bet this this view is overlooked by Treasury as they don’t subscribe to these more loose benefits with the more strict criteria they use. As for NZTA - they are pro road prejudiced (they are largely the old Transit/ Transfund/LTSA after all). It is in their culture. Having talked to some in NZTA over the years they have expressed views like Rail doesn’t work in Auckland - tracks don’t go where people live etc etc. They have had a serious knowledge gap in that area. I suspect that Auckland Transport know way more about such things for Auckland than NZTA do now - which is rather diabolical actually - not for AT of course but for NZTA. This needs to, and will have to change if they are to be a true “transport” agency. MoT are more neutral but still have a strong pro road bias and have had to quickly come up to speed in recent years on Rail benefits but still have a way to go.

    It will happen - now is not the time to loose our nerve but hit back coherently why the conclusions are wrong - I look forward to that.

  10. Buffalo Bob says:

    “……provide for the next stage of growth in rail patronage. This Crown investment will help deliver a modern, fast and superior commuter rail experience from 2013/14.”

    The next stage of growth in rail transport is taking place right now……if we dont move to allow further growth to take place there will be a stagnation……

  11. Andrew says:

    @Giel: Links to the report and appendicies, and some points about statistical errors already found (in the comments) on Josh’s blog at

  12. Joshua says:

    Andrew - Don’t you just love our expertise in government, we got more knowledge in there than some of the World’s biggest consultancies!!! Primo .

  13. John Dalley says:

    And here i was thinking that Joyce and National
    ever intended to look after Auckland.
    I have said it before but i will say it again. If Auckland is to advance (read PT) then National has to go.
    While Joyce and Key are in charge, Auckland is going to need to become more “political” with it’s demands for public transport.

  14. James B says:

    @Buffalo Bob. In other words. I support the CBD rail tunnel in principle but not practically.

  15. richard says:

    Why do we seem to have so many dumbos in Wellington? If they are sane when they head there they are soon converted!!

    Any idiot can see a rail connection through the tunnel is needed now, now, now. A trip to any major city overseas and imagine how they would get on without their rapid transport systems.

    A suggestion for Auckland would be to ban more people living here until the infrastructure is improved. New immigrants would have to live somewhere else e.g. Wellington and apply for a place in Auckland, they then go on a waiting list until somebody dies or moves out of town. Back in the 40′s and 50′s new immigrants were directed to centres around the country as needed. Now most immigrants seem to get off the plane at Auckland and go to the nearest suburb with large numbers of their own country’s nationals.

    Several years ago the Labour government set up a commission for the future which looked at planning 50 years or so out into the future. This was a sensible idea but along came the next National government and scrapped it because they produced nothing?? Shades of Norm Kirk’s Superannuation…………………….

  16. Chris R says:

    And we are surprised, why?

  17. Ingolfson says:

    We are not.

  18. The Trickster says:

    Chris, I’m not, but it doesn’t make me any less angry.

    I’d take it on the chin if it was a robust analysis. However when I can find within 10 minutes either errors or smoke and mirrors fiddling of the figures in the appendix, then that really grinds my gears.

  19. Anthony says:

    Im not surprised, but the fact that most people want the CBD rail loop and yet still being ignored by National is infuriating. I had a look at Stuff and most say they want the CBD rail link, only a few says no, however those that say no also thinks that a much better PT system is needed, e.g. Trams, or a link to North Shore….

  20. Cam says:

    This is no surprise at all. Let’s not forget National’s position on Auckland rail in the 2008 election was they would finish existing projects such as electrification but that any further extention of the network would be uneconomic and if Auckland wanted to pursue it we were on our own.

    Thing is it does not matter what the facts are, what numbers you put in front of Joyce or how well constructed and rational an argument you put in front of him he will never, in a million years invest in this project. He dosn’t care about the numbers he’ll do what he wants to do for the simple reason that he’s an icreadibly arrogant human being. Simple as that, he knows what’s right and he couldn’t give a damn about listening to opposing points of view.

  21. Jeremy says:

    Joyce must die. Or maybe we need a secret lobby group with a bit more influence. Get things done oldskool, like the Mexicans.

    edit: Just Joking

  22. tbird says:

    I voted for Len Brown (I support the CBD loop btw), but only because John Banks is such an utter tosser.

    I’m very disappointed in Len Brown’s lying and secrets about a number of problems.

  23. anthony says:

    @tbird It’s not Len Brown that was lying, But the Government themselves….

  24. James B says:

    Name one lie tbird?

  25. [...] rejecting the Auckland Council’s business case are questionable (for more detail on this, see here). Looking at the experience of Perth, which electrified it’s rail system 20 years earlier, it [...]

  26. Jim says:

    If I could be picky, its not “Wellington” that doesnt want the rail loop funded, its central government. As a Wellingtonian, I’m strongly in favour of building it and I would imagine, a pretty large proportion of people here would also support it.

    One must also ask ones self, which report is more believeable. The independent report which found BCR’s of 1.1 to 2.3, or the report made by government departments, which found 0.4. Hmmmmmm

  27. tbird says:

    Len’s lies/secrets:
    1. Going to catch the train to work
    - so he did this once and had his car follow him.
    2. His extreme reticence about revealing whole the expensive ratepayer-sponsored birthday dinner was for.
    3. His 100 ideas in 100 days or whatever that was.
    4. His campaign to “open the books”
    5. A referendum on Auckland Council Maori seats - i sure as hell don’t want these!
    6. Slapping his head then calling saying it had something to do with mana.

    There’s six or so. I’m sure you’ll find at least one you agree with me on.

  28. Patrick R says:

    tbird yeah! and they never went to the moon, and Obama is really Osama, and there is endless cheap oil forever if only the conspiracy of pinkos weren’t tricking us all…..

  29. Jeremy says:

    tbird, everyone of those points has answers and if you asked Len Brown face to face he wouldn’t have a problem answering them, but if you’re a smart person you could figure the answers for yourself. Fact is Brown is not a big lefty and no one have ever stated he is, most media say he’s left leaning, so why you would want a referendum on maori seats when there is a statutory board. Also a referendum would not be legally binding, show me where it say in th Act that a referendum can overturn a piece of legislation. What I see is Len Brown has saved money by not wasting time on nonsense, he’s a lawyer so that helps.

  30. Ingolfson says:

    “His extreme reticence about revealing whole the expensive ratepayer-sponsored birthday dinner was for”

    That dinner’s cost was a fundraiser for a local artist, that Council had decided to support by buying tickets. So you know why it was expensive (wouldn’t bring in much fundraising money if they only covered their food costs) and you know who the money went TO. Not every smidgin of a politician’s life has to be public.

    Len Brown isn’t lily-white, and he doesn’t have a 100% win track record with what he promises voters at election time. If you knew how politics works, you’d be neither surprised nor cycnical about it.

    Len Brown in my opinion is a good politician in more than one sense. Maybe a bit prone to jumping on the latest greatest thing, but he stands for a kind of Auckland that I want more of.

  31. Cam says:

    1. Going to catch the train to work
    – so he did this once and had his car follow him.
    That’s not correct. He has been catching the train once a week.

    What’s the source of your info on that?

    3. His 100 ideas in 100 days or whatever that was
    How was that a lie? Sure most of it was PR fluff but he had a full list:

    5. A referendum on Auckland Council Maori seats – i sure as hell don’t want these!

    Again this has never been secretive about this. He’s always supported them as far as I know.

    6. Slapping his head then calling saying it had something to do with mana.
    Sorry could elaborate on how these are lies and secrets? Also you’ve said since you’ve voted for brown you’ve become disappointed with these things. Wasn’t the later when he was mayor of Manukau?

  32. Johans says:

    Our beloved Joyce is obviously hallucinating from the excessive car fumes.


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